The era of the theatrical short is coming to an end, as are most short ventures into the venues of learning as subject matter for stories. Not to say that school is by any means becoming an unpopular topic – in fact, as will be seen next week, the television era will spawn a cornucopia of extended series focused either significantly or in many instances centrally upon the subject. The movement is thus more a change of medium than of message, and while writing creativity is in some instances under review in this week’s term paper nearing its last gasps for short stories, efforts will be refocused to present longer projects in the manner of the contemporary sitcom to sustain the never-ending appetite of Nielsen families, becoming as much a part of home life as the homework Junior brought home from class but tries to dodge until the last possible second before bedtime.
Knight School (Hanna-Barbera. Huckleberry Hound, 10/9/60) – The middle ages finds knighthood in flower, and all youths aspiring to become knights of the round table. Or so says a narrator. Huckleberry Hound has no such personal aspirations – “Being a knight is not my desire, sire – I was drafted.” First requirement for qualification is thirty days of knight school. Huck finds the concept of knight school in the daytime already confusing. Huck joins the ranks of the new recruits, and becomes a veritable “teacher’s pet”: for use in demonstration of new weaponry. He is supplied a huge shield, and told to stand behind it, while the teacher swings down upon it with a heavy sword. The shield is undamaged, but lies flat on the ground, with Huck driven into the dirt below it as if hit by a pile driver. Next, he is issued a full-face helmet, and the instructor demonstrates that you can’t get hurt wearing one, by smashing Hick over the head with a mace. He asks Huck if he felt anything, and Huck replies nope – but “Just call me little’ol’ Shorty”, as he waddles away at a height of three feet. Graduation exercises are very simple – all the applicants are sealed Into a large room, and told to have at it in battle. Last man standing graduates. The instructor ushers Huck and a room full of mighty warriors in, and shuts the door. Sounds of a ferocious battle follow. Who should remain when the instructor opens the door but Huck, leaving the dumbfounded instructor to ask how? Huck explains: “Luckily, a big fat feller fell on me the first thing, and by the time I could get him off, the fightin’ was all over.”
Huck is dubbed a knight (receiving a large lump on top of his head from the dubbing sword). While seated at the Round Table, word comes in that a fire-breathing dragon is ransacking the villages. All the knights call for the honor of doing the beast in – except terrified Huck, who decides “I better keep my little ol’ mouth shut.” King Arthur decides that the only way to settle the decision is to cut cards. Huck is forced to draw first, and, with a sigh of relief, draws a three. Four other knights draw all four twos. A final knight states he drew a “One”. “That’s an Ace, and it’s higher than my three”, asides Huck to the audience. “I said a One”, insists the other knight, showing Huck a unique card which merely has written on it the numeral, “1″. “Just tryin’ to, you know, keep you honest, sire,” nervously fidgets Huck. Huck rides out to wage battle with the beast, but has the horse blanket roasted off his horse, his lance turned to cinders, and his sword melted into a twisted mess – not to mention his tail fur singed He finally dives in the lake, and the curious dragon pokes his head underwater in pursuit. When he lihts his head, the dragon’s nose is full of water – and the fire has been put out. Huck explains that without hus fire, the dragon is nothing but a king size lizard, and they all just run off and hide and are never seen again. Huck returns to the Round Table, where a new distress call is received about a rampaging ogre. Huck is prepared this time, holding his own special card marked with a zero. “You can’t have a card lower than a zero”, says Huck. (Shall we try negative integers?) But no matter, as, for variety, King Arthur announces that this time, the low man shall receive the honor of battle. Huck closes with the curtain line, “Shucks, no wonder they use a round table. Nothin’s on the square around here.”
Kozmo Goes to School (Paramount, Noveltoon, November, 1961 (exact release date unknown) – Seymour Kneitel, dir.). We’ve previously “encountered” Seymour Kneitel’s outer-space creation Kozmo briefly in our “Spacey Invaders” series a Halloween season or two ago. Origins unknown, Kozmo is just your average kid – if you happen to live in another galaxy. Green in complexion, with a wiggly line for a mouth, Kozmo can always be found in a glass helmet and miniature space suit, his trusty all purpose ray gun at the ready. He travels down to Earth in his flying saucer for a visit every so often, just for kicks, but always with good intentions to be helpful where he can. Not quite a Casper the Friendly Ghost, but at least there’s some basic goodness rather than malice in his heart.
Kozmo’s ship lands in an open field, and he pops out for his usual random look around. On this trip, the first thing he sights is a bulldog chasing and cornering a defenseless kitty kat againt a fence. Kozmo doesn’t think the dog’s bullying is right, and focuses his ray gun on the cat, transforming it into a giant three times the size of the bulldog. The pursued becomes the pursuer, and all is well in Kozmo’s eyes. He next spies an old lady trying to cross a busy highway. Communicating to her as best he can (the wiggly line of his mouth twitches, emitting the sound of radio static), he gets across the message that he will help her across the street. Activating jet boosters from his space suit, Kozmo flies the surprised woman over the flow of traffic, to her destination on the opposite corner, then is on his way. The lady confides to the audience, “My, what will those toy manufacturers think up next?” But the next person Kozmo meets is in no friendly mood. He is a truant officer, and insists that Kozmo should be in school. He takes hold of Kozmo’s hand, and leads him toward the schoolhouse, not noticing that Kozmo isn’t walking, but floating weightless behind the officer. “All you kids are alike”, mutters the officer, “playing spaceman instead of learning your A B C’s.”
At the school (for once, a modern building instead of little red variety), a typical day is progressing. While teacher calls for a ten minute study period, the class bully decides the time is better speet having fun. He produces from his desk a turtle, and sends it creeping forward under the row of desks ahead of him, with a lit candle placed upon its back, to give all the other students in the row an instant hotfoot. The suspicious teacher calls upon him, to see how well he’s studied, by posing to him the math problem of 2 + 3. The bully nervously counts his digits, mutters about carrying numbers to the next column, and groans, “Why does she always have to give me the tough ones?” In the door marches the truant officer with Kozmo. “Since you’ve missed this morning’s arithmetic lesson, do you think you can do this problem?”, she demands, posing Kozmo the same addition problem on the blackboard. As the teacher’s eyes divert themselves to a book, Kozmo activates his jet booster again, hovering in front of the blackboard, and writing a series of mathematical sub-calculations that Wernher Von Braun would be proud of, correctly making final arrival at the number 5. The teacher is impressed, and allows Kozmo to take a seat at the head of the class. “Why dat big show off. Nobody’s gonna be smarter than me”, vows the bully, taking aim at Kozmo’s helmet with a slingshot. But Kozmo spots him before he can fire, and whips out his ray gun. Firing a heat beam, he aims at the hand of the bully holding the handle of the slingshot. “Yeow!”. yells the bully, letting go of the handle. The device is pulled backwards from the retraction of the stretched rubber, popping itself inside the bully’s mouth, propping it open like a large letter Y. The bully pulls a small plate out from under a potted plant on a nearby windowsill, and sends it sailing like a frisbee at Kozmo. Kozmo ducks in the nick of time, then sets his ray gun for a tractor beam. He stops the plate in flight just before it can crash into the wall, then re-routes it for a detour to the teacher’s desk, where it picks up an ink bottle, then back to the rear of the classroom, where it neatly pours the ink out all over the bully’s head. The bully swears to get the little guy at recess, and, pulling out a peashooter, makes sure recess comes early by shooting a flow of peas at the classroom alarm bell, making it sound prematurely.
At recess, Kozmo plays on the swings, needing no one to push him, instead creating the needed thrust from intermittent blasts from his jet pack. The bully pushes him off, taking his seat, and tells Kozmo to push ig he knows what’s good for him. Instead of using his hands, Kozmo pushes with a beam from his ray gun, not just providing an intermittent forward force, but elevating the bully so that he is inverted upside down at the full height the ropes of the swing can achieve. Then, he turns the beam off, allowing the bully to crash into the swing set below, bending the metal rods into warp zones. A football game commences, and Kozmo is about to try a kick, when the bully hogs in again, kicking Kozmo aside and insisting he will kick off himself. As the bully steps back to a position from which to begin his run at the ball, Kozmo sets his ray to a setting worthy of an alchemist, which transforms the leather ball into one of solid steel. “OWW!!” yells the bully, as he nearly fractures his foot, to the laughter of his fellow classmates. Finally. Kozmo tries baseball, but the bully grabs the bat away to take a swing at the pitcher’s best pitch himself. The nervous pitcher throws, but Kozmo is ever at the ready with his rays, and disintegrates the ball just as it reaches home plate, leaving the bully to uncork his mightiest swing at absolutely nothing, The force of the swing drives him like a corkscrew into a crater four feet deep, as the class breaks into hilarious laughter again. The bully can’t stand being a laughing stock, and confronts the entire class, fists raised, stating that they need to be taught a lesson. Well, we know how Kozmo feels about a big guy picking on a little guy. So things turn full circle, as Kozmo resets his ray to the same setting with which he started the picture – the growth ray. Within a second, he has turned the ray upon everyone in the class except the bully, who all grow about five grades in height, leaving the bully as the new runt of the class. “Now, now, take it easy, fellas”, says the bully, cringing from what’s coming. As class resumes, the bully is seen with two black eyes, while the teacher marvels at the sudden growth spurt of the rest of the class. As for Kozmo, there is an empty chair, and a student catches sight at the window of a strange craft heading for outer space. Kozmo’s visiting time is over for now, as he heads back to his home planet, until his next adventure. Kneitel did well with this project, and it’s somewhat a pity that the studio’s limited resources and Kneitel’s eventual death would soon put the brakes upon this comical space opera.
Little Red Fool House (Terrytoons/CBS, The Deputy Dawg Show, 12/1/62) – On their way to their favorite fishing spot by the creek, Muskie Muskrat and Vincent Van Gopher are stopped by the Sheriff, who inquires why they aren’t in school. Muskie replies they don’t need any schooling, because they already know everything there is to know about cat fishing. Outraged, the Sheriff calls on Deputy Dawg, dragging him out of the shower to assume his duties as truant officer. While Muskie and Vince wait along the creek bank for a nibble on their lines, they are startled out of their wits and into the creek mud by Deputy ringing a school bell in their ears. “Do you know what this means, boys?” asks Deputy, pointing to the bell. Muskie knows it means he scared every catfish in the South away, for one thing. Deputy informs them that whenever it rings, they have to go to school. Hardly believing that Deputy can be serious, the boys attempt an escape by Vincent burrowing an escape hole through the riverbank, right under Deputy’s feet. Deputy races ahead, planting the end of a shovel into the ground just ahead of the moving bulge that is the boys below. With a clanging smack, the boys are brought to the surface on the end of Deputy’s shovel. Another escape occurs when they pass under a low-hanging tree branch, and Muskie winds his tail around the limb, lifting himself and Vincent off the shovel, and leaving Deputy empty handed when he reaches the school. The boys hide amidst thick shrubs, with only their fishing pole sticking out over the water. A heavy tug on the line pull both Muskie and Vince into the creek, from which the submerged Deputy rises to carry the boys off in a sack.
Deputy hauls his sack of pupils to the school, singing the alphabet song: “A, B, C, D, F, L, K…” But as soon as they are out of the bag, Muskie and Vince are om the run again. “Come back, you ignorant varmints”, Deputy shouts. But the boys have ducked into a fallen log in the shallows of the creek, again giving themselves away only hen they stick their fishing pole out a side hole. Deputy grabs two large rocks, plugging up the ends of the log, then log-rolls the two truants back to class. “I hate to do this”, says Deputy, as he spreads a paintbrush full of glue from a pot onto two school chairs, and plants Muskie and Vincent squarely atop them. The boys are unable to get loose, but still won’t be stopped – by taking the chairs with them to the creek for more fishing. Deputy finally is forced to nail their chairs to the schoolhouse floor, as the Sheriff arrives to commend his work. Then, someone in the Terry writing staff obviously saw Huckleberry Hound’s “Hookey Daze” previously reviewed, as we get nearly the identical ending lifted from the earlier original – with Deputy discovered to have never finished school, and thus ordered to attend class with the boys. Also in similar fashion to Huck, Deputy, in response to Vincent’s inquiry of “How much is 2 + 2?”, corrects Muskie’s error of “Around 7, Vince”, with his own reply. “Boy, are you stupid. It’s three, Vince.”
Reading, Writhing and ‘Rithmetic (Paramount, Modern Madcap, November, 1964 (release date unknown) – Seymour Kneitel, dir,) – Another attempt by Paramount to introduce new characters, this time a weasel named Buck and a junior bantam rooster named Wingy. Neither has notable personality. Wingy seems like a retread of Junior Owl from “Teacher’s Pest”, with a dash of the “Little Red School Mouse”, in that he’s never seen a weasel, so had no idea who to stay away from. Buck is the usual down on his luck type, opening his last can of hash for breakfast, only to find the grocer has slipped him a fake, with a message inside reading, “No cash, no hash”, in view of his outstanding $80+ grocery tab. There is hardly any plot we haven’t seen begore. The weasel fixes up his house to look like a school, switches road signs, and places Wingy un the seat of honor in a cooking pot – all elements from “Teacher’s Pest”. When Wingy escapes by floating out in steam bubbles when the pot is opened, the weasel looks for him inside the stove instead – with a lighted match. An explosion shoots the weasel into the school bell above, the ringing of which Wingy interprets as meaning school’s out for the day. Back at home, Wingy tells his Mom he doesn’t have to go back to school the next day – because he is already smarter than the teacher.
School Daze – (Hanna-Barbera, Ricochet Rabbit, 2/25/64) – In his relentless efforts to clean up the West, Ricochet Rabbit wishes he could clean out one of his oldest wanted posters on the bulletin board – that of Dastardly Dolton – wanted for suspicion of robbery, suspicion of assault, suspicion of battery, and suspicion of suspicion. Problem is, everything is just a suspicion, and no one’s been able to get the goods on Dolton yet to make any charge stick. Until today, as a local schoolmarm sends Ricochet her list of truants to round up – among them Dastardly Dolton, who’s been playing hookey for years. Sheriff Ricochet, in his added duties as truant officer, vows to bring in the over-age drop out. But Dolton adds to his convictable charges by resisting an officer. Ricochet uses one of his trick bullets, which stops in mid air, opens its nose cone, and produces a miniature pistol of its own, with a mammoth blast. ”I wonder where he buys them bullets?”, ponders Dolton. Dolton tries a trick bullet of his own, in a direct steal from the studio’s “Sheriff Huckleberry” – with the sheriff’s name written on it. Deputy Droop a Long Coyote hangs a sign on Dolton’s rear reading “Ricochet Rabbit”, and the bullet does a U-turn to strike a blow upon its named target. Ricochet manages to receive a few lumps too, the most clever being demonstrating his lightning speed to dodge a blow from Dolton’s frying pan, seeming to be everywhere at once. Dolton gives up trying, and merely lowers the pan to let it go – and by pure dumb lick intercepts Ricochet in mid pass, who runs right into it. Finally Dolton is brought in – but by now you can predict the ending, as school records reveal Ricochet and Droop never finished school either. So we have yet another repeat of Huck Hound’s ending from “Hookey Daze”, with everyone blowing their simple mathematics problems again, while Ricochet hopes he won’t be kept after school, as he has rustlers to round up.
School Teacher Winnie (Hanna-Barbera, Winsome Witch, 11/6/65) – A “preachment” that tries to pass itself off as entertainment. Winnie Witch receives a call from the Acme Employment Agency, regarding a job opening perfect for someone with a broom – sweeping out the schoolhouse after classes. (Why put wear and tear on her trusty transportation? Wouldn’t you think a standard “Ibbity Pibbity Pow” spell would just make the dirt magically disappear?) The owner of the employment agency is sympathetic to Winnie’s desires to find work among the human race, remembering himself the days when “I was a teenage werewolf – I outgrew it.” At the schoolhouse, the schoolmistress is at her wit’s end fighting for the attention of her class over the music of a rock and roll radio station on one of the kids’ transistor radios, to which the kids dance the latest steps in total disregard of her. She quits and flees the schoolhouse, passing Winnie on the way. Winnie asks if she can have the sweeping job. The teacher responds, “You can have mine.”
Winnie could pose for a magazine ad campaign entitled “They all laughed when I sat down at the teacher’s desk…” (for those who remember the ads for playing the piano). However, despite the kids refusing to believe she is a substitute teacher, Winnie puts a stop to the dancing by zapping the radio out of commission, and siccing her broom on anyone who doesn’t take their seat. So much for entertainment value. Now the film becomes nothing but an excuse for arguing that school is fun. Without even her usual incantation, Winnie claims that with the kids’ imagination powers, and a little of her magic, she can liven up a geography and history lesson. Suddenly, the school takes off into the air under rocket power, and from a stratospheric-and-up vantage point, the kids can look out the window and see all 50 states like the maps in their books. (We didn’t realize that an aerial view would show all the state borders clearly, with each state in a different color and their names written across their landscape!) Then, Winnie ties a tow line between her broom and the schoolhouse, and somehow flies the school back through time to Columbus discovering America and the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock, all from an aerial view. There are no gags whatsoever in this portion of the cartoon, and Winnie simply brings the schoolhouse back to the present, claiming that their school subjects can be just as much fun out of books, if they will only use their imagination. (Dream on, you silly witch, dream on.) For no apparent reason, the original schoolteacher comes back, to find her class under control, and Winnie buds everyone adieu, without even taking the sweeping job! Yawn.
My Daddy the Astronaut (Paramount, Fractured Fable, 4/1/67, James (Shamus) Culhane, dir.) – A reasonably clever spoof of a child’s illustrated show and tell presentation for grade school, with artwork deliberately designed to resemble the kind of children’s crayon scrawl you’d expect to see held up by magnets on someone’s refrigerator. Somewhat of a follow up to “The Story of George Washington”, previously reviewed in my series, “A Revolutionary Article”, though depicted in better childlike form than its predecessor and with an on-screen narrator to give it more show and tell feel. Whoever is performing the child’s voice is also allowed (or deliberately prompted) to flub lines in several places, to make the presentation seem more realistic. The child tells the tale of his daddy, a jet pilot, who receives the call from Uncle Sam to become an astronaut. He attends a space school, where a trio of scientists first puts him in “a machine” (an x-ray) to see if he has all the bones he “s’posed ta” He does, and gets an “A” for bones. Next, his body is wired with medical probes, which the child believes were hooked to a big pinball machine, which lit up every time they tested his reflexes, so that Daddy got a real high score, but no prize. Daddy next rides in a centrifuge (a box on a stick, says the boy) which spins around real fast. Daddy comes out of it feeling fine, but the scientists keel over in a dizzy faint. Daddy goes up in a rocket, orbiting an earth which is mounted on a giant stand like a classroom globe, then plants a flag to prove “We own the moon”. Daddy’s rocket lands directly on the deck of a battleship rather than making a splashdown,. He receives a ticker tape parade, which the boy thinks is funny, because the only papers he is allowed to throw must be put in the wastebasket. Daddy is invited to the White House for “a sleepover”, and receives a medal. After two days rest, Daddy takes his son to a carnival to celebrate. Daddy and the son fill up on hot dogs, cotton candy, six-scoop ice cream cones, hamburgers, and two “lemon malted milks – which is a new kind I made up”. Add to this rides on a roller coaster, “Big Dipper”, and “Black Spider”, and, by the time they reach the carousel, Daddy is turning as green as the horse he is riding on. He falls off, and takes one more ride – in an ambulance to the hospital, with two broken legs. The son closes by applying to the story a moral his teacher told him: “If at first you succeed, don’t try again.”
Bugged By A Bee (Warner, Cool Cat, 7/26/69 – Robert McKimson, dir.) – For once, Cook Cat leaves his jungle home and the endless pursuit by Colonel Rimfire, and travels via dune buggy to the campus of Disco Tech, as a freshman student. He serenades the audience on guitar with a portion of “We’re Working Our Way Through College”, but is interrupted by the buzzing of a passing bee. Using his guitar as El Kabong would, Cool Cat bats the bug for a line drive, saying :”Cool it, baby!” The bee rises dizzily, but obviously plots revenge, producing a metal file to use in sharpening up his stinger. Meanwhile, the Cat observes a statue of Musclehead Murphy, Disco Tech’s greatest athlete. “With a head like that, your team could always be sure of one point”, Cool Cat scoffs. “Wait’ll I make the scene”, he says. “I didn’t have athlete’s foot for nothin’.” He takes a look see on the athletic field, where one student demonstrates the pole vault. Cool Cat grabs a pole to get his share of that “free air”, and asks that they raise that thing a couple more feet – “I’m flyin’ high.” He races toward the uprights, but plants his pole in a gopher hole, sinking quickly to the ground while the gopher protests violently.
Cool tries again, rearing back a few extra yards before starting his run. But who is waiting for him in a shrub but the bee. One sting – and Cool sets a new track record with his vault. A coach asks him how long he’s been vaulting that high. “I don’t know, man. What time is it?”. replies Cool. The coach invites him to try out for a new sport – the baseball squad, which is playing against Hippie College the next day. At the game, the bee appears again. His buzzing costs Cool two strikes, but a third swat at the bug hits the ball instead. A sting in the rear gets Cool running the bases in a hurry – nor necessarily in their intended order. Next, the rowing team. Another series of stings synchronized with the calls of “stroke” by the rowing captain causes Cool to row so hard, he breaks off the bow of the scull, bringing it in solo across the finish line. From the scull to the track again, as more stings win Cool another victory in leaps over the high hurdles. Finally, Cool becomes quarterback in the big football game against Burbank. (Shame on you, Cool Cat, for playing against the home town of your employer.) As Cool calls signals, including the numbers “$4.98″ and a flock of “Hut”s, the bee does it again, causing Cool to toss the ball vertically in the air, then run around in a cloud of dust. No one can figure out what happened to the ball, until Cool stumbles exhausted into the end zone, and collapses over the goal line. The Bee applies one more sting, and the ball pops out of Cool’s mouth, where it had lodged inside his cheeks. An awards ceremony is in order, and the Dean presents a loving cup to the school’s new greatest athlete, without whom all these records would not have been possible – the bee. Cool spends the fade out complaining, “Well, I’ll bee! Bee-trayed. Bee-littled…”
Bye Bye Blackboard (Lantz/Universal, Woody Woodpecker, 9/1/72 – Paul J. Smith, dir.) – The final appearance of the red-headed troublemaker – and Walter Lantz’s final cartoon production. It’s a sad farewell in several respects. It is definitely a product of its times, with budgetary shortcomings diminishing the life and expressiveness of the characters, excepting where old poses are reused in new setups. The newer “Wackity Woody” theme music sounds like it’s been re-dubbed a few times too many, seeming off in volume and fidelity compared to the audio that follows, and also by this time using an odd sound edit that repeats the last few notes twice to extend the credits by about five seconds for no apparent reason. Even the opening signature card where Woody pecks his name has something definitely “missing” about it. I believe Lantz had either donated or auctioned the cel and background setup for the final frame of the classic pose of Woody standing atop the completed pecked letters spelling his name. At some point, the negatives of the standard title sequence must have begun to see better days after reprocessing for every cartoon, so Lantz was forced to refilm the opening animation. He either still had the cels for, or was able to retrace, the animation of Woody pecking his name – with three problems. The missing background layout required a new painting of wood – which Lantz oddly decided to recolor in a hue resembling the redwood style used in Woodys of the early 1950’s (with poorer graining), rather than the much lighter tan that followed. Entirely missing is the fade in of the letters, “Color by Technicolor” – not because Lantz had abandoned the film process (the Technicolor credit still appears under the director’s name on the third card), but simply because he had sold the cel as part of the artwork setup. A part of the charm of the original animation was that Woody would perform a sort of shuffling dance along the top of the Technicolor letters while delivering his laugh. As rephotographed, the bird is now dancing on nothing, defying the law of gravity without flapping his wings. Even more upsetting is when Woody leaps back atop his name to strike the final smiling pose for the camera. Because of the sale og the last frame, the intended final extreme is simply not there. So Woody unnaturally ceases to move a frame too early, stopping on a cel probably drawn by an inbetweener, slightly misshapen and imbalanced, giving away that it is not the intended picture-perfect trademark pose. Thus, even the titles now give an appearance of awkwardness and haphazard preparation, predicting much of the quality level of the film to follow.
In many respects, this film appears to be an attempt to remake Ub Iwerks’ Mary’s Little Lamb and/or Flip the Frog’s racier School Days without the pre-code overtones. We’re back to the little red school house, with Mrs. Meany substituted for the Old Crone, ringing the school bell for the kids in the playground much in the same way as the 1930’s opening shots. And Woody, instead of a lamb, is followed to school by his dog (usually named Duffy, but for no good reason renamed Alfie for this episode), much the same as Flip. There is even the old “Good Morning” song on piano again, much as in both the Iwerks’ originals. Meany repeatedly kicks out the dog (reminiscent of Mary’s lamb). However, the dog is at least allowed to retaliate as Duffy always would bu getting in several chomps on Meany’s posterior. Woody tries at one point to hide the dog inside his desk (another lift from Flip), but the dog’s howls interrupt the singing lesson. What is unique – and upsetting – about this cartoon is a return to corporal punishment, with Meany inflicting several painful blows upon Woody’s hand with a ruler, seen clearly on camera and making Woody’s hand swell. These are not the comedy fake-outs of the Fleischers to get a laugh by re-directing the blow to the character’s head instead of his hand, where the absurdity of the substitution diluted any worries about its painfulness – but seem altogether too real and sadistic, drawing much more unnecessary pathos than appropriate. It is like the effect of early installments of “Our Gang” shorts depicting occasional child beating, but without true emotional need or justification either to build up hatred of the villain or sympathy for the hero. Meany notes that this is the tenth time this week she’s had to punish him, and asks Woody what he has to day. “Well, I’m sure glad it’s Friday”, he responds.
There isn’t too much more to say about the short. Remaining action includes Woody getting blamed for a slingshot strike from another student that knocks Mrs. Meany’s nose in an inkwell. Meany retaliates with a point-blank shot in Woody’s face, and makes him stand in the corner with the dunce cap. Woody plays class clown by making faces, turning his dunce cap into a Napoleon hat, and doing a harem dance when Mrs. Meany announces a geography lesson on Egypt. Chasing wanders out into the schoolyard, including a blow to Meany with a tetherball (for once, director Smith does not have Meany swallow the ball), more violence on the slide and on a see-saw. Meany gets launched off the see saw through the school roof, and Woody offers to make amend by handing her an apple. “Thank you, Woodrow”, says Meany, in a rare use of Woody’s formal name. But the apple is really a trick jack in the box with a springing toy snake inside. So the film simply ends with Woody getting a spanking over Meany’s knee. What a humiliating way for Woody to end his screen career. As least, he should have had the last laugh.
Next Week: We’ll attempt an overview of the numerous television series which have centered on animated academics, with some selected highlights meriting extra credit.