The Mills Brothers sing title song and "Hold that Tiger" with a Bouncing Ball. Cartoon sequence: A lion magician enchants household objects into singing along. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
This musical short is one of those crazy Fleischer cartoons that makes you feel like you're hallucinating. It's an exhilarating thing to watch, because it's obvious the animators just decided to let their imaginations run wild and do whatever they felt like doing. Fans of the Mills Brothers will enjoy seeing the quartet perform two numbers, the title tune and "Hold That Tiger," in their movie debut. It's a treat to see the original line-up, including John Jr. on guitar -- sadly, he would die of pneumonia in 1936 -- all looking young and relaxed, and sounding cool and mellow, despite the animated weirdness swirling around them.
There's no plot. (Who needs one?) The premise, loosely speaking, involves a lion who apparently lives in a suburban home and has his life transformed by exposure to one of those new-fangled devices, a television set. This is T.V. as the Fleischer team imagined it: the set has feet like an old bathtub, and on those feet are shoes. When the lion first turns on his set he flips the channels past a montage of scenes featuring ethnic stereotypes: a dancing Chinaman, African natives boiling a missionary, a Mexican in a sombrero, etc. (Come to think of it, that's a pretty good forecast of what a typical day of programming would look like in the '50s.) But then the lion happens upon the Mills Brothers scatting their way through "Hold That Tiger," and he's like a beast possessed. He dances, and then, under the spell of the music, he develops magic powers, and proceeds to imbue objects in his home with life. Statuary and paintings on the wall suddenly move and speak. A mouse emerges from his lair in time to play a trumpet solo -- actually a vocal effect, courtesy of Harry or perhaps Herbert Mills -- and several cats appear to join in the tune. A headless chicken flies out of a cabinet across the room, lands in a frying pan, turns into an egg, and is promptly fried by a statue of Napoleon, which has come to life for the occasion.
The lion develops fingers. Furniture comes to life and bops to the music. The lion transforms a hapless dog into a series of successively larger dogs, then turns him into a string of weenies, which dashes away yelping. (And by the way, if anyone ever wants to write a dissertation on the symbolic use of frankfurters in Fleischer cartoons I'd be happy to read it.) Eventually we return to the Mills Brothers in live action, as they lead us in a smooth rendition of the title tune. It comes as a relief after the insanity we've been experiencing, but at the conclusion of the song we're back to the raucous "Hold That Tiger" for the crazed finale. A tiger rug on the floor comes to life and chases the lion and his T.V. set right out the door and down the road, turning into several small tigers along the way.
This is a prime example of Fleischer madness: 7 or 8 minutes of pure surrealism, backed by great music. A real treat for the cartoon connoisseur.
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