Animation Trails
August 14, 2019 posted by Charles Gardner

Bugz’ Livez: Antz (pt. 2)

We continue along last-time’s trail, following closely behind the protruding abdomen of a marching ant, as his column descends into the depths of a subterranean tunnel. (Boy, can I paint a word picture!)

Donald Gets Drafted (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 5/1/42, Jack King, dir.) – Donald takes a demotion from a Navy rear admiral (in “Sea Scouts” (1939)) to buck private in the Army, under the command of boot camp drill sergeant Black Pete. After a disastrous attempt at demonstrating the manual of arms, Donald is told by Pete that he has to learn discipline. He is ordered to stand at attention, then instructed, “Don’t move!” However he happens to be standing directly over an ant hill. The creatures (now drawn in virtually the same model as Freleng’s ants of the preceding year) start swarming out of the anthill entrance and up Donald’s feet and legs. Donald starts to squirm, but Pete repeats his command, more sternly. As Pete gets a drink of water from a nearby water sack, Donald sneaks a chance to scratch ants on his back with the end of his bayonet. Pete grows even more furious. He shouts, “Halt”, and even the beads of perspiration on Donald’s brow freeze in place. Unseen by Pete, Donald attempts to flick ants off his rear-end by swishes of his tail feathers. He swallows hard – and an ant rides up his neck on top of Donald’s “Adam’s apple”. In extreme close-ups, we see the ant climb up over the end of Donald’s beak and onto his face, investigating Donald’s nostrils. Donald blows hard through his nose, almost succeeding in blowing the ant away – but the angry ant holds on, and again marches up Donald’s face. In another extreme close view, we see a bead of perspiration form on Donald’s brow, roll down the center of his beak like a giant ball of water, and bowl the ant over with the sound of a bowling pin, landing him with a splash back into Donald’s collar. We cut to Donald’s tail, where the ants are now so thick Donald’s tail swishes seem to have the effect of a windshield wiper in clearing them. Donald can take it no more. He runs around in a frantic fit, his rifle firing off randomly in all directions. Pete takes to a tree to attempt to dodge the fire, but gets several shots in rapid succession in his rear end. From the tree’s foliage, he repeatedly blows a whistle for the MP’s. The scene dissolves to Donald, on K.P. duty, peeling potatoes in a kitchen with a seemingly endless supply. He unrolls the peel he’s just carved off a potato, the curls of which form in cursive writing the word, “Phooey”. (A year later, another Donald cartoon, “Sky Trooper”, would open exactly where this cartoon leaves off, as a direct “part 2″ sequel. Perhaps the two were originally written together, intended as a two-reel special.)


Foney Fables (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 8/1/42 – I. (Friz) Freleng, dir.), presents among various fairy-tale spoofs a brief wartime revisit to the Grasshopper and the Ant story. A straw-hatted grasshopper, dressed like a country bumpkin and quietly singing a few bars of “Working Can Wait” (a musical parody on the song “Heaven Can Wait”, previously used in Freleng’s Looney Tune, “Porky’s Bear Facts” (1941)), reclines and lounges while a busy ant labors in carrying morsel after morsel of food into his home. The ant finally stops and addresses the grasshopper, telling him that he’ll be sorry. “I’ve worked all summer and put away plenty for the winter. But you, you lazy thing – – you’re gonna starve!” The grasshopper just smiles and shakes his head no – then pulls out from his vest pocket five $100 dollar war bond certificates!


All Out For ‘V’ (Terrytoons/Fox, 8/7/42 – Mannie Davis, dir.), an essentially plotless musicale and spot gag reel about being industrious to prepare for the war, features two shots of ants gathering food – without even a gag to go with it. That’s all. (And this they submitted for nomination for an Academy Award? It deservedly lost to Donald Duck’s Der Fuehrer’s Face.)


Ants In Your Pantry (Terrytoons/Fox, 2/16/45 – Mannie Davis, dir, ) – a Terrytoon that never made TV for being a bit too suggestive for the kiddies. A narrator invites us on this “mockumentary” of ant life, beginning with ants raiding a kitchen and pantry – ultimately taking the whole refrigerator. The narrator tells us, as the camera illustrates, the various varieties – the red ant, the black ant, the white ant – and your old Aunt Tillie; then announces that all should be exterminated. Out comes a flit gun, and makes all four disappear – including Tillie. Scientists are seen on hands and knees sudying the ant, crawling wherever it goes – including into its tunnels, where one professor loses his pants. A new anthill opens, and a queen arrives. She is overly plump and weighty in dimensions, but struts voluptuously like Mae West, telling the workers, “Boys, ya did a swell job.” Once inside, she heads “directly to the maternity ward, to await the blessed event”. (The censors are already getting nervous.) Most of the rest of the cartoon is spent on food gathering for the coming generation.

Two gags from Fleischer’s “Ants in the Plants” are swiped up for reworking – the “lumberjack” ants sawing and yelling “Timber”, only to be felling a small plant in place of a tree, and a contraption for popping kernels of corn off a cob. And, never to turn down an opportunity to reuse his own animation, the two stray shots of food-gathering ants from “All Out For V” are reused again. A hoard of expectant “fathers” pace nervously outside the maternity ward. (CBS, you called it in censoring this one. Imagine some Saturday-morning mom trying to explain to her little ones how the Queen can have more than one husband!) The babies arrive right on schedule, and Terry again gets to steal from another studio – lifting Warner’s assembly-line baby care equipment direct out of “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” and “The Merry Old Soul” (see Pt. 1 of my previous article, “Holy Matrimony! and a Stack of Storks”, this website.) The fathers wheel groups of babies outside the anthill in multi-passenger baby carriages, while the Queen blows kisses and leads cheers from her upstairs window. The truth according to nature? Mighty Mouse, you can’t handle the truth!


The Gay Anties (Warner, 2/15/47- I. (Friz) Freleng, dir,) – In an unusual departure from his military epics, Friz Freleng turns back the clock to bring us the Annual Picnic of a community in the gay ‘90’s – where everyone, adults, children, and even horses, strut along to a cakewalk beat to the city park – and the ants match them step for step, dancing two by two out of their anthill. A flirtatious couple of would-be romancers attempt to spoon along the lakeshore – whie the ants see their opportunity to get in on the picnic grub. Many gags are reused with new animation from “The Fighting 69½th” – including disecting a cake into slices with one ant retrieving the central cherry, and a running gag of building the “Dagwood” sandwich -complete with the trademark “Hold the onion” gag – but with the male suitor always grabbing it just before the ants can make off with it. The snaking hot dogs are borrowed from “Beach Picnic” – with the last in the string captured in a snapping bun. In a gag I believe was borrowed from Tex Avery, a row of ants makes off with glasses of root beer – only to have their traffic line interrupted by cross-traffic of a shot glass pursued by a larger glass with a sign reading “Chaser”. New material features ants attacking a stack of donuts armed with toothpicks – which they use as axles to roll off with the donuts like a pair of axled tires, then add a banana as a chassis between pairs of axles to form a complete car.

A group of ants eating Russian rye bread don olives as hats and perform a Cossack dance. A skier ant scales an ice cream sundae to claim the cherry on top. A pool-shooting ant has a load of peas racked up like pool balls atop a sardine can, shoots, and six other ants appear at the sides and corners with mouths open to form the pockets for the peas to fall into. Four ants doll up in flower petal skirts, corn silk wigs, olives in their costumes for boobs and bustles, and daisies for parasols, and perform a vintage dance in the style of a “Floradora” quartet (their rear olives pop out of their dresses on the last shimmy). A completely out-of-period concert performance is included by a chipmunk-speeded soprano ant, performing the current song hit, “Time Waits For No One” – and sending most of her audience diving for places to cover their ears – but prompting a last few to splat her in the face with a banana squeezed from a nutcracker. Meanwhile the sandwich-building is unsuccessful for a third time. The chef ant finally gets an idea. Instead of a new sandwich, he places the young lady’s hand between two slices of bread and adds mustard for an added touch. The suitor blindly lifts the “sandwiched” hand. We see the young girl’s face only – as she reacts with a scream as the suitor takes a chomp. She rears back, and in another shot slaps the suitor so hard he is shot through the air to land ker-plunk in the middle of the lake. At last, the ants reprise their cakewalk, carrying all the picnic goodies into the anthill – and, in another nod to The Fighting 69½th, a last small ant carries a whole watermelon into the shot, perches it end-on on top of the anthill, and miraculously drags the thing inside with a “pop”.


Who’s Cookin’ Who? (Lantz/Universal, Woody Woodpecker, 6/24/46 – James Culhane, dir.), reviewed in my previous article “Unhealthy Appetites” on this website. Features brief appearance by ants at the opening of the film, as Woody witnesses a real-life re-enactment of “The Grasshopper and the Ants” with the grasshopper already reformed and storing food away for winter – but Woody of course doesn’t take any of his message to heart – at least not until the end of the picture.


Tea For Two Hundred (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck,12/24/48 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – Borrowing a few shots and setups from “Beach Picnic”, Hannah concocts a flock of new foils for Donald – in the form of a “tribe” of black ants, who have the politically incorrect personalities of African natives. They are first seen entering the area of Donald’s picnic campsite bearing a load of lima beans, nuts, etc. on their heads in the manner of bearers in an African safari. A chief briefly stops the procession, and engages in “Mumbo jumbo” gibberish dialogue, complaining at a tall thin ant who mimics the moves and vocal style of a lazy Stepin Fetchit. The procession finally resumes, past Donald’s picnic blanket. Donald’s attention focuses on the last ant in the column, carrying a lima bean. The ant steps upon the handle of a butter knife. As he walks, Donald picks up the knife – and the ant merely keeps walking and comes around the other side upside down. Donald places him back on the ground, and, in a sequence heavily inspired by Tom and Jerry’s “The Midnight Snack” (1941), decides to test his strength – by placing item after item atop the one he is already carrying. An apple, banana, sandwich, sausage – and even his thermos and a coffee cup, are added to the top. The ant huffs and puffs, mops his brow, but continues doggedly on, oblivious as to why his job is so difficult. Donald himself can’t hold back a degree of admiration, stating, “Wow. What a man!” But his spirit of uncontrollable mischief cannot be contained. As with the staircase of bread slices Tom sets for Jerry in “Midnight Snack”, Donald sets the ant an obstacle course, placing a box before him, then inserting into a hole in the box a tall stick, with a string tied to the top end of the stick. Donald holds onto the other end of the string, to provide the ant a tightrope! Not knowing how he got there, the ant precariously balances his way along the “high wire”. For the coup de grace, Donald plucks the string pizzicato. The vibration sends all the ant’s burden – then the ant himself, plummeting, The ant’s fall is broken by a meringue pie. He pops out after a moment – and a ring of frosting drips down his face to cling to him like a beard, making him resemble an old man.

Donald laughs uproariously, taunting him, The ant is resentful – but gets a taste of the frosting around his lower jaw, then looks around him. For the first time, he is aware of the presence of the picnic. He darts away, catching up with the remainder of the column, who are descending into an anthill by a progressive “elevator” – in that each climbs upon the burden of the ant ahead of him, then descends upon it into the tunnels notch by notch. The latecomer addresses each ant in more native “gibberish”, attempting to tell them what he saw. But the other ants just ignore him and keep disappearing into the anthill – down to the last one. Our first ant reaches into the hole of the anthill, grabs a lima bean from his shoulders, and uses it to bop the last ant in the column repeatedly on the head. He finally gets someone’s attention, and in more “munbo jumbo” ant language (all delivered in basso from this point on as if the voice of a savage warrior), the first ant paints him a word picture which visualizes over their heads on the screen, of a chock-full horn of plenty. The ant in the hole leaps out, and runs to a small hollow twig resembling a log. Altering from “Beach Picnic” the method of communication from a war whoop to rhythmically thumping out an African rhythm on the twig like a war drum, we get a reprise of nearly the exact animation from “Beach Picnic” of all the ants in the colony emerging from a community of anthills. They gather in a circle around the original ant and again, in close paraphrase to “Beach Picnic” animation, form a circle to briefly engage in a tribal war dance.

The scene wipes to Donald, now tired, falling asleep at the picnic site, laying his arm to rest upon the lid of his picnic basket. A squad of ants appears in the bushes, and a small team of them advance up the side of the basket. They creep under Donald’s arm, lift it, and gently toss it off the basket into waiting arms of a swarm of ants below who catch it just short of making contact with the ground. The ants fold Donald’s arm onto his chest, then other ants creep under Donald’s torso – and with an ant command actually recognizable as English, shout “Heave.” Donald is slowly lifted bodily, and carried along away from the picnic area by the swarm. They reach a corner in their path – and re-extend Donald’s arm to give a traffic turn-signal, while twisting his body around the corner. Finally, they come to the edge of a cliff, dropping off to a river canyon. Piling one on top of the other, they prop Donald into standing position, and with great effort, toss him over the cliff. Donald plunks into the river, popping up fighting mad. As a parting shot, the ants above retrieve Donald’s picnic hat and also toss it over the cliff. In a rage, Donald is seen in super-speed animation fighting the current to swim upstream, and regain the high ground by climbing a long narrow path up the canyon wall. When he returns, he discovers a flurry of food-filching, again mildly resembling the “Beach Picnic”- with every item of food appearing to be moving by itself. In another “Beach Picnic: lift, a string of hot dogs comes snaking its way along the ground. Donald grabs the last one and tries to hold his ground – but the casings pop off of the hot dogs one by one – leaving Donald holding a string of the empty “skins” but no meat.

A small cake darts along the ground. Donald attempts a flying tackle, but the cake merely segments into slices to dodge him, letting Donald fall flat on his stomach. Another row of food and utensils (including salt shaker) is met by Donald face to face, blocking their path. The food and shaker line up like football linebackers, and the salt shaker calls out signals, then shouts “Hike” – and the whole line surprisingly feints back in a retreat. Donald starts to charge – but the ants return in a countercharge and bowl him over. In a close shot, one ant takes an olive – and throws it in a forward pass. Donald leaps up, but can’t intercept it. A receiver ant makes the catch, dashes forward, and drops neatly into the hole of the anthill for a touchdown, accompanied by college rally music. Donald tries to reach with both hands into the anthill – but the ants get hold of the ends of his shirtsleeves and pull off his traditional navy shirt – leaving him standing in nothing but his feathers. Donald faces the audience in pure embarrassment, and dashes out of frame, returning after a moment wearing a barrel to replace his lost clothing. This time, he is armed with dynamite, which he stuffs into the mouth of the anthill and lights. In a return to the group shot of the community of surrounding anthills, the watching ants place their fingers in their ears, bracing for the explosion. The explosive goes off, blasting away to top of the first anthill. Donald laughs victoriously – but doesn’t realize that the true damage is more localized. The ground immediately around him begins to tremble, prompting him to standard reaction, “Uh oh!” In a long shot, we find the anthill he’s been standing near was positioned adjacent to the cliff, and a growing fissure crack reveals he’s loosened the overhang of ground that he’s standing on. The cliff-edge severs and falls from the canyon side – taking Donald with it for an offscreen splash back into the river. In repeated animation, the drummer ant thumps out an “all clear”, the other ants again reappear out of their anthills, and a victory dance takes place around a large cupcake – which the ants converge upon to devour from the bottom up. However, one ant (the little guy who did the balancing act earlier in the film) proceeds to the top, and in close shot is seen feasting on the cherry-on-top, all by himself. Nominated for an academy award – but lost against the insurmountable competition of Tom & Jerry’s “The Little Orphan”.


Cat Napping’ (MGM, Tom & Jerry, 12/8/51 – William Hanna/Joseph Barbera, dir.), presents Hanna and Barbera’s own unique twist on the ant parade. To the tune of a sprightly Scott Bradley march motif, a long column of nondescript soldier ants appears in a garden where Tom and Jerry have been battling over user’s rights to the comfortable backyard hammock. Jerry sees opportunity arriving, and while Tom relaxes, Jerry re-routes the column’s advance by placing in their path items of patio furniture so that they climb up it, and then a rake hooked between a patio table and the rope supporting the hammock from a tree. The heavy patter of the ants’ marching feet is heard throughout the sequence, and as the ants climb the rake and out onto the rope, their footfalls not only get louder, but a “boing boing” effect is added from the springiness of the rope under their increasing weight. The hammock begins heavily vibrating up and down. A shot from Tom’ point of view makes the whole world look like it’s bouncing, as Tom looks around totally perplexed as to the source of his trouble hidden above his head. At the opposite end of the hammock, the other support rope reaches the snapping point and gives way. The hammock snaps back toward the first tree, rolling up with Tom inside like an old fashioned spring-driven window shade!

The above sequence, with its memorable marching music for added dramatic effect, was considered by HB to be such a success that it was repeated two more times before the end of their theatrical Tom & Jerry run. In “Pup On a Picnic” (MGM, Tom & Jerry, 4/30/55 – William Hanna/Joseph Barbera, dir.), Spike the bulldog and his little son Tyke attempt to have a father-son picnic despite the constant interruptions of Tom invading their picnic basket, etc. in search of Jerry. In the final sequence, Tom attempts to catch Jerry from a tree limb above the basket by using a fishing rod with an arcade “claw” device attached to the line in place of a hook. Several attempts miss Jerry inside the basket, and Tom piles up on the limb behind him his various “catches” of fruits, sandwiches, etc. from the basket. Enter the same column of ants from “Cat Napping”. This time the lead ant has a little character. He stops the column, climbs on a rock to scout, and spots the food piling up on the limb behind Tom. Pulling out a miniature bugle, the lead ant trumpets a command to his troops to advance. Using the same musical riff as the previous episode, the ants climb into the tree trunk, out a hole at the base of the limb Tom is sitting on, and out onto the branch. Tom has just succeeded in finally catching Jerry in the claw device, but the tree limb starts that same bounce Tom previously felt in his hammock. The branch collapses from the ants’ vibrations, taking Tom down with it, and crashing onto Spike and Tyke, then burying the three of them in a pile of apples fallen from the tree. As their three heads pop out of the piled apples, they look down to the base of the apple pile. Out its side come the ants, now carrying in a column the picnic lunch. The last ants carry a sandwich – the top slice of bread flips open, and Jerry is inside, riding to safety and waving goodbye to Tom and the dogs, for the iris out.

Yet again, HB would bring the ants back for the finish of Barbecue Brawl (MGM, Tom & Jerry, 12/4/56 – William Hanna/Joseph Barbera, dir.). This time, Tom and Jerry aren’t involved in their sequence at all; Tom has already been vanquished, and Jerry already escaped. The ending thus feels like a graft-on, as if the cartoon should already be over (except that the writers failed to come up with a winning finale gag to wrap up the T&J sequences). Everyone else having left, Spike completes the cooking of a large steak for his father-son barbecue with Tyke. Enter the ants again into the backyard. Instead of climbing on a rock, several ants climb on each other’s shoulders to make an elevated point from which the commander ant can scout. Spotting the steak, the commander again blows his bugle from “Pup On a Picnic”. To the same Scott Bradley music riff, they march to and up the leg of the picnic table. The table begins the same trademark vibrations as previous episodes. This time, however, Spike spots the ants on the table leg, and attempts a retreat by gathering up all the food in the tablecloth and racing off with Tyke. But the two take refuge in the worst possible place – on a swimming pool diving board. The ants simply march out onto the board, which magnifies their vibrations. Spike and Tyke are vibrated off the board into mid-air, and Spike releases his hold on the tablecloth-wrapped bundle as he and Tyke fall into the drink. While the angle of the fall would have suggested the food should have fallen into the pool too, miraculously it has somehow landed on the diving board, and the ants carry each item around the underside of the board and back upside down to solid ground. As they disappear into a tree trunk with the goodies, Spike reappears, reaches in, and rescues the steak. The commander ant reappears, blows a bugle call, and a half dozen other ants simply lift the steak out of Spike’s hands and back into the tree. The commander ant now blows a victorious “jazzy” riff on his bugle as he disappears into the trunk, just leaving Spike looking on for the iris out.


Uncle Donald’s Ants (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 7/18/52 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – It’s often difficult to make lighting strike twice. But with an academy nomination certificate to his credit, Jack Hannah must have felt compelled to give his African tribal ants from “Tea For Two Hundred” one more try. One can tell from the start that the efforts are going to be derivative, as Hannah reprises the entire entrance scene from “Two Hundred” again here, up to where they originally encountered Donald at the picnic griunds. This time, the setting is the suburbs, with Donald the next-door neighbor of the lot where the anthills are located. Donald enters carrying the ingredients for a day of baking – including a sack of sugar, that has a small hole in it. The last ant in the ant column (same one who had the balancing act scene in “Two Hundred”) spots what appears to him as a rain of giant sugar cubes from the sky. A large crystal lands near him. Donald is in a neighborly mood today (odd for him!), and helps place the crystal on the ant’s back, then waves him goodbye. The ant (despite his super strength in the last episode) can barely carry the crystal, and in bringing it back to the colony, crashes into the ant-line like a row of dominoes. But the ants are still impressed, and we repeat old animation from “Two Hundred” of an ant beating war drums, and the animation from “Beach Picnic” of ants leaving their anthills in droves.

In his kitchen, Donald completes a cake. In a cloud visualization of his thoughts, he remembers the ant he helped with the sugar. However, the ant in his dreams disappears out of the thought cloud, and returns a moment later followed by swarms of others. “Uh oh”, quacks Donald, realizing he may have created a monster. He peeks out his front door. Three massed regiments of ants are proceeding on parade up his front walk. Donald frantically slams the door. Grabbing a roll of tape, he weather-strips all the openings around the door frame, a window frame, and even the door keyhole. For good measure, he bricks up the fireplace flue. Suddenly, he hears what sounds like a postman’s whistle. Peering out the window, he sees no ants on the walk, so chances it to open the door and retrieve a letter from a mailbox. Taking the letter inside and carefully resealing the door, Donald opensthe envelope to find a singe sheet of paper inside, reading “Big Sale”. Donald carelessly tosses the paper onto a table, complaining, “Dog gone handbills.” As soon as he is gone, the letters on the paper start to break up – it’s the ants, masquerading as an alphabet!

The ants first try to get the cake, dividing it into three layers. Donald misses them when they scatter, but tries to corner an ant holding a strawberry. In “Two Hundred”. Hannah lampooned football. Here, it’s basketball, as a second ant holds out a strainer from a higher closet, which the first ant makes an easy lay-up shot into for a basket over Donald’s head. Attention of the film now shifts to a new discovery – a jug of maple syrup in Donald’s pantry shelves. The ants devise a plan using straight and elbow macaroni to build an elaborate syphon pipe to extend from the bottle back to their anthill. After following the macaroni pipe like a snake, Donald finally figures out what it’s used for. He disconnects a middle section of “pipe” and reroutes the syrup flow into an empty vase. At the pipe’s end, an ant traces backward to see what stopped the flow. Finding Donald, he traces the pipe back further into the pantry shelf, whispers to other ants inside, and they decide to remove the source entirely, tossing down the whole jug into a “hand” formation of waiting ants below. They pass Donald, who does a delayed take when he realizes the jug is gone.

As Donald tries to race outside, the ants pour a small amount of syrup onto his porch landing. Donald slips, and crashes into various plants around his greenhouse. He emerges with two flower pots inverted on his head, from which two jets of steam emit from his anger, with the sound effect of a train whistle. The ants disappear inside Donald’s garage and close the door, with a small piece of the macaroni “pipe” still protruding outside. Donald grabs a can of gasoline, pours some into the “pipe”, then lights the end of it with a match. The macaroni begins burning like a fuse, and disappears into the garage, Wanting to see the fun, Donald flings the garage doors open – only to discover the macaroni has been re-routed – not into the maple syrup jug, but into the gas tank of Donald’s car! Donald can only wave “So long” to the audience – and the whole garage explodes – sending Donald disappearing into the sky, punching his silhouette into five layers of clouds. The final shot shows the syrup jug perched atop the highest anthill, with auxiliary macaroni syphons leading down into every smaller anthill around it, all sucking away. The little ant who ended “Two Hundred” now feasts on a pipe full of maple syrup instead of a cherry, smacking his lips as the camera irises out.


Ant Pasted (Warner, Elmer Fudd, 5/9/53 – I. (Friz) Freleng, dir.) – Having had his ants previously conquer World War I, Freleng takes them into a new theater of war, resembling World War II. Elmer Fudd becomes the cause of all the fuss, setting up for a Fourth of July picnic and shooting off of firecrackers. In a sequence that seem to borrow mood strongly from Donald Duck’s mischievous games with the solo ant in “Tea For Two Hundred”, Elmer begins lighting small firecrackers and tossing them a safe distance away. One of them lands at the foot of a nearby anthill. A red ant emerges to investigate, sniffing the small firecracker. It explodes, changing him from red to charred black. In chipmunk-speeded dialog, he starts jabbering complaints to Elmer about “What’s the big idea?” Emer observes that the little guy can’t take it, and in typical Donald Duck style, asides to the audience, “Here’s where I have some fun.” He llights firecracker after firecracker, landing them on the peaks of other anthills and blowing the tops off them. When all the anthills look reasonably shattered, a lone ant pops out, and delivers Bugs Bunny’s old challenge, “Of course you know, this means war!” – only to have another firecracker thrown in on top of him, blasting him to charred black too.

The next scene fades in on a miniature structure resembling a dome, built on top of a soap bar marked “Capitol Soap Co.” An ant bearing strong facial resemblance to Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeals to “both houses” regarding the “unwarranted attack” to declare that a “State of hostilities” exists. Numbers are drawn from a goldfish bowl, and Draft Number 195 (the number of the first inductee in the U.S. draft) gets his induction notice, and faints. Ants report to boot camp (a scene that goes by so fast, it is hardly noticeable that in the background, the structures are inverted cowboy boots). Marching training begins. The scene fades to Elmer’s campsite, where the ants have constructed an encirclement of protective barricades around the perimeter of the campsite. As Elmer sleeps outside his tent, a squad of ants invades the site and makes off with one crate of Elmer’s fireworks. A moment later, a small lit firecracker is tossed into the camp, landing on Elmer’s nose. Elmer darts away from it just in time to avoid a blast between the eyes. Sizing up the situation, Elmer announces, “Okay, ants. If it’s war you want…it’s war you’ll get!”, and he dons a cooking pot as a helmet. The ants respond with more firecrackers, sending Elmer scattering. Elmer digs himself a foxhole, which offers little protection, as the ants catapult firecrackers in with the springs of mousetraps, and shoot more in with a “kazooka” (a kazoo with a lit fuse on one end). A spy ant infiltrates elmer’s foxhole, and when Elmer’s pot is briefly knocked off, drops a firecracker into it. Elmer puts the pot on his head- and is blasted into the ground by the explosion from his “hat”.

Elmer decides to play spy himself, sneaking into ant territory and placing a firecracker in the mouth of one anthill, then plugging the hole with his finger. The shock blast blows ants out of all the other anthill tunnels, who stagger around in a daze. Many other explosive gags abound, including a gag reworked from Tweety’s “Bad Ol’ Putty Tat” (1949), with Elmer building an extendable pipeline to reach into ant territory, then attempting to blow a firecracker through it like a dart gun. However, the ants place a rubber band at the other end of the pipe, causing the firecracker to reverse course, and be swallowed by Elmer. Elmer, having brought with him all the comforts of home, runs to a water cooler, drinking from its tap in attempt to quench the flame. The camera focuses on the bottle with water level dropping steadily. Then the scene is engulfed in an explosion. Suddenly, we see Elmer, dazed, floating inside the bottle! The ants continue creative tactics: catapulting a multi-stick barrage of firecrackers by using the spring-driven pop-open lid of Elmer’s suitcase; invading from the air with a squadron of “Royal Flying Ants” (with some animation reuse, redesigned from “Of Thee I Sting” (1946)); and launching a sea attack from a nearby pond with an old wooden crate equipped with sail (labeled “Big Mo” (reference to the U.S.S. Missouri)), and a sardine can with peashooter (bearing a flag reading “Little Shmo”). Elmer decides it’s time for a tactical retreat. Gathering the last of his fireworks into a wheelbarrow, he attempts to maintain charge of the situation with the boast, “You’ll never take me awive!” What he does not see is that several of his rockets have been damaged, and are leaking a trail of gunpowder. In a reprise of Freleng’s climatic gag from “Bunker Hill Bunny” (1950), Elmer heads for the hills – but the ants merely ignite the end of the powder trail – which quickly catches up to Elmer. A gigantic explosion lights up the sky with firework rockets, which the ants take in with a patriotic salute, as the scene fades out. (Ant Pasted is at 35:20 in embed below)

Next time: A curious comparison between a Disney classic discussed last week and a more contemporary retelling from the British, by a female director. A survey of some of the last theatrical shorts featuring our platooned plunderers. Select television visits and ultimate stardom. And prime billing in several major feature films. As with any good picnic, always save room for dessert!

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  • I don’t find the marching theme in “Cat Napping” particularly “memorable” — it sounds like an orchestrated scale exercise — but the one in “Tea for Two Hundred” is decidedly reminiscent of “Pink Elephants on Parade”.

    I wonder if one of the “learned colleagues” of Professor J. P. Throttlebottom in “Ants in Your Pantry” could have been Sir Vincent Wrigglesworth (1899-1994), one of the greatest entomologists of the twentieth century, and the one with by far the most appropriate, yet cartoony-sounding, name?

  • The ant-president in “Ant Pasted” isn’t FDR, who had been dead for some years by then; it’s actually a caricature of Harry Truman, who was president while the cartoon was in production, and had only been out of office for a few months at the time of its release. The giveaways are the full glasses the animator gives the Truman analogue, which are not the pince-nez that FDR wore, but Truman’s bigger glasses, and the downward-sloping “nose” on the ant, which is similar to Truman’s own schnoz. Also, because of his polio condition, FDR never used hand-gestures during his speeches. It bears remembering that the Korean War was ongoing during the cartoon’s production, and was only in the final stages of winding down with a truce at release. The USS Missouri (where the surrender of the Empire of Japan was signed, ending World War II in September of 1945) was active during the Korean War in support of U.N. troops.

    The “195” in the draft notice appears to be the number of the ant’s draft board, not the actual draft number of the drafted ant itself.

    Parts of “Of Thee I Sting” had, in turn, been taken from “Target: SNAFU,” one of the wartime cartoons done for the Army-Navy Screen Magazine. Both cartoons, and this one, were Freleng-directed.

  • A note on the Donald Duck cartoons: The march of the ants is almost — but not quite — “Pink Elephants on Parade.” For whatever reason, you very rarely hear music from the animated features in the shorts (the two exceptions I can think of are both vocals: In “Donald’s Dilemma” Donald Duck croons “When You Wish Upon a Star: in another Pluto lip-syncs a record of “You Belong to My Heart”). A reluctance to “cheapen” those tunes? Or a legal issue (before Disney had an in-house music publisher, songs went out via outside firms)?

  • An obscure but interesting ant cartoon from around the same time is “Albert in Blunderland” (1950), one of the early John Sutherland films distributed by MGM.
    In the film, Albert is drawn in by a radio broadcast (Frank Nelson taking a break from his usual role as a businessman in order to play a commie) advocating for a command economy and extolling ants as model central planners. Shortly afterwards he gets clunked on the head and has a nightmare in which he lives in a Soviet-style ant dictatorship, enduring forced labor, tedious propaganda, and a politburo which bases its decisions on astrology. He ultimately wakes up just as he is being summarily executed by his new insect overlords and runs over to the radio station to clobber the commentator.
    It’s definitely one of the most overtly political cartoons to receive wide distribution in the post-war period and you can see how this run of films would ultimately become contentious enough for MGM to drop Sutherland from their cartoon lineup.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgOM60BMo4s

    • I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords….

    • A very nice find! I thought I had seen most of the Sutherland material on the internet, but this one wasn’t up the last time I checked under his name. GREAT quality print from the Library of Congress – with original MGM titles yet!

  • A little blooper in “Foney Fables”. At the 7:23 mark, the baby’s leg disappears for a second or two!

  • “Barbecue Brawl” seems to have been a way for Hanna-Barbera to try and jump-start their new Spike & Tyke series — just as the Fleischers made Popeye the focus of a Betty Boop cartoon just before his series started, the focus here is more on the dogs than on Tom & Jerry, who just sort of pass through the cartoon from time to time. The end gag with the ants was simply a way to get Spike and his son a little more screen time, where that was more important than a killer end gag.

  • Well, another terrific array of cartoons from the golden age; I was reminded of how good some of these DONALD DUCK cartoons are, even if borrowing bits of animation from each other. I wonder who voiced the “gibberish” of the ants. It kinda sounded like Paul Frees, because it slightly resembles the same as Jerry disguises himself as a hungry cannibal in the TOM AND JERRY rarety, “HIS MOUSE FRIDAY”, and Frees did do the occasional narration for Disney, didn’t he? I know Frank Graham had done so, just as he did for Warner Brothers…and I like the Warner Brothers cartoon, “GAY ANTIES” now that it’s been neatly described. Again, I wonder who had done the voice of the singing ant. I once had a tape player with speeds and I was able to record the soundtrack to this cartoon and slow down the vocal, but I still could not identify the vocal. You don’t think it was the same woman who vocalized for the title character in Chuck Jones’ tale of Hollywood woes, “NELLIE’S FOLLY”?

  • I seem to recall hearing that Friz Freleng hated Elmer Fudd because he was so stupid that a wild turkey would outwitted him. I sort of wonder if Friz’s team did “Ant Pasted” to further prove his point with Elmer “Whose I.Q. is P.U.”.

    I should also point out that some copies (including my own) of the Disney Limited Gold II VHS title, “Donald’s Bee Pictures” have “Tea for Two Hundred” (which has no bees in it) by mistake instead of “Bee on the Beach” as listed on the box. I wonder how that mix-up happen.

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