BAXTER'S BREAKDOWNS
May 10, 2017 posted by Devon Baxter

Robert McKimson’s “Little Boy Boo” (1954)

This week’s installment of “Warners Wednesday” features Foghorn Leghorn – “a natural born father”…

Foghorn Leghorn’s cartoons could have been mired into formulaic premises, with similar situations such as little Henery Hawk’s confusion over whether Foghorn or the Barnyard Dawg is a chicken, or Foggy’s ignoring the nuptial advances of the lovesick spinster Miss Prissy. Foghorn’s boastful and overbearing nature, along with the contrasts of the supporting characters, avoid such restrictions.

Little Boy Boo uses a different alternative with the talkative rooster. Foghorn becomes a potential father figure to Miss Prissy’s large-headed, bookish son, not so much to allure the widow hen, but to re-locate to a warmer home than his dilapidated shack. In one of Mel Blanc’s brilliant line readings, Foghorn’s flattery borders on a touch of insincerity on his feelings for Prissy (voiced here by Gladys Holland, sped up), as he pleads, “I need your love to keep me warm…” (a play on the lyric of Irving Berlin’s popular song, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” – introduced in the 1937 Fox musical On the Avenue).

In this film, the animators are mostly given extended sequences, throughout each of Foghorn’s attempts to secure Miss Prissy’s “cozy little roost.” Charles McKimson’s work on Little Boy Boo isn’t as lengthy as the other animators. He handles brief sections, such as Foghorn observing Miss Prissy’s home from his shack, and the first few scenes of Foghorn with Prissy’s egghead son, up until Foghorn pries the baseball out of his mouth. Herman Cohen animates Foghorn’s hasty courtship and proposal to Miss Prissy, and, in another great delivery from Mel Blanc, his reactions to the unexpected possibilities of fatherhood. Cohen animates a section that occurs later in the film, when her son’s paper fighter airplane guns down Foghorn’s old-fashioned aircraft.

Rod Scribner animates almost all of the scenes during the baseball game, in some of his finest work for the studio. McKimson seemed to have left Scribner alone with his animation on this film, confident in his ability to convey the raw emotion and violent action of these gags throughout. Scribner’s animation does reveal some subtleties; the kid’s struggles to lift up the large bat—with some foreshortening for an added measure—as Foghorn walks away to throw the baseball. In scene 20, which follows after, the egghead hits the baseball down Foghorn’s throat and into his stomach—it’s certainly worth freeze-framing for the hysterical drawings alone. Charles McKimson animates the start of the running gag in the cartoon at the end of this scene—the egghead produces scientific explanations, which “add up” to his newborn skill in games unsuited for his intellectual type.

Phil De Lara is given the last sections of the cartoon, including Foghorn and the egghead’s game of hide-and-seek. It seems that Foghorn’s shock from egghead finding a different hiding spot leads him to be kind enough to heed the boy’s scholarly interests.

Only after the obvious results of tampering with liquid chemicals—from a “harmless” chemical set—does Foghorn bring him back to his mother and cancel the matrimony. Interestingly, Scribner is credited for a brief shot of Miss Prissy inside the house, before Foghorn pushes the egghead back inside.

The draft for Little Boy Boo indicates a deleted section, where Foghorn and the ‘egghead’ play a game of “cowboys and Indians.” This was inserted into the kid’s next appearance, Feather Dusted, released about six months after this film. In that later film, Foghorn, dresses in a Native American headdress. The junior egghead, donning a coonskin cap, brandishes a popgun, which fires real ammunition after Foghorn pulls the cork. The gag itself is lifted from a Freleng Sylvester/Tweety, Gift Wrapped (1952), presumably released by the time Little Boy Boo started production. Naturally, this was before viewers noticed the similarity in various gags and routines from different Warners cartoons.

The “kid” was first named “Egghead Jr.” in 1960’s CROCKETT-DOODLE-DOO; re-christened as “Eggbert” on Warner model sheets in the early 1990s – and restored to “Egghead Jr.” on Animaniacs in 1992.

Comments from last week’s installment noted that after the Warners’ animation department reopened its doors, Carl Stalling’s musical scores relied less on popular songs culled from their music library. The final cartoons scored by Stalling before the shutdown have the last remaining traces of these methods before he mostly composed original melodies, with a few hit tunes incorporated for appropriate sequences.

The opening scenes with Foghorn inside his shack are accompanied by Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s “September in the Rain,” introduced in the 1937 film Melody for Two. Gus Kahn and Isham Jones’ “It Had to Be You” underscores Foghorn confessing his “love” to Prissy. The World War I-era song “Dear Little Boy of Mine” is played during the introduction of the egghead, reading his giant book of Splitting the Fourth Dimension. During the paper airplane sequence, Stalling uses a contrast of different music cues; a fluttery rendition of the 1938 hit song “The Umbrella Man” (Vincent Rose-Larry Stock-James Cavanaugh) plays as Foghorn flies his simple aircraft, and, when the egghead sends his jet fighter into the air, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Captains of the Clouds”—introduced in the titular 1942 James Cagney vehicle—plays, arranged in a heroic, brassier version.

Enjoy!

(Thanks to Jerry Beck, Keith Scott, Jon Cooke and Frank Young for their help with this post.)

10 Comments

  • I was wondering if they called him Eggbert at first due to another Looney Toons character that came out in the 1930’s – I’m referring, of course, to Egghead – later renamed Elmer J. Fudd (whose first appearance as Fudd was in A Feud There Was as the yodeling Justice of the Peace trying to bring peace between two feuding hillbilly clans).

    There was another human version of Egghead Junior, as a oneshot character on the Tiny Toon Aventures episode “Son of Looniversity Daze”, in the segment Plucky’s Dastardly Deed.

    Also “Egghead Junior” (Foghorn Leghorn version) made an appearance on Tiny Toons Adventures episode Hog Wild Hamton as Hamton J Pig’s neighbor who waged war on Hamton, thanks in part of Plucky Duck throwing a out of control Party at Hamton’s house while his parents were away that frayed Egghead Junior’s nerves while he tried to study for a major exam.

    • I think I read that the human “young Elmer” (that’s basically what he was) who appeared in Plucky’s Good Deed was a mistake, and it was supposed to be the young rooster, which would make some sense, as this episode featured Foghorn as the teacher.

  • This was one of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid. I remember it from “The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour.” My favorite gag was when the little guy digs him up from a different spot than where he hid, and he doesn’t want to look inside the storage bin where he was because “I just might be in there.” Also shows a slightly mercenary side to Foghorn, which gets taken down speedily. Funny stuff!

    • That digging out of a box gag truly was a unique one never used elsewhere or any other tine..! I just now noticed Gladys Holland, the voice of Daffy’s girlfriend Melissa and UPA’s narrator in Madeline, is mentioned as Miss Prissy, making it yet one more voice for her..

    • As I recall it, when presented on The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show on CBS in the early 1980’s (especially after its expansion to two hours), the explosion part of the chemistry-set gag was cut.

  • The name “Egghead, Jr.” actually pre-dates Animaniacs/Tiny Toons. He signs his “smoke signal” message to Foghorn with the name “Egghead, Jr” in “Crockett Doodle Do” (1960).

    • We always appreciate your input and additional information, Jon. I have revised the caption above. Thanks!

  • Are we sure that Egghead isn’t really Tweety in an uncredited pantomime character role?

    I’ve always thought the canary’s acting chops were underrated.

    (j/k)

  • This is one of my favorite Foghorn shorts. Favorite lines: “There’s something kind of YEEEEHHHH about a kid that’s never played baseball.” and “No, I better not look. I just MIGHT be in there.”

    Another song that played in the short was “Just a Cottage Small”, heard briefly towards the beginning when Foghorn sees Prissy’s house, and again towards the end of the short when Foghorn returns Junior. Same song was also heard in “The Windblown Hare” and “The Return of Mr. Hook”.

  • Always found it hilarious when Foghorn shows Egghead Jr. a baseball and the boy put it’s in his mouth like a jawbreaker.

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