Yesterday Michael Sporn posted a commentary about how the musical composers at animation studios of the past served as a trademark for a particular studio. Each had a unique style and sound which immediately identify the cartoon to its makers.
Scott Bradley, who composed the music for MGM cartoons from 1934 through 1957, was one of the best. His delightful scores are upbeat and lush sounding, and perfectly capture the right feel of the upscale MGM animation. But what if Bradley had composed a score for a B-Studio like Universal? Well it just so happens that Bradley did take on such a freelance assignment in 1938 just prior to joining MGM full time, where he’d be under contract for the rest of his career. (He had previously been a composer at large, creating music for Ub Iwerks and Harman-Ising cartoons.)
Baby Kittens (1938) is an unremarkable, run-of-the-mill Universal short, directed by Alex Lovy for Walter Lantz Productions. It’s made even more unbearable by the voice-over “thoughts” of the dog character. Print uploaded (embedded below) has time code obscuring part of the picture, but we present it here for its soundtrack not the animation or story. Bradley’s trademark themes and music cues are all there, and are much more sophistcated than what Lantz house composer Frank Marsales was doing at the time. If you close your eyes and just listen to the track (and try to ignore the dog), you might think you are listening to a 40s MGM cartoon – proving Michael Sporn’s point entirely.