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Western Animation / Swing, You Sinners!

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"Stand up, you sinner, we got you at last!"

"Officially, LSD was first produced in 1938. We say "officially" because this cartoon says it's from 1930, and there's no way it was created without massive doses of acid being pumped into everyone involved."

"Swing, You Sinners!" is a 1930 Talkartoons short, produced by Fleischer Studios and featuring their character Bimbo the dognote .

The short begins with Bimbo making a nighttime raid on a hen-house, attempting to steal one of the chickens. After a humorous scuffle with one of the hens, a police officer shows up and begins chasing him. Bimbo evades capture (albeit losing the hen and its chicks along the way) but winds up trapped inside a graveyard, where a legion of wily ghosts unite to not only terrorize him for his life of crime and debauchery, but eventually spirit him away.

An outstanding example of the surrealism which characterises both Fleischer Studio's art style and that of other producers at the time, Swing, You Sinners! has been referenced numerous times in media since its original release.

Contrast to Disney's The Skeleton Dance, a short with a similar macabre theme (but not nearly as wild). Also of note is Van Beuren Studios own knockoff of the film, "Panicky Pup".

Swing, You Tropers!:

  • Acid-Trip Dimension: Bimbo ends up in this in the ending, with lots of dancing ghosts, a Scatting frog, and a giant skull that eats him.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The spirits in the cartoon take the forms of several objects, including tombstones, a haystack, two separate examples made of the graves' soil, a scythe, and a pair of shoes.
  • Animation Bump: The Grim Natwick scenes, most notably the climatic chase sequence.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Many of the ghosts have this appearance.
  • The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named: A ghost that transforms into a scythe replaces the name of some unknown organ with scatting, which is easy to take as a Freudian Threat.
    We'll amputate your vo-do-de-o and tie your bones in a knot.
  • Big Ball of Violence: Every time Bimbo dives in to try and catch the chicken it results in a ball of chaotic dust, and the two emerge wearing each other's clothes or with parts of each other traded until the final tussel when they return to normal upon falling out of the cloud of dust.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: The short features a big jazz number including some unhinged scatting, where a bunch of ghosts torment Bimbo the dog after he tries to steal a chicken.
  • Dangerously Close Shave: One of the ghosts turns into and emerges from a barber pole, promising Bimbo a "permanent shave" and lampshading it.
  • The Dead Can Dance: And swing like crazy too.
  • Deranged Animation: Let's just say everything in the short is wildly animated, even before the graveyard sequence. The climatic chase sequence with the barn and freakish monsters chasing Bimbo (animated by Grim Natwick) especially stands out.
    • And when we say everything, we mean it. A couple of short sequences dispense with a background altogether, instead animating everything, the background included, as one big cel.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Swing" can mean either "dance", befitting the upbeat, jazzy song number from which the short takes its name, or it can mean "to be executed (as if by hanging)", and sure enough there's no shortage of hanging references in regards to poor Bimbo.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The ghosts are on Bimbo's case for his history of chasing girls, stealing chickens and gambling. This is, apparently, enough to warrant a mercilessly and gleefully delivered death sentence. note 
  • For the Evulz: The last verse of the song has the ghosts stating this as the motivation for their sadism.
  • Gainax Ending: After a long chase, Bimbo gets whisked off into a bizarre ghostly world where a scatting frog breaks it down, then, he gets eaten by a giant skull. The End.
  • Informed Flaw: The opening scene establishes that Bimbo's a thief. The ghosts let us know that Bimbo is a gambler and a shameless womanizer, as well, but we never see any evidence of those.
  • Institutional Apparel: Bimbo imagines himself wearing this and pounding on a rock in prison when he first sees the police officer.
  • Large Ham: Most of the ghosts are this 'cause their exaggerated facial expressions.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: To modern viewers, Bimbo trying to steal a chicken is a petty crime at worst and certainly doesn't warrant being whisked off into oblivion, but this film was made during The Great Depression, when food was scarce, and people - particularly those in rural areas - often went for days, sometimes even weeks without food, so Bimbo's crime was a far graver sin than what modern viewers would believe. However, stealing is a sin in contravention of the Holy Ten Commandments, so, regardless of how one might have felt about "petty" theft, it's still a sin in the eyes of God-fearing folk, such as people mostly were in 1930. Also don't forget the other terrible things Bimbo is said to have done, which in any era, are mighty abhorrent.
  • Living Shadow: The ghost who chastises Bimbo for chasing girls is formed from his own shadow.
  • Mickey Mousing: The part where Bimbo evades the cop is directly timed to the music.
  • Murder Ballad: Once Bimbo enters the barn, the ghosts start singing about all the horrible deaths they'd like to make Bimbo suffer.
  • No Ending: The short ends abruptly after Bimbo is eaten by the skull, without resolving such narrative as there is.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: They sure are. Alongside more recognizable things like Bedsheet Ghosts, animated trees and giant bats, Bimbo is terrorized by living piles of hay, singing gravestones, giant leering heads, a caricature of Monroe Silver, and ghosts who are considerably more abstract.
  • Prepare to Die: The first half of the song in the graveyard is basically the ghosts telling Bimbo to get ready to be lynched.
  • Profile View Gag: At one point, we see a creature that looks like a circle with a face and legs dancing. Then it turns to the side, and we see that not only is its body long rather than sphere-shaped, but there are two identical creatures behind it.
  • Sapient House: Once Bimbo leaves the barn, it becomes an ambulatory spirit and starts chasing after him.
  • Scatting: There are two rather energetic scat solos once the ghosts begin their torment, with the first provided by a rooster in the barn and the second coming from a frog in the void moments before the ending.
  • Swallow the Key: This is done to keep the cemetery gates locked. Most menacingly, it's the gate that does so.
  • Villain Protagonist: Bimbo, although he barely qualifies as a villain.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: The opening chorus when Bimbo first gets in the graveyard.
  • Visual Pun: Right after entering the graveyard, a block of ice briefly appears on Bimbo's feet - because he's getting cold feet.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Done with a stone wall that appears on the horizon and phases through the scenery to enclose Bimbo in a tight circle.
  • When Trees Attack: Some of the spirits are animated trees, one of whom gets a good caress of Bimbo's butt.


Video Example(s):


Swing, You Sinner! [01]

Swing, You Sinner! (1930) - In this short, Bimbo finds himself in a graveyard where the ghosts there don't take kindly to his ways of debauchery (gambling, chasing skirts, stealing chickens, etc) and decide he must pay... in song form!

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Main / TheDeadCanDance

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