EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a series of posts that look at the animated shorts submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but didn’t make the cut. To view the first post in this series, click here. – Jerry Beck
And the nominees were…
LAMBERT THE SHEEPISH LION (Disney) Jack Hannah
ROOTY TOOT TOOT (UPA) John Hubley
And the Oscar went to…
THE TWO MOUSKETEERS (MGM), Fred Quimby Producer – Bill Hanna & Joseph Barbera, directors.
The nominees themselves this year sum up the favorites among the Academy brass – Disney, UPA and MGM. If it were up to me Rooty Toot Toot would have won. It’s a masterpiece. UPA at its zenith.
After being blown away by the radical visual aesthetics of UPA’s Gerald McBoing Boing last year, I guess the voters were back to rewarding traditions. Hanna-Barbera’s The Two Mouseketeers was a change of pace for Tom & Jerry and must have seemed quite refreshing – and good for a few laughs – at the time.
My ‘rule of thumb’ on how the Academy picks its Best Animated Short is that the winning film is either hilariously funny – or has a lot of ‘heart’. Among the three nominees this year neither Lambert or Rooty have much ‘heart’ or laughs. It’s also possible Hollywood wanted to back away from Hubley and UPA this year, as the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was investigating the studio during the 1951 awards season.
Also missing from the shortlist this year, though not for a lack of submissions, is Warner Bros. Three Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were screened. Two great Freleng’s and a Jones’ Pepe were shown to the nominating branch. But no nominations came. Let’s take a look at the rest of the shorts that didn’t make the cut.
Submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:
GIFT WRAPPED (Warner Bros.)
ALPINE FOR YOU (Famous Studios)
BY LEAPS AND HOUNDS (Famous Studios)
SING AGAIN OF MICHIGAN (Famous Studios)
BALLOT BOX BUNNY (Warner Bros.)
SLOPPY JALOPY (UPA)
MAGIC CANVAS (Halas & Batchelor)
LITTLE BEAU PEPE (Warner Bros.)
TOO BOO OR NOT TOO BOO (Famous)
SLING SHOT 6 7/8 (Walter Lantz)
ONE CAB’S FAMILY (MGM) Tex Avery
Here’s the documentation:
And here are the films (unfortunately not all of them are online – we will update this post when complete intact copies appear):
A rare Christmas themed cartoon from Warners as Tweety and Sylvester chase around the holiday tree – throw in a bull dog and Granny for good measure (“Ya didn’t count on Pocahontas, did ya, Geronimo?“) and you have a classic.
ALPINE FOR YOU
Of course I’d give this one an Oscar just for the end title that puts Popeye in front of the Paramount logo. A re-working of Fleischer’s I-Ski Love-Ski-You-Ski (1936), this time with Bluto – the French accented “world-famous mountain guide” – as Popeye’s rival. Steve Muffatti was the head animator.
BY LEAPS AND HOUNDS
A cute little cartoon taking place at a fox hound training college. Innocent little Herbert the Hound has trouble recognizing an axe-wielding fox (an English cousin of the one from the Baby Huey cartoons), despite the constant reminder of the fox’s “Bushy Tail, long pointed snout and sharp teeth”.
SING AGAIN OF MICHIGAN
It was nice of Famous to screen a Screen Song for the Academy… but what the hey? There was no way this cliche-ridden travelogue spoof was going to be nominated. Native Indians as ticket “scalpers” (get it?); the Detroit Tigers depicted as tigers, spoofs of the state’s automobile industry and furniture manufacturing… Ho-hum. Even Buzzy the funny crow can’t enliven the proceedings, making a cameo (with Jack Mercer doing the voice – badly) to introduce the 1914 Irving Berlin song, “I Want To Go Back To Michigan Down On The Farm”. Pass.
BALLOT BOX BUNNY
One of my personal favorites of the “Bugs vs. Sam” battles – and particularly fun to rewatch during an election year. I’d love to see a certain present-day candidate play “Those Endearing Young Charms” with such skill.
Magoo’s eighth cartoon – and one of the memorable ones from this early period. Magoo plans to buy a jalopy for Waldo, taking a used-car salesman on a nightmare test drive. A Columbia Favorite – but not of the Academy. That’s okay because a pair of better Magoo’s actually get the Oscar in subsequent years.
Foreign, abstract/expertimental and independent all rolled into one token such entry. Made in 1948 (but released in the US in 1951), this was Halas and Batchelor (with artist Peter Foldes) “first highly self-conscious personal film”. Sort of a short-form Fantasia. Though not-quite Oscar worthy, it gave the Academy shorts branch a preview of things to come.
LITTLE BEAU PEPE
The one in the Foreign Legion – it’s not one of the better Warner cartoons this year and distinctly lesser Jones in a year that released Feed the Kitty and Cheese Chasers. That said, it is a good Pepe cartoon – and in a refreshingly different locale.
TOO BOO OR NOT TOO BOO
For a Casper cartoon, this one is pretty good. It has a heart-breaking story, a clever twist on the familiar Casper narrative – and a truly happy ending. It’s sweet – and doesn’t contain a baby bear, skunk, pig or Little Billy. For that alone it should be recognized – though perhaps not by the Academy.
SLING SHOT 6 7/8
The best of the “silent” Woody Woodpecker cartoons of the early 50s? Maybe it is, maybe its not… but certainly politically incorrect from today’s point of view. Woody in the old west – versus a native American Buzz Buzzard. Wally Walrus is around as the Sheriff. Some great sight gags – but c’mon, not one of Walter Lantz’ best.
ONE CAB’S FAMILY
Any Avery is worthy of nomination – and many were worthy of winning – but this one (co-written by Big Moose-keteer Roy Williams) was a little more ‘traditional’ than most. One of the last films Tex produced before taking a year off to rest (after a nervous breakdown), it’s still great by any standard – but the studio might have had better luck if they entered Avery’s other 1951 season masterpieces, Symphony In Slang, Magical Maestro to name but a few…