Once upon a time cartoons weren’t just for kids. In the days before the Hays Code and Saturday morning television, a darker and more libidinous version of the art form thrived side by side with live action. Unconstrained by reality, cartoons could be portals to worlds of impossible landscapes filled with bizarre and semi-unhinged characters, where plots played out like Freudian nightmares, as if the movies were projections of the filmmakers’ own latent fears and desires. Talking eggs, mirrors with arms, graves that grow mouths to suck in the living, death, carnality, shapeshifting hobgoblins, dada absurdity, and everything undulating and bouncing to jazz and swing beats.
In this surreal selection from Ub Iwerks, Fleisher Studios, and Warner Brothers and others, a comely Easter egg goes spooning in a spoon, Willie Whopper takes a nitrous oxide-induced trip into space, Porky Pig pursues a maniacal dodo through a Dali-esque topography, Cab Calloway moonwalks with demons to a funereal “St James Infirmary”, and Betty Boop slinks and cavorts (as only Betty can) with a lecherous old mountain man.
Outlandish Lands was curated by Jerry Beck and Greg Ford in collaboration with ANIMATION IS FILM.