After all these weeks, you probably can’t stand to look another fried egg in the face on your breakfast plate. But before your brains get poached, take heart – we’re finally reaching the end of the henfruit trail. Budgets were slimming down like separating the whites from the yolks. But there were still a few more “golden” storylines left to tell in the television era and beyond. We’ll sample the best that animation’s chefs had left to offer.
The Chicken-Hearted Chickasaurus (Hanna-Barbera (H-B Enterprises), Ruff and Reddy, 12/13/58 – 1/10/59 – William Hanna/Joseph Barbera, dir.). Taking some highly-probable inspiration from Paramount’s Cock-a Doodle Dino, reviewed last week, Hanna and Barbera present their own take on a modern-day dinosaur story. The cat and dog duo are reunited for this installment with their old friend Professor Gizmo, who is now curator of a museum. Gizmo has summoned them for help upon receiving an anonymous note (signed, “Anonymous”), threatening that his Chickasaurus egg will be stolen tonight. The egg is a mammoth white monster, bigger than Reddy himself, and a million years old – also worth millions. Ruff and Reddy offer to stand guard overnight – but, as with every cartoon night watchman, fall asleep at their post. Two mummy cases open, and the mummies unwind, revealing old arch-nemeses Killer and Diller. Using the wrappings, they bind up Ruff and Reddy like Christmas packages, and make an escape with the egg in a truck. Gizmo returns and unwinds the boys in time for them to all hop in a car and give chase. Killer and Diller choose a steep mountain road, and shift the truck into “Jet” gear. But the acceleration jolts the egg out the truck’s back hatch, and it rolls down the hill, bouncing off the hood of the heroes’ car, down the road, and off a cliff. Even falling hundreds of feet into a canyon, the egg is not destroyed – merely cracked. The jolt, however, has awakened something inside it.
With considerable difficulty (and only after running straight into a stone cliff), out pops a mammoth blue and red bird built like a brick wall, wilh a bill full of gleaming teeth. It can speak only one word, over and over – “Greek! Greek!” “It’s all Greek to me”, comments Reddy. But Killer and Diller have caught up with the group, and, resorting to their original Western-style, swing a lariat around the bird’s neck. When the bird won’t budge, they give it a hotfoot. The bird stampedes, ditching the villains. The good guys latch on to the rope, but the chickasaurus takes off, carrying all of them skyward while the bird’s homing instinct takes them to a lost world inside am extinct volcano. Killer and Diller follow in a helicopter. “What if this volcano blows it’s top?” Diller asks. “You’ll never be a successful crook thinking negative”, replies Killer. Exiting the crater through a hole in its base, the bird arrives home, losing his passengers when their rope crashes into a cliff side. The three encounter various dinosaurs – mostly harmless vegetarians. But one sure isn’t – a tyrannosaurus. The beast corners our heroes in a cave, and behind them, a pair of mysterious eyes in the darkness give them the further creeps. But the eyes turn out to be a helpful cave kid (named “Ubble Ubble” for his favorite words of dialogue), who believes in speaking softly but carrying a big stick – make that club. The tyrannosaurus is no match for Ubble’s batting ability, as Ubble hits a “home run” batting a rock into the dinosaur’s dome. Before Ubble can lead our heroes to the bird, our lariat bandits appear again and lasso Ubble, lifting him aloft with their helicopter.
Ubble chews through the rope, but falls helplessly. He is saved by landing in the newly-built nest of the chickasaurus, who has now laid a pair of new eggs. He and the bird team up to effect a rescue by airlift of our heroes from a sabre-tooth tiger, by means of the rope still hanging around the bird’s neck. Unfortunately, when the cat’s away, the mice will play, and the villainous twins have spotted the new eggs from their helicopter. Still carrying our heroes on the rope, the chicakasaurus soars in for an attack to protect the nest. Reddy is low man on the totem pole, and his grip slips on the rope. The bird’s aim, however, is impeccable, and Reddy crash-lands on the bandits, knocking them cold. As reward for Reddy’s help, the chickasaurus presents the group with one of her new eggs for the museum, which Gizmo predicts will eventually hatch “in about a million years”. The group commandeer the crooks’ helicopter, with the egg and crooks secured by rope below. Ubble Ubble stows away, and is adopted by Gizmo, to become the new star of the little league with his batting prowess. Gizmo loses all of his usual reserve cheering from the bleachers: “This may be undignified, but – – – YIPPEE!!”
A Broken Leghorn (Warner, Foghorn Leghorn, 9/26/59 – Robert McKimson, dir.), returns to the same situation as “An Egg Scramble”, with Foghorn Leghorn deciding to pull the same prank on Prissy of placing someone else’s egg under her since she never lays one of her own. But this time, instead of a blue-bonneted tintype of Prissy, out from the egg pops a baby rooster. Just what Foghorn didn’t need – competition. And the chick is well in the mood for such a situation, addressing Foghorn as the old rooster “who’s job I’m taking over.” Convincing Prissy that her son need a mentor, Foghorn takes charge of the young rooster’s training – while planning vatious plots for his demise. Such as coaxing junior to play in the middle of a busy highway to determine “Why did the chicken cross the road”. (A gag that would be reused by Friz Freleng two years later without delivering the same laugh impact in “Honey’s Money”.) Or pick up an ear of corn, tied by a string to the trigger of a shotgun. Or having him dig for worms in a field of land mines. Needless to say, every scheme comically backfires on Foghorn himself. Finally, Foghorn gives up on self-help and vows to “have it out with the boss” of the farm, determined that with two roosters, “One of us has got to go!” A few seconds later, a truck from the Acme Poultry Co. leaves the farm – with Foghorn inside. “Well, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go” blusters Foggy.
Chicken Feed (1/22/60 – Art Clokey, dir.), a later six-minute Gumby, is another clever and well-animated installment. Gumby’s pet chicken Tillie waits for a refill of feed. Pokey is sent to the store, but couldn’t find the feed Gumby was looking for. Instead, the store owner suggests a new irradiated feed, “Super-Gro”, that is supposed to make chickens grow faster and lay more eggs. Although Tillie is a fussy eater, she loves the stuff. Pokey is left in charge of her, and seeing her voracious appetite for the new product, samples just a bite himself. But his mood quickly changes and his eyes nearly spring out of their sockets – as Tillie grows to a giant! Meanwhile, Gumby’s dad has just driven up in a new sports car, with which he intends to surprise Mrs. Gumba. Before he can spring the news, the whole house trembles as if experiencing an earthquake. When they look outside, a giant egg has flattened the new car. Dad ponders whether it’s some kind of a fallen space capsule – but the truth looms right behind him, as what appear to be two tree trunks are actually the legs of Tillie standing right over him. Dad barely dodges out of the way in time to avoid another falling egg. “Call the fire department, and the animal doctor”, Dad shouts. Gumby, however, checks out the barn, and seeing a hole in the roof where Tillie escaped, and the box of irradiated feed, puts two and two together. He calls to Tillie, who still recognizes him, and gets her under control. The fire department arrives, and while Gumby rides astride Tillie’s neck, the fireman wait with a safety net below, expecting him to jump. Instead, all they catch in the net is another huge egg. The veterinarian also arrives, and when he sees the patient, remarks, “I’m a doctor for animals, not monsters.” On second thought, he has some pills (reducing?) that might help, and, climbing the fire ladder, succeeds in getting Tillie to swallow them. Tillie, however, grabs up the doctor in her beak and threatens to swallow him too. The doctor jumps into the firemen’s net, just as Tillie shrinks to normal size. Everyone is relieved, but Gumby wonders what happened to Pokey. Next to the house comes his answer. Pokey looms over the rooftop, now a giant too. Gumby laughs for a “here we go again” style fade-out. (Coincidence or “inspiration”, that a mere two months later, Dwayne Hickman’s “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” would feature an episode, “The Chicken From Outer Space” (3/8/60), which would attempt a live-action version of essentially the same idea of science gone awry on a domestic fowl?)
Terrytoons’ “Deputy Dawg series proved not only to be the most popular and commercially-successful of its TV ventures following the abandonment of the studio by Terry himself, but a real tour-de-force for the vocal versatility of veteran voice man Dayton Allen (the original voice of both Heckle and Jeckle). Though Allen had been kicking around with the studio for decades (I believe his earliest identifiable voice work being in The Last Indian (1939), where he introduces the silly-ass British dialect that would become Jeckle), the new series placed him in the unenviable position of having to come up with the voices for the entire cast of characters, including not only numerous regulars, but any weekly walk-on extra who the Deputy happened to put in lock-up. This forced Allen to really dig into his vocal bag of tricks, and create some entirely new voices whose sounds had never appeared in any prior cartoon. First, Allen had to brush up on his Southern drawls, making straighter uses of same for the voices of the white-moustached Sheriff getting along in years, and most notably in an almost straight-man down-home read for regular adversary to the Deputy, Muskie the Muskrat. (I believe Allen took some direct inspiration for this voice by attempting to sound as close as possible to reigning CBS sitcom star, Andy Griffith.) But then came the masterstroke, in coming up with a voice that sounded like a cross between these Southern dialects coupled with a “mush in the mouth” blurring of diction and a signature laugh almost akin to something out of the lips of Pinto Colvig’s Goofy – for his new star, the Deputy himself. Once you’d heard his trademark laughing howl, you never forgot it. And it was as hard to believe as some combinations of Mel Blanc characters for Warners that all these voices were coming out of the same actor. Despite all his previous years of hard-working labor in anonymity on unbilled voice-overs for Terry, this was the series that truly put Dayton on the map, and resulted in him finally getting name credit, not only on the show itself, but in several recordings issued on RCA and Peter Pan records, where his moniker was appropriately emblazoned. He also enjoyed success around this time in frequent live appearances on the Steve Allen show, and even recorded an entire comedy album for Steve’s “Signature” label with his face on the cover, using as its title a catch-phrase he developed for his live routines, “Why Not?”
The “raison d’etre” for this digression in this article is that one of the most well-remembered set pieces for plots of the Deputy Dawg show was Muskie’s insatiable appetite for eggs – with the only reliable local source thereof being the Sheriff’s henhouse. Deputy was thus always caught up as man in the middle between muskrat and hens. Muskie at least was not carnivorous, and was often on speaking terms with the hens themselves. In fact, he was so cornpone-style loveable that even the Deputy couldn’t hold a lasting grudge against him – and the battle over the eggs became something more akin to a friendly rivalry/test of wits. Deputy was clearly just doing his duty, and in off hours would frequently be seen side by side with Muskie enjoying an afternoon of catfishing. Not to say, however, that the egg war didn’t take some interesting twists and turns. In what appears to have been the series’ pilot episode, The Yoke’s On You (1/8/60), Muskie is delegated (as usual) as designated egg-collector for the communal breakfast of the swamp critters. Approaching the henhouse, he sees a sign, and states aloud, “Keep out! This Means You!”, then asides to the audience, “Now old Deputy Dawg knows I can’t read writin’!” Muskie tries sawing through the henhouse roof (while Deputy simultaneously saws off the limb Muskie is hanging from), outrunning the Deputy with a burst of speed (which Deputy counters by applying slippery goose grease to the henhouse ramp), a repeat run wearing track shoes with cleats (which only get stuck in the door when Deputy closes it ahead of Muskie), and tunneling (intercepted by a well placed shovel blade inserted into the ground ahead of him). Deputy maintains the upper hand, until Muskie calls for help as if drowning in the swamp. When Deputy arrives for a rescue, all he finds instead of Muskie’s tail in the water is an old twig. The swamp critters announce “You’ll find the rest of him in the henhouse.”
Deputy returns to his post to find every egg taken, while the distant voice of Muskie jeers him from an egg-fry in the swamp. The Sheriff arrives, with an ultimatum that if Muskrat gets one more egg, Deputy will be fired. Deputy plots by inserting a ticking timer and a load of gunpowder into an empty eggshell, which he guarantees will produce an “egg-splosion”. He “plays possum”, faking being asleep, and lets Muskie slip off with another load of eggs, including the ticking time bomb. But back at the swamp, one of Muskie’s friends tips Muskie off about overhearing the Sheriff’s threat to fire Deputy. The soft-hearted Muskie realizes he doesn’t really want to make Deputy lose his job, and returns to the scene of the crime, where he finds Deputy boasting to the Sheriff that he’s about to break Muskie from egg-taking once and for all. Muskie hides the eggs behind his back, and double checks with the Sheriff about the firing threat. “I don’t want to get him in trouble, so I brought these back.” Deputy reacts in panic seeing the time bomb return, and grabs the stack of eggs from the Sheriff. “Here, Musk, you can have these on the house. Now beat it!” “You gone crazy?” yells the Sheriff. “Gimme them eggs!” The eggs pass between the characters in circles, until the inevitable explosion happens. The final scene shows night on the swamp, with the charred and vengeful Sheriff chasing the silhouetted figures of Muskie and Deputy through the marshes. “Got room in the woods ‘til this thing blows over, Muskrat?”, asks Deputy. “Be my guest, Deputy Dawg. Be my guest!”, replies Muskie.
Hen House Hassle (2/5/60) provides some new twists, as Deputy jacks up the henhouse on a makeshift tower of poles about twenty feet tall, with a long ladder as the only means of entry. One small problem – Muskie has already sneaked into the henhouse during construction, and now it’s Deputy on the outside looking in, while Muskie whips up an egg-fry right in the source of supply. Deputy climbs the ladder, and attempts to read the charges against Muskir from a law book – but his weight cause the ladder to tip away from the tower, and off a cliff. Deputy tries a new approach, arriving at the henhouse door on a pair of stilts. As he calls to Muskie to come out, Muskie is seen below him, his head poked out a loose floorboard of the henhouse, and using a saw to cut the bottom off of Deputy’s stilts. Falling with a crash, Deputy bemoans being “a victim of my own ingenuity.” Deputy tries pole vaulting. But the base of his pole gets stuck on a boulder, causing the pole to bend like a springy sapling, with Deputy just managing to grab the henhouse door frame with one hand while holding onto the bent pole with the other. “Do something, muskrat!”, Deputy shouts. Muskie obliges by producing his saw again, and cutting off the strip of door frame Deputy is clinging to, allowing the pole to catapult him through the air and to another crash. “I just hope I did the right thing”, Muskie quips. Deputy returns, producing a saw himself, determined to bring Muskie down even at the cost of the henhouse. He saws away one of the posts holding the structure up – but the tower doesn’t fall. The second, third, and fourth posts are sawed away – but the upper structure remains suspended in mid-air. Deputy tugs in vain at the structure, laying down some legal charges against it for “defying the law of gravity”. But above, we get an explanation. Muskie has used a rope to lasso a nearby tree, tying the henhouse roof to an overhanging tree limb. Deputy shinnies up the tree and undoes the knot of the lasso. The henhouse lands on the remaining stubs of its support poles, and bounces on the springy wooden beams as if a giant walking, making its way down a hill, and bouncing right through the roof of Deputy’s jailhouse. The chickens all emerge free from the jail door and hole in the roof. Inside, Muskie is placed in irons by Deputy. Muskie has no hard feelings, says he was caught fair and square, and reclines on a jail cot to serve his time, asking “What’s on the menu for din-din?” “Sawdust, Muskrat!” says Deputy, supplying Muskie with hammer, saw and nails – it’ll take him just about thirty days to rebuild the henhouse!
Other egg-related variants in the series included Aig Plant (4/15//60), where Deputy places the whole henhouse inside his jailhouse cell for “protective custody”, leaving Muskie the challenge of how to break into jail instead of out of it. Li’l Whooper (1/15/60) also provides Muskie and company with a memorable surprise, when a stormy day causes Muskie to recruit nearsighted Vincent Van Gopher to retrieve the eggs by a dry underground route. But not seeing well, Van Gopher pops up under a large tree instead of the henhouse, and steals a large whooping crane egg out of the nest of a mama bird. The egg hatches a baby crane, who the swamp gang claims will “whoop them all crazy” with his incessant cries and his insistence on tagging along wherever they run. When they finally appear to have given the bird the slip, Deputy Dawg appears on the scene, with a poster announcing a bounty for the bird as almost extinct. Now everyone wants to find him again. Just as it appears they are about to cash in, the whoop of Mama is heard in the nest above. While Muskie and the swamp gang cling to the little bird’s leg, Deputy insists they must let him go. “All babies belong with their natural-born Mama.” The bird returns to the nest for a happy reunion, and even Muskie admits Deputy made them do the right thing. “Deputy Dawg, you may have a tin badge, but your heart is pure gold.”
Eggnapper (aka Eggnappers on Castle Films) (A Lantz/Universal Cartune (Fatso Bear), 2/14/61 – Jack Hannah, dir,), is to say the least, derivative. Hannah, upon being let go from the Disney short subjects department after shorts were reduced to periodic semi-annual specials, eventually arrived at Walter Lantz, bringing with him various artifacts from his years at Disney studios – including his most recent creation for Disney, Humphrey Bear. Not of course being allowed to use the identical character names, Hannah redesigned Humphrey slightly to provide less color and lineage for cheaper assembly-line production, and re-christened him “Fatso”. Ranger J. Audobon Woodlore (introduced by Charles Nichols, who was still at the Disney camp) was of course unavailable – so Hannah called into play Paul J. Smith’s “Willoughby” character to double as park ranger – a natural casting, as the character’s voice (provided by Dal McKennon) already attempted to mimic the mush-in-the-mouth delivery of Bill Thompson – the original voice of both Woodlore and Droopy. Fatso himself retains the signature grunts and panicky reaction of running in place as if going in two directions at once that were trademarks of Humphrey.
As if a pair of borrowed characters weren’t enough to make viewing seem a twisted case of deja-vu, the plot is essentially nothing more than a retread of Woody Woodpecker’s Solid Ivory, which, as we have noted, was itself a revisit to Donald Duck’s Golden Eggs, which took loose inspiration from Koko Gets Egg-Cited. (Long trail, isn’t it?) With Peachstone National Park (formerly “Brownstone” at Disney) closed for the season, Fatso doesn’t relish the ranger’s suggestion that he resort to a forest diet of termites, grubs, and worms, and prefers to raid the ranger’s henhouse. The only obstacle – a fierce rooster. Fatso tries various means of entry, and in the only clever original gag of the film, enters the wrong door, wherein is housed an “Automatic chicken plucker”. Fatso emerges with his panic run – except he has received a full body poodle cut! The rest of the film is virtually identical to the dress-up act of Woody and Donald in their prior episodes, opting for Donald’s femme-fatale hen costume to fool the rooster, and including an obligatory tango-dancing sequence, and a repeat of the gag of using the chicken comb to beckon a come-on to the rooster. Fatso is eventually caught by the ranger with the goods, and conceals the basket by sitting on it – hatching out a nest of chicks. The ranger leaves him to play mother, while Fatso admires a chick pulling at his ear. (Now we’re lifting from Mother Pluto.) Story man Homer Brightman probably could (and did) write this one while in a coma!
Quackodile Tears (Warner, Daffy Duck, 3/11/62, Art Davis, dir.) – You can’t keep a good man down. Art Davis, a pioneer veteran of the early sound days of the Charles Mintz studio, proved how well he could adapt to the classic Warner style with a string of hilarious outings in the mid-to-late 1940’s. (In fact, his late work for Columbia already demonstrated his leanings toward Warner pacing and storytelling style – see for example his classic, “Scrappy’s Added Attraction” from 1939.) However, as the 50’s set in, Davis found himself in the unfortunate position of new face on the block at Termite Terrace – and the most expendable for the chopping block when Warner decided to cut back one animation unit. His talent base, partially inherited from the old Bob Clampett unit, was disbanded, with remaining talent split among the other surviving units or let go. Davis’s name would continue to be seen off and on in the background, but he would never again regularly hold a director’s chair at the studio. However, the 1960’s were a period of new tumultuousness in the ranks, with the firing of Chuck Jones and loss of many staffers to television or advertising. As a result, many names from the lower echelons begin to receive sporadic credit as directors – either subbing-in to meet quotas or possibly being given “tryouts” in case a regular berth should open up due to new absenteeism. Ken Harris received a credit in the late 50’s. Abe Levitow was already being groomed for directorship as co-director of several late Chuck Jones episodes, and occasionally in his own right. Gerry Chiniquy would stand in for Friz Freleng on at least one Tweety and Sylvester. Three directors would share the spotlight on “Martian Through Georgia”. So it wasn’t at all surprising that someone would remember Davis’s long history of directorship, and give him one more chance to direct in a new decade.
Actually, while several chase gags are well paced, this film is far from Davis’s best work. For one thing, he takes an unusual step in reducing line mileage that seemed a bit unnecessary at this stage of the game – something more to be expected when work began to be farmed out to DePatie-Freleng upon the terrace’s formal closing – that is, removing the whire stripe around Daffy Duck’s neck. Somehow, it almost makes Daffy look naked – like Yogi Bear without a collar and tie. Some of the dialogue sequences between Daffy and his missus also feel like warmed-over tracks from “His Bitter Half”, with June Foray calling into use her standard Marjorie Main voice, and at least one line about knocking Daffy’s face clean off his head basically repeating a gag from the prior film verbatiim. The plot idea also feels a bit borrowed – obviously inspired by Disney’s Don’s Foutain of Youth – Daffy, attempting to avoid nest-sitting duties while his missus takes a break, accidentally lets their egg roll down a hill – and right into a nest of alligator eggs along the riverbank. Unable to tell one from another, Daffy randomly chooses one, declaring, “An egg’s an egg”, and brings it back to the little woman’s nest. However, Mama alligator is aghast at the theft, and sends Papa alligator to steal the egg back. Therein hangs your slender plot, and the next five minutes are taken up with a back and forth gag battle of grab and keep-away. Daffy finally decides to trick the gator by surrendering an efgg- which is really a disguised hand grenade. But, despite pulling the pin, he is unable to throw it, as Mrs. Daffy chooses such moment to lay down the law: “When I tell you to sit on an egg, I mean sit!” Daffy is plopped down on the grenade, and too afraid to move, until it explodes and his tail is set on fire. But the real egg in the nest also hatches – and turns out to be the wrong egg after all, producing a snapping baby alligator. Daffy tries to bash it with a broom, but Mrs. Daffy prevents it, insisting he’s just an ugly duckling who’ll grow to be a beautiful swan. Back at the river, a similar scene is taking place, as a disgruntled papa alligator leads his family down the river, with mama insisting that their “ugly duckling’” will someday grow into a beautiful alligator, as a baby version of Daffy gives us a smile with raised eyebrows, and we iris out. Fortunately, while this was the last we would see of a title directed by Davis within the Warner studio, Davis would still obtain many more director’s credits in superior work to be produced at the newly-founded DePatie-Freleng studios, including many classic entries with the studio’s signature character, The Pink Panther.
Mother Was a Rooster (10/20/62), feels contrived and forced from the start. Barnyard Dawg steals an egg from a neighboring ostrich farm for a prank on Foghorn, on the sole excuse that “Things have been kinda dull around here lately.” He places the egg next to Foghorn while the rooster sleeps. Next morning, the normally witty and on-the-beam Foghorn, who himself had pulled the same prank on Sylvester with a trick egg in his early film, “Crowing Pains”, is absolutely convinced that he’s the egg’s mother! Not only is this a shock to the audience (who would never assume Foghorn to have regressed to the state of a total idiot), but even Barnyard Dawg seems surprised. (It was your prank, Dawg. Exactly what type of effect did you expect it to have on Foghorn if not this?) Now that things seem entirely unnatural, Dawg gets even more out of character, by taking things out in cruel fashion on the ostrich which hatches out of the egg, repeatedly calling it the “ugliest chicken I’ve ever seen” and causing it to bury its head in the sand. Foghorn accuses Dawg of giving his son “a complex”. After a few incidental incidents, Foghorn demand satisfaction. They rig up a boxing ring between the four posts supporting a water tower. Dawg cheats by getting in blows before the ostrich can ring a bell – including one blow delivered from the opposite corner by means of a boxing glove on telephone extender. Foghorn drops his gloves, proposing that they forget the rules. “Suits me”, says Dawg. One bounces on the end of a loose board in the flooring, sending the other flying skywatd as if on a teeter-totter, conking his head on the bottom of the water reservoir above. Each in turn comes straight down again landing on the board, and flipping the other one into the air to his his head in similar fashion. After the process is repeated back and forth six or seven times, the force of the impacts finally renders the tower unstable, caing it to collapse on both Foghorn and Dawg. As the debris clears, we see both of them bent over, with their heads buried in the ground. The ostrich enters the shot, and seeing no heads, utters his only lines of dialogue: “They left me all alone. Where did everybody go?”
Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har, in Hanna-Barbera’s “New” cartoon series of 1962, have two encounters with eggs spaced only one film apart from each other in production order. In the somewhat mistitled Egg Experts, which really doesn’t fit the storyline well at all, we revisit several tropes. An overworked stork (shades of Friz Freleng’s recurrent stork series) grabs a quick nap before delivering a large egg. We get another half hatching, and the egg walks away (Booby Hatched trope). The egg encounters hazards in heavy traffic (Lost and Foundling trope), and is flipped upside down with its feet kicking. A fox appears (another situation we’ve seen so many times). But here, things get a bit original. Daws Butler plays the fox as a cross between his “Fibber Fox” voice from the Yakky Doodle series, and a parody of Groucho Marx from the You Bet Your Life TV game show – lifting one of Groucho’s catch phrases, as he invites the egg to “Say the ‘secret word’ and get scrambled.” A muffled chirp is good enough to satisfy the fox as the “secret word” – except a passing truck runs the fox down, as he declares that “scrambled fox” will never do. Lippy and Hardy are nearby with a skillet, frying a fortuitously found strip of bacon, and wishing they had an egg to go with it. No sooner said than done – but seeing feet sticking out, Lippy decides the egg is no longer fair game. Maybe not for him, but the fox still thinks so – and snatches the egg. Lippy and Hardy decide to do their good deed for the day and come to the rescue, with Hardy having one of his usual pessimistic thoughts – “The worst we can do is fail.” The film actually packs an unusually satisfying amount of chase gags in for a five-minute cartoon, with plenty of slapstick action and flattenings of good guys and bad guy alike. Finally cornering the egg, the fox becomes curious. “You scramble a chicken egg, but what kind of egg are you?” The answer comes quickly as the egg finally hatches – revealing a small but tough looking eagle (trope from Dinky Duck’s The Orphan Egg), Reverting back to his Groucho mode, the fox lifts more bylines from Marx’s show as he addresses the audience. “Welcome to ‘Run For Your Life’ – and the secret word is ‘Scram’!” As Lippy and Hardy catch up, the eagle has taken on an unexpected passenger. He has found the tired stork, and is giving him a lift to the destination where his delivery will take place.
In Bird In the Hand, a surprise reappearance occurs of a one-shot character seen earlier, who by this time one would have thought had been forgotten. Lippy and Hardy apply for a job as adventurers, and are promised $10,000 if they will deliver to a museum a one-of-a-kind Dodo bird sighted on an uncharted island. The boys helicopter to the tropics, and spot what appears to e a huge bird sitting on a cliff ledge above. On closer inspection, the “bitd” is nothing more than a formation of boulders – except lurking behind them is its very-alive twin – a return appearance for the Chicken-Hearted Chickasaurus from Ruff and Reddy, merely painted in a different color. This time, the bird is a practical joker, and pushes the rock formation over the cliff on top of our heroes. The bird also sets Lippy up with a booby-trapped nest in a springy tree, which she uses to catapult Lippy into the ocean. Finally, Lippy costumes Hardy as a decoy, encased in a barrel to match the bird’s stocky physique, and instructed to copy the bird’s eternally toothy smile. “But it hurts when I smile”, complains Hardy. The bird is fooled, and carrying a huge egg (is this the one she didn’t give to Professor Gizmo?), accompanies the boys back to civilization, in tow behind the helicopter like a glider. At the museum, Lippy presents the bird to the curator, requesting the reward. But a crack is heard off camera, and the curator states, “Sorry Lippy, but dodos just aren’t worth that much anymore.” The shot changes to the dodo, whose egg has hatched to reveal about a dozen small dodo chicks. The curator continues, “You might say that dodos are a dime a dozen.” In a memorable curtain line, Lippy retains his poise, and states, “Well, so the job shouldn’t be a total loss – – gimme the dime!’
The Illegal Eagle Egg, an episode of the animated Beany and Cecil, sets Cecil and Capt. Huffenpuff on a quest for a $100,000 reward for capture of the notorious egg thief, the Illegal Eagle. As with most of their voyages, Huffenpuff has a gag-ridden map to the eagle’s high rocky lair in the “Amos & Andes Mountains”, past Montgomery Cliff, to Mt. Baldy. The wily bird’s latest theft (following swiping eggs from the Easter Bunny) is a pilfering of the world’s only dinosaur egg. (Look’s like Gizmo’s been robbed again!) Why all the thefts? Because the bird is sick of being as bald as a billiard ball, and seeks the ultimate in egg shampoos in hopes of obtaining curly locks (an idea which had appeared briefly in cartoons once before, in Buzzy and Katnip’s “Hair Today, Hone Tomorrow” (1954) for Paramount. Mountain climbing gags – and hazards – take up the body of the cartoon, with Uncle Captain finally crashing in on the egg supply. All the eggs, including the dinosaur, hatch, leaving the eagle with no raw material for his shampoo. Cecil, however, offers an alternate solution – a bottle of his patented “Confidence Builder”. The eager eagle downs the bottle, and anxiously looks in a vanity mirror Cecil provides him. The eagle proudly looks upon a full head of hair. To one side, Beany comments, “Golly, Cecce, you’re a genius.” Turning the mirror to Beany, Cecil replies, “I’m also an artiste!”, revealing that the hair is merely drawn on the mirror!
Absent from the Internet is Goose Is Wild (Lantz/Universal. The Beary Family, 11/12/63, Paul J. Smith, dir.) While most families grow, depleting budgets and imaginations at Lantz caused the Bearies’ to shrink over the years, first losing their family pet, Goose Beary, for whom this would be her last of four episodes – then subsequently losing Beary daughter Susie, for whom she was pet in the first place. (Even mother Bessie, who for possibly the last time appears here as a moderately “average” bear housewife, developed a “face-fall” (the opposite of a face-lift), becoming homelier, crankier, and acquiring a frequently violent temperament.) Amidst all these changes, Goose spends her last appearance involved in a prank on papa Charlie, painting her nest of eggs gold just to give Charlie a motive to get within range so that she can bite him or pull painful practical jokes on him. Charlie ultimately succeeds in getting the eggs, but Bessie disbelieves his story about their being golden, cracking several on Charlie’s head – until one goes “Clank”. This real one finally (for possibly the only time in the series) gives Charlie and Bessie a happy ending, while Goose shrugs her shoulders, having no idea how the joke backfired.
Alice In Wonderland, or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing In a Place Like This? (Hanna-Barbera, 3/30/66), a star-studded special authored by Bill Dana (Jose Jimenez), tells a well-fractured modern-day version of the “Alice” classics, with Alice falling into a TV screen rather than a rabbit hole to enter Wonderland. Among the dizzy characters she meets is a “hard-boiled” prisoner of the palace dungeon, “Humphrey” Dumpty (voiced by Alan Melvin, also known for his voicings of Magilla Gorilla and his onscreen appearances as Corporal Henshaw in Phil Silvers’ Sgt Bilko show, “You’ll Never Get Rich”, and for further service comedy antics onscreen in “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and offscreen as the voice of Sgt. Snorkel in King Features’ animated Beetle Bailey series). Melvin gives Humpty the personality of Humphrey Bogart, but with a softer heart, touched by Alice’s wish to go home. “Home? You mean like a egg crate?”, Humphrey asks. He ultimately saves the day by swiping a guard’s keys, orchestrating a jail break, and scaling a wall as a decoy for the guards to catch while Alice makes it to freedom. Of course, he falls off the wall in the process, for the inevitable crack-up.
DePatie-Freleng’s The Blue Racer series gets in two late theatricals dealing with eggs. The series might have been better remembered if its writers hadn’t mired over half of its episodes in Japan, originally depending as a foil for the snake upon a heavily-stereotyped judo-happy Japanese beetle. Even when the beetle was written ot of the scripts, the locale often still remained Japan, as in these two. In Wham and Eggs (2/18/73 – Art Davis, dir.), Racer is there on the pretext of an “Annual 1000 year old egg hunt”. Using his sniffer as a guide leads him in the wrong direction. Instead of a thousand year old egg, he finds a six month old skunk – though, as he comments, the aromas are “strikingly similar”. Finally he finds an egg in a cave, labeled “Made in Japan, 1,000,000 B.C.” Racer approaches with a clothespin on his nose, stating he’ll eat it if it kills him. For pure writer convenience, it chooses this moment to hatch – a baby dragon. The tyke (who speaks in an odd American rural accent not unlike a speeded-up Gomer Pyle) doesn’t even know what he is himself until he consults an “owner’s manual” that came included in the egg – and figures out from instructions how to light his pilot light for fire. Not being edible, Racer starts to lose interest in the newcomer fast – but can’t get rid of the tag-along. When the dragon seeks food, Racer suggests things to “stoke” him, such as a log or a shovel full of coal. They only give him heartburn, producing flames that regularly roast the Racer. And, to boot, the kid’s got sinus trouble. To finally get rid of him, Racer suggests he go to the big city, where, since dragons are rare, he’s sure to make a hit in show biz. The dragon follows his advice. Months later, racer spots a newspaper article about the dragon being a smash hit, and decides to visit him in Tokyo in hopes of a share of the fruits of his success, not intending to let the dragon forget who guided him there. To his surprise (in metropolitan backgrounds which seem far superior to anything appearing in other series episodes), he finds the dragon now fully grown, looming above him on a tall skyscraper. The dragon tells him that he’s now a movie star, and since he beat Godzilla in his last picture, now at the height of popularity. Racer asks if he still has sinus trouble. The dragon responds, “Now why’d ya have to bring that up?”, and begins the lead up to a sneezing spell. Racer knows what’s coming, and high-tails it in reverse back to the countryside, where, over the horizon, we see huge bursts of fiery red in explosions occurring in the city. Racer comments as to the dragon’s career – “Boy, he really blew it!”
Aches and Snakes (8/10/73 – (David Deneen, director, with animators such as “Warren Peace” and “Phil Normle”) almost isn’t a Racer episode at all, but a vehicle for recurring side-character being groomed for stardom, Crazy-Legs Crane (presumably a distant relation to Beaky Buzzatd, with a voice and personality mirroring Mortimer Snerd, with perhaps a little bit of Clem Kadiddlehopper (Red Skelton) thrown in). Crazy is nervously waiting for his wife to lay her first egg, commenting that while he’s second cousin to a stork, he hasn’t had even one blessed event. His wife tells him that these things take time, to which Crane replies, “I like a three-minute egg.” Mother-to-be develops an unusual craving for a bumblebee, which Crazy-Legs views as a good sign, and spends the next four minutes in a competitive chase for one with the Racer. One gag is a standout – Racer has somehow inserted his body into a glove, allowing him to manipulate the digits to act as substitute hands and legs. Crazy-Legs comes to blows with him, and is knocked backwards into a fence, but insists to us that the Racer “never laid a glove on me.” Along comes Racer, now holding the glove in his mouth, and gently drops it on the crane’s chest. “How d’ya like that” says Crazy, “He laid a glove on me.” By the time the chase is over, all Crazy can produce is an empty box – but wife’s craving is gone, as she has laid a dozen eggs, all of which hatch simultaneously, with the chicks saying “Greetings, Pop” in unison, then swarming all over him. Crazy asides to the audience for the topical curtain line, “If this is fatherhood, I wish I’d listened to the guy at the egg control clinic.” (Crazy would ultimately attain a series of made-for television cartoons of his own as extra features for the various “Pink Panther” television revivals. However, he would inherit from the Racer the same kind of repetitious rut in screenwriting, being endlessly paired against a “fire breathing dragonfly” who was just as aggravating as Racer’s Japanese beetle.)
Here Comes Peter Cottontail (Rankin-Bass – 4/4/71), while lacking some of the elements which made the studio’s “Rudolph” a classic (namely, a more routine music score and far less memorable dialogue lines), is reasonable holiday entertainment, and a palatable watch. It is the first of the studio’s efforts to attempt to cater to multiple holidays at the same time, and fares far better than its successors, “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” and “The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold”, previously reviewed in other articles. It also features star assist by venerable Danny Kaye as narrator (Seymour S. Sassafras) and doubling as several additional characters, Vincent Price in his first cartoon role as rival rabbit Irontail, and Casey Kasem (voice of Shaggy) as Peter. The film is a complicated tale about an egg-delivering contest to elect the successor Chief Easter Bunny. Peter and Irontail (so named due to an accident where a child ran over his tail with a scooter, forcing him to adopt a metal prosthetic substitute – and swear revenge on children) are the two contenders. But Irontail cheats by feeding Peter’s rooster-alarm clock corn-flavored bubble gum, preventing his crows from being heard – and Peter sleeps through Easter with no eggs delivered. A laughing stock, Peter leaves in disgrace, while Irontail rules with an iron hand, bent on destroying the holiday. Sassafras (local supplier of colors for the Easter eggs), just happens to be tinkering with a time machine (Ahh don’t animation writers always come up with the most convenient of solutions!), and decides to send Peter back to an earlier date of the preceding year so he can give his eggs away before sunset on Easter. But Irontail (in details too convoluted to waste space over) not only sabotages the controls before takeoff, but somehow manages to follow along with an evil intervention here and a magic trick there to thwart Peter’s deliveries. Peter visits virtually every holiday in the calendar without success. But Irontail’s last trick backfires – changing the color of Peter’s eggs to green – inside and out. He didn’t reckon on St. Patrick’s Day, where demand cleans out the whole basket. Peter emerges champion after all (though perhaps the job really should have gone to Sam-I-Am, who puts more effort into pushing green eggs than anybody, as discussed in our next cartoon below).
Here’s clip from the special’s finale:
Green Eggs and Ham (from Dr. Seuss on the Loose – DePatie-Freleng, 10/15/73 -Hawley Pratt, dir.) is a quite literal but workmanlike adaptation of the junior Seuss endless rhyme, itemizing all the places and situations in which the hapless target of Sam-I-Am’s culinary efforts will not eat the title product – until his only way out of being hunted and haunted forever is to at least sample the concoction – and he likes it! Hawley Pratt manages to get in a “running” gag with the “with a Fox” line, having the fox pursued by hunters and hunting dogs all through the picture. He also gets a cute situation by having the dog-like character that Sam pesters get ahead of a train on a handcar, run off the end of the line at the ocean, and land in the smokestack of a ship to set up the “in a boat” line – followed by the train catching up, also landing in the smokestack, and sinking the ship. Paul Winchell provides serviceable dialogue in his “Jerry” and “Knucklehead” voices, and parodist Allan Sherman provides a musical wraparound as The Cat in the Hat.
Quackula was a newly-created element introduced by Filmation for the middle episodes of their Mighty Mouse/Heckle and Jeckle revival in 1979. He is a duck vampire, with Bela Lugosi-like voice mixed with periodic quacks, who inhabits the cellars of an old castle/mansion, to the consternation of the castle’s inheritor, a bear whose voice mimics Joe E. Ross of “Car 54, Where Are You?” Filmation seemed to channel vibes of Daffy Duck into Quackula as often as possible, and, judged against its usual product, seemed to pour a slightly increased budget into these episodes to give the character some freedom of movement. They were generally a cut above their disappointing Heckle and Jeckle counterparts, though first season Mighty Mouse episodes also managed to keep pace. For our purposes, Quackula’s main attraction was a coffin in the shape of a large egg, which provided a running gag, as Quackula always seemed to have no end of trouble in getting out of the shell every evening, and often made a hard landing into same when daybreak approached, sometimes visibly bouncing around inside like a ping pong ball. As with nearly every Filmation product, the results were irregular, but the series was capable of generating an occasional chuckle or two.
The trope of the half-hatched egg, immortalized from Booby Hatched, continued well into the ‘90’s through the cartoonist pen of Jim Davis and the animation of Film Roman, in the “U.S. Acres” segments of “Garfield and Friends”. A regular character in the series was Sheldon – a half-hatched chicken egg who’s decided that with what he’s heard of the condition of the outside world, it’s safer to live in the protection of a shell. This of course provides several drawbacks, and mysteries. First, how does Sheldon eat? He must have the world’s first unlimited supply of egg white floating around inside that shell. Secondly, whenever he needs to engage in an activity that requires the use of any tool, having no visible hands or wings at his disposal, he regularly has to depend on his fully hatched brother Booker to Scotch-tape the prop to Sheldon’s eggshell.
An Egg-Citing Story (Film Roman, 9/14/91), attempts to fashion an origin story for Sheldon and Booker. They were orphans, discovered by Orson Pig in an abandoned nest, and (to Orson’s humiliation) hatched out by Orson himself. That is, half-so in the case of Sheldon. Shunned by the other chicks as being only an egg, not a chicken, Sheldon wanders off, and is spotted by a weasel. Observing Sheldon’s odd state, the weasel comments, “You don’t usually find chicken this fresh.” When Sheldon eludes him, the Weasel settles for Booker and the other chicks instead as a reasonable substitute – “You don’t have to peel them.” But Sheldon intervenes. “What are you gonna do about it?” asks the weasel. Sheldon demonstrates – by grabbing the weasel’s snout with his feet, and proceeding into an exhibition of judo throws and classic wrestling holds. At least with a pair of feet, an egg turns out to be not such a bad friend for the other chicks to have after all.
Wild Blue Yonder is a classy and superior one-shot episode from Steven Speilberg’s Animaniacs (Warner Brothers, 11/22/93) – A mother bluebird with three eggs briefly leaves her nest to forage. One egg hatches ahead of schedule, the baby looking around for its absent mother. Passing overhead flies something in a black streak – a stealth bomber! The baby starts imitating its sound with ”zoom zoom”s, and calls after it. “Mama. Wait up.” The chick is a quick study on flying, and after a brief half-fall, gets the hang of it, and attempts to follow “Mama” over the horizon. Far into the night, the little bird tries desperately to catch up. He sights another aeronautic object – a WWI German fighter plane. Confused, he now starts to imitate the sounds of the biplane’s machine guns. But when he attempts to fly in close to it, he discovers it is only a two-dimensional image, and crashes into a drive-in movie screen. The next day, he again catches sight of the bomber, setting down at a desert air force base. The chick is fascinated by the array of huge “birds” in encounters along the runways, finally finding “Mama”, with whom he attempts to bond. Mama gets ready for takeoff again on another mission, and the little bird interprets a flip of the plane’s ailerons as a beckon to follow. Baby mirrors the moves of the big plane’s landing gear in rising from the ground, and catches up with Mama just as the plane folds its wheels into its body, taking Baby inside with them. Now in the bomb bay, Junior sees row after row of round-nosed bombs. “Eggies”, shouts Junior. He greets each bomb, “Hello, little brother. Hello little sister.” Sitting atop one of them, he fails to notice the hatch doors opening under him, until, too late, he reacts, “Uh oh.” Birdie and bomb, along with several other bombs from the plane’s payload, fall toward a target area below, littered with the shells of other bombing runs. “No, Mama. Eggies gonna break. Eggies gonna break”, says the little bird. Desperately he attempts to lift te nose of the bomb he is astride against the force of gravity, to no avail.
Abandoning the “egg” just short of impact, the bird braces himself, as he is hit by the shock wave of the blasts from below. He swoops down to the charred crater left by the explosion, and turns to the audience with a profound understatement: “Eggies broke.” Looking upward, he discovers to his shock that “Mama” is making another pass, and we see reflected in his eyes another wave of bombs falling straight for him. Junior decides he’s had enough, and wings his way out of there as fast as his abilities will carry him, dodging a hail of new explosions. Presumably days later, he returns to his old nest in the park. There, to his surprise, he finds the nest occupied by the endearing form of his real mother. “Mama?”, the chick asks questioningly. Mama spreads her wings wide and embraces him. A happy reunion ensues, and Mama leaves baby in charge while she tries to find him some worms. At this moment the other two eggs finally hatch, calling for “Mama?” Mama?” What happens by in the sky once again but the bomber on another flyby. The new chicks immediately begin a unison “zoom zoom” just like their sibling did, and Junior tries to set them straight. “No. Not Mama.” Exchanging a look between themselves, the two chicks ignore him completely and go back to zooming. Frustrated, Junior asides to the audience in disgruntled tone, “Kids!”. Fortunately, history doesn’t repeat itself, as real mother returns, whom Junior points to reassuringly as “Mama”, and the whole family happily embrace for the fade out. The film is visually stunning for a TV budget, featuring some of the most realistic aerial animation to grace an afternoon screen (exceeding the quality of many a sequence from subsequent Batman or Superman episodes), and achieving a wonderful sense of dimensional depth in the bombing sequences. There is almost a sense of vintage deja vu here, as one could have easily seen this plot idea (with earlier technology) fashioned into a classic wartime cartoon from Warners’ golden era in WWII. Speilberg should have been pretty proud of this often forgotten gem.
Forgive the flipped image, but you know why that is…
Dino in The Great Egg-scape (Hanna-Barbera/Cartoon Network, 3/5/97) was a fully-animated made-for-TV short appearing on the “What a Cartoon Show”, directed and written by none other than Joseph Barbera himself. Featuring no sign of the Flintstones except for the family home, Dino gets star billing as night watchdog at the Bedrock Museum. The basic plot idea is something of a revisit to Ruff and Reddy’s The Chicken-Hearted Chickasaurus, with a dash of influence from its likely inspiration, Paramount’s Cock-a-Doodle Dino. Dino is fired for falling asleep while a theft takes place of a rare dinosaur egg, and returns home dejectedly. But the real thief is never caught, as his souped-up vehicle, in the midst of a police hot pursuit, takes a turn too sharply and loses the egg over the edge of a mountain road. It bounces down the hill, and straight into the Flintstone living room (shades of The Lost Chick again). Dino pounces on it to catch it, but in the impact hatches the egg – a rare thunder-buttasaurus. The initially cute hatchling has an insatiable appetite, and eats anything Dino brings within reach. Every morsel causes it to grow exponentially (borrowing the idea from “Cock-a-Doosle Dino”). Meanwhile, a police artist on the TV issues a sketch from descriptions of the thief – looking exactly like Dino. The police arrive, finding the dinosaur hatched, and attempt to take both Dino and the baby into custody. But the youngster is now so big he swings one of the officer around with the handcuff chain like he was a toy, and then out the window. The buttasaurus makes a break from the house (through the roof), and Dino climbs up his tail and tags along to try to keep him out of trouble. Fat chance. The youth sees a huge advertising sign atop a tall building, in the shape of a three-dimensional bronto-burger, and climbs the tower a la King Kong. Catapults are employed to fire at the monster, but the hatchling playfully bats the boulders back at the cops with his tail. A police helicopter with the museum curator as a passenger attempts an approach. Dino meanwhile loses his grip on the giant, falls into one of the catapults, is launched skyward and batted by the monster’s tail, straight into the cockpit of the helicopter. Then the monster grabs the helicopter’s blades, causing the passenger gondola to spin like a top, then crash once the monster releases its grip, with Dino and the curator rotating on the blades as if suspended on a windmill. All ends happily, however, with the unexpected arrival of Mama – 20 times larger than junior – who tenderly takes him home, stomping away over the horizon, as Dino waves a tearful farewell. Joe could still direct a lively cartoon, and probably appreciated being appropriated an unusually large budget for this short, allowing him the chance to finally animate his characters at a level more closely approaching his MGM glory days, even exceeding the quality of previous work on the feature, The Man Called Flintstone.
Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 12/21/01) has been previously referred to in my “Spacey Invaders” articles on this site, for the appearance of the Yolkians, a race of aliens whose entire way of life seems centered on items resembling eggs and chickens – including their favorite anthem, “The Chicken Dance”. The humor and puns are engaging, even if these creatures are a little cracked.
And finally, there was “Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos” (aka Little Rooster’s Egg-Cellent Adventure) (2015), a Mexican CGI feature released theatrically to the USA subtitled, then to video with English overdub. The film marked the American debut of characters based on a cult series of short films produced in Mexico known as “Huevocartoons” – where the primary characters are living, talking eggs! The original shorts, in traditional 2D animation, also are generally available only with subtitles, are rather adult in innuendo, and to me somewhat inaccessible. The feature, while still containing a few dirty jokes, is considerably more palatable, and shares a good deal of footage with poultry, rather than inundating audiences with the surreal world of talking eggs alone. It’s frankly been years since I saw the picture through, and no English dubbed or subtitled print was available for re-review. However, I remember coming away from the theater with a reasonably satisfied feeling, and memories of a few good belly-laughs here and there.
Particular moments that stand out in my memory included some good sendups of classic movie homages to “The Godfather” and “Rocky”, and a duck egg acting as the rooster’s coach (determined to teach him how to fight like a duck), significantly influenced by Warner Brothers style humor, coming off as a shellbound version of Daffy. There’s also a memorable scene where I believe the duck egg is trying to inspire the rooster’s spirit to another plane, by making him believe and meditate that he has the power to fly and soar – even though the rooster repeatedly plunges off a high platform from the barn like a stone, again and again.
So ends a long, LONG breakfast. My brains are entirely scrambled. I think the only way to set them right will be to find a greasy spoon eatery where they serve up the ever-elusive Moe Howard special – “Sunnyside down – and don’t turn ‘em over!”