review by Rachel Newstead
For the animated cartoon, sound arrived not with a bang, or a whimper, but a bark.
The scene: a movie palace of decades ago. The lights go down. On a grainy black-and-white screen, the audience sees a black cartoon dog in an iris shot a la the MGM lion. Several barks issue forth from the screen.
A series of mildly amusing gags follow: the dog enters his home, where he removes his coat and hat. Cartoon magic transforms a statue in the corner into a water pump, while the dog’s hat becomes a washbasin. His coat, which he has thrown over a chair, does double duty as a towel, then a tablecloth as he prepares to eat his meal. While sharpening his dentures, the dog pauses to replace a loosened tooth, knocking it back in place with a mallet to the tune of “The Anvil Chorus.”
Disdaining the meat he’s selected for his evening meal for the juicy bone inside, our canine friend doesn’t consume it, but pulls and stretches it like putty, until the soup bone resembles a trombone. (OK, you try coming up with a better pun in the wee hours of the morning.) He plays a few notes of a familiar tune–“My Old Kentucky Home”. Turning to the audience, with a voice not quite in synch with the mouth movements, he says, “Follow the ball, and join in, everybody!”
That audience didn’t know it then, but they’d just witnessed cinema history. The cartoon they saw–with sight and sound gags so typical of the “wide-eyed ’30s”–premiered not in the thirties, but 1926.