Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid

Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid is a 1929 live-action/animated short film produced to sell a series of Bosko cartoons.[1] The film was never released to theaters,[2] and therefore not seen by a wide audience until 2000 (71 years later) on Cartoon Network's television special Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons. The film was produced in May 1929 and directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising.

Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid
Directed byHugh Harman
Rudolf Ising
Produced byLeon Schlesinger
StarringCarman Maxwell
Animation byFriz Freleng
Rollin Hamilton
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures, Inc. (as Warner Brothers Production)
Release date
Running time
5 min (1 reel)


Rudolf Ising is thinking of ideas for a new character, until he draws a blackfaced person with an ink pen, who comes to life. Ising then talks to the character, and then asks his name. The new character introduces himself as Bosko. Ising tells Bosko to show what he can do. Bosko starts to tap dance, whistle, and sing. After dancing, Bosko looks directly to the screen. Bosko asks, "Who's all them folks out there in the dark?" Ising tells Bosko that they are the audience, and asks him if he can make them laugh; Bosko agrees to try. Bosko asks Ising if he can draw a piano; Ising does so. Bosko starts to press some piano keys. When one of the keys near the upper end of the keyboard produces a low note, Bosko removes the key and puts it in its proper place near the left end of the keyboard. Bosko hits more random notes, then plays a glissando. Bosko laughs, and then sings "Sonny Boy", accidentally sliding his tongue out. Bosko opens his hat and pulls his hair, letting his tongue out of his mouth again. He plays another song, singing, which causes his head to pop out like a slinky. After that, Bosko sings again. Ising says this is enough. He sucks Bosko, who also pulls the piano, back into his fountain pen, and then him back into the ink bottle. Bosko then pops out of the ink bottle and promises to return.


In 1928, when Walt Disney lost control of his Oswald The Lucky Rabbit cartoon series, producer Charles Mintz hired away several of Disney's animators to continue producing the Oswald cartoons for Universal Studios. These animators included Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Isadore "Friz" Freleng, Carman "Max" Maxwell, Norm Blackburn, Paul Smith, and Rollin "Ham" Hamilton. The Mintz Oswald shorts were not as successful and in 1929, Universal chose to directly produce the series, establishing its own in-house cartoon studio headed by Walter Lantz, leaving Mintz's animators out of work.

The unemployed animators, led by Harman and Ising, decided to produce their own cartoons and made Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid as a demonstration to show to distributors, using a character the two cartoonists had created and copyrighted in 1927–28, while still working with Disney.

Rudolf Ising appeared on-screen as himself in the short and Carman Maxwell performed the voice of Bosko. Harman and Ising shopped for a distributor, but were turned down by both Paramount Pictures and Universal. Leon Schlesinger, head of Pacific Title & Art Studio took an interest in Bosko and used his connections with Warner Bros. to get a distribution deal for a cartoon series that Harman and Ising later named Looney Tunes, a play on the name of Walt Disney's Silly Symphony series.[3]

The cartoon pioneered the pre-synch technique, now standard in American animation, as Harman and Ising understood the shortcomings of recording the sound after the animation in relation to dialogue. Apparently, the entire soundtrack was filmed on the spot, with Maxwell being off-camera. According to cartoon historian Mark Kausler, a camera pointed at Maxwell's mouth to provide reference for the animation, but it was finally determined it wasn't necessary and that it looked "too forced".


Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid is available on disc 4 of the DVD set Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1 and disc 3 of the Blu-ray set Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2.


The short was considered lost for many decades, with only the film's Vitaphone soundtrack still in existence. By the late 1950s, when the film was being sold in a package on television, it was transferred into 16mm film by Associated Artists Productions in 1956 and was shown on television.[4] Turner Entertainment Co. had a 35mm copy, but did not acknowledge its existence until 1999. The short was later released on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1 DVD.


  1. ^ Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Co. p. 379. ISBN 0-8050-0894-2.
  2. ^ Schneider, Steve (1988). That's All, Folks! : The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. Henry Holt and Co. p. 34. ISBN 0-8050-0889-6.
  3. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1987). Of Mice And Magic: A History Of American Animated Cartoons (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Plume. pp. 223–224. ISBN 0-452-25993-2.
  4. ^ 1957 MOVIES FROM AAP Warner Bros Features & Cartoons SALES BOOK DIRECTED AT TV

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