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Afternoon Delight: When Cartoons Were Wonderfully Strange

by Jerome Weeks 6 Sep 2012 12:58 PM

Before Walt Disney and the Hays Code, animation had a more elastic nature, and an eagerness for the dark, the odd, the downright trippy. Witness Cab Calloway singing ‘St. James Infirmary’ as Koko the Clown.


Afternoon Delight is a daily diversion for when you’re just back from lunch, but not quite ready to knuckle down to work. Check back weekdays at 1 p.m. for another one.

Back before Walt Disney, the Hays Code and Saturday-morning kid shows made everything bright and pretty and safe in Cartoonland, the Fleischer Studio (the brothers Max and Dave) regularly cooked up some rubbery, risque or just downright trippy animation – like Cab Calloway singing ‘St. James Infirmary’ as Koko the Clown with Betty Boop as Snow White. This is from 1933, so it pre-dates (and thus doesn’t spoof) Disney’s Snow White from 1937, but how the great blues standard ‘St. James’ leads to a ‘Mistery Cave’ with flying skeletons, seven dwarfs and a singing ghost is an entertaining ‘mistery.’