Animation Trails
April 21, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Fitness vs. Fatness (Part 3)

We continue our survey of animation’s war on weight – whether to put on the pounds, take them off, or somehow let them sit in limbo. This week’s helping of excess calories provides a split between the overeaters and the fitness freaks, in hopes of balancing the scales as opposed to the polarized split of viewpoints presented in the preceding two installments.

Slightly out of chronological sequence again, but still in the year of 1936 where we left off with the exercise gurus from Part 1 of this series, comes Home Town Olympics (Terrytoons/Educational, 2/30/36 – Paul Terry/Frank Moser, dir.) The animals of Farmer AlFalfa’s barnyard (he himself appears in only two scenes – to fire off the starting gun for the final race, and to hold up the banner for the finish line at the film’s climax) stage their own Olympic competition, with all the usual track and field events and feats of strength. Preliminary, however, to the games’ commencement, everybody heads for the workout facilities to get in shape. Not too many rip-snorting gags here. Just a trio of horses skipping rope. A horse, dog and pig practicing pacing for the long distance track events on a treadmill powered by two puppies (with the pig almost doing a George Jetson by nearly stumbling off the rear end of the belt). A perspective shot of a horse approaching and retreating from the camera on a rowing machine. And a pig whose rotund belly isn’t firming up well from mere massage, who is sent into a steam cabinet, emerging from the pressure cooking slimmed down to a rail, and collapsing from weakness on the spot. The various events take up the remainder of the reel, climaxing wuth a turtle getting swept into the marathon race, and even outracing the helicopter-eared hare by converting his shell into a racing car chassis and roaring past for the victory.


Gym Jams (Charles Mintz/Columbia, Krazy Kat, 9/9/38 – Allen Rose/Harry Love, dir.), is as active and energetic as a good workout should be. Krazy Kat (for once voiced by Mel Blanc, who also appears to provide voicing for all remaining cast members) plays the Vic Tanny style proprietor of a successful all-animal gymnasium, wearing traditional turtle-neck gym shirt. He has a large clientele. The opening shot plays a camera fake-out upon the audience, appearing to depict a quartet of animals in the field, strenuously rowing, horseback riding, cycling, and doing road-work jogging – only to pull back for a reveal that each is only on an exercise machine in Krazy’s gym, with a moving background scrolling behind them to give the inspirational illusion of movement (much like Mack Sennett’s famous “treadmill camera” rotating stage in the silent era). Two new customers sign up for memberships – polar opposites of one another. A hefty pig wants to reduce, while a dog who is so skinny that he seems to be built of pipe cleaners asks to be built up (before collapsing from fatigue upon Krazy’s desk). Krazy pushes buttons to signal various attendants to assist with the training. On the other end of the facility, the attendants are signaled by being bopped on the head by mechanical hands from the wall, wearing boxing gloves. The pig receives a galloping ride on a mechanical exercise horse, while the dog trains by lifting Indian clubs, which only manages to twist his wiry limbs into braids around himself. Several other customers enjoty various designs of steam cabinets. One original gag has a customer screaming to be let out of his cabinet, and when the doors open, the customer and the attendant are nearly swept out of the gym, riding upon a veritable wave of sweat. Elsewhere, an octopus massuese gives another member a working over on a table, adding a few unnecessary blows to the head, which causes the member to register one blow to the octopus’s crown. Krazy kimself conduct a calisthenics class for three elephants, leading them in high-kicking. The elephants finally kick too high, slipping and falling heavily upon their rear ends, putting the entire building through the forces of a minor earthquake.

Amidst all this activity, a news report is heard over the radio, telling of the escape of Big Bad Hippo, armed and dangerous. On cue, loud knocks are heard at the door, which bursts open to reveal the villain, shooting his way in for an effective entrance, and demanding to know, “Where’s da boss of dis joint?” No one bothers to answer him. Instead, all the customers head for the hills (one ostrich uproots the steam pipeline for the pot-belly stove-style steam cabinet he is in, and carries off the cabinet with him). Krazy is left to face the tough guy alone, who demands that Krazy reduce him, so the cops won’t “get wise” and recognize him. But Krazy has his own ideas on how to accomplish this. He makes a run for it, luring the crook into a mechanical roller device than clamps onto him and holds him while rollers squash his rolls of fat up and down. Krazy takes this opporunity to attempt to phone for the police. But the crook overhears, breaks out of the machine, and comes out shooting. Krazy next climbs over a wooden hurdle, with the villain following. But the hurdle is really the base of a set of medeival stocks, with the top piece closing down and locking the crook’s hands and head into holes. Behind the crook, Krazy lifts the lid off what appears to be a large metal serving tray of the type used for gourmet dinners – revealing the octopus, who uses his eight boxing-gloved hands to beat rhythmically upon the crook’s defenseless and paunchy bottom. Krazy again tries for the phone. But the ever-resourceful hippo breaks loose again, tying the octopus into knots through the stock holes. Krazy climbs onto and leaps from a springboard into the air, landing on a trapeze platform. The hippo leaps too, but Krazy swings the trapeze into him in mid-air, causing the villain to land in one of the steam cabinets. Krazy turns on the pressure, which builds so high that the entire cabinet bursts off its piping and flies around the room like a deflating balloon, landing with a crash in front of Krazy’s desk. Now for the old stock gag, as the hippo emergest from the cabinet, shrunken to half the size of Krazy. “Look what’cha done ta me!”, he wails, and tries to swing blows at Krazy. But now, the hippo’s arms are so short that Krazy merely holds him away at a safe distance with his own arm’s length, then blows at him as if a feather’s weight backwards to the attendants’ bench, where the boxing-gloved mechanical hands deliver a well-deserved beating to the thug for the iris out.


Donald’s Cousin Gus (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 5/3/39 – Jack King, dir.) – The only golden-age theatrical appearance of comic strip secondary character, Gus Goose (who I do not believe made further appearance until ABC’s “House of Mouse” series). Unlike the comic strip conception, Gus is played here as an entirely pantomime character, only communicating when necessary by honking, accomplished with a squeeze of his tail feathers like a klaxon horn. He is also not very bright, only identifying Dona;d’s house as his intended destination by reading Donald’s name off a note held upside down, then turning Donald’s mailbox upside down so it matches. The one thing he is, however, is a world-class eater – the one guy who might fairly be able to square off against Garfield. He carries with him the original model of a watch that would become a signature timepiece for Woody Woodpecker in several cartoons of the 1950’s – with a face bearing no numbers – only the names of various meals of the day. Gus of course arrives at Donald’s just in time for dinner, with a full table of courses for the taking. He begins by devouring a bowl of pea soup, alternating double soup spoons for each hand with the propelling swiftness of an outboard motor. An ear of corn is regulated through his beak like the carriage of a typewriter. A stack of bread slices and a pile of coldcuts are shuffled and dealt like cards to create one monster “Dagwood” sandwich, then its contents flipped with one hand into Gus’s bill, descending down his throat in a visible column. Producing two knitting needles, Gus knits a bowl of spaghetti into a neat saucy stocking, then uses the needles as chopsticks to raise the artcle above his head, allowing him to grab the loose end of a strand in his mouth and slurp down the entire bowl with one inhale. “Clever, these Chinese”, Donald comments. “I’d better get started”, Donald adds, reaching for a long loaf of French bread. Gus also grabs the same loaf, and the two play a game of “high hand” in grasping the bread as if they were deciding a contest over a bat in baseball. Gus cheats by pushing the loaf upwards from the bottom, providing extra space for his other hand to slip in a grip on the bread as high man. Donald can’t even get a cup of coffee, as Gus dunks the entire bread loaf in the cup, soaking up completely its contents excepting one drop. Gus spins the dinner table like a lazy Susan to attack a chocolate cake, pilling the old gag of slicing a small slice, then leaving the slice and consuming the remaining five-sixths of the cake whole. “Two can play at this game”, Donald threatens, grabbing away a banana in each hand. Gus squeezes Donald’s fists in his own palms, squeezing the contents of the bananas out of their peels and into Gus’s mouth. Donald seizes a tray of donuts. Gus outthinks him again by inserting the shaft of a small umbrella into the holes of the stack, then opening the umbrella to pop all the donuts into the same destination gullet as the other food courses. Finally, a bowl of peas remains the only target left. Gus sucks at the contents through a straw, drawing the peas in a single file row across the table. Donald attempts to save the last pea, and a tug of war commendes between Gus’s straw and Donald’s bill, sucking in opposite directions, with the pea suspended in mid-air between them. Gus cuts out Donald’s competition by raising an empty teapot between them, encircling the pea and leaving only the spout aimed in Gus’s direction as an exit point, pulling out the pea into Gus’s straw.

Donald has had enough. He attempts to remove Gus bodily from the premises with a wheeled dolly. Gus continues to consume while being rolled, grabbing a fruit bowl off Donald’s coffee table as he is wheeled through the living room. Using his umbrella handle, he performs a somersault by hooking the handle onto a window framing above the front door, lifting him back into the house through the transom window above, and leaving Donald bouncing down the porch steps with an empty cart, crashing into his own mailbox. Donald still claims to have one secret weapon to remove this pest. Entering through a back door to his kitchen, Donald opens the refrigerator and removes a large wiener from a box marked “Bow-Wow Hot Dogs”. A label attached indicates it is a trick “Barking Hot Dog – a sure way to get rid of hungry relatives.” “Come and get it”, calls Donald to Gus, while “petting” the hot dog and asking it to “Do your stuff.” Gus appears like a rocket, and swallows the hot dog. “Now for the fun”, Donald asides to the audience, and meows like a cat. Miraculously, the hot dog behins barking aloud inside Gus’s stomach cavity, seeming to bulge out of Gus’s flab as if it would burst through to get at the feline. “Lie down”, commands Donald. The dog pulls Gus to a position prostrate on the floor. “Roll over”, calls out Donald. The dog flips Gus over on his back. “At last I’ve got him”, whispers Donald, producing a small bone. “Go get it”, Donald says as his final command, tossing the bone out the front door. The hot dog pulls Gus along across the floor, dragging him outside, while Donald bolts the door. Donald laughs in victory, but hears a crash from the rear of the house. Donald reenters the kitchen, to find a hole in the back door matching Gus’s silhouette, and hears a clock alarm sounding from inside the refrigerator. He opens the refrigerator door, to find Gus seated inside the device among small icicles, devouring what is left of Donald’s remaining food off an interior shelf. Gus pushes into Donald’s view with his foot the still ringing watch seen earlier, which now points its hand to the setting, “Cold Lunch”. “Oy Oy”, cries Donald, and faints face first into the camera lens, for the iris out.


Beauty Shoppe (Ub Iwerks/Cartoon Films Limited, Gran’pop Monkey, release date unknown (most sources state 1940, while Internet Animation Database speculates 1939)). One of only three films produced in this attempt to launch a new Iwerks series. Gran’pop and his two grandson chimps wait idly in an empty barber shop, unable to attract any customers to their new business venture. Even Gran’pop admits they’re failures, but wonders where they’ll eat if he closes up shop. One grandson spies another business across the street doing amazingly well – a ladies beauty shop where customers throng – and realizes they could clean up if they were in the same racket. Gran’pop sees merit in the idea, and gives his grandson a wink. The next day, they have performed a business makeover, with new signage for Gran’pop’s Beauty Shoppe, offering free finger wave. The girls flock from the rival establishment into Gran’pop’s front door. Gran’pop’s first customer, a long-eared dog, wants a singe treatment for her head fur. Gran’pop applies a small blow torch, which sends a small army of fleas packing their grips and vacating. Gran’pop suggests the dog should do something about her fleas. “Why should I?”, she responds, “They never did a thing for me.”

Coming down the street walks a tough, derby-hatted gorilla, and his inter-species girlfriend – a fat hippopotamus. Spying the beauty shoppe, the gorilla pictires the dream doll they might be able to convert his girlfriend into – envisioning in her place a human bathing beauty. He drags the hippo inside, telling all the other customers to scram. He then confronts Gran’pop with the proposition that he make the girl beautiful in ten minutes – or else. Gran’pop utilizes all his facilities to transform the hopeless subject. including a device to mechanically “roll off” the pounds similar to Krazy Kat’s, but utilizing actual wooden rolling pins attached to straps. The machine onlty succeeds in giving the hippo’s fat the wiggles, the flab layers continuing to roll up and down even when she is removed from the machine. A waist-belt massager of the type used by Betty Boop is applied, powered by a large clockwork spring-wound motor. The mainspring busts and spins uncontrollably, giving the hippo another case of the rapid-fire jitters, but no visible loss of poundage. Time is running out, as measured by a cuckoo clock which eventually transforms into a miniature duplicate of the gorilla in place of the bird. The monkeys place the hippo into a barrel and connect a steam hose through a knothole, providing a makeshift steam cabinet. While inside, the hippo asks for a mud pack. Gran’pop instructs one of his grandsons to go out and obtain the mud. Instead, rhe younf chimp acquires a load of cement in a hod carrier at a nearby construction yard. Making sure the customer really wants this, Gran’pop applies the mixture with the admonition, “You asked for it.” The goop hardens, until Gran’pop can’t even break it off with a chisel. One of his grandsons suggests and provides a sledge hammer. Gran’pop gives a mighty swing – which appears to knock the whole concrete head clean off the barrel. The monkeys hesitatingly turn the stone head over to see if their customer has been decapitated – only to find the concrete is now hollow, with nothing inside at all. “Where is she?”, they ask. A look in the barrel provides the answer – the hippo has withered, to a shriveled, wrinkled, scrawny mess. Back comes Mr. Gorilla, looking for results or a fight. Despite efforts to stall, Granp’pop is forced to lift the barrel to reveal his “creation”. Seeing the result, the gorilla fumes, stomps in anger upon his own hat, and lunges at the monkeys. The two grandsons burst through the shop wall, dash at blinding speed for home in a blur, and bolt the home’s front door, giving up the shop as a bad business after all. They wonder how poor Gran’pop made out with the gorilla. To their surprise, they find Gran’pop already in the living room, confortably seated in his rocker, having beaten the boys back home. “I’m tip top. But what detained you boys?”, he asks, as he settles down to read a copy of Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.


Mention should be made of a series of George Pal Puppetoons produced in Europe under a commercial contract as soft-sell thatrical advertisements for the Horlick’s remedy for “night starvation” – basically, a malted milk supplement that was supposed to keep you from getting undernourished during the hours you slept. The actual benefits of this concoction were probably pure quackery (though, to be honest, I have always preferred consuming a little something just before bed to feel refreshed in the morning, so maybe there’s something to it). Nevertheless, these “quick fix” remedies in Pal’s pictures always guaranteed that a tired, listless specimen would awaken with the strength and stamina of a Superman come the dawn. Pal historians may know of a more complete list of the titles released in this series of films, but the most commonly known are “The Sky Pirates” (an air corps awakens to rout bandit planes), “What Ho, She Bumps” (a naval fleet successfully captures and vanquishes a pirate crew), and “South Sea Sweethearts” (a weak island boy is revived by an explorer carrying the concoction, allowing him to rescue his voluptuous girlfriend from cannibal kidnappers). They all tell the same tale, but with vivid, elaborate animation pleasant to behold. “South Sea Sweethearts” was curiously included in the Paramount release schedule when Pal emigrated to America, including the complete Horlick’s pitch, which Paramount probably figured no American would recognize as product-placement anyway.


The Milky Way (MGM, 6/22/40 – Rudolf Ising, dir.) – The Oscar-winning short that finally broke through the Disney dynasty for such gold may not technically stand as a case of over-eating, but of over-drinking – and of a fluid not even alcoholic. The three little kittens of nursery rhyme fame receive as punishment for losing their mittens a one-way trip straight to bed, without supper. Much in the way Huey, Louie and Dewey would address such a situation, they ponder and scheme what to do about this upsetting situation. Suddenly, one of the kittens spies a large wicker basket, and three balloons resting in their room, while another observes the celestial Milky Way, speculating that if they could only get there, they’d have plenty for dinner. One idea compliments another, and the three schemers start plotting. Out the window they go, riding in the basket with the balloons tied on for propulsion. After a somewhat harrowing voyage, including dodging a comet train and “shooting stars” fired from cannon on the planet Mars, they finally reach their destination. It is everything they’d hoped for – a magical land where everything seems to be made of some form of milk. The kittens waste no time in getting busy – and getting well bloated. Giant bottles and pitchers filled with their favorite foodstuff surround them, complete with convenient straws so that one grabs a sip out of a tall bottle as their airship floats by. They decide to bail out by diving, the first landing in a pitcher, splashing its contents skyward – but quickly ingested on the downward fall by the kitten merely opening his mouth in wait for it. The second comfortably lands in a bowl, sucking up its contents from below the surface level. The third kitten decides to perfom a swan dive from a position standing on top of the balloons, but lands with a metallic crash into a seemingly empty steel tin. He looks up for an explanation, and sees a trail of fluid from a can vanishing before the substance can even reach the pan. The product? Evaporated Milk. Strange native plant life provides further tasty treats, as one kitten squirts milk into another’s mouth, using nipple-shaped growths on the plants as if squeezing a cow’s udder. The plant is, of course, Milk Weed. (With the number of visual puns in this episode, it’s a wonder the script didn’t wait a few years to appear at Famous Studios.) The third kitten gets hit with a splash of the milk, and tumbles backwards into a large tablespoon, where another fluid falls into his mouth, causing him to react with unusual distaste and disgust. He looks up to see the source of same as a bottle lodged in a clod above, labeled “Milk of Magnesia”. (Okay, pun lovers. Groan if you will.)

A “filling station” consists of tall milk bottles resembling gasoline pumps, from which the kittens each grap a nipple at the end of a hose, and suck until the transparent filling tank above is drained dry. A kitten pats on his tummy to see if he is really full, and his distended belly droops out of his pajamas onto the ground, to the kitten’s mild embarrassment. Next, a field of geysers a la Yellowstone Park, all shooting milk from rubber nipples. Of course, there is an “Old Faithful”. As its timed eruption takes place, one kitten catches its contents in his belly. However, this milk has a side effect, as pressure begins to build up inside him, for an internal eruption. If Tex Avery had been here, this might have resulted in a huge burp. If John Kricfalusi had been in charge, the direction of release would have come out the other end. As it is, the presure vibrates the kitten with rumbling tremors, then shoots the kitten skywatd as if mirroring the eruption. He lands on a giant cream puff, covering his brothers in the sticky filling. Another rocket blast from a second eruption lands him on a spouted pitcher, shooting a flow of milk at his brothers that sends them awash to a dammed milk reservoir named “Milk Toast Falls”, named for the material the dam wall is constructed of. (This sign gag is almost lost to the audience entirely, being too far off to one side of the screen, and twice panned past too fast for the viewer to have time to register a reading of the sign.) A third tummy eruption lands the third kitten in the reservoir, knocking a hole in the dam wall. The kittens fall into a giant milk churn powered by tablespoon-shaped rotating blades as if a windmill. On the side of the structure, three picture wheels rotate as if on a slor machine until they reach the word, “Jackpot”, and the kittens are ejected our a chute in a flood of milk. Amid floating pats of butter, the kittens reach the end of this magical world. Slipping on a retaining wall of more butter pats, they helplessly dangle at world’s edge, each clutching in single file to the other’s pajamas, with a direction sign visible on an asteroid far below, pointing downwards to “Earth, 8,000,000,000,000,000 miles.” (This sign must have been intended for returning passengers from the space voyage Little Cheeser attempted in Harman-Ising’s earlier classic, “Little Buck Cheeser”, where a similar directional sign to the moon was encountered.) Wouldn’t you know it that the high man on this totem pole is the kitten who drank from the geyser, whose tummy begins to rumble again, sending the other two into a scramble to climb back up before their brother jettisons them all into the re-entry of all re-entries. As this scene of chaos plays itself out, the view dissolves back to the kittens bedroom, where they are all merely danglling from the bedsheets of their large bed, awakening from a dream, and tumble onto the floor. As they shake their heads and look around to regain their bearings, a knock is heard at their door. It’s Mama, who has relented, and says they can come down to supper after all. The kittens shout, “Hooray”, and scramble down the stairs to not be the last to arrive at the table. But they all freeze in their tracks when they see what’s being served for dinner, and keel over in a “Mutt and Jeff” style faint. What else – more milk.


The Hungry Goat (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 6/25/43 – Dan Gordon, dir.) – A creative and off-the-wall, uncharacteristic episode for the super-human sailor, departing from usual formula. We know it is different early on, as an on-screen member of our own supposed theatre audience observes aloud, “Aw, why don’t Popeye eat his spinach and sock him one?” Wartime provides the premise (as with many Dan Gordon ventures), but this time is played strictly for laughs instead of propaganda. In the manner of Bugs Bunny in Tex Avery’s ”Tortoise Beats Hare”, our goat walks past the title card of the film, then becomes cognizant of what it said. “Did my eyes deceive me?”, he soliloquizes, then breaks the fourth wall (for the first of many times in the picture), calling to the projectionist to run the film backwards back to the title to double-check. Realizing he has to play the film hungry, although he claims he is already starving now, the goat becomes a pathetic figure, desperate for a meal that goes “jingle jangle jingle” (reference to a then popular Western novelty song topping the hit parade by Kay Kyser and his Orchestra). The goat thinks he has found the solution to his problem when he encounters a pile of tin cans on the curbside. His front tooth protrudes in the style of a can opener. However, his dive for the pile misses, as the entire stack is scooped up by a clawdigger shovel attached to a truck, collecting scrap metal for the war effort. The goat wanders aimlessly to the local docks, muttering about “priorities”, and wondering how a goat’s supposed to get a square meal. He decides one solurion would be to “take a powder” by ending it all. With a flying leap, he launches himself off the end of the pier – but collides headfirst with an anchored battleship, bouncing backwards to the pier again. “A guy can’t even commit suicide”, he protests – but then views the ship itself in a way only a goat could – entirely made of metal, and transformed in his mind’s eye into the world’s largest pile of tin cans. As his eyes bug out in wonderment, he races up the gangplank to start off with a tidbit – then realizes he is not alone. Seeing the posterior of Popeye around a corner swabbing the deck, the goat observes “Trouble rears its ugly face.” The goat thus first sets up a booby trap, of an open hatchway atop which he props a deck cannon and several cannonballs. He creeps up behind Popeye, and devours the metal pail for Popeye’s washing water, then hands Popeye the water minus its surrounding pail, which splashes in Popeye’s hands, leaving him holding a stray fish who was a stowaway inside the bucket. Popeye pursues, but falls into the hatchway, and jars loose the cannon and cannonballs, which fall into the hatchway to clunk him.

The goat sets to work. He invades the admiral’s private dining quarters, ignoring the fancy meal set out on the table in favor of devouring the gourmet silverware. Next, he lies on his back on the deck, pulling from a hole in the front deck the anchor chain, which he consumes as if it were large strands of spaghetti, pausing only momentarily to ask the audience, “I’m normal, ain’t I?” He nibbles across the surface of atrillery shells as if he were attacking an ear of corn. Popeye finally reappears from below decks, in the form of his arms protruding from a ship’s funnel above the goat, armed with a mallet. The goat calmly turns the funnel around, placing Popeye’s arms above the head of the Admiral who has emerged for an inspection. Naturally, the goat gets Popeye in bad, while he himself befriends the Admiral for warning him of the danger, introducing himself to the Admiral under the name “Billy the Kid.” The Admiral directs Popeye to watch the ship and be sure that no harm comes to his little friend, while the Admiral himself goes “To the movies – Nyahhh!”, by means of a taxi cab that literally drives on deck to pick him up. Once the Admiral is gone, Popeye threateningly pursues the goat again, untill Billy warns him that the Admiral had said he was going to the movies, and might be sitting out there in the audience right now. Looking out from the screen, Billy in fact spies the Admiral’s silhouette among the theatre patrons, and calls out a cheery “Hi”, to him, leaving Popeye with no recourse but to merely stand at attention and salute. The goat takes this opportunity to sock Popeye with his own mallet. Much chasing ensues, with the goat ensuring that the Admiral doesn’t get wise to his true intentions by pushing slides into the picture screen calling the Admiral to the lobby phone, while the goat performs his dirty work upon Popeye. Popeye is lured to run past the edge of a deck into open air, with the goat calling command for “Attention”, leaving Popeye standing on nothing, then “At ease” to leave him to fall – onto a lower deck and the prop of a plane, which carries him off the ship into the skies. The goat continues his feast, munching on a torpedo wrapped in a deck plate as if a hot dog in a bun, then generally leaving bite holes everywhere in the gun turrets, forward railings, and sides of the ship. Back in the theatre, a kid laughs and points out to the Admiral that Billy is eating the boat. The aghast Admiral clamors to escape down the aisle for the exits, and on screen in seen returning to the ship in the taxi. Calling Popeye to jump from the plane and report back on deck, he asks where is the goat? The goat knows an exit cue when he sees one, and the camera pulls back to reveal the goat, now occupying the seat where the admiral had been in the theatre, laughing himself silly at the hapless two he has left on the screen, while the Paramount logo fades in to replace Popeye and the Admiral onscreen for the fade out.


Be Patient, Patient (Columbia/Screen Gems, Fox and Crow, 11/30/44 – Bob Wickersham, dir.), perhaps doesn’t fit cleanly into this trail, as no exercise is performed, nor does the multitude of food get actually consumed – but it does revolve upon the problems of staying on a diet, and, since it’s a fun little episode, we’ll include it here for the sake of argument. Throughout their many encounters, Crow’s motivations as concerning Fox have frequently turned to thoughts of food, and ravaging Fox’s supply. In this episode, Fox finds himself on the spot, in a sutuation literally inviting Crow’s unwanted intervention. Fox, the rich occupant of a substantial mansion, has apparently “lived the good life” too well, and has been placed on a strict “milk toast” diet by doctor’s prescription – or else. Deprived of the finer things he has become used to, Fox nervously attempts to occupy his mind by reading the morning paper, encountering unexpectedly a full page ad for catered deliveries from “Black’s Market” (a reference to the under the counter “black market” for rationed foodstuffs during the war). Noting the phone number in the ad, Fox nevertheless puts up a front of attempting to continue his reading to place temptation behind him – but his hand subconsciously tiptoes out from behind the paper, and seizes the telephone. Fox resorts to his baser instincts, phoning the market, and asking for practicalluuy everything offered in their aisles (not missing an express reference to his favorite food as established in his first cartoon and in other prior appearances – “a HU-UU-UGE bunch of grapes!”. Fox does not realize that his phone wire has been tapped, and, listing in on a homemade tin-can phone from inside a nearby telephone pole is his lifelong adversary, Crow, who overhears the order. Crow sneaks in his own two cents by adding at the end of the order a request over the line for a big pumpkin pie. But before hanging up, Fox warns the grocer to “watch out for a thieving crow”. Crow disconnects his apparatus in disgust at this comment. “It’s a insult. A nervy guy, that Fox.”

Crow scouts the mansion entrance as the market supplies arrive – in an armored car, accompanied by three armed guards carrying rifles. Crow drools as enough food for a banquet hall passes through the doors. A few minutes later, Fox sits at the head of a feast, about to raise fork and knife, when a shout of “Stop!” is heard from down the hall. Crow enters, in the disguise of an elderly physician. He cautions Fox as to whether he is trying to kill himself, instructing him that each various food is out – not to mention the expensive cigars Fox gas added for an after-dinner smoke. Fox melts into his chair in disappointment, and Crow insists that he doesn’t look so good. Crow rigs a thermometer to fever pitch over a lighted match. He asks Fox to look at himself in the mirror, and the worried patsy visualizes himself as a skeleton. Crow is about to swallow two thirds of a multi-layer dessert cake, but is grabbed away from the food by Fox, who begs for a remedy. Crow insists on performing a physical examination, and lets Fox listen to his own heartbeat through a stethoscope. However, he slips the other end of the device away from Fox’s heart, and over to a set of drums behind a curtain, beating out a drum solo guaranteed to throw Fox into a panic. Fox endures the mental tortures of the danned, turns green, and faints away to unconsciousness. Crow attempts to pile the table of food onto a wheelbarrow, but Fox begins to come to.

Crow turns to plan B (where do these characters get their budgets for handy props?), and converts the room with fake cloud curouts, cotton batting, and a fake pearly gates, into a makeshift Heaven. (A similar ruse would later be used by rival Paramount studios in Herman and Katnip’s “Mice Capades”.) Crow appears suspended from a cable and pulley, flying above in a fake angel disguise, as Fox opens his eyes. “Can it be possible?” moans Fox in shocked amazement. Crow confirms his suspicions by draping Fox in an angel robe, complete with wings. “Yipe!”, cries Fox. However, seeing the wings, Fox realizes that now he should be able to fly. Crow says it’s true, and invites him to solo. Fox flexes his shoulders, and takes off – as Crow has also hooked a cable onto Fox’s robes, and manipulates his actions with the levers of an engine concealed behind one of the fake clouds. (Again, what a prop budget! Crow should have been able to afford his own banquet.) After Fox enjoys his spin, Crow offers him a friendly challenge of a race to the “Poily Gates”. Fox runs around to pace himself for the challenge, while Crow secretly snips Fox’s cable wire with a pair of shears. They’re off. As crow soars past Fox, Fox runs in attempt to build up take-off speed. Crow reaches the gates first, pulling their false-front panels open. Behind them is a large window of Fox’s mansion, through which the non-airborne Fox crashes without stopping, plummeting several stories down, through trees, a street billboard, and landing in a contractor’s vat of wet cement behind the billboard. Crow passes with the wheelbarrow of food, stopping to pour another bag of the cement mixture into the vat, then attempts to leave in triumph. But the hand of Fox reaches out from the grey goo, catching Crow by the foot and dragging him into the sticky mixture. The two duke it out briefly, then Crow makes a run for it with Fox hot on his tail. But their pace slows to that of a snail, then stops completely, as the two robed figures harden into statues. The final scene shows them both placed together on a pedestal in the town square, frozen in their chase, a plaque below bearing the work’s title – Vice vs. Virtue.

The calorie count continues to rise next week.

5 Comments

  • You’ve served up a delectable feast of cartoons that only whets my appetite for more! “The Hungry Goat” is one of the very funniest Popeye cartoons; I always looked forward to seeing it on TV when I was a (no pun intended) kid. Popeye himself only has three lines in it: “Here, gimme that!”, “Aye-aye, sir!”, and “Aye-aye, sir!” again. Even the (still no pun intended) kid in the movie theatre has more to say. But this really is Billy’s cartoon, and no other antagonist ever succeeded so well at getting Popeye’s (here it is) goat. It’s probably for the best that Billy didn’t make a return appearance or get his own series of cartoons, but I think the character certainly had more potential than, say, Gabby the Lilliputian or Henry the hen-pecked rooster.

    Another gluttonous metal-eating animal appears in the Charley Bowers stop-motion comedy short “It’s a Bird” (1930). In the film’s memorable final scene, the metal-eating bird gobbles a junkyard full of auto parts and then lays an egg whose contents, upon hatching, grow up into a shiny new Ford Model T. It’s the circle of life!

  • This is the first time I’ve seen ‘The Hungry Goat’. Popeye seemed more like a guest star.

  • THE HUNGRY GOAT is one of my least favorite ’40s Famous Studio cartoons, because Popeye is taken advantage of a miserable goat who has watched way too many Warner Bros. cartoons, in my opinion! It’s a Famous Studio cartoon that tries to be Tex Avery-like and fails miserably! It ought to be paired with the live-action film THE APE MAN (1943) with Bela Lugosi as some kind of un-human punishment! “Screwy idea, isn’t it?”

  • Clearly Famous Studios in its infancy was trying–or instructed by Paramount–to catch up to the screwball animal era as more aptly demonstrated in other studios’ cartoons. Its first attempt to build a star, after all (since this goat and the woodpecker in a later Popeye cartoon evidently didn’t catch on), was Blackie the Black Sheep, whose catchphrase “Are you kiddin’?” wasn’t much on “What’s up, doc?”

  • In “The Health Farm” (Terrytoons/Educational, Farmer Al Falfa, 4/9/36 — Mannie Davis and George Gordon, dirs.), Farmer Al Falfa, having just hosted the Home Town Olympics for his barnyard animals, has converted his rural acreage into a state-of-the-art fitness resort for humans. A throng of guests skip rope, throw a medicine ball around, and do push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups all in the establishing shot alone. Facilities include a weight room, a swimming pool, a rowing machine, and a steam box in which an obese man spends too much time and emerges as a tiny homunculus. The second half of the cartoon concerns the arrival of a guest with a gouty foot covered in bandages, which turns out to be a hiding place for a cache of stolen jewels.

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