INSPIRATION: Rubbery Cartoon Dancing

Warning: Long Post Ahead

One of the reasons I love the cartoons from the 30's is because there is so much attention spent on characters dancing.

I realize, of course, that there is dancing in cartoons from the 40's and on - but I specifically like the rubber hose jazzy dancing of these earlier ones. Many of my favorite cartoons are the ones with no real story - just songs, rhythms, often times surreal imagery, and dancing. Some of my favorite sequences include......

1) The waiter, Bimbo, in the Fleischer's "Dizzy Dishes" (1930)

This is my favorite cartoon ever, by the way. The waiter does so many cool little moves as he "glide dances" to the hungry customer's table! I believe that these dance sequences were animated by the great Grim Natwick (please correct me if I'm wrong). Part of the reason this sequence is so successful, in my opinion, is because Grim is such a solid draftsman that he is able to draw this waiter in practically any pose and at any angle. Grim captures every little twist and turn and weight shift convincingly - thus creating this really beautiful, believable and fun dance walk. And even though the dance is animated on ones and the moves are pretty quick, all the poses and gestures read instantly - nothing is unclear.

And to top it all off, the poses are all so fun and full of energy! What a masterpiece!

2) The nightclub entertainer, Goopy Geer, in the Merrie Melody "Goopy Geer" (1932)

3) Flip the Frog in Ub Iwerks' "Fiddlesticks" (1930)

Notice how at first Flip is hopping just like a normal frog...

But then the real fun begins!

"Fiddlesticks" was the first Flip the Frog cartoon ever made, and boy - it sure doesn't get any better than this! This first scene of just Flip doing his dance is really all I need in a cartoon. Perfection.

4) Cab Calloway rotoscope animation in "Minnie the Moocher" (1932) and "Snow White" (1933)

What I love about this animation is that the timing of Calloway's movements is all maintained realistically (through rotoscope), but the character designs are so cartoony! The result is almost creepy - very cartoony characters moving not like cartoons, but like real people. And then on top of that - the animators add in all these crazy surreal metamorphosis type things throughout the performance! This beautiful combination of realism and imagination creates pure magic . The result is timeless - I never get tired of watching this stuff.

5) The scarecrow in Ub Iwerks' "Big Bad Wolf" (or "Little Boy Blue") (1936)

More rotoscoped dance movement. We don't get the crazy metamorphosis additions in this performance, but it's still really fun just seeing this pumpkinhead move so cool.

6) Noah and all the animals (and even his chair) dance in this Van Beuren Aesop's Fable "Noah Knew His Ark" (1930)

7) Dancing birds in Van Beuren's "A Romeo Robin" (1930)

More fun cartoony dancing.

On a side note - these last two Van Beuren frame grabs are taken from the amazing "Aesop's Fables" DVD produced by Thunderbean. I would just like to mention that I am eternally grateful that Steve Sanchfield releases these DVD's - without his effort I would most likely never get to see all these amazing cartoons! I have bought every one of his Thunderbean DVD's so far and none of them dissapoint - you can find his website here:


One of the great things about volunteering at the ASIFA Animation Archive is that I have access to lots of these cartoons with great dancing in them. There's Harman and Ising's "Swing Wedding", Freleng's "Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land," Fleischer's "Swing You Sinners" and many of the black&white Terrytoons have great rubberhose dancing as well.

Here's some notes I took at the Archive while studying Isadore Freleng's "Hittin' the trail For Hallelujah Land" (1931). It's a dancing duck!

So what are some of your favorite dance sequences?


At 11:59 AM, Blogger christopher said...

Jeez! I just checked this place the other day and there was only one post and now it's exploded with amazing stuff! One of my favorite dances is Bobe Cannon's(?)
dance in Wackiki Wabbit. It's not from the 30's but it still makes me laugh when I freeze frame it. I love the life drawings and I find castlebirdskillz incredibly inspiring! Please keep posting!

At 1:26 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi Chris! Thanks for stopping by - yeah, I like that dance in Wackiki Wabbit too! Thanks for checking out my life drawings and castleBERDskillz. I like your Arrested Development drawings - keep up the good work.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger ncross said...

Hey Marc

Great post! My favorite cartoons are the old dance ones too. I love Fiddlesticks! Thanks for the heads'up on those dvd's i'll have to check them out (hopefully they have some cartoons I don't already have on them)!

At 6:48 AM, Blogger Gabriel said...

Skeleton dance, Mysterious Mose...are you asking only about older stuff? If not i'd include Happy happy Joy Joy.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Thanks Nick. Another one of my favorite cartoon dances is your Ottawa Signal Film.

The Thunderbean DVD's are great - I definitely recommend the "Aesop's Fables" disc.

Hey, nice new picture.

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous David Gerstein said...

I love the opening dance in Fiddlesticks, too. As a college kid some years ago, I actually had my alarm clock waking me with a tape recording of the soundtrack to that!
My favorite dance sequence is in Mickey Mouse's THE SHINDIG. Mickey dances to the "Down Home Rag" with an unnamed dachshund, Clarabelle Cow, and Patricia Pigg. The Clarabelle sequence, animated by Ben Sharpsteen, is particularly good.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi GabrielBR - thanks for stopping by!

I was asking about the older stuff in this post, but I'll probably do a post in the future about dancing in later cartoons, too. I agree, Skeleton Dance and Mysterious Mose are great! One of my favorite parts in Mysterious Mose is towards the end when that little mouse comes out of Bimbo's shoe and plays a few notes on a flute, sings "that's mysterious mose" (great mouth shapes) and then does this crazy little slide exit - its BEAUTIFUL! And check out that tail action!

The "Happy Happy Joy Joy" song and dance is a classic.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi David! That's really cool you had your alarm clock set to "Fiddlesticks."

I just pulled out "The Shindig" to refresh my memory and I have to agree - it's really good! I love how Clarabelle Cow moos during her dance. I didn't know that sequence was animated by Ben Sharpsteen - thanks for the info!

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Richard Kish said...

Hi Marc! Nice layout of screen shots from the various cartoons. You have "grabbed" my attention. Thanks for making these available for us to view. You can thank Amid from "Cartoon Brew" for the heads up :)

Take care


At 8:36 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi Richard - thanks for visiting my site! Glad you like the screengrabs - thanks for letting me know about the Cartoon Brew posting!

At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ub Iwerks' trailblazing "Skeleton Dance' holds up remarkably well, not only as rubber hose dance animation but as fine screen entertainment to this very day! If Disney had any real huevos, they'd blow that sucker up to IMAX and project it on the side of the White Cliffs of Dover for the delight of all the ships at sea.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger ncross said...

Thanks Marc,

Actually that signal film thing was based on Fiddlesticks as well as the Disney silly symphony "the goddess of spring" which has one of my all time favorite pieces of animation-a realistic girl dancing with rubber-hose animation. I think it's goddamn genius, although the Disney guys were embarrassed by the result. I guess that shows the mind-set that they had (and have) at Disney...

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Dave said...

"The Girl At The Ironing Board", a 1934 Merrie Melodie (black and white) had a couple of pairs of dancing union suits. The gag was retraced for the 1935 color cartoon, "Billboard Frolics".

At 6:58 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi anonymous, thanks for visiting! I'd love to see all these cartoons projected on the White Cliffs of Dover!

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hey Nick - I pulled out my Snow White DVD, which has "The Goddess of Spring" on it, and HOLY COW! Thanks for pointing this short out to me.

That's hilarious the Disney guys were embarassed - god forbid they use animation to create something that couldn't be done with live action.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi Dave, thanks for stopping by my blog! I re-watched those dancing union suits - wow, great stuff! I posted some screen grabs in my next post. Thanks for the information!


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