Animation Trails
March 24, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Courtroom Drama: There’s Something Fishy About Those Scales (Part 7)

Justice is supposed to be blind. But perhaps in Toontown, she is also deaf and dumb (or whatever other senses are capable of deactivation). Little else can explain the irregularities of both procedure and verdicts that typically wind up in the cases before her. It’s hard to figure which way the scales are tipping, when the litigants have probably placed you atop the fulcrum of a teeter-totter. Things can get more crooked than in the weighing of fortunes of Scrooge and Glomgold in DuckTales (for those who remember). One might wonder if there would be more consistency of decisions if the litigants agreed in advance to flip a coin – it always works for Two-Face. At least one thing can be said for the system – it keeps the creative juices of the participants – clients, counsel, and especially animation writers alike – active and flowing to outflank and strategically maneuver around each other with any underhanded trick in or out of the book. The object of the game is not to establish a new rule of law or lasting precedent – it is merely to be the last toon standing.

Alice in Wonderland, or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing In a Place Like This? (Hanna-Barbera, 3/30/66), a star-studded primetime special aired on ABC, again of necessity inherited the task of presenting Alice’s day in court. The witty script, supplied by Bull Dana of Jose Jimenez fame, does the trial reasonable justice. The trouble begins at the royal games, which seem to involve a combination of every sport imaginable except croquet. At halftime, the Queen of Hearts (presented in unusal condescending underplay by Zsa Zsa Gabor) randomly selects Alice to “quench the thirst” of the team by taking them a tray of tarts. The minute Alice steps toward the field with the tray, the Queen orders her guards to seize Alice for stealing the tarts. Alice insists she was only following orders, and demands a trial. “Very well, dahling, we’ll have a trial first, and then off with your head!”

At the palace, the King (a vocal match for W.C. Fields, who has been previously seen driving a train without tracks to the royal games, moonlighting to make ends meet), takes on the additional job duty of presiding as judge. A tall bailiff seems to irk him, as the King is a shorty, and resents anyone standing higher than he is – so the King holds his proceedings from a high podium, and repeatedly lands blows of his gavel upon the head of the bailiff as a running gag, each blow reducing the bailiff slightly in size, so that by the end of the trial, the bailiff is shorter than the King is. Alice’s defense is provided by an ineffectual British-accented fop, who spends most of his time casually playing with a yo-yo. The Queen attends in the jury box, inserting her own jeers and calls for decapitation whenever desired. “My dear, you’re the foreman of the jury. Act like a lady,” the King gently suggests. “How dare you talk tp me like that. You just wait until I get you home”, threatens the Queen. The King randomly chooses one moment to announce, “Another outburst like that, and I’ll clear the court.” “There was no outburst, your honor”, responds the bailiff. “A good judge never waits until the last minute,” notes the king, supplying another gavel bang upon the bailiff’s head. Alice respectfully addresses the court – “Judge? Your Honor?” “Who gave her permission to judge my honor?”, the King asks the bailiff. For that outburst, the King adds to the charges a sentence of “20 years in the electric chair, or a fine of $12 – whichever is the least fun.”

The prosecuting attorney is introduced, a stuttering fool (Mel Blanc, a master of stutters) who ties every sentence into a meaningless tongue-twisting knot – but just so happens to be the King and Queen’s son! His every word is met with plaudits, and calls from the King to “Give that kid a hand.” Alice coaxes her idle attorney to do something, and he calls for an appeal to a higher court. The King obliges, by activating a hydraulic lift under his throne chair, raising him up about forty feet. He asks if this is high enough, as any further and he gets nose bleeds. Reference to a “gross miscarriage of justice” is interpreted by the judge as a reference to a grocer’s carriage – so he calls the store to deliver some evidence. The Queen suggests ordering adding tothe order a case of oranges. “One case at a time”, responds the King. Alice begins to count to ten to control her temper. As long as it’s time for counting, the King calls for the prosecution to sum up. His son is as bad on a blackboard as in his verbal skills, and fills a board with a jumble of figures, to more applause. The King finally asks for Alice’s plea. “Not guilty, your honor” responds Alice. The Queen, in her Hungarian underplay, acts as if she is totally surprised by this development, changing everything, and states that she will withdraw the charges. Anf the King states that he will commute Alice’s sentence – to 99 years in Sing Song prison! The Wonderland procedural code must be written on the contents of a package of twisted egg noodles.

Editor’s Note: For more about Hanna Barbera’s Alice In Wonderland read this Greg Ehrbar Animation Spin from 2016.

It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown (Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez, 2/1/74) – Woodstock’s nest is missing, disappearing right out from under his – beak. Snoopy turns sleuth, a la Sherlock Holmes, for a lengthy investigation, finally resulting in discovery of the nest in the science lab of the local school, readied for presentation as a “Prehistoric Bird’s Nest”. Snoopy enters through a window and retrieves the nest for Woodstock. But one person notices its absence next morning – Charlie Brown’s sister Sally, who had submitted the exhibit. She insists the found nest was prehistoric – because it was so ridiculous, no self-respecting modern bird could have built it. Sally and Snoopy almost resort to fisticuffs, but Charlie Brown proposes that the dispute be settled in a civilized manner, by an objective person. They call upon Lucy at her psychiatric booth. Realizing this is a legal dispute of ownership, Lucy turns a crank on her booth’s sign, which changes from reading, “Psychiatric help 5¢” to “Court of law. Legal Aid 7¢” She exits briefly to obtain the assistance of Linus as court stenographer, and to put on her own robe and powdered wig, with the finishing touch being an additional hanging sign to change ger booth’s “The Doctor is in” to “The Judge is in.” “Oyes, Oyes”, she intones, calling court to session. “Bird, do you have someone to represent you?”, she asks Woodstock. Snoopy indicates yes for him, then disappears for a costume change of his own. He reappears in his “Joe Cool” persona, with briefcase to prove his legal matriculation, and wearing dark sunglasses, with a flashy polka dot bow tie. (Such neckwear was known for a time in professional circles as a “power tie”.) He fishes in his briefcase for the appropriate brief, and mistakenly comes up with a leftover sandwich with a bite out of it, causing him to give us an embarrassed blush. Ultimately finding the right paper, he makes his presentation of legal authority to the court. The entire first paragraph is in indecipherable jargon – what some call “legalese”, resembling the famous Marx Brothers’ “party of the first part” language from “A Night At the Opera”, but with additional Latin phrases that should never exist in a brief at all, including “E Pluribus Unum” and “Cum Laude”.

Woodstock begins to yawn, and Lucy can only say, “Oh, good grief!” A supplemental brief isn’t much more understandable, asking for a decree nunc pro tunc for trover and replevin, or else charging the court with barratry. (Nunc Pro Tunc usually refers to correcting a court record to reflect an action previously ordered but inadvertently omitted from the written record. Trover is a proper and appropriate legal term, referring to someone having found another’s goods and wrongfully converted them to his or her own use – precisely what Sally did to the nest. Replevin refers to an action for recovery of specific property, as opposed to one for recovery of damages for the loss of property alone, so also properly applies to Woodstock’s claim. Barratry would appear of tenuous or more likely non-existent relationship to Snoopy’s argument, as it refers to the offense of frequently exciting and stirring up quarrels and suits, either at law or otherwise. In short, Snoopy’s brief would leave properly confused even a Clarence Darrow.) Sally, who pleads her own case without counsel (always a mistake, as we previously leaned from Mr. Toad), presents a much more straightforward case, previously approved by Barney Rubble’s counsel last week – “Finders, keepers, losers, weepers.” Lucy seeks to review the record to conduct her analysis, but finds her brother got hung up on the initial “Oyes. Oyes”, and hasn’t transcribed another thing yet on paper. Lucy deliberates, acknowledging Sally’s “weepers” strong point, but nevertheless impressed with Snoopy’s trover, replevin, and tossing in of barratry. She finds in favor of – the bird. (That Latin will do it every time.) With Sally left without a science project, Snoopy bails her out, with a live classroom presentation, in which Snoopy for once acts like a dog, replicating the experiment of Pavlov by drooling reflexively at the sound of a bell.

Saddle Soap Opera (DePatie-Freleng, Hoot Kloot, 5/16/74 – Gerry Chiniquy, dir.) – Sheriff Kloot travels to San Francisco on official business to escort Judge Soy Bean, the hanging judge, back to town. Bean lives up to his reputation, not only in demeanor, but in that he is found “hanging” on a coat rack, where he hung his coat and forgot to take it off. “I oughta sentence myself to 30 days for that.” The judge announces that he has a flock of enemies who’d like to do him in, so Kloot tries various means to keep him out of the line of fire. He sneaks the judge out of his hotel room in a satchel with leg holes, then tells the judge to make a run for the elevator. Of course, the elevator is out of order, and from the bottom of the shaft, the judge threatens Kloot with hanging if he gets him in court. On board a train, Kloot suggests he’ll be safer in the smoking car – but the smoke is so thick, no one can see a thing, and the judge falls out the back end of the car. Later at the station, Kloot suggests he disembark on the back side of the train away from the station – and right into the path of a train going in the opposite direction. The judge’s threats magnify, that Kloot should be sentenced to 10 years at hard labor, and then hanged. Taking a “long-cut” off the trail to avoid contact with others, Hoot leads the judge through an area honeycombed with abandoned ore mines. Naturally, the judge falls into a deep mine shaft. “Are you down there, judge?” hollers Kloot. “That question is irrelevant, immaterial, and STUPID” hollers back Bean. Hoot lowers a candle to see how deep the judge has fallen – and ignites a crate of dynamite in the shaft behind Bean. Blasted to the surface, Bean proclaims, “A simple hanging’s too good for you. I’m gonna have you drawn and quartered, then glued back together again, and THEN hung!” The judge is finally dragged back to town on a litter, in traction and with a crutch, Hoot stating that he’s finally safe from his enemies. “I only got one enemy – and that’s YOU!” roars the judge, and takes off after Kloot, clobbering him with the crutch. Kloot’s horse Fester comments, “Who says justice is blind. The judge ain’t missed him yet!”

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Steven Speilberg/Touchstone, 6/22/88), presents one of the most infamous and memorable members of the toon judiciary – Judge Doom. Described as a human gargoyle by hard-boiled detective Eddie Valiant, Doom spread his “Samolians” around Toontown a few years back, and bought the election to judgship. Now an unchallenged figure of authority, Doom has set his goal to “reign in the insanity” of the toons with the harshest forms of “justice”. He enlists the assistance of a squad of weasels, who have a “special gift” for searching out the criminal element. He has also devised the ultimate toon sentence – a solution of turpentine, acetone, and benzyne – which he calls “the dip”. (These chemicals are standard in use for washing paint off of animation cels – and have the same effect upon the “living” animated characters inhabiting this picture – dissolving them into a lifeless puddle of ink and paint). Pursuing Roger Rabbit for the alleged murder of cartoon prop mogul Marvin Acme, creator of Toontown, Doom turns out to have greater interest in the case than merely seeing his own brand of justice done. In a complicated piece of insider financial dealing, and criminal foul play, Doom has gotten wind of a city council plan to build the world’s first freeway between Los Angeles and Pasadena (an act which really happened with the construction of the present 110 Pasadena Freeway), which he claims will make traffic jams a “thing of the past” (we wish!). He has formed a corporation (Cloverleaf Industries) to corner the market on real property along the proposed freeway route, as well as to purchase Los Angeles’s fabled “Red Car” trolley system – for the purpose of shutting it down. The final key to his puzzle is obtaining reversion of rights to Toontown (right in the path of the proposed freeway), through the murder of Marvin Acme and attempts to intercept or prevent the discovery of his will, which would otherwise leave Toontoen to the toons themselves. Once the property is his, he plans to use a custom pressurized water cannon filled with dip to obliterate the whole town from the map, then construct in its place a “string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly-prepared food, tire salons, automobile dealerships, and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see – – My God, it will be beautiful!” Proof positive that power corrupts. (Fellow contributor to this website James Parten saw this picture in first run multiple times in several different theatre venues, and has noted that the laughs arising from the film’s disclosure of this convoluted master plan increased massively in intensity the closer the theatre was to Pasadena!)

Gang Busters (Steven Speilberg/Warner, Tiny Toon Adventures, 10/9/90). Buster Bunny is mistaken by the owner of a qwik-mart (the Acme Buy ‘n’ Bye) as part of a gang (headed by Montana Max) that just stole his Slushie machine. While Montana and his gang escape, Buster takes the rap, and is brought up on charges in juvenile court. Babs Bunny acts as narrator, for a televised session of “The People’s Courtroom” (a play on then current popular daytime series, “The People’s Court” – more about this series below), presided over by a Judge Whopper (play on words on Judge Joseph Wapner, who regularly decided the disputes on the program). Buster makes his entrance into the courtroom tied to the cowcarcher of a train, and insists he’s being railroaded. The Judge asks, “How does the defendant plead?” “On my knees, usually”, responds Buster. But before he can utter another word, the courtroom doors burst open, as an irate Plucky Duck enters as self-appointed defense counsel for Buster. (Buster can immediately sense he’s now in real trouble.) “I motion for a mistrial”, demands Plucky. “On what grounds?”, asks the judge. “On the picnic grounds would be nice”, grins Plucky. Plucky next submits three photographs as evidence. “Evidence of what?” asks the judge viewing three seductive pin-up photos of female ducks (one in the center, mostly obscured, reveals skin color and curves, suggesting a centerfold photo). “My photographic skills”, says Plucky, now armed with a camera. “Smile” he says, snapping a flash photo in the judge’s face. “I can’t see”, says the judge, in the manner of a deer caught in the headlights. “Of course not. Justice is blind”, quips Plucky. Now Plucky calls a “character witness” to the stand – Babs, who provides no testimony about Buster at all, but instead proves she can do “characters” – allowing voice artist Tress McNeill to impersonate half the cast of the classic Looney Tunes. Plucky next turns to the old standby of pointing to his client with the question “Is this the face of a criminal?” He attempts to describe the standard characteristics of the criminal face – not realizing he is reflexively moulding the judge’s face into such shapes as a visual aid. Addressing the jury, Plucky puts “this rabbit’s life in your hands”. Bad move, as the entire jury consists of Yosemite Sams – the biggest rabbit-hater of them all. “That varmint is guilty as his ears are long”, shouts the foreman. The judge sentences not only Buster – but Plucky too – on the grounds of extreme obnoxiousness, to six months in reform school. “I object”, shouts Plucky. “Case closed”, shouts back the judge, slamming his gavel down on Plucky’s beak so that he can speak no further. As the final scene of the reel follows the bus carting our heroes away to reform school, Plucky is heard insisting he’ll appeal to the supreme court – then asking, “Hey Buster, what’s with the judge’s gavel?” “Case closed!” shouts Buster, as we hear the hammer brought down upon Plucky’s beak again, for an iris out.

Fur-Gone Conclusion (Steven Speilberg/Warner, Tiny Toon Adventures, 11/1/90) – Zsa Zsa Gabor appearing twice in the same article? Well, not exactly. But a reasonable facsimile of her appears as a sort of Cruella De Ville counterpart – a mad furrier (Gotcha Grabmore), engaging in a cruel campaign of seal entrapment in the Arctic for her new line of coats. Buster and Babs Bunny, escaping a rainy day in Acme Acres, pull the Bugs Bunny “wrong turn” act in their travels, and wind up in the frozen north in the middle of Gotcha’s seal hunt. They of course lend a helping hand to a seal pup being pursued, resulting in a sled race between the good guys and bad girl – except Gotcha cheats by mounting a sled equipped with jet propulsion. Just as she is about to catch our heroes, a siren is heard behind her. It is Buster, dressed as a Canadian mountie motorcycle cop, who pulls Gotcha over for speeding and driving a jet-sled without a license. He hauls her off to Arctic Court, where Babs presides as judge from a solid ice podium. Babs reads a long list of charges from an unrolling old-English style scroll – pelt pilfering, disturbing the peace, conduct unbecoming a carton character, operating without an artistic license, overuse of a bad Hungarian accent, and unauthorized impersonation of a lady celebrity. An 11 member jury (another of those impossible empaneling numbers), all seals, barks a guilty verdict. Babs announces she has no choice but to throw the book at Gotcha – a huge hardbound copy of the S.P.C.A. Rules. Gotcha stumbles forward in a daze, and throws herself on the mercy of the court, as she collapses. Buster gives her “the hot seat”, producing a blow dryer and melting away the ice around her, leaving her on a floating floe headed for the South seas, where her trapping activities will be rendered dramatically short of supply.

K-ACME TV (Steven Speilberg/Warner, Tiny Toon Adventures, 2/26/91), a broad parody of an entire day’s TV programming, includes a closer sendup of “The People’s Court”, a program featuring broadcast simulations of proceedings in a small claims court, conducted per agreement between the parties to have their cases privately decided by a real former judge outside of the actual court system (this is commonly referred to today as “binding arbitration”, though typically not conducted before the cameras in a courthouse set). The show could present some fireworks, as small claims is not a venue for the faint-hearted. Lacking in procedural finesse, small claims (defined as under a specified maximum dollar demand varying in respective court systems) are distinguished by an entire lack of attorneys. Thus, case presentations can be as varying in style or lack of organization as the litigants themselves. Only the stern hand of the judge presiding, and his own abilities in directing questions to the participants to focus their testimony on the true legal issues, exist to keep the combatants in line. “Toon Court” presents one of the sternest hands in animation to preside over the lunacy – “Hanging Judge” Yosemite Sam (complete witn noose).

Plaintiff is Calamity Coyote, who is finally suing the Acme Company for negligence and faulty workmanship. Calamity presents as Exhibit A the new Acme catapult, demonstrating for the judge the problem he’s had with it. Seated in the throwing arm, he pulls the release rope – but instead of him being flung through the air, the arm remains stationary, while the base of the catapult flips upside down, and the whole device crashes down atop him. Yosemite turs to the Defendant, one Bobbo Acme (a rat), who admits to his company’s manufacture of the product, but insists that the machine works if used properly. “Then let’s see ya do it!”, orders Sam. Acme proceeds to demonstrate, grabbing Calamity by the throat with his tail to assist in the demonstration. Again placing Calamity upon the throwing arm, Acme pulls the release rope – and this time, Calamity sails into the blue – right through a closed widow, and over the horizon for a crash. A few moments later, a dazed Calamity stumbles his way back into the courtroom, as Judge Sam decrees “Not guilty!”, with a pound of his gavel so emphatic, that the wooden head of the hammer breaks off, conking Calamity on the bean and knocking him to the floor. Calamity holds up a sign for final comment – ‘Why me?”, for the fade out.

Speed Trap (Film Roman, Garfield and Friends, 10/12/91) – While on a road trip with Garfield and Odie, Jon Arbuckle is pulled over by a thin sleazy-looking motorcycle patrolman, who claims Jon was exceeding the speed limit. Jon observes there must be some mistake, as he was driving under 25 miles an hour. The patrolman escorts him back a short distance on the road, to a sign he passed – only about 5 inches tall – with a posted speed limit (once you place a magnifying glass in front of it) of 8 miles an hour. “An ant couldn’t read that sign”, complains Jon, and refises to pay the ticket he’s handed. The patrolman insists he’ll have to tell that to the judge, and escorts Jon into town. Entering the courthouse, Jon states, “It’s not the money. It’s the principle of the thing.” Garfield asides to Odie, “Whenever anyone says that, it’s always the money.” Jon should have known better, as this court has as limited a personnel as that of Snagglepuss in “Legal Eagle Lion” from last week. P. Dempsey Weevil (the same man who was the arresting officer) assumes the roles by quick costume change of bailiff, judge, and Jon’s defense attorney. Garfield observes, “If this guy’s a lawman, then I’m a teenage mutant ninja turtle.” Weevil, as judge, asks Jon how he pleads. Jon approaches the bench on his knees – “Like this, Your Honor.” Weevil ups the fine to $100. Garfield has had enough, and, smelling a phoney setup, ushers Jon promptly out the door and into the car, with signalled instructions to his master to “burn rubber”. A chase ensues fraught with calamities, resulting in Jon’s ejection from the vehicle and re-arrest by Weevil, with Garfield and Odie left to figure out how to drive – and how to stop. Eventually, a police car catches up with the pets. Odie retrieves the speeding ticket from the seat cushions, and displays it to the policeman. The name “Weevil” is recognized by the officer as a con man who is known for impersonating a policeman. Jon is rescued from a holding cell before paying an ever escalating fine to Weevil, and Weevil taken away. Jon is left none the worse for wear – through the same cannot be said for his car, now minus a roof and reduced to an instant convertible, leaving him drenched in a rainstorm, while Garfield and Odie comfortably huddle under an umbrella.

The Kitty Council (10/10/92), also from “Garfield and Friends”, is not a true courthouse cartoon, but may be viewed as our first excursion into the departmental dispensement of justice that is commonly known as administrative law. Garfield receives by courier delivery from another cat a hand-delivered envelope, inside which is an order for him to appear for a hearing tomorrow before “the Kitty Council”. “I’m doomed”, Garfield repeats over and over to himself – spending the whole evening in distress wondering what the council intends to do to him and why – though all this worrying does nothing to impede Garfield’s appetite. The next morning, he decides to face the music and get it over with, and proceeds to a city alley, where he enters a run-down building through an unlocked basement window. Inside, upon a multi-tiered podium bearing the insignia mark of a cat’s paw, sits the many and varied robed members of the Kitty Council, looking exceptionally stern, and commanding Garfield to stand before them in a solo spotlight, to basically be “called on the carpet” to explain his conduct. He is formally charged with “conduct unbecoming a cat”. The presiding officer (an elder, bearded cat, who ciriously for the series, actually moves his mouth to speak like a human would, while Garfield continues to talk through thought transmission only) asks Garfield the pointed question, “How many mice have you eaten this week?” Garfield beats around the bush, asking if he means this week as opposed to last week, until the presiding cat expands the scope of the question to the entire year. Garfield expresses his preference for lasagna, but is finally pressured to admit that he’s never eaten a mouse in his life. The council members mutter negative-sounding comments among themselves. The chief cat further asks, “Have you at least tormented dogs, and caused them misery?” Garfield bluffs his way through an attempt to declare he has, when who should walk into the council chamber but Odie, who has tracked him from the house. Odie greets Garfield with an affectionate slurp, causing the council to gasp in disbelief, while Garfield complains that he regularly kicks Odie off of tables. Garfield pleads for one more chance, and is granted his request. To redeem himself, Garfield is ordered to within one hour find a mouse, catch it, and bring it back to the council chamber so they can witness him eating it. “Will do”, Garfield responds nervously, while whispering to himself, “I’m toast.”

Leaving the chamber with Odie, Garfield scouts every mousehole, trash can, and dark alley he can find, but no mouse is to be seen. (He comments to Odie that he even got thrown out of Disneyland in his unsuccessful search.) With the hour almost up, Garfield turns back toward the council chamber as if walking the last mile, preparing himself to face the wrath and disgrace of whatever punishment the council may throw at him. Unsuspectingly walking in the other direction, series semi-regular Floyd the mouse, who Garfield has always treated as a friend and semi-buddy, passes Garfield and waves an everyday-style “Hello”. Garfield reflecive responds without taking special notice of him – then double-takes, realizing that Floyd might be the only solution to his problem. Garfield runs back to address him, stating, “Floyd! You’re a mouse.” “What a news flash”, replies Floyd. Floyd complains that he can’t make a living on one guest spot on the show per season, and that his agent dumped him and told him to go to the old actor’s home. “Well, I’ve got a role for you now”, says Garfield, scooping up Floyd and carrying him back toward the council. “Is it a juicy part, because I have real good taste”, asks Floyd. “Boy, I hope so”, responds Garfield. Back at the chambers, Floyd asks for a script, stating he wants to make sure he “gets it down”. “So do I”, says Garfield with his tongue hanging out in a distressed look, imagining the case of indigestion he may be about to face. The presiding cat now commands that Garfield eat his catch. Floyd chuckles at this impossible suggestion, until Garfield picks him up by the tail, dangling him precariously close to Garfield’s open jaws. But Garfield halts in this folly, telling the council to do what it wants to him, but that he can’t eat a mouse – not even a cameo guest star. The council is about to pass sentence, but Floyd intervenes, telling the council that whatever this is about, they’re seeing quite a cat before them. “What does he do that makes him worthy of the name, cat?” demands the presiding cat. “Nothing”, replies Floyd. “You’re a lot of help”, says Garfield. “No, no, I mean he does nothing at all”, continues Floyd, pointing out with a TV monitor tuned to broadcast of the show that, while the average cat can sleep up to 17 hours a day, Garfield can snooze away a three-day weekend – and at the same time has his owner trained to purchase for him all the fast food he can eat without ever raising a paw to hunt down food himself. The council is remarkably impressed by the new evidence, and, with formal apologies from their governing body, dismisses all charges. Walking home, Garfield thanks Floyd for saving his life, and asks forgiveness for ever thinking of eating him. “That’s okay. You were in a jam”, says Floyd. “How can I make it up toy you?” asks Garfield. “Well, you could have me on the show more often”, says Floyd. Garfield has the final word for the fade out: “Don’t push it.”

Kitten and the Council (9/25/93) is a sort of quickie follow up to the preceding episode, in which Nermal also receives a letter from the Kitty Council, demanding appearance to face charges of being “too darned cute”. Despite fear of the council’s power and possible consequences, Nermal is only able to answer “Guilty as charged” to each accusation of cuteness, including playing with a ball of string, chasing his own tail, and lying on his back and encouraging people to rub his tummy. “Why do you do these things?” inquires the council. “Come outsie, and I’ll show you.” Sitting by the roadside, Nermal performs the roll on the back maneuver. A passing car stops, and reflexively, its passengers present him with a six course prime rib dinner and $600 to boot, just for being cute. Garfield happens along, expecting to gloat over the council throwing the book at Nermal. Instead, to his horror, he finds the council taking group lessons from Nermal on how to roll on their backs for tummy rubs, and on eye-widening for the proper cute effect. The council chief declares that henceforth, they will encourage all cats to be like Nermal. Garfield asks Odie where he can sign up to become a dog, declaring “I wanna be a cocker spaniel.”

We hope you’ve been taking careful notes. Final verdicts next week.


  • I will have to say that Judge Doom is my favorite of all cartoon judges, even though he’s a villain.

  • I’ve just noticed an odd omission, an episode of the Beetlejuice cartoon series had Beetlejuice going to court because of his incompetent baby-sitting (including a human baby named Arlo). Lydia Deetz then pretends to be a lawyer to bail BJ out of a possible execution.

  • “Samolians”? I always though it was spelled “simoleons”. My spell checker doesn’t recognise either spelling, so unless this currency unit becomes legal tender somewhere, I guess anything goes.

    I was hoping you’d get to “La La Law” this week, but I can wait.

    In “Court Action” (Ruby-Spears/Bagdasarian Productions, Alvin and the Chipmunks, 5/10/85 — Dianna Dixon, story; Charles A. Nichols, dir.), Alvin is charged with plagiarism by his school’s Student Honor Court; but Simon, serving as judge, sees a conflict of interest and recuses himself. He is replaced by… Theodore??? Alvin tries to wheedle and manipulate him into dropping the charge, while Simon urges him to be firm and dispense justice impartially. Caught in the middle, poor Theodore is under so much stress that he begins to suffer from nightmares. In the end, Alvin confesses to plagiarism and is sentenced to write a book report about Tom Sawyer in his own words. Because this was the eighties, dudes, when cartoon characters had to learn moral lessons when they weren’t singing Pat Benatar songs (which, alas, the Chipmunks actually do in this episode).

  • Alan Parker’s film version of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” features a grotesque trial rendered in animation designed by Gerald Scarfe. The main character, presented as a rag doll, stands accused of “showing feelings of an almost human nature.” Witnesses include his cruel school headmaster, his shrewish girlfriend and his overbearing mother, all transforming into hideous apparitions. The Judge, a giant human rear end, sentences him to “tear down the wall!” As nightmarish a depiction of the judicial process as has ever been put to film.

  • Here is the court scene in question (sound removed) from “Fur-Gone Conclusion”:

  • DePatie-Freleng’s “The Barkleys” was a very topical funny-animal cartoon of the early seventies based on the sitcom “All in the Family”. The first episode, “Match Breaker” (9/9/72), ends with a court trial.

    Middle-aged bigot Arnie Barkley despises his daughter Terry’s long-haired hippie boyfriend. He follows them on their dates, always managing to run afoul of the local beat cop while doing so. When the young couple go to a rock music festival, Arnie gets the idea from a TV show that they intend to elope there. He crashes the festival, storms the stage, damages some musical instruments and gets arrested. In court, the judge orders Arnie to pay off the damage he caused at the festival, and also sentences him to three days in jail or a ten dollar fine — which Terry’s boyfriend generously pays, proving that you can’t judge a book by its cover. “Here’s a book you really can judge by its cover!” says the cop, handing Arnie a volume titled “How to Stay out of Trouble with the Police”. Now that book would be a bestseller!

  • I know this is an unpopular opinion, but….

    Gosh, I hate Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I recognize it as a remarkable technical achievement, but it is bleak, unfunny, unfocused and damn-near unwatchable. I felt that way upon release, and when it came to DVD years later, another viewing merely cemented my feeling.

    There is something just so … dank about the entire enterprise. It’s like the world’s most unfunny people trying to do comedy. Just thinking about it gives me the creepy-crawlies. Uck.

    • Man, I completely 100%… disagree there. I thought it was nice homage to the Golden Age. Granted, it would be very impossible to be completely like Tex Avery (unless Avery himself was involved, of course), but I think they got the homage just about right. At least it wasn’t motion captured.

      Besides, I was waiting quite a bit of this film getting into the Film Registry (which finally did in 2016).

  • There are a couple of more court examples I can think of (both of the juvenile kind):
    One is an episode of the original “Muppet Babies” episode “Weirdo for the Prosecution” where Gonzo is put on trail for allegedly breaking the cookie jar as his stuff chicken Camilla was at the scene of the crime. Kermit is the honorable “Judge Hopner” while “Piggy Mason” is surprisingly, Gonzo’s lawyer. It turned out Nanny accidently broke the cookie jar after fixing Camilla.

    Two episodes of “Rugrats” also involved courtroom.
    In “The Trial”, the babies set up a trail on who broke Tommy’s clown lamp (with Tommy himself as the judge and Angelica as the bailiff). It turn’s out that Angelica herself did it on purpose and doesn’t know she boast about it in front of the adults who her the (high) chair.

    The second episode is “Pickle Versus Pickle” a solo story for Angelica. After her father punishes her after refusing to eat her broccoli, he dreams that Angelica sues him and is put on trail for it.

  • We have court scene in another “Garfield and Friends” episode “Wanted: Wade”, but that’s in Wade’s dream sequence.

    And this funny scene in episode 12 of “Sheep in the Big City” (not counting the pilot) where Sheep is taken to court and the judge talks in rhyme, declares Sheep the “guilty guy”, and everyone in the courtroom is dancing.

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