Saturday, April 05, 2014

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Happy Harmonies "To Spring!"

 After the week of rain we had here in the Bay Area (and we probably need more rain), the sun is out and Spring is here.  I found this MGM cartoon series Happy Harmonies short cartoon, To Spring!  Happy Harmonies was a series of 36 cartoons, produced by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, from 1934 to 1938.  They were distributed by Metro Goldwyn-Mayer.

Harman and Ising started their animation work with Disney in the early 1920s, however, they dreamed of opening their own animation studio.  The pair created and trademarked an animation character named Bosko in 1928, hoping to capitalize on the new technology of motion pictures with synchronized sound with animation.   After a short stint at Universal, working on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons,  Harman and Ising created their pilot animation short, Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid, which emphasized synchronized dialog and speech in animation over music.  Warner Brothers Leon Schlesinger saw the pilot film, and signed the pair to produce cartoons for Warner Brother's new Looney Tunes cartoon series, making Bosko one of Warner's first animation stars. 

In 1933, Harman and Ising left Warner Brothers over budget disputes, taking their trademarked Bosko character with them.  In 1934, they found work at MGM in creating both a new series of Bosko short films, and the Happy Harmonies animation series.  Harman and Ising worked on the Happy Harmonies, until the series went over-budget in 1937 and MGM fired them.  MGM then went on to build their own in-house animation studio, headed by Fred Quimby.

Harman and Ising would continue to work as animation freelancers, selling short films to both Disney's Silly Symphony series, and to Quimby at MGM.  In 1938, Harman created Peace on Earth, an anti-war morality tale which was nominated for an Academy Award.  In 1940, Ising would win the Oscar for his short film The Milky Way, becoming the first non-Disney animation film to win an Academy Award.  While both Harman and Ising attempted to create memorable cartoon characters in their later years, they were unsuccessful.  Where Harman and Ising's work especially shines is in the refined, quality of their cartoons, and their refusal to skimp on such quality to the producers who wanted cheaper budgeted cartoons.  You can view that commitment to quality in To Spring, as the elves wake up and start mining the colors that would grow into the green grass and colorful flowers.  But will Spring ever be able to release itself from the blowing snow and winds of Old Man Winter?  Will the colorful pumps of Spring coldly crash down in that final winter's storm?  Will the black-bearded elf ever get his pair of blue pants on?

From YouTube:  Happy Harmonies, "To Spring!"

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