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I’m Just a Jitterbug (1939)

I always love an excuse to post an obscure Walter Lantz cartoon from the 1930s featuring swing music, rotoscoped dancers and un-P.C. stereotypes, set against the backdrop of an animation studio. The excuse this time is a Lantz in-house memo (below left – click thumbnail to enlarge) that collector Eric Calande just sent me. Lantz asks the staff (“Dear Gang”) to contribute gags to this cartoon, with prizes ranging from $2 to $10 for the best ideas. Note that the memo is dated September 26th 1938 and the cartoon was released January 23rd 1939. From board to screen in four months!? Perhaps the rush to cash in on “a fad” necessitated a production crunch. Also note the set up to this premise pre-dates Friz Freleng’s Looney Tune You Ought To Be In Pictures by a year.

Though the Jitterbug character never reappeared, the concept of this cartoon was the basis for several other swing music cartoons, and the forerunner of the Swing Symphonies series Lantz initiated in 1941. Despite the title card, this was not an Oswald Rabbit cartoon – it was actually one of Lantz’s miscellaneous Cartune series (it was released to TV in the 1950s in the Oswald television package). Frame grabs from the original titles are posted below (click thumbnails to enlarge)