1 February 2009 | BrianDanaCamp
Nostalgic Americana Max Fleischer style
"Musical Memories" (1935) was included in the "Somewhere in Dreamland" DVD collection of Max Fleischer's Color Classic cartoon series (1934-40) as one of the "Lost Episodes," presumably because the only print they could find was substandard. The image is a little murky and the colors aren't as rich as they should be, but it's worth seeing. It was shot in 2-color Technicolor, just before Fleischer adopted the then-newly available 3-strip Technicolor process for his subsequent Color Classics. It also makes use of three-dimensional backgrounds, a technique Fleischer toyed with for a couple of years in which traditional cell animation was executed against mobile miniature model sets to give a "3-D" look to the cartoons, often to nice effect.
In this cartoon, an old married couple reminisces about their years together while listening to a radio broadcast of American song favorites from earlier decades. As the songs play, the husband and wife use a once-popular stereopticon device to look at 3-D photos of themselves in younger years. This leads to flashbacks set to songs, including scenes of kids at play on the streets of New York as we hear the song, "Sidewalks of New York." One of the "kids" turns out to be a caricature of New York Governor Al Smith, complete with derby and cigar, who sings along in a gravelly voice. The couple is next seen in their courtship phase to the accompaniment of "Little Annie Rooney" and then on a canoe in a lake while "In the Good Old Summertime" is sung. They begin a family and ride on a "Bicycle Built for Two," while that song is heard. Additional scenes are played out to "After the Ball" and "Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet," until we're brought back to the old couple in the present.
Each scene is animated against detailed 3-D backgrounds of rundown city streets, a sprawling dance hall, country roads, and spacious residential streets away from the city. There are occasional cartoon-style gags and action, such as a shot of the bicycle-built-for-two being followed by a bicycle for five carrying the couple's five kids. During the dance hall scene in the courtship phase, a misstep on the dance floor provokes a comical fight between our hero and a Bluto-like bruiser.
It's a cute and pleasant little cartoon, of interest mainly for its Americana-flavored soundtrack and its ambitious attempt to use three-dimensional backgrounds on a larger scale than Fleischer's previous efforts. It's too bad no better print was available for inclusion on the DVD. This would be a prime candidate for restoration.