Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Short Film: Room Runners (USA, 1932)

For the January 2020 Short Film of the Month, a wasted life took a look at a short film we saw long ago and that The Dwrayger Dungeon, one of the fine blogs we have listed to the right (as 13), reminded us about: the first film directed by Paul Bartel (6 Aug 1938 – 13 May 2000) to make any waves, the low budget B&W short film from 1968, The Secret Cinema
This month, February 2020, for our Short Film of the Month we're taking a look at something the Dungeon introduced us to, the ancient Ub Iwerks animation short, Room Runners,* featuring the mostly forgotten character Flip the Frog — indeed, before stumbling upon this film at the Dungeon, we had never even heard of Flip.**
Flip the Frog was created by Iwerks after the animator left Disney and opened his own studio. Between 1930 and 1933, Iwerks produced roughly 40 Flip shorts [per Big Cartoon Database], of which Room Runners, released 10 October 1932, lies roughly in the middle. Of all the Flip the Frog cartoons, Room Runner is perhaps the most obviously and consistently pre-Code, and features jokes of a suggestive and overt sexual nature that completely died on screen after 1934, when the Hayes Code kicked in. (One or two jokes might even still raise an eyebrow today.)
GIF found at the tumblr Space Baby.
Dr Grobs, which says "If you can watch only one Flip the Frog cartoon, this one should be it," has the plot: "Room Runners starts with Flip trying to sneak out of his apartment block to escape six months of arrears. Unfortunately, he's discovered by the landlady, and a long chase starts, which also involves a policeman and a running gag of a man with a tooth ache."
TV Tropes mentions that, "Flip the Frog cartoons are almost the defining example of animation from the pre-censorship era. An angry Flip often reacts to trouble with a shout of 'Damn!' Nude or scantily-clad women often appear, usually to place Flip in compromising positions. Innuendo is everywhere; in The Office Boy (1932), a sexy office clerk unwittingly walks around with a 'private' sign hanging from her backside. [Astute viewers might notice she is the same babe as the babe in the bathroom in Room Runners.] Finally, typical cartoon violence has consequences: in Puddle Pranks (1930), a character is eaten by a monstrous bird and appears to die permanently (being chewed up and swallowed)."
In any event, enjoy a forgotten jewel from yesterday, Flip the Frog in… 
Room Runner:
* Coincidentally enough, this ancient animated short — it's only 12 years shy of being a century old — is not the first Ub Iwerks short that the Dungeon has brought to our attention: way back in October 2014, the blog also drew our eye to the great Iwerks/Disney Silly Symphony Hells Bells (1929).
As for Iwerks's works in general here at a wasted life, Hells Bells was preceded by the Iwerks/Disney Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance (1929), the short film for March 2010, and by the totally "what were they thinking?" Iwerks' ComicColor Cartoon, The Balloon Man (1935), aka The Pincushion Man, our short film for August 2014. Now, with Room Runners, Ub Iwerks is officially the most represented filmmaker of our Short Film(s) of the Month. (Should you like Room Runners, and also like Skeleton Dance, dare we suggest you check out the Flip the Frog short, Spooks [1932]?)
** In retrospect, though, we cannot help but wonder whether Flip might not have been an inspiration behind Sally (née "Sarah") Cruikshank's acid trip of a short, Face Like a Frog (1987), our Short Film of the Month for October 2011 — the end credits of which, we must mention, offer "Thanks" to Dick Miller!

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