Previously in Krazy Kat cartoon adaptations:
- Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse At The Circus, 1916 sometime.
- Krazy Kat in Love’s Labor Lost, January 30, 1920.
- Krazy Kat: The Stork Exchange, December 17, 1927.
- Krazy Kat in: Weenie Roast, September 14, 1931.
So the past month we’ve gone over four versions of Krazy Kat, adapted to the big screen in results that can at best be called indifferent to the original charming and strange comic strip. But just because the comic strip was never faithfully adapted to the cartoons doesn’t mean it couldn’t be, right? That’s roughly the argument animator Isidore Klein brought to the boss, Charles Mintz, in 1935. With the support of a magazine article complaining that the critical-darling comic strip had never been brought to the big screen properly, he got the go-ahead to try making a Krazy Kat cartoon that looked like the comic strip, and the result came out in March of 1936.
The title — “Li’l Ainjil” — immediately shows the intent of doing a more faithful cartoon, as it’s drawn from Krazy’s comic-strip description of Ignatz Mouse. The supporting characters — Offissa Pupp, Mrs Kwakk Wakk, Ignatz Mouse, and The Growler — are from the comic strip. The backgrounds are almost line-perfect replicas of the Coconino County, Arizona-inspired backgrounds as well; in laying down the lines, the cartoon could not really do much better. And Klein — about to leave for Disney — animates it well, with a fluidity and a good style of directing that keeps it looking professional and smooth.
And yet … I can’t really call the resulting product anything but a mess. Getting the art perfect and the characters selected right is nice, but the story is pretty much any mid-30s cartoon, so rather a flop as an adaptation of the comic strip. Except it isn’t quite that flop either, since the characterization of Krazy as looking to get hit with bricks is present and unmistakable and wouldn’t happen in a generic mid-30s cartoon either. The cartoon couldn’t be washed of its Krazy origins, the way (say) “Weenie Roast” could, and still make sense. It’s found a very strange medium.
The adaptation attempt flopped, and the Mintz studio went back to making Krazy Kat cartoons that had little to do with the comic strip. I can understand that while regretting it.
(As a side point, if my ears don’t trick me, the voice of Offissa Pupp there is William Costello, the first voice of Popeye.)