We start out this week’s travel tales with a couple of Terrytoons – one revisiting old ground, but another a unique original. Plus some multiple doses of wanderlust for Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and visits from Pluto, Popeye, and Magoo.
The Stowaways (Terrytoons/Fox, Heckle and Jeckle, 4/1/49 – Connie Rasinski, dir.) – Many early commercial aviators liked to refer to their craft as airships. (Witness Shirley Temple’s 1930’s mega-hit. “Om the Good Ship Lollipop”, which referred to a plane rather than a boat.) Pan American Airlines inaugurated a seaplane service known as the China Clipper in 1935. Even to its last days, said airline would continue to affectionately refer to its planes as “clippers”. It was thus surprising that it took until 1949 for animation to fully capitalize on this analogy, and take it to its extreme. And even odder that the studio to do it would be Terrytoons.
The honors of this experiment fell into the lap of the studio’s surprise new comedy duo, responsible for stealing a good deal of thunder away from a certain “muscle bound mouse” – magpie twins Heckle and Jeckle.
Outside the gates of an airport, the two birds admire a billboard advertising “Visit Africa by Air”. (Though a stereotype native is depicted on the poster, CBS never censored this shot – because without this explanation for motive, we’d have no cartoon.) “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a trip like that?” says Jeckle. Heckle, a man of action, seizes the immediate opportunity, noting that the plane is boarding now. Of course, the little matter of having no funds has never been an obstacle to these birds. A mighty six engine seaplane (which looks like a worthy rival to Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose”), takes on passengers by way of three escalator-stair gangplanks. Our heroes climb aboard one of them, while Heckle dreams: “I can see us now. Surrounded by native dancers. They’re throwing a big party for us. We’re the center of attraction.” At the top of the gangplank, they are met by the captain – the tough bulldog introduced in 1947’s “The Intruders”, wearing full nautical outfit. Checking a passenger list, he asks where do the birds think they’re going. Heckle claims they’re friends of the captain. “Well I’m the captain!” replies the dog. “Beat it!” He gives both birds the boot, landing them in a heap on the dock, where a gasoline truck is pumping its load into the engine’s fuel supply through a long hose. “I say, this gives me an idea”, says Jeckle, leading Heckle into the gasoline tank. (Don’t try this at home, kids.) Not only don’t they burn up, or blow up, but even the noxious fumes don’t phase the hardy birds, as they are sucked up into the plane and emerge through dials on the cockpit instrument panel. After all that effort, the Captain is right there to see them emerge, and throws them out the cockpit window into the ocean. ”Leave it to you to pick the hard way”, says Heckle. He selects another improbable means of entry. As the plane takes off, someone carelessly leaves a hatchway open in the plane’s belly, with a dangling rope ladder. (As Babs Bunny might have later observed, “How convenient” – especially considering the plane was on the water upon takeoff, and would have been flooded by the previously unseen open hatch.) The birds borrow a dockside motorboat. Jeckle stands atop the rotating starter of the outboard motor, carrying two oars. Heckle gives the starter rope a pull and sets the engine mechanism spinning. Not only is the boat propelled forward, but Jeckle’s whirling oars function as helicopter blades, propelling the boat into the air. They intercept the seaplane, grab hold of the hanging ladder, and climb inside, shutting the hatch behind them.
Inside, they find a deserted grand banquet hall, as spacious as any ship’s. They peer into the windows of a pair of kitchen swinging doors. Inside, chef Dimwit is putting final touches on a roast turkey for the captain, who anxiously awaits his dinner, commenting, “I’m starved.” Food plus magpies of course equals a Captain who’ll stay starved. The captain waits at a table, where several appetizers have apparently already been served. Dimwit carries in the turkey, past a wall of portholes. With some quick sleight of hand, one magpie lifts the turkey off Dimwit’s serving tray, pulling it through the porthole, while the other replaces it with a potted plant. The captain is furious at being served an inedible vegetarian dinner, and tosses the plant at Dimwit. Meanwhile, one of the magpies fills the captain’s plate with the bony skeleton of what once was his turkey. As the captain reacts with shock, a magpie hand grabs one of his appetizers into a porthole, then another, then another. The captain clings to the only thing he has left – a glass of milk. One of the birds solves that issue, by producing a straw and draining the glass dry. When the captain spots him, all he gets for his efforts is a spit-blast of milk in the face. A game of hide and seek follows through the portholes. Every time the captain looks into one, a mallet, boxing glove, or the like emerges to sock him. Reaching a porthole in a door, the captain wisely ducks low to avoid another blow – but the magpies merely slide the porthole to a lower spot on the door, and hit the captain in the face with an old boot. The captain bursts outside, finding the mafpies on a small ship-style observation deck on the outside of the plane. (I guess they fly at low altitude so the passengers won’t need a pressurized cabin.) Producing a pistol, the captain commands the birds to “walk the plank” off the side of the plane, as if in a pirate picture. Heckle puts up a distraction, pleading on his knees that he’s too young to die, while Jeckle climbs back underneath the plank, producing a saw. Heckle makes a quick dart between the captain’s legs, as Jeckle severs the plank in two. The captain falls, intercepting one of the planes’ giant tires (strange continuity, as the plane did take off from water, previously showing no landing gear), which acts as a slingshot to throw the captain upwards, through the deck planking of the plane’s flooring. Heckle and Jeckle race into the plane’s cockpit, and take the controls. They engage in a series of pushes and pulls upon the plane’s steering columns, alternating the ship from steep climbs to power dives, and setting the captain into endless skids on deck in attempt to keep his balance. The captain finally slides his way into the cockpit, crashing headfirst into the instrument panel, leaving a gaping hole in it when Dimwit reappears to pull him out. Fortunately, half of this plane’s controls must be utterly superfluous, as the plane continues safely flying, The captain pauses, and suddenly brightens with an idea.
A few moments later, the captain and Dimwit set up another dinner table full of food, and two comfortable chairs in the banquet room. “Come come, boys. It’s all been a misunderstanding. Sit right down here and enjoy yourselves.” The unsuspecting birds come out of hiding, and do just that. “Well, this is more like it,” says Heckle. “And if you want a real surprise”, says the captain, pointing to a button on the wall behind the birds, “just press that buzzer.” The captain and Dimwit leave the birds alone. Curiosity killed a cat, they say – and that might also go for birds, as the magpies press the button. A sign lights up above it reading “Hatch”. The same belly hatch they came in through opens below their table, and the birds fall helplessly to Earth. (You’re birds, for gosh sake. Did it ever occur to you you can fly?) They land with a plop directly into a large stewpot over a roaring fire, and discover themselves in the middle of a circle of dancing African cannibals. Jeckle recalls the prophetic words of Heckle, and repeats them while subjecting Heckle to repeated dunks into the stewpot water. “Ah, Africa! I can see us now. Surrounded by native dancers. We’re the center of attraction.”
The Covered Pushcart (Terrytoons/Fox, Sourpuss (though also featuring Gandy Goose in an equal role), 9/1/49 – Mannie Dacis, dir.) – a reworking in Technicolor of Farmer Alfalfa’s Trailer Life, with both new and reused animation (not only from the Alfalfa epic, but a few shots thrown in for good measure from Gandy Goose’s The Hitch Hiker). This time, Gandy and Sourpuss are the owners of the mechanized trailer. The vehicle has acquired some new twists. A dual phone connection allows trailer occupant and driver to communicate as to where to stop for the night. An automatic escalator ushers the characters inside. Seemingly empty within, a push of a button reveals a rolled-out carpet, easy chairs, wall pictures, a fireplace, a mounted fish and a stuffed moose head! But along comes the Indian chief from the preceding episode, with nearly every one of his scenes from the Alfalfa version reused, substituting Sourpiss and Gandy as the ones warding off his attack. The old footage runs out, however, about two minutes ahead of the ending, prompting the animators to extend the chase, both inside and outside the trailer. The chief makes a swipe at our heroes with his tomahawk, and accidently punctures the trailer’s master control panel with it, electrifying the chief in multiple glowing technicolor hues, then causing an explosion which propels him through the roof. Sourpiss comments it’ll be a long time before that Indian drops in again. Not as long as he may think, as the Chief falls to Earth, landing in the driver’s seat of their car. The trailer starts to move, as Gandy and Soupuss find theselves the helpless passengers of the Chief, who war whoops his way through a mad joyride over mesas and prairies with the trailer through the desert.
Frigid Hare (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 10/8/49 – Charles M. (Chuck) Jones, dir.) – Has Bugs Bunny ever considered carrying a compass? The disadvantages of no -visibility underground travel have certainly taken a toll on him over the years, and someone should think of chipping in to buy him a GPS for his birthday someday. Once more, Bugs misses that left turn at Albuquerque, and winds up at the South Pole. The setup for where he intended to go is handled with superb comic timing – before we hear even a word of dialogue from Bugs. Out of Bugs’ “mole hole” emerge the most unlikely objects for this climate – a bottle of sun tan lotion, sunglasses, and a book entitled “Fun on the Beach” – followed by a folding chair and a beach umbrella. “Miami Beach at last!” shouts Bugs, emerging in a Victorian bathing suit swiped from the “Coney Island Baths”. Oblivious to his surroundings, he races with water wings toward the first open water he can find, and dives in. The wave kicked up from his dive freezes solid in a split second – and Bugs reverses direction and backflips out of the wave, having turned solid blue. Consulting his map, he gets the idea “what’s up”.
Enter our supporting cast. A big eyed, cute as a button penguin (whom most of you will remember from the much more commonly televised “8 Ball Bunny”) makes his first appearance by zipping through the frame and knocking the pins out from under Bugs. Animators never seem to get their poles straight (at Walter Lantz, for example, Chilly Willy was often present at the North Pole), and this cartoon is no exception, as the cause for the penguin’s rush is also discovered in the form of a pursuing – Eskimo? Bugs strikes up a conversation with the hulking bully, and points him in the wrong direction for a “thatta way” to the bird, seemingly leaving the penguin safe. But the penguin returns, with a combination of emotions to be read from his eyes – scared, and lonely. Bugs thinks the bird is going to a formal party, and provides the penguin with a top hat and tie to “knock ‘em dead.” While Bugs keeps trying to load his equipment back into the hole to resume his journey (observing that “Mr. Warner” only gave him two weeks vacation), the penguin keeps trying to jump into the hole with him. Bugs refuses to take him along, insisting he travels light, and strikes a compromise deal to spend part of his vacation with the penguin. Of course, Bugs actually has a double-cross in mind. At the edge of a downhill slope, Bugs points skyward – “Look at that four legged aeroplane!” While the penguin looks, Bugs gently taps him with his foot, making the penguin slide down the hill like a toboggan. But just as Bugs is about to make a hasty exit, he sees at the bottom of the hill the Eskimo, waiting with a sack, into which the penguin neatly slides. Bugs is slightly taken aback, but tries to justify his motives to leave, stating ‘I’m not my penguin’s keeper.” He jumps into the hole. A brief pause. Then Bugs’ head pops out, with a “What am I doin’” look, and he emerges with vengeance in his eyes. Realizing that the audience has witnessed him in a weak moment, he attempts to explain. “Well, you didn’t think for a minute I was gonna let that bully…What I mean is, you didn’t want I should desert the little guy in…” At last, frustration sets in that he’ll never be able to explaim. “Oooh, always something! I’ll never get to Miami!”
Bugs plays on his strengths – female impersonation – donning the guise of a shapely girl Eskimo. He instantly captivates the heart of the simple-minded schnook, and grabs away his sack as if an intended present (secretly setting the penguin loose with another gentle kick down a slope). As the Eskimo offers Bugs a huge fish, he tries for a kiss, and flips Bugs’ fur hood, revealing those telltale long ears. Bugs uses the fish as a weapon, knocking the Eskimo for a fall. A skiing race follows down the mountainside, Bugs using his own natural oversized feet as his sliding boards. Both contestants slide out to the edge of an icy cliff point. The spot they are standing on is nothing more than a large protruding icicle, which cracks under their weight, progressively increasing in angle downwards at their every movement. The Eskimo fights to hold back a sneeze, and Bugs holds a finger under his nose to stop it. Surprise – Bugs sneezes himself, and the icicle now hangs 90 degrees straight down. The penguin returns and peers over the edge from above, dislodging a single snowflake – which is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The icicle cracks off and falls with its passengers still astride. The penguin is, however, resourceful. He exits and zips back into the scene with a pail full of water, which he tosses over the end of the cliff. The water begins to freeze nearly as fast as it descends, solidifying into a sort of frozen life-line attached to the cliff as it goes. (Wonderful idea – but why didn’t the water just freeze solid in the pail?) Also following the improbable laws of cartoon physics, the water falls faster than the icicle, catching up with it, and freezing solid to its end, suspending the icicle just inches from collision point with a ledge below. Bugs climbs off safely, and calls his rival above him an “Eskimo pie-head”. The Eskimo jumps off the icicle, but Bugs sidesteps him, causing the Eskimo to fall through the snow. It turns out Bugs is standing on yet another overhang of ice, which the Eskimo pops through underneath, landing in the spout of a passing whale in the ocean below, which carries him off over the horizon. (At least physics might make sense here, as the whale’s body warmth would presumably keep his spout water from freezing too.) Bugs assumes that his job is done – but the penguin tags along againm and cries ice cubes at the thought of Bugs leaving. Bugs argues, “What am I gonna do with only four days vacation left?” The penguin whispers a solution in his ear. “What? You mean the days are six months long up here?” Bugs calculates. “Wow! If is stay up here, I won’t have to be back to work until July, 1953!” (Interesting math, Bugs. Mind if we check that equation?) Bugs does a quick costume change, producing a top hat, tie, and tuxedo for himself. “I always wanted a nice long formal vacation. Let’s go, kid”, as he and the penguin waddle along in the lights of the aurora borealis.
Mutiny On The Bunny (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 2/11/50 – I. (Friz) Freleng, dir.), demonstrates how to get a vacation – the hard way. Shanghai Sam (Yosemite) is captain of an old square-rigger known as “The Sad Sack (formerly the Jolly Roger)”. His last crewmate jumps ship, trembling and in tattered rags, addressing the audience: “I was a human being once.” Realizing he needs a new crew, Sam attracts Bugs wandering the docks by posting signs on the ship’s hull advertising a free ocean voyage – see the world. With the banter of a carnival barker, Sam seals the deal, and Bugs mounts the gangplank – followed by Sam, holding a billy club behind his back. As Bugs waves “Au Revoir” to the docks, amidst all the trimmings of a luxury liner’s departure, only a single mouse waves back from the pier, commenting in Irish brogue, “He’s not long for this world.” Behind Bugs, the club of Sam is raised, and the scene transforms into a dazzle of stars – then fades in on Bugs in the hold of the ship, with an iron ball chained to his foot, and serving as a one-man slave rowing crew for the vessel’s departure. Bugs appears on deck, demanding Sam get rid of the steel ball. He does, by tossing it overboard, with Bugs still attached. Bugs returns, somehow free of his manacles, demanding an explanation. Instead, he is issued a sailor suit, and commanded to swab the deck. Bugs retaliates with graffiti, writing various derogatory messages on the deck floorboards, including “The captain wears army boots”, “The captain loves Gravel Gertie”, and “The captain is a skunk”. Sam is kept so busy trying to mop away these libelous remarks, he is unaware he is cleaning the whole ship himself. When he wises up, Bugs shouts that the ship is sinking, and for everyone to run to the lifeboats. Sam is about to board one, when Bugs reminds him the captain must go down with his ship. Sam resigns, appointing Bugs captain. But Bugs still won’t let him over the side, insisting ‘Women and children first”. Sam reappears dressed as an old lady (a revisit to the hippo gag from Betty Boop’s Swim or Sink), and while Bugs lets him in the lifeboat, Bugs disguises the head of the ship’s anchor in a baby bonnet, and calls for him to catch the additional castaway. The weight, of course, instantly sinks Sam’s lifeboat.
A drenched Sam reappears on deck, to find Bugs carrying a map and with digging tools. Bugs announces he is searching for buried treasure. Sam steals the map, follows it below decks, and uses the pick-axe to chop at a spot marked X – opening a gaping hole in the hull, and sinking the ship. We fade in again to find time has passed, and Sam has somehow gotten the ship to a drydock, where he hammers at planking to repair the hull. The ship is relaunched from the shipyards. All this time, Bugs has remained below decks (?), and waves to Sam from the hold. Sam lines up a cannon shot into the hatch, not realizing Bugs has already climbed out behind him. BLAM!! And another gaping hole sinks the ship. The same shipyard scenes are repeated, and the ship is again repaired and relaunched. This time, Bugs hides in the ship’s upper rigging, and Sam aims his cannon high – but not quite enough powder to reach Bugs’s elevation. Enough weight, however, for the cannonball to fall, knocking Sam through the deck. In a nice variation to the preceding shots, Sam is seen on the ocean bottom, with a lump rising from his head, as the ship descends and sinks around him. Back to the docks again. Only this time, Bugs has a topper – he’s chained both side panels of the ship’s hull to the dock. They peel off, and the skeletal foundation of the ship rides the launching chute and sinks Sam once again. The small hand of Sam emerges from the water, waving a white flag. Our final shot finds Bugs in tourist garb and lounging under a shade umbrella in a rowboat propelled manually by Sam, with various luggage stickers plastered on the side of the boat to indicate “the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen” (including a notable sticker for “Cucamonga” – the final destination of all those railroad trips Mel Blanc announced on the Jack Benny Program). Bugs prods Sam to step on it, as they still have to make Rio De Janiero, and the boat sails into the sunset for the iris out.
Spellbound Hound (UPA/Columbia, Mister Magoo – 3/16/50 – John Hubley, dir.) – Magoo in his early days was quite the man of leisure. He began his career at the winter resort of Hodge Podge Lodge in “The Ragtime Bear” (1949). This second outing finds him in a comfortable cabin at Lake Winiwonkapunk for some R&R and fishing. However, he is about to have some unexpected guests. Skulking outside, still in proson stripes, is an escaped convict, being pursued “doggedly” by a determined police bloodhound. As the con hides in a rain barrel, the dog seeks his whereabouts by peering in a cabin window. Inside, Magoo is attempting to carry on a phone conversation on an antique wall phone (winding the crank on an old gramophone instead of the telephone ringer). He is urging a down-on-his-luck friend Ralph to come on up to get away from his troubles. Amidst his conversation, he looks out the window, staring face to face at the dog. “Oh, I look terrible”, Magoo reacts, thinking it’s a mirror. The dog is finally distracted away by a walking rain-barrel, and pounces on it, causing the convict to bust out of the barrel slats and blow his cover. The con darts inside the cabin, and finds a perfect way to blend in – as the cabin’s windows just happen to feature black and white striped drapes. As the dog pokes his head in, the convict slams the door on him, leaving the pooch knocking from the outside. Magoo answers the door, and heartily greets the newcomer as “Ralph!” The dog is utterly confused, looking back over his own shoulder to see if someone else is being addressed. But, being a well-trained dog, he follows instructions when Magoo tells him to “Shake” and “Sit down”, and enters the cabin. Magoo tells him to get that “hangdog look” off his face and enjoy himself with some fishing. Magee enters the closet to get “Ralph” a hat to avoid sunburn – not realizing the convict is already crouching inside. Magoo walks right up on the prisoner’s back, and hands the dog the con’s prison cap. The dog remains vigilant, shutting the closet door and puling off the doorknob to keep the prisoner from escaping. But despite his best pantomiming gestures to Magoo, Magoo merely packs his fishing gear and heads for his boat, leaving the dog to follow, with the doorknob still clenched between his teeth.
Outside on the lake, Magoo tries to get his outboard motor started. He does, but forgets to untie the boat from the dock. As the rope reaches its limit, the stern is pulled off of the boat, and left behind, with the motor still attached. Magoo’s boat spins like a top, then rests motionless in the lake. Magee tries to start the “motor” again – and has inadvertently packed the gramophone aboard among his fishing gear. So he winds the starter rope around the gramophone turntable instead of an engine. The record player makes weird chipmunky sounds, and finally settles down to a rendition of Frank Crumit’s 1920’s Victor recording of “Frankie and Johnnie” played about twice as fast as normal. Magoo is somehow content that the engine is purring, and stands majestically at the ship’s helm, pulling and pushing at the record player’s speed control as if he were steering a tiller. Satisfied he has reached his intended location, he shouts, “Deep water. Anchors aweigh!”, and tosses the gramophone overboard instead of the anchor. The bloodhound, swimming to the boat, catches up with Magoo, and again tries to pantomime to him about the doorknob in his mouth. Magoo, who hasn’t even noticed that “Ralph” just got here, thinks that the doorknob is a fishing sinker, hooks it to his line, and casts it into the lake. The dog dives in, grabbing the knob still tied to the line. Thinking he has a nibble, Magoo plays the “fish” on the other end of his line in a tug of war, finally reeling in the dog with his head stuck in the gramophone horn.
Back at the cabin, the prisoner has located a hacksaw, and cuts a silhouette shaped image of himself in the door panel to escape the closet. He uses the cutout as a shield to sneak to the front door, but hides again among the drapes as Magoo and a drenched hound return. Magoo seeks a towel for his wet buddy in the closet, completely failing to notice the prisoner-shaped hole in the door. The dog, however, has found the cutout, and is sniffing over the top of it, his head parallel with the head of the cutout. Magoo walks up, and is shocked enough to pull out a pair of oversized spectacles. He interprets the cutout (coincidentally painted red) to be Ralph’s sunburned body. The dog, still confused, lets the cutout fall to the floor, where it splits into several pieces. Magoo reacts in panic. “Don’t move, Ralph. Don’t breathe. I’ll get first aid. Artificial perspiration!’ As Magoo runs for supplies, an old car pulls up outside. The real Ralph has finally arrived. He has brought with him a copy of the daily news, warning of the escaped convict. As he enters, Magoo returns, wrapping Ralph’s black suit in white bandages, which also gag him before he can utter a word. Ralph’s hand is left outstretched with the newspaper (upside down). Magoo catches sight of the headline – and for once, upside-down print somehow comes across readable to him. He returns with a shotgun, interpreting the alternating black and white striping resulting from the bandages to be prison stripes on Ralph. “Stick ‘em up”, he commands. Ralph follows his natural instincts – get the heck out of here. A mad chase develops, roughly paralleling the four doors-two flights of stairs endless pursuit better remembered from Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam in “Buccaneer Bunny’ (1948), as dog, convict, Ralph, and Magoo pursue or flee from each other in endless combinations. Ralph finally falls dwn one flight of stairs, his bandages partially unraveling. Above, the convict tries to kick the dog, but misses, also falling downstairs and getting wrapped in the loose end of Ralph’s trailing bandages. The dog leaps atop them and knots the bandages together, tying up the convict and Ralph as a neat package. But one loose end remains – what happened to Magoo? Magoo has the situation well under control, as he stands with his rifle at the ready, holding the cabin’s striped draperies at bay. (A rare intact print of the film is presented below, featuring the closing shot now missing from current prints (replaced by a “Columbia Favorite” sign on reissue), as the dog scratches his head in confusion, while the convict and Ralph also exchange confused looks.)
Trailer Horn (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 4/28/50 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – Title is a bit of a dated reference to an old MGM Jungle epic from its early sound days, “Trader Horn”, already lampooned in 1932’s “Trader Mickey”. I’m not sure if MGM had reissued the feature to theaters in the late 40’s, possibly prompting Hannah’s belated nod to its title. Chip ‘n’ Dale are attracted by the intrusion of a large trail of webbed footprints into their woodland home, to a campsite where Donald sleeps in a standard-model oval trailer hitched to an old Model A Ford. At least for once, Donald’s trailer is not super-mechanized, but merely provides convenient lodging. Chip investigates the sleeping Donald, snoring away in nightshirt and nightcap. Lifting Donald’s eyelid, Chip observes instead of his eyeball the vision of moving sheep jumping over a fence, as Donald presumably “counts” them. Chip comments, “Well, whadd’ya know?” Outside, a honk is heard. Dale has found the rubber bulb of the car’s old-fashioned horn, and discovered it makes a great trampoline. He invites Chip to join in some morning exercises, and they both rhythmically alternate bounces on the bulb. Unfortunately, the squawking honks awaken a squawking duck. While Donald grabs Dale in mid-bounce, Chip retaliates by taking a chomp on Donald’s foot, leaving Donald hopping up and down on the bulb-horn. The chipmunks scatter, and Donald soon abandons the chase to enjoy his holiday, reemerging from the trailer in a Victorian-style bathing suit he must have borrowed from Goofy in Hawaiian Holiday. Donald decides to use an adjustable diving board fastened to a tree-stump by a bolt, with a slot cut in the board to allow it to pivot or extend over the water of the lake. As Donald steps out to the end of the board, the chipmunks reappear atop the stump. Getting into a bouncing rhythm, Donald jumps into the air off the board’s end. The chipmunks (taking a great deal of artistic license, both as to their strength as well as in significant differences between shots in the length of the slot in the diving board), push the board out to its extreme length, so that Donald falls hard upon the board end instead of water. Unable to understand what caused the mishap, Donald backs up to the stump, then takes a running start toward the board’s end. Now the chipmunks use the pivot feature, turning the board the other way, so that Donald runs toward the land instead of the lake. Donald leaps into the air and positions for a jackknife dive – only to see his shadow below coming in for a direct landing on his trailer roof. The crash leaves the roof with a gaping hole, unhinges the trailer door, and spills half the contents of the trailer out the doorway, Donald included.
The chipmunks double up with laughter, but Donald grabs them in his hands, inserts them in the bell of the car horn, and squeezes the horn bulb rapidly and repeatedly. The two chipmunks vibrate out the horn bell in a rattled state. Donald’s revenge is not yet through. He squashes the chipmunks into the middle of a berry pie, then throws the pie at a tree trunk, not only dealing the chipmunks a blow, but leaving them in a gooey mess. One good dish of revenge deserves another, as Chip spots a bumper crop of pine cones growing from the branches of the tree above. Climbing the tree, he discovers that the branch’s end hovers directly over the hole left in Donald’s roof. Chip forms his paws into a makeshift “bomb sight”, focusing on Donald’s cup of morning coffee. He commands Dale to roll a pine cone off the limb. It scores a direct hit on Donald’s cup, leaving him holding nothing but the handle. Now, the chipmunks line up five small pine cones and two large ones, Chip cuing Dale with the melody phrase of the old “Shave and a haircut, two bits” that was years later guaranteed to prove irresistible to Roger Rabbit. In perfect rhythm to such phrase, the first five cones smash the remainder of Donald’s cups and saucers, while the two big ones land on Donald’s head. Donald knows who’s behind this, and envisions the chipmunks as a couple of red devils. He runs outside, unhitches his car from the trailer, and U-turns to charge the tree head-on. For a pine tree, it’s unusually springy (plus in the long shots, there is no sign of the previously-seen limb overhanging the trailer), and Donald springs the tree down to nearly ground level with the weight of his car. Donald startss to climb out of the vehicle to tear the chipmunks apart. But Chip, in his usually clever way, merely jumps a short foot to the ground, with the tree beginning to rise back to its original shape the minute Chip’s body weight is removed. “Uh oh”, Donald reacts, smelling trouble. Chip beckons Dale to follow, and the tree rises again, hesitating only long enough for Donald to sadly wave “Bye bye.” BOINGGG!! The tree reverts to full height, smashing the jalopy into a crumpled heap against a canyon wall. From the rumble seat of the battered wreck emerges Donald, gripping the car’s disconnected steering wheel and with the bulb horn in his mouth. In a daze, he is now half-duck, half-car, as he sputters along, verbally making the sounds of an old vehicle, honks the horn with his mouth, signals for a right turn, and steers himself down the long road toward home.
Hillbilly Hare (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 8/12/50 – Robert McKimson, dir.) – Bugs was certainly getting a lot of vacation time at this point in his career – even though he shouldn’t have even been back yet from his first trip ftom “Frigid Hare”. This time, it’s vacation in the Ozarks. So peaceful, so quiet – until a mile-long gun barrel appears, with a menacing eye visible at the other end. “Oh, Murgatroyd! Look what crawled out of the woodwork!”, reacts Bugs in playful fashion. “Be ye a Martin, or a Coy rabbit?”, the backwoods buffoon at the other end of the rifle asks. “Well, my friends call me very coy”. Bugs flirtatiously replies. Wrong answer, as the rifle’s owner is a Martin, on the other side of a family feud. He pulls the trigger on the long Kentucky rifle. But the bullet takes so long to travel its length, Bugs has time to tie a knot in the end of the barrel. When the Martin unties it, he gets blasted with buckshot. “Just call me freckles.” Bugs isn’t out of harm’s way by a “long shot”, as another relative, Punkinhead Martin, won’t sit for a Coy dealing with his brother in such manner. He turns another endlessly-long rifle on Bugs. As the trigger is pulled, Bugs merely crawls underneath the rifle barrel, yanks out the stock and trigger mechanism from one end, and places it on the other end. Punkinhead is now looking down the action end of his own rifle, and waves “bye-bye” to us as the gun goes off – loading his ears with buckshot, and causing a bird who had nested in Punkin’s beard to be knocked unconscious with a lump on his head.
The two hillbillies pursue Bugs’ tracks, as Bugs hides in a dynamite shed. As the brothers enter the shed, they are heard to complain it’s too dark to see. Bugs helpfully offers them his cigarette lighter, then slips out. After brief delay in getting the thing to work, we hear the inevitable boom. A bedraggled Martin emerges, concluding “I think y’all are usin too strong a fluid.”
The final sequence takes up the remainder of the cartoon. Passing a village meeting hall, the brothers are beckoned inside by a seductive hillbilly gal – or is that rabbit?, as it’s Bugs in another of his endless disguises. Bugs asks them to practice up for tomorrow’s square dance, and “juices up the juke box” for a performance by the Sourbelly Trio – who are actually live inside the juke box framework. A well choreographed square dancing sequence ensues, but as the brothers get carried away with the spell of the music, Bugs slips off to one side, changes costume to the rustic hat of a square dance caller with fiddle, and pulls the plug on the Sourbelly Trio’s perforance, taking over calling in mid-song. Bugs spirited playing sashays the brothers out the door and down the road, as his lyrics become uniquely inventive and increasingly violent, and the spellbound brothers obediently do everything he says. “Step right up, you’re doin’ fine. I’ll pull your beard, you pull mine.” “Into the brook and fish for the trout, dive right in and splash about.” “Grab a fencepost, hold it tight. Whomp your partner with all your might. Hit him in the shin. Hit him in the head. Hit him again, the critter ain’t dead!” He dances them into a hay-baler to “form a square”, as they are neatly tied in bundles. Finally, he “promenades” them off a cliff, where they land, nearly unconscious, in the creek bed below. “And now you’re home. Bow to your partner. Bow to the gent across the hall”, as both Martins bow, and faint face first into the water. “And that is all”, says Bugs, fiddling the final notes for the iris out, and a great wrap-up.
Camp Dog (Disney/RKO, Pluto, 9/22/50 – Charles Nichols, dir.) – A clever and inventive entry in the series. A pair of coyotes who became recurring characters in late episodes, Ol’ Benttail (introduced in “The Legend of Coyote Rock” (1945)) and his dim-witted Son (introduced in “Sheep Dog” (1949)), return to open this film with their howling at the moon from a hill in the forest. Junior’s yipping is interrupted as his nose gets a whiff of something. Benttail takes charge by literally pulling the aroma lines out of junior’s nostrils and inserting them into his own – getting a mind’s eye image of a banquet. Below, a pair of human campers (seen only in silhouette) disappear in a small boat down a river, leaving seemingly unattended a campsite. Not quite unattended, as the camp is actually guarded by Pluto. (Interesting how he changes owners occasionally – as will be seen, Mickey and Minnie didn’t quite fit the payoff for this film.). Within this setting hangs the coyote’s objective – a boxed crate of food provisions, suspended from the branch of a tree by a rope thrown over a limb and tied around the tree’s trunk.
Benttail creeps into camp and tries to figure out the rope’s knot. Junior follows, but attracts the attention of Pluto, whose head is seen sticking out of the “pup” tent. On seeing the dog, Benttail beats it down the path quickly – but Junior is more the carnivore than his father, and, oblivious to the danger, thinks Pluto himself would make a tasty morsel. Pluto chases after Benttail, barking a warning not to come back – but overlooks the coyote pup entirely, nearly trampling him in the cross-traffic. As Pluto returns to the tent, Benttail creeps back and resumes work on the knot. But Junior still has his eyes on the prize, and when Pluto is asleep, drags the dog out of the tent by the tail. As Junior is about to chomp into Pluto’s rear end, an astonished Benttail yanks his son away, and gently pushes Pluto back into the tent without rousing him.
What follows next is a delightful game of balance and counterbalance. Junior gnaws on the support rope to the supply crate. Benttail takes hold of the rope to push him away – and the knot finally unwinds. Benttail is yanked skyward to bonk his head on the tree limb, as the crate falls to Earth intact. Benttail pulls at the rope to pull himself away from the tree limb, and the crate begins to rise. Junior, seeing all the wondrous food, hops into the crate, and starts emptying out its contents to the ground below. The decreasing weight of the box leaves Benttail as a heavier counterweight than the crate, and Benttail starts to descend, hanging on helplessly to the rope to avoid a fall. As more food is emptied out, Benttail dangles lower and lower – until he and the box are balanced at even heights above the ground. He tries to hail Junior to cut it out – but has tossed into his paws a large ham, dropping him even further. Then, a sausage is thrown onto his nose, followed by a sack of flour on his head. The balance has been broken, and Benttail falls to the ground. Above, Junior empties out the last of the crate’s contents, and steps out onto air, saving himself from falling by clinging to Benttail’s side of the rope. The last of the groceries fall onto Benttail – followed by Junior himself sliding down the rope. Benttail lets go of the rope, and Junior is hauled upwards again, as the crate falls smack on Benttail, who now pokes through a hole made in the crate’s bottom. Benttail pushes apart the crate sides so he can think “out of the box”, and the crate’s top flies upwards, now outweighed by the still-hanging Junior. Junior crashes on Benttail again, then shyly hands Papa the rope he was clinging to. Benttail releases the rope, and the crate top crashes on his head for a crowning blow.
Using one side from the crate and some extra boards, Benttail rigs up a litter to carry the food supplies away. Just as he has the stock neatly piled, Junior gets the notion for bigger prey again, and replaces the foodstuffs with the sleeping Pluto. (Gee, that dog is tired. After all that commotion outside with the crate, it still didn’t rouse him.) Once again, Benttail has to push Pluto back into the tent, then set his son straight by returning the food to the litter. He then instructs Junior to carry the forward end. Junior chooses an inopportune path, leading to the remains of the campers’ campfire. Junior avoids harm by merely hopping over it – of course never considering that Benttail’s view of what’s coming is completely obscured by the food.
Benttail receives a surprise hotfoot, and wails loudly. Still no Pluto. But the danger still continues, as Junior again goes back for his personal choice, disappearing into Pluto’s tent. Benttail reaches his paw in and grabs for Junior’s tail – but pulls out Pluto instead, who finally awakens. Benttail ducks into the tent himself, with Pluto following. Inside, the coyotes pull a fast one, as Benttail is found in one of the comfy cots, and shushes Pluto’s barking, indicating over to the opposite cot, where Junior rests, apparently sound asleep. Gullible Pluto nods, and tiptoes out of the tent. He returns a moment later to tuck Junior in for the night, not realizing that the two coyotes have slipped out of the tent when his back was turned. Instead of tucking in a coyote, Pluto finds the lump under the bedsheet is merely a bunched-up pillow. Outside, Benttail pulls a zipper on the tent flaps, trapping Pluto inside. Pluto charges at the rubbery canvas, but merely bounces off. He proves that canine intelligence isn’t much, as it turns out he is easily able to lift the canvas wall on the back side of the tent and get outside – only to turn and charge inside the tent again for a running start at the zippered front wall. This time, Junior is out front, and unzips the zipper for another try at Pluto, releasing the mutt at full speed. Pluto can’t stop, running right over Benttail, and over an embankment to plop into the river. After a brief passage of time, Benttail and son set out a picnic for themselves in the campsite, when a dripping Pluto returns to chase them away. Pluto snickers – but catches smell, and sight, of the spread of food laid out before him. His animal instincts can’t resist, and he begins chowing down on a large ham. Suddenly he hears the put-putting of an engine – and sees his masters returning in their boat. Pluto looks around, realizing the devastation to the campsite – and the incriminating bite marks he has left in the ham, and concludes that there is no way a speechless dog is going to be able to explain this. He makes a hasty exit out of frame. Back at the hill where it all started, Benttail and Junior resume their mournful howling. Between them pops Pluto, adding a third soulful wail to the trio, for an “if you can’t beat’em, join ‘em” ending.
Vacation With Play (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 1/26/51 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.), is an early ‘50’s entry that still retains some of the verve and creativity of the ‘40’s era. Popeye and Olive are off to a fashionable resort for their vacation (Lake Marrowhead) – but Popeye has been hoodwinked into purchasing a used car for the trip, and has lived to regret it – a wheel has fallen off, causing Popeye to manually carry the fallen axle to keep up with the other three wheels all the way to their destination. By the time of arrival, the superpowered sailor has burnt out all his internal supply of excess adrenalin (and spinach juice), and can think of nothing but falling asleep in a hammock. This temporarily leaves the field open for activities-director Bluto, who is calling all sweet curvaceous females for instructional classes at the swimming pool. In a gag unique to the series, we find out after all these years just how twisted Bluto’s tastes in women are, as a bevy of beauties line up at poolside, in the midst of which appears “beanpole” Olive. Bluto must be absolutely jaded at seeing beautiful women, as only Olive causes his eyes to pop entirely out of their sockets. Bluto’s courses begin, first in archery. Cozily encircling his arms around Olive, Bluto guides her hands in a shot that performs a u-turn in mid-air, spears an apple off a tree, and returns it to her as an apple on a stick. Meanwhile, Popeye is finally roused from his slumber by two squirrels who point out Bluto making time with his sweetie. Popeye barges in on the lesson, one-upping Bluto by bending and shooting three arrows at once, which spear and return a three course meal from a lunch wagon, shish-kabib style. Bluto shifts to golf lessons, guiding Olive through a hole in one. Popeye (using his flexed muscle transformed into the shape of a tee, and his pipe as a club), hits a shot that sails into hole #1, bounces out and straight into hole #2, then continues bouncing from hole to hole, coming to rest in the cup of the 18th hole, for 18 holes-in-one with one stroke.
Bluto finally shifts to tennis (with special emphasis on the word “love”). Popeye’s service drives Bluto into the ground, so the brute retaliates with his “cannonball” – a steel ball unscrewed from the top of one of the poles supporting the net. The impact with Popeye’s racket drags him physically off the court and smack into the hammock tree, the steel ball clunking Popeye on the head, leaving him unconscious in the hammock with a huge lump. Olive, in her usual fickle way, dismisses Popeye as falling asleep again, and goes off on a canoeing trip with Bluto. As Bluto serenades Olive with “I’m in the Mood For Love”, Olive lets her guard down, while Bluto uses his guitar to paddle the whole canoe onto dry land and into a remote cabin on an island in the middle of the lake. “How about a little kiss?” he beckons once they are inside. Olive repeats her punctuation of screams for Popeye with the unexpected call for a “Taxi!” (reused from “Safari So Good”). Another neat line has Olive break her screams with the attempted diversion, “You read any good books lately?” Back at the tree, the squirrels reappear and lift Popeye’s eyelid, inside of which the words “Out Cold” appear. They retrieve his spinach can from inside his shirt, and one squirrel painfully volunteers to have his buck teeth serve as can opener. Propping Popeye’s mouth open with his pipe, the other squirrel bats the can’s contents into Popeye’s mouth with a whack from his tail. Using the hammock as a slingshot, Popeye rockets to the scene where Olive, now swimming in the lake, has been hooked on a fishing line by Bluto, and jumps about on the line like a trout fighting to swim upstream. Popeye busts Bluto’s rowboat in two, and knocks Bluto’s half into a mill waterwheel. The final scene has Olive engaged in a game of table tennis with Popeye, as the squirrels hold the net – but this time, they’re doing things Popeye’s style – as Popeye is still reclining in his hammock, merely returning the shots with a flick of one large shoe.
Dude Duck (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 3/2/51 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – Anyone for another vacation in the Wild West? The scene is a dude ranch, where the local corral of horses spends their idle time between busloads of tourists engaged in such pastimes as knitting, reading the Racing Form, and a competitive game of horseshoes (that is, one horse – Rover Boy – keeps score of the ringers made by his front end versus his rear end). Along comes the weekend’s bus of tourists – seemingly all pretty girls. Rover Boy has a particular eye for the attractive beauties, and spiffs up his mane into a pompadour to attempt to make his best impression. But despite his energetic wolf whistles and offers to the girls of his saddle in his extended hoof, the girls take off astride other horses. Rover weeps bitterly – but soon finds he will not be alone for the weekend. A last passenger disembarks the bus – Donald Duck, dressed entirely wrong for the occasion – in British-style riding habit, as if about to embark on a fox hunt. Rover takes one look at the “dude” and bursts out laughing. But Donald hold a reservation stub in his hand identifying his intended mount – Rover Boy, #6. “Six?”, Rover exclaims, looking at a telltale brand on his hindquatrters which will give him away. Donald tells Rover to saddle up. Outraged at the thought of being stuck with the dude, Rover plays sick – simulating a dislocated fetlock, a swayback sag in his middle, absence of teeth, a weak heart, and then finally collapsing on his back as if dead. Donald fills his bowler hat with water to revive the horse – but the supposedly “dead” animal .quickly shifts position to avoid the splash. Donald smells a rat, and produces an apple from his coat. Despite keeping his eyes clamped closed, Rover cannot resist the apple’s scent – and his lips involuntarily consume the fruit from Donald’s hand. As the final test of Rover’s fitness, Donald pulls out a fox hunting bugle, and blows a call to the post.
Reflexively, Rover leaps into position as if in the starting gate of a race. Donal fires a starter’s pistol, and Rover is off at full speed – only to freeze in his tracks as Donald’s laughter cues him that he’s just given himself away. Donald now holds Rover at gunpoint, demanding that he put the saddle on. A few warning shots achieve the desired result. Donald whips the gun around his finger to boast his shooting prowess – and in the process breaks off the trigger ring. With no more threat of bullets, Rover slips the saddle right off again, leaving Donald with an empty trigger finger. Donald tries a different tactic, grabbing a lariat. Rover ducks out of rope’s reach behind some bales of hay, and reappears wearing a pair of old cow’s horns, saying “Moo”. He points down the road, and Donald runs blindly on. “Moo?”, Donald suddenly repeats, and catches on he’s been duped. Rover tries an added ruse, hiding behind more hay bales, and making ever softer hoofbeats from behind the stack to simulate the sound of himself disappearing off into the distance. Donald peers afar from atop the bales – then looks down and spots Rover still there. One good trick deserves another. Donald pretends from his side of the hay bales to go home – then miraculously simulates the voice of one of the girls, looking for that “big beautiful number 6″. “The dames!”, reacts Rover, and charges around the hay pile to find them. But Donald has slipped into his path the end of the lariat loop, and ties off the other end to a post. Rover runs headfirst into the rope loop – then reaches the end of his rope with a crashing halt. “Oh no”, he snorts. Donald hauls him in, looping the rope around the post for leverage. Rover is dragged past the stall of a dangerous wild bull, and gets an obviously evil idea. Somehow throwing off the lasso, Rover loops the rope around the bull instead. Donald, pulling backwards, drags the bull right up to his rear end, and Rover ensures that the bulls horns are pointed in Donald’s direction. “Wooowww!!”, Donald screams. As Donald sails into the air, Rover throws a saddle on the bull, on which Donald makes a three-point landing. Donald is left to ride helplessly aboard the bucking bovine through the desert, while Rover Boy dons a bucket to simulate Donald’s bowler hat, and shouts, “Tally Ho!”
Next Time: Several famous mice go on holiday, along with a canary, and the Goof.