Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Toyland Premiere is a theatrical cartoon produced by Walter Lantz for Universal Studios in 1934. The cartoon is part of a series of film called Cartoon Classics which featured cartoons in colour, a brand new medium at the time!

The story starts out in the North Pole where Santa and his elves are hard at work preparing for Christmas. Santa receives a telegram from Oswald saying that Santa is needed for the big Toyland Premiere Parade!

Santa prepares himself for the trip but finds that his suit has been eaten up by moths! But quick thinking on the part of the elves saves the day!

Santa and the elves take part in the parade and Oswald, who is a waiting for them at the end, invites them in for a great feast! Waiting for them at a large table is a bunch of Hollywood movie stars!

Hilarity ensues as Laurel and Hardy try to steal a piece of cake that is being guarded by the Frankenstein monster! The duo dress up as a dragon to try and scare Frankenstein away but the plan backfires as all the toys come to life and start attacking the dragon! In the end, Laurel and Hardy surrender and Santa blows put the candles on the cake. But he pulls a Big Bad Wolf and the cake is blown across the table and lands in Laurel and Hardy's faces. Their just deserts!

Toyland Premiere is a charming cartoon that really shows Santa as a fun person. He is not all business as most shows make him out to be. He has fun! He throws pies! He has a personality! He is also sad at the beginning of this short (and not because he has been kidnapped) which is something you don't see often either!

This short guest stars Oswald the Rabbit who had his own cartoon series at the time. Oswald was created by Walt Disney in 1927 and had a contract with Universal to distribute the pictures. When Walt's producer tried to take over his studio, Walt broke the contract, loosing the character that he had grown quite fond of (but this event caused him to create Mickey Mouse). Oswald remained with Universal for many years. This cartoon is his first colour appearance.

Also guest starring in this episode are a bunch of Hollywood caricatures! Some of these caricatures you may not recognize, but these were all top billing stars in 1934! You will see Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) and his actress wife Lupe Velez, Shirley Temple, a black-face Eddie Cantor, the Frankenstein monster (Boris Karloff), Bing Crosby, and Laurel and Hardy.

Hollywood caricatures are still a very popular thing to do in animation (Family Guy and Simpsons being two examples) but that sort of thing really dates a show because, eventually those stars are going to be yesterday's news. And now, 70 years after this short's release, today's generation isn't going to even recognize Johnny Weissmuller or Lupe Velez.

You can see for yourself on DVD.

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