Animation Cel-ebration
July 10, 2023 posted by Michael Lyons

Classic Cartoons on Summer Vacation

Summer season has arrived – are you still undecided as to what to do for vacation? After a few years of being “stuck inside,” there is a need to get out and get away. But then, there are the costs and the plans and all of the other worries that now come with our world. If you’re one of the many contemplating a low-key summer at or near home, consider taking a “virtual vacation” with some classic cartoon stars.

Iconic characters from the Golden Age of Hollywood studio animation often found themselves in various seasons and settings, including summer. Watching these summer-themed cartoons brings about not just a sense of innocence for a time gone by but of all the glory that the season of summer holds.

In Disney’s 1937 short Hawaiian Holiday, the studio’s “Fab Five:” Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy & Pluto, vacation together in Hawaii.

Directed by Studio veteran Ben Sharpsteen, the short features some iconic Disney images. There’s beautiful background design, excellent character animation and well-choreographed sight gags. The best of these includes the brilliance of Goofy battling a wave while surfing and getting “flung” to shore and Pluto grappling with a crab, with some painful results.

Three years later, the studio produced Donald’s Vacation (1940). In it, the contentious duck comes face-to-face with his supreme enemy, the great outdoors, when he sets off via canoe on a camping trip.

Directed by Jack King, the short features Donald coming up against a folding chair that won’t cooperate, an army of chipmunks who steal his food (early shades of Chip N’ Dale, who would make their debut several years later), and a ferocious bear.

Donald’s Vacation was written by Carl Barks and Jack Hannah, two story artists who knew Donald very well and would bring out his best and worst (very human) attributes. Here, they do just that, and Donald’s victory over the most uncooperative folding chair is one for all of us.

Over at Paramount and Famous Studios, Popeye the Sailor, and his girlfriend Olive Oyl embarked on Vacation with Play in 1951. Setting off on a resort vacation to “Lake Narrowhead,” Popeye wants to relax and sleep, while Olive is set on taking part in some of the resort’s activities.

The resort’s Activity Director is none other than Bluto, who soon begins pursuing Olive. This leads to a battle for Olive’s affections between Popeye and Bluto (which Popeye, of course, wins after downing his requisite spinach).

Amidst the cartoon violence, Vacation With Play still has a quaint, nostalgic feel to it and a reflection of what resort vacations may have looked like seventy years ago.

Daffy Duck takes his girlfriend to the beach in Warner Bros. 1953 short Muscle Tussle. Once at the shore, Daffy wises off to a musclebound duck.

When Daffy then gets pummeled, his girl leaves him for the muscular duck. Daffy purchases a questionable muscle tonic to win his girlfriend back, which has disastrous and hysterical results.

Director Robert McKimson brings his quiet comedic style to Muscle Tussel and incorporates excellent character design, particularly in the ridiculous-looking bodybuilding bully of a duck.

As with many of the Warner Bros. Shorts, this one sharply skewers popular culture, as it pokes fun at ads at the time promoting “Charles Atlas Body Building Books.” These included a comic strip featuring a skinny “wimp” at the beach getting sand kicked in his face.

Daffy retorts when his girlfriend calls him a 9-lb weakling: “How do you like that? Calling me a scrawny little 9-lb weakling, when it’s perfectly obvious I’m a scrawny little 10-lb weakling!” It seems “Summer Beach Bodies” were a thing even then!

At MGM, Tom the cat also heads to the beach and 1947’s Salt Water Tabby (1947). Directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the short features lush animation, gorgeous backgrounds of the seashore, and more than an ample supply of cartoon violence.

Most of this, as usual, is aimed at Tom, while trying to impress a sunbathing female feline. When he comes across Jerry in a nearby picnic basket, the mouse does his best to mess up Tom’s romantic plans.

This includes a crab, who turns Tom’s tail into a string of paper dolls and a seashell inside Tom’s sandwich (the crunching sound is both funny and cringeworthy).

Salt Water Tabby also sneaks in a statement about pollution in the short’s opening gag, where Tom races from his cabana to the water. The wave recedes as the unwitting cat dives in, revealing nothing but trash, in which Tom winds up swimming around.

Things don’t go much better for Tom in the summer-themed Barbeque Brawl (1956). One of MGM’s Studio’s widescreen Cinemascope cartoons, this Tom and Jerry offering also stars the bulldog father and son Spike and Tyke. They are settling in for a backyard barbecue when interrupted by Tom & Jerry chasing each other.

Once again directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Barbeque Brawl, features evocative, stylized backgrounds, with imperfect, crooked lines and colors, so prevalent in animation at the time. This adds a note of nostalgia to the proceedings, as does seeing a time when charcoal briquettes were a part of barbecuing, and an army of ants was a mainstay of any cartoon picnic.

So, here’s to barbecues, beaches, pools, sunshine, picnics, and all else that comes with vacation. Here’s also to hoping for summer getaways that last and feel a lot longer than these cartoon shorts.


  • I would add to this the MGM cartoon “a day at the beach“, from the “captain and the kids“ series. Where planning a nice peaceful day at the seashore, becomes problematic in all directions!

  • I would add The Beach Nut featuring Woody Woodpecker and the first appearance of Wally Walrus in this list.

  • See also “Toonerville Picnic” (1936) from Van Beuren, which I think features the first version of the often-repeated “folding beach chair that won’t stay unfolded” schtick.

    • Check out Charlie Chaplin and a deck chair in “A Day’s Pleasure”

  • Regarding “Barbecue Brawl”, I got a question on Cinemascope MGM cartoons. How come in this day and age, they are still being regularly shown in the pan and scan format on television? They are shown like that on METV.

    • MeTV plays what Warners gives them off their shelves – however, a few of the T & J Cinemascope shorts have been broadcast in 1:78.1 aspect ratio (16 x 9.)

  • Of course there are all those Bugs Bunny cartoons where a trip to the beach have him ending up in the Antarctic, the Sahara, the Himalayas…

    • “Well, here we are at Pismo Beach, and all the clams we can eat!”

  • Goofy finds the perfect means to get away from it all in “Two Weeks Vacation.”

    Huckleberry Hound discovers similar summertime bliss at the conclusion of “Barbeque Hound.”

    And the feature film “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” features plenty of cross-country travel as well as including several stunning backgrounds of Jellystone Park.

    The Flintstones have several vacation-themed episodes including: “The Long, Long Weekend,” “The Rock Vegas Caper,” “Swedish Visitors,” “Fred El Terrifico,” “Surfin’ Fred,” “Fred’s Island,” and several others. Also in the feature film “The Man Called Flintstone” Fred takes Wilma to Eurock and serenades her on a balcony in Rome.

    There are also several hours from the Disneyland TV series that are vacation-themed, including “Highway to Trouble,” “Duck Flies Coop,” “On Vacation with Mickey Mouse and Friends,” “A Disney Vacation,” “Goofy Takes a Holiday,” and one of my all-time favorites “The Ranger of Brownstone.”

    Lots of good stuff to consider!

  • Paul Terry’s silent “Springtime,” which, despite the title, could take place in the summer: Farmer Al Falfa is on the beach, trying to impress a couple of girls. You can probably guess the outcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *