And In The Cartoons: Ko-Ko’s Reward, Including An Amusement Park Trip


I’m still recovering from the yard sale. Don’t worry, we made enough to cover the costs of running another yard sale someday. But as long as my mind’s elsewhere here’s a cartoon to occupy it. It’s a 1929 Inkwell Imps cartoon, produced by Max and Dave Fleischer. It’s titled Ko-Ko’s Reward and as you might expect it includes a bit of head-swapping, a girl entering the cartoon world, a haunted house, and an amusement park. Because of course.

Mixing live action and animation goes back to the birth of animation. It was also much of the point of the several cartoon series featuring Koko (or Ko-Ko) the Clown. That and getting Max Fleischer on camera, because if there’s anything animation directors/producers want to do, it’s be movie stars. The structure is normally one of Max drawing Koko and maybe Fitz the dog. Then they natter a bit, and Koko escapes into the real world to make some mischief, and then he gets put back where he belongs.

That’s barely a structure, though. It’s enough to justify whatever the theme for the cartoon is and to give some reason for the cartoon to end at the eight-minute mark. The real meat is figuring some reason for Koko to interact with the real world, and for some free-form strange animation to carry on. Here it’s Max’s girl — I don’t know who played the part — getting lost inside an animated haunted house, giving Koko and Fitz reason to search for her in an amusement park. Well, these things happen.

Of course I’m fascinated by wondering what amusement park this is. I don’t know. I wonder if it might be Rye Playland, which had opened in 1928 — when the cartoon would be in production — and had the sort of kiddieland with a concentration of kid-sized rides such as the cartoon shows. But I don’t see any features that mark it as unmistakably Rye Playland, nor unmistakably not. None of the movie references I can find give information about shooting locations. I would assume they’d pick a park conveniently near the studio’s New York City location, but that could be Coney Island or Palisades Park at least as easily. Well, I don’t recognize the haunted house as anywhere I’d been.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

7 thoughts on “And In The Cartoons: Ko-Ko’s Reward, Including An Amusement Park Trip”

    1. You may well be right. What got me thinking Rye, besides that my friend Rapid T Rabbit was there recently, was that the depicted park had what looked to me like a Kiddieland section and those were rare in 1928. But there aren’t any establishing shots and even if there were they might be of limited value. (Playland wouldn’t even have The Dragon roller coaster until a year after this short was made!)

      But it’s all but certainly a park that was easy to drive to from the studios in Manhattan. Coney Island is a safe bet. Palisades Park I’d put as my third guess. If it isn’t any of those it might be some stock footage.

      I’d say it’s curious there’s no establishing shots, but silent movies with amusement parks don’t seem to do establishing shots. Maybe it reflects some primordial sense that the park will seem more like the viewer’s local place if nobody calls attention to how it’s clearly Pacific Ocean Park.

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        1. The more I think of it the more I suspect they did want to avoid identifying too much with anywhere particular. When the Koko the Clown cartoons hopped out into the city they would, typically, use Manhattan certainly. But there’s few really strong landmarks like the Flatiron Building or Times Square, at least so far as I remember their using.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you do. I quite like silent and early-sound-era films. Part of it is how the grammar of movies hadn’t quite got into its present form. And part is that you see regular settings and people not stage-managed in the same ways they would be today.

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