In animation circles, a “cheater” is a cartoon consisting significantly of footage from earlier cartoons. Whenever theatrical studios made them, they cut costs on the production of the films. Cheaters typically had plots involving someone sharing memories of the past. Every time a memory would be announced, the old clip would appear. The memory-lane genre of cheaters includes these films:
Betty Boop’s Rise To Fame (1934), Jerry’s Diary (MGM, 1949), His Hare-Raising Tale (Warner Brothers, 1951), Life with Tom (MGM, 1953), Smarty Cat (MGM, 1955), Penny Antics (1955), This Is a Life (Warner Brothers, 1956), Assault and Flattery (Paramount, 1956), Hare-Abian Nights (Warner Brothers, 1959), Katnip’s Big Day (Paramount, 1959), Freudy Cat (Warner Brothers, 1964), and Pink-In (DFE, 1971).
Some cheaters had more imaginative plots. Max Fleischer’s The Adventures of Popeye (1934) reused scenes from previous Popeye cartoons to inspire a little boy (in live action) to overcome a bully. In Warner Bros. What’s Cookin’, Doc? (1944), old footage serves as a film Bugs Bunny submits for consideration of an Academy Award. In Cruise Cat (MGM, 1952) and Matinee Mouse (MGM, 1968), Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse see themselves on film in theaters. In Shutter Bugged Cat (MGM, 1969), Tom Cat studies old footage of himself in order to do better at catching Jerry Mouse, and some of the footage and soundtracks are played in reverse! I also admire how Harman and Ising made Bosko’s Parlor Pranks (MGM, 1934) by reusing animation from previous black & white Warner Bros. Looney Tunes!
And then of course there were the “Cheater Features”: The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979), The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981), Bugs Bunny’s Third Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982), Daffy Dick’s Fantastic Island (1983) and Daffy Duck’s Quackbusaters (1988). These reuse the basic set-up of making new bridging footage to bracket old cartoons, the premise of the ABC-TV Bugs Bunny Show (1960).
Perhaps the ultimate feature length cheaters were the Fred Ladd colorized fiasco’s Mutt and Jeff Meet Bugoff (1973) and Hooray For Betty Boop (from 1976, aka Betty Boop For President).
One of the weirder cheaters from the television era was Popeye’s Testimonial Dinner (KFS, 1960), which has footage of other made-for-tv “Popeye” cartoons. And, of course, it recalls the theatrical cheater Popeye’s 20th Anniversary, but without the Hollywood celebrities–Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis–in the earlier film.
Popeye’s 20th Anniversary
Popeye may be tied with Tom & Jerry for the sheer amount of cheaters. They released several shorts that were simply edited down from the classic Fleischer two-reelers. Here’s a typical one:
Casper, The Road-Runner, The Pink Panther – no animation producer with a schedule to meet or a budget to make was beyond reusing older footage to fulfill his contractual obligations. Here are a few more favorite examples:
Casper’s Birthday Party
Zip Zip Hooray
Finally, say what you will about Woody Woodpecker, he never appeared in a cheater between 1940 and 1972. Then again, Walter Lantz found other ways to reduce costs in animation without resorting to cheaters.
I call upon the readers to remind me – in the comments below – about other cheaters I completely forgot about.