There sure are a lot of drunk characters in old cartoons….
Drunkeness seems to be one of the most popular of themes in Golden Age Animation. I never really understood why characters would act bizarre once they had drank something when I was very young- and I have to wonder if a lot of the
kids who saw the films back in the 30s, 40s and 50s really understood either. Maybe had my parents drank more I would.
In some ways, it’s an easy gag. You can have a character merrily flop around the frame, barely able to hold themselves up. Instant funny.
Drinking is featured prominently (and played for laughs) in Disney’s Pinocchio (’40), Fantasia (’40) and Dumbo (’41), as well as the shorts Galloping Gaucho (’28) , Mickey in Arabia (’32), Alpine Climbers (’36), The Country Cousin (’36) and Pluto’s Quintuplets (’37). Later, Sleeping Beauty (’59) and Robin Hood (’73) both feature booze as the centerpiece of a sequence.
Columbia’s Krazy Kat cartoon Farm Relief (’29) is perhaps one of the funniest drunk cartoons ever. In fact, drinking is often featured in Columbia’s Scrappy cartoons. Sometimes they are just little throwaway gags, as in Puttin’ Out the Kitten (’37) where a gag involved pages of a children’s book being flipped, stopping on ‘The Pie-Eyed Piper’.
Warner’s cartoons have drunk characters nearly from the start, including Bosko in The Booze Hangs High (’30) and the first Merrie Melodie, Lady Play your Mandolin (’31). Into the 30’s the drinking continued. In Wise Quacks (’39) Porky and a drunk Daffy have to rescue one of Daffy’s ducklings from a flock of hawks. Porky’s cats all get drunk in Kitty Kornered (’46). Free beer is offered in One Froggy Evening (’55). How many Warner’s cartoons can you name that
The Van Beuren Tom and Jerrys feature the duo toasting each other in various countries during prohibition, and the cartoon Doughnuts (’33) uses baked goods as an excuse to make cartoon about drinking.
Felix the Cat is perhaps the cartoon world’s drinking champ- he’s a fairly heavy drinker if one is to calculate the cartoons he’s drinking in versus the ones he doesn’t.
Perhaps the Lantz studio wins the award for most drunk characters. My favorites are Mousie Come Home (’46) where a mouse fails to commit suicide, getting drunk by accident instead. I think the main character is drunk most of the way through Sliphorn King of Polaroo (’45). There just isn’t a studio that didn’t have characters get drunk at one point or another, though some characters didn’t partake themselves. The Hayes board seems to never have a second thought about these idea appearing in entertainment for children- there’s nothing in the production code that objects to sloshed characters.
That said, there is rarely a cartoon that actually bases the WHOLE FILM on a character being drunk, but if someone was going to do it, of course it would have to be Columbia’s Screen Gems studio in the later 40’s. Here is Pickled Puss (1948) the only cartoons as far as I know that is ALL about a drunken cat. The transfer here is from a 35mm IB technicolor print. Cheers!