Animation Trails
August 11, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Hit the Beach (Part 7)

Once again, Old Sol’s rays bear down upon Toontown, driving its late 40’s and early 50’s population to the coastline to beat the heat. While a toon may experience the pleasure of a drop in temperatire, things as usual “heat up” in the action whenever the waves are near. So grab another bottle of sunscreen for this latest installment, plus a hot dog and “cold one” to “tide” you over those ever-recurring moments when your tummy rumbles.

Pluto’s Housewarming (2/21/47) – Sometimes a director was determined to spin off a subsidiary character as a new star or recurring foil for his main star – even when the newcomer didn’t boast a great deal of personality points. Charles Nichols, having introduced a baby turtle in Canine Patrol, reviewed earlier in these articles, “doggedly” believed the character was cute – and attempted to spin three episodes out of the speechless pantomime critter – the other two being Pluto’s Surprise Package (1949), and the episode now discussed. The character, who seemed to have little basic motivation except to get from point A to point B, didn’t open a myriad of plot ideas for the writers – with the result that the three films have an undeniable feeling of being padded and derivitive of one another. But seeing as Jack Hannah had had considerable luck with Chip ‘n’ Dale (whom Nichols himself had initially inaugurated in Private Pluto, yet seemed to quickly run out of ideas for in a Pluto context, as they would appear in only one other Pluto fim under his direction) and with Spike the Bee (though having considerably less success with Bootle Beetle), Nichols obviously wanted a chance to get into the act too. Nichols tried many times to get something going, but several of his characters never lasted long enough to even receive an official name. The seal from Pluto’s Playmate would be tried once in Rescue Dog, and reappear in Mickey and the Seal for at least one of Nichols’ better remembered installments. An odd little pup (referred to once as “Ronnie”) would appear in The Purloined Pup and Pueblo Pluto, causing little public stir. One, and then two coyotes would appear in several episodes, with considerably more character appeal. An odd-designed yellow and brown tabby would appear in several episodes that weren’t bad. But it seemed like Nichols’ greatest success with recurring characters came from the lovers’ triangle of Butch the Bulldog (inherited from Jack Kinney’s Bone Trouble (1940)) and Dinah the Dachshund – a much more appealing and likeable girlfriend for Pluto than Minnie’s pup Fifi from earlier episodes So Nichols managed to leave a small legacy for the Disney stable of characters – though it actually seemed, almost against the director’s primary instincts, that his success ratio would be at its greatest the more he avoided decidedly cute characters and opted for adversaries with more spunk.

For no more visible reason than to have the turtle reappear again, Pluto’s residence, usually in Mickey’s yard, is suddenly relocated to the sandy shores of a beach. In the 1940 season, Pluto dreamed of an upgrade to a custom designed, luxury dog house (with construction assistance from a magical genie) in “Pluto’s Dream House”. Today, such dream has somehow become a reality, as the sunlight sparkles off the fresh paint hob of a brand spanking new dog domicile, complete with striped front awning, fringed roof, and weather vane with pointer matching the pose of Pluto in the title card of 1939’s The Pointer, standing atop a replica of Pluto’s collar bearing the dog’s name. Pluto is busy with the details of moving in, pushing out from his former residence (a dilapidated wreck built of bare untreated wood, so rickety it is only being held in place by support ropes over the roof in the manner of a pup tent) his lifetime supply of buried bones. He pushes them into the door of his new home, where we see the interior equipped with a soft spring mattress, atop a bedframe containing specially labeled storage spaces for the cataloging and sorting of bones (with compartments for “T-Bone” “Rib” “Sirloin”, and “Miscellaneous”). After dividing his bone collection into the appropriate locations, and admiring the seaside view out a side picture window, Pluto remembers the finishing touch, and retrieves from his old shanty a sign reading “Home Sweet Home” – with a final gesture in leaving his old homestead of kicking dirt on it, in the same manner as a dog would do with his “business”. But a strange sight meets his eyes as he returns to the new pad, causing his jaw to drop. All his bones save one have been removed from the home and pushed out the front door in a pile. The last bone – a large one – emerges, carried in unstable fashion by the baby turtle – who it becomes plain has taken the notion that he intends to be the home’s new tenant. As the turtle turns to also remove Pluto’s water dish, he notices the dog and waves a neighborly “Hi” to him – then pauses, as, in pantomimie, he wonders to himself why the dog is hanging around anyway, finally shrugging his shoulders as if it is none of his concern. Pluto repeats the same gag from “Canine Patrol” of scaring the turtle into his shell, then turning the shell in the wrong dirction to make him walk away. In animation identical from the prior cartoon, the turtle figures out his error when he realizes he is walking toward Pluto’s old shack.

The turtle keeps showing up at Pluto’s door, engaging the dog in a bit of hide and seek, and escaping Pluto’s efforts to cover him with a box of bury him in the sand. But Pluto discovers a real adversary. Burch the bulldog also wants to move in, and is found occupying Pluto’s bed, and crunching on Pluto’s best bones – with a signature move of biting down on the bone’s center to snap it in two, repositioning the two halves between his lips so that they are parallel to one another, then inhaling both halves in one smooth motion. The fur rises on Pluto from his neck to his tail, and he challenges Butch with his most ferocious barks. But Butch isn’t phased in the slightest, turning his back on the dog’s most intimidating moves, and nodding off to sleep. Only when Pluto does something uncharacteristically brave does Butch become riled – as Pluto takes a chomp on Butch’s tail. Butch tussles with Plito, then chases him back to the old doghouse. Pluto hides inside, but Butch’s shoulders are too wide to admit the dog into the old homestead. His efforts to gain entry, however, have so much force that Pluto inside receives a good shaking up. Giving up on the futile effort, Butch returns to the glittering new structure – only to meet for the first time tenant applicant #2 – the turtle again, who stands in the doorway, and challenges in pantomimer the bulldog to put up his dukes. One growl from Butch, and the turtle loses al; bravadom ducking into his shell. Butch is unable to penetrate the turtle’s defenses, but the turtle, through some fancy timing, manages to land powerful jaw chomps upon Butch’s nose, toes, and tail, ultimately sending the bully scrambling for escape. Pluto and the amphibian make friends (in animation repeated from “Canine Patrol”), and Pluto lets the turtle move in as additional tenant, now occupying the “Sirloin” bone compartment, which has somehow been redesigned as a mini-replica of Pluto’s bed and bone sorter, on which the turtle reclines, eating leftover mini-bones in the same aggressive style as Butch.

Salt Water Tabby (MGM, Tom and Jerry, 7/12/47 – William Hanna/Joseph Barbera, dir.) – Tom’s day of beach frivolity is off to a great start. (Right.) From the moment he emerges from the changing rooms, his bathing suit gets caught in the door, yanking Tom backwards before he can reach the waves, and crashing him through the locker wall. He emerges through the hole at full trot, and dives for the waves, which pull a “Wild Waves” retreat, revealing the floor of the ocean to be entirely cluttered with pop bottles, old tin cans, and other assorted metallic debris. (Litter and water pollution issues in 1947?) Not even opening his eyes, Tom unknowingly performs the breast stroke through the debris field, then rises just as the water returns to conceal it. Tom goes through the motions of clearing water out of his ears that isn’t there, then trots back up the beach, leaving behind a trail of tin cans falling out of his suit.

As Tom continues further along the shore, he passes a beach umbrella, under which he spots a sweet young female. Tom’s head is turned, but his forward progress isn’t, and he tumbles into a trash can, on the face of which three wheels spin to produce a Vegas-style jackpot reading, pouring Tom and a heap of trash out a lower compartment door. Tom slides back to where the girl is sitting, wearing a banana peel on his head, which he “tips” like a hat in cordial greeting to the lady. Tom ungraciously helps himself to the lady’s hospitality, sucking up the last of her soda pop, devouring her hot dog, and laying himself in the frustrated lady’s lap. This idyllic mood is broken by a flying tomato on Tom’s head – thrown from the emerging debris from the girl’s picnic basket, in which Jerry mouse is systematically devouring her foodstuffs. Tom peers into the basket, and is greeted by two hard boiled eggs tossed into his eye sockets, follows by two olives on the eggs’ large ends, to provide Tom with a fake pair of bulging eyes. Shaking them away, Tom lifts Jerry from the basket, on the end of a piece of celery. Jerry doesn’t even pause in his feeding frenzt, taking successive bites up the stalk of the celery – and several off of Tom’s hand. Jerry shifts into retreat mode, taking shelter in a sand castle. Tom reaches in, but finds another of those crab knock-offs from Hawiian Holiday, which trims his whiskers, and cuts his tail into a string of paper dolls, then is lured by Jerry into the pant leg of Tom’s suit for more nips in the rear end.

Jerry helps Tom make a further bad impression on the girl, as Tom accepts invitation to sample the girl’s remaining prepared food. As Tom is about to dig into a sandwich, Jerry substitutes for its filling a clam shell. Tom’s teeth crash into the contents with the sound of breaking glass, and, to save face before the girl, he somehow manages to swallow it, then smiles a half-hearted smile full of broken teeth. Instead of sugar for Tom’s cup of coffee from a thermos, Jerry substitutes a pail of sand – and adds an extra shovel full into the cup himself for flavor. Tom coughs profusely at the choking mess, and Jerry quenches his thirst with a pail full of sea water. One taste, and Tom spits out the salty brine – straight into the face of the girl. Tom catches Jerry with the inverted pail, revealing a sand pile created under it, and slashes away at the sand with a toy shovel. But Jerry is nowhere in it, having tunneled down underneath. Tom digs halfway to China in furious pursuit, but Jerry is already back out of the sand, filling the hole from above as fast as Tom can dig itt. When Tom digs his way back up, Jerry has already positioned the shovel with hanfle in the sand, to whack Tom repeatedly in the face like a spring.

After trapping Tom temporarily in a beach umbrella, Jerry himself gets stuck in the open top of a pop bottle. With a smile of vicious revenge, Tom shakes the bottle vigorously, until the carbonation builds up an explosive force behind the poor mouse, jettisoning him to the other end of the beach and into the water, where he comes up with a clam shell on his head. Jerry plots his own counter-revenge. With a wooden piling, a seaweed “wig”, and some paints, Jerry disguises the piling as the head of a helpless maiden about to sink under the water, and adds his own screams to heighten the effect. Brave-hearted Tom decides to play the hero, and dives in, conking himself headfirst on the wooden post and producing a large lump. Finally, Jerry has the last say, by opening the air valve on an inflatable rubber horse. Tom brakes to a halt with jaw dropped open – and swallows the horse whole. Its jet stream carries him out of his bathing suit, and soaring over the waves, finally deflating for a landing in a puddle in the shoals, where he miraculously comes up atop the horse instead of with it inside him. For the final shot, he sees the picnic basket, now outfitted with sail made from his bathing suit, sailing away into the sunset, with Jerry in command, waving a friendly farewell.

Swiss Cheese Family Robinson (Terrytoons/Fox, Mighty Mouse, 12/19/47 – Mannie Davis, dir.), was visited last year in our “Toons Trip Out” series. To recap, Mighty, after years of daring rescues and eternal vigilance, finally cashes in his accrued “sick days” to claim a vacation at Miami Beach. As he attempts to tan himself through his fur, bare chested om a beach blanket near the shoreline, we take leave of him for the moment, to observe the plight of the Swiss Cheese Family Robinson, adrift in the ocean from a shipwreck, aboard a raft made solely of a remaining hunk of Swiss cheese. As the raft is also their only food supply, it gets smaller and smaller, until they are crowded together on a mere morsel supporting the vessel’s makeshift mast. Sawfish close in, and the family climb the mast, but the fish use their natural ability to begin sawing it away. An island appears at the crucial moment, but it’s out of the frying pan, into the fire, as the isle is inhabited by cat cannibals. (They don’t really have to be cannibals, do they? After all, all cats eat mice. It’s not like they were eating each other.) In a clever politically incorrect gag, one cat displays a nose ring, while a second cat uses his more practically, and has his car keys on it. The family is surrounded by a flight of spears, and tied over an open fire. However, before their landing, the family has dropped into the sea a distress message in a bottle. The bottle wends its way around the Southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico – and almost turns up the Mississippi, until the narrator tells it, “No, Not that way!” Finally it reaches the Florida coast, where ir drifts nearly to Mighty’s feet. Buf the mouse is sound asleep under a pair of sunglasses. “Mighty Mouse, wake up!” calls the narrator, but Mighty remains unaware – until the heat of the sun pressure-pops the cork out of the bottle. “Look in the bottle”, directs the narrator. Though the message was written long before the family sighted land, Mighty somehow precisely determines the position of the island where they are now held prisoner. It turns out Mighty’s beach blanket is really his shirt and cape, allowing Mighty to do a quick change into uniform. As he arrives at the island, the cannibal chief panics in terror while Mighty stands atop his hat, and signals his tribe to do something to remove the rodent. A native attacks with a mallet, but Mihjty dodges the blow, allowing the chief to take the lump. Mighty belts a tossed cocoanut back at a native, knocking his teeth out. Mighty then begins flinging natives to hook their nose rings upon a pole, like a ring toss. The family is eventually rescued, and becomes famous by converting the island into a popular summer resort, complete with amusement park and Atlantic City-style boardwalk, with the chief finding new employment by pushing one of the city’s famous “blue chair”-style rickshaws, with Mighty and the family’s lovely daughter pitching woo in the front seat.

The Shell-Shocked Egg (Warner, 7/10/48 – Robert McKimson, dir.), was also previously visited in our “Happy Henfruit” series for the Easter season last year. The film derives plot inspiration from combining elements of Disney’s “Canine Patrol” with the studio’s own prior project, Frank Tashlin’s Booby Hatched, with perhaps a dash of McKimson’s own Crowing Pains. The plot centers on turtles hatching their eggs in the sand, just as in Pluto’s episode. However, the savvy mother turtle, after a “Nature note” appears on the screen to describe this phenomenon, dismisses the know-it-all who thought up the sign with the remark, “Oh, my goodness, those people know that, for heavens’ sake”. While Mama searches for a sun lamp to speed up the hatching process, an egg emerges half-hatched, just as the sun goes behind a cloud. Looking for someplace warm to complete the hatching, the egg wanders into a barnyard. Hee is “teed up” and golfed off the back of a cow by her tail, then lands under a dog. “So I layed an egg.”, the dog comments. But realization dawns that this could mean fame and fortune – and liver three times a day. However, the egg is wandering again, into a chicken coop, bringing a protective rooster into the chase when he thinks the dog is stealing it.

Back at the beach, hatching time has arrived. Three identical siblings, Tom, Dick, and Harry, emerge as a singing trio. But Mama turns to an adding machine, and after calculation, realizes that brother Clem has not emerged from the sand. She begins a frantic dig into the beach, while the three brothers join in the excavation with toy beach shovels, singing (to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”) “We are searching for out brother, all the livelong day.” The dig continues throughout the cartoon, as the singing trio changes tune, replacing “little dog” with “Oh where, oh where can out brother be? Oh where, oh where has he gone?” The mother rents a giant steam shovel for a big dig, while the brothers work with a toy one, adapting a lyric to “Billy Boy” including the line, “You’re a young thing and cannot leave your mother.” Finally, the continuing chase of the dog and rooster leads them past the excavation. Mama scoops the two and the escaping egg into the bucket of the steam shovel, then conks the rooster and dog on the heads. The egg is placed under the sunlamp, and finally hatches. As Clem sees daylight for the first time, he also sees his own body for the first time too, and complains,“Wouldn’t you know it? I’m still in a dad-blamed shell!”

Hula Hula Land (Terrytons/Fox, Heckle and Jeckle, 6/22/49 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – H&J’s latest trade is as hot dog vendors, with a way to cover a lot of territory. They float along the coast in a rubber raft, looking for likely coastline prospects. When they see a promising beach, they paddle ashore and set up a portable hot dog stand, Jeckle drumming up advertising by performing in a hula skirt, while Heckle cooks up the dogs on a griddle, who also perform a dance as they sizzle. This particular beach, however, is patrolled by Officer Bulldog and sanitation officer (that is, trash collector) Dimwit. They do not approve of peddlers on the beach. Dimwit is sent to tell the boys to scram, but ends up buying hot dogs instead – a little light on protein content, as Heckle has a string tied to the end of the wiener casing, and keeps yanking the meat out before Dimwit can chew. As an extra added attraction, Heckle throws in a free box of Popper Jack with a prize in it (a reference to the perennial snack candy corn, “Cracker Jack”, still available today).

Dimwit presents the free box to the bulldog, who gets it – in the face, from a loaded boxing glove on a string. The bulldog takes over, but Heckle again offers him a Hawaiian hot dog in a “sauerkraut skirt”. Spotting the string attached, the bulldog claims, “You can’t pull that old gag on me”, and cuts the string, leaving only a hanging stub. Heckle has a back-up plan, and lights the strinj as a fuse – setting the fake hot dog off like a Roman candle. The magpies play “the old shell game” with Dimwit under a trio of beach umbrellas, adding a new twist as they turn up under none of the umbrellas, but instead tunnel under the sand and come up as a mound under Dimwit, pitching him into the path of the returning bulldog. The birds change into bathing suits, and taunt the dogs from the water. Dimwit mounts an inflatable horse and swings at the birds with an oversize polo mallet. Of course, the only one he succeeds in conking is the bulldog, following in the sea after him. Jeckle pokes a hole in the inflatable, while Heckle gives play-by-play description of the dogs’ return to land as if broadcasting a horse race. “And it looks like Schnozzola has hit paydirt”, Heckle calls, as Dimwit crashes into the sand. A high surf washes up the bulldog right behind him, and Dimwit hides out from the crashing wave in a beach locker – but the wave merely pauses in a frozen frame until Dimwit cautiously peers out the door, then crashes upon him. The magpies make a surprise appearance out of another locker, with another of those Atlantic City-style push cars, speeding in runaway fashion. The two dogs are swept up as passengers, and the four of them roll onto the amusement pier and crash into the railing of a shooting gallery. The birds are thrown forward, and lodge in the rear wall with their heads exposed to view. The dogs grab rifles, and take pot shots at the birds, while the magpies play the “African dodger” of old. Shifting their heads to dodge the bullets. The bulldog gets fed up with his bad aim, and tosses in a cartoon bomb. The booth goes up in a mushroom cloud – and atop the cloud dance the magpies, as heavenly angel hula dancers, for the fade out.

The Cat and the Mermouse (MGM, Tom and Jerry, 9/1/49 – William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, dir.) – Tom must consider himself to be incredibly sensitive to ultraviolet rays – as, despite the fact he is fully covered from the sun’s effects by a fur coat, he slathers on half a bottle of sun tan oil, draws eyebrows, puffy cheeks, and a beard in facial sunscreen cream, buries his lower half under the sand, covers his face and upper half entirely with a beach blanket, then pulls a beach umbrella in place to cast him completely in shadow. (Now, if after all this, he would still come out red as a lobster…) Along comes Jetty with a fishing pole, just happening to trod over the spot in the beach blanket covering Tom’s mouth. By the time he pulls himself out of the hole, Tom is nearly gagged. Tom follows the mouse to a pier, where Jerry casts a line in, baited with cheese. (I‘ve heard of catfish and dogfish, but is Jerry trying for micefish?) We may never know, as Tom hides under the pier and tugs on the line. As Jerry reels in, Tom rises into view, riding above the hook. Before Tom can pounce, Jerry releases the line, letting Tom fall. Tom climbs frantically up the descending line, until it snaps – but manages to catch the end of the dock to save himself. He pursues Jerry to the end of the pier, but Jerry pulls another fast one – loosening the last board of the pier, and pivoting it outwards like a diving board off the dock. Tom is running so fast, he reaches board’s end before applying the brakes – and Jerry pulls the board out from under him. Tom falls into the water, as Jerry quickly realizes he may have made a mistake – Tom (at least in this episode) can’t swim.

Tom flails about helplessly below the water’s surface, slows, and motionlessly descends to the ocean bottom. Then suddenly, he sits upright, seemingly okay despite having no air, and looks around curiously. Tom playfully begins to mimic the swimming styles of passing sea creatures. (An interesting visual defect recurs here in several repeating animation cycles – in each, one cel is mispainted on Tom’s fur, in a slightly lighter shade of gray, making for a repeating “flash” during each swimming maneuver. The coincidence of the same color error in more than one cycle leads me to believe that someone in the ink and paint department was having fum. As she (or he?) probably was never able to precisely identify the drawings personally worked on in the final films, I believe these scenes were deliberately sabotaged with one bad painting each, so that tthe artist could say “That’s my drawing” when the film was projected.) From behind a rock pops unexpected compay for the briny blue – Jerry. Or so it appears, until Tom lunges, causing the mouse to reveal its full form – half mouse, half fish. (Was this what the land Jerry was fishing for? Or maybe he wasn’t fishing at all – just delivering a Care package to a friend.) The standard chase thus moves underwater.

The characters swim in and out of a row of portholes of a sunken ship – until Tom skips ahead two portholes and waits with open mouth for Jerryfish to swim in. Jerry breaks free – by puncturing painfully through Tom’s eardrum, then hides out among a passing herd of seahorses. Tom lassoes the fake horse once he realizes the trick, but Jerryfish notices a fish hook floating above them. He grabs the hook, and passes it to the curious Tom. Then Jerry yanks at the attached fishing line, causing Tom to be hauled out of the scene. Jerry darts back into the sunken wreck, and closes the porthole just as Tom returns, to crash into it. The jolt knocks loose the ship’s anchor to crash down on Tom’s head, followed by massive liks of chain – which pile in a shatck of ringers around Tom’s neck, with two additional links attaching to his ears, giving his the politically incorrect appearance of an African warrior. Next comes an unexpected encounter with a swordfish, upon whom Tom brings down a shovel blow intended for the Jerryfish. Tom attempts to make amends by using the shovel to straighten out the fish’s bent nose to normal point, but this makes the swordfish no less angry. Tom hides in a barrel, but Jerryfish paints two red rings around a knothole in the side, providing the swordfish with target for tonight – and Tom with cause for an agonized scream. The old gag is revisited of the swordfish getting his nose stuck through the ship’s mast, and Tom again hammering the fish’s nose bent to keep him pinned there. In a subtle gag that is funny once you think about it, Tom wipes the nervous sweat from his brow, ignoring the fact he is already underwater, where the sweat would be washed off anyway. A final threat rises in the form of an octopus, who gets his tentacles around Tom. The heroic Jerryfish doesn’t leave his pursuer to this awful fate, and struggles in a tug of war with the beast over the cat. As Tom is pulled back and forth, the scene dissolves – back to the real world. The whole fantastic events have been a case of raptures of the deep, and the real-life Jerry has rescued Tom with the aid of a shop’s life preserver. The cat lies on his stomach on the dock, while Jerry administers artificial respiration by strokes on his back to push out the water. Tom comes to, and becomes conscious enough to turn a paw to exchange a “thank you” handshake with Jerry, then let Jerry resume the pumping, for the fade out.

Beach Peach (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 5/12/50 – Setmour Kneitel, dir.) – Even when the studio tried for a departure from its developing habit of falling into recurring formulas, you could never be sure that the departure was wholehearted. Facially, this episode offers a Bluto-less love triangle, with a new adversary – a beach lifeguard. However, differences are only skin deep, and the lifeguard’s voice is delivered by Jackson Beck, in the identical Brooklyn-bent read as if voicing Bluto. Was the decision to change adversaries made after the soundtrack was already in the can? If not, why bother at all?

The film opens with Paramount borrowing from its past – with a repeat of the old wave washes away the beachgoers, then replaces them on the sand again gag from Betty Boop’s Life Guard. Olive enters, wearing her new two-piece bathing suit – hilariously displaying her entirely cylindrical figure, with a bikini top having no bust whatsoever – drawn as a straight line. Popeye carries all the beach gear, and one trip on a stray piece of driftwood results in a lucky fall which sets up all the stuff for the day in an instant. But a series of floating “Burma Shave” style signs on old pilings in the bay advertise the competition: “When you’re pooped” “From swimming hard” “It’s time to holler” “Life guard”. The guard’s eyes pop off his face at the sight of Olive, traveling over to her, and tracing in dotted line form a feminine figure in mif-air. (He obviously should find some prescription glasses, as the traced figure has rwenty times more shape than the girl he is seeing.) His life guard station is equipped for fast exits, as the whole platform descends like an elevator car, from which he emerges riding a motor scooter – which buries Popeye in the sand as the guard slams on his brakes to flirt with Olive. The guard shows off his muscles, one in the shape of a ball, and the other in the shape of bowling pins, for a strike. Popeye complains, but receives a blast from a battleship tattoo on the guard’s chest. The usual challenging words are exchanged between the combatants, but Olive intervenes, holding the boys apart with her spindly arms (which compress and lengthen back and forth between the boys’ respective chests). She suggests they play games instead of fighting, and the guard retrieves his medicine ball, leading Olive to regret, “I had to go and open my big mouth.” A slam of the ball into Popeye’s chest knocks him into a trash dumpster, which spills him out with a reading on the lid stating “Jack Pot”. (Only a slight variation on the Tom and Jerry gag from “Salt Water Tabby”.) The lifeguard tries to drag Olive out into the water, despite the fact she can’t swim.

Popeye provides safer transportation with an inflatable rubber horse, but the guard fixes things so that it deflates like Betty Boop’s. While Popeye rides the deflating horse on a jet of air, Olive is cast into the water, going down for the third time. Popeye crashes into the stern of a large ship, returning to the shore with the propeller around his neck. Meanwhile, Olive is saved by the guard, who floats back to land with Olive riding atop his chest, propelling himself with the rowing strokes of his ear lobes. Back ashore, the guard shows off his high diving “jack knife”, transforming into he object for a visal pun. Popeye attempts to duplicate the feat, but the guard sabotages him yet again by pressing a button to double the height of the platform, then pulling the plug on the pool water. Popeye crashes through the pool floor, while the guard drags Olive along for a ride on a speedboat. As Olive complains at his amorous advances, the guard tosses her a rope, and says “Get out your water wings, angel. You’re walkin’.” Olive finds herself water skiing without skis, depending only on her own two big feet. She extends her legs to ridiculous heights to avoid collision with a life buoy, but crashes instead into a lighthouse, destroying the structure and leaving the keeper visible in a bathtub on the end of the plumbing pipes. Popeye emerges from the hole in the pool, flat as a pancake. His spinach can is flat, too, but he tears open the top as if it were a piece of paper, consumes his vegetables, and transforms into a torpedo. Taking dead aim on the guard’s vessel, he scores a direct hit. The guard lands back in his viewing booth, and the battleship tattoo on his chest sinks below the waves. The film ends with Popeye pumping Olive’s long legs in his own manner of artificial respiration, with Olive squirting water from her mouth like an old farm pump.

Bee at the Beach (Dianey/RKO, Donald Duck, 10/13/50 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – So what does Spike the bee do for recreation between his never-ending tasks of storing honey? A day of R&R at the shore, of course. He flies over the coastline, searching for an available spot of sand amidst all the beach umbrellas. One space is left, and he makes a bee-line for it. But a full size beach umbrella opens directly in his path, causing Spike to bounce off and tumble onto the sand. It is the umbrella of Donald, just one step ahead in making his camp. Spike nevertheless finds just enough sand left for someone his size, seys up a folding posie as a miniature beach umbrella, and opens a clamshell to use as a beach chair. His camp is entirely upset as Donald spreads out a beach blanket, covering the bee completely. The bee is trampled as Donald runs to the water for his first dip. Just as Spike resets up his camp, Donald returns, wringing out water from his beach towel, and flooding Spike’s clamshell. For the final insult, Donald brushes some sand off his beach blanket, kicking it into Spike’s face. This is all a self-respecting bee can stand.

Spike taps on Donald’s finger, and signals in bee buzzes, “Hey, come here,” Donald leans down to Spike’s level, as Spike gathers some sand in a mound as if setting up a golf tee shot. “Closer”, he signals Donald in another buzz. Then, reversing position onto all fours like a mule, Spike kicks the entire mound into Donald’s eyes. Donald retaliates by blowing on the bug, landing him headfirst into the clamshell which snaps shut. Donald further humiliates Spike by using his stinger to open a pop bottle. When Spike gets free, he uses his stinger to perforate Donald’s straw, spoiling Donald’s soft drink. Spike verbally complains again, while Donald uses the unusually harsh language, “Aw, drop dead.” Donald catches Spike inside the half-filled pop bottle, and compresses the cap back on. Dinald heads for the water again, to try out his latest purchase of beach gear – a “Super Duper Raft”, complete with inflation pump and pop-out beach umbrella. Spike furiously shakes at the bottle from inside, and notices carbonation bubbles rising from the soda pop below him. Getting an idea, he duplicates the Tom and Jerry gag above, by propelling himself along the surface of the soda pop with his stinger as if an outboard motor.

The bubbles chirn up wildly, popping the iop off and launching Spike into the sky. From his aerial vantage pount, Spike spots the duck and the raft. Spike dives into the water stinger-first, as a mini-torpedo. Donald spots him coming, snd lifts the middle of the raft to avoid the hit, causing Spike to collide with a reef. Angered Spike finds the air valve for deflating the raft, and removes the cap. Donald jets halfway across the bay, the raft now a little ring around his tail. With no explanation for the lost cap, Donald pumps the raft back up to full inflation. But Spike appears along its side, his stinger positioned into the rubber to do its worst. He pokes four holes in one side, which Donald plugs with his thumb and three fingers. Four more holes in the opposite side for his other g=hand. Two sets of three holes for his toes, Then, with Donald’s limbs all tied up, Spike resharpens his stinger on Donald’s beak, dives under the water, and tears out a drop-seat from the floor of Donad’s raft, leaving the duck’s tail protruding in the water. Plucking off one of Dona;d’s tail feathers, Spike swims it under the nose of an underwater shark, then directs the shark to where he can find the rest. Donald leaps himself and the raft out of the water just inches ahead of the shark’s teeth, and starts paddling for shore (no special attention being paid by the animators to deflating the raft again. The shark grabs a section of the raft in his jaws and tugs wildly, stretching the rubber several hundred yards between himself and Donald, then hooks his end of the rubber around a wooden piling, leaving him free to approach Donald at the other end. As Donald plays tug of war, the shark rises in front of hum, beckoning him with his tongue to enter the toothy jaws. Spike chooses this moment to slip the other end of the raft off the wooden piling, snapping Donald into the shark’s gullet, and silhouetted inside the shark’s tail. The shark’s skin acts like rubber, too, and Donald is spring back out of the shark’s mouth, together with the remains of the rubber raft. Now, a school of six sharks grab at the rubber and tug in all directions, while a nervous Donald urges them to “Take it easy, boys.” The raft snaps back, launching Donald and the umbrella inio the air, descending like a parachute directly toward a shark’s mouth. Despite blowing into his umbrella to keep it aloft, Donald nearly disappears down the shark’s throat, but forces the umbrella open to pop out again. The umbrella fabric inverts and finally breaks, with Donald clinging to two halves of its fabric, fashioning his own pair of Batman wings. As Spike watches through the telescope of a lifeguard station, Donald flaps and flutters off into the horizon, as the sharks continue to nip at his heels, leaving Spike laughing himself silly.

We’ll progress another couple of years, next week.


  • By this time many Pluto cartoons had fallen into a formulaic pattern: Pluto meets a cute animal; Pluto is curious about, then exasperated by, then furious with the cute animal; cute animal saves Pluto from something; Pluto and the cute animal become friends. “Bee at the Beach” shows the superior results obtained when the cute animal is presented as a genuine and resourceful adversary.

    Tom and Jerry, by contrast, were placed in a variety of settings that made the most of their little guy vs. big guy dynamic, with only the occasional reminder that we’re dealing with a cat and a mouse — e.g., Jerry baiting his hook with a piece of cheese in “The Cat and the Mermouse”. Many kinds of fish go by more than one name, so for all I know it’s possible that there’s a species known colloquially as a “mousefish”. There is, however, such a thing as a Sea mouse, though it’s not a fish but a polychaete worm, covered with soft hair-like bristles. It has the scientific name Aphrodita, after the Greek goddess of love, because — well, because its underside resembles part of the human female anatomy. I’m often bothered by cartoonists’ gross ignorance of marine biology, but in this case it’s probably for the best.

    “Sing or Swim” (Paramount/Famous, Screen Songs, 16/6/48 — Seymour Kneitel, dir.) is a funny animal spot-gag cartoon set at the beach on Coney Island. It features the same song as the 1931 Fleischer Screen Song “By the Beautiful Sea”, but the two cartoons otherwise have little in common. “Sing or Swim” begins with the by now familiar gag where an incoming wave washes all the beachgoers out to sea, and then a second wave deposits them in their original positions. The Famous story men were probably the only people left who still thought this was funny.

  • A couple of corrections:
    1. Clyde Geronimi direct “Private Pluto” (1943), not Charles Nichols who wouldn’t be named director until the following year. Nichols did directed “Squatter’s Rights” (1946) when the chipmunks were still unnamed and identical.

    2. The seal in the Pluto shorts was referred to as Salty according to the Disney archives.

    • SQUATTER’S RIGHTS was directed by Jack Hannah.

  • Another Paramount/Famous Screen Song, “Blue Hawaii” (13/1/50 — Seymour Kneitel, dir.), includes a visit to Waikiki Beach, “perhaps the most glamorous beach in the world”, for some surfing fun and a luau with hula dancing and steel guitar music. The funniest gag comes at the very end of the cartoon, when Harpo Marx chases the grass-skirted hula girls with a lawnmower!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *