Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bright Lights

The latest Oswald short, Bright Lights, actually is from 1928. There are about 8 shorts, between the end of 1927 and the beginning of 1928 that I do not have, and I’m not sure where I might be able to get them, but if anyone has ideas, please let me know.

That said, Bright Lights, in the form presented on the Oswald DVD, is an astoundingly hilarious short. It brings Oswald front and center as a comedic figure, enacting a celebrity fantasy, but puts him in many funny situations. I say in the form on the DVD, because there are definitely some scenes missing from this transfer, that were in the original cartoon but are not presented here.

The set up is a vaudeville stage, where a world famous female performer is appearing, and we see the beginning of her act as the short opens. Multiple dancers on the marquee, appearing in electric lights, fade into the live dancers on stage, in a nice bit.

After we see the dancers do their act for a while, interspersed with shots of the orchestra, we cut to Oswald, outside admiring the poster of his celebrity crush. In a funny gag, he is trying to think of how to get the 50 cent entrance fee, and rests his hand on the poster, strategically placed on the woman’s bottom. The woman in the poster gets offended and moves, causing Oswald to fall.

He schemes many ideas to get in the show through the backstage area, in what is probably the funniest sequence of the Oswalds so far. He tries to run past the guard, flipping and flopping, he jumps over him, he even ties the guard in a knot around a lamppost, only to be stopped by security inside. Finally, he’s able to sneak in under the shadow of a rich fellow headed backstage.

That doesn’t stop the guard, however, who chases Oswald across the stage, flipping the balancing act on stage. Oswald manages to hide in a cage nearby, not realizing that it’s a dangerous tiger cage. He runs out of the cage, back on the stage, and climbs the pole of the balancing act. The tiger comes after him, and Oswald manages to reach the ceiling, hanging on for dear life, with the other member of the balancing team hanging on him.

Finally, he is able to reach a mallet and clobber the tiger, but not before the lions also escape. As Oswald makes his way down, the lions run across the stage, leaping into the crowd and straight at the viewer. It’s a magnificent piece of animation.

The crowd runs out of the theatre, deflating the theatre, but Oswald sneaks out the side. The lions chase him off into the sunset.

I am not doing this justice, as I’m short on time today, but Bright Lights is a magnificent short. The two main things I was struck by were the great gags and humor, and Oswald’s appearance. He looks more like the later Mickey in this short than I have seen in the previous ones. I don’t know if that is an evolution from The Ocean Hop to now in the intervening shorts that I don’t have, but it’s very noticeable. If you are on the fence, go get this DVD now and you won’t be sorry if you watch Bright Lights.
All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. I think you're out of luck as far as the 13 shorts missing from the DVD are concerned - Disney searched all over the world to find prints of as many Oswalds as possible for the Treasures release, as evidenced by the cards affixed to the end of the films thanking people such as Mark Kausler, some guy in Spain, and the Norwegian Film institute. So unless any more of the films are discovered and released in the near future, you'll probably have to make do with the 13 shorts that they were able to find.

  2. Oops, too late with my re-edited version. But I almost made it—here's my blog posting now!

  3. I watched the DVD version last night and Ramapith's version just now. Good job, Ramapith. I noticed you even changed the title card. The version on the DVD is a recreation so did you have a scan of the original version or what?

    I wonder if there's still a little bit of this cartoon missing. When Oswald's back stage you see him looking excitedly on at who I assumed was the Shimmy Queen on stage, however when he's chased on there moments later, it's the balancing act on there. It's also a little odd how Oswald runs off stage screen left and enters the next scene from screen right, breaking the 360° rule!

    Of course it's still a very enjoyable cartoon and as Ryan pointed out, we now have the rounder, even more appealing design for Oswald (my favourite). The scene of the lions jumping right at the audience so their whole mouths fill the screen with black is really cool. I think this might be the first time this effect was used in a Disney cartoon.

    And, yes, it's a shame so many Oswald shorts are missing. Based on the quality of the surviving ones and from the synopsis printed in "Walt in Wonderland" we're missing out on some really good and unusual cartoons! Not to mention Disney's first Christmas themed cartoon – 'Empty Socks'. I'm hopeful that more will turn up eventually.


  4. The original title card, oddly enough, is seen momentarily in one of Leonard's features on the DVD. It had serious nitrate damage but I was able to patch a working version together from pieces of several different frames. So yes, that's the original you're seeing on mine.

    BRIGHT LIGHTS has my favorite design for Oswald, too. When partway through the season, Ub and Hugh Harman each helmed a directorial unit, the rounder BRIGHT LIGHTS model was the one developed by Ub. Later, the whole group would reconvene and Ub's model would become standard.

  5. Ramapith, I'm planning on checking out your post tonight. Busy, busy time for me right now at real life, but hoping to sneak a few play minutes this evening to check that out.

    There's definitely some frames missing from the cut on the DVD, so I am anxious to see your version.


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