Animation Trails
September 11, 2019 posted by Charles Gardner

Aw, Whadda You Afraid Of?? (Part 1)

We are fast approaching Friday the 13th. What more appropriate time to analyze both animation’s most infamous number, and the various forms of superstition that have provided jinxes and hoodoos to many an animated star over the years.

Perhaps one of the earliest known titles to deal with superstition would be Max Fleischer’s, The Ouija Board (Bray Studios, Out of the Inkwell, 6/4/20). One of the very early Koko the Clown appearances where most of the action is done by rotoscope of Dave Fleischer in a clown suit, Koko is aided and abetted not only by “Uncle Max” but by an assistant animator and a stereotypical black janitor, who has brought to the studio his ouija board, with which he and the assistant are engrossed in attempting to contact the spirit world. In a largely plotless episode, Max temporarily busies Koko with a haunted house of appearing and disappearing spirits, while Max too, scoffingly, takes his hand at the Ouija board’s planchette (the little platform on which the user’s fingertips are placed). Koko gets fed up with dodging the ghosts and, as usual, jumps off the drawing board. Sneaking under the planchette, Kok begins spelling out a message while nobody’s hands are on the gadget! (Current frame rate of projection is so fast I can’t really make out what his message reads – whatever it may be, it’s enough to scare the janitor temporarily “white”, and send him into a shivering huddle in a corner, where he throws away his dice.) Koko tries to sneak away under a hat, but is discovered. The janitor spots him laughing on a shelf, and throws a bottle of ink at him, which shatters against the wall. Koko leaps from the blot off the shelf, but this time doesn’t quite make it to the inkwell, landing instead on the front of Max’s shirt, where he remains as a flattened ink stain in silhouette of himself.

Koko takes another crack at the occult with Fortune Teller (10/1/23) – After being drawn in in the guise of a phantom, then revealed from his disguise by yanking off his robe, Koko looks out from the drawing board, and asks Max, “Who’s the stranger?” A gypsy is reading Max’s palm, and Max says she says he is haunted by evil spirits. Koko asks if she can give him the dope on his future. The gypsy starts the process by dealing out a table of cards. While she is busy, Max gives Koko a high sign, and mouths that he’ll give her a scare – then retreats to a closet, where he puts on an old sheet. Meanwhile, the gypsy places the card deck on Koko’s background. “Imp of Satan – pick a card – while the pickin’s good!”, she commands. After some hesitation, he picks a 3 – it morphs into a picture of a glass of beer, but the image and the card disappear entirely as Koko tries to grab it. He next draws a Jack – who bops him on the head with a scepter. Finally, he draws a card with nothing but a word message on it, reading “You, too, are haunted by evil spirits.” Reaching for another card, he receives instead the handshake of a ghost from behind the deck. He draws an ace, and it morphs into yet another ghost. The ghost produces new design cards with a mule’s tail and a bull’s horns, and attaches these appendages to Koko. Max meanwhile emerges from the closet, and begins to chase the gypsy around the room in the sheet. The ghost is not through with Koko, and flattens him with an ace, leaving him as an imprint on the card. The deck then elaborately self-shuffles, cutting into three stacks, each revealing as its top card Koko, in profile, front, and back view.

The three Koko’s merge back into one (whose trousers fall down – it’s scaring the pants off him), and piles of cards begin to rain on Koko like a tornado in an elaborate mix of animation and stop-motion. Max is finally figured out by the gypsy, who sees his shoes under the sheet – and she konks him with a large vase. Meanwhile, Koko comes off the drawing board, setting a scare for Max. Inside the closet, Koko rigs up a pulley rope tied to a coat hanger on the back of the door, with another sheet tied to the rope’s other end. When Max goes to the closet, a “ghost” appears to be leaping from the floor every time he opens the door. Koko tries another prank – finding a white sock under the furniture, he crawls in, and plays miniature “ghost”, scaring both the fortume teller and Max. But Koko reveals himself before the fortune teller leaves the room, giving her the horse laugh. The gypsy threatens: “I’ll put the curse of the seven sorrowful goblins upon your head!” As she leaves, all the real-life objects and furniture in the room become animated in stop-motion, and in particular, scissors on the desk come after Koko. Koko’s only refuge is a dive into the usual inkwell. This time, however, a mysterious live hand with long pointed fingers and fingernails menacingly reaches into the frame and inserts the bottle stopper for the fade out. A creative and elaborate entry into the Koko series.

Felix the Cat has a go at it with Futuritzy (Pat Sullivan, 6/24/28). Regrettably, surviving prints available have been “goat glanded” with sound, removing intertitles, making various portions of the storyline difficult to follow. So I’ll try to make as much sense of it as I can. The film opens with Felix giving a female of the species an engagement ring. While she is approving, she indicates that Felix must ask her Papa first. Felix climbs a rain gutter up to a roof where Papa sits, and makes known his proposal. In a missing intertitle, Papa appears to indicate that first, Felix must prove himself a good provider. Felix assures him he will, but once back down on the ground, appears to indicate to the audience, “How am I gonna get in the dough?” Deciding to get the dope on what his future might bring, he consults a gypsy fortune teller. Here is where the intertitles would really have come in handy, as the gypsy only seems to see fortunes that are black, blacker, and blackest. Felix leaves disgusted, waving her off as if a crackpot. He then spots a competing fortune telling racket – the home of “Prof. Whoozit, Astrologist – Your future read by the stars.” He enters, and finds the professor (no, not the one from the 1960’s) at a telescope.

Tugging on the professor’s coattails, Felix announces his presence as a customer. Rather than view the heavens, the professor simply bops Felix on the head, raising a “star” off his brow from the blow, which the professor holds and analyzes. He begins telling an elaborate tale which is visualized in thought clouds above their heads – Felix, walking along, trips over something on the ground, and finds it’s a lucky horseshoe. Felix tosses it over his shoulder for good luck – and bonks on the head a robber attempting to hold up a wealthy man. Felix foils the robbery, and the rich man, in appreciation, takes him home by private plane, and feeds him a chef-prepared banquet of chicken, fish, and milk. Felix interrupts the story at this point, apparently asking, “What about money?” The professor continues, as the rich man escorts Felix over to a large self-standing safe and opens its contents for Felix’s taking. Felix starts stuffing sacks of money into his fur – but soon looks so bloated he is barely able to walk. He gets a better idea, and, replacing the money sacks into the safe, simply walks off with the whole safe upon his back. In a last view of his future, he opens the safe for his bride to be, its contents tumbling out in a stack. She embraces Felix, and all seems to end on a happy note. Back in reality, Felix is overjoyed with this new fortune, flips a coin to the professor for his fee, and skips happily back to break the news to Papa. In what appears to be a continuity error, Felix returns to Papa’s roof, bearing a certificate, presumably of his foretold good fortune – however, we never saw the professor previously handing him this. Felix, while awaiting the approval of Papa, lights up a cigar in celebration, and throws the match away. In what must presumably be an event matching the gypsy’s bad fortune, the match falls upon the fuse of a discarded Fourth of July firecracker on the ground below.

With visible letters “POW”, the firecracker explodes, sending Felix and Papa in a nicely-animated perspective flight into the clouds and back down to the Earth far below. Both fall onto a cliffside ledge – but Papa slips off, and is left clinging by one hand to a branch sticking out from the cliffside. Felix spots a rope and attempts to drag it to the cliff edge to save Papa – but finds a mule tied to the other end of it, who kicks him off the cliff (presumably, part 2 of the gypsy’s bad fortune). Now Felix finally has something seem to go right – from the professor’s version, Felix finds the lucky horseshoe. Felix tosses it over his shoulder just like in the earlier sequence – only instead of a robber, he breaks the plate glass window of a market, causing its owner to konk Felix on the noggin with a brick. Realizing his hopes of winning his lady love are fading fast, Felix moons over her in a heart visualization over his head – which is abruptly interrupted by Felix getting run over by a taxi. Inside the taxi, Felix’s girlfriend in bridal gown, with another male cat, and a sign on the back of the vehicle reading, “Just Married”. Well, enough is enough. Felix returns to the professor’s abode, carrying the brick he got hit with, and tosses the brick through the professor’s window. It makes a direct hit on the professor’s bean – filling the entire room with flickering stars. Outside, Felix gestures for what should have been another missing intertitle, which probably said something to the effect of “Read THAT!”, and gives his signature laugh.

The Crystal Gazebo (Charles Mintz/Columbia, Krazy Kat, 11/7/32 – Ben Harrison, story), briefly utilizes a crystal ball in the hands of a Egyptian mystic, as both a television receiver and a transportation device. Spying Krazy and Kitty riding a camel on the desert, the mystic takes a shine to Kitty. He places a cloth over the image in the crystal ball, performs some magic gestures – and Kitty suddenly appears under the cloth, transported to the mystic’s palace. As for Krazy, he merely gives the image in the ball a good bop – and Krazy feels it in real life. The rest of the cartoon is an adventure in Egypt, similar in style to “Mickey in Arabia” (7/18/32) and Flip the Frog’s “Coo Coo the Magician” (1/21/33), with action and atmospherics coming at you so fast and furious that it might take a whole article to describe in words. Look up the cartoon yourself to get the idea.

Is My Palm Read (Fleischer/Paramount, Betty Boop, 2/17/33 – Dave Fleischer, dir., David Tendlar/William Henning, anim.) manages to become one of the most daring and nonsensical Boops of all time. Those familiar with the “Color redrawn” version (often shown without its color on PD video reels as if the black and white original) have missed a lot, due to severe censorship edits. Bimbo and Koko run a fortune telling racket. A neon sign outside proclaims, “Prof. Bimbo reveals past – present – future”. Images of a large head with segmented brain, and a palmistry hand, alternate illumination on opposite sides of the sign – but the alternation quickens until both signs are visible together, giving the impression of a familiar hand-to-nose gesture usually associated with giving a raspberry (a scene censored from the color version).

Betty arrives for a seance, entering through a doorway cut just the right size to match her silhouette. “Lights out”, commands Bimbo, and the room darkens, revealing silhouette of Betty’s hips and legs back-lit through her dress. “Ho deo Ho!”, cry Bimbo and Koko in unison. Betty seats herself before Bimbo and his crystal ball. (Bimbo has seen fit to don a turban and fake beard to look more “swami-ish”). “Concentrate”, Bimbo commands. The crystal ball begins to light up. Bimbo intones, “We will now see the naked truth of your baby days.” (Why does Betty need to see this? I guess she was too young to remember.) In a daring and subsequently censored sequence, we witness an overly-lengthy shot of a totally naked “baby” Betty cavorting in a bathtub and losing the soap – but “baby” Betty looks nearly identical to the adult Betty, so this sequence is in essence nothing but an excuse to get Betty into a nude scene before the production code got into full control! The scene changes as Bimbo fortetells of Betty on a steamship bound for a foreign land. A storm breaks, and despte the ship sprouting a huge umbrella, its passengers are hurled overboard. The steamship blows large smoke rings which it tosses on the water as life preservers for most of its passengers – but Betty is left adrift on a single life preserver.

She is washed ashore on a tropical island (the waves patting her on the posterior as she reaches the land). Convinced no one is around, Betty removes her wet clothing behind a rock – only to have the “rock” walk away (it’s a turtle), leaving Betty in her undies. She ducks behind a tree trunk, and reaches upward for sone palm fronds, briefly exposing her brassiere again – she blushes and says “Excuse me”. She finally fashions a native grass skirt, and serenades tothe tune of “All By Myself In the Moonlight” (though she appears to be anything but alone, as various animals keep staring and interrupting her song). To make matters worse, a nearby straw hut is chock full of leering ghosts (including a Jewish stereotype one who shouts “Ay Yi Yi” at the sight of Betty). The whole hut develops facial features and palm tree “hands”, and grabs Betty, sweeping her inside. The ghosts attempt to reach her from various directions, and a spider spins a web over the open window to prevent her escape. (Strong spiderweb!) Betty writes “Help” on a board and sticks it in the window. A ghost grabs the board and throws it into the fireplace. But outside, the smoke from the chimney also forms into the letters, “help”. Bimbo, an able-bodied sailor, just happens to be passing, mounted on a horse in shore patrol. Seeing the smoke, he rides to the rescue. The horse throws him through the door of the hut, and a furious fight ensues within.

Betty and Bimbo run to the beach, finding a convenient boat with a propeller attached by belt to a wheel, on top of which is a squirrel. Bimbo merely holds a walnut in front of the squirrel, and it runs as if exercising in a hamster-wheel, powering the motor to ride Bimbo and Betty to safety. The scene dissolves back to the seance room, where Bimbo removes his turban and wig to reveal to Betty that he is the foretold hero . They embrace, but a ghost suddenly emerges under the crystal ball, shouting “Bunko!” Out pop the rest of the ghosts, and the chase is on again. Betty loes her dress, and just happens to be wearing the grass skirt underneath. They are suddenly back on the island, pelting the ghosts with coconuts, and finally running through a hollow log, ending in a drop off a cliff. Betty and Bimbo scramble atop the log, avoiding the fall, but Bimbo positions himself to kick each emerging ghost over the cliff edge, presumably to their doom. (Bimbo, does this really help? After all, aren’t they already dead?) Iris out.

Porky’s Badtime Story (Warner, Looney Tunes, Porky Pig, 7/24/37 – Robert Clampett, dir.), gives a brief example of what happens when a superstition is ignored. Porky and his pal Gabby Goat, chronically late to work, have been given final warning by their boss that one more late arrival, and they’re fired. They attempt to hit the hay hours early to ensure they’ll be bright-eyed and on time in the morning, but endure a night of endless sleep interruptions, with the moon and the very elements conspiring against them. A storm breaks out in the middle of the night. Porky’s bed has been destroyed in a previous mishap, and he tries to double-up with Gabby. But a leak develops in the ceiling overhead. In a somewhat daring gag, Gabby feels the moisture from the water on the bedding, but at first sees no sign of the drip, and gives the most accusatory glances toward Porky. (A suggestion of bedwetting! Well, Our Gang got away with it too, in “Nignt ‘n’ Gales” (7/24/37 – released the very same day!), with a cork falling out of a hot water bottle. It must have seemed strange if these two films ever got booked together on the same bill.)

But then, another drip falls, hitting Gabby square in the eye, giving the situation away. “Why don’t somebody fix these things,” shouts Gabby. “How do they expect a guy to sleep with water on the brain?” Gabby reaches under the bed, and produces an umbrella, which he opens over his head. Porky, now awake, gets panicky: “Hey! D-d-d-don’t open an umb-b-brella in the house. It’s b-b-bad luck!” A disgusted Gabby responds, “Aw, that’s a lotta baloney. Your too supersti – – too supersti—-Aw, whadda you afraid of?” (Hence the title of this article.) Porky has good reason to be afraid. A lightning bolt enters the window, attracted to the umbrella like a lightning rod – and disintegrates it. Gabby throws away the stub of the umbrella in a tantrum of outrage. “Egad! I must have enemies! I might as well ry sleeping under Niagara Falls!” He gets his wish, as the ceiling collapses, deluging the two under a non-stop flood of water. Don’t worry – all turns out well, as after their disastrous night, they hurry to the office, only to discover they forgot it’s Saturday – their day off! The film was virtually remade shot for shot in Technicolor as “Tick Tock Tuckered” (4/8/44), with Daffy Duck shoehorned in as substitute for the Gabby role (an odd fit, considering that a twice-repeated shot in both films involves the two’s chaotic attempts to dress for work in the morning – yet in the case of Daffy, the shot is purposeless, as Daffy doesn’t wear any clothes at all!).

Silly Superstition (Lantz/Universal, Lil’ Eightball, 8/28/39 – Burt Gillett, dir.) – In defense of Eightball, despite his obviously stereotypical character design and Mel Blanc’s standard southern dialect, I like the character better than most standard portrayals of black characters in 30’s and 40’s animation, because a few character traits set him apart from the others. First, he is obviously of a high I.Q. He moves briskly instead of lethargically, sports a broad vocabulary, and loves to throw his intelligence around by using words a mile long. Secondly, he loves to fight the old 30’s tropes about blacks being ultra-superstitious and afraid of spooks, insisting that he is too “enlightened” and above such things, and attempting to debunk the old stereotypes. Ultimately, he is scared too – but only when presented with something that really deserves such a reaction. In a sense, he is sort of the black version of Loopy De Loop – a character totally different inside than one would expect from his appearance – but the world around him may never know it. It’s a bit of a shame they never let this character develop beyond three cartoons. He appears to have had a longer life in Walter Lantz comics, but I have yet to encounter any such stories to see if they maintained these character traits in print form.

In this one, Eightball leaves the house on an outing with his dog. His “Mammy” warns him that it’s Friday the 13th, and not to walk under ladders, break mirrors, or let black cats cross his path. Once out of sight of Mammy, Eightball laughs. “I don’t believe in superstition. Do you?”, he asks his dog. “Answer yes or no!” The dog nods timidly. “I’m surprised”, scoffs Eightball, and determines to teach the dog that it’s all “a lot of hooey.” He spies a ladder leaning against the fence of a construction site. Making mock bows to it, and with an obvious play on dialog from Disney’s “Snow White”, Eightball addresses it: “Oh ladder, ladder against the wall, I ain’t afraid of you at all!” He struts boldly under it, leaving the dog pleasantly surprised that nothing happens. Eightball invites the dog to repeat the process, but the dog stops just short of going under, trembling. Eightball decides to make it easier for him by blindfolding the dog’s eyes. The dog runs under the ladder unafraid – but doesn’t know when to stop. Encountering a multitude of objects and ramps in his path, he runs forward – and upward – to the heights of a skyscraper under construction. Eightball watches helplessly from below, as the dog collides with a girder not riveted in, and topples it. The girder knocks another loose, and another, and another, until the whole structure falls to pieces and is leveled to the ground. Eightball manages to catch the pup in his arms and dodge away just in time to avoid the falling debris. At a point of safety, Eightball again asks the dog, “Now do you believe in superstition?” The dog nods, much more vigorously than before. “I was afraid of that”, remarks Eightball.

Deciding to demonstrate again, Eightball spies a black cat, and request that he assist him to “disprove the age-old fallacy that if you cross my path, I’ll be subject to a mess of bad luck.” With a gracious bow, the cat struts in front of Eightball, then back again, adding a few tap dance steps for a finale. Eightball addresses his dog, laughing in hearty boast that no bad luck happened to him. However, the cat and dog both react in fright to a sight behind Eightball – from over a fence climbs – a lion! The dog tries to signal Eightball of the danger by making faces with a mouth of sharp teeth. Eightball challenges him: “Is you a dog or a mouse?” In answer, the dog shrinks to mouse size. Eightball then feels a brush of fur behind his head, and reaching his hand behind him, squeezes and tweaks the nose of the ferocious beast. Eightball does a shock take (no, he does not turn white) and runs. The dog, finding some courage, charges to the rescue in pursuit of the lion. The chase is briefly interrupted by a police siren. Hearing it, the lion stuffs himself into a mailbox, his tail still hanging out. A police car pulls up to Eightball, and a cop yells out the window as if making a police radio broadcast to be on the lookout for a lion escaped from the city zoo.

Eightball runs to the mailbox and tries to point out the lion’s tail, but the cop is too engrossed in his “broadcast”, ending it with “That is all”, and just drives away. The chase is on again. Eightball calls another time out, addressing the lion: “N-n-now just a minute! Is you chasing me because it’s Friday the 13th or just because you’re a lion?” The lion’s only answer is to wiggle his tongue like a beckoning hand to “come in” to his mouth. “That’s all I wanted to know”, replies Eightball, and runs again. The lion runs backwards, using his tail as a lasso – but misses Eightball and ties himself to a fire hydrant. Eightball’s dog catches up, getting the lion to chase him around the hydrant, until the lion’s tail has him tied firmly to it. Then the dog inhales all the air he can, blowing up to lion-sized proportions, and hollers out “BOOOOO!!” The lion jumps in terror, freeing himself, and runs clear back to the zoo, leaping in through bent bars of his cage and then pushing the bars shut again to keep the dog out. After a last few intimidating yips to the lion, the dog returns to Eightball, watching all this from the end of a light pole. Jumping down to the ground, Eightball asks again, “Now do you believe in superstition?” Confidently, the dog nods again. “Well, brother, so do I!”, responds Eightball, and shakes hands with the dog for the iris out.

Donald’s Lucky Day (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 1/10/39 – Jack King, dir.), provides the Duck with a colorful “film noir” (is that possible?) opportunity to explore various forms of superstition. Messenger boy Donald arrives by bicycle (equipped with the latest in dashboard transistor radios) to pick up a package for delivery from an obviously “shady” side of town near the waterfront. Inside, two hoodlums (seen only in shadow silhouettes) are preparing the “package” – a cartoon-style round black bomb with fuse, and an alarm clock with a triggering mechanism to light the bomb when it reaches midnight. One of the hoods (the boss) says, “What a valentine for Scarpuss – – the rat.” (Reference to popular gangster film, “Scarface”, and possibly denoting that Friday the 13th fell in February that year – to fall just before Valentine’s day.) The second goon asks, “Gee…Suppose it goes off too soon?” The boss replies, “Then we get a new messenger boy!” Donald is handed the package through a small peephole in the back alley doorway, instructed to deliver the package before twelve – and don’t drop it! Donald calls the menacing voice inside a “sourpuss:, but as the eyes in the peephole widen enormously and react, “WHAT??”, Donald beats a rapid retreat – so fast, he takes off on his bike, leaving the kickstand behind. Tuning in his radio, Donald hears an announcer ask the compelling question, “Are you still alive?” Donald is a bit jarred.

The announcer continues: “If so consider yourself lucky. But beware! Until midnight it is still Friday the 13th!” Now Donald starts to worry. He looks at the address on the package: “1313 13th Street.” “That’s a bad sign”, mutters Donald. The announcer continues to caution, “Don’t break a mirror. Don’t let the black cat cross your path. Don’t go under any ladder.” “I’ll say I won’t!”, responds Donald. But he slams on the brakes, as he discovers himself about to ride right under a ladder leaning against a wall. Donald dodges around the ladder, looks back and states, “I fooled ya that time” – but doesn’t watch where he’s going, and rides right through a large standing mirror in front of a second-hand store, then into a fruit wagon full of tomatoes behind it. Donald’s bike is broken. The package drops, and its ticking stops. While the audience breathes a sigh of relief, Donald is frantic that the package is “busted”, and shakes it vigorously – until the clock starts ticking again! “What a relief!”, quips Donald. Just to add insult to injury, Donald looks at a tower clock, reading four minutes until midnight. “Gosh, I’m gonna be late.” Donald hurries off on foot, still carrying the nefarious bundle.

At the corner of 13th Avenue and 13th Street, a black cat attempts to cross Donald’s path. Donald tells it, “Scram. You’re a hoodoo.” But the cat just wants to be friendly, and matches Donald step for step in his every attempt to dodge around the cat. The cat jumps on top of Donald’s package, knocking it from his arms – then sits leisurely on top of it, giving himself a tongue bath. Donald must have been studying his nephews’ Junior Woodchuck manual, as he is prepared for any emergency. He pulls from his pocket a mechanical toy mouse, and winds it up. The mouse takes off, and the cat takes off after it. Donald thinks his troubles are over, but the mouse and cat double back, and are right on his heels. Donald races for the wharves, and ducks behind a small building near the end of a pier. The mouse and cat pass him, the mouse rolling onto the end of a loose plank, extending off the pier and half overhanging the water. The cat follows to the end of the board, but the mechanical mouse falls off into the water. The cat’s weight tips his end of the board downward, lifting the other end to intercept Donald’s package and lift it from his arms. Donald pursues the package onto the board, while the cat goes back the other way to return to the dock – and suddenly, Donald and the cat have switched places, with Donald out over the water. The cat is about to step off the dock-side of the board, and Donald feels himself about to plummet.

“Here, kitty, kitty. Nice kitty!”, yells Donald, in a feigned overture of friendship to save himself from a dunking. The cat responds, but travels out to the fulcrum of balance of the board – and beyond, shifting all the weight on one end. Donald sees imminent disaster, and begins barking like a dog to scare the cat back. The process repeats itself several times, Donald transforming from friendly to keep the cat form stepping off the board, to menacing to make sure the cat keeps his distance. Finally, Donald times it right and dashes to the fulcrum before the cat can cross it, returning to the dock. But in dismounting the board, his coat gets caught on a nail in the wall of the small building on the pier. He also has dropped the package, which flips end over end down the board, unwrapping itself and revealing its contents. “It’s a bomb!” yells Donald, but still can’t free himself from the wall. The bomb fuse ignites, emitting a loud hissing sound. The cat reacts to the hiss, thinking he is being challenged, and, as Donald prays “Now I lay me down to sleep…”, the cat attacks the bomb, wrestles with it, and causes it to fall off the pier into the briny blue. It explodes underwater, bringing down on Donald a shower of fresh-caught fish from the ocean floor. Donald’s head pops out from the fish pile, telling the audience. “Oh, boy! This is my lucky day!” At that moment, the scent of the fish is picked up by every alley cat in the neighborhood. They converge on the fish pile, moments later leaving Donald sitting in a pile of fish skeletons. But for once, Donald’s so happy just to be alive that he laughs uproariously, rather than breaking into his traditional tantrum of “Waaak”s.

We’ll take it into the 1940’s and beyond next time – with some downright strange outings from Columbia’s Screen Gems studio, Bugs, Buzzy, Popeye, Woody, Pink Panther, and others – and yes, even Casper!


  • Another terrific article filled with great cartoons. Can’t wait to check out the next installment.

  • My mother was born on Friday the 13th, as was one of my nephews, so it’s always been considered a lucky day in my family. I bought my car on Friday the 13th, and it hasn’t given me a moment’s trouble in five years. Knock on wood….

    Koko’s message on the Ouija board is: “The fello[w] is from…” Nothing more. Something might have been cut from the film.

    “Can she deal out some dope on my future?” What does she look like, Koko, a dope dealer? Well, maybe a little….

    “Is My Palm Read” has always seemed to me like two cartoons awkwardly spliced together, one about a fortune-telling parlour and the other about a haunted island. The narrative structure is as bizarre as any of the imagery. Was it originally intended to be two different cartoons?

  • As for what Koko spells out on the ouija board, looking at it frame by frame it appears to be “The fellow…”, then the face next to “Yes”, and then “is from”, and then it cuts to the janitor turning white. Not much to go on, really.

  • Your articles are always ‘top shelf’ and this one is no exception — insightful, thorough, educational, and entertaining!

    PS: May all of us cartoon enthusiasts take a moment to remember the victims of 9/11. (Not forgotten) Peace!

  • Professor Small and Mr. Tall next week. That one deserves its own column.

  • The 1959 Tans-Lux Felix also had one – one of the first with the dog Rock Bottom (one of the several main villians) – titled simply Friday the 13th, where, just like any other time, Felix is a black cat and thereby responsible for bad luck. Rock suffers from Felix’s appearance, and runs out… then tries to do away with him.

    Like all other TV Felix’s of this series incarnation, it uses Winston Sharpes’s catchy Famous Studios cues (going as back as “Big Bad Sindbad” for the final gag, a lucky horse falling on Rock!) I was suspecting that the earlier versions would have Felix as a bad luck symbol, being a black cat!

    • There’s a (lost) 1920 Felix title, A HUNGRY HOODOO, that indeed plays on the concept. According to the copyright synopsis, Kitty wants Felix to find food for them on Friday the 13th, but Felix warns her that as a black cat, he’ll jinx himself. Setting out anyway, he gets in fights with a tramp, a chef, and a little boy before stealing a basket of fish—then comes home to find that he jinxed Kitty, who gave birth to a litter while he was away.

  • Apparently neitherr Krazy nor Felix brought bad luck despite being black cats!

  • “The Crystal Gazebo” should be “The Crystal Gazabo” – this is the title registered with the Copyright Office and that makes more sense, as a look in a dictionary will show. Original titles would have had a “By Ben Harrison & Manny Gould” credit and no story credit.

  • Some brief supplementary information. Paul Terry produced two “Aesop’s Fables” for which no information currently appears on the internet except their titles: “Friday the Thirteenth” (1922), and “The Crystal Gazer” (1922). The former may perhaps be the first cartoon to deal directly with triskaidekaphobia – leading the industry to almost become fixated with it for subsequent generations. Any information on these titles from trade papers or otherwise would be greatly appreciated.

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