Animation Trails
August 26, 2020 posted by Charles Gardner

Toons Trip Out (Part 5)

1941 would of course be an eventful year for the United States – and most of the world, for that matter. Outbreak of hostilities at year’s end would place a new complexion upon many animated escapades, bringing into play subjects of army and navy life, and recurring foreign despots. But through it all, toons still found time, both on the home front and occasionally in the service, to get away from the pressures of the world and seek out that elusive commodity of peace, quiet, and sometimes a little fun.

Joe Glow, the Firefly (Warner, Looney Tunes, 3/8/41. Charles M. (Chuck) Jones, dir.) – Unavoidably, this film must be mentioned, as its locale is the tent of a human camper on vacation in the forest. His campsite is investigated by a small firefly, wearing a miniature fireman’s hat and carrying a lantern. He is so small, seemingly every part of the human anatomy (save the ones that would get censored) is studied and trekked-over in minute detail by the insect. That’s most of the cartoon’s “action”. A few cuter shots show his POV among the camper’s foodstuffs, wandering with his lantern shining through the holes in Swiss cheese (a bit Jones probably remembered as an inspiration for the later Swiss cheese caverns sequence in Tom and Jerry’s “Snowbody Loves Me”), getting buried from the spout of a salt carton, and sneezing inside a pepper shaker. To give credit where it’s due, the animation is nearly meticulously perfect – yet the effect is memorably dull, producing only a few gentle smiles from its whimsied viewpoint. At the end, as he is about to leave, Joe returns to the ear of the camper and utters his only words of dialogue in a deafening scream – “GOOD NIGHT!”

Aviation Vacation (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 8/9/41 – Fred (Tex) Avery, dir.) – By now, Avery had the travelogue down to a formulaic science. In fact, this episode gives one the striking impression of being a carbon copy of Land of the Midnight Fun, with the exception of substitution of the mode of transportation – being one of the first cartoons to exploit the newly-growing industry of commercial airlines. (One other, though never specific on whether its intended passengers are tourists or commuters, was Columbia’s The Air Hostess (1937).)

The “hair-in-the-gate” gag

A control tower announcer calls passengers for boarding, and advises the pilot, “Ceiling 5,000 feet. Weather clear. Track fast.” (Hope our aviator has brought along his Racing Form.) The plane takes off by flapping its wings like a bird, from its home base in Sunny California (where the sun is seen in one square patch of clear air, surrounded on all sides by downpouring rain clouds). A clever shot shows our pilot following the route of a well-known railroad – the shadow of the plane on the tracks pulling in its wings to pass through a tunnel. Much of the rest of the cartoon wanders entirely, both as to destinations and on nature side trips. There is the obligatory racial stereotype in darkest Africa, with a Stepin Fetchit native interpreting a message relayed by drums as “Boom diddy Boom diddy Boom Boom de Boom”. (Virtually the identical gag appeared only a few months earlier, in interpreting a Morse Code message in Walter Lantz’s Hysterical Highspots in American History (3/31/41). Was Avery getting lazy, copying from his rivals?) And another native armed with a blow dart is critiqued negatively by a fellow tribesman, when he can’t his the bulls-eye on a pub-style dart board. The return trip has the plane bouncing musically into a Firzpatrick-style sunset, and the final gag uses the same fog-lifting setup from Avery’s Midnight Fun, as the plane, ordered to circle the field, winds up hooked to the support cables of a Coney Island airplane ride. The film feels like it was produced in a rush on very little plot material, and is one of Avery’s most underperforming travel films.

The Rookie Bear (MGM, Barney Bear), 11/1/41 – Rudolf Ising, dir.). Barney Bear receives his draft notice, disguised as a notification to a prize winner – “Congratulations. You are one of the lucky winners. You get one year vacation free. Uncle Sam.” A P.S. informs him special accommodations have been reserved for him. These of course are at the local army camp – a tent complete with tented outhouse, stall showers (occupied by horses), and a cook tent advertising today’s special – baked beans, fried beans, boiled beans, and bean soup. Eager Barney arrives at the gate, laden with camera, fishing pole, tennis racquet, and golf clubs. Taking in the sights, he backs into a machine gun mount, where his rear end develops the jitters as the contraption shoots round after round of ammo. A line of artillery cannons begins firing, making Barney duck in fright. He finally notices a recruiting poster of “Uncle Sam Wants You”, and realizes this is no picnic he’s walked into. He waves off Sam’s pointing finger with disgust, exits the gate, and makes a low bow to say adieu to this unappealing scene. That is, until his posterior is poked by a guard’s bayonet, and he is marched forcibly into the induction center. A moment later, his camera and sporting gear appear in the building’s window, and are dumped into a waiting trash can. After harrowing experiences in boot camp, Barney is surprised to find himself awakening from hibernation in his old tree in the woods – seemingly having imagined it all. But a knock at the door presents him with another telegram – much more straightforward than the first: “Report to your local draft board at once – You’re in!” And with a new P.S. – “And this time, Buddy, it ain’t no dream.” Nominated for an Academy Award.

Wabbit Twouble (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 12/20/41 – Wobert Cwampett (his and all other crew credits are printed in Elmer Fudd-ese), dir.). Bob Clampett’s first use of Elmer Fudd, drawn in Clampett’s own style – actually modeled after the portly Arthur Q. Bryan who provided his voice. Elmer, in an overloaded flivver which sputters along the mountain roads to a conga beat, heads for Jellostone National Park – “a westful wetweat”. He is destined to find anything but the advertised atmosphere, as Bugs Bunny already happens to be a resident of his selected campsite. Bugs’ reaction to Elmer’s search for peace and quiet is “Oh, Brother”, and he determines to make Elmer’s stay a nightmare just for the fun of it. His pranks include tying Elmer’s tent in knots – then doing the same to Elmer’s fingers. Bugs tints a pair of glasses black, so Elmer will think it’s the middle of the night in the daytime, then just as quickly removes the glasses so he thinks it’s morning already. “How time fwies”, remarks Elmer. As Elmer attempts to wash his face to wake up, Bugs takes advantage of the soap in his eyes and snaps off the branch holding Elmer’s towel, making him chase for it until he walks off the edge of a cliff. Utilizing the old cliche that a cartoon character doesn’t fall until he notices he’s in mid-air, Elmer, suspended on the ether alone, observes, “What a gwand view of the canyon from up here – – UP HERE???” Elmer retrieves a rifle from his tent, but instead of drawing a bead on the rabbit, has an unexpected encounter with a grizzly bear. Consulting a manual on woodland survival, the book advises him to play dead and remain absolutely motionless. Investigating the would-be stiff, the bear is repelled by the stench of Elmer’s footwear. “P-U”, the bear winces, and walks away. In to take his place leaps Bugs, bouncing upon Elmer’s tummy, flipping Elmer’s nose back and forth like a ping pong ball, and making loud imitations of bear growls. “Funny situation, ain’t it”, Bugs asides to us, in a line Clampett probably modified from the work of his rival Tex Avery (earlier in the film, another Avery line is lifted – “I do this kinda stuff to him all through the picture”).

Elmer finally looks up, to see Bugs gnawing at his shoes, and grabs for his rifle, bringing it down hard to knock Bugs out. Instead, the bear returns, and the rifle barrel is bent into a profile outline of the bear’s head. A mad chase ensues through the trees, at one point resulting in the bear riding Elmer piggyback. Ditching the bear, Elmer breaks camp in a hurry, taking everything away in super speed – and overdoing it by uprooting and taking away a giant tree to boot, then returning it with a shrug to the audience as if to say “My mistake”. On his way out the park gate, he spots the “Restful Retreat” sign again. “Bawoney! I’ll show you!” He smashes and desecrates the sign, stomping it into little bitty pieces. Right behind him stands Bugs, who has brought along a park ranger to observe the temper tantrum. Elmer, caught “wed handed” in the act, can only sheepishly say “Hewwo….” The scene changes to a jail cell, with Elmer behind bars. But Elmer looks on the bright side – he’s rid of that “gwizzly bear and scwewy wabbit. West and wewaxation at wast!” From inside the cell comes a familiar voice – Bugs, dressed in prison stripes, who’s somehow gotten himself arrested just so he can heckle Elmer more, asking, “How long are ya in for, doc?” And in the bunk above him, the grizzly bear, also in convict stripes, asking the same question, and chomping on one of Bugs’ carrots.

Aloha Hooey (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 1/3/42 – Tex Avery, dir. (uncredited)) – one of several completed or nearly-completed Avery productions released without his name, after Schlesinger gave Avery the heave-ho. Aboard the S.S. Sabotage, two stowaways peer out from the tarp of the same lifeboat – and miraculously haven’t noticed each other before, although the lifeboat is shown to be absolutely empty inside. One is street wise sailor Sammy Seagull, who knows his way around the seven seas and a much greater number of babes. The other is country “hick” Cecil Crow from Oatville, Iowa – obviously a total newcomer to this racket (voiced by Pinto Colvig in his traditional “Goofy” mode). Cecil is tired of the farm, and out to find some of them “hulee hulee dancers like Dorothy Lamour”. Sammy takes the kid under his wing, promising to show him the shapely sights. It doesn’t take long, as one squint out of Sammy’s spyglass spots a saronged beauty (named Leleiani) dancing on a nearby island. Our duo of skirt-chasers jump ship and arrive at the tropical shore. Sammy demonstrates a series of tricks to impress the frails. Diving into the ocean, he produces an oyster, complete with large pearl. Cecil tries to replicate lesson one, also retrieving a pearl-laden oyster – except his fights back, grabbing back the pearl, and squirting water in Cecil’s eye, then marching in a huff back into the sea,. Sammy’s next trick is skywriting a heart in the air puffed from the smoke of a cigar. Cecil again gives it a try – but his cigar goes out in mid-flight. Attempting to get it started again, Cecil forgets to flap his wings, and falls to the ocean bottom. Frustrated, he strikes a match and relights the cigar’s end, then tells the audience, “Gosh, I didn’t know I could light this underwater……..UNDERWATER!!!!”, he screams, realizing his surroundings. He is no deep water swimmer, and tries desperately to reach the surface (while a school of fish battle below over his discarded cigar butt). His hand reaches out of the water, counting off to signal that he is going down for the third time, then waving bye-bye. Sammy appears and plunges into the water for a rescue. A trail of bubbles returns to the shore – and in a surprise gag, Cecil, not Sammy, drags his water-logged partner ashore.

Sammy is soon in control of the situation again, and resorts to trick number three – power diving from a dizzying height. Of course, Sammy cheats and darts away from the water back to dry land before impact. Cecil is not so skilled – and dives straight into a shark’s mouth – then out again before the shark can close its jaws, returning to the shore so fast, he beats his own feathers to the beach, which catch up and refasten themselves onto his body with a dull plop. Things start to wander at this point, as time is filled with miscellaneous mishaps with a turtle and a starfish, followed by the random appearance of a gorilla (dressed in a sweater reading on the front “The Villain”, and on the back “As if you didn’t know”. One wonders if they were just in a hurry to end the cartoon, or if the Michael Maltese script wasn’t actually finished when Avery left, and had to be finished up hastily by someone else – because Sammy simply disappears from the plot in the final sequences, and Cecil rescues Leilani from the clutches of the gorilla while all action is concealed behind a bush, offering no explanation how he done it. He is Leilani’s hero, and carries her off in his arms. The final shots have Sammy reappear to wave a bon voyage to Cecil, who is winging his way homeward as the sun sets in the West, followed by Leilani, followed by two young fledglings who are tintypes of “mama”, and one son, who is a dead ringer for Cecil, with a slightly sped up laugh.

A Torrid Toreador (Terrytoons/Fox, Sourpuss, 1/9/42 – Eddie Donnelly, dir.) – A colorful Technicolor cheater, cobbled together to provide a hurried vehicle for the studio’s new character, the cat with the Jimmy Durante voice, who spent most of his film career as second banana to Gandy Goose. Here, he appears in an early color scheme of brown instead of black, with a pink nose. The first third of the film is a direct remake of Gandy’s “A Bully Romance”, reviewed last week (What, so soon?), merely substituting a cat cast in place of geese. This time, however, the bull isn’t waiting in Papa’s parlor – just a stuffed bull head to provide an initial scare. Boastful Sourpuss initially claims he can fight two bulls to win the senorita – but when actually forced to appear in the arena at bayonet point, Sourpuss requests for his opponent, “Make it a small one?” Many of the bullfight shots are restylings or direct trace-overs of old animation dating back to “Spanish Onions” (1930) or “The Bull Fight” (1935) – even a finale which was not beyond reuse after this film was through, and reappears again several years later in Mighty Mouse’s “Throwing the Bull”. A few new gags appear. After an unoriginal round of the “Old Shell Game” under sombreros, Sourpuss runs for the arena wall and tries to climb into a balcony box. But the bull hooks into his cape and wardrobe as he passes below, sending Sourpuss spinning. When Sourpuss stops his spin, his pants fall down – and he finds that the long red flannels he had been wearing under his costume have now been substituted for his red cape. Using a Jimmy Durante catch phrase, Sourpuss complains, “Am I mortified!” The bull charges again, but Sourpuss hooks the red flannels over the bull’s horns, blocking his vision. As the bull stumbles around blindly, the legs of the flannel underwear seem to dance a rumba, with which Sourpuss joins in. Then Sourpuss sneaks up behind the bull, who still can’t see him, and takes a chomp on the bull’s tail. The bull howls in pain, and complains in Spanish to Sourpuss as if to say, “Look at what you do”, displaying his pulsing, swollen tail. Sourpuss takes the tail in his hands gently as if to render first aid – then surprises everyone by biting it again! The borrowed reused finale has Papa open a gate that releases an auxiliary “bull pen” of stampeding cattle in reserve. Sourpuss grabs the first bull’s tail and starts swinging the bull in circles. Every rotation makes contact with a row of the stampeding bulls and hits them for a home run over the wall. (Imagine – Sourpuss is as strong as Mighty Mouse!) The senorite slides down from her balcony box on a hanging serape, and rewards Sourpuss with a kiss. The two head back for the American border in Sourpuss’s old car, the car chugging to a Latin beat as the scene fades out.

Kickin’ the Conga Round (Fleischer/Paramount, Popeye, 1/17/42 – Dave Fleischer, dir., Tom Johnson, George Germanetti, anim.) – Popeye, at least in his early days, rarely took vacations. He’d visit many exotic ports of call, but presumably on business, transporting cargo or passengers. For a sailor, the closest thing to a vacation would seem to be shore leave. So we’ll focus on a few where his mind seems to be on anything but business. This is one of them.

The “Good Neighbor Policy”, promoting friendship with fellow countries South of the border, was relatively new – as was the war effort. Popeye had only recently swapped his antique sailor suit for navy whites, and joined the battleship fleet along with his “pal” Bluto. Their ship stops at a South American port of call, where a crowd of locals cheers the arrival of the ship with shouts of “Viva Americano”. Inside the vessel, Popeye changes clothes, singing cheerily about going ashore. He of course has a special interest in visiting this particular port – as he’s been there before, and has a local sweetie – a latin version of his usual frail, named Olivia Oyla. Popeye appears to have a picture of her in his locker, complete with affectionate inscription and telephone number. In reality, the “picture” is a mirror, reflecting a tattoo on Popeye’s bare chest (with the number tattooed in mirror reverse, yet!) Bluto noses over Popeye’s shoulder, and in his mind’s eye internalizes the phone number (Conga 1-2-3) in a mental address book. “Cute number ya got there”, Bluto coyly comments. Popeye covers his chest with the mirror, but Bluto repeats the phone number to show he’s one jump ahead, and pulls Popeye’s hat down over his eyes. Nluto jumps into the ship’s launch just as it leaves for shore, and Popeye remains stranded on board, with Bluto promising to give his love to the senorita.

Ashore, Bluto looks up Miss Oyla, and tries to impress her with a few parlor trucks. He removes a picture of Popeye from a frame, places a napkin over it, and performs a little origami under the napkin, revealing the picture folded so that Popeye’s image is in the shape of a donkey. Popeye appears, having caught the next boat, and performs his own variation on Bluto’s stunt. Placing the napkin over Bluto’s head, Popeye delivers a quick sock to the face, then pulls away the napkin, revealing Bluto with a black eye. “Blackout!”, Popeye declares. He then performs a disappearing act, placing a tablecloth over Bluto, then slamming down a table on top of the tablecloth. When the cloth is lifted, Bluto has disappeared – through a hole in the floor. The field cleared, Popeye escorts Oyla to her favorite night club – the “Café La Conga”. A local band performs in the native rhythm, its leader dancing in wide hip gyrations, one of which is covered by a hand intruding into the screen with sign reading “Censored.” Olivia asks Popeye to dance, but Popeye is chagrined that he doesn’t know the step. But someone does – and how – Bluto, who has tailed them to the café. With a gracious bow, he invites Olivia onto the dance floor, and, ever fickle, Olivia leaps at the opportunity, leaving Popeye as the sulking wallflower having nothing to do but watch Bluto’s undulating torso. A waiter comes by with Popeye’s dinner order – one can of spinach. Hardly noticing, Popeye takes a nibble – and starts bouncing in rhythm to the beat. Getting the idea, and consuming the whole can, Popeye is ready for a head-to-head dance battle. In smooth and well-choreographed animation, Popeye cuts in, impresses his sweetie with some fancy footwork, then partners up with Bluto who is seeing blood in his eyes. The two battle it out to a conga beat, while Miss Oyla realizes things are getting out of hand, and shouts for help. Two shore patrol M.P.’s size up the situation, shout “Attention!”, and bring the brawlers to a bedraggled but standing salute. The last shot has the M.P.’s escorting our heroes in custody back to their ship, delivering kicks to their rear-ends in time to the conga music for the iris out.

The Vacationer’s Paradise (1942 (Traveltoons, precise date unknown)) – This obscurity was only discovered to exist in recent years, and has surfaced on the “Fleischer Rarities” package from Thunderbean. It really isn’t much – a sort of chamber-of commerce advertisement for Florida tourism, partially animated as a “Traveltoon”, and produced on the cheap after hours by the Fleischer staff for the B’nai B’rith. The full story has been written up in a “Thunderbean Thursday” article previously posted, to which I defer.

Crazy Cruise (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 3/26/42 – Tex Avery/Robert Clampett, dir. (both uncredited)). Possibly the last of the projects left behind by Tex Avery upon his ejection from the studio – and unfinished as well, the final nuts and bolts having to be supplied by Bob Clampett. Naturally, per unofficial studio policy, neither director got his name on the film. It is perhaps the most disjointed of Avery’s travel pictures, picking destinations as randomly and non-lineally as Lantz’s “Crackpot Cruises”. It repeats the gag from “Pingo Pongo” of sailing in anything but a bee-line – caused by stopping over at the world-famous Sloppy Joe’s for refreshments, and hiccuping from its effects for the rest of the voyage. This film can’t even stick to one method of transportation, randomly finding us in the Swiss Alps by plane instead of ship. One clever gag has a team of three St. Bernards combing the hills to rescue travelers. The first carries a barrel of Scotch, the second of Soda, and the third of Bromo. Suddenly, we’re at the pyramids in Egypt – among them two structures in the shape of New York’s Trylon and Perisphere, even though the World’s Fair was over. Watch for the animation error on the Sphinx, who appears briefly without lips, which then appear from nowhere. Another often censored obligatory cannibal sequence is included, as giant natives capture two explorers, then compare their heights like cigarettes – “Umm, king size!” The final gag, appearing to have been animated according to a Clampett model sheet rather than Avery’s, has baby bunnies surprised by a marauding Japanese hawk with rising sun insignias on its wings. Far from helpless, the bunnies disappear into a bush, and reveal an anti-aircraft gun with which they pepper the hawk. Their ammunition man turns out to be a surprise cameo for Bugs Bunny. “Eh, Thumbs up, doc. Thunbs up”, he says, as his ears form into a victory V.

Horton Hatches the Egg (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 4/11/42 – Robert Clampett, dir.), the famous adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s classic book, has been well covered in my previous series, “Happy Henfruit”. It fits here also because of the plot motivation provided by the character of lazy Maisie, the mama bird who is too lazy and bored to hatch her own egg, and who, when she finds a sucke….charitable soul in the form of Horton the Elephant to egg-sit, packs tennis racquet, golf clubs, and a suitcase, and wings her way to Palm Beach, where she spends 51 weeks basking in the sunshine and eating ice cream cones! One of the longest toon vacations on record. (Bugs Bunny probably takes top honors in this department, with his extended “formal” vacation in “Frigid Hare”, to be discussed in a later installment.)

Lake Titicaca, an episode from the part live-action, part animated featurette Saludos Amigos (Disney/RKO, 8/24/42 (world premiere, Rio De Janiero) – Bill Roberts, dir.), is one of two vignettes created for Donald Duck in the picture. Here, he is cast as the American tourist (his motivations in the second short, Aquarela do Brasil, are less clear, as he is merely painted into the middle of a watercolor painting about the country). After first demonstrating the effects of high altitude (including dizziness that transforms him into two separate transparencies that take notice of each other, and ringing in the ears that converts his helmet into an alarm bell), Donald takes in sightseeing. He tries a float across the lake in a reed boat, first yanking a knot in the wrong place and unraveling the craft entirely, then encountering winds that suddenly appear and disappear on the lake, first speeding him across, then slamming on the brakes to toss him through the boat’s sail, leaving a hole in his outline. In the local village, he encounters a boy commanding a llama with notes from a flute. Making a trade with the boy, Donald acquires native costume, and rental of the llama for the day. Donald’s flute notes are at first decidedly off key, and a bit too syncopated for his steed, who responds in a stumbling jitterbug. But Donald gets the general hang of it, and takes off into the steep hills for a tour. Passing through a low cloud on the mountainside, Donald notices an unusual bobbing to the llama’s gait, and as the fog clears discovers why – the llama has walked out on a flimsy rope suspension bridge, thousands of feet above the village. Donald clings to the llama’s neck and points down. The llama bends to look below, causing Donald to slide off and dangle from the reins. Donald plays a flute command for the llama to back up, and is pulled upwards – but pulled right through the bridge slats, taking up about a dozen boards, which then sail downwards into the valley.

Every move of the llama and Donald seems to dislodge more boards, until Donald has to resort to rotating a small number of boards from back to front under the llama to give him anywhere to walk. The llama is actually more sure-footed than Donald, and ignores the boards entirely, standing on one of the ropes instead, while Donald loses more flooring, and winds up squatting on a single board straddled across the ropes. He hops, taking the board with him, attempting to pass the llama to reach the opposite side. But the llama jumps onto Donald’s back, slowing progress to a crawl. A narrator advises against overexertion at this high altitude, and above all that one should not lose one’s temper. Donald responds by telling him, “Shut up, you big windbag!” Nearing the opposite cliff, the llama hops off onto land, but snaps one of the support ropes in the process, leaving Donald clinging by his hands to the one remaining rope. A weak spot in the rope begins to unravel, and parts. Donald holds on to both rope ends, and desperately tries to tie a knot between them without falling. He only succeeds in tying a knot in his own arms, as the rope escapes the grip of both his hands. Down falls Donald, as the narrator indicates the final stop on the tour is the pottery market, where the tourist generally can’t resist taking home an array of samples. Donald is no exception, landing in a large earthen pot, dislodging several more, and having the whole bunch slide down a hill and into the lake. With several pots piled atop his head, and two stuck to his hands which he uses as oars, Donald propels his pot-boat into the setting sun for an anxious return home, and an iris out.

Alona on the Sarong Seas (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 9/4/42 – I Sparber, dir.) – Popeye and Bluto prove once again that the old adage of a sailor’s “girl in every port” isn’t far from wrong. It’s just odd that they all turn out to look like the same girl. A post card introduces us to our locale, using a visual of cocoanuts as the first word of the phrase, “Nuts to you from the Isle of Woo Woo”. Aboard their battleship, Popeye marvels at the sights within a travel folder, including a photo of the reigning resident royalty – Princess Alona. Wouldn’t you know, she’s another dead ringer for Olive Oyl. (With all these look-alikes that the boys court, shouldn’t they suspect some underlying blood relation between them – and the resulting likelihood that word of their wandering eyes might eventually get back to Olive in the States?) Nevertheless, Popeye declares that Alona isn’t going to be alona very long.

Riding by on a surfboard passes Alona and her parrot. “Me dream goil”, reacts Popeye, and jumps ship. Bluto is right behind him, and uses Popeye as his own surfboard to reach the mainland. Popeye is left submerged in the sand, and comes up with a lobster clawing at his posterior. The lobster is wearing Popeye’s hat and pipe. “On you, it don’t look good”, says Popeye, grabbing the items back. In Jewish dialect, the lobster replies, “On you it’s looking better?” Road signs direct to (and from) the princess – “Sarong Way” and “Saright Way”. The boys spy Alona canoeing on an island stream – a rare instance where Margie Hines gets to perform a singing vocal, of Jimmy Monaco and Johnny Burke’s “Too Romantic”, from the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope feature, “Road to Singapore”. “Ya sings like a nightengown”, Popeye says, as he and Bluto surprise her by popping up from underwater. Instinctively, she runs for cover. The boys later catch up with her reclining in a tree, but her parrot cautions them. “Stop. If you but harm a hair of her head, the fire mountain says, you will be dead – – or even worse.” Bluto waves off the threat, sating he’s seen fake volcanos like that in the movies. The princess leads the boys on a merry chase, diving off a cliff into a river below, with impact suggestively leaving only her sarong floating on the surface, until her hand emerges from the water to retrieve it. Popeye and Bluto follow, losing their uniforms in the same manner, retrieving their clothes from below and emerging on the bank shaking fish out of their pants legs. The Princess plays further games with them, conking them from above with cocoanuts from a tall tree to get them fighting amongst themselves. Bluto finally springs Popeye off a palm tree, making him collide with the cocoanuts of another with the sound effect of a pool-ball break, and take a further blow to the head upon a boulder in the river, knocking him unconscious.

From the river waters rises an alligator, who rings a dinner bell. Seven more full size gators, and a pipsqueak balanced on the last one’s tail, all smack their lips at the fresh dinner prospect laid out for them on the rock. Bluto continues to pursue the princess – and the volcano starts to get into the act, hiccuping and rumbling fiercely. A perspective shot of approaching alligator eyes closes in on Popeye. Alona’s parrot sees only one way to save the situation – open Popeye’s spinach can with his beak, and pour its contents down the sailor’s throat. Popeye revives and transforms into a torpedo, diving right into the first gator’s mouth. Propelling him backwards, he forces gator 1 into the mouth of gator 2, then 2 into 3, 4, and so on – until everyone has swallowed everyone else. Then, he strikes an explosive blow from inside – transforming the lot of them into alligator bags at a hut marked “luggage shop”. Popeye makes short work of Bluto, slingshotting him from nearby trees into the mouth of the volcano to plug up the hole, leaving Bluto with steam coming out of his ears. The scene changes to night, with Popeye and Alona in silhouette snuggling cozily – then just as quickly transforms back to the sailors’ hammocks in the battleship, where Popeye has been dreaming it all, and plants a kiss on a sleeping Bluto. Bluto responds by bashing Popeye on the head with a ukelele, and Popeye contentedly falls back to sleep.

On our next outing: More wartime toons, and further implementations of the “Good Neighbor Policy”.


  • When I took physics in high school, I once tried to calculate the height of the cliff Princess Alona jumps from in “Alona on the Sarong Seas”. Figuring that she would attain 98% of terminal velocity in 14 seconds of free fall, I concluded that the cliff was a sheer drop of about a third of a mile — over ten times the height of Niagara Falls. My physics teacher, however, criticised my work, saying that I failed to account for the change in air density as Alona descended; and it occurs to me now that I also neglected to allow for the drag coefficient of the banana peel and her big feet. If anyone can come up with a more accurate figure, I’m all ears.

    I love the Jewish lobster in that cartoon, even though (or perhaps because) lobsters aren’t kosher. Altogether, it’s quite an auspicious directorial debut for Izzy Sparber.

    In the crowd cheering in Spanish at the beginning of “Kickin’ the Conga Round”, several people are waving the national flag of… Scotland???

    A wonderful selection of cartoons this week, and I look forward to continuing the “Joyride”. As the lobsters say in Hawaii, “Aloha OY!”

  • I’m surprised the title “Kickin’ the Conga Round” got past the censors, since it’s obviously a play on “kicking the gong around,” a slang term for smoking opium. The phrase appears in several Cab Calloway songs, including “Minnie the Moocher.”

  • The Chuck Jones dichotomy: when he’s good, there’s no one better; when he’s bad, there’s no one worse. Fortunately he wound up with a hall-of-fame batting average.

    Alona: the prospect of Olive Oyl experiencing a wardrobe malfunction is not a high-anticipation event. Betty Boop? Sure. Jessica Rabbit? Oh yeah. Marge Simpson? Show me some yellow.

    Olive Oyl? (runs away)

  • oh my LARRRRD! It had been many a decade since i had seen “Aloha Hooey!” Somehow, i remembered EVERY Frame!!! TY!

  • What’s the story as to why Tex Avery was fired by Leon Schlesinger? I’ve seen this mentioned several times over the past few weeks.


    • DD, please see the comments section below the Needle Drop Notes post for August 4, 2020, “Merrie Melodies 1940-41: The Care and Feeding of a New Cartoon Star (Part 2)”.

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