Animation Trails
April 15, 2020 posted by Charles Gardner

Happy Henfruit Pt. 2: “Eggs-hilaration”

Whether your preference is low-calorie whites or fattening yolks, watch your cholesterol count, as we continue with a survey of cartoons centering on what a hen lays best.

Projecting forward a few short years from 1931’s Ugly Duckling, discussed last week, the Disney crew seems to have evolved light years ahead of its former self. Case in point is Funny Little Bunnies (Disney/UA, Silly Symphony,3/24/34 – Wilfred Jackson, dir.), which may rank as the finest certified Easter classic. While there is no plot-line per se, the film admits us (because we are believers, whom the title song explains are the only persons allowed to visit) to the secret world of the Easter Bunnies, for a guided tour through the production process of the Easter eggs and chocolate eggs and rabbits that fill out Easter baskets each year. While some production costs are slightly minimized by the use of a few rather lengthy and elaborate repeating animation cycles, the visuals remain dazzling and lavish, and make liberal use of practically the entire Technicolor palette. (Sources have indicated that the Technicolor company for a time used prints of this film as their demonstrator sample to prospective customers of the range of spectrum possible with the process – not surprising, given the brilliant appearance of the print even 86 years later.) We follow several assembly lines for the edible goodies.

First, one group of rabbits melts huge bars of chocolate in large vats. The chocolate is poured into molds, producing large chocolate eggs. They are wheeled by wheelbarrow to face a “firing squad” of rabbits armed with frosting tubes. On command, they squirt multicolor designs upon the eggs with marksman’s precision. Chocolate bunnies are turned our of blocks of chocolate by sculptor rabbits, with one of the only clothes-less rabbits in the picture “modeling” in the center. (Wasn’t it a little early for those Fred Moore life drawing classes?) In the traditional Easter egg department, a chief hen leads a flock of other laying stock in song and musical egg-laying down chutes, where the eggs are collected by the rabbits for the painting department. Painting is of course a Technicolor dream-come-true. Borrowing and embellishing upon a gag from Santa’s Workshop (1932), several bunnies use specially designed paints in which multiple colors already float in the paint cans in the patterns of stripes, checkerboards, etc., and flow off the paitbrush in one stroke to immediately replicate the same pattern on the egg. An elderly rabbit with a shaky hand gets the job of painting zig-zagging lines on several eggs. And a pair of cross-eyed rabbits, obviously unfit for creating the fancy patterns, get to haphazardly paint the solid colors. Another rabbit sits in red paint, then creates heart shapes on the egg shells with his butt. Everything culminates in fillig the Easter baskets and holding a holiday parade of their creations, as the bunnies disappear into the shadows of the bushes for an unusual panning shot to black instead of an iris out (a technique Disney had used at least oce earlier in The Gallopin’ Gaucho (1928)).

Along Flirtation Walk (Warner, Merrie Melodies (2-strip Technicolor), 4/20/35 – Isadore (“Friz”) Freleng, dir.), spends at least half of its footage on egg-laying – as a competitive sport. Two rival poultry universities (Plymouth Rock College and Rhode Island Reds University) square off in a grudge match stadium event, in a sendup of classic college movie cliches. Each team seats itself in a row of opposing nests, each nest equipped with a small chute feeding into a larger “gutter” path for eggs to roll into a counting device that automatically tallies the score of each respective team. The Reds take a commanding lead in the first half, and still look rarin’ to go returning to the locker room for the break, while the Plymouth Rocks seem nearly exhausted, and get chewed out by their duck coach. The Reds, however, add a little “insurance” during the break, by each swallowing a hefty helping of billiard balls, which they “lay” in the next quarter to further “rack up” the score without the referee noticing. To make things even worse, Plymouth is penalized when one of its hens lays live chicks instead of eggs. An extra hen, who the coach treats as merely a “bench warmer”, pleads to go in for Plymouth. The coach finally agrees, only after seeing the score at the five-minute warning stacked up 98 to 40 against them.

Things get a bit confusing to understand at this point, as this film was the unfortunate victim of massive edits by the newly-strengthened censorship board, with all surviving prints displaying multiple abrupt cuts breaking the continuity of both picture and sound, so that the end result is a choppy mess. All we see is the substitute hen rush out to the nest line, still wearing a team sweater. Suddenly, we cut to a shot of the scoring machine, with eggs galore rolling in for Plymouth – but still two points shy of passing the Reds. When we cut back to the nest, the hen is no longer wearing her sweater, but a ladies corset is tied around her waist, with two other hens on either side of her. We can only guess that the other hens pulled the corset laces to squeeze the flood of eggs out. Meanwhile, it should be noted, not a single score is being registered for the Reds. Are they drained out? Or playing the old “Tortoise and Hare” card of overconfidence in their impending victory? Whatever the case (between multiple repetitions of a crowd shot to attempt to cover over the ragged cuts), the two hens assisting our substitute pull out mallets and bop her on the head twice- producing two more eggs out the chute, for the needed points as the final gun is fired. The miracle hen, still in her corset, is carried on the shoulders of the cheering crowd in a victory parade for the iris out. Between the chaos of the merciless editing, coupled with the fact that this film is also one of the most poorly preserved negatives in the Warner vaults (often shown in such faded form that you may believe it was filmed in black and white), one can only dream how much improved the presentation would be in its original director’s cut – or at least with a decent color restoration.

Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising produced two films for MGM practically on the heels of one another dealing with the troubles of hatching eggs. The Lost Chick (Happy Harmonies (2 strip Technicolor), 5/9/35) may be the first to present what would become, in increasing complexity, a cartoon cliche – the egg falling out of a nest that miraculously doesn’t break. A mother hen (wearing a hot water bottle under her posterior) has neatly written in cursive manuscript the names of each of her expected offspring on their eggshells. The one marked “Eggbert” rolls away, falling on a soft pillow, rolling neatly down the henhouse steps and down a hill, where it comes to a stop in the woods. Two young squirrels, foraging for food, mistake it for a nut big enough to last all winter. They roll it back to their tree. But their grandfather advises that he’s never seen a nut look like than in all his born days, and that they should look for real food before winter comes. Ridiculed by the squirrel community, the two hold firm to their belief that the egg is the solution to their food problem – until it hatches into a baby chick. The other squirrels sing a taunting song, advising to throw the chick out quick. But out good-hearted duo take the chick in, and attempt to feed it with their only food supply – a box of popcorn. The chick steps too close to the fireplace, and the internal popping bounces him all over the room. Meanwhile, Mama hen’s brood hatches, but on counting them she realizes she is one shy – and Eggbert’s missing. She searches the village frantically, and discovers the squirrels in a compromising position, looking like they’re abusing Eggbert (when they were really just shaking him to get the popcorn out of him). Mama embraces Eggbert, and leads him by the hand home – but shuns and chases away the squirrels as if villains. As the squirrels helplessly watch the chick depart, the first snow and icy winds of winter make their appearances. Now faced with potential starvation, the squirrels trudge through the snow in a hopeless search for food that has already been hoarded by the other animals. Meanwhile, Mama hen rocks the cradles of her new family – all except Eggbert, who paces nervously at the window, viewing the icy storm outside. Having now learned to talk, he finally clears the squirrels’ good name, informing Mom that they took him in and fed him, and now they’ll be hungry. Mom sees the error of her ways, and braves the snowstorm to find the kindly squirrels. She discovers them collapsed in the snow, and takes them home for a happy reunion with Eggbert, announcing that the squirrels can stay forever and ever.

Barnyard Babies (MGM/Harman-Ising, Happy Harmonies (2-strip Technicolor), 5/25/35) spends most of its footage upon a “Better Babies Show” for the farmyard set, competing for a loving cup. But a sidelight which provides the cartoon’s closer gags is an expectant rooster and hen, who are distressed that the calendar for the anticipated appearance of their new arrivals shows the big day as two days past the date of the show. The rooster, with the reluctant and long-suffering cooperation of the mother, decides to speed up the process – first by applying steaming hot towels atop the eggs and under mother. The heat sends mother jumping into the air, but she eventually “toughs” it out and does her nest sitting until the morning of the show. Still no results. As the show commences, the rooster gets another idea – and inserts the nest, mother and all, into the home’s oven! An incubator to end all incubators. In the nick of time, the trick works, and the first chick pops out, greeting the audience with Kate Smith’s radio signature line, “Hello, everybody!” The couple drag their new brood behind them into the auditorium just as the loving cup is being handed out. An inebriated duckling hiccups under the cup and sends it flying across the stage, landing amidst the chickens. The chicks are bounced into the air and land inside the cup, and the mother and father hold their flock and the cup proudly aloft in the air, as the winners of the prize.

Humpty Dumpty (Ub Iwerks, Comi-Color (2 strip Cinecolor), 12/30/35) is another of Iwerks’ slightly-warped takes on fairy tales. The film actually has nothing to do with the title character, but instead focuses on his son, Humpty Dumpty Jr., who claims he’s just like his ill-fated dad: “I climb where I like and they can’t make me stop.” No sooner said than he falls off his perch, only rescued by being caught in his Mom’s apron. “That’s how your father got cracked”, she cautions. (By the way, how do eggs reproduce? Do they lay more eggs?) Humpty Jr.’s girlfriend, the demure Easter Egg, happens by, and Humpty and she perform an original Carl Stalling production number, “Spooning In a Spoon”. (Let’s just be glad they didn’t choose an activity appropriate for a fork.) But in pure melodramatic fashion also comes along, silk-hatted and mustachioed, the Bad Egg, who attempts to spirit Easter away with him. Humpty is a pushover for the villain’s left hook, and Easter is dragged up to a high kitchen shelf. Humpty uses a spaghetti strand as a lasso and ascends to do battle again. But Easter’s continued resistance leads the villain, out of frustration and spite, to take a drastic step, and hurl Easter off the shelf into a boiling pot of water on the kitchen stove. The villain again goes unscathed from Humpty, who is forced to turn his attentions to making a rescue. Again using a spaghetti lariat (maybe this should be considered the first spaghetti Western), Humpty pulls Easter from the water – but too late! Her good girl demeanor has vanished, and now, hard-boiled, she talks and acts like Mae West!

Humpty again tries to take vengeance on the villain, but, knowing what a manby-pamby he is, the hardened Easter decides to take care of herself, and delivers a series of telling blows to the Bad Egg. Humpty cheers her on, but jumps too much and loses his balance, falling into the same pot of boiling water below. He manages to swim out himself, but with the same noticeable change of disposition. Now he is a rough-and-tumble rowdy, just suited to the world-wise Easter. Humpty grabs a box of matches and flings them one by one to encircle the villain in a ring of flame, then throws the remainder of the box straight at the villain in the center. A fiery explosion leaves the villain blackened and charred, as he collapses into a spoon. Humpty jumps on the spoon handle and flips the villain to the floor below. The villain cracks like Humpty’s old man, and we discover why a bad egg smells so bad, as dozens of small skunks hatch out of his shell. With more experience under their belts, Humpty and Easter return to “Spooning in a Spoon”, as the storybook closes.

The Little Stranger (Fleischer/Paramount, Color Classic, 3/13/36), is a sort of “role reversal” take on “The Ugly Duckling”, this time having a destitute mother hen leave a chicken egg in a duck’s nest. It is a typical affair, the most fun being when the baby chick can’t follow Mama onto the pond because confidentially – – he sinks. Mama figures his problem is no webbed feet, so provides him with two leaves to poke his chicken claws through as substitutes. But they slip off the minute he hits the water, with the same result. Dejectedly returning to the nest, the chick cleverly solves his own problem, learning to use one of the broken half-eggshells as a canoe. Of course, a villain enters in the form of a vulture. The chick literally runs him through “the mill”. In an interior chase that results in the vulture’s head getting stuck in the center hole of a wagon wheel, rolling him through the wall and down a hill into the pond, where four frogs convert the floating wheel into a merry-go-round. The chick crows in victory, and Mama duck and the ducklings salute him by learning how to crow too.

A Tough Egg (Terrtoons/Educational, 6/26/36) is an odd little commodity. Doc stork delivers an egg to Mama hen and a prototype of Rudy Rooster, resident tough guy and champion in fisticuffs of the barnyard. Pop (in a scene largely clipped by the CBS censors) enters a local tavern to wait out the hatching, and presumably gets soused. Mother meanwhile takes the unhatched egg out for a walk in a stroller. From a mountainside swoops down a buzzard, carrying off Mama, egg and all. But the motivations of this bird are rather off-the-wall, for upon reaching his roost, he dons a turban, and is attended by other buzzards as if a sultan. And his only desire for the hen does not seem to be to send her to the stewpot – but instead to have her entertain as an unwitting palace dancing girl! Enough is enough of this nonsense, as the egg starts to act up and rolls out of Mama’s hands. It rolls to the sultan, who also seems to have no appetite for eggs. Instead he kicks at the eggshell – and nearly breaks his foot as if kicking a solid rock. He picks up the egg and tosses it across the cave. Mama isn’t very protective as the egg passes her – she ducks instead of even trying to catch it. The egg bounces between the heads of two palace guards, knocking them out, and rebounds uncracked back to the sultan. Breaking into a shimmy dance inside the egg, the hatchling finally emerges in a cyclonic twirl – wearing a tough guy striped sweater like his old man, and raring to fight. He makes short work of the sultan, and knocks down a row of scimitar-wielding guards like they were dominos. Grabbing Mama’s hand, he leads her outside, and uses a springy tree as a diving board to launch them back to the barnyard, the tree snapping back to whomp the remaining buzzards of the flock. Back home, Papa seems to be pickled to the point where he is about to collapse anyway – so Junior hastens the process by flattening him to rest in the stroller, while Junior sits on his chest and crows as new cock o’the walk.

Greedy Humpty Dumpty (Fleischer/Paramount, Color Classic, 7/10/36 – Dave Fleischer, dir., David Tendlar/William Sturm, anim.). Another studio you should never expect to treat a fairy tale with cloying sweetness was Max Fleischer’s. The New York boys develop their own unique take on the story of the world’s most famous egg, somehow crossing his personality with that of King Midas. Humpty is ruler of a fairytale kingdom, wearing a large gold crown, and sitting atop a turret-shaped wall of gold bricks surrounding his castle-tree. Humpty is an egotistical miser, and even exhibits horrendous table manners, as he grotesquely chews on a large leg of turkey. Most of all, he expresses an undying passion for acquiring more wealth, and spends his idle time counting and stacking coins in his royal treasure. But his attention is suddenly drawn to a golden beam of sunlight illuminating the room through a small window. Humpty’s fortune-finding senses smell gold as the source of the sunlight, and he imagines he is seeing the sun through the window as a gigantic multi-faceted golden crown (a three-dimensional image accomplished with Max’s turntable camera). “Why didn’t I know there was gold in the sun? I;ll get that too, before I’m done”, boasts Humpty. Producing a whip, he calls hus subjects around the castle, and insists that they will help him attain the elusive sky treasure by building his wall to reach the sun. Mother goose cautions, “Don’t try too high to build your wall, ‘cause the higher you go, the harder you’ll fall.” Humpty will have none of this, and starts cracking the whip for immediate action. Action he gets, as all of fairy-tale land join in a massive assembly-line to get the wall built. (Was this what Donald Trump envisioned would happen when he took office?) The three men in a tub float along mixing mortar in a vat below them. Mother Goose’s goose spreads morter on the bricks, using his beak for a trowel, Witches use their broomsticks as hod carriers to cart loads of bricks ro the top of the wall m dropping them into the mortar. Teams of pelicans alternate between drops of mortar and more layers of bricks.

Humpty dances with glee up the ever-growing rows of bricks, probably imagining himself as another Bill Bojangles Robinson doing a staircase dance. The wall grows and grows, until finally it is within mere feet of the sun’s disk. (I guess there’s no issue in fairytale kingdoms of the sun’s heat, or Humpty would be well-fried by this time.) His workers appearing to have run out of bricks, Humpty solves the problem of the last few feet by yanking bricks out of the side of the wall and stacking them in twos precariously in the center, then climbing atop them. Producing an axe, he chops a hole into the sun’s disc, proclaiming, “All mine!” Out of the hole bursts a menacing torrent of flame, followed by a lightning bolt which takes on the shape of a stick-figure human-bein, and takes Humpty over his “knee” to administer a spanking. More lightning shapes itself into the form of a jack-hammer, and batters a large crack into the side of the wall,. The entire tower rocks violently, Humpty desperately trying to hold his balance atop the loosely-stacked bricks. Huge sections of the wall crumble and fall toward the villagers below, sending them scattering. Finally, the whole structure disintegrates and topples. Humpty falls helplessly through the air, realizing as he falls that he is still clinging to a single isolated brick in his hand. Seeing the futility of this, he tosses the brick away, sating, “Phooey!” The inevitable crash occurs, shattering Humpty into a hundred egg-shell shards. In a surprising and clever ending shot, the townsfolk prove they are adept at jigsaw puzzles, and briefly reassemble Humpty (long enough for his to express repentance at his greed). But one key piece is still not assembled – the addition of Humpty’s heavy crown. A villager finally places the crown on the egg’s head – and its weight crumbles Humpty back into shards again!. Yes, neither the king’s horses nor the king’s men will ever get Humpty assembled as long as that crown is in the bargain – and we iris out on that note.

Felix the Cat and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg (Van Buren, Rainbow Parade, RKO, 2/7/36 – Burt Gillett/Tom Palmer, dir.), gives us a taste of another famous fairytale fowl with recurring appearances in animation. There really isn’t too much for the goose to do, however, in this one, as she is merely the vehicle for Felix to run a depression-relief station where anyone can get a free handout of gold coins. The goose sits in a nest with the usual egg-chute, and tallies her output on an adding machine as each new egg is laid. Felix uses a different household appliance to convert the eggs into coins than Terrytoons – a meat grinder. But the plot quickly converts into a pirate epic, as villainous Captain Kidd steals the goose and takes her aboard ship. When the goose won’t lay, the Captain pulls out a cutlass and threatens to “help himself”. Felix to the rescue. The animation is about as lavish as you would ever want to see a Felix cartoon get, and, based on the meteoric rate of improvement Gillett had brought about in such a short time by his “extreme makeover”: of the studio, it remains one of those intriguing “what if” scenarios whether, given a few more years development and the inevitable sharpening of timing which eventually reached all studios, Felix might again have taken his place as a cartoon superstar in the talkie days of theatrical animation. As it was, only three color Felixes were ever produced, and Disney’s usurpation of Van Buren’s berth at RKO sealed the demise of the character until the television era.

The Barnyard Five (Lantz/Universal, Oswald the Rabbit, 4/20/36), is a film whose only relevance to this article is its opening hatching. Playing on the popularity of the Dionne Quintuplets, the film’s main surprise is a single hatching egg that produces five ducklings within its shell. Doc Stork has sliced off one end of the shell to get them out, and they keep popping out of the hole one at a time. When he’s sure the shell must be empty (after four ducks – named Fee, Fi Fo, and Fum – have emerged), he shakes the shell, hearing nothing. Doc tosses the shell away onto a pot bellied stove, where it cracks, revealing a black fifth duckling (named Fooey), who leaps up off the hot stove surface to keep from getting his tail frizzled. The rest of the film is rather plotless, focusing on Oswald’s invitation of the new family to dinner (using Wimpy’s old by-line from the Popeye series – “You bring the ducks”), and can’t even figure a good ending gag, fading out when you least expect it.

I Love To Singa (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 7/18/36 – Fred (“Tex”) Avery, dir,), has achieved somewhat iconic status, and is well known to animation fans. Its only connection with eggs is its first sequence, which mirrors the “Ugly Duckling” tale for barn owls. Four eggs are produced by Mrs. Owl, spouse of Prof. Fritz Owl, who advertises instruction on voice, piano, violin – but NO JAZZ! Papa tests each egg by hitting the shells with a small hammer. Three produce musical bell tones, while the fourth only a metallic “Clank”. Each of the first three eggs hatches a musical prodigy (they not only pop out completely dressed for the concert hall, but the instrumentalists – violinist and flautist – come already equipped with their own instrument!). Papa labels them a “Caruso’, “Frirz Kreisler”, and “Mendelssohn”), But the fourth egg (in clever parody of Warner’s 1927 breakthrough talkie hit for Al Jolson), produces a red jacketed “Jazz Singer”. (The parody is clearly indicated – right down to him carrying an identification card reading “Owl Jolson”.) He is eventually ejected from the house, but proves himself to both public and family alike on the “Jack Bunny” radio amateur program.

Mother Pluto (Disney/UA, Silly Symphony (Pluto), 11/14/36, David Hand. dir.) – While actually the first solo starring role for Pluto (if you don’t count his sizeable cameo among other anonymous mutts in “Just Dogs” (1932)), this film was billed as a Silly Symphony to fill contractual commitments. UA had not to committed to either a Pluto or Donald Duck spinoff series, with the result that three starring vehicles for these characters had to be released either as a “Mickey Mouse” or “Silly Symphony” title. After some last minute indecision, Pluto wound up with the Silly Symphony, while the Donald cartoons were nominally “introduced” by Mickey despite the absence of the name star except in the title headshot.

The scene opens on a barnyard, with Pluto’s doghouse in the center of the layout. But Pluto is nowhere to be seen. Inside instead is a mother hen, who has just laid a batch of eggs, which she has nestled in the hay lining the floor of the doghouse. A passing butterfly attracts her attention as an easy lunch, and she conceals the eggs in the hay, then gives chase to the butterfly outside. From the other direction arrives Pluto, having found a bone for his morning breakfast. He enters the doghouse and settles down among the hay to eat But after a few moments, he starts to hear cracks and pops beneath him. Standing up, he sees an egg emerge from the hay – and from it a baby chick. Then more – and more – until Pluto finds himself surrounded by about fourteen of them. Pluto backs cautiously out of the house with his tail between his legs, and bumps into a wire fence. Seeing a chance for escape, he crouches, then leaps to the top of the fence, and over onto the other side. Dismissing the chicks with a snort, he turns to go his separate way. But the chicks are so small, they can fit right through the holes in the chicken wire, and still pursue Pluto.

The chicks run across a grasshopper, and are temporarily distracted by the thrill of the hunt, while Pluto tries again to escape them. But one chick swallows the grasshopper and is bounced from inside across the yard, winding up under Pluto. The grasshopper escapes out of the chick’s mouth, and the chick is left dazed and ailing. Pluto is visibly moved, and his maternal (or is it paternal?) Instincts kick in, as he takes the chick under his wing (or in this case, paw). The other chicks dive into Pluto’s encircling arms, and Pluto gradually realizes they’re all pretty cute, and starts to enjoy his adoptive role. He even takes an interest in their care, assisting a chick to scratch up a caterpillar by using his much bigger feet to unearth the dirt. Back at the doghouse, well-fed Mama hen returns to settle inm but spies a nest of empty eggshells. She scans the barnyard and locates the chicks in Pluto’s arms. But despite her complaints, Pluto is now the protective parent, and won’t give them back. The hen calls for reinforcements from a fighting rooster. The rooster confronts Pluto, taking a painful chomp on his tail. The two assume classic cockfighting poses, nose to nose and claw to paw. Pluto mistimes a head bob, and the rooster jumps on Pluto’s back, grabbing hold by the ears as if reins, and riding the dog like a bucking bronco. The chicks run for cover, as the rooster next grabs Pluto’s bottom in his claws, and crows as if the victor. But Pluto runs through a hole in a fence, causing the pointy spikes in the Rooster’s heels to get wedged into a wooden fence, leaving the bird stuck tight. A weary and battered Pluto returns to the seemingly empty doghouse, in one piece but emotionally defeated at having lost his brood. But, this is a Disney picture – so, out of the straw pop the chicks, who used it as their hiding place, and again bond with Pluto. (Where did Mama hen go? Oh, well, what’s a loose end between friends?) One chick climbs on Pluto’s back and scratches, finding just the right spot to cause Pluto to half-kick as doggies do when contented, for a happy iris out.

The Wily Weasel (Lantz/Universal, Oswald Rabbit, 6/7/37 – Walter Lantz, dir.), is mostly a chase cartoon, initiated by the theft of a cross-eyed hen’s entire nest of eggs (pre-packaged in a one dozen egg crate) by a thieving weasel, who initiates a trope which would reappear in other studios’ cartoons to follow, by disguising the theft – covering his tracks by leaving in place of the eggs a nest full of round doorknobs. Mama hen is slow to catch on, but finally sounds the alarm to Oswald. Oswald’s dilapidated barn is just too full of entrance holes in the walls and floorboards, but he tries his best by laying contraptive booby traps at each entrance (eggs tied to axes, bear traps, shotguns, etc.), and further posting both his dogs (Elmer the Great Dane, and Doxie the Dachshund, in one of the rare instances they both appeared together), on sentry duty. The weasel gets in nonetheless, and leads the dogs on a seemingly endless chase, which eventually ensnarls both dogs in the booby traps. Oswald is awakened and joins the chase, but all three heroes are led through a trap springing a triple-hole set of stocks upon their necks. As Oswald and the dogs struggle in vain, the weasel wastes food for spite by tossing an egg in each of their faces. But the last laugh is reserved for the cross-eyed hen, who bops the weasel from behind with a rolling pin, then brushes her hands off to denote, “That is that.”

Next Time: More golden yolks from the late 30’s


  • Another (literally) egg-centric Animation Trail, written in eggs-quisite prose. You deserve a standing ‘ovation’! All right, that’ll be enough of that. But seriously, this may have been the most enjoyable Wednesday evening I’ve spent watching the cartoons in your posts. The 1930s are probably my favourite decade for animation, because the possibilities of the medium were being continually explored, and each cartoon set a new benchmark. Much of animation history since then has been a matter of cutting corners.

    The Silly Symphony “Arctic Antics” (1930) also ended with a panning shot to black. Rather an odd way to end a cartoon, especially in the case of “Funny Little Bunnies”; one might expect it to end with a scene of delighted children finding their baskets on Easter Sunday. But that wouldn’t jibe with the final verse of the song. (I think the women’s chorus here was under-rehearsed. They do a good job, but they sound as though they’re singing with their faces in the sheet music.)

    Please show more cartoons in German!

  • Another egg-semplary post – just as I’ve come to egg-spect!

  • I adore it!!!

  • Original English language version of The Lost Chick

    Better quality print of Greedy Humpty Dumpty with original Paramount titles

    Your copy of Barnyard Babies is a German dub, here’s the original English language version

    • Thanks – our embeds have been updated, thanks to you.

  • The pugilist rooster in “A Tough Egg”, with his derby hat, striped jersey and cigar, bears a marked resemblance to the titular Cock in Disney’s “Cock o’ the Walk” (Disney/United Artists, Silly Symphonies, 11/30/35 — Ben Sharpsteen, dir.), released half a year earlier. In the lavish Carioca dance number that occupies at least half the cartoon’s running time, a clutch of eggs pulsate rhythmically to the Latin beat of the music; then two of them separate from the nest and begin to dance, legs extending from one end of the shell like Sheldon on “U.S. Acres”. By the end of the scene their heads have broken through the other end, leaving the bulk of the shell around their torsos — at this point looking like Victor Hartmann’s costume design that inspired the “Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells” in Modest Mussorgsky’s piano masterpiece “Pictures at an Exhibition” (1874).

  • “Why Mules Leave Home” (Terrytoons/Educational Pictures, Farmer Al Falfa, 7/9/34 — Frank Moser, dir.; re-released by Castle Films as “Farmyard Whoopee”) has some amusing scenes of industrial-scale egg production and the use of eggs in combat. A rooster sitting on a weather vane checks his pocket watch and crows to herald the dawn. This rouses, not Farmer Al Falfa, but his alarm clock, which, frustrated that his ringing has no apparent effect on the sleeper. swipes his blanket and storms off in a huff. The farmer, now awake, pulls the cord of a steam whistle to signal the beginning of the morning shift.

    The ducks march from their coops to the factory, punch a time clock, and take the escalator upstairs, where they lay eggs by the dozen. A cat places empty egg cartons on a conveyor belt, and a dog takes the full cartons away at the other end. Outside, Farmer Al is pitching forkfuls of hay to his mule, who is keeping the biting flies at bay with a flyswatter held in his tail. However, a passing bee finds the mule’s rump irresistible and, using a small lawnmower to shave a bare patch, gives it a painful sting. This drives the mule mad; he begins kicking holes in the walls of his stable, and eventually the whole structure collapses. Farmer Al, surveying the damage, tells him: “You’re fired!” “Well, you’re too late!” replies the mule. “I quit!” The mule climbs onto a stump, brays to attract the attention of the dog, cat and rooster, and then delivers a rabble-rousing speech in song:

    “All our lives we’ve worked for farmers, and we never got no pay,
    And old age is creeping on us, and we can’t go on this way.
    For a profit-sharing basis is the order of the day,
    So let’s quit this doggone farm, and we’ll be starting on our way!”

    As they march toward the city, the mule, dog, cat and rooster produce, respectively, a saxophone, drum, flute, and pair of cymbals, and they begin to play. At this point the cartoon seems to be turning into another retelling of the Bremen Town Musicians. But meanwhile, back at the ranch….

    A wolf with a feather headdress, buckskin pants and tomahawk observes the vulnerable state of the farm and, with an ululating loon cry, alerts the rest of his tribe. Like the Indians in Van Beuren’s “Redskin Blues” (1932), the wolves’ feather headdresses enable them to fly. Farmer Al fires buckshot at them, but when they respond with an aerial bombardment of arrows, he retreats into his cabin. He then uses a machine gun to fire duck eggs at the wolves, as a compliant duck assists him with the ammunition belt, and seems to be getting the upper hand. But then the airborne wolves fly down the chimney and attack the farmer from his fireplace.

    The duck hurries to the mule and his comrades, quacking urgently at them. Having an inexplicable change of heart, the animals rush back to the farm, where Farmer Al is now tied to a bedpost as one wolf sharpens a knife and the others do a war dance. Mule, dog, cat and rooster, standing outside the window, respond to this desperate situation by… playing their instruments! The discordant cacophony frightens the wolves away. As for Farmer Al and the mule, all is forgiven, and the cartoon concludes with a stirring chorus of “Home on the Range”.

    Now we know why mules leave home. Whoopee!

  • “Bosko’s Easter Eggs” (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Happy Harmonies, 20/3/37 — Hugh Harman, dir.) is a memorable yet seldom-seen Easter cartoon from the mid-’30s. It begins with Bosko walking his dog Bruno and carrying a basket full of colourful Easter eggs as he sings a cheerful little ditty to set up the plot:

    “Now I’m takin’ Honey some Easter eggs!
    The basket’s full, in they don’t drop out,
    And I’ll step real soft so the shell’s don’t crack.
    If she don’t like ’em, I can take ’em back!”

    Despite his self-professed care for his cargo, Bosko almost immediately climbs a fence, drops the basket, and falls headfirst into it — and then the yolks, dozens of them, are on him!

    Meanwhile, Honey is watering and feeding her hen Billie, who is incubating a nest full of lovely white eggs that are due to hatch on Easter Day. While Honey goes off to water some flowers, Bosko, having cleaned himself up, notices Billie and decides that her eggs will make an adequate substitute for the Easter eggs he destroyed. However, the hen attacks him angrily when he tries to reach underneath her, so Bosko leaves a trail of corn for her to follow and lures her into a pen. When he locks the gate behind her and retreats, Billie is madder than ever.

    Bosko quickly paints the eggs and presents them to Honey, who declares, in one of her typical malapropisms: “I think they’s just simply abdominal!” When she asks where he got the eggs, and Bosko is unable to give her a straight answer, she deduces that he must have taken them from Billie’s nest; she rushes to the henhouse, with Bosko following behind, and the empty nest confirms her suspicions. Bosko replaces the eggs and gets Bruno to sit on them, while Honey provides the embarrassed dog with a shawl and a bonnet to make his appear more maternal. The children then set out to find the hen.

    Billie, meanwhile, has escaped through a hole in the chicken wire, and when she finds Bruno sitting on her nest she furiously chases the dog away. Bosko comes to the rescue, but the hen is more than a match for both of them. Honey keeps the eggs warm with a hot water bottle, and before long they hatch. It seems that the paint has somehow seeped through the eggshells, for the chicks are all as brightly coloured and patterned as the Easter eggs from which they hatched! As Honey declares: “Isn’t this simply magnolious!”

  • “Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son” (Terrytoons/Educational Pictures, 16/11/34 — Frank Moser, dir.), like Van Beuren’s “Nursery Scandal” (1932) and Betty Boop’s “Mother Goose Land” (1933), is an animated musical revue featuring Mother Goose characters. It deserves mention here, because the appearance of Humpty Dumpty predates that in the cartoons of Iwerks, Fleischer and Disney in the same decade. Plus, he sings an original song!

    As in “Nursery Scandal”, Mother Goose dances with a living scarecrow, which Humpty Dumpty finds hilarious. Letting out a stentorian guffaw, he bursts into melody:

    “I’m Humpty Dumpty on the wall!
    Don’t make me laugh, or I might fall!
    If I should fall, I’d break my leg,
    Because I’m just an egg!”

    Proving his point, Humpty laughs again, then falls and shatters on the ground. But never fear: Tom the Piper’s son can do what all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t. As Tom pipes a tune on his magic piccolo, the fragments of Humpty reassemble, and he gently floats back to the top of the wall. “Thank you, Tom!” he says, in a gratifying display of well-mannered politeness. Good egg!

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