Animation Trails
September 6, 2023 posted by Charles Gardner

Unpredictable as Weather (Part 22)

Mother Nature continues to have her way with us, and this week shifted her spree from the West Coast to the East, striking sunny Florida with another hurricane, actually making landfall and scoring a direct hit upon persons and property. As the musical question was popped in an old Tom Lehrer song, “Who’s Next?”

Meanwhile, our Toons face the ravages of late 1946 and 1947, among Mother Nature’s targets being Woody Woodpecker, Wally Walrus, Daffy Duck, Donald Duck and Goofy, Hcckle and Jeckle, and Mighty Mouse – and a double-dose of accidentally-overlooked Puppetoons. At least as compared to the animated world, today’s winds of change don’t seem so altogether different from those of the past. Follow along with us, and see which way the winds blow.

Overlooked from the last few weeks’ commentary (I never seem to have a precise handle on the chronology of his releases) were two George Pal Puppetoons. First, Jasper’s Paradise (Paramount, Puppetoon (Jasper and the Scarecrow), 10/13/44 – George Pal, dir.). Very similar in structure to the original “Jasper and the Watermelons”, the film opens with Jasper leaving his Mammy’s cabin, carrying a gingerbread man cookie. He sings about it merrily as he passes the cornfield, attracting the attention of the crow who always perches on the shoulder of the Scarecrow. The crow takes up the song, waking the Scarecrow from slumber under his wide-brimmed hat. The Scarecrow has a few harsh words for the bird upon awakening him, but brightens when he is informed of Jasper’s latest holding. Calling the boy over to him, the Scarecrow asks if Jasper plans to eat that cookie. Jasper surprisingly is so entranced with the fanciful appearance of the gingerbread man that he swears he will not eat him, and plans to keep the cookie safe from harm forever and ever. The Scarecrow extends a wooden arm, stating he only wants a closer look at the cookie, but Jasper for once is not in a mood to listen to his fast-talking and tall tales. Instead, Jasper refuses to allow the Scarecrow to touch the cookie, reminding him how many times he’s always taken everything Jasper gets, and runs off to a knoll at a considerable distance from the cornfield, taking his prize gingerbread man with him. “Why is it nobody ever trusts me?”, says the Scarecrow rhetorically to the audience. “Well if you ask me…” begins the crow, but the Scarecrow quickly adds, “Don’t answer that”, silencing him abruptly.

Jasper falls asleep under a tree, the gingerbread cookie resting on the ground close by his side. As Jasper begins to snore, the cookie comes to life, gently calling Jasper’s name. When Jasper doesn’t arouse, the cookie wills itself to grow larger than Jasper’s size, and taps the boy on the shoulder. “Are you the boy who doesn’t eat gingerbread men?” Jasper answers yes. The gingerbread man requests that Jasper come along with him, stating that he has a special surprise in store for Jasper. A sunbeam appears from the heavens, and a long, long stairway of cake slices rises upwards into the clouds. The gingerbread man beckons Jasper to step ahead and begin climbing. The cookie continues to follow Jasper a short way, but then tells him to continue climbing alone. By the time Jasper turns his head to ask the gingerbread man another question, the cookie has faded away, disappearing from the scene. A bit unnerved, Jasper continues upwards, and as he passes through a cloud intersecting the stairway, emerges in white robe, halo, and angel wings. It is never said that he is dead, and, since this is obviously a child’s dream, the thought of being an angel is treated as something merely heavenly rather than decidedly fatal. He enters the pearly gates, and a disembodied heavenly voice points out the amenities of his new residence – a land comprised of giant cakes, twenty times the size of Jasper, of all shapes and flavors – “all for you.” Jasper is invited to eat his fill, as much as and whenever he wants. Much like the Garden of Eden, there is only one thing that Jasper is given a gentle warning about. A juicy-looking cherry atop a relatively-small cupcake is pronounced to be “forbidden fruit”. Although Jasper is immediately attracted by the bright-red orb, the voice cautions him not to touch same. Jasper begins to back away, though his eyes continue to be drawn into glances back at the appealing morsel. Not watching where he is going, Jasper stumbles into a pole that appears from the cloudy ground – to which is attached a look-alike of the Scarecrow, except with horns and dressed in devil red – complete with a twin to the crow on his shoulder, wearing a red devil half hood above his bill. The Devil Scarecrow tells Jasper not to listen to that stuff about the cherry, and that it’s all right to eat it if he says so – which he does. The voice from heaven continues to warn Jasper of dire consequences if he touches, while the Devil prods Jasper on with words of encouragement. Confused Jasper leans back and away from the cherry again and again, until the Scarecrow Devil resolves his indecision, by smashing the cherry straight into Jasper’s face. Suddenly, the cake world begins to tremble like an earthquake. Massive towers of layer cake crumble, with candles popping off their light and tumbling from their dizzying heights. A conical angel food cake erupts from the center like a volcano. Jasper and the Devil run like mad to escape the debacle, finally reaching the staircase at the gate, which flattens out to remove all of its steps, leaving Jasper and the devil to endlessly slide at high speed down its towering slope, as the cake world above them topples into the clouds and disappears from existence. The scene fades to black as the characters slide directly into the path of the camera lens, and explosive crashes from the world above continue on the track. We fade in back in the real world, where it turns out that the crashes and booms we have heard were really the sounds of a rising thunderstorm. Jasper awakens under a full cloudburst, and looks around on the ground, to find his gingerbread man gone. He looks back at the cornfield, and spots the Scarecrow with an umbrella over his head, holding the gingerbread man in his hand, and opening his mouth as if to devour the cookie’s head in one bite. Jasper darts like a comet back to the cornfield, snatching away the gingerbread man, and retreating to the safety of his cabin. The Scarecrow remarks to the crow. “What’s wrong with that boy? He acts like he’s mad at me. All I was going to do was keep it for him.” The heavens know the Scarecrow better, and, as if in retaliation for his lie, begin stabbing the Scarecrow with lightning bolt hits to his rear end again and again, leaving the Scarecrow running all over the cornfield in howling pain, for the fade out.

Also omitted from last week was George Pal’s Together in the Weather (Paramount, Puppetoon, 3/27/46 – George Pal, dir.). The second of two films to feature a star-crossed romantic pair known as Punchy and Judy (their first appearance being in “A Hatful of Dreams”). The young, not so bright boy, and the shapely, voluptuous girl (who has become the pin-up girl of the recent covers of “Puppetoon Movie” DVD’s and blu-rays) are cast as the respective residents of a barometric “weather clock”. These colorful old contraptions, which were on rare occasion still obtainable at least into the 1960’s, and can still be located in various forms today as imports from the Black Forest in Germany, traditionally forecast the weather by means of a pivoting bar fastened to a barometer, which would turn to extend a boy (often in a raincoat) into view out of a small structure if the weather was cloudy and rain (also in the instance of this cartoon when it is snowy or windy), while pivoting the other way to reveal a beautiful girl if the forecast was sunny and fair. Of course, as both characters were fastened to the same pivot, it was impossible for both of them to appear out of their respective structures at the same time. This puts a immediate crimp in potential for a romantic relationship between Punchy and Judy, as every time Judy is out and about, holding up a sign declaring sunny weather, Punchy is holed-up inside his little home, only able to admire Judy from afar from his upper-story window. Judy is well-aware of Punchy’s presence, and tries to encourage his attentions and break him of his stand-offishness, by making her appearances in more and more alluring outfits, including dress with bare midriff, shape-revealing sweater, and form-fitting bathing suit, then adding the touch of irresistible French perfume. Punchy is going ga-ga, reacting in as close to Tex Avery wolf-fashion as puppet animation will allow, and charges down the stairs of his home, about to set foot into the sunlight of the world – until he stops cold in his tracks, and sadly remembers that duty calls – and a raincoat boy must never appear on a sunny day.

A stormy night still finds Punchy “lost in a fog”, as he holds his lonely vigil outside in low visibility, while Judy takes her turn peering out from her upper-story window at the prospective boyfriend who seems so far away. A full-blown storm develops, and lightning stabs down to set the roof of Judy’s home afire. Punchy runs into his house, donning a fireman’s helmet, and blows a bugle to sound a general alarm to nobody in particular. Unfortunately, he gets so wrapped up in playing hot licks on his horn, that he forgets completely the purpose for which he is doing it. Judy has to throw an object out the window to clunk him on the head to make him remember that she is in peril. Punchy procures a fire hose, but gets only one drop of water out its nozzle. He raises a long fire ladder, but erroneously through the door and window of his own house, climbing the wrong way (and receiving another clunk on the noggin from Judy). He finally charges into the right home, braving the flames up the stairs to reach Judy, just as she faints. Punchy carries her in his arms back to his own place, but it appears that Judy is far from unconscious, as she secretly opens one eye as they cross the threshold, and suddenly, a miniature Justice of the Peace appears in the doorway behind them, making things legal by reciting the opening lines of a marriage ceremony. Punchy is surprised and baffled, as Judy wraps her arms around him in embrace. The final scenes show the aftermath. A sunny day – and both Punchy and Judy are outside on one end of the platform of the weather clock, together. Punchy, as an old-timer narrator tells, still isn’t quite sure he knows what happened – but he likes it. And now, as a new storm brews, Punchy and Judy retreat together into the shelter of Punchy’s home, leaving no one outside on the platforms. The narrator concludes, as Punchy shutters the upper window closed with a wink to the camera, that staying inside is “exactly what all young fellas and all pretty girls should do when conditions are – perfect.”

Fair Weather Fiends (Lantz/Universal, Woody Woodpecker, 11/18/46 – James Culhane, dir.) – Spurred on by the apparent screen success of Who’s Cooking Who? (discussed last week), director Culhane churns out a sort of sequel within less than half a year. This may have been rushing things a bit, as animation is less-smoothly executed (as if shorting on the work of in-betweeners), and gag material seems more derivative and/or less inspired.

Our scene opens on an ocean yacht cruising the sea, its stern displaying the name – “The Palsie-Walsie”. Panning to the deck, we discover the craft’s sole occupants are Woody and the Wolf, who, without a word of explanation as to how they resolved their previous cross-purposes, have suddenly become best buddies. This seems from the start unnatural and a contrived excuse to bring them together again, as it resolves nothing from the past cartoon for viewers who have previously seen it, and is equally unsettling for those who never saw the first picture, as the species difference alone would make it unlikely that Woody would choose a carnivorous wolf as a friend. The only attraction for Woody which does seem natural is that the ship is loaded with a bountiful supply of food – something that would definitely encourage Woody to take an ocean voyage. One wonders, however, who bought it? And the yacht? Woody had enough dough for a full dinner table at the opening of “Pantry Panic”, but was beat and broke in “Who’s Cookin’ Who?”. A mere six months of grasshopper industriousness couldn’t have bought him a ship and all this grub. The Wolf also didn’t seem like a millionaire in the past picture, so perhaps it would have made more sense if they had somehow hit a lottery or won a contest to explain their sudden wealth. Sure signs that the prime objective of this film was not to come up with a coherent storyline, but just to develop an excuse to put Woody and the Wolf in the same plight as in the previous cartoon.

The Wolf and Woody chow down upon a shipboard feast, and exchange mutial referrals to each other as “pal”, until the vessel is struck by a raging storm and waterspout. No new animation seems to have been created to depict the storm, all cels lifted verbatim from shots of “The Sliphorn King of Polaroo”. As in the two past Woody films of cannibalism, a sliding intertitle appears to fill the screen – “Day after day, the storm mounted in fury – Then suddenly it dismounted.” Merely running the waterspout animation in reverse, Woody and the Wolf are now seen washed up on a desert island. The Wolf tightens his belt, which has a meter built into the buckle that changes from “Full” to “Empty”. Woody states he is just “skin and bones”, opening his chest feathers like a vest to show off his skeletal rib cage inside. They find an oyster shell and briefly fight over it, the wolf claiming it for his own – but he is disgusted to find inside no meat – only a glittering pearl necklace! About a minute of time is eaten up on a gooney bird (the only visible inhabitant of the island), who wards off their attempts to capture him by snagging their grabby hands in a giant mouse trap. Finally, the usual happens, as Woody and the Wolf envision each other as food. As in Tex Avery’s “What’s Buzzin’, Buzzard?”, both pretend to leave in different directions in search of food – but merely run in a circle around the closest palm tree and collide behind it. The Wolf and Woody poke their heads around the front of the tree from opposite directions, the Wolf announcing, “Look what I found”, and raising his arm, clutching and displaying Woody’s tail end. Woody matches him: “So what! Look what I found!”, and holds up the Wolf’s tail and pants on his side. (This gag is admittedly clever due to its impossibility, as neither character has any footing on the ground.) Both attempt to take a bite of their “find”, but exit in a whirl of pain when bitten.

Woody spots a fish-shaped wooden sign reading “Fishing”. (Again a contrived, unlikely idea. Shouldn’t it say “No Fishing”, rather than openly suggesting to Woody that there is an alternative source of foodstuffs after all? Especially since Woody produces a pole and line from nowhere, which could have been used to secure such a meal.) Woody ties the wooden sign to a fishing line, and throws it at the Wolf. Borrowing from previous films, the Wolf again pours catsup on the “fish”, but only eats the sauce in mid-air, as Woody pulls the wooden fish out of his grip. The Wolf pursues the “fish” across the beach, then behind a set of bushes as Woody reels in. The Wolf jumps headfirst into the bush, which falls away, revealing view of the Wolf waist-deep in a cooking pot. Another straight lift from Tex Avery ensues, as Woody offers him a taste of “Creme de Wolf” soup, passing the Wolf his own leg to chomp on. The Wolf leaps into the air, repeating a gag from a past Culhane success – Andy Panda’s “Fish Fry” (1944) – as he applies first-aid bandaging to his wounded limb while he sails through the sky. Upon the Wolf’s falling back to earth, Woody jumps into a log. The Wolf picks up the log, and feeds it into a convenient nearby bread slicer. (At least the characters in “Buzzard” appeared to be supplying their own respective props – who’s the prop man in this picture?) Sorting through each slice, the Wolf can find no Woody in the center, and scratches his head in a waist-high close-up. The camera pulls back for another surprise reveal, showing the Wolf once again submerging into a meat grinder. The Wolf pops himself out, grabs a wooden club, and advances toward Woody. Swiping the “array of lethal weapons” bit from Avery’s “Buzzard”, the camera cuts back and forth between views of Woody and the Wolf, escalating their armament from knife to woodsman’s axe to scimitar to headsman’s axe to flame thrower to cannon, and finally a pair of respective advancing Sherman tanks at full throttle. They collide head-on at a junction where the gooney bird is proprietor of a lunch stand – “Gooney’s Hot Dogs and Hamburgers”. (Wonder where he gets his clientele – do shipwrecks happen every day?) Spotting the abundant food, all is forgiven between the two combatants, as they gorge themselves on Gooney’s wares. But Woody has a longer memory than the Wolf, and hands him a hamburger with the Wolf’s leg inside, for a repeat performance of the bite-yourself gag. Standard Woody laugh, and iris out.

Overture to William Tell (Lantz/Universal, Musical Miniatures, 6/16/47 – Dick Lundy, dir.) – One of only two films produced by Lantz in which the studio’s popular “Swedish meatball”, Wally Walrus, was allowed to shine as a solo star, rather than as a foil for Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, or Chilly Willy. As with so many of Lundy’s “Musical Miniatures”, the setting is a concert, this time within a legitimate concert hall. Being a musical cartoon, Wally does not get an opportunity to rely upon his comic Swedish accent, performing no dialogue, and relying entirely upon somewhat Edgar Kennedy-influenced frustration pantomime.

As the orchestra tunes up, a platform rises from the theater basement to the center of the stage, intended for conductor Wally to make a grand entrance. Instead, it rises too soon, catching the maestro in a red undershirt, and in the middle of giving himself a shave. Hearing the audience laughing behind him, Wally angrily signals a stage hand to lower the platform and get him out of view quick. The stagehand does so, dropping the platform completely out from under the walrus, leaving him to fall with a crash back into the basement. A few moments later, he rises again, awkwardly slipping into the last elements of his concert tuxedo, and ready to majestically wield his baton. Unlike Disney’s ”The Band Concert”, Lundy’s version of the Overture takes on portions of all four movements of the work, in their original sequence (the Storm being movement number 2). Wally has some trouble, however, getting his orchestra past the first movement, which is undoubtedly the dullest and least remembered of the four. His orchestra keeps falling asleep – with various unexpected results. A goat snores into a saxophone at intervals, the instrument emitting the foghorn-like slogan of Lifebuoy soap – “B. O. (Body Odor)”. Am owl violinist plays extended notes by using an endless row of bows tied together, producing the world’s longest bow. It extends out the window, knocking a scoop of ice cream off the cone of a construction worker across the street, then depositing the ice cream atop a piece of pie another worker is just taking out of his lunch box, for a surprise course of pie a la mode. A cat hungrily eyes a canary in a cage, but is highly pleased when the bow extends under the bird’s perch and projects him out through the cage bars into the open. However, the long note ends, and the bow is retracted, forcing the cat to pursue the bird back toward the cage. With a quick sidestep, the canary shifts to hold the cage door open, tricking the cat into entering, then slamming the cage door to lock the cat inside it. Back at the theater, Wally finds his whole orchestra to be now fast asleep. Producing a pistol, and covering one ear with his other hand, he fires a shot into the air. The orchestra is simultaneously startled awake, and breaks into a triple-speed impromptu on the melody of “Jingle Bells”. Frustrated Wally pulls a rope, triggering off a traffic signal he has suspended from the rafters next to him for just such a situation, causing the signal to clang a bell and change to red, with a sign reading “STOP”.

The mood changes as Wally proceeds to the second movement – the famous Storm. Seeing this portion of the work coming up on the sheet music, one of the orchestra members dons a yellow raincoat and hat. A flute player pops out a portable umbrella from the shaft of his instrument. Even Wally turns on a windshield wiper on his sheet music stand. Dramatic string stings are produced by a group of five turtles, all bowing simultaneously upon one massive string bass. An old-timer of a stage hand waits in the rafters of the theater, ready to contribute his part to the performance, by providing via the magic of backstage levers, transformers, valves and switches the most realistic of special effects for this portion of the concert. Electric volts emit from a generator, stabbing down in the form of a lightning bolt upon a trombone player, briefly turning him into a glowing x-ray image, and twisting his trombone barrel into a pretzel knot. Artificial rain pours down upon the performers from a sprinkler system, causing the bass player to take refuge inside his instrument, bowing it from arm holes cut in the sides of the wooden frame. Wally finds himself conducting while waist-deep in accumulated water. The stagehand turns on a wind machine, nearly blowing himself out of the rafters, and blowing off all of his clothing except his underwear. More animation from “The Sliphorn King of Polaroo” is repeated verbatim, including the whirling waterspout, and even an actual shot of Jackson himself, repeating his move of propelling himself through the water by blowing air through the bell of his trombone. Wally is now completely submerged, his head at least four feet below the waterline. The stagehand realizes something is wrong, and tugs at a large chain, pulling up from the waters an oversized bathtub drain plug. The waters subside, emptying out from below Wally’s toes. Wally’s tuxedo, however, continues to feel the effects of the deluge, suddenly shrinking as if intent on strangling the walrus, but then popping off as it becomes too small to fit, leaving Wally reduced to his red undershirt, bow tie, and dickey. The music changes into the third movement – the calm, as a clarinetist blows water out of every hole in his instrument, another player wrings out a wooden violin as if it were an old rag, a trumpeter dries out his instrument through a laundry wringer, the harpist reads his sheet music as it dries out on a laundry line string from the top of his harp, and the bass player bails out water from the interior of the instrument with a bailing pail. The final movement (the well-known Lone Ranger theme), is played with the interference of a galloping horsefly, whom Wally pursues with a swatting paddle, attacking in the process one after another of his orchestra members, until the whole orchestra lies in a heap, and Wally himself lies stuck inside the bowl of the tympani drum. The horsefly beats out the last few drumbeats on Wally himself with a drummer’s mallet, then gives a horselaugh – but Wally has the last laugh, bringing down a final cymbal crash, trapping the horsefly between the cymbals, where he grins sheepishly for the iris out.

Until it shows up on MeTV, you can watch it here.

Along Came Daffy (Warner, Daffy Duck, 6/4/47 – I. Freleng, dir.) – A lonely log cabin in the wilderness suffers the ravages of a raging blizzard outside, the surrounding terrain blanketed in snow and icy winds. Inside reside two lonely trappers – one a prototype Yosemite Sam, and the other his nearly-identical twin (except for having a black beard instead of a red one). The cabin is bare of foodstuffs – so much so that a mouse on the verge of starvation is forced to raid a mouse trap, baited with only a printed illustration of cheese rather than the real thing, and burping confetti as he eats the picture. One of the trappers paces the floor, while the other sits at a dinner table, on which rest neglected cutlery and plates, but no food. The eyes of the brother at the table follow closely the movements of the pacing brother, transforming the image of his walking legs into a pair of pacing turkey drumsticks. The hallucinating brother rises from the table, carrying a knife and fork in each respective hand. The pacing brother sees him, and suddenly hallucinates too, transforming the image of his oncoming brother into that of a walking club sandwich with a cherry tomato for a nose and olives on toothpicks for legs. Both continue to slowly advance at one another, until one accidentally kicks over an opened tin can on the floor, from out of which rolls a single, neglected pea. As the brothers revert to human form, about to pounce at this last remaining tidbit, out from the mousehole darts the starved mouse, wearing the uniform of a miniature basketball player. He dribbles the pea around the room like a miniature ball, evading the grasp of the trappers, then launches the pea for a shot across the room. Zipping to the opposite side of the room near the mousehole, the mouse outraces the pea, opens his mouth widely to simulate a basket, and catches the pea in a shot that rolls around his extended lips like a rim, then falls into his open mouth. The mouse makes a hasty retreat back into the hole, as the trappers collide with one another in a scramble to get at the meddlesome rodent. The brothers brawl among themselves on the floor, until an unexpected knock is heard on the cabin door. Opening it, the brothers discover Daffy Duck, carrying a large salesman’s suitcase and dressed in a heavy fur parka. “Could I interest you in our new super-deluxe cook book?”, asks the duck. “NO!”, shouts one of the brothers, slamming the door in Daffy’s face. He angrily marches back into the cabin, but a cutaway view inside the trapper’s skull reveals a message being transmitted as if by electrical impulses into the small peanut-sized brain within his cranium – “Hey, Dope! You just passed up a duck dinner!” “Duck?”, responds the trapper to his own thoughts, and dashes back to the door. Daffy is fortunately still there, and immediately invited in. One brother starts putting some logs on the stove in preparation for some foreseeable cooking, but Daffy responds “Don’t bother fixing anything for me. I just finished ,my lunch.” As Daffy begins flipping through the pages of the book for a good sample recipe, the other brother prompts him to look up recipes for duck. Oblivious to the meaning of the request, eager-to-please Daffy flips to a recipe for roast duck. “After lopping off its head and feet…” Daffy’s eyes widen, and he begins perspiring profusely. He flips to recipes for soups, pausing randomly at one whose main ingredient is diced duck. Daffy turns briefly white. “What you want is a dish of delicious ice cream”, suggests Daffy, asiding to the audience, “I’d like to see them sneak a duck into this one.” The book obliges, by suggesting as a topping, “Sprinkle profusely with crushed duck.” All the brothers can now see is images in their eyes of Daffy’s carcass simmering in a roasting pan. Tugging at the white line of feathers around his neck as if a tight collar, Daffy suggests opening the door, as it seems to be getting “stuffy in here”. One brother opens it widely, with a low bow to Daffy. Daffy pauses, then makes a run for the exit – but the brother blocks his way with the roasting pan, landing Daffy right where he wants him. Daffy holds up a small sign reading “Yipe”, and breaks into hysterical “woo woo”s as he runs for his life.

The chase takes some mad twists and turns. Daffy runs backwards, as one of the brothers begins plucking off his feathers. Daffy tries to talk his way out of things, punctuating his running with the unfinished phrases, “My company…has authorized me to…” But the brothers will not give up the pursuit. One of the funniest bits has Daffy shut himself in a room, where he discovers a crate full of mechanical duck decoys. When one of the brothers enters, he finds a room full of identical black ducks, hopping around in mad fashion and yelling “Woo woo”, identically to Daffy’s trademark moves. The only way to detect the real duck is for the brother to grab a shotgun, and repeatedly fire at the ducks in the room, until all that is left is a pile of stray feathers, nuts, bolts, and gears, and one lone duck, visibly sweating, and uttering his “Woo woos very quietly and nervously. A shotgun blast, and Daffy is briefly denuded, down to a hidden set of women’s black underwear he conceals beneath his feather coat. As Daffy’s feathers return to his person, the brother grabs him, stuffing him forcibly into the oven. Daffy’s head emerges from under one of the stove lids, and he advises the brothers, “I suppose it would be utterly futile at this time to inform you that my company has authorized me to give away absolutely free a complete six-course turkey dinner.” On the contrary, the brothers react eagerly to the offer, and Daffy opens his suitcase, to reveal a pop-up table, and the entire dinner buffet atop it, piping hot and ready to eat. The brothers’ eyes bug out as they survey all the fixings on the table, and Daffy, back in his parka, makes a graceful exit, reminding them that the “Classy-Cut Knish Catering Company made it possible. I bid you – so long.” We seem to have reached a happy ending – until out of the mousehole charges a stampede of starved mice, who devour everything on the table before the brothers can blink an eye (including sopping up the last bit of turkey gravy with a slice of bread). The brothers are right ack where they started – and so, as it happens, is Daffy, who appears again at the door with one final sales pitch. “Can I interest you in some dee-licious after dinner mints?” Seen from a view outside the cabin, Daffy is once again yanked inside, then briefly appears to the audience to say, “Well, here we go again”, disappearing back inside the door, where another round of chasing and woo woos is heard, for the black out.

Crazy With the Heat (Disney/RKO, Donald and Goofy, 8/1/47 – Bob Carlson, dir.) – Donald and Goofy once again hit the road, much in the manner of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and once again encounter the rigors of heat, this time on land instead of by sea. This would be their last pairing together as a duo. It is also the only known director credit for Bob Carlson on a short (Carlson normally devoting his time to the feature division). How he got the project rather than one of Disney’s directing regulars is unknown – yet, there were other similar strange rotations of the director’s chair going on around the same time. Jack Kinney had been recruited into the feature division, including for work on “Mr. Toad”, leaving Jack Hannah to briefly assume his chair for several episodes of the Goofy series in addition to his regular split of Donald Duck duties with Jack King. Clyde Geronimi would fall back into the shorts department for one film to bail out Hannah, on Goofy’s “The Big Wash”. So it can only be surmised that Hannah, shouldering an ever-increasing share of the Donald load, was being overworked in Kinney’s absence, and just couldn’t assume this extra project, despite his successful helming of the duo’s previous two appearances together. While Carlson presumably tries his best, this production is unusually short, barely exceeding six minutes, suggesting that it was turned out in a comparative hurry. Its ending also falls flat – possibly the reason Carlson never received a return engagement in the shorts department.

Once again, our starring heroes find themselves lost – in the middle of a Middle-Eastern desert. Their jalopy (windshield plastered with travel stickers of the type usually seen on steamer trunks) breaks down After virtually dismantling the car to find the trouble, Goofy diagnoses the situation – “She’s just outta gas.” He sets off across the sands in a hopeless quest to “get a few gallons”, with frustrated Donald tagging along. As the baking sun beams down upon them, Goofy reaches for his canteen, and starts gulping down the whole works. Donald grabs the canteen away, capping it. “You gotta ration it”, he warns Goofy, reminding him that they’re lost. Goofy insists that he’s never lost, because he carries a map. He does indeed – a micro-scale “Map of the World”. As Donald watches in helpless disbelief, Goofy tries to read this nearly useless guide in the only way he can – under a large magnifying glass. Glass plus sunlight equals – FIRE!, as the map ignites into flames. In a panic, Goofy grabs back the canteen, poring out its contents to put out the blaze. Donald goes into hysterics, and on inspecting the canteen, finds left only one drop – which falls into the sand. Donald becomes a human mole, frantically digging an endless hole in a futile attempt to catch up with that last remaining moisture.

Nonchalant Goofy leaves Donald to his new pastime, and decides to have a look around. He encounters a fade-in image of a surprisingly welcome sight – the “Oasis Soda Fountain”. “Guess I’ll go in and wet my whistle”, says Goofy. He is greeted by a large, seemingly jovial, but transparent Sheik. Goof orders a double ice cream soda, which is slid to him on the bar, complete with cherry on top. Goof tosses the cherry in the air to catch in his mouth. But the cherry never lands, as glass, bar, and barstool all disappear. “It’s gone!”, says Goofy. “So it is” says the Sheik’s voice, as the bar fades in again. “Woulds’t have another?” Another drink materializes on the bar. Goofy gets the glass in his hand, only to have everything disappear again. “Hey”, says Goofy, opening the fingers of his empty hand wide. “Four more?” says the Sheik’s voice, counting his fingers. “Thou art indeed thirsty!” Four more glasses slide down the reappearing bar. Goofy plays it cool, ignoring the drinks, then suddenly leaping on them, but falls right through the vanishing bar onto his face. As he rises, he hits his head on the reappearing bar counter. “Somethin’ wrong here. I’m gettin’ outta this clip joint”, says our hero. But the Shiek insists on the small matter of a fee – six bucks. “I won’t pay it”, says Goof. Suddenly a tall stack of dirty plates, cups and saucers materializes in Goofy’s hands, and the Sheik reappears carrying a scimitar. “Thou shalt not break any, now shalt thou?”, he warns.

Back at the sands, Donald has dug himself halfway to China – but no water. Now the desert madness starts to get to him, as he envisions – icebergs! Of course, each one turns out to be a sand dune, a palm tree, and the last one Goofy with the dishes. (By the way, with no water for miles, what did the Sheik expect Goofy to wash the dishes in?) Donald collides with Goofy, and the dishes go flying, landing in a cracked heap around them. “Tis done” says the Sheik, fading in again. “Off comes thy head!” He swipes furiously at our heroes, barely missing Goofy, but connecting with Donald’s hat, cutting the top off it, then swinging a fist blow that gives Donald a black eye. “Look out, Donald”, says Goofy, “Duck!” But of course, Donald takes it on the chin again. Then the writers seem to get stuck for an ending, and merely have our heroes run, the Sheik disappearing from the action except for his voice yelling “Stop”, and the boys finding a convenient camel at an oasis and mounting up for a getaway, Goofy shouting, “We’re saved.” Just too pat – with no punch line whatsoever. How did this plot hole pass Disney’s keen eye – or was he looking the other way at some feature project, and missed the story session entirely? I guess what can one expect from substitute help. (My suggestion for the unwritten ending. Goofy continues to gallop with the camel, then snaps his fingers as he realizes, “Almost forgot sump’tin’.” He quickly spins the camel in reverse direction, and gallops back, passing the Sheik in a blur. The camera holds on the Sheik, as he reacts to offscreen action. “No! Stop that! Vile infidel!”, as Goofy and the camel return, zipping past the Sheik again in their original direction, and leaving him in the dust. The scene cuts back to a close shot on Goofy, who is now carrying an armload of the elusive sodas. He laughs his “Hyulk” laugh to the audience as he displays one of the sodas in his hand, and begins downing one after the other as he rides. The camera pans back to Donald, still hanging on to the tail of the camel, who merely reacts by shrugging his shoulders, as if to say, “What is there to do about it?”.

Flying South (Terrytoons/Fox, Heckle and Jeckle, 8/15/47 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – Terrytoons budgets being what they were, the special weather effects in this film don’t last past the first two scenes. A cold autumn wind whistles across a country landscape, bending trees, mailboxes, and even buildings. Heckle and Jeckle, toting a large traveling suitcase, are caught in the crosswinds while in flight, dodging non-stop streams of dry autumn leaves. Heckle’s feathers are briefly turned inside out as he struggles to maintain flying speed. Then both birds are struck head -on by a section of fence board blown loose by the breeze, and come crashing down to earth. The wind abruptly stops (saving Terry a bundle), but Heckle has still had enough, and announces he’s through with migration. “Every summer, it’s fly north. Every winter, its fly south. I’m stayin’ right HERE!” Here turns out to be in front of a cosy-looking residence, with a mailbox reading “Grandma”. Speculating that it might be Red Riding Hood’s grandma, Jeckle proposes that they disguise themselves as a couple of orphans, and “maybe the old girl will adopt us.” Digging into their satchel, they come up with a pair of baby bonnets at the ready, then jump into a basket, positioning themselves on the doorstep. “Oh, Grandma”, they cry out in unison, then hide in the basket under a blanket. The basket is taken inside, but when they peep out, they are looking face to face into the eyes of the Wolf. The Wolf attempt to calm their initial fright, informing them that Grandma doesn’t live there anymore, and besides, they shouldn’t believe all the things they’re liable to read. Jeckle is willing to keep an open mind, observing that the Wolf doesn’t seem like such a bad fellow.

Just to prove the point, the Wolf invites them to stay for dinner. However, when the refrigerator door is opened to allow the magpies to peer in at the full supply of goodies, the Wolf unexpectedly slams the freezer door suddenly, almost snapping off the magpies’ heads. Something doesn’t seem just right, and Jeckle asks what they’re having for dinner. The facade is dropped, as the Wolf replies in matter-of-fact silken tones, “Magpie stew.” Heckle smacks his lips (that is, beak), claiming he can just taste it now, then gasps, “We’re magpies.” That’s about all the plot setting you need, and about all the writers wrote. From there on, it’s a non-stop chase and typical screwball magpie retaliation. Some gags are strangely unique and surreal, while others are lifted from other studios’ cartoons, and still others get downright violent. Tex Avery’s doors-appearing-everywhere room is copied, while Bugs Bunny’s instant mixing and baking of a batter to smack the villain with, from “Racketeer Rabbit”, is also pilfered. There is good timing of a sequence in the kitchen, among a wall of numerous kitchen cabinets, with the magpies popping out of one drawer after another at random, to clobber the Wolf from all directions with kitchen condiments and utensils. One gag that only H&J would have attempted has the Wolf outrace them, to appear behind a door ahead they haven’t yet opened. As the Wolf advances toward Heckle, the magpie remarks, “That was a smart trick you pulled. But if someone told you what I was going to you, you wouldn’t believe it was possible.” As he delivers this line, his torso and right arm separate from his head and left arm, the latter staying suspended in mid-air to keep up conversation with the Wolf, while Heckle’s body walks around behind the Wolf, giving him a good strong kick through the doorway. Three gag sequences are censored out of current prints, but have been restored (in a foreign language) on one Youtube video. The first gag is similar to Woody Woodpecker’s in “Who’s Cooking Who”, as one of the magpies places an open hot waffle iron in position where the wolf is about to set his hand down on a kitchen counter. Yeoww, that’s hot. Another bit of surrealism, predicting Wile E. Coyote, has the wolf paint a fake set of saloon doors and doorway across a solid fence, adding a picture of a cocktail over the top of the fake entrance. He hopes the magpies will crash into the fence, but instead, they saunter inside the establishment through the swinging doors. The Wolf tries, it, of course running face first into the fence. One of the magpies appears atop the fence, and to add insult to injury, picks up the painted cocktail glass, consumes its contents, then smashes the glass upon the Wolf’s noggin. A final censored gag has the Wolf take a rifle shot at the magpies through a knothole in the staves of a barrel – but he finds no birds inside. Instead, the magpies are scrunched inside the barrel of his gun. The Wolf tries to shake them out, then looks straight down into the gun barrel. The birds emerge out the stock end of the barrel, then pull the rifle’s trigger, seemingly blasting the Wolf’s head off – until it pops out from between his shoulders, returning to normal position. Finally, both birds are captured, and placed in an oven. Heckle appears from under one of the stove lids, and melodramatically states, “Well, I guess this is the end. Here, take my watch. I won’t be needing it where I’m goin’” (His tone suggests a permanent move to a land of fire and brimstone.) The Wolf holds up the watch to view, and has to admit that was very nice of his victim to do. But the back panel of the gold watch opens, revealing a fuse burning down, until the watch suddenly explodes with a hidden bomb. The ending of the film is, however, strange. First, while the Wolf is blasted some distance from the explosion site, he does not seem physically worse for wear, yet suddenly runs and disappears over the hill for no apparent reason. Is he merely appalled by the sight of naked birds – as the camera returns to the site of the stove, which has been blasted apart, leaving the boys deprived of all of their feathers. And finally, a payoff that makes no sense. Heckle proposes that now that they’ve lost their feathers, maybe they’d better get South for the winter. Yet how can one explain them taking off for the trip by flying away – a feat impossible, even for a bird, with no feathers to provide lift and steering abilities? Someone should have thought this one through, too, to find some way to save an otherwise action-packed reel from leaving a non-plausible aftertaste in one’s mouth.

The First Snow (Terrytoons/For, Mighty Mouse, 10/10/47 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – As with the last cartoon, director Davis again uses his special effects sparingly for only the first few establishing shots, setting up the first snow of the season, then fades the snowflakes away to provide static wintertime backgrounds for the remainder of the cartoon’s action. Here, a community of small bunnies frolics at the arrival of wintertime. There is as usual some reuse of animation, including a perspective downhill shot of a toboggan run that dates at least as far back as “Swiss Ski Yodelers”. A young mother rabbit takes for an outing her two baby bunnies in a baby carriage equipped with skis instead of wheels, and leaves them to watch her from the banks of a frozen pond, while Mom performs some precision figure skating a la Sonja Henie. But there is a peril afoot. In a small hovel live three foxes. One, who is definitely their leader, sharpens his set of false teeth on a grinding-stone blade sharpener, then emerges to stalk the rabbits and bring dinner home to the table. He tries to follow several skiing rabbits down a slope, forgetting he is not wearing skis himself to stay above the snow. Thus, his heels dig ino the snowdrift, and he descends lower and lower into the snow as he slides down the hill, finally crashing head on into the lower half of a half-hidden tree trunk deep below the snow line. The fox sets a bear trap for another approaching rabbit skier, who also descends deep unto the snow while sliding down the slope. However, there is a difference this time, as, instead of hitting the tree or encountering the trap, the ears of the rabbit (the only things visible) take separate paths to dodge right around the tree and the trap. Meanwhile, another rabbit, hidden in the tree trunk, gives the fox a hotfoot, causing him to jump and fall into the trap. He rises into the air through several tree limbs, howling in pain, then receives a bop on the head from the mallet of another rabbit high in the tree top. On his falling again, the fox grabs a bird’s nest off a limb, placing it under himself to provide a soft seat cushion on which to fall. But a baby bird is still inside the nest, and gives a sharp bite to the fox’s tail. The fox not only howls in pain, but loses the nest cushion, taking a double whammy to his rear end upon impact.

A chase on ice includes a gag with several rabbits just missing the fox with a row of consecutive mallet blows (a scene just used only a few short cartoons before in the same season, in “The Tortoise Wins Again”). A gag with a hole in the ice borrows from Blackie in “A Lamb in a Jam”, with a rabbit repositioning the hole with the end of a hockey stick to make the fox fall into the freezing water. Then one new twist is added, as the fox tries to swim to the surface to get out of his freezing predicament. The rabbit cleverly yanks the hole away to one side just as the fox reaches the surface, causing him to clunk his head and crack through a ceiling of solid ice. Then the fox gets lucky, as a random explosion caused by a bunny inserting a stick of dynamite under his tail blasts the fox to the other end of the ice pond, where the mother rabbit is still skating. The fox grabs her skiing baby carriage, and takes off with her children across the ice. Time for a little divine intervention, as a flaming beam shoots out of the sun. “Is it a meteor? Is it an atomic bomb?”, asks the narrator. No, it’s Mighty Mouse. Mighty delivers a sock to the fox’s jaw, then a series of repeated pummeling blows, seemingly ignoring the fact that the baby carriage has been left with no one to steer it, continuing to slide at full speed across the ice. The sounds of the battle arouse the other two foxes to emerge from the hovel and take action. In a rare instance of retaliation against Mighty, they gang up upon him, and use him momentarily as a ping pong ball between their blows from opposite sides, delivering to Mighty the same pummeling he was giving their leader. Mighty finally breaks out from the rhythm of their blows, sending two foxes fleeing, and swinging the third around his head by the tail. A toss of the fox like a discus, and he collides with his fellow foxes on the ice, mixing all three up in a sliding heap. They flee off the frozen pond and up a snow-covered slope, but one can’t get traction, and braces himself against the stubs of two young saplings on either side of him in the snow. Mighty grabs hold of his tail, and pulls back upon him between the saplings, as if setting up a slingshot pull. Mighty lets go, launching the third fox up the slope, where he rolls into a snowball, then advances over the top of the hill crest, rolling back down upon the opposite slope, to overtake the other two foxes, rolling them into the snowball too. The baby carriage has by now reached the edge of a sheer cliff, and plummets over the side, then is followed momentarily by the foxes’ snowball, which also falls into the same canyon. Now Mighty engages in a power-dive race, as the snowball comes closer and closer to overtaking the baby bunnies before they all crash into the canyon floor. Mighty outdives and flies under the path of the snowball, pushing the baby carriage out of the ball’s trajectory just before impact. The babies are saved, while the foxes are flattened in their snowy confines upon the canyon bottom, with our final glimpse of them being a shot of their arms emerging from the snow, waving white flags of surrender. Mighty receives the crowd‘s cheers and the happy mother’s gratitude, for the fade out.

Don’t be late, as we enter ‘48, next time.


  • Well, well, another great array of classic cartoons featured here. You know how much I appreciate the fully descriptive element of these posts. Brings back a lot of memories of actually seeing these cartoons years ago. I especially appreciate the puppet tunes entries. I don’t recall ever actually seen either one of these. Great history, however. and, of course, nice to end this post with two Terry tunes cartoons, both of which were in heavy rotation when they were on television quite a bit.

  • There is, as you say, a fair bit of reused animation in “The First Snow”. The animation of the mother rabbit figure skating to “Tales from the Vienna Woods” was taken from “The Ice Carnival” (1941), and the opening scene of the young rabbits waking up to the fresh snowfall previously appeared in “The Snow Man” — not the 1940 black-and-white original, but the 1946 Technicolor remake.

    Both versions of “The Snow Man” (13/12/40 — Mannie Davis, dir.; and 11/10/46 — Connie Rasinski, dir.) deserve to be mentioned here, as they tell a story very similar to that of “Frosty the Snowman”, which would come out several years later in 1950. A trio of young rabbits build a snowman out of new-fallen snow. The cold north wind blows, bringing the snowman to life, and he and the rabbits have fun skating and sledding in the winter landscape. A Russian-accented bear locks the snowman up in his warm home as he goes out to hunt the rabbits. The snowman starts to melt in the heat, but the cold north wind revitalises him, and he rescues the rabbits from the bear. When the hot sun comes out from behind a cloud, the snowman says goodbye to the rabbits, and he slowly melts as he walks away.

    The scene in “Flying South” where Heckle’s body and right arm walk away from his head and left arm really freaked me out when I was little. The censored sequences from that cartoon can be seen, in English but in black-and-white, in a YouTube video of a 1956 broadcast of “CBS Cartoon Theatre”, hosted by Dick Van Dyke.

  • It seems curious to me to refer to one of the trappers in the Daffy Duck short “Along Came Daffy” as a prototype Yosemite Sam; when he made his first screen appearance in the Bugs Bunny short ‘Hare Trigger” (released May 5th,1945)

  • “Beanstalk Jack” (Terrytoons, 20/12/46 — Eddie Donnelly, dir.), not to be confused with the 1933 Terrytoon of the same title, has a very brief scene of a thunderstorm when the narrator describes the hardships of the impoverished family and intones: “They were down to their last bean, which they were saving for a rainy day.” Lightning flashes through the windows as the children sit down to their bare table; but by the time Jack steps outside to plant the bean a moment later, the weather has cleared up again. Later in the cartoon, however, the giant takes a shower by pulling the chain on a raincloud overhead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *