The Bootleg Files: Oceans of Love

BOOTLEG FILES 843: “Oceans of Love” (1956 animated short from the Terrytoons studio).

On YouTube.


REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The rights holder will not make it available.

Not likely.

Cartoon lovers of a certain age will recall the glory days of Terrytoons, an animation studio founded by Paul Terry that specialized in cartoon shorts that were usually lacking in artistic genius but more than compensated with good silly fun. Terry himself acknowledged his studio’s shortcomings regarding its low-budget animation, once describing Walt Disney’s operation as the “Tiffany’s in this business” while his was “the Woolworth’s.”

Still, there was plenty of jollity to be harvested from the Terrytoons output, especially with beloved characters as Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, Hector Heathcote, Hashimoto-san and Deputy Dawg.

During the period when Terrytoons was exclusively focused on theatrical shorts, the studio would turn out shorts that were not linked to specific characters. These one-off efforts were not included in the television repackaging of the Terrytoons theatrical shorts and are mostly unknown to the casual cartoon fan.

Typical of these one-off shorts was the 1956 “Oceans of Love.” In many ways, this little film highlights the virtues and vices of the Terrytoons productions.

“Oceans of Love” opens rather strangely, with three anthropomorphic fishes singing in a quasi-operetta style while dancing on a rocky platform in a harbor. While the bright Technicolor hues clearly place the action in the mid-50s, the musical number feels like something out of the early 30s cartoons.

The piscine trio dive to the harbor’s floor and are joined in their musical offering by an eel who puts on a seaweed belt to dance the hula and a crab who clicks its claws in a flamenco dance. The three fish then identify themselves as blowfish and inflate themselves into oversized ball-shaped sizes before following a fishing line to the surface. The fishing line belongs to a boy wearing a big blue bowtie and a bright yellow vest, and the fish fly out of the water and harass the boy by spitting at him and swatting his head.

Suddenly, an oversized shark appears. This shark might have been a forerunner of the aquatic life that turned up a dozen years later in “Yellow Submarine” – it has a dark pink face and a green and blue striped body, along with ridiculously sharp teeth. The boy tries to reel in the shark, but his boat gets destroyed and he is forced to swim quickly to avoid being swallowed by the great fish. The boy winds up riding the shark’s back, and the shark takes the boy out of the water and on the land, where he grabs a club with his tail and knocks the boy on the head, causing him to fall into a deep sleep while stars twinkle around his head.

The sleeping boy sinks to the ocean’s floor and sees a procession where an unhappy blonde mermaid in manacles is being brought in a carriage – actually, a giant clamshell pulled by a swimming tortoise – to the palace of King Neptune. The mermaid starts singing – also in the early 30s style – about her captivity and a fate to “marry someone I do not know.”

Her intended, as King Neptune explains to the mermaid, is an electric eel in a top hat who brings a treasure chest of riches to the monarch in exchange for the mermaid as a wife. The boy interrupts this transaction and frees the mermaid from her manacles, which get attached around the necks of the electric eel and King Neptune, causing them to share a massive electricity jolt.

The boy and the mermaid escape on seahorses while a squadron of swordfish sent by King Neptune chases after them. A giant octopus absconds with the mermaid and the boy dons a crab’s exoskeleton to rescue her. With the distressed damsel rescued and in his arms, the boy prepares for her kiss – only to find himself in an Ambrose Pierce-worthy denouement as his dream ends and the shark seeks further hostility on the boy.

Circling back to Paul Terry’s retail comparison of his work and Disney’s, Uncle Walt turned out gems and Terry (admittedly) turned out trinkets. This is obvious in “Oceans of Love,” where the animation is not that great, the sight gags are more silly than funny, and the central character has no personality. But while everyone admires a Tiffany’s gem, everyone also gets a goofy distraction from a Woolworth’s trinket – and that’s what “Oceans of Love” is, a jolly distraction to elicit a chuckle or two before being forgotten in pursuit of more pressing manners. And considering why the film was made – as a time-filler ahead of a feature film on a cinema bill – it more than serves it purpose and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

As with the rest of the Terrytoons canon, this film is not available for commercial home entertainment release – Paramount Global owns the rights to the Terrytoons library but has no plans to put the films out on Blu-ray or DVD. But if you want to see “Oceans of Love,” there is a very good unauthorized upload on YouTube:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

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