Illustrated Songs and Song Car-Tunes: Cultural Practices and Sound Technology in Early Talkie Animated Films
Abstract: This paper examines early Fleischer animated sound cartoons in the context of relations between cinema and other cultural practices. These Song-Car-Tunes encouraged audience participation through singing along with “the bouncing ball” and drawing conventions of vaudeville and early cinema exhibition, particularly in their adaptation of the pre-cinematic “song slides” or “illustrated songs.” Although they predated cinema, “illustrated songs” were the primary sound-and-image experience of the nickelodeon era. With standardization of musical accompaniment for films by the early teens, “illustrated songs” became obsolete. This paper proposes that in order to reconcile new technology with traditional exhibition practices, the Fleischer Song Car-Tunes adapted these earlier models of exhibition and reception to the new sound processes, through strategies drawing both on ironic and nostalgic re-workings of past conventions.
Biographical Statement: Mark Langer teaches Film Studies at Carleton University. He is author of The Fleischer Project, forthcoming from University of California Press, and has curated numerous Fleischer programs at venues such as The Museum of Modern Art, Il Giornate del Cinema Muto, the Cinematheque Francaise and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His essays have been published by Cinema Journal, Film History, Animation History, Screen and others.