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Sunday, April 08, 2007

"De Easter Time Is De Time For..." BOSKO'S EASTER EGGS (1937)

Bosko's Easter Eggs
Release Date: March 20, 1937
Director: Hugh Harman
In short: Honey plays "mother hen" both literally and figuratively, while Bosko "hatches" a plan for her Easter present...

It's Easter here in Wisconsin--meaning that as little children gather their eggs, they have to brush off the snow.

Yet it is Easter, even as the last remnants of winter hold tight. A time for bright colors, to marvel at the wonder of renewal. A time for...cartoons.

Well, not that, perhaps. But we take a little diversion from our scheduled program to uncover this Easter surprise from 1937, featuring Harman and Ising's greatest creations, Bosko and Honey.

As I've often said, both privately and on this blog, Honey is my favorite character of the two, for the simple reason that she had the most personality. Bosko, however, comes into his own in this
cartoon, revealing a mischievous, devious side not typical of him. How shall I put this? For now,
let's just say he concocts a "creative" scheme to acquire an Easter present for his friend Honey.
How? Read on...

The MGM lion and opening credits dissolve to the title, in which the letters look as if they've been

"painted" in Easter colors, with the paint still dripping off them.

We iris in on Bosko (in his now-trademark overalls and straw hat) walking down a country pathwith trees and spring flowers in the background. Bruno follows close behind, sniffing along as he
goes. As should be familiar to anyone who's seen the MGM Boskos, Bosko chants in rhyme:

"I'm takin' Honey some Easter eggs, An' de basket's full, if dey don't drop out, I'll step real soft so de shells won't crack, If she don't like 'em, I can take 'em back!"

This little rhyme, combined with Bosko's surprisingly mature voice (more fitting for an adolescent, really, than a child) illustrates his newfound cockiness, as does the myriad expressions he exhibits in freeze-frame: jutting out his lower lip and breaking into his ever-present grin.

Immediately after he finishes speaking, he trips, falling on his rear and causing the basket to land on its side, just to his right. The eggs are unharmed, though a few roll out of the basket. Rising to his feet, he turns to the right, puts his hands on his hips, and addresses Bruno (off-camera):

"Doggone you, Bruno! How come you always gotta stomp so much?!" (Fairly quick to pass the
blame, he is--which will land him in more than a bit of trouble later on). "Now you come on!"

Placing his straw hat back on his head, he grabs the basket and resumes his rhyme:

"Now I'm takin' Honey some Easter eggs,
An' de one is green, an' de other blue.."

Meanwhile...the scene dissolves to reveal Honey, in her ever-present yellow dress, crouched on
her knees to the right of the screen. She's in a chicken coop--we see her pet hen, Biddy, on the
left of the screen hatching a nest full of eggs. "C'mon, Biddy! Drink!" Honey urges, leaning forward slightly on the word for emphasis. "Like this..."

She proceeds to demonstrate for Biddy, putting her head down in the hen's water dish and miming drinking, in the manner of a chicken: taking a small sip, then putting her head back, "swallowing" in short gulps. Biddy follows her lead.

"That's it!", Honey says. Turning, she grabs an ear of corn and starts to scrape kernels from the
cob onto the ground, being her usual chatty self all the while. "Now I'm gonna get you some nice corn, and you're gonna set real still, an' you're gonna hatch out a whole bunch of little Easter chickies!" (On the words "whole bunch," she spreads her arms in the air). "Now you be sure toset right tight on them eggs," she continues, moving to the left. She stands just outside the open coop, leaning forward, hands on hips, still chattering as the scene dissolves.

We return to Bosko, still walking along and chanting in rhyme. In the background are trees and a small creek:

"Now de Easter time is de time for eggs,
An' de time for eggs is de Easter time..."

As he speaks the second line, he walks up a plank to the top of a picket fence, as Bruno follows
along on the ground just to his left. Gingerly stepping along as he dangles the basket precariously on one arm, he continues his chant:

"an' I pray de Lord,
as I climb de fence,
Dat I ain't gonna tear my Sunday pants!"

Unfortunately, tearing his pants turns out to be the least of his worries, as he trips on a
fencepost, sending him reeling backward and causing him to let go of his precious basket of
eggs. He lands right on the basket, crushing the delicate eggs and flipping the basket up in the
air. It lands--straight down on his head. He sits covered in the messy remnants as they run down his entire body. (Word of advice, Bosko--you might try boiling them next time before you color them).

The scene cuts to Bruno, about to get into a tussle with Biddy, who's understandably protective of her eggs. Bruno is crouched as if to spring on her--he doesn't, however, instead panting happily. He wants those eggs! Biddy knows he does, and grows ever more agitated, jumping up and down and lunging at him. As Bruno sniffs and smacks in anticipation, Biddy grabs his nose and pulls it, stretching it like a rubber band. It reacts like a rubber band, too, snapping him back several feet, causing him to run into a barrel. He gets up and runs off camera right, yowling.

Bruno, still looking behind him, runs past Bosko, who's just now removed the muck-filled basket
from his head. Bruno bumps into him as he runs by, forcing Bosko's face back into the mess.
(Isn't it strange how clean Bosko's clothes are, considering that a moment before he was sitting in crushed egg goo? I want that material!)

"Doggone, Bruno! Now see what you done!" (That's right--blame the poor defenseless dog. Just
who was it on that fence, hmmmm?). "You ruined the Easter time!" As Bosko continues to berate him off camera, we see Bruno--with a forlorn expression--emerging from a clump of plants and weeds near a broken part of the fence. He cowers, putting his paws over his head.

Bosko starts to speak (it sounds something like "Now I've not got de...") only to cast a startled
glance off camera. His expression instantly changes to glee, and he snaps his fingers. Care to
guess what he sees? He starts to creep slowly forward, saying "De Easter time is de time for..."

Cut to Biddy on her nest as Bosko emerges from the right of the frame, standing just outside the
entrance to the chicken coop. He cranes in for a look--in his mind, Biddy disappears to reveal a
nest full of...brightly colored Easter eggs! He's got Honey's present after all--even if it is her own

He struts by carrying his empty basket--now curiously free of egg remnants--past Biddy,
pretending to be nonchalant. He turns to face Biddy, pouring on the phony charm:

"Why hello, Miz Chicken! You sho' is lookin' mighty scrumptuous today!" He walks back toward
the right of the screen, Biddy following his every move. He leans forward and winks at Biddy. He looks back and forth, then back toward Biddy: "Well! Just look at all dem eggs!" he says with a
back-and-forth emphatic gesture of his arms, and a sly grin on his face. "You sure is powerful
uncomfortable sittin' on all dose eggs...now you just better let me kinda get in here and help

As he's saying this, he slowly picks up the basket with his right hand and reaches in for the eggs
with his left. Biddy will have none of it--she leaps up in the air and lunges toward Bosko, sending
him out into the foliage. He moves so quickly, all we can see of him is a red streak. (A speed
trick Harman and Ising have used with Bosko before, most notably in THE OLD HOUSE).

The camera follows him toward the right as he continues running, gradually slowing down when
he's a safe distance from the furious Biddy. He walks a few more cautious steps and turns about,
repeating his earlier rhyming refrain: " De Easter time is de time for eggs, and de time for eggs is
de Easter time..."

Cut back to Biddy on her nest, who's settled back in and calmed down somewhat. Bosko
approaches from the right of the screen, tiptoeing along. Apparently slow to learn, Bosko repeats his "Hello, Miz Chicken!" routine (pardon my cynicism, but this may have been an excuse for
Harman to reuse the animation of the earlier scene).

But this time, our friend Bosko has a slightly different plan in mind. Grabbing the ear of corn
Honey discarded earlier, he says, "How 'bout you eatin' some of dis here corn, and makin'
yourself all nice and fat...." As he says this, he walks along toward camera left, scraping off corn
as he goes. He launches into his "Easter Time" refrain off-camera as Biddy gobbles up the kernels of corn.

Bosko continues his refrain as he heads toward a chicken-wire pen:.."and do you know what I'm thinkin' when, you get locked up in de pen!" He sets down the ear of corn, moving slowly to the right of the screen as Biddy passes him in the opposite direction, still intent on getting the corn. If she only knew what was coming!

Biddy jumps up as she hears an off-camera door slam--she's been tricked! Jumping up in the air, she speeds toward the now-locked door. Unable to find a way out there, she runs here, there and everywhere around the pen searching for a way out. Meanwhile...

The scene dissolves to show a close-up shot of a basket filled with colored eggs--Biddy's eggs!

The camera pans right to show Bosko hastily painting an egg bright red while repeating his
"Easter Time" chant. On the words, "de time for eggs is de...," he very nearly loses his grip on
the egg he's just painted, tripping and bobbling it as he goes to the basket.

"Easter time..." he says with a sigh of relief, as he approaches the nearly-full basket.

As he walks along carrying the basket on his left arm, he continues:

"An' I pray de Lord,
Dat de pen hold tight,
Fo' if she get loose,
She'll cook my goose!"

Seeing Honey off-camera, he calls to her: "Honey! Oh, Honey!"

We dissolve to Honey, who's holding a watering can and watering some flowers. Pleasantly
surprised, she turns to Bosko, who has just emerged into the right of the screen with the
disguised basket of purloined eggs. "Bosko! Fo' me??" she says.

Holding the basket high above his head--you'd think he'd learn not to be so careless--he says,
"Yes, fo' you!" Leaning forward and clasping her hands under her chin, she gushes, "Bosko, I
think dey is just ab-dominal!" (An expression of hers almost common enough to be a catchphrase by this time). "Where did you get these love-"

Before the last word even comes out of her mouth, she imagines Biddy perched on top of the
eggs. Her expression changes from shock to suspicion to anger: her fists clench.

Cut to a close up of Honey, leaning forward, hands on hips: "Bosko...where did you get dem

When she says this the second time, we cut to Bosko, cringing, with his head turned away.

"W--w-w-well, I j-j-just passed by..." he stammers, pointing in all directions.

Cut to a medium shot with both Bosko and Honey in frame. "Yeah, passed by and an' took poor
Biddy's eggs--that what you done!" Her expression changes to sadness.

Suddenly, the eggs in the basket start to jump around as we hear a tapping noise. The eggs are
hatching! Running around and becoming frantic and flustered, she shouts, "Oh, Bosko...the eggs!
Hurry, quick! Poor Biddy.." Grabbing Bosko by the arm, she takes him and the basket of eggs
toward the coop. We view them standing just outside, from the coop's darkened interior.

Bosko, unfortunately, has neglected to tell her he locked Biddy up. Noticing the empty nest,Honey looks toward Bosko, who grimaces.

"Oh, she's gone!" Honey exclaims. "Now Biddy's done left the maternity ward (I always liked this line!) and dem eggs are getting cold..."

Bosko, being even more agitated then Honey (not to mention guilty) hops back and forth on one foot, then the other, stammering, "p-p-put the eggs on the nest. Bruno'll keep them warm!"

Cut to a very worried Bruno, who's been standing next to the plank at the end of the picket fence (the same one Bosko had climbed earlier, just before he broke his own eggs). Bruno looks off
camera left with a worried expression, and tries in vain to sneak away.

Bosko comes into frame and grabs Bruno's collar, dragging Bruno toward the coop. "C'mon,
Bruno--you is gonna be a mama!"

Dissolve to Honey crouched on her knees back in the coop, placing the now-multicolored eggs back on the nest. "De very idea..." she mutters, then starts chattering angrily in rapid-fire dialogue that's incomprehensible to me. Bosko emerges from the right, still dragging Bruno. He places the struggling dog on top of the eggs, saying "Come on, Bruno--easy now--that's it!"

Honey emerges with some clothing, placing it on Bruno as he fights to get away. "Here now, you get this here...bonnet on...and this here shawl! (I've heard of "method acting", but this is ridiculous). "And come quick, Bosko! Let's find Biddy!" She rushes out, disappearing to the left of the frame. Bosko in freeze-frame has a big wide grin on his face--he's clearly delighted with either his own cleverness or Bruno's plight. Poor dog.

As a parting shot to the mortified Bruno, Bosko says, pointing his finger at him, "Y-y-y-we made the bed--now YOU lay in it!" That pretty much seems to be Bosko's philosophy in this cartoon, if his actions up to now are any indication.

Honey re-emerges, grabbing Bosko by the arm--the camera tracks to the left, following Honey as she pulls Bosko along. "Come on Bosko--hurry!"

Cut to the pen, where the frustrated Biddy is still trying to find a way out, jumping and squawkiing madly. She succeeds, heading through an improbably small opening. Hopping mad, she looks frantically around and heads back in the direction of the coop, camera right.

Cut to a very depressed Bruno, still on the nest. Even the sound track mocks him, playing an old song (which I think is called--and you readers are free to correct me if I'm wrong--"My Dear
Mother.") He snuffles in self-pity and puts his paw under his chin. (Note: the version I'm using in this review, taken from YouTube, seems to cut some brief sections out. As I recall, Bruno
incongruously speaks here, as he did in THE OLD HOUSE).

Here--finally--the action starts to soar to CIRCUS DAZE heights as Biddy returns. Discovering Bruno on the nest, she proceeds to chase him around the coop and out into the yard, chasing him first toward the right, then wheeling around and chasing him toward the left. In freeze-frame one can easily see Bruno's wide-eyed panic as he scrambles to get away, Biddy equally wide-eyed as she flutters in the air directly above him.

Cut to Bosko and Honey, still running along, skidding to a stop as they hear the commotion.

Honey says what sounds like "Bruno! Biddy!" as she runs out of frame to the right. In the
meantime, we cut quickly back to Biddy chasing Bruno--she chases him toward a shed, grabbing him by the tail as he struggles to wiggle into a small hole at the bottom. Noticing Bosko just
behind her, she turns and stalks him. Stammering, the panicked Bosko runs as the camera pans
right--he's barely ahead of her, yelling "Miz Chicken! Miz Chicken!"

Honey, back at the nest, is busy putting a hot water bottle on the multicolored eggs. A teakettle--an incredibly large one, at least in proportion to her--sits at her right. Honey gently pats and arranges the eggs under the bottle.

Meanwhile--again--Biddy is still chasing Bosko, around a wooden structure that looks somewhat like a roof with no building. Bosko stammers, pointing: "Y-y-y-LOOK!!" Biddy does--her attention momentarily diverted, Bosko runs off-screen to the left. When Biddy discovers she's been tricked, she exits in close pursuit.

Cut back to Bruno, still trying to get into the tiny hole in the shack--but he's stuck, only managing thus far to get his head in. Bosko attempts to pull him out by grabbing onto one of the yelping Bruno's hind legs. He doesn't manage to accomplish much, as he spies Biddy off-camera to his right and runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction.

The scene makes a quick cut to the shack's front entrance as Bosko runs into frame and
scrambles inside, slamming the door. We can still hear Biddy squawking off-camera. The now
discarded paint cans--the ones Bosko used to color the eggs--can be seen just to the left.

Biddy comes into frame, turning toward the front entrance. But she runs straight into the door,
failing to notice Bosko had just closed it. As she hops up and down, angrily squawking as

...we cut to the darkened interior, where Bosko attempts to pull Bruno inside. From the scattered assortment of junk inside, my guess is this shack is a tool shed.

Bosko, unsuccessful in trying to free the stuck Bruno, gets thrown back by the momentum of his
pull, hitting a wooden box. Getting up, he resumes his attempts to work Bruno loose. The action
starts to get really furious here, and the background music speeds up to keep pace.

Pulling Bruno by the ears(!) Bosko succeeds in getting Bruno free, throwing them back toward the wooden box--Bosko on top, Bruno draped over the edge. We cut to a quick shot of the hole, with light streaming through, then back to Bosko and Bruno, who stand up on either side of the box, waiting for Biddy's inevitable approach.

Bosko and Bruno start to push the wooden box toward the empty hole, thinking they'll keep the
enraged Biddy out. Little do they know that Biddy has somehow sneaked in right behind them...Bruno, when he turns and sees her, explodes in an almost Tex Avery-like take, tensing his body ramrod-straight, turning to face the camera and falling in a dead faint. It's a pretty faithful reproduction of the classic slapstick "stiff-legged fall" from the Mack Sennett days.

Bruno doesn't stay out for long, though, speeding past Biddy and attempting to crawl out through another hole on the other side. (So THAT'S how Biddy got in). Biddy flaps and squawks in the air, feathers flying.

Cut to the outside. Bosko tugs on Bruno's ears--again--this time pulling him free with such force
they get propelled backward through the air into a bucket of water. The cloud of dust settles to
reveal Bruno has the bucket stuck on his rear, but he goes into a furious run anyway. Bosko in

the meantime attempts to hold on to Bruno, still by the ears. As Bruno runs along, Bosko bumps
up and down behind him. In freeze-frame Bruno's mouth is wide-open in panic as he looks
off-camera toward the pursuing Biddy.

Bruno, with Bosko and the bucket still in tow, skids on his rump 180 degrees and heads off in the other direction. They pass behind a tree just as Biddy passes it from the other side.

As Bosko and Bruno continue running, Bruno manages to free himself from the bucket, but in
doing so, he and Bosko are sent tumbling toward the coop where Honey awaits them. The
startled pair duck inside just as Biddy approaches from the left of the screen and passes the
coop entrance.

But before Biddy can attack either one of them, she's startled by the sound of one of the eggs
breaking open and the peep of a newly-born chick. Yet it seems to be a strange color...

"De Easter chickies!" Honey exclaims. "Oh, Biddy, look--isn't dey simply 'magnolious?' Dere's a
blue one, an' a green one, and ain't dey just simply..." She continues to chatter excitedly in her
typical Honey way as the chicks continue to emerge. She's absolutely correct--Bosko's earlier
paint job has somehow produced a nestful of Technicolor chicks--some even polka-dotted. "Oh,
Biddy--now we got a whole bunch of little Easter chickies! And oh, they're so CUTE..."

Biddy, though, hasn't forgotten about Bosko and Bruno's interference, and shoos them both off
with a squawk, sending them both toward a pile of straw, underneath the empty basket. Bosko
peers out, and emerges resuming his "Easter Time" refrain:

"Now de Easter time is de time for eggs,
--de hen got loose and cook our goose!"

Bruno, who has emerged beside Bosko in the haystack, pants happily as we iris out. Honey got
her Easter present after all, far better than the one Bosko planned to give her.


(This section edited, in recognition of those who may not celebrate this holiday. Nonetheless, we hope you enjoy this cartoon as much as Kevin and I).--R.

This cartoon is a delight, possibly the pinnacle of Harman and Ising's achievements. It gives lie to the oft-repeated complaint that Harman-Ising's cartoons are slow and plodding. In many places it explodes with action, more so than any since CIRCUS DAZE. True, at nearly eight minutes, the cartoon could have done with a little tightening here and there--some sections seem unnecessarily padded (as in Bosko's "Hello, Miz Chicken" bit) but there's one thing that must be understood about Harman-Ising.

They were never uniformly, unrelentingly slow. Their cartoons, especially the Boskos, would start slowly and build to a crescendo of action, with overlapping scenes and quick cuts that take place in such rapid succession one needs the ability to freeze-frame to take them all in. This, most of all, is what they took from Walt, possibly even surpassing him. The last third of this cartoon is indeed a blur, as Honey scrambles frantically to rescue the eggs (her panic recalls classic TV "birth" episodes, as in I LOVE LUCY and THE FLINTSTONES) while Bosko and Bruno furiously attempt to outrun an enraged hen.

Indeed, BOSKO'S EASTER EGGS destroys yet another myth, that of Harman/Ising's alleged
bland characterization. Leonard Maltin has this to say of the personality animation in
Harman-Ising cartoons--or in his view, the complete lack of it:

"Engaging visual designs cannot take the place of stories and
characterization. Personality animation is a notable achievement,
but not when every personality is the same." (Of Mice and Magic, p. 282).

As should be clear from the examples I've provided in this review, Maltin's statement is utterly
false. Honey, when she discovers Bosko has not only stolen Biddy's eggs, but painted them and
tried to pass them off as his own present to her, registers a full range of emotions--through her
facial expressions and body language--in a few short seconds. Even without dialogue, her feelings are clear. When Bosko grimaces, he does so with his whole face, as his eyes squint tight and his lower lip looks as if it's come up to meet his nose. His pain and guilt are clearly evident. In countless scenes one can see expressions of bug-eyed, almost Avery-like slapstick panic. This was far beyond the abilities of most animators of the day, save for those at Disney--and even they might have had a few things to learn from Harman and Ising.

Bosko certainly exhibits more personality in this cartoon than he was typically allowed to do.
There's some thinking going on there, as he schemes to gain Honey's favor. He's more "kid-like"
than he had ever been up to that point--not to mention cocky--childishly passing on the blame for his own mistakes and acting quite selfishly. He would never have resorted to such behavior
before, and would never do so again. After this film, he would be "made over" yet again, into the
"L'il Ol' Bosko" of the Bosko Trilogy--a happy innocent barely past toddlerhood.

For once, Honey does not take center stage--most of the cartoon either revolves around Bosko's
schemes or his attempts to elude the hen--yet she retains her role of "friendly antagonist" to
Bosko, even acting as his conscience in this cartoon. She carries over her bubbly,
chatty personality from earlier MGM efforts, but she is obviously more mature than the
irresponsible, careless and even insensitive Bosko (think what he does to poor Bruno, not to
mention Biddy). As such, even she comes off as a more dimensional character than usual.
BOSKO'S EASTER EGGS represents both at the peak stage of development.

The voices, of course, contribute greatly to the characterization, particularly Bosko's, however
incongruous it may be for a child of his supposed age. (I assume about eight or nine). The reading of the lines, and little touches lke Bosko's nervous stammer, enhance the already masterful personality animation. The voice actors were apparently uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to speaking in dialect, at times slipping out of it. As such, it's not nearly as obvious as in, say, THE OLD HOUSE or CIRCUS DAZE. Honey's malapropisms come across as more an element of her personality than the manifestation of a stereotype.

Sadly, this cartoon is the last we'll ever see of poor Honey--Bosko goes solo in his three final
appearances. Perhaps it's better that way, as BOSKO'S EASTER EGGS is more than a fitting
exit for her. As the old show business saying goes, "Always leave 'em wanting more."

Kevin and I have discussed this cartoon frequently in the past, as Kevin's childhood memories of it have faded, and he ached for the chance to re-experience certain scenes. He has on several
occasions wished for a complete synopsis of the cartoon, which I've never been able to give him
until now. I haven't any multicolored chicks, so this is my Easter present to him.

And a happy Easter--to those who celebrate it-- from the "staff" of The Home For Orphan Toons. To the rest of you, we wish a most bright and bountiful spring season.

Rachel Newstead
Kevin Wollenweber
Alicia Wishart

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