Animation Trails
January 13, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Party Animals – and Other Species (Part 4): Party Protocol

While we continue our trail blazing of the variety of toon celebrations which have occurred over the years, it seems only a public service that we provide an object lesson in the proper etiquette for party attendance and party throwing. As is the custom for toons, such demonstration is typically provided by presentation of examples of what not to do, rather than exhibitions of stellar behavior. Let us analyze a few cases in point.

One of the earliest lessons on our radar is presented by Toby the Pup, from the Charles Mintz studio’s short-lived collaboration with Radio Pictures. Halloween (5/1/31 – Dick Huemer, dir.) demonstrates that, even in spite of the possibility of leftover holiday mistletoe, one should not enter a gala event with the disposition of Georgie Porgie. It is a definite no-no to set your objective as “kiss the girls and make them cry” – especially when one of those girls is the hostess of the evening1 Toby finds this out the hard way after stealing an unconscionable number of smooches from the females in attendance – with an undue amount repeatedly pilfered from Tessie in her own home. Tessie retaliates with a stern lecture to Toby, set to the tune “Smarty”, a song which has been associated with the gay 90’s, written by Albert Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth, and most notably recorded in a period revival set for Columbia by Beatrice Kay, whom animation fans may remember from her regular role on Calvin and the Colonel. Tessie also takes the more direct approach of administering a slap across Toby’s face. Long before the Flintstones, Tessie knew how to make someone feel small – shrinking Toby until he disappears into his own shoes. Returning to view, Toby mildly protests, “Aw, can’t ya take a joke?” Tessie remains aloof and haughty. Toby attempts to make amends by providing piano entertainment for Tessie’s guests.

His number is repeatedly interrupted by a goat too hungry to wait for the refreshments to arrive, who devours anything available in sight – the corner of a table, a lit candle, an apple which turns out to have a worm inside bathing (who pulls down an asbestos curtain to hide his modesty), and finally, the keys off of Toby’s piano. Toby manages to finish his piano piece by conking the goat with repeated blows of a mallet, laying him semi-conscious, while Toby presses the piano keys now well within the goat’s abdomen. Outside, menacing winds are building, and the roof of a church steeple disconnects into the clouds to ring like a large bell (including a chime rendition of Private Snafu’s musical cue-to-be, “You’re a horse’s a__”). “Hells bells – the witching hour!”, whispers Toby to the party crowd. A vulture-nosed witch flies through the skies, shooting an arrow from her broomstick to deflate the moon from full into a more-appropriate crescent. Accompanied by a group of flying gnomes, she parachutes in her bloomers down Tessie’s chimney, somehow bringing with her an array of goblins, skeletons and ghouls. The creatures of the night terrorize Tessie and scare most of the guest list out of the picture entirely. A trio of skeletal birds empty Tessie’s punch bowl, each one leaking punch at the neckline, leaving a spout from which the next shortest skeleton drinks. Toby encounters a flock of ghosts, hiding under a curtain himself to slip in close to administer a kick to one spirit under his sheet, then lift the sheet off another to reveal a skeleton, while using his sheet to blow his nose. Finally surrounded by the specters, Toby “hatches” an idea. He begins to crow as if a rooster ushering in the dawn. The ghosts interpret it as a curfew call, and head for the hills. Perhaps Toby’s impression was overly realistic, as Tessie observes, “Look”. Beneath Toby’s form is an egg! Out of the egg hatches a miniature ghost, who addresses Toby as “Daddy”, then inexplicably makes a hasty exit after the other spirits as the cartoon closes.

It’s the Natural Thing To Do (Fleischer/Paramount, Popeye, 7/30/39 – Dave Fleischer, dir., Tom Johnson, Lod Rossner, anim.) – One of four rare Popeye cartoons to use the “white waves” opening titles with rope lettering, instead of the traditional slamming hatchway doors. To humor their fan club, Popeye, Olive, and Bluto attempt an ultimate party “don’t” – never try to put on airs. Encouraged by a fan letter to try at least one episode of being “refined ladies and gentleman” rather than resorting to the “rough stuff”, Olive attempts to throw a polite tea party for them to pass the time of day. Popeye and Bluto rent the traditional “monkey suit” of formal tux and tails (Bluto convinced he’s playing a character part). Olive dolls up in a long flowing gown, with flowers in her hair. The boys attempt a graceful entrance, bowing to one another, kissing Olive’s hands, and performing a brief minuet with her before seating themselves. Once seated, they quickly realize they have no idea what to do, and begin to feel ill at ease. Popeye tugs at his tight collar, observing how hot it’s getting. Olive consults a book on etiquette for a quick refresher course, muttering aloud a rule from the book to never dunk your donuts above your elbow. Olive rings a small table gong, and a maid hired for the occasion enters on a bicycle-propelled lunch wagon, loaded with sandwiches, donuts, and cups of tea. So many plates and cups are thrust upon each of them, that they all quickly find themselves engaged in a balancing act of sandwiches, donuts, crullers, and steaming tea, barely averting collapses of their respective towers or being scalded by the beverages.

Olive drops a donut onto her skirt, and covers for her error by pulling her legs apart quickly, flipping the donut off her skirt and into the air, where it lands hooked upon the end of her nose. Popeye’s finger gets caught in the handle of a teacup. As he tries to pull his finger loose, he jabs Bluto with his elbow, causing Bluto to squirt the contents of a filled cruller all over Olive’s face, as well as drop his stack of dishes. “Oh, how ghastly stupid of me”, apologizes Bluto. “I am embarassked to say nothing of how I feel”, adds Popeye. Olve tells them to think nothing of it and skip it, then suggests they converse a bit. Bluto remarks that he hears conversing is coming back. And Popeye notes that conversing “breaks up the monopoly of not talkin’.” “Who’ll open”, asks Olive. In the fashion of a poker game, Bluto answers, “I’ll pass.” Left holding the bag by default, Popeye begins, “They say language is used more for talking than any other.” So whiles away the time, as the wall clock counts away the hours, its minute hand having to drag to a new position the hour hand, which has fallen asleep despite the minute hand making several revolutions. Our trio are equally lifeless and listless, barely able to keep their eyes open, and entirely out of words – until Popeye begins to chuckle at the ridiculousness of them attempting to be ladies and gentlemen. Bluto joins in the laughter, and Olive gets a case of the giggles. “Etiquette. What a joke”, she proclaims, tearing up her rule book. Within a few moments, her companions are playfully exchanging blows to each other’s jaws. “Strikes me funny”, says Popeye, as he belts Bluto another. At last, the long-awaited brawl begins, with Olive jumping and shouting encouragement. Bluto even supplies Popeye with spinach can to really get things going. As the three get lost in a fight cloud, each of them with at least one black eye, they each declare that this “is the natural thing to do”.

Quiet! Pleeze (Fleischer/Paramount, Popeye, 2/7/41 – Dave Fleischer, dir., Willard Bowsky/Lod Rossner, anim.) demonstrates another cardinal rule of party-going – do not overindulge. Poopdeck Pappy, at the ripe old age of 99, still hasn’t taken this simple principle to heart. The dawn finds him in bed, with an array of party hats and noisemakers at his bedside, as the musical notes of “How Dry I Am” provide accompaniment to the clanks and clunks painfully taking place inside Pappy’s aching head. The film takes an unusual move with its soundtrack. Apparently aware of the inherent hiss that was regularly occurring in Fleischer recording from this period in Florida, the track is replaced for one scene by an unrecorded stretch of totally-silent footage, while the visual shows a cat walking as softly as possible on well-padded paws. This isn’t silent enough for Pappy’s nerves, as he hollers out, “QUIT THAT STAMPIN’ AROUND!” Popeye arrives at the door to see if Pappy is up. Pappy quickly hides the party souvenirs, then lets Popeye enter. “I’m a sick man. I got a hangov – – a headache”, complains the old coot. Popeye feels Pappy’s forehead – and pulls back his hand, bulging with heat blisters. A thermometer explodes mercury from the glass, and an ice bag applied to Pappy’s head instantly melts away, producing a spout of steam out its stopper. Popeye concludes Pappy needs bedrest. “How can I rest with all that racket goin’ on?”. Pappy complains, pointing to the hustle and bustle of passing commuter trains, construction crews, and traffic in the city surrounding his apartment. Popeye leans his head out the window and yells, “QUIET!” For a split second, the city responds – then continues as noisy as usual. Popeye glares his angriest stare at the city, and the same sound trick is again employed as the city goes totally quiet without a soundtrack. Popeye creeps out of Pappy’s apartment, only to hear Pappy call out, “And keep it quiet!” Just as Popeye settles down in a chair, a baby’s cry is heard from the next building, having run out of milk. Popeye attaches a glove to a telephone extender, sends the glove across to the baby’s window to retrieve the empty bottle, refill it in the kitchen, deposut it in the baby’s mouth, and rock the cradle till the baby nods off. One problem solved – but far from the last.

A passing horse-drawn milk wagon provides both clip-clops and rattling bottles. Popeye pads the wagon’s wheels with pillows to steady the load, and carries the horse piggy-back to its destination. A construction whistle tries to sound the linch hour. Popeye ties its steam pipe into a knot, adding, “Pipe down, you.” An entire sequence is lifted from stock footage of 1934’s “Sock-a-Bye-Baby”, ss Popeye hear’s a radio crooner’s rendition of “Out of Nowhere”. Popeye socks the radio speaker, sending an electrical “fist” up the antenna wire, through the airwaves, and over to the radio station, where it emerges from the studio microphone to knock the singer out cold. Another lifted scene from the same cartoon has Popeye silence a construction crew by undermining the girders of the building under construction with his mighty fists, collapsing the structure entirely (never mind the crashing sound of falling steel). Finally, Popeye sights a warning sign informing of imminent blasting of a mountainside by the “Sparber Destruction Co.” (a rare in-joke of the studio, referring to animator and de-facto director I. Sparber). As a worker prepares to press the dynamite plunger, Popeye eats his spinach, and leaps atop the mountain’s pinnacle, largely containing the force of the explosion. Popeye descends the hill with the jitters, but the mountain harmlessly – and noiselessly – deflates like a balloon into a pancake flatness. With job well done, Popeye returns to Pappy’s home. To his surprise, he hears a rumpus going on, and observes falling plaster from the ceiling below Pappy’s apartment. Climbing one flight, Popeye opens Pappy’s door, to find the apartment loaded with party guests, applauding Pappy as he demonstrates the latest steps in jitterbugging, bedecked in his party hat again. “Hello, son. I’m okay now. All I needed was a good rest. Yippee!” Realizing he has been duped, Popeye faints dead away – through the floorboards, and down into his own apartment below, where he lands in his own bed, an ice pack landing on his head, and a thermometer in his mouth which explodes like a 4th of July firework, for the iris out.

Not only should one not indulge in wild behavior at a party, but don’t make it worse by bragging about it the next day. Daffy Duck provides stunning example of what not-to-do in Nasty Quacks (Warner, Daffy Duck, 12/1/45 – Frank Tashlin, dir. (uncredited, as he had left the studio)) As the newly-adopted pet of a little girl, Daffy becomes “one of the family” – more closely resembling the relative you’d like to disown. At a typical morning breakfast, Daffy, boasting in his most abrasive manner at the top of his lungs, describes in nerve-wracking detail the carryings-on at the party he attended the past evening. “You’d’ve died laughing. Somebody cuts a hose, and there was no water. One for the books. The little guy got thirty days for kicking a cop. Oh, brother, I never had such fun in my life. We was in a house, and everything was flying. The furniture was going in the door and out the window. One guy was swinging from a chandelier. You’d’ve thought he was a monkey. Come to think of it, he was a monkey! What a party. More people kicked in the shin. It all started with an innocent telephone call. I thought I’d never see home again. The chairs were flying around like rockets. Someone clipped Charlie in the air, and that started it all over again. What a party! Some fun.” Between this vocal tirade and Daffy’s usual destructive tendencies, the girl’s father has had enough, and after losing a duel with Daffy (conducted with butter knives), hits on a masterful solution. He presents his daughter with a brand new baby duckling. The charmed toddler takes the newcomer to heart, giving up her protectiveness of her black-feathered menace, and announces “You can have the little bed that my old duck used to use.” As Papa pounds his fists together menacingly, Daffy goes into a complete case of hysterics, screaming and pounding for help upon the little girl’s door. A crashing blow from Papa socks Daffy through the roof, across at least a mile of territory, and beak-first into a telephone pole. Daffy vows vengeance upon the new junior intruder, but, sneaking into the house with an axe, finds he hasn‘t the heart to lay a chopping blow upon the fledgling. An idea presents itself – load the duckling with vitamin B1 pills, to make a big duck out of him – “Then, I’ll kill ‘im.” The growth spurt occurs instantly, but is far from what was expected, as the new duck is – female. The next morning finds Papa skipping to the breakfast table, singing “No more Daffy Duck”. One look in the kitchen ends the melody. Things happen quickly in a cartoon, as Daffy and his new “girl” have obviously tied the knot, and produced overnight a table full of new offspring, who smash all the kitchen items in sight, while Daffy reverts to form, continuing to brag, “What a party!”

Another cardinal rule of partying – make sure you’ve either bought a ticket, or are actually on the invitation list. Woody Woodpecker does things the hard way, in The Woody Woodpecker Polka (Lantz/Universal, 10/29/51, Walter Lantz, dir.) A local Barn Dance is bringing out the crowds of animal folks. (Cameo walk-ons feature what would be the last screen appearances until the television special episode “Spook-a-Nanny” of several Lantz regulars and semi-regulars, including Andy and Miranda Panda, Charlie Chicken (a regular of the Andy Panda comics, who had appeared in two theatrical episodes), and a somewhat modified version of Oswald Rabbit. A prominent sign at the door announces an admission fee of $1.00, with the added notices, “Free Eats. Ladies free with escort”. From a nearby haystack awakens Woody. Making its third appearance in the series, Woody’s custom watch (bearing no numbers, but only pictures of various meals of the day) sounds the alarm that he should be thinking, as usual, about food. The “Free Eats” sign beckons to him. But there’s the little matter of gatekeeper Wally Walrus at the door. Woody confidently walks up to and past him, handing him a greenback. Only one problem – the bill is fake, and made of rubber. Woody drools as he passes the buffet table, deciding to take a dessert as his first course, but instead bites the intruding nose of wised-up Wally. Woody receives the bum’s rush out the door, landing among the underwear on a clothesline. Wally points to the sign requiring the dollar admission, in the process also calling Woody’s attention to the “ladies free” proviso. Woody has landed among a selection of girl’s unmentionables on the clothesline, and, already with his legs through a pair of panties, realizes the time is ripe for a subterfuge. He darts into a door, pilling in through a window all the articles of clothing from the line – and emerges disguised as a seductive femme fatale in a strapless purple gown. (His costume is aided by an apparent trip to a make-up supply within the home, as he now has long eyelashes, lipstick on his beak, and his topknot combed into a curl.) He slinks in his most feminine manner over to Wally, whose dried-up heart, in an x-ray view, becomes flushed with the blood of his youth, and the Walrus flies into the air like a skyrocket, descending gracefully back to Earth as if light as a feather. Offering Woody his arm, Wally serves as escort into the dance.

Inside the barn, Woody really settles down to business. Between a series of wardrobe malfunctions, as Wally’s dance moves manage to briefly pull Woody’s skirt off, Woody begins to fill his outfit with every morsel of food he can swipe from the banquet table. His “figure” grows increasingly buxom – and lumpy – causing the addlepated Walrus to grow ever more amorous. Wally begins trying to steal kisses. Woody makes it hot for him by substituting a red pepper shaker where his lips should be, then cooling the Walrus off with a seltzer bottle. Woody then starts to “lead” in their dance steps, carefully steering Wally’s rear into the prongs of a pitchfork. Wally smashes into a wall, acquiring from items attached thereto a horse’s collar, but is so lovesick he gallops around the room like a happy wild stallion. Woody’s dress has reached full food capacity, and gets stuck as Woody tries to exit the hall, hung up on the width of a French bread caught in the dress’s shoulders. Wally crashes into the dress, knocking it outside minus its wearer. The garment is so stuffed, it stands upright without an owner, and in place of a head and hands pops out a baked ham and a link of sausages to act as embracing arms around Wally. Blind to these differences, Wally steals another kiss, but is instinctively attracted by the irresistible flavor now upon his lips – and takes a large chomp out of the “face” of his date. As he swallows the tasty mouthful, Wally is struck with shock, as the realization hits him, “What have I just done?” He turns his eyes in horrific expectation of having permanently “defaced” his girlfriend, but is even more shocked to find the ham in her place. Removing it from the dress torso, Wally investigates further by peering into the dress’s collar – and is bitten on the nose by the claw of a live lobster. (How did this get on the banquet table?) Woody races into the frame, taking this opportunity to push his ill-gotten feast out of Wally’s reach, and rides the loaded dress home, chomping on a turkey leg between the echoes of his signature laugh. Wally’s face turns into the standard cartoon prop of an all-day “Sucker”, and the film ends with Wally giving himself repeated kicks in the pants for the fade out. (The title song of the film is prominently performed by The Starlighters, who would commercially record it with Mel Blanc on Capitol. Lanyz hoping for lightning to strike twice in the form of a follow-up hit to “The woody Woodpecker Song” No such luck, although the tune provides a sprightly underscore for the action.)

Tabasco Road (Warner, Speedy Gonzales, 5/20/57 – Robert McKimson, dir.), might qualify as a sort of public service announcement, raising the question of a party host’s conscientiousness to control his guests and look out for their safety and well-being. At the local cantina, everything is quiet within the tavern for the humans – but far from quiet in the miniature twin establishment within the mousehole in the wall. A fiesta in miniature is being thrown in honor of Speedy, who demonstrates his abilities ranking him as the fastest mouse in all Mexico by performing a Mexican hat dance at such breakneck speed the orchestra can barely keep up, and the hat brim seems about to be set on fire. A pair of mice named Pablo and Fernando embrace Speedy as “Mi amigo”, “Buddy buddy campañero”. But Speedy can tell in an instant the source of this overabundance of friendliness. “No mas tequila”, scolds Speedy. “Already muy loaded.” His two friends have their own ideas, each hiding another full glass inside their sombreros. By 3:00 A.M., the party is finally breaking up. Pablo and Fernando stumble their way in rickety fashion out the family entrance, bellowing a vocal chorus of “La Cucaracha” (substituting in p;ace of the original marijuana lyric the line “cigarettas or cigar”). A few moments later, Speedy emerges from the hall, inquiring of another guest what became of Pablo and Fernando. The guest informs him they have already left, “Muy plenty stinko borracho.” (Translation – roaring drunk.) Speedy suspects the pair are walking right into “troublemente”. And so they are, as they wander back alleys (so inebriated, they compliment their own musical performance with “We make a good trio”). Their sour sonata arouses the attentions of a tough alley cat in a trash can. The mice still have enough cognizance to note the cat’s presence, paralleling the trademark byline of Tweety Bird, with “I theenk I saw una pussy gato.” “You did, you did saw una possy gato”. The overly-confident mice tell the cat to put up his dukes, and engage in “combato”. Speedy arrives on the scene, reacting, “Jumpin’ frijoles!” The cat holds one of the fighting mice in his paw, and is ready for a late evening snack of these “loco en la cabeza” rodents. Speedy grabs an axe, bringing down the blunt end of the axe head upon the tip of the cat’s tail and pinning him to the ground, while Speedy performs a timely rescue. Placing one of the mice under the roll-up lid of a sardine can, Speedy escorts the other mouse home, intending to come back for his amigo later. Speedy deposits mouse number one iside his door, then races back to the alley. Little does Speedy realize that the mouse he has just closed the door on is slipping out the window, and heading back to the same alley as well.

When Speedy arrives at the former location of the sardine can, he finds the cat with the can in his paw, opening the lid to release the battling brunch within. In a confusing display of speed, our hero leaves multiple trails of dust, and for unknown reasons, the cat seems to explode internally. Speedy pauses before the camera, and apologizes to us as he realizes he’s left the audience out of the picture by action “too mucho rapido for the eyes to follow”. And so, Seedy presents an “instant replay” in slow motion (an update on a stock-in-trade gag repeatedly used in Goofy’s “How To” instructional cartoons, but by this time having been out of use at the Disney camp for many years). The slow motion reveals Speedy bashing the car’s toes with a mallet, causing the cat to scream and stick his tongue out, revealing the inebriated mouse in his mouth. Speedy grabs the mouse away, pulling him off to one side and seating him upon a piece of wood – then having the time to think twice about the seating position, as the wood is really the base of a mousetrap, from which Speedy barely pulls the mouse away before the metal bar snaps. Speedy then puts the mouse into the neck of a bottle, corking up the top, and returns his attentions to the cat, leaping atop the feline’s still-protruding tongue and lighting a firecracker, which he causes the cat to swallow. The explosive “Boom” we had witnessed before occurs again in slow motion – and we are now up to date on exactly what occurred. Returning for the mouse in the bottle, Speedy finds the bottom of the bottle broken off, and his “victim” has escaped again. The mouse is out looking for his compadre, and of course checks out what he thinks is another cantina – only it is merely a pair of swinging doors the cat has placed between his teeth. Seeing the bulge in the cat’s mouth, Speedy gets the picture quickly, and just as quickly runs another instant replay of the explosion gag, leaving the cat to say, “Oh no”, then head for the border. “Aw, too bad. Now Pablo y Ferando have no more pussy gato to fight with” says Speedy, with eyebrows raised so that we know he is speaking tongue in cheek. But the peace is fleetingly brief, as a minor riot erupts in the next alley, where Pablo and Fernando have been reunited, and have located a circle of new cats in other trash cans, uttering the challenge, “Combato! We fight whole bunch of you chickeens!” Realizing it’s going to be a long, but potentially entertaining night, Speedy grabs the brim of his hat and smiles to us, “Grab your sombreros, amigos. Here we go again!”, and zips off into the fray.

While the earlier episode “Speedy Gonzales” took home the Oscar statuette, this little gem, also nominated for an Academy Award, features some of the richest animation ever offered of the character, who displays a much wider than usual variety of demeanors and moods, clever and sincerely-performed dialogue reads, and great facial expression, rendering a character who otherwise often seemed repetitious and two-dimensional into a living, breathing, three-dimensional entity with true personality. An added and clever touch is the sound-effects work of Treg Brown, who presents an unusually large and varied number of whirrs, zings, and zips for Speedy virtually whenever he moves, even for short distances. Also unusual for this series entry was the fact that Speedy is with us for nearly the entire picture, for once not having to rely on standard “Mighty Mouse” formula of waiting for a peril to be established against the mice before making his delayed entrance. If only production schedules and writer’s creativities could have maintained this level of quality throughout the series, Speedy would have emerged as not merely a frustrating nuisance, but as a richly-faceted character with genuinely likeable traits.

Scat, Cats (MGM, Spike and Tyke, 7/26/57 – William Hanna/Joseph Barbera, dir.), reminds anyone planning a festive get together to always make sure the venue for the occasion is actually reserved before sending out the invitations. In this case, tough cat Butch decides to play host to a gang of the local alley cats for a wild night of frivolity, never considering before telephoning invites to the gang (via a police phone in the alley, several years before “Top Cat”) that the owner of the house might not approve. The couple owning the residence have been given no heads-up regarding Butch’s plans, and post Spike and Tyke to patrol on watch duty and ensure that no intruders enter. The battle lines are thus set for a classic conflict of motives, and the typical destructive consequences that can only result in a Hollywood cartoon.

The trio of invited guests first try a semi-direct approach, sneaking on tiptoe directly behind Spike’s back. But Spike’s peripheral vision wises him up just in time, and as Butch opens the door to greet the gang, Spike grabs Butch in a stranglehold, taking his place in the doorway. The alley cats make a quick about-face, an orange tabby pausing at the gate to leave a souvenir for Spike – Tyke, who has attached himself by the teeth to the tabby’s tail. The tabby tries again, climbing a tree with a rope lariat, wjich he uses to lasso the TV antenna of the home. Ever observant Spike, however, is also equipped with an antenna – an ear that converts in shape to a rotating radar dish, and picks up the rustling above. As Butch opens a window for the tabby to swing to on the rope, Spike, in a demonstration of super-strength, slides the entire brickwork of the home’s chimney across the side of the home to block the window, flattening the tabby upon impact. On the other side of the house, the smallest of the alley three (a kitten) tries for a window entry using a king-size slingshot to launch himself. Give Spike credit for speed. He makes it around the house just in time to raise a catcher’s mitt and catch the kitten before he can score a “home” run, then bats the kitten out of the yard with a cricket bat. (We didn’t even know Spike was British!) Cat number three (a tall gray one) makes his try, by entering the yard with a ladder to scale the wall. Spike grabs the ladder before the cat has climbed halfway to his goal, and attempts to carry ladder and cat together back to the street. Seeing himself traveling in reverse, the cat makes a desperate attempt for his target by abandoning the ladder, leaping for the roof of the home. He is only successful at grasping onto the first row of the roof’s shingles, which dislodges from the roof upon his impact. As the cat falls, the rows of shingles follow, as if all attached together as one continuous ribbon, completely deconstructing the roof of the premises. The scene fades to a blackout, rather than even attempt to examine how Spike will ever explain this to the masters, or how he could miraculously have the roof reconstructed by the very next scene.)

The cats try their hand at aeronautics, folding a giant paper airplane, upon which ths lightest of the three (the kitten) rides, wearing a pilot’s goggles. A heaving toss by the two larger cats sends the craft soaring over the fence toward an upper-story window. But Spike, with a devilish grin, peers over the fence as the launch commences, and holds above his head a generally innocent but in this case highly effective cartoon prop – a cigarette lighter. The bottom of the plane catches fire as it travels directly over the open flame, and the airship holds together just long enough to elevate the kitten to the sill of Butch’s window, before disintegrating the plane into black powder. In another prediction of a Hanna-Barbera television trope yet to come, the kitten crashes tail-first into the lawn, and only then does a parachute pop open, to cover the kitten where he lies (the classic ending which would close each week’s installment of the Yogi Bear show).

A fast-moving sequence (which plays much more effectively in widescreen Cinemascope than in the claustrophobic 4:3 ratio in which the film is commonly seen on TV) allows the two taller cats to demonstrate their skills as circus acrobats. Constructing a teeter-totter in the street, one cat stands upon the other’s shoulders on one end of the board, then hops onto the board’s opposite end, catapulting the second cat toward a second story window, where Butch waits with a butterfly net. Spike makes the usual timely appearance, cutting the bottom off of Butch’s net The acrobat cat falls through like a basketball, landing below in a trash can Spike has placed on the end of another teeter-totter. Spike gracefully dives for the opposite end of the board, launching the cat and trash can back over the fence, to land on the open end of the first teeter-board, flipping cat number one to join cat number two in the trash can. Butch signals the next idea in naval fashion, with morse-code signals flashed through the Venetian blinds – try digging. While Spike may not understand Morse code, he gets enough of the idea to be waiting in a hole dug in the lawn as the tunneling tabby arrives, allowing Spike to take a chomp on the tabby’s arm. Another rapidly-timed sequence has the three cats try a mad dash of speed by means of a bucycle built for three, accelerating to a frightening pace in a descent from the highest hill in the area. Even Spike and Tyke aren’t strong enough to withstand the momentum of this meams of propulsion, as the bicycle knocks down the gate door they are bracing, and flattens the dogs like pancakes. Butch realizes the device is wildly out of control, and attempts to stop it by slamming the front door closed – but the nike smashes through that obstacle too, then out the rear door on the opposite side of the house. As the cats realize they’ve passed their destination, they apply the brakes with a grinding screech. The friction of their speed against the ground surface grinds both the bike and the cats into dust – which Spike sweeps neatly into a dustpan, then pours into a yard trash can, from under the lid of which appear only the eyeballs of the three disintegrated cats.

At last, the masters return home. Or do they? What really occurs is it’s two of the cats again, in masks and costumes, with the little cat packed in the “master”’s briefcase. Spike is fooled entirely, and the cats are on the verge of gaining entry – when Tyke chomps into the “master”’s trousers. “Forgive him, sir. He’s young. He’s inexperienced. It’ll never happen again”, begs Spike. But little Tyke won’t let go no matter how much his dad pleads, and Spike is forced to yank him away, causing the false clothing of the cat to be ripped off with the pup. The jig is up, as the orange tabby’s fur shows through. The three cats race inside the open front door, as they and Butch quickly grab all the food they can from the pantry on the fly, exit the back door, ad take their “party” into the trees of the back yard, while Spike and Tyke stand vigil below to ensure they cannot come down. As the cats resign themselves to conversing and devouring sandwiches where they are, the orange tabby is forced to admit that Spike is quite a watchdog, and the kid, a chip off the old block. Spike proudly holds up his pup who saved the day, and affectionately says, “That’s my boy.” (A third precursor of H-B television, as the catch-phrase would subsequently be associated with Doggie Daddy, as we will meet below.)

Pebbles’ Birthday Party (Hanna-Barbera. The Flintstones,10/8/64) provides another lesson for the party planner: be sure to check out carefully the credentials of your caterer before booking. Fred Flintstone finds himself, through a misinterpretation of his entry at a specially-convened meeting of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos as a volunteering for duty, thrust into the role of organizer for the lodge’s annual stag party, saddled with a list of items to obtain for the gala event, including by unanimous vote of the lodge officials a primary need for dancing girls. At the same time, Pebbles has reached the grand old age of one, and Wilma expects Fred to make arrangement for a children’s birthday party, falling on the same day as the Buffalo benefit. Barney suggests, “How long can a kid’s party last?’, and proposes solving the calendar conflict by holding the kids’ party early, leaving the evening free for Fred and Barney to attend the lodge event. The plan seems foolproof – except for a fool named Fred.

They arrive at Cobblestone Caterers, where Fred’s inquiries are met with a series of wise cracks from the smooth-demeanored proprietor. Fred threatens to take his business elsewhere, but the owner reveals his trump card as to why he can afford to freely sass his customers. “You can try, but I’m the only caterer in town.” Left with no choice, Fred first asks for entertainment for the kids’ party. Rocko the Clown is sent in, who begins his act by juggling Fred on his feet. Fred is bounced off for a thumping landing on his rear, and concedes Rocko is hired so long as he gets someone else to juggle. Then come the provisions for the Lodge party. The shopkeeper calls for the Boulderettes – a troupe of high-kicking, identically-proportioned shapely dancing girls. Fred and Barney go ga-ga, their eyes popping out, hearts thumping, and collapse in a dead faint. “Happens every time”, says the proprietor.

The arrangements are verbally gone over with the caterer, for Rocko to appear at the Flintstone residence in the afternoon, and the Boulderettes at the lodge that evening. Though the caterer appears to get the message, no sooner do Fred and Barney leave than his memory lapses. Resolving his doubts by a flip of a coin, he instructs Rocko to attend the lodge party, while the Boulderettes are to report to the Flintstones. And if he’s wrong, who cares – as he’s still “the only caterer in town.”

Next day, the Flintstone living room is filled with kids, awaiting the start of the celebration. A huge birthday cake has arrived, prominently filling the center of the dinner table. Fred opens the front door to begin the show, and to his surprise hears a vocal introduction for the Alligator’s Ragtime Band Plus Two (a play on Ward Kimball’s “Firehouse Five Pus Two” aggregation from the Disney studio). Fred is surprised at providing such jazzy music to a kid’s party, but assumes the caterer must know what he’s doing – until the cake pops open, and the Boulderettes emerge one by one. Forming their chorus line, and backed by the showy music, they prance across the living room, to the kids’ surprise, and Wilma and Betty’s dismay. “What is the meaning of this?”, they ask. “As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know”, responds the bewildered caveman, who directs the dancers out the front door. Fred runs for a box of games to keep the kids busy, but hands them by mistake a deck of playing cards, with which the savvy kids immediately begin exchanging poker bids. Fred grabs up the cards and tosses them out the door – only to leave an opening for the Boulderettes to make another entrance, this time accompanied by a high-licking Barney serving as “pony girl” at the end of the row. Fred pushes them out the back door, but they won’t take “leave” for an answer, and kick the door down on top of Fred for their next entrance, disappearing again out the front door. The kids are “screaming” for ice cream, and Fred runs for supplies to the refrigerator – only to find the legs of one of the dancers appearing inside the fridge. Fred slams the door, telling us “Those girls really get around.” Barney suggests serving drinks, and Fred grabs a cold glass for himself – until one taste tells him the caterer has provided cactus juice (a drink only fit for Water Buffaloes) instead of soda pop. “If we serve this to the kids, we’d really have a party!” About to toss the drinks out the back door, Fred again intersects paths with the Boulderettes, whose entry kick boots Fred out the window, into a heap on the lawn. A next door neighbor has had enough of witnessing the carousing, and calls for the Paddy Wagon. Meanwhile, Fred realizes that another horrible mixup must be about to happen at the Water Buffalo hall, and hops in the car to avert disaster with the Grand Poobah. As Fred drives out, the police move in, calling a raid on the premises, and packing kids, band, dancers, and Barney and the wives, all into the wagon for a trip to the station.

Meanwhile, the anticipated worst is happening at the stag party. Rocko’s act is laying an egg with these “bigger kids” he wasn’t expecting. The lodge brothers change his pin the tail on the donkey game into pin the tail on the clown, then douse him over the head with his own pitcher of soda pop instead of the desired cactus juice. Fred arrives, but hasn’t time for a word of explanation, as the lodge brotherhood erupts into an angry mob, determined to have vengeance upon the “party wrecker”. The police wagon receives a call before reaching the station to pick up a gang of rioters at the lodge hall. “My, but we’re busy tonight”, says the officer in charge. The cops arive to find the Poobah and several members attempting to shake Fred down from atop a tree. The rioters are ordered to desist and pile into the wagon. Upon opening the wagon gate, the Boulderettes make another high-kicking appearance. The lodge members now need no coaxing, but are anxious to join the girls in the lock-up. Fred is taken into custody, too, and somehow, the caterer is located for corroboration. Fred finally provides an explanatory recap, and the officer (rather than have to explain why he raided a kids’ party) releases the entire group, provided they never darken his precinct again. Fred is forgiven, while the lodge brothers follow to wherever the Boulderettes are planning to make their next appearance. So the next time you deal with the “only caterer in town”, take the wise approach – and drive the drive into the next county.

And, taken out of chronological sequence, Party Pooper Pop (Hanna/Barbera, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, 10/6/61), illustrates the do’s and don’ts on how to become the life of the party. Augie Doggie is by nature just not the partying type (except when it’s his own birthday, as we’ve seen in a previously-reviewed episode of inconsistent motivations during last year’s “Reign of the Supertoons” series). He’s thinks kids’ parties are – well – for kids, and too juvenile an activity for someone of his own high I.Q. Doggie Daddy, on the other hand, sees this development as the budding of a social wallflower, and won’t harbor the thought of Augie turning down a party invitation in favor of engaging in his own science project (rechecking Einstein’s theory, and believing he’s caught “old Albert” in a slight error). Daddy tries to pass on to Augie what he believes to be his legacy of how to win friends and influence people in a party setting. However, it becomes painfully apparent that Daddy’s methods are drastically out-of-date. He instructs Augie to repeat one of his funniest jokes – “What has four eyes but cannot see? Mississippi!” Augie doesn’t react a jot to the “humor”, referring to it as based upon a play on words, making it a childish pun. Nevetheless, Augie is given his marching orders to repeat the joke for the crowd. A few moments later, he returns, tail drooping, informing his “dad of vaudeville days” that his rib-tickler laid a great big egg. “Maybe it was over their pointy little heads”, ponders Daddy. Augie tells him that wasn’t the problem.

The new generation of pointy little heads, also have very sharp brains,” Daddy decides to pull out the stops, instructing Augie in his “old routine”. With straw hat and a cane, Daddy tells an ancient joke about a man who hadn’t had a bite in three days – “So, I bit him”, and breaks into a soft-shoe dance, complete with “rickety-tiks” to give the act class. Placing the hat and cane on Augie, he orders his son to perform it just the way he showed him at the party. “Why fight it”, moans the hopeless pup. As expected, Augie again returns, the straw hat now smashed over his brow, and announces that the routine “laid an egg again – rickety tiks and all”. Finally realizing that audiences have grown tougher these days, Daddy is at a loss what to suggest. Augie is thankful the subject is closed, and he can resume his studies of time and space. “If I let him quit now, he’ll grow up to be a hermit”, says Daddy to the audience. He begs Augie to give it one more try, finally arriving at the realization that perhaps the best advice he can give is for Augie to always be himself. Augie brightens slightly, and heads out for one more gallant try. After an extended time without Augie’s return, Daddy becomes curious at what can possibly have happened. He crosses to the house where the party is taking place, noting things seem unusually quiet for a party atmosphere. To his surprise, he finds Augie being “himself”, and the party guests engrossed by his efforts, as Augie presents to them a scientific lecture upon the mechanics of thrust in a rocket engine. “That’s my boy of tomorrow, who said that today”, beams a proud Daddy to the audience for the fade out.

I hope and trust that this lecture on etiquette has proved as entertaining and effective as Augie’s, and that you will benefit by its lessons at your next partygoing experience (whenever that may be). More celebrations and general toon rowdiness next week.


  • It’s nice to see so many cartoons teaching important lessons about party etiquette. Peggy Charren would have been pleased. Well, no, she probably wouldn’t have.

    More examples of prehistoric party protocol from The Flintstones:

    “The Swimming Pool” (14/10/60 — written by Warren Foster): If you share a swimming pool with your next-door neighbour, both parties need to agree in advance to any party plans. (This is one episode where Barney is clearly in the wrong.)

    “The Birthday Party” (5/4/63) — written by Joanna Lee): If your efforts to keep a surprise party secret from the guest of honour leave him exhausted and cranky, it wasn’t a good idea in the first place. (As Barney puts it: “The next time we plan a surprise party for Fred, we better tell him!”)

    “Peek-a-Boo Camera” (19/12/63 — written by Audrey Edwards): If you don’t want your wife to find out about your lodge’s wild bachelor party, make sure it doesn’t get filmed and shown on her favourite reality show.

    “The Masquerade Party” (26/11/65 — written by Warren Foster): If aliens from outer space try to crash your masquerade party, let them!

  • “It’s the Natural Thing To Do” was the first Popeye de facto directed by Tom Johnson, who had been toiling mostly on the Screen Songs and Betty Boop cartoons prior to that, and would be the main Popeye director during the declining Famous Studio years of the late 40s and 1950s. He immediately took Bluto in a different direction, making him a less menacing character than he had been in the earlier Willard Bowsky-Seymour Kneitel-Dave Tendlar directed shorts and more of a direct source of comedy — something that wasn’t maintained by Famous later on, when the cartoons became more formulistic (Johnson would also sort of put Popeye and Bluto into a party-like situation two years after this cartoon, with the nightclub fight in “Kicking the Conga ‘Round”).

  • Even though mid-to-late 50s MGM toons were obviously downscaled to meet budgets, Bill and Joe in particular still managed to produce plenty of fresh gags (radar ears etc) and convincing, action-packed animation (esp Vinci) that could generate laughs.

    Even better than Warners at the time. There, I said it.

  • Your analysis of “Tabasco Road” is easily the best I’ve read. A very underrated cartoon, and probably the tops of the series along with “Mexicali Shmoes”. Love the dedication in this series, keep it up!

  • Re: Paul Groh

    I’m not sure of, or familiar with this “Audrey Edwards” you mention written “Peekaboo Camera”, a “Candid Camera Spoof”, but IIR it was written by Warren Foster.

    Doug “Doggie Daddy” Young played the “Pebbles Birthday Party” caterer in almost the same voice of beloved radio/tv actor always best-rememeb for his hilariously smooth, “Yessss” and snide way of talking, Frank Nelson, who was passed over, as they already had too many…”either way, the ONLY caterer in town?”.
    Funny, he DID play similiar characters HIMSELF on the two earlier FLINSTONE episodes.

  • SJC: I just checked the closing credits to “Peek-a-Boo Camera”, and the teleplay was credited to Barry E. Blitzer. “Audrey Edwards” was the writer on the Wikipedia episode list. I didn’t recognise the name either and should have checked.

  • There’s some odd script-padding in “Pebble’s Birthday Party”–Right at the beginning, there’s a lengthy sequence involving Fred’s snoring that eats up a whopping four minutes of screen time, and is never referred to again for the duration of the episode (Oh well, at least Baby Puss makes a rare appearance). Then there is a another scene later on, lasting almost two minutes, where Fred changes a “flat” on his car that’s effectively like putting the show on “pause”. This time, there’s a reason for the extraneous material–It’s to keep Fred from returning home before the family and guests are hauled off by the cops.

    Also worth noting is that the stripper…er, dancing girl(s) / clown switcheroo was “borrowed” for Parenthood (1989). Unfortunately, the clown in the latter receives a much harsher treatment (thankfully, off-screen).

  • Yay thanks for adding my Toby the Pup Halloween video!

    • Thanks for posting it! Thou art the greatest!

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