Animation Trails
April 20, 2022 posted by Charles Gardner

Flights of Fancy (Part 18): “Up” To Their Old Tricks

Finishing the ‘40’s and into the 1950’s, as the early years of the new decade provide a mix of small and large parts for airplanes. Principal attractions include a double-dose of high-flying hijinks with Heckle and Jeckle, and a classic Donald confrontation with those meddlesome chipmunks, that sends their adversarial relationship to new altitude records.

Happy Landing (Terrytoons/Fox, Heckle and Jeckle, 6/5/49 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – A rudimentary, threadbare plot attempts to hold six minutes of film together. Traveling salesen Heckle and Jeckle cover the barren territory of a lonely desert highway and a last-chance filling station, peddling a new line of product – good luck neckties, which light up when tugged upon to present in neon the word “Mother”. They meet the Bert Lahr sound-alike lion who frequented many a Terrytoon, and find him to be a soft touch for sentiment and a sales pitch delivered in Al Jolson intonations, reminding him of his dear old “Mammy”. The lion takes a tie, and suddenly business picks up – but of a type not to the lion’s liking. A tough bulldog lands from the sky in a flying machine that combines a traditional nose propeller and an overhead vertical prop as if also an autogyro. He insists that the craft be completely overhauled by the time he gets back – or he’ll tear the lion limb from limb. Yes, you’re right. It does sound like a lifted plot straight out of Mickey’s Service Station (1935). “I don’t know nothin’ about airplanes”, confesses the lion to the magpies. Heckle insists it’s the lion’s lucky day again, as he and Jeckle are the “greatest airplane mechanics in the business.” Perhaps he should revise that statement to “the greatest at giving someone the business.”

With no particular motivation except to cause chaos (considering that they already appear to have sold their necktie), the birds set to work at their usual standard of efficiency – knocking holes in the plane’s fuselage, raising a jack through the floorboards of the cockpit, disconnecting the entire tail assembly and nose propeller, bending the shaft of the vertical prop, and spilling nuts and bolts all over the place. “You’re wreckin’ the thing”, complains the lion to no avail. Falling from atop the craft, the lion flattens one of the tires. He grabs a bicycle pump away from Heckle and tries to pump the tire back up – but the hose is instead inserted in the seat of his trousers, which inflate to twice his height, then carry him aloft as they deflate.

The lion lands on the rear of the fuselage, knocking more paneling off the body, and more nuts and bolts out of the engine. “Now look what he’s done”, complains Heckle. Hearing the approach of the bulldog, the magpies grab the rear fuselage panel and tail assembly to reattach them to the body – oblivious to the fact they are sealing up the lion inside. They slap back on the propeller, and shovel nuts and bolts back into the engine block. (Didn’t Goofy do that in Disney’s version?) The bulldog returns, and the magpies assume a formal salute (though shrinking in size under the dog’s stern gaze). The flight goes as might be expected – as the dashboard controls squirt water in the bulldog’s face, gears shift randomly into reverse and climb, and the lion clings helplessly to the rudder. The engine pops out from under the hood and attempts to exit the plane, only to be beaten back into submission by the dog’s well-placed blows with a monkey wrench. A low swoop picks up the magpies in the propeller, leading to a poorly conceived and impossible shot as the two birds’ heads emerge in stationary position out of the whirling propeller blade (have they been decapitated?), allowing Jeckle to ask Heckle if he really thinks these neckties are lucky. The plane disassembles piece by piece, then explodes what is left. In another lift from “Mickey’s Service Station”, the bulldog is pursued by a runaway engine block. The lion finally has a stroke of good luck after all, as the end of his tie catches on a high tree limb on the way down, halting his fall just short of the ground, then unhooks from the limb just in time to avoid hanging him. The engine block catches up with Heckle and Jeckle at the gasoline pumps, crashing into them and sending the birds and their wares up in an explosion. The final shot finds the boys’ ties strewn around on the limbs of trees, all short circuiting to flash “Mother” intermittently without the need for a tug, leaving the boys to shrug shoulders at each other for the fade out.

Dough For the Do-Do (Warner, Porky Pig, 9/2/49 – no director credit), offers us nothing new. A nearly shot-for-shot remake/retracing of Porky in Wackyland, the film merely repeats the same opening sequences from the original of Porky’s plane flying into dark, darker, and darkest Africa to find Wackyland and the last of the dodo birds. Upon reaching Wackyland’s borders, the plane shifts into sneak mode and enters on tippytoes, only to be frightened by a looming monster whose personality is no match for his roar, greeting Porky with an effeminate “Boo”.

Watch it here.

Swallow the Leader (Warner, 10/14/49 – Robert McKimson, dir.), features feathered fliers in military-style tactics. The annual arrival of the swallows at Mission San Juan Capistrano is eagerly anticipated by bird lovers – especially, a hungry cat. The advance scout of the returning flock seeks out choice nesting sites, and, despite numerous clever sidesteps of the cat’s plans, is eventually caught in a false nest baited with a flypaper floor. As the cat lifts the stranded bird ever closer to his jaws, the sunlight disappears from over them, as a visible line of shadow envelops the scenery. The cat looks up to find the sky thick with the small bodies of the main flock, flying in row after row of V-formations like fighter planes. Various squads peel off in rigid-wing bank turns, descending in neat lines toward the ground. The cat’s eyes dart around frantically for some form of cover, but find none in the open plaza of the Mission. The descending squads buzz the cat in low-flying lines, barely missing direct hits on his head and torso as the sound of their passing comes in high-pitched audible zips. A cluster of birds above forms into the silhouette of a large bomber opening its bomb bay, from which emerges a solo swallow flyer, carrying an open box of tacks. The flyer spills out the tacks upon the walkway ahead of the cat’s path, causing the cat to painfully jump and yip as his feet fill with the sharp pointed objects. More specialized-groups of swallow flyers pass overhead, each carrying a light bulb clutched within each foot. On cue, they release the bulbs one after the other, encircling the cat with explosions of shrapnel. The confused cat finally trips over a small railing, and the swallows seize the opportunity – and the cat himself – four of them taking hold of the cat’s fur from the back, lifting him high into the air, then throwing him forward like a bar bouncer, for a bum’s rush to the city limits, where a sign proclaims that he is now leaving San Juan Capistrano. The cat declares aloud, “I came here for a swallow, and I’m not leaving till I get a swallow.” A nearby sign is spotted, reading, “Swallows for sale – 50 feet”. The cat follows the sign – to a roadside diner/bar with sign reading “Sloppy Jose’s. Best Swallow in Town – 10¢”. The cat chugs a glass down, then leaves on the road out of town, hiccupping and singing a drunken rendition of “When the Swallows Come Back To Capistrano”, for the iris out.

Watch it here.

Daredevil Droopy (MGM, Droopy, 3/31/51 – Tex Avery, dir.) – A formula episode for Droopy and Spike, providing a loose framework for an assemblage of thrill spot-gags, as Droopy and Spike compete for a job as a circus daredevil, much in the manner one might expect of Popeye and Bluto. But even a “formula” setup can never be written off when Tex Avery is at the helm. The stunts are wild and crazy, including human cannonball, crashing cars into brick walls, motorcycle leaps through flaming hoops, and various feats of skill and strength, with Spike always coming out on the short end in clever and unique ways too numerous to mention for this article. As noted from a previous article in this series, the aviation angle of this film arises from a stunt entitled “The Flying Human”, marking possibly the only time Avery stole a gag directly from a Columbia cartoon. Lifted from “Goofy News Views”, both Droopy and Spike appear, wearing special caps with an airplane motor and prop installed, pointing upwards. Droopy gives his prop a spin, and rises out of the shot into the skies. Spike spins his prop to follow – but somehow his prop is fashioned as a pusher rather than puller variety, and drives him into a deep hole in the ground.

The Rainmakers (Terrytoons/Fox, Heckle and Jeckle, 5/13/51 – Connie Rasinski, dir,) – An unusual entry in the magpies’ series, where for once their usual greed, gluttony and buffoonery are not the cause of trouble, but instead, a simple wish carried too far. Also unusual, in that most of the animation is considerably superior to usual Terry fare, including some good-looking special effects which must have placed the film considerably over the average budget of the time. Thirdly, the plot and gag material are solid and well-written, with no lags or irregularities, almost leaving the impression that the script might have been sidetracked from submission at another studio.

The birds have planned a picnic, but chosen the wrong day for it, as a relentless rainstorm drenches the countryside. Jeckle has brought along a toaster to toast the bread for their sandwiches, but the bread pops out from an internal puddle of water within the bread chamber, and the soggy slice plops over the side of the toaster frame, unable to stand despite its presumed rigidness after cooking. Disgusted Heckle has to wring water our of the slice, and both magpies take squirts in the eye. Jeckle produces a wishbone from a chicken they have also brought along, and suggests they try to make a wish. Tugging at each end, the bone breaks with the big end in Jeckle’s favor, and he wishes “that it would stop raining forever.” Suddenly, the skies clear, the sun comes out, and the last raindrops come to a standstill in mid-air, the two birds popping each one of them with the touch of a finger. The birds dance around in celebration, Jeckle singing his own lyric to the tune of the “Chicken Reel”, “It’s never gonna rain again, again.”

Time passes, and six weeks elapse in the world without rain. The magpies, fanning themselves and perspiring profusely, watch a television set, where the announcer notes rising temperatures everywhere, and cities literally melting from the heat, their skyscrapers drooping like spent candlesticks. The broiling sun “beats down on the people’s heads” as the sun sprouts arms to beat a large tom tom drum, its sound waves emitting like visible rays that make direct hits upon the heads of the populace. In New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty waves herself with a hand fan, while mighty ocean liners lay beached on the dry river bed surrounding Manhattan Island. Reservoir water disappears, down to a level where a small sign is revealed, pointing to “last drop.” In homes, housewives conserve all they can, by sucking up final drops of water from their kitchen sinks, and depositing the drops in their purses for safekeeping. At Yellowstone Park, several tourists surround old faithful, carrying cups in each hand to catch anything that emits. Instead, the geyser spits out only a single drop, which evaporates in mid air before falling anywhere close to the tourists. One farmer is more successful than others, by lassoing with a rope what few clouds are left, dragging them down to earth, and milking them of their water as if they were a cow. “I say, did I cause all that?”. Jeckle asks Heckle. The announcer reappears on the TV screen, and pokes his head right out of the screen into Jeckle’s face. “Yes – and what are you going to do about it?”, he demands. Jeckle reaches with his foot for the TV knob, shutting off the set, and causing the announcer to disappear at the same time. Then, the birds go into action to right their wrong.

Working through the night, the boys devise a flying machine nearly worthy of Felix the Cat. Fuselage consists of an open-top rain barrel with two holes cut in the side for pilot seats, and a couple of stubby wings tacked on the sides. Tail and rudder are provided by a broomstick stuck into the barrel’s bottom. Propulsion is provided by a helicopter prop and shaft installed in the top of the craft, with no explanation provided as to engine to spin it. The birds take off the next morning in search of any stray clouds. They find a very small one, which takes on the personified form of a little girl. The character bears a striking visual resemblance to another studio’s property, who hadn’t been invented yet – looking like a prototype for Wendy, the good little witch from the Casper series! One of the birds attempts to coax the little cloud with a beckoning finger to come over, but the little cloud just turns up her nose and ignores him. The other magpie suggests a more direct method, and hands the first a butterfly net. Finally remembering they’re birds and can walk on air, the magpie creeps up behind the cloud – but the cloud turns at the last minute, and zaps the magpie with a small lightning bolt. The stunned bird falls toward the ground, but is rescued by a power dive by the other in the plane, catching the fallen magpie in the cockpit. The two birds give chase in the plane, until one of them gets within reach and grabs the cloud by its rearmost puff. Although he receives a squirt of water in the face by the stubborn cloud, he and his partner struggle to stuff the little cloud inside the barrel. Unfortunately, having cut holes for two pilot seats, the cloud enters the barrel through one hole, and escapes out the other. The chase is on again, and the little cloud disappears over the horizon, with the plane in close pursuit. Suddenly, the magpies bring their craft to a screeching halt, at an amazing sight. They have stumbled upon the hiding place of the banished clouds, and filling the skies is the image of a huge angry mother cloud, holding her frightened daughter in her arms, and an equally angry Papa close behind. All the startled birds can do is make a run for it. A continuing line of huge male clouds marches toward them, ready to do battle. The forward troops begin attacking the magpies’ plane with thunderbolts.

Wish or no wish, this is war. The broomstick is blasted off the plane, making steering impossible, and the plane veers around the sky uncontrollably, while the clouds darken everything around them. More clouds join in the thunderbolt barrage, blasting away more and more of the birds’ barrel, until a direct hit leaves the two clinging to the shaft of the spinning prop. The magpies let go, just as a massive blast hits the shaft from all sides and obliterates it. In its wake, the clouds fill in all remaining sky, presenting one continuous bank of downpouring rain. Below, the birds forget to fly again, crashing into the ground and leaving deep holes in their own shape. However, the rain has softened the ground enough that the boys emerge from the holes unhurt, and rejoice in the continuing downpour. “I say, old boy. We did it!”, cheers Jeckle, content in the knowledge that the clouds will no longer honor his wish. A ticker-tape parade greets the birds for a heroes’ welcome (giving the opportunity for reuse of artwork from the title card of “My Boy, Johnny” and slight modification of another scene from such film, as the Statue of Liberty performs celebration cartwheels while wearing a raincoat). A band plays for the parade, the bells of the brass instruments and the insides of the reeds overflowing with rain water – but who cares? Drenched but triumphant, the birds wave happily to the crowd from a soaked limousine, for the fade out.

Again, an episode ending with the boys as public heroes is certainly unusual, and still supports the idea that the script might have been originally submitted for someone else. One possibility, if the story did originate within Terry’s walls, was that perhaps it was originally intended for Gandy and Sourpuss, whose normal personalities might have been a better fit. But the cat and goose were by now in the waning years of their popularity, and Terry knew the money action was with the magpies and his super-powered mouse – the latter of which would never wish for there to be no rain. So the rewrite for the birds might have been a necessary economic step. Another, even more curious coda is that this would mark a rare instance where a Terry script would be quickly ripped off by local rival Famous Studios for Paramount, with the entire first half of the film nearly duplicated two years later as Audrey the Rainmaker for the Little Audrey series. For the second half of the Paramount version, Famous fell back upon its past, essentially placing Audrey in the singing role of Raggedy Ann to duplicate the finale of Suddenly It’s Spring, as her serenade of “April Showers” convinces a selfish cloudkeeper to let the rains fall again.

Test Pilot Donald (Disney, RKO, Donald Duck, 6/7/51 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – This film cleverly begins with some camera trickery, drawing us into a central plot point in a manner we do not expect. A streamlined red jet plane streaks through the sky. (Notably, this may mark animation’s first depiction of a jet plane, short of Bluto’s rocket-propelled model in “Hot Air Aces”, discussed last week.) The scene cuts to a close-up of Donald Duck, seemingly seated in a pilot’s seat, wearing an aviator’s suit and headphones. “Oh, boy. Now for a dive”, he declares, and his seat tips forward as if pushing the control stick for a powered descent. Another exterior shot shows the plane tip downward for a nearly vertical drop. Another close-up on the duck shows him seemingly experiencing the strain of extreme G-forces, the orange color from his beak seeping out into the white of his head feathers. Another close-shot on the plane’s exterior shows the plane pull out of the dive with only inches to spare from smacking into the ground. Back to the Donald close-up, as the duck pants in brief exhaustion, regaining his natural color – then pulls out a checklist, to enter notation that the reaction was perfect. All other tests on the list having received similar approval scores, Donald settles back in his seat, seemingly flying with more ease and confidence. Finally, the secret of this sequence is revealed, by a cut to an extreme long shot of Donald and the plane. Donald is not actually in a cockpit at all, nor at a control stick. Instead, he sits outdoors on a small chair in the middle of a public park, with the handle of a tether rope hooked around his foot. Above him flies the plane – a gasoline-powered model aircraft, only about two feet long, tied to the tether rope, and flying over the duck’s head in a circle.

Deciding to bring the plane in for a once-over, Donald hooks the tether handle to a metal stake in the ground, then lines up a pillow for the craft to make a soft landing upon, racing just ahead of the plane’s path to catch the craft like a fielder tracking a baseball. With miniature tools, Donald makes minor adjustments to the engine and landing gear, and applies oil to the hinges of the tail stabilizers. He is unaware he is being watched from a tree above, by park residents Chip ‘n’ Dale. Chip can’t figure out Dale’s fascination in his observations, as the red-nosed chipmunk makes buzzing and sputtering noises like a plane engine, and extends his arms outward as if wings to perform banks and turns. Donald gets his plane going again, setting it for a wider circling path, which nearly knocks the chipmunks off their limb. On the third pass, Donald negotiates the turn too widely, and the plane becomes caught in the crotch of an extended tree limb. Donald tugs at the control rope, but can’t seem to make the plane budge from its position. Dale peeps out from a hole in the tree trunk, and spotting what has happened, races for the plane to try it out for size. Chip catches him, bopping Dale on the head, and instructing him, “Stay out of there, stupid. That belongs to him.” But Dale will have none of it, responding. “Aw, phooey”, and climbs into the cockpit, finding it to be in perfect scale for his person. Dale tests the control stick, finding it actually works in controlling the plane’s wing flaps, rudder, and stabilizers. He also pretends he is a gunner, making imitations of the sounds of machine gun fire, while gesturing with his hands and fingers as if adjusting the fire of a vibrating turret gun. A few clicks of switches on the control panel, and the jet engine fires up, propelling the plane out of its snag on the tree limb. “Hot dog. It’s loose”, shouts a happy Donald, little realizing he has picked up a passenger.

Dale becomes emboldened at his own flying prowess, and walks out on the wing to wave hello to his horrified pal Chip below. Chip points Dale’s attention downward, and Dale gets a better view of just how high up he is. Realizing the peril, he scrambles back into the cockpit, pushing the controls every which way to try to figure how to get down. The plane’s tethered circular flight pattern is suddenly disrupted, transforming into serpentine curves, loop de loops, and figure eights, which Donald can’t understand and which leave his head spinning. The plane breaks loose of its control string, and begins an unexpected descent. Donald breaks out the pillow again, racing to get in front of the plane’s approach path, and seems to be in just the right position for a catch, when the plane stalls in mid-air, and abruptly lands nose first a few feet short of the pillow. Dale is ejected from the cockpit, landing on the pillow ro wave a sheepish hi to Donald. Donald is about to give the intruder a piece of his mind, when Dale points Donald’s attention to the condition of the plane. The front wheel has taken the brunt of the landing, and rests crooked and loose on its axle. “It’s busted”, quacks Donald. Actually, it’s only a loosened axle screw, and while Donald works with a screwdriver to tighten the wheel back to original alignment, Dale pitches in as second mechanic, and decides to look under the hood to see that the engine is in top shape. Of course, knowing nothing about engines is only a minor setback for Dale, who puzzles over what mysterious objects such as pistons are, and tosses a seemingly unneeded one over the side. At seeing this, Donald has had enough, and shuts the hood of the plane with Dale still inside, then switches on the engine from the control panel, ejecting Dale out of the jet exhaust, where Donald waits with an empty lemonade pitcher to catch the pesky chipmunk. Turning the pitcher upside down on the grass, Donald presumes that will hold him, and returns to repairing the damage Dale has caused. Chip climbs down from the tree and, though furious with his pal, attempts to rescue him by trying to tip the heavy pitcher over. Dale has more direct ideas, and merely digs into the soft grass to tunnel out from below, traveling underground like a mole in Donald’s direction. As Donald finishes the last repairs on the plane, the tunneling Dale passes between his legs, reappears under the plane, and hijacks the aircraft again, taking off before Donald knows what’s happened.

This time, Dale somehow finds a set of pilot’s goggles not previously seen in the plane, and pulls them down over his eyes for a real aviator’s look, turning to zero in on Donald’s rear end. Donald jumps and ducks to avoid collision from the plane, and runs in all directions while Dale again plays machine gunner as if scoring direct hits on Donald’s tail. On another pass, Donald holds up the pillow as a shield for protection, but Dale flies the plane right through it, leaving a trail of feathers behind him in a spiral of skywriting. “I’ll fix the little rat”, says Donald, and runs to a nearby boat landing at the park’s lake, grabbing a fishing pole from the pier. On the plane’s next pass, Donald casts his line, and snags the plane’s tail, bringing it to a halt, and forcing it down upon the water. Donald starts reeling in, while Dale struggles with the controls. Just as it seems Donald has him, Dale finds a means to increase jet thrust, and puts on an extra burst of engine speed, splashing water in Donald’s face and pulling away. “Oh no, ya don’t”, taunts a determined Donald, and braces his feet against the boat landing sign, pulling back on the line fiercely. Something’s gotta give in this tug of war, and it’s the sign, which snaps off under Donald’s feet, serving as a wakeboard for Donald to be towed all around the lake. The waves from Donald’s passes drench Chip, back on the tree limb above, who by now has given up on his incorrigible comrade. Donald briefly submerges under the waves, and comes up with a fish in his mouth. Still determined, Donald reels in more of the line, bringing him closer and closer to Dale, while Dale’s plane rises from the lake, gaining elevation. Dale looks back to see the situation, and realizes the time has come to depart. He leaps out of the cockpit a split second before Donald leaps onto the plane, and sails safely to earth on a scale-model parachute he has also found from nowhere inside the cockpit. Donald meanwhile wonders where he is going, and, astride the plane’s wings, turns the plane’s rudder for a left turn. The plane passes the flagpole of a tall skyscraper tower, with the line and fishing rod still trailing behind it. The pole snags on the flagpole base, its line acting as a new tether rope – and suddenly Donald finds himself in a new never0ending circular flight path around the pole, much as the story began. The scene transforms into a view late in the evening, with the plane still circling and not out of gas, and Donald still not having figured a way to get safely back down. From the safety of their tree, Dale, in nightcap, points the view out to Chip with a laugh, while the still disgusted Chip waves it off as if to say, ”Aw, go on”, for the iris out.

No Smoking (Disney/RKO, Goofy, 11/23/51 – Jack Kinney, dir.), receives very short honorable mention. One of a series of “everyman” shorts for the Goof, exploring how he deals with various vices – in this case, the smoking habit. The advertising of cigarettes is demonstrated by a skywriter in a biplane, spelling out in the sky, “Smoke Lookys” (a word-platy on “Luckys”, referring to one of the most popular national brands, Lucky Strike). An unusual touch shows the Goof pilot in close-up, revealing that he is not using the exhaust from his plane to perform the writing – but the smoke from an actual cigarette he is contentedly puffing as he flies. Just how much tobacco is stuffed into one little stick to produce a whole sky of secondhand smoke? The remainder of the film deals with the hilarious consequences of Goofy’s withdrawal symptoms after trying to kick the habit, as he scours the town for any kind of tobacco product to satisfy his cravings, at the repeated risk of life and limb. He never quite succeeds in breaking the habit despite his repeated failures to obtain a legitimate smoke, as his cravings are fully satisfied by being handed an exploding cigar full of dynamite by a practical joker.

Another short sequence qualifies for inclusion in this article a certified Tom and Jerry classic, Cat Napping (MGM, 12/9/51 – William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, dir.). A warm summer day leads the boys to each covet the most comfortable position in the back yard – a snuggly hammock strung between two trees. Of course, no force on earth will bring the two natural enemies to the thought of sharing, and the battle of wits is on to joust each other off of the fabric throne. Tom unhooks one end of the hammock from a tree and lowers the string into the water of a fish pond, providing Jerry with a rude and damp awakening. Jerry flips the hammock upside down, causing Tom to land on his lemonade glass. Tom deposits Jerry onto a passing parade of soldier ants with a spatula, but Jerry re-routes the ants onto the hammock, to snap the support cables under their bounding weight, wrapping Tom up as if in a retracting windowshade. Jerry unleashes a lawn mower on Tom and ther hammock, cutting the fabric up so that Tom appears to be part of a row of paper dolls. Then Jerry catches hold of the hammock with a grappling hook, tied to the rope from an old well. Cranking the rope tight to stretch the hammock like a rubber band to one side, Jerry cuts the rope, slingshooting Tom into the wild blue. Passing directly under the belly of an airplane in flight barely phases the half-dozing Tom, – but when he also passes a flying seagull, Tom finally looks down to get his bearings, and screams one of those screams of panic that only Tom can do. He lands with a thud in a violent bellyflop on the water below, then cracks into about sixteen body segments, each of which sink beneath the waves. By the time Tom pieces himself together, Jerry has convinced Spike the bulldog to occupy the hammock with a bone for bait. Tom creeps up and clobbers the wrong hammock occupant, and lives to regret it – as Spike reduces him to black eye, bruises, and bandages, and forces him to become a slave boy to fan Jerry like a Sultan in the hammock for the iris out.

More 50’s flights, next time.

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“Swallow the Leader” is absent from Youtube or Dailymotion in complete form, and no clip version contains the aerial sequence. Complete versions can be found on Archive.Org on a complex site called “Every Looney Tune and Merrie Melodie Ever Made”, but I’m not sure if you can zero the upload in to the specific title on the scrolling menu. It is also available on B98, SuperCartoons, and TopCartoons. All other titles readily available.

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  • The prize this week is “Swallow the Leader”, which I can’t remember ever seeing before! What a great cartoon! The cat is something of a precursor to the one that played the bulldog for penalties, and invariably lost, in “Early to Bet”, but a little fleshier, hinting at Dodsworth. McKimson’s cartoons are normally heavy on dialogue, so it’s wonderful to see one that’s told almost entirely in pantomime, showing the director’s superb timing and command of physical comedy. Bob McKimson and Warren Foster were a terrific combination.

    That’s an interesting hypothesis that “The Rain Makers” may have originally been intended as a vehicle for Gandy and Sourpuss. The character’s voices here tend to bear that out: Jeckle’s voice is higher-pitched than usual, Heckle’s deeper and gruffer. On the other hand, Heckle doesn’t serve as an exasperated fall guy for his partner’s lunacy, as Sourpuss usually did. I personally don’t think the existence of a good Paul Terry cartoon is a mystery that needs to be explained. Terry only wanted to produce cartoons on time and under budget; he didn’t care whether they were good or not. Which means that some of them were bound to be good — and others not.

    One minor point: Jeckle’s “Never gonna rain again” song is sung to the tune of “Arkansas Traveler”, not “Chicken Reel”. Interestingly in this context, the song’s original lyrics tell the story of an Arkansas man playing fiddle in his cabin during a rainstorm, and he continues to fiddle even when the roof leaks and the place gets flooded.

    • The H&J song’s sung to neither but “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'”, I believe, a 1920s song of the best Terry cartoons, in my op[inion regardless! Dayton Allen did the magpie voices as always.>!

      Doggin’ Out SC

      • While Jeckle’s lyrics are very similar to those of “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'”, the melody is definitely that of “Arkansas Traveler”. “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'”, recorded by Wendell Hall in 1923, was the first song to become a hit on radio. A year later, Hall’s wedding ceremony was broadcast on radio for a nationwide audience, comparable to the wedding of fellow ukulele player Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki on “The Tonight Show” many years later. But Hall’s marriage proved more enduring.

  • “The Wooden Indian” (Terrytoons/Fox, 31/12/48 — Connie Rasinski, dir.) is a shot-for-shot Technicolor remake of “The Last Indian” (1938), but with a new aeronautical ending appended. Now, instead of careening through a live-action landscape in a stolen car, the “loco” last Indian drives through an airplane hangar and comes out the other side dangling from the landing gear of a single-engine plane as it takes off. He climbs up onto the wings like a daredevil in an old barnstorming show, ululating a war cry all the while. We never see the pilot, but the plane goes out of control, buzzing the Statue of Liberty and knocking down the penthouses from a couple of skyscrapers. The Indian chops off the plane’s tail assembly with his tomahawk and falls — right on top of a passing dirigible. Delighted with his good fortune, he hurries to the bow of the airship, strikes a match, and sets fire to the nosecone. He then proceeds to the stern and begins puffing on the dirigible as though it were the world’s largest cigar. As one would expect, it explodes and blows the Indian to pieces. Those pieces fall to earth and reassemble themselves on the pediment in front of a cigar store. Thus, the narrator intones in Longfellowesque verse, ends this “sad, sad story of the red man’s vanished glory.”

    This cartoon plays genocide for laughs and adds a heap of insult to injury. The final image of the grinning native in a feathered headdress makes the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo look dignified by comparison.

  • “A Cold Romance” (Terrytoons/Fox, Mighty Mouse, 10/6/49 — Mannie Davis, dir.), one of the numerous musical melodramas from the Terry studio, opens with Mighty Mouse battling Oil Can Harry at a trading post in the Yukon Territory as a storm rages. A bolt of lightning pins our hero against a tree trunk, leaving Harry free to pursue Little Nell, filling in here for Pearl Pureheart. Nell is flying her helicopter to the North Pole to get sealskins for a new fur coat, singing as she goes: “Oh, I fly through the sky in my little coupe! Up and away! Up and away!” Thus “A Cold Romance” is one of the few cartoons with an original (if brief) song about piloting an aircraft.

    Harry follows the helicopter via whale taxi, dogsled, and kayak. When Nell lands at the North Pole, the seals are only too happy to strip out of their skins in exchange for a fish from her dainty hand. But the third seal to disrobe is none other than Harry in disguise. He demands, not a fish, but a kiss; she gives him a fish, right in the kisser. Before Nell can take off in her helicopter, Harry spritzes her with a seltzer bottle, encasing her body in ice, then puts her on a conveyor belt leading straight toward the grinding gears of an ore refinery. Can Mighty Mouse extricate himself from the trap in time to save the day? What do you think?

  • I’m not exactly sure it’s a good idea of mentioning that pirate page of What if a Warner employee is reading this?

  • Thanks for the tip about the Warner Bros cartoons on…

    Whoever is in charge of structuring that site should be canned…. pain in the rear to find anything.

  • The cat in “Swallow the Leader” (great cartoon, and I hadn’t seen it before either – was it not part of any TV package?) looks like he could have been drawn by Dr. Seuss.

    In “Happy Landing,” before Heckle (or is it Jeckle?) goes into his Al Jolson spiel, he speaks in a voice that reminds me of the late great sportscaster, Howard Cosell.

  • Two other Mighty Mouse melodramas from this period feature aircraft. In “Triple Trouble” (30/9/48 — Eddie Donnelly, dir.), Oil Can Harry abducts Pearl Pureheart from her antebellum plantation house high atop the Empire State Building in what I presume is Pearl’s own helicopter (Harry gets there by climbing up the skyscraper like a human fly — or rather, a feline one). When Mighty Mouse comes to the rescue, Harry disables him by activating a boxing glove that pops out of the helicopter’s nose (these modern whirlybirds are equipped with everything!). Then Harry tries to puree Mighty Mouse with the helicopter’s rotor blade. But the heroic rodent zooms out of the way, grabs Harry, lifts him right out of the helicopter, and with a single punch sends him crashing back into it. The impact severs the rotor from the rest of the helicopter, and Harry holds onto its axle for dear life. Mighty Mouse catches Pearl as she falls earthward, while Harry spins the rotor in a frantic attempt to avoid the crocodiles that infest the East River. Crocodiles in the East River? Of course! It’s Terrytoons!

    And in “Beauty on the Beach” (21/7/50 — Connie Rasinski, dir.), Harry concludes an extended fight sequence at Coney Island by the simple expedient of spritzing Mighty Mouse with DDT. He then places the unconscious superhero inside a “Loop-a-Plane” ride and sets the lever to maximum speed before breaking it off. The plane spins so rapidly that it eventually disengages from the ride’s axle and crash-lands in a distant part of the amusement park. Mighty Mouse emerges from the plane in a daze. He can barely walk, and he can only fly in circles. But Pearl’s screams in the distance snap him out of it, and off he goes to save the day.

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