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If you like "swing music," and are a "young cat" at heart, you'll love
this Looney Tunes animated short.
At Katnp College, "swingology" is one of the subjects and the students are having a great time. The professor is hilarious and has "everyone's sonnets sounding like Kostelanetz" expect when Johnny gets up to perform. He doesn't know what to do and winds up in the corner with a dunce hat on and ostracized from the rest of the students.
Later that night, the "rhythm bug" suddenly hits Johhny and now he's one cool cat.
This a colorful, musical effort. How much you like it will depend what you think of the music. It's very dated, but it swings enough for me to enjoy this. The colorful clothes on all the characters was fun to see, too.
This is the shortest of the three Merrie Melodies on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD of Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938, and definitely the one that has the least to do with the film itself. It's part of the Warner Night at the Movies feature, as back then, you got this, trailers and other productions in addition to the motion picture itself. The basic plot, if you can call it that, is that some cats(I think they might be cool ones) are attending a college where the teacher teaches, and all the students are tested, in song(and it's rather well-performed, these are catchy). Why this did not cause a country-wide rebellion back then, of children and adults alike demanding that their schools change to be like that, I have no clue. On that note, tomorrow I will be picketing and collecting signatures for a petition to alter our educational facilities. Honestly, I'm only half-joking here, some people learn better using music, and the current state of sitting still, reading and not reflecting isn't doing much for the future of our nations. Anyway, one of the kids in this lacks rhythm, and there's your conflict. Some of this is funny, and the animation is reasonable. Not being an expert on tunes, I couldn't tell you what style this is(jazz, maybe?). There's definitely a beatnik vibe to it, with words like "swing" and "groove". I recommend this to those that this appeals to. 6/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Katnip Kollege" is a delightful Warner Bros. musical cartoon. The plot
involves a swingology class at Katnip Kollege, where all the "young
cats" go to study one of my favorite subjects: how to swing! Every
student in the class does a fine job of singing, clapping, dancing, and
playing instruments to a tireless swinging jazz groove! That is, every
student except one bespectacled cat named Johnny, who is so terrible at
swinging that his classmates ridicule him, and his professor declares
him to be a dunce. At the end of the school day, as all the other cats
swing their way into the night, Johnny stays after school and listens
to the ticking of a clock, which ultimately kicks off a tempo for him,
and he finally understands how to swing! Showing off his newly-acquired
skill, Johnny becomes the star of the evening as he wins the respect of
his classmates and the affections of a spunky gal named Ms. Kitty
My favorite moments from "Katnip Kollege" include the following. During the opening shot of the classroom before the professor arrives, Johnny quite humorously stands out from the rest of his classmates as he cannot even clap his hands in time to the beat. The professor has a Bing Crosby-type voice as he swings his rhymed speech while calling on different students to give their swinging recitations. And how could I not mention the wonderful jazz music that fills this entire cartoon?
In closing, here is one final interesting observation that relates to "Katnip Kollege." Dave Brubeck, one of my favorite jazz pianists/composers, wrote a tune in 1955 titled "The Duke" as a homage to one of the greatest composers/bandleaders/pianists of the 20th Century: Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. Decades later, when an interviewer asked Brubeck how he actually went about writing the tune, Brubeck replied, "Just think of windshield wipers." As Brubeck was driving his car on a rainy day, the motion of the wipers ultimately kicked off a tempo for him!
I wouldn't call this a perfect film, or spend any effort to obtain it
by itself, but if you get it anyway (in my case, as part of the Warner
Night at the Movies extra suite on the Adventures of Robin Hood 1938),
it provides decent, if somehow museum-like entertainment, and
contributes to the viewer feeling like back in 1938 (the included
newsreel reports that Hitler has annected Austria). Colors look a bit
faded, humor is not worth mentioning, but the swing music was pleasant
And that Kitty girl moved nicely lasciviously, though Betty Boop was better at that :^)
Another musical short that is more cute than humorous is this short
about some swinging cats singing in music class. One cat just doesn't
get it and is ridiculed unmercifully because of it. Of course he gets
it together by the end, but it still made me feel sorry for him when he
lacked rhythm. This short wasn't as good as "I Love to Singa" (which
was over praised to begin with) But it's cute enough to at least watch
one time, perhaps even twice (but not in a row) and the tunes doesn't
seem to make one openly cringe. This animated short can be seen on Disc
4 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2.
My Grade: C-
This is a cute, rather charming musical short patterned after things
like Along Flirtation Walk and Varsity Show. The lead character,
Johnny, might as well have "Dick Powell" stenciled on his forehead and
the professor reminds me of Kay Kyser. The music is infectious and
entertaining, even if the plot is as thin as a piece of gauze. Come to
think of it, the plots of those old musicals this is patterned after
are pretty much just as thin and this is much shorter than those were!
Warner Brothers made a fair number of these musical cartoons, because the animation department had access to the entire musical catalog for the studio and the studio big-wigs saw the shorts as a way to remind people of Warner Brothers features and music (sheet music was popular and the sheet music for songs made a pretty for all involved in the loop-composers, film studio, etc.) by keeping songs fresh in the public's memory.
This is on Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 2 and is well worth seeing. Recommended.
Katnip Kollege (1938)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Fast-paced and very fun animated film takes place at Katnip Kollege, a swinging college to teach cats how to swing. The class is "Swingology" and one student gets made fun of because he doesn't know how to swing it but he plans on changing that before the big dance that night. There's certainly nothing ground-breaking here but there's no question that this is one of the more entertaining shorts from this era. The animation itself is certainly nothing too flashy as the cat designs are quite simple but this actually helps the film in a strange way. Another thing that really helps are the two music numbers because they're quite catchy and fun to listen to. It also doesn't hurt that the sex kitten appears to have been fashioned after Clara Bow, which was pretty interesting and especially since Bow hadn't made a movie in several years by this point in time. Fans of animation are certainly going to want to check this one out as well as those who just enjoy that swing/jazz music.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton's 'Katnip Kollege' is a truly dismal cartoon which attempts to capitalize on the popularity of swing and jazz music to embarrassing effect. It's one of the most dated cartoons you're ever likely to see. The paper thin plot involves a school that teaches a series of awkwardly animated cartoon cats how to swing to music. One cat can't dance and is therefore despised by his peers until he learns how to move to rhythm from a ticking clock, after which he wins the approval of the other cats and gets the girl. Aside from a dodgy moral, 'Katnip Kollege' is an ugly and hideously dull short. These early Merrie Melodies were an attempt to rival Disney's Silly Symphony series and often they were successful such as Tex Avery's 'I Love to Singa' or Frank Tashlin's 'Have You Got Any Castles?' 'Katnip Kollege', however, is just dreadful. Nothing more than a series of song and dance numbers tacked onto the slimmest of plots, it fails to entertain on any level and stands among the very worst of Warner Bros. early output.
Watching the classic Looney Tunes cartoons, one can see that they had a
thing for jazz. In "Katnip Kollege", the focus is on swing music, as a
feline in school can't keep time and gets made the dunce...until he
figures out the beat. Even though I love the classic Looney Tunes
cartoons, it always seemed to me like their musical cartoons from the
'30s tried a little too hard to be cute. Of course, any emphasis on
swing music is something to be acknowledged. Still, I prefer their
other music-centric shorts (such as "I Love to Singa", "Three Little
Bops" and "What's Opera, Doc?").
Anyway, this one's worth seeing as a historical reference, if nothing else.
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