WHAT ABOUT THAD?
January 19, 2015 posted by

Paramount Sales News #34: More Friggin’ Gabby

Tired of Gabby? Too bad! Perhaps the ever-optimistic Gabby became an atheist after his prayers went nowhere and his “fan mail” were really death threats. (Or maybe because he’s the devil?) The poor little guy even has to copy Popeye’s chef gag with the ever-erect box office.

October 16’s panel advertises Popeye Meets William Tell, one of those classic polarizing cartoons that you either despise or revel in its pointless unconventionality. I’ve always loved this intriguing misfire written by Dan Gordon and directed by Shamus Culhane, despite that it’s the earliest instance of how the west coast/”Donald Duck” influence poisoned the series by making the sailor a foil for pint-sized pests. At least here Popeye’s a heroic stooge.

Bill Nolan’s amazing With Poopdeck Pappy (embed below) offered promise that the ultimate asshole father would give new life for the series, but even those cartoons were largely too dull to deliver.

October-December 1940 (click to enlarge)

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a second image from 12-25-40

a second image from 12-25-40

Directly below are a few samples of the cartoon shorts the Paramount salesmen were pushing to theaters at the time these promotional pieces appeared in print. Here’s the first Gabby cartoon – released October 18th 1940, KING FOR A DAY.

The aforementioned WITH POOPDECK PAPPY, released on November 15th.

14 Comments

  • At least Willard Bowsky based the premise of the first Gabby offering around the idea that the title character was going to get shot. He knew to give the public what it wanted.

    Outside of Pappy’s first appearance (well-handled by Seymour Kneitel but based off Segar’s story, so it doesn’t count) Nolan was the only Fleischer director who figured out audiences weren’t going to enjoy six minutes of Pappy being a pest to his son, so you had to find either the patrons of a waterfront dive for him to harass, or in “Child Psykolojiky” give him an opponent in Swe’ Pea who can fight back. As boring as some of the later Famous Studios Popeyes were, the ones from late 1940 to late ’41 weren’t merely borning — they were actually annoying to watch because of the number of times he’s made the foil of his own pictures.

  • I’ll actually admit liking “King for a Day”, but after that, the Gabby cartoons settled into a rut of being inoffensive time fillers. And “With Poopdeck Pappy” is, as you say, amazing; it’s a shame the studio couldn’t keep that ball rolling, as the Popeye/Pappy relationship seems a promising source of gags.

    Love the panel advertising Eugene the Jeep. And are they still promoting Hunky and Spunky? Really?

  • Unless I miss my guess, the panel for “My Pop, My Pop” was reused for/taken from the one-sheet poster.

  • If WB can release Scrappy episodes of Scooby-Doo, then there’s certianly room for Gabby. People looking for something nostaligic will buy a proper Gabby DVD release……someday.

  • “King for a Day” is the best Gabby cartoon. I like the panel promoting it.

  • Bad as Gabby is, at least he’s not Hunky & Spunky. There aren’t a lot of cartoons that make me want to put my boot through the TV, but H&S easily qualify. But yes, Gabby goes to the curb as well.

    With Poopdeck Pappy is a good’un. The lively nightclub scene is inspired. “One side, crummy!”

    Really like Popeye / William Tell also. In addition to the break with formula (always a good thing to do), this is a good representative for the new fast pace Popeye toons would sport. Except for most of the Pappys, these early 40s Popeyes are winners.

    • Bad as Gabby is, at least he’s not Hunky & Spunky. There aren’t a lot of cartoons that make me want to put my boot through the TV, but H&S easily qualify

      Somebody at Paramount must have liked Hunky and Spunky. Two of their cartoons, “Hunky and Spunky” and “Snubbed by a Snob,” were reissued by Paramount in 1945, around the time Spunky was revived for “Yankee Doodle Donkey.”

    • Yes, Paramount thought Spunky was going to be a big smash when revived at Famous. Details in several weeks…

    • So the Spunky from the Casper cartoon “Boo Kind To Animals” (1955) and “Okey Dokey Donkey” (1958) really is the same one from the Hunky & Spunky cartoons…a 20 year career for that little guy!!

    • In terms of design, movement — especially in the second half of the cartoon — and comedy focus, “Vitamin Hay”, the last Hunky & Spunky short, is for all intents and purposes the first Noveltoon. They just had to get the character past Superman first.

  • A better caption for that one panel with the two kids would be “I told you Daddy hated us.” Poor Gabby. In my version of “Roger Rabbit” I would have had him come up to Eddie Valiant in the alley in Toontown with a tin cup going “Pardon me, but could you spare a quarter for a poor fellow who’s down on his luck?” and have Eddie tell him “Hit the road!”

    • I don’t think the gag would have worked because Gabby is really an obscure character who had a very limited window.

  • Interesting that Bluto isn’t in the artwork for 12/18/40.

  • I’ve always been fond of the Gabby cartoon ALL’S WELL. It’s a great example of applying what might be called a Laurel and Hardy structure to a cartoon; that is, taking a basic situation in one locale and hanging the gags on it. Some other cartoons I like for the same reason are the Andy Panda NUTTY PINE CABIN, the Tom & Jerry BOWLING ALLEY CAT, and a number of the Pink Panthers.

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