Animation Trails
June 23, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Fitness vs. Fatness (Part 12): Enough! Let’s Hit the Showers

The sweat has been poured. Our pulse rates have hit maximum, while our body fuel is waning critically low. The symptoms of exhaustion are setting in. We’ve had ourselves a good long workout, and now is the time for winding down. We’ll do so at a comfortable pace, by taking a last look at some final instances of exercise or obesity from the late 90’s and a few strays beyond – enough to “fit” the desired shape of this week’s article.

Weight For Me (Disney, The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show, 1/2/95) – In their premiere episode, Shnookums (a cat) and Meat (a burly dog), share a residence as the pampered pets of a human couple. Perhaps “pampered” is a bit mild a word to describe the situation, as the two in fact are eating their owners out of house and home, while doing nothing for exertion all day but laying around on piles of empty food cans, and occasionally tapping their jelly-like distended bellies to make a wave ripple through their layers of fat, sending the two into giggling hysterics. Their owner threatens to use a mail-order coupon to send away for physically-fit substitutes, unless the two shed enough tonnage to run the decathelon. Faced with replacement, the two pets vow to embark on a rigorous program of exercise – that us, after they figure out how ro walk, with all the blubber from their bellies dragging on the ground like the weight of an anchor.

First they try push-ups – with the same kind of results as Wimpy in “Popeye’s Pep-Up Emporium”, as their short arms and legs are of insufficient length to raise their bellies off the ground. Well, when in doubt, flip over, and try sit-ups. With their feet under the sofa, each of them strains to painful extremes, but are unable to lift their shoulders off the carpet. Instead, their lower halves fold, causing the sofa to be flipped over, and land on their heads. Rest time is definitely in order. Shnookums tries barbell pressing from a reclining position, telling Meat to pile on more weights on the bar, then to release the barbell into his grip. Immediately upon the release, Shnookums’ arms entirely collapse, and the cat is nearly suffocated by the barbell bar clamping down upon his open jaws. This is not going well, and some alternative strategy is direly needed. The answer comes by way of an infomercial for the Muscle-Matic Body Tone Loungerizer. A muscle-man, who claims to have spent long hours studying at the world’s “goodest universities” to find a way to build up “unmotivated blobs like you”m touts this electronic marvel, which, while looking like a lounge chair, simulates all the movements of real exercise without its owner lifting a finger to anything but the remote control. One exchange of favorable glances between Shnookums and Meat, and we can instantly see that a sale is imminent.

Not recommended for ANY diet

One camera-wipe later, and the big unwrapping party is well under way. Shnnokums and Meat lay in the lounge chairs, thinking that things are going to be nothing short of great, and decide to set the remote controls on “high” for quick resultes. Mechanical arms emerge from the chairs, stretching the two characters like elastic bands, and twirling them until they resemble the blurs of whirling sawblades. Both chairs develop faces, and behave as if stomping upon out heroes, then hurl the two through the wall. “Rest!”, calls out a weary Shnookums again. Not to make the same mistake twice, the pair, once recovered, decide to try for a little more moderation, setting the remote controls to medium. This setting is more like it – although the machines indulge in some exceptionally-thorough manipulation of their passengers, including stretching exercises for each of their eyeballs, nostrils, and tongue. The product actually lives up to its sales pitch, and before long, the two are utterly rippling with muscles, with Shnookums remarking, “We’re gods!” (A clever musical score has every move of the pair in their buffed condition accompanied by the massed singing of a robust heavenly chorus.) Their very reflection is so broad as to crack the mirror out of its frame. But with massive muscle-growth comes the new problem of being muscle-bound, and the two find themselves barely able to move, and entirely incapable of bending – rendering them incapable of even picking up a can of food off the floor, and thus likely to starve. Meat whimpers to Shnookums for a solution, and Shnookums comes up with another clever idea – a walk into the sauna, to shed just enough pounds to regain some mobility. As they enter the sauna room, Meat closes the door behing him – allowing a nearby broom to fall and wedge itself between the floor and the door handle of the sauna. The boys become trapped, and contrary to Shnookums’ plan, overstay their time in the sauna. When their owners arrive home and hear the pounding inside the sauna door, the pair are released – each now looking like a soggy wet noodles, and wilting into a puddle on the floor. Their master knows there’s only one cure for the situation, and, grabbing a pair of funnels (much as the cat and mouse did in Chuck Jones’s “Chow Hound”), begins force feeding the two whole turkeys and other various fattening foods. The pair’s distended bellies begin to rapidly reappear, while Meat comments, “Life don’r get much better than this”, while Shnookums answers, “Oh, shut up!” as his newly-regrown belly flops upon his own face.


King Size Homer (Film Roman, The Simpsons, 11/5/95) – Homer’s barricaded himself in the men’s room of the Springfield nuclear power plant, and it takes Smithers and a security team to smell him out and drag him bodily away – back to the company calisthenics class he’s been trying to avoid. Mr. Burns coaches the staff through a megaphone, insisting he wants to see “More Teddy Roosevelts, and less Eleanors.” Homer strains to perform the usual single pushup, but notes that one of his co-workers is absent, and wonders how he got out of this torture. His pals tell him that the guy is at home with pay because of getting disabled on the job. “It’s like a lottery rewarding for stupidity”, his friend says. Homer determines to get himself disabled. He walks under a scaffold in a hard hat area, seeking out signs reading “Falling tool area. Careless workers above.” But a wheelbarrow of concrete blocks falls just shy of him, and lands on someone else. He pours oil on the floor, then tries to trip. Instead, he gracefully slides like a skater down the corridor, and right into Mr. Burns’ office. All he can say is to ask Mr. Burns to tap him with his cane to send him sliding back out in the opposite direction. Homer searches through a safety manual describing all the manners to get disabled, yet can’t seem to find one suitable for himself – until he comes to a listing for hyper-obesity. All he has to do is gain 61 pounds, and he will be eligible to work at home. Homer does not tell Marge, but the kids get wind of his plan. Lisa is critical as usual, but Bart wants in, vowing to help Dad every step of the way, and dreams of the day he too will follow in his Dad’s footsteps of slacking off on responsibility. The two consult with Dr. Hubbard for advice how to get fat, but Hubbard won’t have any part of it. Of course, he can arrange for a referral – to quack physician Dr. Nick, who recommends Homer concentrate on the neglected food groups – the whipped group, the congealed group, and the chocotastic group. When in doubt, rub the intended food on a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it is “your window to success.”

Homer gorges on such items as Ham Ahoy, Much Ado About Stuffing, and a mystery product called “Tubbb”. He eats banana splits, following Bart’s advice to eat around the banana, as it is just “empty vitamins”. Another day of work looms, but he is still four pounds shy of his goal – and he has emptied the house of all food – and even the ingredients of food. Maggie uses her Play-Doh pumper to create a fake donut for Homer. Bart observes that the can says “non-toxic”, so Homer eats it, then steps on the scale. The magic number of 300 pounds appears. “Woo hoo!” shouts Homer. Bart then notices that Homer’s stomach is hung up on the bathroom towel rack, and when it is released, the scales top at 315 pounds – leading Homer to utter an embarrassed “Oh, my.”

Mr. Burns presents Homer with a computerized home work station from which to monitor the safety of the plant. It takes a little getting used to. The screen says to start, press any key. Homer searches the keyboard, but can’t find a key that has the word “any”. He does, however, spot the “Tab” key, and presses it to order a glass of Tab – inadvertently getting things started. The computer asks him various questions about the operation of the reactor, offering him options of yes or no. Homer feels his way through these operations, learning that venting radioactive gas is sometimes necessary to prevent the reactor from exploding (though it destroys surrounding crops for a 500 yard radius). Homer even finds he can triple his productivity by merely typing in a “y” or “n” instead of yes or no. But things become so easy for Homer that he starts to slough off his job responsibilities. He spends afternoons watching soap operas, while periodically pounding a command upon the keyboard long distance wih a broom handle. He finds watching the dryer test out a free sample of fabric softener is more interesting than checking out his computer monitor. He adopts a “casual” work wardrobe, consisting of a mu-mu. Worst yet, Marge finally learns why Homer became this fat – and not only disaproves, but admits she is less physically attracted to him in this state. But Homer avows not to give up his dream lifestyle, and consoles himself by heading out for an afternoon at the movies – on company time. “Shouldn’t you be working?”. asks Lisa. “I got someone to cover for me”, says Homer. His assistant? One of those “drinking bird” bobbing toys controlled by thermostatic change, of the type Tweety imitated in “Putty Tat Trouble”, with its beak positioned over the computer’s “y” key. (Of course, in real life this idea would have never worked, as the bobbing only occurs by getting the toy’s beak alternating between wet and dry, while Homer’s toy would have maintained a dry beak over the computer keyboard.) Homer is turned down for admission at the theater for being too wide to fit in the seats, and returns home to sulk. To his surprise, he finds his bobbing bird has toppled over, and the monitor screen reads, “Situation Critical – Explosion Imminent.”

Homer learns that the venting system for the reactor hasn’t been vented of gas in hours, and the holding tank at the plant vibrates wildly from built-up pressure. He desperately jabs at the “y” key, but the screen indicates the pressure is too high for a normal vent, and that only a manual venting may be attempted. Homer waddles for the phone to warn the plant. But his fingers are so wide, he mashes three number keys at a time, leading to a recording advising him he is roo fat to use the device, and to send away for a dialing wand by mashing his palm into the keyboard. Homer jumps into his car to drive to the plant – and flattens all four tires. He hops on Bart’s shateboard – busting it in two. Holding a sign up along the road to hitch a ride, he finally climbs on board an ice cream truck. The driver thinks he is there to pilfer the truck’s contents, says fearfully “Take what you want”, and jumps out the window. Homer speeds to the plant, gobbling ice cream bars all the way. Reaching the tank, Homer climbs a ladder to the top, then tiptoes along a narrow catwalk toward the manual vent switch, located high above the holding tank. The ferocious vibration below begins to make Homer lose his balance, just short of reaching the switch. Homer falls, just as a round lid blows off the top of the holding tank. Homer lands precisely in the open hole, and is of the perfect diameter to act as a human plug for any further release of the radioactive steam. Hours later, after the incident is discovered and the venting system finally emptied and shut down, Mr. Burns presents Homer (still stuck in the tank hole) with a medal of bravery, for turning a “near Chernobyl into a mere Three-Mile Island.” As Homer giggles from having his butt decontaminated by a crew of workers in the tank below, Burns asks if there is anything else he can do for Homer. At the longing look of his beloved Marge, Homer forces himself to ask if Burns can get him back to normal size. Burns guarantees it. That night, Burns returns to his megaphone duties, in a private course of calisthenics for Homer. Tiring, however, of waiting for Homer to achieve the desired count of “one” in situps, Burns throws down the megaphone, and declares, “Bah! I’ll just pay for the blasted liposuction.” Homer yells “Woo hoo”, for the black out.


DIC’s The Wacky World of Tex Avery provides three episodes on point for our topic. The first chronologically – not only in release date, but in eon, is Out of Shape, Out of Mind (10/13/97), featuring prehistoric genius Einstone. Possessing the only inventive brain among the Neanderthals, Einstone is sadly disappointed at the hunting efforts of the members of his tribe, who aimlessly chase after a dinosaur, only to collapse on the ground from their limited running stamina. The dinosaur pulls the old Charles Atlas wheeze of kicking sand in the fallen warriors’ faces, then flexes his muscles for the girls of the tribe, who follow the dinosaur in admiration of his physique and prowess. “Great!”, shouts Einstone. “No food, and no women.” The next morning Einstone lines up the warriors for instruction upon hs new invention – the exercise program. The dunderheaded tribe scratch their heads in confusion, but Einstone tells them it’s really very simple. He suggests they first start off with morning stretching exercises. The cavemen think they understand this perfectly – and each of them grab an arm or leg of Einstone, and begin stretching him in opposite directions like a rack. “Let me go”, protests Einstone. The cavemen release their grip, and Einstone’s limbs snap back elastically, compressing him into a squat little shrimp, as he exits the scene grumbling unintelligibly. Next, Einstone attempts to invent the jumping jack. His pupils, upon extending their arms for the first jump, wind up poking each other – then retaliate with a fisticuffs brawl. Einstone decides the name “jumping jerks” might be more appropriate. His next invention is bungee jumping. His pupils leap off a tall cliff – but forget to tie off their cords to anything on the cliff face. Einstone dodges incoming cavemen, but gets clobbered by a delayed landing of the last pupil. He brings the cavemen back up to the clifftop, demonstrating how the exercise should have been performed, with the cord firmly tied to a branch extending from the cliff face. Leaping off the cliff, Einstone finds he has mismeasured the cord’s length, as he crashes headfirst into a rock on the ground, is yanked back upwards to collide with the tree limb, crashes back on the rock again, bounces skyward once more to break the tree limb off, then falls back on the rock a third time. “I don’t know about the legs, but it’s definitely a good head exercise”, he says, as the tree limb fals and bounces off his cranium.

“One of the best exercises s climbing stairs – so I have developed the Stairmaster.” His invention is a portable staircase on wheels, carved entirely of stone. Of course, as there are no moving parts on this primitive model, it is merely a stationary staircase that leads to nowhere. His pupils climb to the top of the flight – then fall flat on their faces when the staircase ends, with Einstone grimacing at another idea that didn’t work. Einstone’s next creation is revealed in the form of an audience-attended infomercial: the “Ab Crusher”. Perhaps this creation is a bit too effective, as Einstone has merely recruited and labeled a giant dinosaur to sit on his client and squash him flat. For an extra touch, Einstone throws in for the first callers a Tush Roller – a giant boulder that takes care of flattening the victim’s backside. Einstone encourages customers to call in, before this offer expires at the end of the Jurassic period. But Einsrone persists in his program, with primitive weight lifting, rope jumping (using the tail of a sabre-toothed tiger, who julienne slices the participant with his claws), and more advanced stair climbing on the scales of a dinosaur’s back. After 5 years, his Neanderthals are buffed like he envisioned, and Einstone declares they will be evolving into modern man sooner than expected. They invade the home of the dinosaur who kicked sand in their faces, ganging up and capturing him, and reclaim their women in the process. That night, the dino awaits his fate in a stewpot, while the tribe and their women wait for dinner to be ready around the camprire. Einstone is sure he’s made the scientific breakthough of the age, and decides to call his principle “Survival of the fittest.” But a large shadow looms overhead, frightening away the women and the other members of the tribe. It turns out the captured dinosaur was only a baby, and his humongous parent arrives on the scene to rescue him from the pot, and to stomp upon Einstone with one foot. Leveled within the dinosaur’s footprint, Einstone manages to utter, “Make that survival of the flattest.”


Fat Chance (Freddy the Fly. 10/17/97) – Freddy the Fly was generally among the weakest elements of the series, but this one is considerably more entertaining that usual. Modeled loosely to resemble Homer Flea from “What Price Fleadom”, the hobo fly is a constant aggravation to filthy rich Amanda Banshee. In this episode, Amnda finds herself out of her usual element and her posh mansion. She is in need of slimming down immediately for a society party, and motors to a luxury “fat farm” for reducing. The proprietor is one Arnold Schwartzenhagen-Dassen (mixing the former actor/governor’s name with that of a popular ice cream). Referring to Amanda as “jelly bod”, he welcomes Amanda inside. Used to her servants and total pampering, Amanda has her footman set her up a lounge chair, lawn umbrella, and ample supply of chocolate nougats with caviar centers – yet declares that she must be thin by tonight. Arnold seizes the box of nougats and stomps on it, then tells Amanda she must follow his three step program – “No food, no water, no mercy!” Meanwhile, who should happen by but Freddy, munching on one of the partially stomped nougats. He decides to stick around to enjoy the show.

Amanda struggles to touch her toes for first exercise – until she spots Freddy longing below her, and munching on a bag of potato chips while she sweats. Amanda strains to reach for him, and actually finds herself in a bend where her fingers touch her toes after all. But her back is locked so that she can’t straighten up. She attempts to follow the fly, who climbs up the wall, then upside down on the ceiling, then points out to Amanda the effect of gravity. Amanda plunges to the floor, while Arnold applauds her for inventing a new exercise, and claims she may turn out to be one of his best pupils.

Next, Amanda is placed on a sort of electronic rowing machine – with a retractable handle to hold, pushing and pulling in and out and timed by the speed of a numbered dial. Arnold permits Amanda to start out in low, but reminds her “No pain, no gain.” Freddy lands on the speed dial, and reminding Amanda of what the man just said, turns the speed control up a notch. “No faster”, protests Amanda. “No, faster?”, repeats Freddy, hearing things the way he wants to. The knob turns upwards, notch after notch. Amanda’s sweat begins to fill the room in a large puddle, with Freddy having to open an umbrella to keep from being drenched. Imitating Scotty from Star Trek, Freddy states, “I dinna think she can take much more, Captain.”, then struggles to give the knob a final increase. Looking down, he realizes the knob is already at its maximum setting of 10. With a pencil, he draws in a new number of 11, to which the knob now turns freely. Amanda and the machine take off across the gymnasium like a speedboat, crashing through the gym’s plate glass windows and out upon the lawn below, where Amanda’s sea of sweat also pours to form a sudden puddle of quicksand below her, into which she and the rowing machine sink.

Arnold provides Amanda with a break for lunch. However, as in the Thembrian prison camp, this merely meas a break – no food. Amanda becomes crazed, and starts devouring any object she can get her hands on in the room. Then she spots Freddy, who is taunting her with a small dining table of his own, and a hot roast chicken. Amanda tries to grab the chicken away, but Freddy flies inside its neck, to “pilot” the bird away as if running under its own power. Amanda engages in a furious chase, which takes her and Freddy onto a track and field course. As with Deputy Dawg, all the running around has an effect, and as Amanda seems about to capture both Freddy and the chicken, Freddy’s eyes pop, and he lets out with a wolf whistle. Amanda has slimmed down, and actually developed a shapely figure! The scene changes to Amanda’s mansion, where Freddy is now treated to all the food he desires, as Amanda states “I still hate you, fly, but I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.” The new issue of “Vague” magazine (a play on “Vogue”) is brought in by a butler. Amanda’s eyes pop in horror at the cover story – “Fat is Back”, proclaims the title, with the slim figure now out of fashion. Turning on Freddy, Amanda changes her line to “I’ll never forget what you’ve done to me – EVER”, as she brings dowm the rolled-up magazine upon the roly-poly fly, for a blackout ending.


Fat and Fatter (“Tex Avery” series, 10/21/97), pits comic cowboy Tex Avery and his arch rival Sagebrush Sid in a titanic battle over the affections of the lovely Chastity. In some respects, out of all the episodes in the series, this may come the closest to being a direct homage to stock plot elements from the creation of the series’ namesake inspiration. Tex and Sid arrive on the doorstep of shapely Chastity, verbally battling over who is the date, and who is the chaperone – when the door swings open, and Chastity passes them, arm in arm with a cowboy so plump, he is barely able to squeeze into the door of a limousine-style horse-drawn wagon. Chastity waves goodbye, and leaves the boys flat. Avery and Sid stare with jaws dropped to the floor. “But he was so – so – – – FAT!”, they react in unison. Looking down at his own puny physique, Avery states this sets his mind to thinking that maybe he and Sid could stand to put on a few pounds – but finds that Sid is one jump ahead of him, inside the house and emptying the food contents of Chastity’s pantry into his person, including eating from a can reading “100% lard”. “I’m in the lead, and at this rate, I’ll be Chastity’s number one chubbo in no time.” “I gotta get me porked up and fast”, says Tex, then spots a pie Chastity has left to cool on a windowsill. Chastity has in fact been quite the busy baker today, as two more windowsills reveal a bigger, followed by a biggest, additional pie. Tex devours all, and starts to show he is catching up to Sid’s girth rapidly. “And still bloatin’”, he says to Sid, as he picks up a phone, and dials Humongous Larrty’s pie company. (A comical split screen visual is presented to show both sides of the phone call, with the cutaway half-screen rolling down and landing on Sid’s head, and the transaction for an order of a half-dozen pies completed by the characters reaching across the split screen to hand over pies for cash – a screen device similar to the real Tex Avery’s work in Tortoise Beats Hare.) As Avery downs the new stock of pies, the dimensions of the characters clearly start to resemble the bloated torsos of the cat, dog, and bird in King Size Canary. A battle of phone calls begins, with Sid countering Avery’s orders to the pieman, and door-to-door deliveries being made to each of the combatants, with Sid repeatedly telling the delivery boy that “The other fat guy is paying. Before long, Sid not only has Tex paying (and the delivery boy collacting bankroll after bankroll of cash), but even plops his massive weight in to bounce Avery’s latest pie delivery out of his hands and into Sid’s mouth. But this time, Avery has calculated Sid’s move, and sticks into the last pie a sign which he had removed at time of delivery, reading “Diet Pie”. Sid suddenly shrinks back to normal size, while Avery remains fat. Now Sid gets to pull an old Tex Avery gag, used heavily in “Deputy Droopy” – he pulls off his own head, then that of Tex, and switches their places, so now he is in possession of Tex’s fat body. The now puny Tex leaps onto Sid’s back as he tries to escape, then pulls out a can reading “Contents: One Tapeworm.” Opening the can, he drops the tapeworm into Sid’s mouth. Within seconds, Sid becomes as skinny as Tex, and the tapeworm leaps out of his mouth, bloated with Sid’s fat, and shakes Tex’s hand as he makes an exit.

Now, both combatants are back to square one. Sid switches the characters’ heads back to their original places, then smacks Tex, stating, “That weren’t nice, darn it”. Tex flies across the room and into a large cupboard whose doors fly open, revealing a massive stash of boxes of candy. It seems Chastity had been watching her own figure, and never ate the many boxes of candy Tex and Sid had bought for her. The boys begin to shovel the chocolate goodies into their faces as fast as their arms will permit. Avery develops a lead, starting to squeeze Sid for elbow room. Sid pulls a cartoony fast one, by yanking Avery’s mouth clean off his face, then placing the second mouth upon his own face to permit him to eat twice as fast. Avery struggles to push candy into his face, impossible for lack of an opening. A light bulb appears as he gets an idea, and pulls out a pencil. Merely drawing a line across his face serves as the new opening for his mouth, and the race is on again. Outside, the limousine/coach pulls up to return Chastity home. As she waves her date goodbye, she turns to see her house bulge uncontrollably, then explode – revealing our two lovesick competitors, swollen up to fill the same shape and airspace where the house used to be. “What happened to you two?’. she asks. “Well, we saw ya fall for that fat guy…” begins Tex, and the result is told. “I wasn’t after that guy’s guts. I was after his gold”. Chastity reveals. Tex’s and Sid’s jaws again drop to the ground far below, with the sound effect of a claxon horn. Who should pick this moment to roll up in another limousine coach but the delivery boy, holding a massive wad of the bills they paid him. “Thanks for all the money, fatso. I guess I get the girl.” “I don’t think so”, responds Tex, who adopts Sid’s trick – pulling off his own head, and switching it with that of the delivery boy, so that now, he is in control of both the money and the carriage. Chastity’s eyes turn into hearts, and she leaps to join Tex inside the coach, as the two take off together. Sid, and the newly portly delivery boy, exchange dejected glances, then Sid offers, “You want to go for pie?” “Sure”, the boy responds. And the two of them roll down the road, as a pair of massive black balls against the rising dawn.


Danny DeVito provides an interesting course of physical training in the musical number, One Last Hope from Disney’s feature Hercules (1997). As satyr Phil, past coach of dozens of would-be heroes (such as Achilles – the loser who “missed a spot” on his invulnerability), Phil has long ago given up on his dreams of training a true contender, and is content to be out to pasture, “grazing his lawn”. Hercules (son of Zeus), needing to achieve heroship to regain status as a god instead of a half-mortal, begs for Phil’s training. Phil sees him as just another loser, and in the opening of the song, is about to deliver his answer in two words, which the lyric sets up in rhyming couplet so that we can all predict the result to be “No way” a mile away. But a bolt of lightning from the heavens – Zeus’s calling card – nearly fries Phil before responding, so that the answer is changed to a gasping “Okay!” The witty and lively lyric which follows is a true Broadway show stopper, as Phil puts Hercules through a hero’s basic training. Of course, standard push-ups are a part of the regimen. Things get a bit more advanced with developing balance by walking on a tightrope while holding an egg on a spoon with the handle clenched between his teeth. Of course, the egg falls squarely on Phil’s head. Sword slashing is clumsily attempted, with the blade lodging in a tree, and a yank at the hilt bringing the tree down on Phil again. Inability to figure out how to properly thread an arrow to a bow results in Phil being shot instead of the arrow, his horns lodging in a bulls-eye target, as he complains about “My ulcer”. Damsel rescue training begins with a first rule of “Always handle with care”. Herc demonstrates how not to follow this rule, by retrieving a damsel dummy from a fate of near burning at the stake, only to cross a ravine on a fallen log, trip on a limb extending from the trunk, fall and snap the log in two, and tumble down into the river below, where the head of the dummy floats to the surface, decapitated.

“Rule number 95 – concentrate!, shouts Phil, setting up a row of enemy targets for Hercules to fling daggers at. Hercules reflexively flings an armful of daggers all at once – then covers his eyes before viewing the sorry result. Phil is pinned to a tree trunk, between a circle of the dagger blades, not one of them having found their intended targets. “Rule number 96 – AIM!”, shouts a disgusted Phil. But gradually, Herc’s balance and grace begin to develop, as does his muscle width. Even his aim improves, as another attempt at target practice finally yields him one last accidental bulls-eye. “Now that’s more like it”, Phil’s lyric shouts encouragingly. Phil’s final test is a gamut of obstacles, including a quartet of swinging semicircular blades, a giant bear trap, a crushing descending fist carved of granite, a pair of leaping man-eating sharks, and a ring of fire, in the middle of which hangs the tied damsel dummy. Hercules gulps before the attempt, but leaps into action. He deftly swings on a rope between the alternating slashes of the blades, eludes the snap of the bear trap, stands firm under the granite fist, reducing it to rubble, extends both fists to clobber the twin sharks as they simultaneously leap from opposite directions, and bounds through the ring of fire, grabbing the dummy in the process. He lands on the opposite bank, but Phil has rigged one last surprise for him – a circle of dummy warriors, each with a spring-loaded arrow to shoot. Herc, now skilled and quick thinking, takes a sword and bends its blade into the curve of a boomerang. He tosses it at the circle of dummies with a flying spin, so that its whirling blade slashes off each of the dummies’ heads. As for the spring-loaded arrows, Herc catches each of them neatly upon his shield, where the arrow shafts precisely spell out a large “H” for his initial. Phil meets him and holds his mighty arm high in the air in celebration. He has finally trained a true champion.


Musclebob Buffpants (Spongebob Squarepants, 9/16/00) – Spongebob engages in his morning regimen of exercise to make himself large and wide – by lifting a barbell weighted with – two stuffed plush animals? His squirrel friend, diver Sandy Cheeks, pays a visit. Spongebob warns her not to come too close, as he gets smelly when he’s been “pumping iron”. He shows off his limbs, which as usual are as skinny as pipe cleaners. Sandy admits he’s smelly, but when she sees his “weight” set, breaks the bad news to Spongebob that he’s never going to see results with it – not if he expects to obtain “muscles like these”, as she shows off her own arms, rippling with muscle. As Spongebob extends his own arm again, which waves like a limp noodle in the current, he admits he may need help. Sandy instructs him to report to her underwater dome home for her crash training program tomorrow morning – wearing his water helmet, of course, so he can breathe.

At the dome, Sandy puts Spongebob through his paces, with push-ups (uh, make that singular, not plural), a sparring match in the boxing ring, and a run in a hamster-style wheel. Each event seems to end with Spongebob’s arms falling off. As Spongebob bounces around helplessly inside and outside the exercise wheel, Sandy asks, “Feel the burn?” “I’m – feeling – SOMETHING”, shouts Spongebob in panic, as the wheel launches him face-first into the top curvature of the dome. Sandy’s final exercise device is the “arm cruncher” – a machine of her own creation, with positions for locking the arms in place, while two massive concrete blocks are dropped repeatedly by ropes upon the forearms. “This squirrel’s trying to kill me”, Spongebob concludes, and when Sandy turns to strap him in, she finds only a telephone, and Spongebob’s voice claiming it was fun and they should do it again sometime. Bye.

At home, Spongebob lays hopelessly on his bed, realizing that working out didn’t work out. A voice from his TV set addresses him as a “wimp”, to which he instinctively responds. On screen is a shark, advertising the perfect product for the wimp who wants to look muscular – Anchor Arms. They slip over your real arms like a glove, then are inflatable with air. “How big do you want ‘em?”, the host asks, demonstrating that they can be pumped up to normal, veiny, or for the benefit of the ladies, even to hairy. Spongebob quickly reaches for the phone. The next day, his shadow looms past the yard of Squidward, making the squid’s eyes pop. Mr. Crabs is so frightened at the sight, he pulls in his eyes and nose like the limbs of a turtle, and hides inside the Krusty Krab, hanging out the “closed” sign. Spongebob heads for the action at Mussel Beach, and blows the minds of the local weight lifting clan with his giant inflated arms, which Spongebob has pumped up so much that they are longer than he is tall, so that he can literally walk on them instead of his legs for a taller look. As the body builders praise how ripped he is, Spongebob pulls the old Popeye Gag, flexing his fake muscles into the shape of the letters, “THANK YOU”. The crowd renames him “Musclebob Buffpants”, and he becomes the center of attention at the local juice bar, where everyone clamors to hear his body building secrets. Spongebob makes up stories as he goes, about eating 20 raw eggs every day and pumping iron, and adds ridiculing comments about the days when he “used to look” like others in the bar. However, Spongebob finds there may be one little matter that could potentially blow his cover. As a drink is served to him by the bartender, Spongebob discovers that despite his apparently brawny forearms, he is still unable to muster any lifting power – not even enough to lift the glass from the bar. He quickly covers by slurping the drink up with a straw instead of gulping it down. Sandy happens along, and spots the commotion in the bar. Seeing the surprising development of Spongebob, she asks outright what’s his secret. Spongebob improvises that he’s developed his own special exercise regimen, which starts off with arm exercise, in the form of squeezing his armpits to make the sound of a whoopee cushion. A lobster asks, “Are you kidding?” “Do these muscles lie?”, responds Spongebob. Within a moment, he has everyone but Sandy repeating his embarrassing noisemaking. Sandy says she can’t argue with results like Spongebob’s – but that now, he should put his new muscles to the test. An athletic competition, the annual Anchor Toss, is slated at the beach for this afternoon. Sandy heads for the event sign-ups, signing in her own name, and Sponfebob’s too. Spongebob is unable to stop her, as the bartender has served up another drink, placing ir on Spongebob’s inflatable hand, and pinning him to the bar.

At the event, before a stadium of spectators, Spongebob trembles in anticipation of his friends finding out he’s a fraud, while a card section of bleacher fans chants his name. One by one, the contestants fling anchors five times their size. A first shot of 200 yards barely misses the official in charge of measuring the tosses, The stadium announcer calls for an instant replay, and a second anchor drops next to the first, flattening the official. Sandy’s trurn arrives, and she combines her throw with a judo kick, sailing her anchor for a flight of a whopping 500 yards. “Beat that” she challenges Spongebob. Spongebob tries to convince himself he can do this to avoid the humiliation, and blows extra air into each inflatable arm as insurance. He tugs and pulls at the anchor to no avail, then climbs to jump with his whole weight on the anchor crossbar. He only succeeds in tipping the anchor over sideways upon him. Crawling out of the sand, Spongebob plays that he was “Just kidding”, getting a laugh from the crowd. He continues to tug on the fallen anchor, but his exertion begins to shift the air from his appendages into other parts of his body, such as his nose, his eyeballs, and eventually ballooning up his entire torso. The air suddenly shifts entirely back into the arms again, submerging him into a bubbling mass of inflated runner, followed by an explosive pop. Spongebob’s arms wither like festooning ribbons, falling to the ground, as his own arms pop out of his torso to take their place. “I think he lost”, whispers one of the spectators in the card section – and they suddenly change their cards and allegiance to hail the praises of Sandy. Sandy walks up to Spongebob, impatiently tapping her foot, as Spongebob woefully looks upwards at her in hope of sympathy. Without a word exchanged between them, Sandy drags Spongebob off the field. The final scene has Spongebob in Sandy’s airdome, where Spongebob sweats under the effects of Sandy’s new exercise program for him. As he counts up to 100, Sandy insists that he give her 100 more. The exercise? Pushing the button on her TV remote – the kind or exercise Spongebob can handle. Well, maybe, maybe not, as Spongebob’s arm falls off again, and Spongebob asks, “Can you get that?”


I include Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy episode The Fat Guy Strangler (11/27/2005), not for its typically profane plot about an unknown brother of Lois who’s been locked in an insane asylum since his youth and never spoken of for his fixation on murdering all fat guys (brought on by walking in on Jackie Gleason having an affair with his mother), but for a memorable and creative “fat joke” involving Peter. Peter is in denial about being fat, and challenges family dog Brian to prove that he is. Brian calmly accepts the dare, pulling an apple out of a fruitbowl. He tosses the apple parallel with Peter’s midriff, but just slightly off of a collision course. The fruit does not pass by Peter, but settles into a neat circular path, drifting around Peter’s bulging belly. “That’s orbit. You have your own gravitational pull”, explains Brian. To drive home the point, Brian tosses in as additional satellites a cup, a notebook, and the family TV set, all of which settle into their respective places along the same circular path, with Peter laughing at reruns of the Three Stooges as the TV passes before him, then moaning in disappointment every time the set disappears around his “dark side”.


Doggone Biscuits (Disney, Minnie Mouse, 1/16/15 – Eddie Trigueros, dir./Paul Rudish, supervising dir.). Mickey Mouse is off on a trip for a month, and leaves Minnie Mouse in charge of Pluto – with Pluto’s bowl, leash, and a month’s supply of Pluto’s favorite dog biscuits. “He only gets them when he’s good”, Mickey instructs. Affectionate Minnie addresses Pluto, saying “That’s all the time”, and reaches her arm into the bag for a large handful of the treats. But Mickey cautions her against such indulgence, warning her that the biscuits are very fattening. The moment Mickey is gone, Pluto whimpers, and scratches gently at the bag to indicate what he’d like. “I can’t help myself”, Minnie says, and begins feeding Pluto a generous portion of the biscuits.

2 days pass, and a phone call is received from Mickey. He just can’t stand being separated from Pluto, and is cancelling his trip early, planning to be back that afternoon. Minnie is still feeding biscuits to Pluto, then suddenly realizes that the bag is now empty. Worse yet, she finally looks down to see where it has all been going – and discovers she is standing on a brown mountain of blubber that is Pluto’s torso. On cue, Pluto’s weight grows to its maximum from the last biscuit, and he and Minnie crash through the floor into the basement. “Don’t worry, Pluto. I’ll get you back into shape”, says Minnie. Her first idea – “A nice slimming sweater” with which she hopes Mickey will never notice the difference. The sweater trims the areas it covers down to pencil width – but bulges out the blubber into Pluto’s paws and head. Plus, the sweater splits, as Pluto’s expansive mass pops out, and Minnie is pushed through a wall by Pluto’s massive rear end. Minnie struggles to squeeze Pluto through and into the door of her sauna, which she claims ‘worked for me”, showing the audience an old photograph of herself prevously bulging with fat out of her little dress. She turns the thermostat up to “Hot-cha-cha” (the recent catch-phrase for Mortimer Mouse). Once again, Minnie has overdone it, as Pluto emerges shriveled, puckered, and totally dehydrated. Minnie counters this development by placing Pluto’s head under the kitchen sink and filling him up – until he bulges with so much with water, he expands to twice his previous width, filling the entire house and knocking off the front wall. In panic, Minnie tries to get Pluto to go for a jog. Motionless Pluto waves off the suggestion with a flick of one ear, grunting “Nah.” At that moment, a postman passes by, and Pluto instinctively barks at him. “That’s it”, thinks Minnie. “Pluto just needs some motivation.”

A few moments later, Minnie appears, wearing the outfit of a mail carrier. “Special delivery”, she calls out to taunt him. Pluto struggles with all four paws to begin a kind of belly-slide to follow Minnie at a slow crawl. Minnie takes off her hat, to reveal a miniature fire hydrant on her head – to double the motivation and the speed. She then shifts into another gear – by revealing that her mail sack has within it a trio of kittens. Pluto is now following at a good pace. She adds roller skates, then grabs onto the ladder of a passing fire truck. The trick is working, as Pluto is visibly dropping pounds, and beginning to look like his old self, still gaining momentum. That is, until the fire truck reaches a sharp corner. The turn flings Minnie out of her grip upon the ladder, and bounces her off a dog catcher’s wagon, where the impact opens the back gate, releasing a flock of fugitives from the pound. Minnie, still bearing all her dog bait, shouts “Oh dear”, as the dogs take off after her as a natural target. Pluto attempts to follow to the rescue. Ahead of them is a citizen’s front yard, where a hammock is tied between two trees. Minnie and the dogs get tangled up in the hammock, which acts like a slingshot to shoot them into the air, and backwards halfway across town. Pluto follws, also colliding with the hammock. However, he does not get shot into the air, as the hammock instead loosens from the trees, wrapping itself around Pluto’s waist, with its ends trailing behind him. As Pluto reverses course in attempt to catch up with Minnie, his progress is suddenly stopped cold – as the hammock ends have become wrapped around a mailbox. Pluto strains and struggles, and somehow pulls the mailbox from its mountings on the sidewalk, dragging it behind him. With another thud, his progress is stopped again. Now the hammock has snagged a parked car. Determined Pluto still pulls furiously – and now drags both car and mailbox behind him. More thuds and stops follow – but Pluto persists on “doggedly” – until the camera reveals he now has in tow a phone booth, a gas truck, a telephone pole, a small tree and building, an Easter Island stone face sculpture, and a tugboat! Mickey has meanwhile arrived at what used to be Minnie’s front door – just in time to be landed upon by Minnie and the swarm of pound dogs. The scene erupts in a fierce dogfight, and Mickey and Minnie’s heads emerge out of the fight cloud to call for help from Pluto. Hearing his master’s cry, Pluto’s determination becomes twice as strong, and, still with half of what;s not nailed down in the town in tow, Pluto charges the scene of the brawl. With the sound of an explosion, the pound dogs are jettisoned into space with the force of a rocket blast, and Pluto emerges from the fight unscathed – and bulging with muscles developed from his tremendously strenuous workout. “Pluto, you’re ripped!” shouts an appreciative Mickey, as Pluto wags his muscular tail in reaction to his master’s praise. As Mickey hugs his pooch, he tells Minnie, “I was pretty sure I was going to come home to find a big fat Pluto.” Minnie sheepishly giggles, but gives the audience a sidewise shudder to think how close Mickey’s prediction came to coming true.


For a bonus extra, I include a vintage children’s record by Arnold Stang (voice of Herman the Mouse, Top Cat, and Blackie the Sheep) from the late 1950’s, entitled The Hippy Hippo, which is completely on point for our subject matter. This little musical tale tells the story of a hippo who is lured into the exercise and diet kick by a fast-talking broadcast announcer, slims down dramatically, then has to learn how to deal with the shocked reactions of his jungle friends at the concept of a skinny hippo. As with most of the Srang recordings of the period, it was a favorite that got many plays in my childhood, and still holds up well today, as a toon in search of a visual. Hope you enjoy.

So, what is the conclusion of the decades-long battle between fitness and fatness? Which road is the right path to travel? I believe the conclusion is as individual as the personal preferences of the subject person in question, and whatever feels most comfortable to their life style. The consensus of animated opinion appears to be that trying to change from one extreme to the other may be living a lie, and seldom has lasting effect. The trick is to find what lifestyle works for you without stressing yourself silly, and to learn to be satisfied with it. Mr. Wizard the Lizard (from Tooter Turtle), always summed it up best. “Be just what you is, not what you is not. Folks what do this, are the happiest lot.”

13 Comments

  • The back of the Shnookums and Meat pasta can has this gem: “Meat is a character developed by Buena Vista Television. THERE IS NO MEAT IN THIS PRODUCT.”

    • Sounds like they were channeling the vibe of Frank Tashlin’s dog food can in Warner Brothers’ “Behind the Meat-Ball” (1945).

  • One of the many brilliant songs in Animaniacs was “Be Careful What You Eat” (Warner Bros./Steven Spielberg, 15/10/93 — lyrics by Randy Rogel; music by Jacques Offenbach). Yakko, Wakko and Dot go to a supermarket and recite the list of chemical ingredients on packages of ice cream and candy, to the tune of the famous Can-Can from “Orpheus in the Underworld”. In a coda the siblings, by now bloated and obese, sing a concluding verse: “We like sweets a lot, / So give us all you’ve got / And we’ll stuff them in our bodies till they make our insides rot!” However, on the record album this was changed to: “We like sweets a lot, / But they make your insides rot, / So remember it’s your body and the only one you’ve got.” Way to ruin a joke, you blasted censors.

    Mr. Wizard’s wise epigram was echoed by Soupy Sales, who sang on the Silly Sidney storybook record:

    “To try to be what you aren’t,
    Isn’t very smarn’t.
    If you try to be a-happy with a-who you are,
    And you try to be a-happy with a-what you do,
    You’ll have a lot more fun,
    And you’ll have a lot more friends,
    And you’ll see that what I say is true:
    That the most enjoyable thing you can be is you!
    Th-that’s YOU!”

    To you, Soupy, Mr. Wizard and all the cartoon characters in this Animation Trail, I raise my glass of port — and my ice cream spoon! Bon appetit!

  • “Scareobicize” (Universal/Harvey/Amblin Television, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, 3/11/97 — Marija Miletic Dail, dir.) opens with the Ghostly Trio too lethargic even to press the buttons on the TV remote, while Casper is full of energy even after waiting on them hand and foot all day. Casper credits his vitality to his exercise regimen; and when he adds that his teacher Miss Banshee is attracted to ghosts with buff bodies, his three uncles decide to give the program a whirl. At that very moment a door-to-door salesghost arrives with an inventory of exercise videos. Casper buys one and pops it into the VCR, and in short order Stretch, Fatso and Stinky are following the instructor in a variety or rigorous calisthenics — until, one by one, they vanish into this air. Puzzled, Casper checks the label on the cassette and discovers that the exercise video is really an EXORCISE video, for getting rid of unwanted ghosts.

    Meanwhile, the three reappear in the lair of the fitness guru, who turns out to be a comedian turned supervillain. His scheme is to capture corpulent ghosts with his exorcise videos and then use their excess ectoplasm to create a monster, a Frankenstein-like ghost named Gordy. When Gordy becomes powerful enough, he will force the world to listen to the villain’s comedy act (sort of a ghostly version of Robert De Niro’s character in “The King of Comedy”, though clearly modelled on Jerry Lewis). But when Casper shows up (having continued to play the video) and is captured, Gordy absorbs just enough of his ectoplasm to transform from fearsome to friendly, rendering the villain’s plot null and void. Casper and the Ghostly Trio return home by the simple expedient of hitting the Rewind button on the VCR remote, which takes them, and us, back to the beginning of the story. The End!

  • Excellent post!

    Doggone Biscuits sure is funny, but I’ve never reconciled to the character redesign. And the tone is like someone wanted to make Fleischer cartoon with Disney characters.

    Thanks for the series!

  • In “Grande Size Me” (Disney, Kim Possible, 3/3/07), Kim’s sidekick Ron Stoppable wants to prove a point to his health class teacher by eating all of his meals at the fast food outlet Bueno Nacho, and in so doing he puts on an alarming amount of weight. But when he and Kim are on a mission at a conclave of villains, he is exposed to a mutagenic chemical that reacts to the junk food in his system, giving him an even more ravenous appetite. Eventually he transforms into a giant rampaging colossus, much like the Incredible Hulk, but orange (Disney had not yet acquired the rights to the Marvel universe). The process is ultimately reversed when Kim’s little brothers force-feed healthful fresh vegetables to Ron by firing them into his mouth with a bazooka.

  • In Japanese anime, stories about fitness and exercise are often little more than a flimsy excuse for fanservice, as seen in the third episode of Sailor Moon, “Slim City” (28/3/92 [Japan], 30/8/95 [USA]). (I am relying here on the DiC dub, which is far from faithful to the original, but it’s the only one I have.)

    When Serena weighs herself after getting out of the bath, she is distraught to find that she has gained half a pound and resolves to go on a diet. At school she and her friends notice how good their teacher Miss Haruna has been looking lately; the creepy boy Melvin informs them that she has joined a health spa, and he shows them the photos he has surreptitiously taken of her working out in a sexy leotard. The girls go to the spa and, immediately enamored with the handsome fitness instructor who runs the place, decide to join themselves and begin exercising in their school gym uniforms. After the workout they are encouraged to use the spa’s “relaxation pods”, rather like the sensory deprivation tanks that were popular in the ’90s. However, it turns out that the fitness instructor is none other than Jadeite, a minion of Queen Beryl of the Negaverse, and the “relaxation pods” are really machines designed to drain the vital energy from his victims. Serena transforms into Sailor Moon and uses her Moon Tiara Magic to destroy the energy-draining pods and send Jadeite fleeing back to the Negaverse.

    As always, DiC attached a life lesson to the end of the episode, which seems apposite here. “Starving yourself and exercising till you drop is not a smart way to lose weight. If you think you need to lose weight, talk to someone who really knows, like a doctor. It can save your life, and please remember, real beauty really does come from the inside. Sailor Moon says!”

  • In “Radio Free Bunny” (Disney, Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, 22/7/05), the obnoxious and unpopular Mr. Whiskers accidentally swallows a falling meteor and discovers that, by adjusting the angle of his rabbit ears like an antenna, he can pick up and play radio frequencies. Now a source of music and entertainment, he quickly becomes the most popular animal in the jungle. His first hint that this might be a mixed blessing comes when a pumped puma forces him to get up early in the morning to air the daily exercise program.

  • In honor of the late Eric Carle, I feel that “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (1993) also deserves a quick mention.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75NQK-Sm1YY

  • The French anime series Totally Spies! explored the issue of overeating in the episode “Passion Patties” (11/5/02). When a new brand of cookies called Passion Patties (“a minty chocolate miracle in your mouth!”) becomes so popular that people will sell all they own and commit violent acts just to get more of them, teen spies Sam, Clover and Alex are sent to the Happy Girl Cookie Time factory in Switzerland to investigate. Sam and Alex don’t like the taste of mint, but when Clover tries a Passion Patty she is immediately hooked and begins stuffing herself with voracious abandon. The cookies turn out to be the brainchild of the evil Dr. Inge Bittersweet, who has infused them with an addictive substance (a highly concentrated sugar extract) as part of a plot to take over the world. The spies foil the plot by the simple solution of turning up the heat in the warehouse, causing the cookies to melt. Clover, by this time, has gotten so fat that she’s practically spherical (and looks absolutely grotesque in an Alpine dirndlkleid). But that’s okay, because the spy agency has an antidote that helps her regain her slender figure posthaste. Such a miracle cure for obesity would, I think, be a lot more profitable than an addictive mint chocolate cookie.

  • The girls of the Italian animated series Winx Club rely on magical powers rather than physical strength, and they never gain an ounce of fat on their svelte figures (except for the Season 3 story arc where Chimera and Cassandra turn Stella into a swamp monster, but magic got her into that mess, and magic got her out). However, a gym is the setting for an unauthorised pornographic fan video featuring the show’s main character, titled “Bloom’s Sexy Workout”. Google it if you will — but you must be eighteen!

  • I had a hunch there might be animated exercise cartoons for children on YouTube today. There are — lots of them — and they’re every bit as dreadful as “Mighty Mr. Titan”. Of special note are “Yuvi Story Aerobics”; the website doesn’t say who produced them, though there are testimonials from a number of Croatian physical trainers, most of whom have the first name of Blaz. Yuvi is a live-action fitness instructor in a creepy monkey costume superimposed over flash-animated backgrounds. He does not speak, but a narrator with a posh English accent tells children that they must do exactly what Yuvi does in order to help him survive the perils of the story. Yuvi has to jump, squat, lunge, twist, and otherwise cavort to avoid being carried off by vultures, eaten by lions, trampled by cape buffalo, struck by lightning, etc. Download the app today, and let Yuvi frighten your children into the fitter future of their nightmares!

  • Lovely tribute to Deviantart.

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