Animation Trails
June 2, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Fitness vs. Fatness (Part 9): Ask What You Can Chew For Your Country

The Kennedy Administration would begin a massive public relations campaign by the renamed and restructured President’s Council on Physical Fitness, promoting the virtues of exercise. The public push for fitness would continue with vigor during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. There was seemingly an ulterior motive to these efforts – promoting fitness in the youth would ensure that more draft-age men would be classifiable as 1-A, or at least might be easier and less-expensively put through their paces in basic training. These goals of serving your country by staying fit were subliminally laced into the messages and imagery of the program, nearly portraying the fat, lazy slob as absolutely unpatriotic. Such was the mindset of the sixties. All of this of course had its overlaps into the world of animation, as will be discussed below.

Occasionally, such effects would even spill over into other media involving our cartoon favorites, such as the curiosity of Colpix Records release of “Wake Up, America!” with Yogi Bear (CP 453) – an entirely oddball assembly of skits and songs featuring Yogi, Boo Boo, and other members of the Hanna-Barbera animal gang, pushing the exercise and nutrition kick. What better spokesman for fitness than a fat, dusty old bear! Add to this that none of the regular Hanna-Barbera voice crew appear on the record (all voices are supplied in poor impersonation by Chuck McCann), and you have a really solid recipe for obscurity, accounting for a low-selling album that practically never shows up on record store shelves. Popeye too (at least with original voices Jack Mercer and Mae Questal) would partially bow to the craze in Golden Records LP “Songs About Health, Safety, Friendship, and Manners” (GLP 73). While less biting and better written than the Yogi project, it was another idea that didn’t sell, and virtually never turns up (although in its day, a few of the singles culled from the LP found their way into my original kiddie collection).

With apologies for again being slightly out of chronological order, we begin our animated fare with The Capture of Tear-a-Long, the Dotted Lion (Bob Clampett, Beany and Cecil. 1/20/62) – Captain Huffenpuff has our heroes off on another get-rich-quick scheme. Hoping to capitalize on the health craze, the Leakin’ Lena sets sail for the Vitamin Sea and a remote island destination called Vitamin Pill Hill. There, exotic trees grow vitamin pills big as beach balls in clusters like grapes. Objective: take back one of the trees to a bottling plant for a quick fortune. The obstacle, however, is the trees’ guardian – a health nut feline known as Tear-a-Long, the Dotted Lion. The critter spends his day in monogrammed athletic shirt, supervising the trees like a gym instructorm in a voice reminiscent of Foghorn Leghorn. Signs on the island advertise Tear-a-Long’s Jungle Gym – “Vic Tanny went to us”. The lion works out by stretching the limbs of a rubber tree like springs from a wall. He grabs a serpent from another tree, and skips rope with it. The boys avoid detection by posing as trees (though Tear-a-Long thinks them the flabbiest specimens on the island). The lion touts to them the virtues of vitamin B, but inadvertently swallows a beehive instead, causing a brief diversion. The crew take the opportunity to start toting away one of the trees, not realizing the lion has returned and is inside its limbs.

Tear-a-Long lives up to his name by slashing at the captain, causing his suit to split into two halves which run independently of him, leaving his own form clothed only in underwear. The captain tries to escape on a bicycle, but it is a stationary one. Thus, the captain barely misses another slash, and takes off self-propelled, carrying only the bike’s handlebars and horn. The lion switches his attentions to Beany, bringing Cecil to the rescue. Cecil clamps onto the lion’s tail with his jaws, and holds fast. There is a ripping sound, and Cecil finds himself holding Tear-a-Long’s shirt and the fur of his lower half, which was actually a fake set of trousers, concealing a girdle. The real form of Tear-a-Long is revealed as the girdle pops – paunchy and with a pot belly. “Now I see your hide out”, says Cecil, as the lion blushes. Still moving forward from the momentum of the chase, the lion bounces off another rubber tree. As he rebounds backwards, Cecil stops him cold with the hand-shaped “palm” of a palm tree, letting gravity take its course and send the lion falling off a cliff. The lion lands in a “wise guyser”, and Cecil places the box of a steam cabinet over the lion and the steaming hole. “Simmer down, there”, says Cecil, as the steam takes its effect – reducing, and rejuvenating, the lion down to a harmless cub. The boys sail home with a tree, and a new pet atop Cecil’s head, with a final shot of Tear-a-Long’s tail regerred to as “the end of the lion”, as he gives the camera a sheepish grin for the iris out.

Walt Disney would utilize the opportunities presented by the national campaign as a framework for an hour-long compilation of his classic exercise and athletic cartoons for The Wonderful World of Color, entitled In Shape With Von Drake (3/22/64, Hamilton Luske, dir.). But the recording medium wasn’t out of the picture, as the live-action intro by Walt begins with a shot of a fictitious Disneyland Records LP spinning on a turntable, entitled, “Von Drake and his Musical Muscles”, with Drake talk-singing exercise instruction to the tune of “The Blue Danube”. Walt anounces this as their physical fitness show, and says he’s given orders for all his artists to watch the show, as there’s not much exercise in merely pushing a pencil around or lifting a sheet of paper. He then turns us over to the physical culture center of Professor Ludwig “Muscles” Von Drake for some “facts on figures.” Von Drake himself is not exhibiting his top physical condition, but is depicted with a noticeably larger pot belly than usual, obviously in need of losing a few pounds himself. He describes his own figure as “solid – like a pyramid”. He asks the ladies of the audience if they have a perfect hourglass figure – or if their “sands have shifted?” He writes on a blackboard the initials for his recipe of being “fit, active, trim” – spelling the word, “FAT”, then adds, “That’s the shape I’m in.” He illustrates that you can’r sit around all day on your big overstuffed – chairs, and expect to be fit – “or even expect to fit the chair”, he adds, getting stuck between his chair’s armrests. He further illustrates in a clever song how in this modern age, machines seem to do all the work man used to do. “Even brains are electronic.” He encourages us to get “on your feet, or muscles soon will be obsolete.”

The film showcases a parade of Goofy films from Jack Kinney’s sports and “How To” series, including, The Art of Self Defense, The Olympic Chanp, Goofy Gymnastics, How to Swim, How to Play Golf, and How To Play Football, with new Von Drake narration replacing the original cartoon announcers. Between these films, Ludwig encourages prospective members to join his health club, and “work with a dumbbell”. In a clever piece of self-parody, Ludwig places a black dumbbell atop his head, resembling the ears of Mickey Mouse, and sings a few bars of the Mickey Mouse Club March, spelling his own name in place of Mickey’s. In lead-in to Goofy Gymnastics, Ludwig offers to “send the gym to you” in a convenient package, for “$999.99 – down”. Set it up in your office. Your business may go to pot, but you’ll lose your pot, too. He illustrates the home course’s benefit with his exercise record. He starts to play side one, and the voice comes out at the speed of a chipmunk, while Drake futilely attempts to keep up with its rhythm. Three birds looking in at the window exchange signs that Von Drake is a cuckoo. Then Drake realizes his mistake. “I was playing it a 78. That’s the size of my waist. 33 is what it should be – and I’m not kiddin’.” The last half of the show is devoted primarily to the classic animation, with Von Drake promoting his book on competitive sports, which, he promises, will bring you a lot of exercise – just by lugging around the weight of the encyclopedia-sized volume. A version of the show is included below, which leaves the audio track intact but excises the imagery of the classic Goofy cartoons – a sort of “do it yourself kit” for anyone with editing equipment who wants to try to reassemble the cartoons in their proper position – and has a lot of time on his hands.

Fizzical Fizzle (Paramount, Swifty and Shorty, April, 1964 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.), plays directly off the trend to equate fitness with patriotism. Shorty tries to spend a relaxing afternoon sleeping in a hammock, when his siesta is abruptly interrupted by the entrance of Swifty, who sounds like he’s just been appointed a master drill sergeant. “Fall in. Fall out. LOOK ALIVE!” he shouts, then sounds a vocal version of reveille by blowing though a rolled-up newspaper he is carrying as if it were a bugle. “What’s the idea of waking me up?”. reacts Shorty. “It’s time for the whole nation to wake up before we all turn to jellyfish”, retorts Swifty with overzealous patriotic fervor. He shows Shorty a newspaper headline promoting physical fitness as key to long life. “You’re not going to take this lying down, are you?”, asks Swifty. “Gee, can I?”, says Shorty, toying with Swifty’s words. Swifty insists with his knowledge of physical training, he can put three inches of muscle on Shorty’s arms, turn his legs into steel coils, and flatten his stomach like a washboard. Shorty insists all he can succeed in doing is making him sick. Unrolling the newspaper like a royal scroll, Swifty states, “By the power vested in me by this newspaper article, I hereby order you to report for your physical training tomorrow morning.”

At the crack of dawn, Swifty is in Shorty’s bedroom, shouting, “Up and at ‘em”, and dousing Shorty with a pail of water to ensure he doesn’t doze. Marching Shorty to the breakfast table, Swifty emphasizes the importance of fueling up with a hearty breakfast for the day ahead. But before Shorty can stab a fork into anything on the table, Swifty grabs the food away, unsisting that in Shorty’s case, avoiding excess calories is more important. While Swifty munches away on fattening breakfast fare, he leaves Shorty with a half-stick of celery. “Can I have the hole in that donut when you’re through?”, Shorty sarcasticallly asks. “Too many calories”, replies Swifty. Shorty doesn’t even get the celery, as Swifty looks at his watch, and declares mealtime over. “Time for the first exercise period”, he commands. “Don’t you mean, time for the first exercise, period?” suggests Shorty. Shorty attempts to sneak out while Swifty describes the first strenuous calisthenics on the program, but Swifty breaks into a fast piece of sales-pitch double0talk about the spirit of our “foundling fathers”, John Paul Jones. Barbara Fritchie, and the immortal words of Uncle Sam, “Speak softly, but deliver that message to Garcia.” Shorty tries his best, but is soon tied up in muscle knots as bad as Olive Oyl’s in “Popeye’s Pep Up Emporium”, previously reviewed.

Swifty moves Shorty onto a trampoline, and has Shorty jump higher and higher, then tosses him a set of Indian clubs to catch. Swifty’s aim is impeccably bad, and each club conks Shorty squarely upon the noggin. Shorty decides it’s time to get serious, and asks Swifty to keep tossing up those Indian clubs. With careful maneuvering, Shorty begins to catch the clubs one by one, until the whole set has been tossed up. Now Shorty announces a new exercise, which he calls “dive bomber” – and he dubs Swifty as “the target”. “Now, now, take it easy”, stammers Swifty, as a first Indian club clobbers him right on the dome. Shorty continues to bounce high for altitude, calling out patriotic phrases such as “Remember the Maine”, and “Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes”, and hammers Swifty in the head again and again. Swifty finally runs his white athletic shorts up a pole as a flag of truce, calling for a cease fire. Swifty offers unconditional surrender, and to do anything Shorty says. “Anything?”, reacts Shorty, with a devilish grin. The next morning finds Shorty back in his hammock, having a peaceful day. Swifty, however, parades back and forth on the sidewalk wearing a two-panel “sandwich sign” for advertisement. “This is going too far”, mutters Swifty. “Keep walking”, says Shorty. “I could get arrested for treason for this”, Swifty insists. “In a democracy, everybody has a right to be heard, Swifty…even a fat man.” Swifty’s signboards read, “Stamp out fitness – Stamp in fatness.”

The Diet (King Features/Format Films, Beetle Bailey, 5/17/64 – Geoff Pike, dir.) – At Camp Swampy, the bugler’s mess call brings an instant response from the troops – a stampede that mows the bugler down. Though Beetle and the other privates proceed with haste, a brown blur denotes Sergeant Snorkel and his dog Otto, passing the others like a streaking comet to be first in Cookie’s serving line. The cook reflexively fills both Snorkel’s and Otto’s trays to the rim in the twinkling of an eye, accompanied by his apology that he can’t fit anything more on their plates. (He makes up for this by slipping an extra donut on the Sergeant’s pinky-finger.) Before the rest of the troops are even served, Sarge and Otto have tossed all of their foodstuffs into their mouths with both hands, and briefly lean back to relax with extended bloated bellies. “Ready for seconds, Otto?”, asks Sarge. with Otto nodding between burps.

On the parade grounds, Snorkel puts the troops through marching detail. However, his eating habits are beginning to “grow” on him. His “Hup , Tup, Threep” calls are punctuated by the pop of buttons where “Forp” should be, then his belt buckle bursts open, leaving Snorkel with his pants down and flannel underwear showing in front of the corps. His platoon bursts out in wild laughter, while red-faced Snorkel underplays his command of “Dismissed.” Snorkel steps upon a coin-operated weight scale – and not only explodes the coils of the machine’s internal mainsprings, but falls through the scale’s platform. More hysterical laughter from the platoon, while Beetle calls out, “Gaining weight, Sarge?’ Steam emits from Snorkel’s ears in suppressed anger.

Sarge acquires a book which guarantees weight loss if the user follows three simple rules. Rule 1: Don’t eat! Rule 2: Don’t eat! Rule 3: When not eating – Don’t eat! Otto thinks this humorous, until a footnote in the book observes, “And that goes for your dog, too!” Ottto moans, as Snorkel clearly informs him, “When I don’t eat, YOU don’t eat!” Resolve, however, seems to go out the window, as mess call is heard again. Snorkel and Otto report first in line as usual, and again fill up their trays. Just when they are about to dig in, Sarge sees the words of the book’s rules superimposed over ever piece of scrumptious food. Reluctantly, he tosses away the tray’s contents, and those of Otto’s too. However, he turns to see Beetle and the others about to partake of their own daily rations, and his mood turns to frustrated anger. Now making his rule applicable to the entire company, Snorkel repeats to Bailey and the others, “And when we don’t eat, NOBODY EATS!” and throws all their food away. The platoon can see this situation is fast getting out of hand.

A week passes. Cookie summons the platoon to the mess hall window in the middle of the night, to observe a strange phenomenon. Snorkel and Otto have begun sleepwalking at night, arriving at their usual place in the mess hall line. Though the kitchen is empty, they stand with outstretched trays before the serving station, then seat themselves at a table, and go through all the motions of devouring an imaginary meal that isn’t there. “What did I tell ya?”, says Cookie to Beetle and the others, informing them this has been going on every night since the diet started. Beetle gets an inspiration for an idea, and Cookie says he hopes it’s a good one, or they’ll all soon be having dreams like Sarge’s. Beetle whispers his plan to the others, and evething is subsequently prepared for the next evening. On schedule, Snorkel and Otto arrive in the kitchen. But instead of an empty hall, Cookie is standing at his usual serving position, with dispensing tubs full of freshly-cooked food. Instead of a mere dream, Cookie piles Sarge’s and Otto’s trays to regulation capacity again. The two sleepwalkers seat themselves at the table, and go through the motions of eating – but are now stuffing their bellies for real. Beetle and the troops creep up behind them, and yell “Surprise!”. Snorkel and Otto grunt into an awakened state, with fallout from the mashed potatoes still in their cheeks. “You broke your diet, Sarge”, says Beetle. “I did?”, responds Snorkel, observing the last of the mashed potatoes still on his fork. Realizing its is true, Snorkel admits, “And it feels good, too.” But as for the rest of the platoon’s diet, Beetle insists “We’re not breaking ours.” Falling for reverse psychology, Snorkel, in reflexive anger, retorts, “When I break my diet, EVERYBODY breaks their diet!” Sarge orders Cookie to serve food for everybody, and the troops cheer as their hunger strike is broken at last. Sarge concludes that, “If an army’s going to travel on its stomach, it’s gotta have a stomach to travel on.”

As the national fitness programs concentrated a heavy emphasis upon influencing the youth, someone at Soundac’s small Florida studios apparently pondered how to get kids to take an interest in calisthenics telecasting. in the same manner as the adults who followed Jack La Lanne. Perhaps the prospects didn’t seem likely for having a live instructor of the “Bozo” or “Howdy Doody” variety performing the exercises – nor perhaps seemed promising the possibility of having a kid act as the instructor. And so the brainstorm: Why not make the instructor an animated character? Could such an idea have worked? Perhaps, if a couple of principal ingredients had been thought of as a starting foundation: decent animation, and a winning personality for the character to entertain while he instructed. Neither of these factors, however, was a luxury that Soundac could afford. The result was thus the disastrous, The Mighty Mr. Titan (1965-66). Imagine (if you dare) a muscle man with less personality than Captain Planet (the very thought makes one shudder). Imagine also animation “quality” only a slight step up from the studio’s previous “claim-to-fame”, Colonel Bleep. Actually, why imagine at all? The horrifying results are forever preserved on film (unless we can transfer same to flammable nitrate). In motion with all the fluidity that a two to three-cel cycle will permit, Titan would put the children through their paces, with seemingly endless chants by a group of children on voice-over of “1, 2, 3, 4…”, leaving us waiting in strained expectation for the kids’ final shout of “NO MORE!” Titan would allow the kids a short breather between exercises, with some illustration of how staying “Tip Top with Titan” would be a necessity in their future lives – such as describing how fitness is needed by all in the space program.

Titan’s talks, however, were entirely lacking in subtlety, and instead of making the results seem personally desirable in their own right, pounded a never-ending message as if fitness was your civic and patriotic duty for the good of the country. In other words, everything felt more like an Army training film than anything resembling entertainment – Welcome to boot camp! Just for good measure, Titan has assists from an outline “chart buddy” named Tipso, who performs some of the exercises as well – and looks for all the world like a dead ringer for Colonel Bleep, who was supposed to be long gone by now. How (and if) any child could sit through these films, let alone participate in them, defies imagination. Yet the few stations which actually dropped these short films into their morning schedules for telecast must have been brainwashed into also believing that it was their civic duty to show them. Fortunately for the nation, the series’ longevity appears to have expired in one short season, ad the likes of this sorry experiment have never been repeated. (A fan video has re-animated the ending of one episode to have Titan devoured by a humongous anime monster, accompanied by the kids’ chant of “NO MORE”, in well-deserved send-up of this animated travesty.)

Atom Ant (Hanna-Barbera, 1965-66) was another product of its times. Although Hanna-Barbera at least had the good sense not to allow subliminal message to dominate over entertainment value, and thus allowed the films to at least rank about average in plot and gag content for similar H-B productions of the period, as well as to benefit from the quality vocal reads of Howard Morris, the series did place a notable emphasis upon physical fitness that couldn’t be easily avoided. Right from the opening title card, our hero was depicted lifting a set of barbells a hundred times his size over his head in a gymnasium. (Ants in real life are known to lift objects many times their size – still, I’ve never seen a real anthill filled with gym equipment.) Our weekly visits into Atom’s secret subterranean headquarters would generally find the diminutive hero spending most of his spare time exercising and lifting weights to stay in top physical shape. In fact, there was never a secret origin story as to Atom’s tremendous strength, nor any suggestion but his name that might infer that he was the result of genetic mutation through radiation. Instead, a message permeated the series that his great strength had been purely the result of a daily exercise regimen and clean living. (This was surprising, considering that a small number of episodes revealed that Atom had one weakness – picnic lunches, which would apparently cause him to binge-overeat if he was not careful.

This did not seem a message in line with the national program, and one had to wonder how many barbell lifts it actually took to counter the effects of a sudden lapse into temptation.) Episodes would further drive home the point by having Atom reach some level of minor setback in his efforts to thwart a powerful villain, causing him to dart back into his lair for a few more barbell lifts to further strengthen himself, then zip back into the fray again for a victory that was never in doubt. While telecasts maintained this gentler form of brainwashing, all pretense of subtlety was dropped with the release of the Hanna-Barbera Records LP, “Muscle Magic” (HLP-2041). Greg Ehrbar wrote about it here. This strange project failed to feature the star character for the entire first side of the record, instead following the pattern of a Mighty Mouse formula plot of spending the entre time in setting up a peril, only to have Atom Ant appear like the answer to a prayer on side 2. Yet, after waiting so long for him to show up, Atom does not entertain with witty quips or repartee with a villain as you would expect from the TV show. Instead, after quickly vanquishing the foe, he spends two-thirds of the second side in an “interview” describing his regimen of exercise and healthy eating to develop his muscles – a “pep talk” that ranks as nothing short of a preachment. The hidden agenda of the writers was plainly in view. Again, not surprisingly, this was among the poorest-selling cartoon series LP’s on the label, and appearances for purchase are extremely seldom.

Just to let you know it’s there, I make brief mention of the episode Physical Fatness (1/23/65), from Total Television’s Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales. There is little original to write about, as Chumley is recruited by Tennessee to become a famous prize fighter, but can’t even compete against a flyweight fighter weighing only 50 pounds. A trip to Sillyman’s Gym follows the typical patterns of rowing machines, punching bags, skipping rope, and barbells, nearly all producing holes in the floor or walls. Mr. Whoopee is consulted, and his regimen of exercise on the 3DBB looks suspiciously close to the outline drawings of Tipso from The Mighty Mr. Titan. Chumley’s training eventually pays off, giving him the stamina to outlast his opponent in the ring. The boys win a fancy limousine their rival Jereboa Jump has been showing off with around the zoo – only to find it was a flat movie prop all the time, propelled in back by a tandem bicycle. Oh well, at least they’re now sure to get plenty of exercise.

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (Disney, 2/4/66 – Wolfgang Reitherman, dir.), introduced to the American animated screen that whimsical, honey-crazed, lovable roly-poly teddy bear of A.A, Milne’s creation, along with a cross-section of regular supporting cast members, excepting Tigger and Piglet (who would have to wait for storylines for their characters until the follow-up, “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day”). As with Yogi, Pooh could hardly be called a suitable spokesman for physical fitness, with his never-ending appetite for that sticky yellow bees’ favorite. But Pooh, having a high degree of pride both in being stuffed with fluff and stuffed in general, is likewise not prone to putting himself on a diet, either. So how does exercise fit into his regimen? In an almost subversive idea for its time, the Sherman Brothers compose a song for Pooh to begin each day with a morning “stoutness exercise”, intended to accomplish only one goal – to make him all the hungrier to devour honey! The lyrics to the song are a gem.

“When I up, down, touch the ground,
It puts me in the mood,
Up, down, touch the ground,
In the mood – for FOOD.

I am stout, round, and I have found,
Speaking poundagewise,
I improve my appetite
When I exercise.

I am short, fat, and proud of that,
And so with all my might,
I up, down, up down to
My appetite’s delight.

When I up, down, touch the ground,
I think of things to chew.
With a hefty, happy appetite,
I’m a hefty, happy Pooh!”

In the Pink (De Patie-Freleng, Pink Panther, 5/18/67 Hawley Pratt) – Pink feels himself going to pot, so ventures to a local gymnasium, featuring a large poster of a muscle god outside captioned, “The Body Beautiful”. The anonymous little moustache-man of the series (referred to in the most recent incarnations as “Big Nose”) is also a member. Pink enters through the gym door just as Big Nose is changing clothes at the locker closest to the entrance. Pink pushes his way past the open locker door, knocking Big Nose inside his own locker with the door shut behind him, and his pants suspenders caught in the door. Pink spots the suspender straps, and believing them to be weighted pull cords for stretching exercises, starts tugging fiercely at them. The force of the pull swings open the locker door, sending both the pants and Pink flying across the gym and into the opposite wall. As Pink pulls himself together, he discovers his error as he finds the trousers attached to the straps, and hangs the pair of pants onto a hook on the wall. From inside them rises the little man, still wearing them, dazed from the impact of the crash.

Pink compares himself against another poster of “The Body Beautiful:, posed with a barbell lifted over his head with one hand. Pink reaches out to the poster as if to feel the figure’s huge arm muscles. The poster takes on life, and the arm slaps him for getting too personal. Pink reacts by tugging on a string at the bottom of the poster, making the illustration roll ip into a roller above like a windowshade. The poster retaliates, by dropping the illustrated barbell onto Pink’s head.
Big Nose busies himself with push-ups on an exercise mat. Pink wants to try chin-ups on a bar, and figures out how to make his life easier. He drags the mat containing the little man backwards, over to a position under the chinning bar. Then, Pink merely stands on the back of the lirrle man, allowing him to do all the work of the push-ups, while at the same time propping the panther upwards so that his chin is parallel with the bar. Next, an old gag from Goofy is again revisited. Pink does some fancy bouncing on a trampoline, but dismounts right on top of a set of barbells lifted by the little man. The extra weight busts a hole in the floor below the man’s feet, sending him into the sub-basement. Next, the little man tries gymnastics between two parallel bars. A bad dismount rolls him up into a ball, causing the panther to mistake him for a basketball. After dribbling the man liberally around the court, Pink shoots, missing the net and bouncing the little man off the backboard and out the window, where he scores a perfect basket into a trash can below.

The little man scores one on the panther when Pink takes up shadow boxing. Spinning off of a routine used in Goofy’s “The Art of Self Defense” (1941), Pink’s shadow moves independently of the panther ad scores a few low blows and swift kicks upon him. Angered, the panther grabs a barbell and rushes the wall on which the shadow appears, intending to use the barbell as a battering ram. However, it turns out the wall panel where the shadow appears is really a door to a stairway leading down to the basement, which the little man flings open after mounting the stairs from below. The panther zips right past him, falling down the steps and landing below with a crash, leaving a hole in the floor and taking out half a dozen lockers in the process.

A surreal gag has Pink working out on a small suspended punching bag. The bag deflates as if only filled with air, leaving it only a few inches in diameter. Pink detaches the useless item of equipment and tosses it on the floor. From nowhere, a hen struts across the gymnasium. Mistaking the tiny sphere for an egg, she sits on the deflated bag as if to hatch it. The bag miraculously grows from the incubation to three times its original size. The chicken clucks proudly at her accomplishment to anyone who will hear her, and sticks a cigar in Pnk’s mouth in the manner of a happy new parent. Pink is also pleased at this development, and rehangs the now oversoze punching bag on the hook. As he is about to level a blow at the bag, a gloved yellow hand bursts forth from the bag, and socks Pink solidly in the jaw and to the floor. Out of the bag “hatches” a giant baby chicken in boxing gloves, who dances around happily as if he has just won a championship bout.

Pink tries out another set of barbells, but can’t budge it off the floor. He figures how to get the weights into lifting position, by placing an auto jack under the bar and raising it to full height, then stepping under the bar to take the position of the jack. But once the bar is in Pink’s hands, Pink knows he is in the same trouble as Tom the cat in an earlier reviewed episode of this article series. To make matters worse, he stumbles sideways, stepping atop the bar of another barbell, and winds up in “log rolling” act atop barbell 2 while trying to hold onto barbell 1. He lets the first barbell fall – into the trampoline net, only to bounce out again. It flips over to where Big Nose is about to spring off a diving board into an Olympic pool. The weight busts in two the board the man is standing on, and plummets with him into the pool, leaving a gaping hole into which the man and all the pool water empty post haste.

Finally, Pink tries out the mechanical exrcise horse. As with Olive Oyl and others, the machine goes out of control and gallops off its mounting. But in an original twist, Pink pulls down a metal ring suspended from the ceiling and its supporting rope, twirls the ring at rope’s end like a lariat, and “ropes” the gorse’s neck with a fancy lasso swing. But the wild bronco won’t quit, and drags the panther along for the ride. After knocking the pins out from under the little man once again, Pink’s feet trip up on a barbell, and Pink crashes headfirst into the front entrance wall of the gymnasium. The little man has had it for the day, and exists the building, passing the “Body Beautiful” poster again. Now, the Panther’s head protrudes from the poster in place of the Adonis. Because the angle of the protrusion is crooked, the little man twists Pink’s head to make it level with the picture before leaving. In the same manner as Goofy in Goofy Gymnastics, Pink looks down at the poster image around his head, ad is entirely satisfied with the results of his workout, giving a smile to the camera for the iris out.

More about the animators of In The Pink – check out Devon Baxter’s breakdown post.

Into the 70’s, next time.


  • I hope you’ll look at that Tiny Toon Adventures episode where Buster pumps himself up to impress Babs. I forget the title.

    • It’ll be coming in a couple of weeks.

  • The soundtrack accompanying Professor Von Drake’s washboard solo actually uses a pair of sandpaper blocks. Maybe the music director felt an actual washboard would sound too raucous.

    “A Message to Garcia”, mentioned by Swifty in “Fizzicle Fizzle”, was a famous essay by Elbert Hubbard on the tribulations of getting a message through to a rebel leader in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. It’s also referred to in the title of the Speedy and Sylvester cartoon “A Message to Gracias”. My mother-in-law (whose maiden name, coincidentally, was Garcia) had a book called “The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard”, a lavish collection of his miscellaneous jottings printed in chapter-and-verse form like the Bible. The introduction calls Hubbard “the most positive human force of his time… a man of genius in business, in art, in literature, in philosophy,” and goes on to compare him to Moses, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Shakespeare, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Pythagoras, among others. I think he must have been the leader of some sort of cult.

    The funniest part of “Fizzicle Fizzle” is that all through Swifty’s fitness craze, the cigarette never leaves his lips.

    The portly scholar Phineas J. Whoopee was evidently quite an athlete, judging from the amount of sporting equipment disgorged from his closet during his periodic searches for the 3-Dimensional Blackboard. Among his effects are golf clubs, tennis or badminton racquets, balls of various kinds, a croquet set, a hockey stick, skis, Indian clubs, barbells, and fencing gear. There is also, disconcertingly, a human skull. Perhaps it’s just a prop from a production of Hamlet that Mr. Whoopee was in. On the other hand, it might have something to do with how the shape of Stanley Livingston’s head can be either ovate or rhomboid, depending on the episode.

    Does anyone else detect a certain, um, symbolism in Mister Titan’s logo?

  • I’d read that Mr. Titan’s sidekick was named “Tipsy.” Tipso would be less problematic…

    In 1958 the second storyline of the syndicated cartoon “Spunky and Tadpole” was called “A Message to Marcia.” I was an adult before I found out Tadpole was supposedly a teddy bear — I thought he was a weasel.

  • Oh, the irony of watching Swifty lecturing about health while a cigarette is dangling form his mouth!

  • Thank you for posting the Beany and Cecil cartoon. I had forgotten about that wonderful episode. It felt great to laugh out loud at a very creative cartoon!

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