SUMMARY: In a parody of ‘The Jazz Singer’, a young owl upsets his father with his determination to sing jazz in favour of a more classical approach.
WHY IT’S HERE: Tex Avery’s ‘I Love to Singa’ is a cartoon which confounds expectations about both Avery’s work and Warner Bros. cartoons in general. At this early stage in their development, the Merrie Melodies series of cartoons were an attempt to rival the prestige colour cartoons of Walt Disney, often by emulating them. Thus ‘I Love to Singa’ is full of cute, wide-eyed characters and a sweet, slow-moving plot. However, it’s what Avery does with these character that makes ‘I Love to Singa’ a mini-masterpiece. A parody of ‘The Jazz Singer’, ‘I Love to Singa’ stars a baby owl named Owl Jolson, a jazz lover born into a family of classical musicians. When an over-zealous Papa Owl throws his son out for insisting on singing jazz, Owl Jolson goes on to win a radio talent contest and, subsequently, the approval of his family. This thinnest of plots is infused with enormous appeal through Avery’s mixture of strikingly handsome, warm visuals and hilarious character comedy. The cartoon is nearly stolen by a stammering hillbilly bird and his laboured rendition of Simple Simon but ultimately ‘I Love to Singa’ belongs to Owl Jolson, a character who manages to be cute without being cloying. Every time he opens his mouth to sing, ‘I Love to Singa’ positively lights up. While you won’t find any of the anarchic humour associated with Warner Bros. or the 100mph pacing and exaggerated reaction shots associated with Avery here, what you will find is an exceptional example of great storytelling and charming character comedy. ‘I Love to Singa’, while too sweet for some viewers, is a true classic in my eyes and I adore it more ever time I see it.