Hugh Harman

Alice’s Wonderland (1923, Walt Disney)

Depending on the process director Disney used to marry live action with animation, Alice’s Wonderland is either mediocre or just plain bad. If it’s the latter, Disney has no concept of perspective or, you know, shadows.

The first three minutes are awesome. A little kid (Virginia Davis, in an awful performance–it’s probably Disney’s fault) visits an animation studio and is amazed at how the cartoon characters come alive on the animators’ panels. Disney’s conception of the studio is something technology still hasn’t produced (and probably never will). It’s spellbinding.

Then it becomes about Davis and gets bad. All the little cartoon animals love her and applaud her lame, poorly directed dance. The technical wonders of the first few minutes become lame and cheap tricks, a couple of shocking incompetence.

The animation’s mostly lame with occasional exceptions. Unfortunately, a couple great gags can’t make up for all of Alice‘s failings.

1/3Not Recommended


Written, directed and produced by Walt Disney; directors of photography, Rudolf Ising and Ub Iwerks; animated by Hugh Harman, Ising, Iwerks and Carman Maxwell; released by Margaret J. Winkler.

Congo Jazz (1930, Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising)

Congo Jazz is a great example of how old Hollywood racism works. Having Bosko, the lead in the cartoon, be a little black kid isn’t really overtly racist… until Harman and Ising have him meet a couple monkeys.

Guess who looks like who?

And then, sort of confirming racists are morons, it turns out the monkeys’ father is a gorilla. So apparently species were unknown to Harman and Ising too.

Strangely, once the cartoon becomes a musical number–and Bosko acts the minstrel role–it becomes a lot less offensive. The last half is Bosko and the jungle animals playing a song and there are a couple almost successful moments.

The problem is the lack of ambition. Harman and Ising put more attention into Jazz‘s backgrounds than the animation.

Without a story, the lazy animation can’t make Congo Jazz succeed. Instead, it putters out, just stopping without a real ending.

1/3Not Recommended


Produced and directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising; animated by Carman Maxwell and Paul J. Smith; music by Frank Marsales; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Johnny Murray (Bosko).

Bosko the Doughboy (1931, Hugh Harman)

Watching Bosko the Doughboy, I kept thinking, “too soon.” It’s a comedy cartoon about World War I, specifically trench warfare. In the cartoon, Bosko is the only human. The rest of combatants are animals–dogs, cows, a pig or two, a lot of birds. The battle scenes are graphic and, one has to assume at the time of its release, traumatic to veterans of the war.

The cartoon has three significant parts. First, the introduction with all the trench warfare “humor.” Second, a strange musical number so Bosko can show off synchronized sound. Finally, Bosko and his friend get into trouble and Bosko saves the day.

While Bosko’s appearance is a bad racial stereotype, the character in Doughboy is incredibly heroic. During the final sequence, it’s as though the cartoon is working against itself.

It’s technically pretty strong (except the lame musical number), but Doughboy feels wrong on multiple levels.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Hugh Harman; animated by Rollin Hamilton and Carman Maxwell; music by Frank Marsales; produced by Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.

Alice in the Wooly West (1926, Walt Disney)

While the title suggests this cartoon is about Alice, it’s really about her sidekick, Julius; he’s the attraction of Alice in the Wooly West. Maybe Disney just didn’t have the budget to have Alice (here played by Margie Gay) do any actual action shots. The mix of live action and animation, like a lot of Wooly West, is ambitious but Disney isn’t able to realize it.

The cartoon’s real problem is the animation. Disney will come up with great shots and the animation just can’t sell them. There’s also a lot of repetition in the gags, maybe even reused frames. There’s about three minutes of content in six minutes of film.

But Wooly West is appealing thanks to Julius. While he’s a little shy with the ladies, Julius is an absolute Western badass of the Clint Eastwood variety. It kills any tension, but it’s cute to see a gunslinging kitty.



Directed by Walt Disney; director of photography, Rudolf Ising; animated by Rollin Hamilton, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Ub Iwerks; music by Paul Dessau; produced by Disney and M.J. Winkler; released by Margaret J. Winkler.

Starring Margie Gay (Alice).

The Booze Hangs High (1930, Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising)

It takes The Booze Hangs High nearly half its running time to have its first gag… but it’s worth the wait. An adorable little duckling tells its mother it needs to go number two. Without dialogue or visual followthrough, but the message is clear. And, all of a sudden, Booze starts getting better.

It starts off really rocky. Bosko, the lead, isn’t funny. Until the ducklings, the only interesting thing of note is the filmmakers seemingly not understanding bulls do not have udders.

But after the ducklings? Then Bosko feeds some pigs their slop (from a trash can) and the piglets find a liquor bottle. They proceed to get wasted. At that point, Booze gets a lot better.

Some of the problem is clearly the sound–directors Harman and Ising are still wowed with synchronized sound.

Whilethe animation detail is weak, the backgrounds are great.

Booze‘s tiring, but amusing.

1/3Not Recommended


Produced and directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising; animated by Friz Freleng and Paul J. Smith; music by Frank Marsales; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Johnny Murray (Bosko).

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