Here I will continue with DePatie-Freleng’s obscure theatrical shorts. By 1972, DFE had stopped producing The Ant and the Aardvark, Tijuana Toads, and Roland and Rattfink shorts. In addition, they have put the Pink Panther on temporary hiatus. However, they were still contractually obligated to continue providing theatrical shorts for United Artists’ release. All of this meant that it was time to create a new series. And thus we have the Blue Racer.
The Blue Racer is a blue snake and, as the name implies, he can slither incredibly fast. He actually first appeared in a Tijuana Toads short called Snake in the Gracias (1971), directed by Hawley Pratt. Here, the snake goes around trying to capture Toro and Pancho for a meal. However, he is constantly thwarted by amnesia-riddled Crazylegs Crane (who would later get his own series years later) guarding them.
After the Toads ended, the snake was spun-off into his own series. In the earlier shorts, Blue Racer is seen preying on the Japanese Beetle, who also appeared in Tijuana Toads several years earlier in Hop and Chop (1970 – directed by Grant Simmons). Even by 1972, the racist, stereotypical caricature of the Beetle was already outdated and problematic, but they were likely able to get away with it because the cartoons were released theatrically, and thus fewer people saw them.
Even then, there must have been some pressure, because the character was dropped half-way through the series. Later Blue Racer shorts had the snake encountering a wizard looking for sneak sweat (Blue Aces Wild), two mischievous leprechauns (Killarney Blarney), or a W.C. Fields bear (Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow). Crazylegs Crane even appeared in several shorts (Blue Aces Wild, Aches and Snakes, and Snake Preview).
Bob Holt voiced both Blue Racer and Japanese Beetle in the pilot cartoon Support Your Local Serpent (1972), but for the rest of the series Larry D. Mann voiced Blue Racer, with Tom Holland doing Japanese Beetle. Other voice actors were brought in for one-shot characters, including Paul Winchell in several shorts, as well as a surprise guest star Mako in one cartoon, decades before Samurai Jack and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The Blue Racer was released from 1972 to 1974. Gerry Chiniquy and Art Davis took turns directing most of the shorts, with Robert McKimson, Sid Marcus, and Cullen Blaine Houghtaling (still working in animation today) filling in for one short each. In addition, two shorts were subcontracted overseas: Aches and Snakes (1973) at Film Graphics in Australia, and Little Boa Peep (1974) at Pegbar Productions in Spain. For those films, fake names were used for animation credits. DFE storyman John W. Dunn wrote all 17 shorts.
The Blue Racer cartoons were eventually shown, randomly, in TV syndication worldwide, including a brief run on Boomerang. Here is one of the Blue Racer cartoons with the Japanese Beetle, Camera Bug (1972):
HISS AND HERS – July 3 – Gerry Chiniquy
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SERPENT – July 9 – Art Davis
NIPPON TUCK – July 16 – Gerry Chiniquy
PUNCH AND JUDO – July 23 – Art Davis
LOVE AND HISSES – August 3 – Gerry Chiniquy
CAMERA BUG – August 6 – Art Davis
YOKAHAMA MAMA – December 24 – Gerry Chiniquy
BLUE RACER BLUES – December 31 – Art Davis
THE BOA FRIEND – February 11 – Gerry Chiniquy
WHAM AND EGGS – February 18 – Art Davis
KILLARNEY BLARNEY – May 16 – Gerry Chiniquy
BLUE ACES WILD – May 16 – Gerry Chiniquy
FOWL PLAY – June 1 – Bob McKimson
FREEZE A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW – June 1 – Sid Marcus
ACHES AND SNAKES – August 10 – David Deneen
SNAKE PREVIEW – August 10 – Cullen Houghtaling
LITTLE BOA PEEP – January 16 – Bob Balsar