Animation Trails
July 10, 2019 posted by Charles Gardner

Toons Abhor a Vacuum – Part 2

Continuing from last time with the history of the cartoon vacuum, into the 1940’s and on to features and a recent college production. Plus some inside information as to virtually-unknown details of a Chilly Willy script that never came to full fruition.

Professor Small and Mr. Tall (Columbia/Screen Gems, Color Rhapsody, 3/26/43, John Hubley, Paul Sommer, dir.) This film has received some critical notoriety, being (along with Chuck Jones’s The Dover Boys at Pimiento University, or the Rivals of Roquefort Hall (Warner Merrie Melodies, 9/19/42) highly formative in developing the impressionistic background and limited animation style that would become later stock in trade for UPA in the late 40’s and 50’s. For this article’s purposes, it features two brief uses of the vacuum cleaner. In an introductory train sequence, Professor Small (who of course is the tall one) is engaged in his day-job as hawker of “peanuts, popcorn, and vitamin pills” to the train’s passengers. Mister Tall (who is the puny short one) brings up the rear with a vacuum cleaner, to suck up all those pesky peanut shells after the customers are through with them. Eventually, on account of the accidental breaking of a mirror, the train plummets off a trestle, and our two “heros” face an endless stream of “seven years’ bad luck”. In a later sequence, while lost in the desert, Mister Tall again produces the vacuum cleaner, and begins sucking up desert sand like it was so much intrusive dirt. Professor Small, irritated, roars “You can’t do that here!” Tall asks, why? Professor responds, “No electricity!” Tall meekly responds, “Oh”, and switches off the vacuum despite the fact it had obviously been working on the power of pure faith alone.

Bargain Counter Attack (Paramount/Famous, Little Lulu, 1/11/46 – I. Sparber, dir.). Lulu finds a new use for the vacuum – though one that probably would not be UL approved. In a department store, and armed with an exchange slip for returning a dolly she didn’t like, Lulu hunts in vain for something exciting to trade-up for. A vacuum cleaner attracts her attention – but not for the usual reasons. Lulu wants to see how it will function as a sporting good – trying it out by dunking its nozzle into an indoor fish pond within the center of the store (did New York department stores ever get big enough to include indoor fish ponds?) and sucking out the goldfish.

The floorwalker, who’s been pestered all through the cartoon by Lulu’s repeated tryouts and rejections of the store’s other merchandise (“It’s not what I want, mister”), sees this and reaches the boiling point – literally turning fiery red and having a thermometer-shaped lump sprout from his head with blood pressure rising to an explosion. He grabs the nozzle out of Lulu’s hands and chases after her – not realizing that he threw the nozzle-end in the water. As the chase progresses on various floors, the vacuum bag grows and grows with the water pressure, threatening support columns of the building. Lulu tries an escape by toy airplane, but the floorwalker reaches out over an upper floor railing and yanks the plane out from under her. Lulu is quietly prepared, merely pulling out an umbrella for a gentle parachute-float down the ground level.

But the floorwalker races downstairs first, and stands ready with a large stick, just waiting for her to land. The floorwalker suddenly feels a large and spongy touch of fabric behind him. He reaches behind himself without looking, and gives the fabric a little pat and squeeze. His face brightens in recognition – without a word, his face and gestures indicate that he thinks it’s the physique of some middle-aged overweight housewife like the kind of customers he’s probably used to attracting. He drops the stick, straightens his tie, stands up tall, and turns to greet his “customer” – only to be staring in the face the now monstrous, water-filled vacuum bag. An explosion rocks the scene. From one end of the store, we see a wall of water coming at the camera, and floating in same most of the store’s entire inventory – with the floorwalker clinging to a small floating sales counter with a sign mounted atop it reading, “The Customer Is Always Right”. The tide reduces slightly to let him find a footing, waist-deep in water, near the store’s exit, where he slaps at first his left ear, then his right, several goldfish emerging from his opposite ear with each slap. Resourceful Lulu, not a bit wet, has invaded Sporting Goods, and paddles past the floorwalker in an Indian canoe, announcing that she’s changed her mind, and decided to keep her doll after all. As she exits, she returns her exchange slip by spearing it on the floorwalker’s long spiky moustache. There is a brief pause, with the floorwalker maintaining all decorum. Then suddenly he erupts into a series of anguished screams, leaps into the water, and swims upstream jumping like a salmon through the still flooded aisles into the far reaches of the store.

The Electronic Mouse Trap (Terrytoons/Fox, Mighty Mouse, 9/6/46, Mannie Davis, dir.), deserves an honorable mention. The cats have gone scientific, as one wearing a professor’s mortarboard instructs the others, “Build a better mouse trap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” The result is a giant robotic “critter” with treads and body of a tank, flexible neck like a giant goose, and head of a dinosaur/dragon. Among its powers are an overwhelming vacuum-style pull capable of sucking any aggregation of mice (including at the local cocktail lounge) into its mouth, where machinery on the inside packages the mice in standard dozen-eggs containers and distributes them out the rear to delivery cats waiting with shipping dollies. Can we think of a better excuse for Mighty Mouse to “come to save the day”?

Leave Us Chase It (Columbia/Screen Gems, 5/15/47 – Howard Swift, dir.) – In the only animated appearance of comic book character “Superkatt”, the cat takes on capturing – a mouse. At one point, he applies vacuum cleaner to a mousehole. The Mouse merely opens up a much larger hole in the wall of the adjoining apartment, allowing to be sucked through his digs the neighboring bulldog, for a toothy surprise when Superkatt opens up the dust container.

Catch As Cats Can (Warner, 12/6/47 – Arthur Davis, dir.) – An interesting play upon the supposed crooner rivalry between Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Frank is cast as an anemic canary, in his standard early-years caricature of being skinny as a rail. Bing (pipe, hat, and all) is cast as the pet parrot, fed up with the attentions of the bobby-socks female fledglings of the area being focused on the warbling canary. Spotting a cat scrounging in the alley (sort of a dummer version of a prototype Sylvester), the parrot thinks aloud “That emaciated character” might “save myself a few years in the pokey.” He plots with the cat to make the canary his free lunch and eliminate the competition. A brief scene involving iron pellets for canary feed and a magnet in the cat’s mouth was overlooked in my article “Magnetic Personalities”. The more memorable sequence involves a vacuum, where the cat poses as a French maid, then turns the vacuum on the canary cage. Frank is sucked inside. The cat anxiously unhooks the dust bag, but emptying it, finds no canary. Frank’s singing is instead heard inside the motor chamber, which he never left.

As Frank sticks his head out the attachment hole for a few off-key notes, the cat tries to snap at him – but Frank nimbly leaps out, and the cat bites down on the metal fitting where the bag was previously connected. Frank snaps onto the cat’s lips the clamp that held the bag in place, then flies up and ties the cat’s tail to the vacuum pole – leaving the cat as the new dust bag. On goes the power switch. The vacuum whizzes along, sucking in for the cat to swallow half the objects in the living room. The vacuum races toward the wall fireplace, and comes to a stop in it. The cat manages to loosen his lower jaw and screams in agony, the force of the scream blasting him backward, as we see the redness of hot coals glowing from his tummy. Still connected to the vacuum, he somehow manages to struggle over to the kitchen sink, using the vacuum suction to ingest a sink of water to put the coals out. But Frank adds an extra ingredient to the water – a healthy dose of “Foamo Seltzer”, telling the audience (in reference to a sales slogan of the time), “Listen to him fizz!” The water becomes all bubbles – and so does the cat – hiccuping backward with such force he crashes through a wall. Inside the next room, sitting in a heap, the cat finds the still-attached vacuum is not through yet. Its motor comes to life for one more suck, making him swallow a typewriter. We see him on the floor with the shape of the typewriter visible in his belly, and its carriage giving him no end of trouble, as each of his hiccups causes the carriage to slide to its extreme and ding, forcing him to push it back inside his stomach the other way.

Taming the Cat (Terrytoons/Fox, Heckle and Jeckle, 4/14/48 – Connie Rasinski, dir.) – One of the best Heckle and Jeckle episodes (submitted for Oscar consideration, but not nominated) uses a vacuum for a slam bang finale. The two birds have answered an advertisement placed in a window, “Song Birds Wanted” – of course not knowing it was placed there by a cat, who has devoured all previous applicants. After delivering a rousing original song in the style of Jimmy Durante, “Get a Couple of Songbirds Today”, the two discover their “host”, and lead him on the usual Terry chase and obstacle course through the house. Their final means of counterattack is to pursue the cat riding aboard a somehow self-propelled vacuum cleaner.

The thing has considerable speed, and a seemingly endless supply of cord, such that Jeckle accompanies its movement with smoke clouds exhaled from a cigar, sounding like a train whistle, while the orchestra plays, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”. The cat is finally caught and sucked inside. For unknown reasons, the bag instantly inflates to balloon-like proportions, while Heckle yells “GANGWAY!!” The two jump off just in time to avoid an explosion. In an exterior overhead shot, the cat is blasted through the roof, up about ten stories, then falls back inside. He lands in the same suspended bird cage he had intended to trap the magpies in, and is imprisoned. The scene dissolves back to H&J at the piano, Heckle delivering a last reprise of “Get a Couple of Song Birds Today”, punctuated by an interjection from the still- caged cat – “I wouldn’t advise it!”

Canned Feud (Warner, Sylvester the Cat, 2/3/51 – I. (Friz) Freleng, dir.), presents another classic Sylvester situation. While asleep on the sofa, Sylvester hears his family driving away outside, shouting “California, here we come!” Looking up to see the car disappear out the window, he chuckles and calmly tells the audience, “They forgot to put out the cat.” Then, he gasps in panic, screaming, “I’M THE CAT!!!” Realizing all the doors and windows are locked, he peers out the front door mail slot, and sees an “On Vacation” note left for the milkman – adding “No milk for two weeks.” “I’LL STARVE!!”, Sylvester screams again. A mad dash to the kitchen reveals several empty kitchen cabinets – but a last “pot of gold” – one is chock full of canned cat food and tuna. Sighing in total relief, Sylvester observes, “All I need now is a can opener.” But a search of its usual location turns up nothing. Sylvester, ever frantically, empties every kitchen drawer of every piece of cutlery and cooking gadget, but no opener. His attention is drawn by an offscreen whistle. A small mouse stands at a mousehole, holding the can opener. Sylvester races to him, begging, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” Instead, the mouse deliberately tosses the opener into the mousehole out of his reach.

For our purposes, Sylvester eventually brings into play a vacuum cleaner, with its nozzle inserted in the mousehole. (A sizeable degree of artistic liberty is taken here, as the metal mouthpiece is never seen being inserted into the hole, and is in fact much too big for the opening.) While Sylvester feeds inside more hose, the mouse emerges from around a corner behind him, bringing with him the nozzle end of the vacuum which he’s brought out through another opening. He places the nozzle directly behind Sylvester. As Sylvester activates the switch, his tail is immediately pulled inside the nozzle. He barely has time to gasp before being pulled bodily inside, sucked back around and out through the mousehole, and into the vacuum’s dust bag. The mouse now removes the vacuum hose from the mousehole, aiming it instead at the fireplace, where it sucks in several red hot coals (near lift of the gag from “Catch as Cats Can”). Sylvester is seen in form-fitting silhouette inside the bag as the coals arrive, letting out with an anguished “GAA-A-A-HH!!!” The impact detaches the bag from the vacuum pole. Unable to see a thing, Sylvester still has enough bearings to exit frame and reappear, still caught in the bag, but carrying a golf club, with which he blindly whacks at the floor, hoping to crush the mouse. The mouse nimbly dodges his blows, then dances over to a cellar door, which he opens widely. He waits patiently while Sylvester blindly approaches – and tumbles headlong down the stairs with a crash.

Hansel and Gretel (Terrytoons/Fox, Mighty Mouse, 3/28/52 – Connie Rasinski, dir.) – one of the more “tongue-in-cheek” episodes of the series, with the old fairy tale told in deliberate overly-cutesie fashion, but punctuated occasionally by a few good gags. The witch lives in a territory that has so many witches, it’s hard to tell “which witch is which”. But the one in our tale stands out as different – instead of a broom, she rides a vacuum cleaner – serviced at a local service station by three witch’s cat attendants. It’s a handy gadget to have when you want to suck up little lost children from the air! Call out Mighty Mouse again!

A Mouse Divided (Warner, Sylvester the Cat, 1/31/53) and “Heir-Conditioned” (Warner, Sylvester the Cat, 11/26/55), both directed by Friz Freleng, have been discussed in detail in my previous article, “Holy Matrimony! And a Stack of Storks, Pt. 2″, this website. The inclusion of these films in this article also is for the brief sequence of a fast-talking sales cat giving a free home demonstration of his company’s vacuum cleaner – with the real intention of sucking up inside a mouse or money, respectively.

Father’s Day Off (Disney/RKO, Goofy, 3/28/53 – Jack Kinney, dir.) – A brief vacuum appearance in this tale of Goofy left home to do the woman’s work of the household. Needing to clean up a mess, the Goof approaches a hall closet. “Now where did she keep that vacuum?”, he ponders. Opening the door, the doorway is clogged with a wall-to-wall mess of folded linens and stacked boxes. Goofy impossibly squeezes his way through them and disappears inside. Junior appears outside the open door and reaches between the piles for something too. He retrieves a baseball bat, but an electric cord is wrapped around it. Unwrapping the cord, junior plugs it into a nearby socket and exits the scene. A motor whirrs to life within the closet, and a second later, Goofy emerges, riding the vacuum cleaner across the room sort of like he was water skiing. He finally tumbles off, and the vacuum proceeds without him – swallowing junior into the dirt bag on the opposite side of the room.

Wild Wife (Warner, 2/20/54 – Robert McKimson, dir.) – Examples of an average housewife’s day include an attempt to clean house after Father leaves for work, with her anniversary present – a vacuum with countless attachments. But despite its modern gadgets, she turns it on, only to have the thing dump a cloud of dust into her carpets because she has it in reverse – so she finally has to resort to the old broomstick to sweep up the mess.

To Hare Is Human (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 12/15/56 – Chuck Jones, dir.) – We knew Wile E. Coyote had to get into this thing somewhere. As Bugs engages in household chores of vacuuming his rabbit hole, Wile E. reaches down into the hole and drops a stick of dynamite into the vacuum nozzle, then runs. However, Bugs has time to bring the vacuum to the surface, remove the dust bag, and empty its contents into a nearby trash can – which just happens to be where Coyote is hiding. It’s a real blast!

Operation Cold Feet (Lantz/Universal, Chilly Willy, 12/24/56 – Alex Lovy, dir.) – Chilly uses our suction device as a food gatherer. Inside the food supply hut at the local army base, Smedley the St. Bernard attempts to feast on K-ration sardines. But each time he opens a can, the fish disappear across the hut. Chilly stands on the other side with a vacuum cleaner, hauling them in. When he feels he has enough, he stand behind the back of the machine with his mouth open and switches it to “Reverse”. The machine shoots fish into Chilly’s mouth like a jet exhaust, bloating Chilly’s tummy to capacity in mere seconds.

Clash and Carry (Lantz/Universal, Chilly Willy, May, 1961 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – Involvement of the vacuum here is limited only to the ending sequence, where Chilly cleans out Wally Walrus’s supermarket fish supply using a vacuum cleaner tucked under his arm, making the fish march along on their tail fins behind him a la the Pied Piper. A few additional notes of interest are in order here, however, as it is unlikely this film will fall into any category for later review in a subsequent article. Something went direly wrong with this production – probably involving running out of budget (though the animation of existing scenes suggests no lavishness that would explain taking financial shortcuts with the rest). Nearly the entire second half of the film drops out of the animated world altogether, on the poor excuse of Wally “calling all ships at sea” for more fish. Instead of cartoon, we sit through two minutes of old newsreel footage, in black and white yet, of fishing trawlers making catches. The footage isn’t even edited for laughs, like Daffy Duck’s newsreel in “Daffy Duck in Hollywood”. That this was a pure and blatant budget cut was clearly revealed from an examination of the original storyboard during my years at UCLA, at which time remaining archival materials from the Lantz studio were temporarily housed at the UCLA theater arts library, before being donated to the Smithsonian.

I was doing volunteer work attempting to organize and catalog some of the materials, and ran across the storyboard, which contained nothing about the “ships at sea” sequence. Instead (although Chilly may still have used the final vacuum) several new sequences, never filmed, took the place of the newsreel stuff. The ones I recall included the following. Existing footage in the present cut shows Chilly taking life-size cardboard cutouts of female shoppers from end displays and pushing them past Wally’s register along with shopping carts full of fish, each cutout with a sign attached like “Charge It” or “Keep Charging It”. Wally never catches on in the present cartoon. In the storyboard, something tips him off that he’s being put-on, and as the next “customer” approaches in line, Wally takes out a large pair of scissors and attempts to decapitate it. The shopper, however, turns out to be real, and has her hat and a large part of her hairdo destroyed – she of course responds by belting Wally a good one in the kisser. A more elaborate finale was also planned. One scene in the present version shows Wally casting with a fishing pole to catch Chilly hidden inside one of the fish – but pulling in a fish with a firecracker in it instead. In the storyboard, Wally tries to turn the tables. He baits the line with another of the fish, and casts it toward the front entrance where Chilly is ducked in the doorway. Chilly jumps in and picks up the fish, giving it a yank. Out of its sides pop about twenty types of fishhooks, to Chilly’s shock.

Angry at what Wally intended to do to him, Chilly gets an idea, and looking up, spots a store ceiling fan. He tosses the fish and line upwards so they get entangled in the fan. Wally tries to control the line, but can’t reel in – and is dragged upwards into the fan. He winds up hogtied in the line, with the fan dismounted from the ceiling and strapped by the fishing wire onto his rear end. He flies through the store, knocking over three displays of cans, crashing through the plate glass window, and flying off helplessly into the horizon. A much more satisfying wrap-up, I dare say. (I wish I had seen the storyboard for Hannah’s “Doc” episode, “Tin Can Concert”, released later that year – I believe the same type of budgetary cut hampered this cartoon, which started like a respectable Musical Miniature, but ended with seemingly endless repetitions of the same shots over and over.)

Hyde and Sneak (Lantz/Universal, Inspector Willoughby, July, 1962 – Paul J. Smith, dir.) – In this repetitious cartoon, seeming to stretch its plot material far beyond appropriate time limits (despite having a running time of under six minutes!), Willoughby matches wits with jewel thief Vampira Hyde (a sort of cross between Morticia Addams and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark), who uses morphing pills to change herself to a sweet little old lady when the need arises – frequently. As this cartoon is anything but subtle, Willoughby lays a trap for Vampira by leaving a trail of gems like bread crumbs on the sidewalk. Vampira responds with equal lack of subtleness by walking down the street in broad daylight, sucking up the gems with a vacuum cleaner.

The Hoffnung Vacuum Cleaner – (BBC, 8/25/65) – Actually a television cartoon produced for the BBC, but by an established theatrical concern – Britain’s Halas and Bachelor (who brought Britain its first animated feature, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in 1954). Produced as part of a limited series of episodes in conjunction with musical satirist Gerard Hoffnung, this installment, told entirely in pantomime, focuses on a housewife who receives a knock on the door from a traveling salesman, selling vacuum cleaners. He enters for a free home demonstration. But to our surprise, he sits in a chair, plugs the machine in, and somehow plays the switches and contraptions of the machine as if a valved wind instrument. The housewife is moved, and a purchase is made. She begins practicing daily. Her family stuffs objects in their ears. Deciding she is ready to take her act on the road, she hops a bus downtown and proceeds to an audition hall apparently holding open tryouts. It is apparent from the start that the orchestra she is applying for is a bit unorthodox, as on this and each subsequent audition in the film, another applicant is rejected and kicked out before her, each carrying some other implement of cleaning equipment. She meets the conductor, who has a giant blow-up of a music sheet on the wall for her to play. She performs a simple piece reasonably competently, and the conductor is impressed.

Returning to her home, she engages in further practice to learn more complicated numbers, returning two more times to the conductor and impressing again. Meanwhile, her family is feeling the pressure of both her absences and her practicing – washing their own dishes, darning their own clothes. Junior leaves home, while dad and even the family dog try to drown their sorrows in beer. Finally, the conductor becomes so impressed he puts the wife on a pedestal – literally – and carries her to a producer’s office for final audition. In a Chuck Jones-style touch, smoke exhaled from the producer’s cigar shapes into a dollar sign (surprising that Halas and Bachelor didn’t convert this into British currency!) Finally, concert night arrives. A reasonably musical but tonally unusual performance ensues, of an orchestra consisting entirely of cleaning gadgets used as musical instruments, including mops, pails, squeeze mops, etc., with housewife as the virtuoso soloist. The audience resoundingly approves with applause. However, the next day, another salesman appears at the family’s door. This one is selling French Horns, inverted upside-down with its bell to the ground. The salesman gives his demonstration – by placing dust on the carpet, and sucking it up magically into the bell of the horn. The wife is even more moved than by the previous demonstration, and another sale transpires. Giving up entirely her musical career, the wife now putters all day vacuuming with the French Horn, and the family breathes a sigh of relief. A rather outdated Moral appears onscreen: “A woman’s place is in the home.”

Never Bug an Ant (Depatie-Freleng, UA, The Ant and the Aardvark 9/12/69 – Gerry Chiniquy, dir.) – In this all-purpose spot-gag reel (which also had a magnet sequence I missed in my article “Magnetic Personalities”), Aardvark, who usually spends his whole series relying upon a built-in vacuum power in his nose, resorts to stronger artillery with a real vacuum. However, ant’s anthill has a rear opening, and a sleeping grizzly bear gets sucked down the back door and into the machine. Deciding to give ant a “whack”, and then have his “snack”, Aardvark clubs the contents of the dust chamber, only to come up with the bear who pounds him. Aardvark confides to the audience, “My mother told me I shoulda been a radio announcer.”

Big Beef at the O.K. Corral (Depatie-Freleng, UA, Hoot Kloot, 4/17/74 – Robert Balser, dir.) – Practical joker Billy the Kidder turns cattle rustler. One of his plans makes use of a propelled dirigible, with a mile-long vacuum attachment hooked to its bag. It sucks up the herd right and left. Kloot and his horse take refuge in an outhouse, but it’s sucked off its foundation, followed by a scene of various articles of the sheriff’s clothing being drawn into the nozzle – leaving the sheriff standing atop his horse in his red flannel underwear. Kloot finally succeeds in bringing down the airship by hooking an innertube to a fork in some tree branches and firing an arrow from it. The cows all fall wearing parachutes, and Billy winds up landing in a playpen with lid, locked up by Fester the horse.

Pink S.W.A.T. (Depatie-Freleng, UA, Pink Panther, 11/22/78, – Sid Marcus, dir,) Pink’s efforts to keep a fly from “bugging” him turn to desperate measures, climaxing in use of a high-powered vacuum. This one beats the power of every model we’ve considered up to this point – but it just doesn’t seem to aim too well. Every time Pink aims, something nearby gets sucked in instead of the insect. Like vases, drapes, paintings, doors, trees, his whole house, the moon, the sky, the ground (leaving nothing but the fly and a bare white background), and finally swallowing Pink, as well as turning its own nozzle upon itself and self-devouring itself to disappear with a pop. All that is left is the fly, and two small signs which slide into the frame reading “The” and “End” – which signs collide, squishing the fly inbetween into a dazed stagger for the fade out.

Then, of course, we return to the Somethin’s Cookin’ segment of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where Roger, in his ever-present role as guardian of Baby Herman, tries desperately to keep Baby from danger in attempting to obtain cookies from atop a refrigerator. The “Acme Suck-o-Lux” vacuum briefly figures in as Roger gets thrust against the reverse side of the vacuum chamber, with his lips caught in the attachment clamp, and inflates like a balloon, only to finally pop free and fly in p.o.v. dimensional spirals round and round the room.

The Brave Little Toaster (5/31/89), and its video sequels, actually made a talking vacuum (Kirby) into a series character. However, his exploits, taking up whole features, overextend the reaches of this article. Just note that he exists.

Dust Buddies (Ringling College of Art & Design, 5/11/2016 – Sam Wade, Beth Tomashek, dir.) , a recent CGI short, tells a cute but reasonably predictable tale of a short battle between a tribe of lint-built dust bunnies and a French maid. Character design is attractive, and animation highly competent. The most unique facet about this short is a p.o.v. for some action in a place the camera may have never been before – inside the vacuum’s dust bag, where one dust bunny effects a rescue of the rest by reassembling each from flattened lint particles into his original form. In a return to “toony” tradition, the maid is eventually sucked into her own dustbag by the bunnies. Give it a scholarly “A” for effort.

As usual, your comments as to any other vacuum variants I may have overlooked are welcome. In the meanwhile, and in the manner of our subject contraption, I’m winded.


  • There’s a vacuum cleaner gag in Friz Freleng’s 1938 Merrie Melodies cartoon “Jungle Jitters”. One of the natives finds a vacuum cleaner among the salesman’s wares, and when he turns it on, it sucks all the thatch off his hut. Apparently the thatch was all one long strand.

  • The “Vacuum Monster” in YELLOW SUBMARINE perhaps deserves a mention, as well.

  • I enjoyed the post, Charles, and was fascinated to read that UCLA Theater Arts library had held a collection of Lantz production materials which then went to Smithsonian. I hadn’t realized that. As an MFA student at UCLA in the early 90s, I also helped sort and catalogue a Lantz collection, though I hadn’t realized there’d been a previous holding (in an indirect way, however, I had been told by an administrator at that time the collection had languished for a while, in archival storage but uncatalogued, until efforts had gotten more serious by ’91 or ’92) so I’m unsure if these were one and the same, with some pieces going to D.C. before I started.

    With an online search, I found a UPI release mentioning a Smithsonian exhibit of Lantz studio materials in 1982, so I imagine it’s around that time or earlier you saw those materials, specifically the Chilly Willy “Clash and Carry” storyboard. I believe there’s a photostat image of the pinned-up Clash and Carry boards that remains at UCLA, but sounds like the originals reside at Smithsonian. Thanks for that insight.

  • Two more vacuum gags of note:

    Stage Hoax (1952) features Woody Woodpecker literally becoming a vacuum to suck up Wally’s sumptuous feast, but suctions the wig from his female disguise in the process. Oops.

    Stimpy’s Titan 4000 rips off not only Ren’s skin but sucks up his internal organs as well (“Must…save…THE BRAIN!’) in To Salve and Salve Not (1993).

  • So, does “CLASH AND CARRY” actually exist? Had this been part of any collection? If not, all the reason for another WOODY WOODPECKER AND FRIENDS set, just to get this strange little film out there. I don’t remember any CHILLY WILLY cartoon that utilized live action footage, but again, I refer folks to my comments last week…and I wasn’t trying to ruin further entries in this series of posts. After all, you did add “BARGAIN COUNTER ATTACK” today, giving a much better description of the vacuum cleaner gag than I could even remember. “BLUE MONDAY” is a memorable cartoon specifically for its vacuum cleaner gag, something I didn’t expect when I first saw the cartoon, and I’m sure that there is much more to that running gag than I managed to remember. Almost the whole thing is done in pantomime, save for Captain’s yelling “Inspector!…Inspector!!” as the washtub nearly strangles him and gives him a wedgie with Mama’s shoe!

    • CLASH AND CARRY appears on the WOODY WOODPECKER AND FRIENDS Vol. 2 collection.

  • A live-action vacum cleaner gag is seen in Blake Edwards’ Return Of The Pink Panther (1975). Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is in disguise as a hotel cleaner. He uses a vacum & accidently sucks a parrot from a cage into the cleaner. Clouseau then opens the cleaner (while its still operational) and gets his head sucked in. He turns the cleaner off & the parrot comes out with half of Clouseau’s fake moustache.

  • Maybe Hannah & Lantz had seen Ed Wood’s films and decided to create a homage to them at the end of Clash & Carry?

    • No, as I recall Hannah did something similar for the “Disneyland” episode “On Vacation” (1956), when Jiminy Cricket sets up a search warrant to get force Donald off his vacation and into the studio ASAP.

  • There’s a third Mighty Mouse cartoon that belongs on this list. “The Port of Missing Mice” (Terrytoons/Fox, Mighty Mouse, 2/2/45 — Eddie Donnelly, dir.) takes place on San Francisco’s infamous Barbary Coast, where sailor mice with cash in hand find a good time’s to be had in the local saloons. But in the midst of this revelry, Shanghai Pete and his gang of cats come ashore to shanghai a crew of mice for their China clipper. They do this by going out into the city and sucking up all the mice into their vacuum cleaners! Who will come to save the day? Who else?

  • “Mice Paradise” (Famous/Paramount, Herman and Katnip, 9/3/51 — I. Sparber, dir.) opens with Katnip using a vacuum cleaner to catch mice, but they slit open the bag with a knife and escape. Evidently the vacuum-cleaner-as-mousetrap gag was not exclusive to Terrytoons.

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