“Swing Out, Now”: My Take On L’IL OL’ BOSKO AND THE PIRATES (1937)

Review-synopsis by Rachel Newstead

L'il Ol' Bosko and the Pirates

L’il Ol’Bosko and the Pirates

Release Date: May 1, 1937

Director: Hugh Harman

In short: Little Bosko’s imagination runs wild, conjuring up a boatload of musical pirate frogs who show him–and us–just what “wild” means…

There is, I admit, an undeniable advantage to watching cartoons in the internet age.

When I was a child, TV programmers ruled. Cartoons came on when the programmers wanted, however often they wanted–and could be yanked off the air just as arbitrarily, for weeks or even months. Or for that matter, forever.

On the one hand, it made cartoon-watching an event, something to be eagerly anticipated. And yet…

I never knew when a favorite cartoon would reappear. Were I to miss it, I’d have to wait until it came up again in the rotation, however long that may be. Consequently, it could take years of repeat viewing to catch all the subtleties, the inside jokes, the individual “fingerprints” of each animator’s style.

Now, armed with DVDs, YouTube and the ability to instantly view nearly anything I desire, as many times as I desire, that same process can take days or even hours.

“L’il Ol’ Bosko and the Pirates” was not one of those cartoons I was fortunate enough to see in my childhood–it and cartoons like it had pretty much faded from TV by the time my interest in animation reached full flower–but the rule still applies.

I first had the privilege of viewing a copy some two years ago. Then, as too often happens, I misplaced it, and much of its wonderful detail faded from my mind.

When finally able to see it again–and again and again–about a week ago, what I found was a revelation.

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JAMMIN’ AT THE LILY PAD: The Music Comes Full Circle With The “Bosko Trilogy”

by Kevin Wollenweber

Foreword from Rachel

After more than a year, Kevin and I are making a long-overdue return to the MGM incarnation of our favorite character, Bosko–more specifically, the final three cartoons in the series, which we’ve come to refer to as the “Bosko Trilogy.”

Made toward the end of Hugh and Rudy’s tenure as independent producers, the Trilogy stands as a bittersweet foreshadowing of what they might have done had they continued as such. In few other cartoons do a modern, jazzy sensibility and Disney-like innocence come together so well.

These deceptively similar cartoons appeal on enough levels to inspire a book in themselves; a mere review seems inadequate, but that’s what we’re going to attempt to do. Were we to indulge ourselves, we could talk about these cartoons among ourselves forever, as heretofore-unnoticed details crop up with every viewing, but we’ve kept our dear readers waiting long enough. In today’s essay, Kevin’s offers his perspective on the Trilogy in general, with emphasis on the first cartoon in the series, L’il Ol’ Bosko and the Pirates. Mine will follow in a subsequent post.

We’ve told the story so many times, here and there in our ramblings on this blog, about Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising leaving their old boss, Walt Disney, for what they hoped would be far greener and more successful pastures, forming their own animation company and getting distributed by Warner Brothers, and then MGM. Those earliest years, experimenting with their own musical series of cartoons, the Looney Tunes and then the Happy Harmonies, spawned cute little wide-eyed and talented characters like Foxy (at Warner Brothers) and their most successful creation, Bosko, that “talk-ink” kid.

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