I Love to Singa
|I Love to Singa|
|Merrie Melodies series|
A still from I Love to Singa
|Directed by||Tex Avery|
|Produced by||Leon Schlesinger|
|Voices by||Tommy Bond
|Music by||Norman Spencer|
|Animation by||Charles Jones
Robert Clampett (uncredited)
|Studio||Leon Schlesinger Productions|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
|Release date(s)||July 18, 1936
November 18, 1944
(Blue Ribbon reissue)
|Running time||8 min (one reel)|
I Love to Singa is a Merrie Melodies animated cartoon directed by Tex Avery, produced by Leon Schlesinger, and released to theaters on July 18, 1936, by Warner Bros. and Vitaphone. As with many early Warners cartoons, it is in a sense a music video designed to push a song from the Warners library.
The song in question, "I Love to Singa", was first written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg for the 1936 Warner Bros. feature-length film The Singing Kid. It is performed three times in the film: first by Al Jolson and Cab Calloway, then by the Yacht Club Boys and Jolson, and finally again by Calloway and Jolson. During this period, it was customary for Warners to have their animation production partner, Leon Schlesinger Productions, make Merrie Melodies cartoons based upon songs from their features.
The cartoon has, in recent years, taken on something of a cult following, with a pervasive impact on popular culture. The short, one of the earliest Merrie Melodies produced in Technicolor's 3-strip process, is recognized as one of Avery's early masterpieces.
I Love to Singa depicts the story of a young owlet who wants to sing jazz, instead of the classical music that his German-accented parents wish him to perform. The plot is a lighthearted tribute to Al Jolson's film The Jazz Singer.
The young owl, voiced by Tommy Bond, best known as "Butch" of the Our Gang (Little Rascals) films, is unjustly kicked out of his family's house by his disciplinarian violinist father, Professor Fritz Owl (voiced by Billy Bletcher), after he is caught singing jazz instead of "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes" to the reed (pump) organ accompaniment of his mother (voiced by Martha Wentworth). While wandering, he comes across a radio amateur contest (clearly a takeoff of the Major Bowes Amateur Hour), hosted by "Jack Bunny" (a pun on Jack Benny and later used in Goofy Groceries), and billing himself as "Owl Jolson" (a reference on Al Jolson), wins the contest, but not before his father has finally seen his son's potential and allows him to freely sing jazz.
- The first owlet hatched sang the opening bars of "Chi mi frena in tal momento", from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor. (Papa Fritz compared him to the great opera singer Enrico Caruso.) Translated in Italian is "Who is holding me back at this time?"
- The second owlet to hatch played the beginning of "Träumerei" by Robert Schumann on the violin. (Papa Fritz compared him to the violinist Fritz Kreisler.)
- The third owlet, a flautist, played the first notes of "Spring Song" by Felix Mendelssohn from his work Songs without Words.
- Owl Jolson is made to sing (badly and off key, due to his loathing of classical music) "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes", the lyrics of which are Ben Jonson's 1616 poem "Song. To Celia." Whenever Mama had to pause playing her piano to turn the sheet music page, Jolson reverted to "I Love to Singa".
- The first known reject in the contest played a few bars of "Listen to the Mocking Bird" on the harmonica.
- The blackbird in the blue jacket played a few bars of "Nola", composed by Felix Arndt, on the saxophone.
- The bird with the accordion briefly played "Turkey in the Straw".
- The dark, operatic bird sang a line from the silent film Laugh, Clown, Laugh, even though the lyrics to the theme song don't have those actual words (The song was also used in Yankee Doodle Daffy when Porky Pig opened the door and saw Daffy Duck dressed as the clown singing, then shut the door).
- The overweight bird (voiced by Bernice Hansen) got only a few notes of "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" sung before being rejected.
- The country bumpkin bird (voiced by Joe Dougherty, who was the original voice of Porky Pig) stuttered through the first and almost all of the second verse of the nursery rhyme Simple Simon before rejecting himself.
I Love to Singa was reissued with "Blue Ribbon" opening titles in 1944; it was this version that was released to VHS in the 1980s. The short was later restored with original titles for DVD release and included in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 2 DVD box set, released in 2004. It is also included as a special feature on the Warner Bros. DVD releases of the 1927 Al Jolson film The Jazz Singer and the 2006 CGI animated film Happy Feet. It also included on the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 1 Blu-Ray and DVD. On the first episode of South Park, main character Eric Cartman, upon insisting that he is not under the control of aliens, is shot by a beam from space, transforming his face to resemble the owlet's and causing him to perform "I Love to Singa" with the same dance routine featured in the short.