Animation Trails
October 11, 2023 posted by Charles Gardner

Unpredictable as Weather (Part 28)

1952’s and 1953’s weather offerings, though originating from a few less studios than in some seasons, still offer considerable entertainment value, with perhaps a bit less of the visual spectacle available in some past seasons. In attendance today are a certain wascally wabbit, a canary who constantly sees putty tats, two different ill-fated black ducks (Dinky from Terrytoons, and a double-dose of Daffy Duck with Porky), a double-date with the Terry Bears, and a memorable Disney one-shot. More good stuff to lighten a stormy day.

Papa’s Little Helpers (Terrytoons/Fox, Terry Bears, 1/1/52 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – The sign on the door of a local television and electronics shop looks appealing: “Come in and look around – You don’t have to buy.” But woe to those who linger around that door – as Papa Bear is dragged inside by a vaudeville hook, given a fast-talking sales pitch, and slid out the door bearing a TV set, a tag attached to it reading “Sold”. Hardly having the time to quite realize what has just happened, Papa trudges home, carrying the set while his torso and arms are wrapped in a coil of aerial wire and an antenna. Between his grumblings, Papa finds time to shoo two birds that attempt to land on the aerial. At the house, the Terry cubs cheer at the sight of the new set, then scurry down the stairs, meeting Papa with a jolt at the front door. They catch the set, and place it on a table in the living room, immediately busying themselves with twisting the set’s knobs, although it is not yet plugged in or wired to an aerial. Papa tells them to behave themselves, while he unravels the aerial wire from around him, then heads to the roof via an external ladder.

Papa straddles the pitched sides of the roof near the chimney, where he attempts to mount the antenna by metal straps to the chimney masonry, then lowers one end of the aerial wire down the side of the house to window level. The cubs see it, and grab the wire, dragging its end inside. They are within inches of the set – but are stopped cold, as the limit of the wire length is reached. The insistent cubs begin tugging with all their might to stretch the wire to the set. The missing length of wire is actually taken up by a loop that has developed around Papa’s foot, and as the cubs yank, Papa is pulled down one side of the roof, taking out a wide line of shingles during his descent. Papa hits the top rung of the ladder, flips the ladder away from the edge of the building – then destroys the ladder by plummeting through its rungs to the ground below. Papa’s hammer is the last thing to come down, conking Papa on the head. When the cubs emerge outside to help their dad, one of them open’s Dad’s eyelid, revealing written where his iris should be the word, “K.O.’d”. Smelling salts and a bucket of water in the face bring Papa to. Papa climbs to the roof again via the rain gutter. He attempts to hook the upper end of aerial line to the antenna. Meanwhile, the cubs have plugged in the set, then attempt to plug in the aerial wire – into the wrong hole. Electric current shoots upwards through the aerial wire to Papa, turning him glowing yellow. His mouth opens and emits the sounds of a broadcast speaker, while a TV picture glows from his nose. Papa falls to the ground, and walks zombified toward the house, taking a leaf from Lon Chaney, Jr. as the electrified man in 1941’s “Man-Made Monster”. Each time he raises an arm to reach for the front door or his favorite easy chair, a bolt of electricity shoots from his arm, obliterating what he points at. He finally shorts out in an explosion, and when he revives, has to be restrained by the kids to keep him from tearing the TV set apart.

Papa mounts to the roof again for final tacking-down of the aerial wire. But a high wind kicks up, first blowing the wire around, then lifting Papa off his feet, billowing out his pants like a sail. Papa clings with both hands to one edge of the roof, but is blown backwards, ripping out two more trails of shingles in typically loose-but-energetic Jim Tyer animation. Papa collides with the antenna, ripping out its metal mountings. He and the antenna shoot upwards into the sky, the metal rods caught in Papa’s shirt, so that he and the poles blow around in the wind as a unit, resembling the flight of a kite. The other end of the aerial wire is dragged out the living room window, and soon takes the TV set with it. The two cubs pursue the set. One leaps upon the set to ground it, while the other cub tugs at the line in attempt to maneuver Papa down. Papa is not the easiest kite to reel in, and slams down to earth in a shattering crash, right atop the TV set. Papa’s face turns red, and he begins shouting, “If I get my hands…” We never hear the rest, as a label “Censored” appears from nowhere over Papa’s lips. The final scene has Papa and the kids return to the TV store, with the parts of their destroyed set and antenna being hauled in a wheelbarrow. Rather than even quibble to get his money back, Papa merely hurls the contents of the wheelbarrow through the plate glass of the store’s front door – then proceeds with the kids to a local movie house that happens to be next door, purchasing three tickets at the box office. The family happily proceeds inside (past lobby posters advertising Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse), with the camera pulling back to reveal a marquee sign over the entrance reading “Movies are Better Than Ever.”

Water, Water, Every Hare (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 4/19/52 – Charles M. “Chuck” Jones, dir.) – A sequel to “Hair-Raising Hare”, intended to provide a comeback for the red-haired, tennis-shoed monster who would eventually become known as Gossamer (here, for the only time, referred to as “Rudolf” – any possible relation to his bright red color?). A rain-soaked evening has risen to flood-level conditions in the forest, and Bugs’ rabbit hole is right in its destructive path. Water pours down into the hole as if passing through a storm drain, and within moments, Bugs, asleep in his bed, is submerged under two feet of water. A cutaway view above and below water level shows us the effects of buoyancy on Bugs’ slumber. First, his feet rise, floating to the surface, and shifting his blanket upwards so that it is scrunched all over his shoulders. When he pulls his legs down, the reverse occurs, with his head and pillow floating to the surface, and the blanket falling to his feet. Bugs half awakens, and decides, of all things, that it’s time for a drink of water. Still completely submerged, he walks over to a water cooler, the bottle of which is just above water level. Reaching for a cup placed on top of the bottle, finicky Bugs pours and drinks water from the cooler instead of that which is all around him, then replaces the cup and trudges back to bed. Now, as soon as he settles down on the pillow, the entire mattress floats to the water surface, and begins to drift out a side entrance to Bugs’s tunnels, and out into the night air. The water flow joins up with that of a nearby river, and Bugs, still sound asleep, drifts nearer and nearer to a pair of twin waterfalls extending on each side of a sinister castle built upon the ledge of the cliff forming the drop-off point for the falls. Its resident makes no secret of his occupation, as neon lights on the castle facing the falls advertise in alternating displays, “Evil Scientist” – “Boo”.

Inside the castle, a small, green-complexioned fellow resembling and sounding like Vincent Price climbs a ladder to the top of a huge mechanical robot, about twenty stories tall. He dotes over his creation. “So nearly complete. So nearly perfect. If you only had a living brain.” Looking down through a turret window of the castle, the scientist spots the floating Bugs passing by, and remarks, “Hmmmm…” Fetching a rod and reel, he casts a line out the window, snagging the blanket in which Bugs is wrapped, and hauling him up in a neat bundle, just before Bugs’ mattress plunges over the falls. Inside the castle, the scientist places Bugs among a trio of mummy sarcophaguses, removing the wet blanket. Bugs, still asleep, gets the chills, and reaches for a blanket, instead grabbing the wrappings of one of the mummies and pulling it atop him. This leads to a very rude and shocking awakening – first, the sight of the mummies, then the mad doctor, then the robot. Bugs leaves the room screaming and in a state of utter panic. “Delays, delays”, mutters the scientist. Opening the same looming steel door marked “Monster” used in Hare-Raising Hare, Rudolf/Gossamer is summoned, and told to retrieve the rabbit, after which he will be rewarded with a spider goulash. Gossamer eagerly accepts the task.

Another sequence closely resembling Hare-Raising Hare follows, in which Bugs finds himself cornered between a dead-end corridor ending in a drop into an alligator pit, and the monster behind him. Adopting a feminine demeanor, Bugs converts to the personality of a ladies’ hair stylist (in the previous episode, he was a manicurist), and dupes the monster into submitting to a makeover and permanent. Using TNT sticks instead of curling irons, Bugs blasts the fur off the top of the monster’s dome, revealing a double bulge of bald pate. Gossamer twists his remaining hair into a cone to cover the bald spot, and resumes the chase. Bugs enters the scientist’s laboratory, encountering bottles of Vanishing Fluid and Reducing Oil. Pouring the vanishing fluid upon himself, Bugs becomes invisible – then torments the monster by slamming a trash can over his head, and pulling a throw rug out from under his feet. When Gossamer is down, invisible Bugs pours the reducing oil upon him. Gossamer growls fiercely – but his voice reduces to a feeble peep, as his body simultaneously shrinks to the size of a mouse. The frustrated monster disappears for a moment, then reappears dressed in traveling coat and hat and carrying a suitcase, making an exit by way of a mousehole, where he tosses the occupant mouse out of the wall, and slams a door on the hole, upon which he posts a sign reading “I quit.” The confused mouse reveals a stashed bottle of spirits marked “XXX”, and informs the audience, “I quit too.” Bugs is satisfied with a job well done, as he consumes a carrot which remains visible through his invisible stomach. But a flow of another fluid from above him causes Bugs to fade back into visibility. It is the scientist, standing on a shelf above him, having poured on Bugs the contents of a bottle marked “Hare Restorer”. “Be a cooperative little rabbit, and let me have your brain”, the scientist beckons. “Sorry. Doc, but I need what little I’ve got”, responds Bugs. The scientist pitches an axe at Bugs’ head. Bugs ducks, causing the axe to shatter a large bottle of ether. The ether has an instant effect upon the action, as a surreal slow-motion chase results, with the scientist pursuing Bugs out of the castle, and talking in slow motion too. Bugs slowly extends a foot to trip the scientist, who merely shrugs, shifts into a reclining position, and says “Nighty-night.” Bugs continues back in the direction of his rabbit hole, but himself trips slowly over a rock, and drifts into the same “nighty-night” mode, falling asleep as he hits the same flow of water which was flooding his hole, and is floated back through the hole into his own bedroom. He ends up asleep upon the still-underwater box spring of his bed, then suddenly awakens in total confusion. “Musta been a nightmare”, he concludes. He is quickly proven wrong, as the miniature Gossamer floats by in a small rowboat, squeaking, “Oh, yeah? That’s what you think.”

The Foolish Duckling (Terrytoons/Fox, Dinky, 5/1/52 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – If the little boy from Disney’s “The Reluctant Dragon” ever met Dinky Duck, he’d probably use “fowl” language and call the fledgling a “punk poet”. But he’d get no anger or argument from Dinky – ‘cause he’d be right. Dinky fritters away all his time, whether floating on an inner tube or relaxing under a tree, engaged in composing elemental verse for the sheer enjoyment of it – all the while ignoring the responsibility of taking lessons in what all good ducks should learn to do. Thus, he can’t swim, and he can’t fly (problems which would recur and be individually solved by Dinky in other episodes – though, inconsistently, he could swim perfectly in many of his earliest appearances, and fly as well as Mighty Mouse in “The Beauty Shop”). When graduation day arrives, all the other young ducklings receive diplomas and flying credentials, but Dinky is still under that same old tree. As the elder ducks line up the youngsters in flying formation, they take off for winter migration, minus Dinky, who merely falls with a thump every time he tries to leap off mounds only two feet tall. A winter storm sets in, and soon the ground is covered in white. Dinky attempts to make his way through the snow, but all his progress is backwards, as the wind blows him around like a downy feather, and turns his tail plumage inside-out to expose his pink bottom. Dinky is finally blown into a hollow of a tree trunk, and stays put, admitting to the audience that if he ever gets out of this alive, he’ll never neglect his lessons again. The clouds begin to part, and a small sunbeam breaks through, like a ray of hope. Along with it comes a pelican, dressed as a postman, with the words “Air Mail” printed on his bill pouch. “A letter for Dinky Duck”, he proclaims, and hands Dinky an envelope. It is from the Ducky-Wucky Cereal Company, announcing that a poem Dinky submitted to their contest has been awarded first prize – an all-expenses-paid flight to Florida. Dinky thus catches up with the migrating flock, comfortably seated and waving to them from the window of a DC-3, as a stewardess provides him with a tasty sandwich. Though his luck carried him through, the singing narration of the Satisfiers suggests that next time, Dinky won’t take chances, acknowledging “It’s better to learn to fly.”

Cracked Quack (Warner, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, 7/5/52 – I. (Friz) Freleng, dir.) – Daffy, wishing he’d chosen to fly south sooner, flaps his way headlong into a raging blizzard. Visibility reduces to zero, and Daffy gets only a shadowy glimpse of something up ahead. Wham! Daffy’s silhouette is revealed as a dent in the snowy covering of a pitched roof, followed by a trail of snow fallen away below, as Daffy himself is spotted on a lower windowsill, having slid off the roof amidst a pile of roof snow. “Holy smoke! That building ran right out in front of me”, he complains. Wiping away a circle of frost from the window, Daffy curiously peers into the structure – a residential home, with a living room and fireplace decorated with a few items of hunting memorabilia. Prominent among these is a life-like duck, standing on a pedestal atop the mantel. Assuming the duck to be alive, Daffy remarks, “Well! There’s one of our boys that’s got this flying south business licked.” Daffy decides to drop in, and approaches the duck with a proposition to keep him company all winter. Extending a hand in friendship, Daffy says, “Put it there, brother.” He is miffed when the duck doesn’t return the courtesy with a handshake. “Uh, half-brother? Cousin? Total stranger?” Presuming the duck to be stuck-up and uppity, Daffy begins to poke him as he complains of his lack of hospitality. The rigid duck rocks backwards, then forward again, poking Daffy back with its beak. Daffy ends up in a fight with the impolite stranger, claiming he’ll “knock the stuffings out of ya’.” In fact, he does just that, discovering the stranger is a stuffed duck. This gives Daffy an idea to obtain free room and board. Stowing away the stiffed duck in a closet, Daffy cases the residence, discovering Porky Pig in his study, busily trying to calculate his income taxes, while Porky’s large dog emerges to take his place on a rug before the fireplace hearth. Realizing a noticeable absence needs to be filled, Daffy darts past the mongrel, assuming the place of the stuffed duck atop the pedestal. The dog isn’t quite sure what happened, but settles down in a position allowing him to keep an eye on the mantel.

Several hours pass on the clock. The dog is still staring. “I can see where this moron is gonna give me trouble”, mutters Daffy. He attempts to frighten the dog away, by pushing a heavy vase off the mantel with one foot, causing it to crash on the dog’s head. The dog barks furiously, but still doesn’t leave. A fly chooses this moment to land on Daffy’s nose. Daffy twitches his bill violently, then brings his eyebrows down suddenly to smack the fly. The bug falls off his beak to the floor below, landing in front of the dog. In sped-up voice, the insect complains to the dog, “He’s a live duck, I tell ya’. He had you fooled all the time. Quack quack, quack, qiack, quack.” The dog starts barking at Daffy, arousing Porky from his tax returns. Porky accuses the dog of having “burned out a bearing or something”, as the duck’s been stuffed for years. He grabs Daffy’s feet, taking him down from the mantel, and proves his point, by insisting that the head of the duck is only made of wood, and slamming it repeatedly upon the floor. Daffy is placed back on the pedestal, but, out of Porky’s view, wobbles noticeably from the beating he has just taken.

In the middle of the night, Daffy raids the ice box, but is caught red-handed by the dog. Producing a bone from the meal he has just devoured, Daffy bluffs the dog into pursuing it, as he tosses the bone out an upper-story window. The dog jumps out into thin air, then darts back, barely clinging to the window ledge. Closing the window after him, Daffy looks at the pathetic face of the dog in his precarious situation, and admits he can’t stand to see the poor dog suffer – so he merely pulls down the window shade so he doesn’t have to look at him. The dog only regains entry by crawling on the ledge over to Porky’s window, where Porky first reacts casually, “Rover, there’s a dog here to see you”, then double-takes as he realizes it is Rover himself. Getting back inside, the dog is more determined than ever to catch Daffy. Daffy fakes him out, retrieving the stuffed duck from the closet, and waddling him down an inclined board past an open doorway in the dog’s view. The dog seizes the dead duck, and begins chewing more stuffing out of him. Porky again appears, accusing the dog of insanity, and threatening him that one more incident like this, and he’ll put the dog’s tail in the pencil sharpener. Daffy thinks this has cured the dog of further interference, and begins to tiptoe back to the mantel. But Porky re-enters the room, grabbing Daffy by the neck. “N-now I’ll have to stuff that duck all over again.” In the following scenes, Porky force-feeds Daffy an entire box of cotton balls, until he stands again on the pedestal, barely able to move, looking more like an overstuffed pillow than a duck. Outside, another flight of passing black dicks lands and flocks around the windowsill. Seeing Daffy, they too think one of their brothers has got this flying south business beat. Porky enters the living room with his tax forms, complaining that these returns would come out all right if he only had a few dependents. “Did you say dependents? You got ‘em, brother”, responds Daffy, giving up his ruse, and graciously opening the front door. To his dismay, Porky now finds his whole house overrun by the flock from outside, who take over the place, partying and even dancing the Charleston, for the iris out.

A loose, less action-packed adaptation of the same story, substituting Elmer Fudd in Porky’s role, appeared on Capitol records as “Daffy Duck’s Feathered Friend”.

The Little House (Disney/RKO, 8/8/52 – Wilfred Jackson, dir.) – A charming and imaginatively-conceived adaptation of a children’s book by Virginia Lee Burton. A small, newly-constructed bungalow on a hill in the country (whose windows and front porch steps form eyes and a mouth to produce expression) is purchased as a honeymoon cottage for a pair of newlyweds, who kiss at the threshold while the house blushes. Soon, the place as abounding in new arrivals in the form of a growing family. But in the quiet of night, the house periodically ponders the distant lights of a city – which seem to be getting less and less distant. Before the house knows it, she is surrounded by upscale mansions that have moved in on her territory. She tries to be friendly, attempting to match the polite society music emanating from the mansion windows with her own rural fiddle music, but receiving only turned-up noses and social snubs from the upper-class mansions. A fire suddenly breaks out within one of the mansion windows, the flames leaping across the sky driven by wind, and lighting afire the mansion on the opposite side. Fire engines race to the scene, pouring water everywhere. The mansions are destroyed, but somehow the little house survives in all the cross-currents of water falling upon her. She acknowledges what happened to the mansions is a pity, but observes that they weren’t very friendly anyway.

Time passes. A new century dawns (depicted by election posters for McKinley), and the pace of life quickens as the automobile takes over the carriage trade. The house finds herself “surrounded by progress”, as the deep city has moved in atop her, where she is now overshadowed by tall brick tenements, and low-class tenants who bicker and make noise. Given the run-down condition of the neighborhood, the family moves out of the house, leaving the empty structure to “stand her ground”, with a “For Rent” sign on her lot. While the slum element drunkenly shouts the praises of a Happy New Year, the house, covered in snow and leftover party streamers, feels she can never be happy so long as this “empty feeling” continues within.

More time elapses, and the wrecking ball takes away the tenements. In their place arrive steam shovels, and construction crews with girders. In a twinkling, “the sky’s the limit”, as tall skyscrapers move in on the block, shading out all sunlight from the lonely house below. All she can see for light are the ever-present neon from the street and shop signs in the hustle and bustle of city life, which send her window-eyes spinning. To add to dramatic effect, a rainstorm hits, with columns of raindrops seeming to converge into the concrete canyon leading to the house’s roof, and drenching her mood to a state of base depression. All hope seems to have vanished, and when a work crew arrives in a truck marked “Ajax Wrecking”, the house assumes the end has come. “Get it over with – I’m just in the way”, she thinks, as the workmen pry her from her foundation with crowbars. She is moved onto a trailer, and begins to be towed across town. The house has not observed, however, that the truck’s sign extends beyond the word “wrecking”, and continues, “and moving”. To the house’s surprise, she finds herself placed upon a new foundation – atop a country hill. With a little paint and some elbow-grease, she is cleaned, repaired, and spruced up to look as good as she did in the opening shots – and to her greater surprise, a modern-day newlywed couple arrives to claim the house as their own. The circle of life repeats itself, and narrator Sterling Holloway concludes “The best place to find peace and happiness is in a little house, on a little hill, way out in the country.”

Fool Coverage (Warner, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck, 12/13/52 – Robert McKimson, dir.), receives honorable mention – for inclusion of weather as a conditional term in an impossible policy of insurance. Daffy, as representative of the Hotfoot Casualty Underwriters’ Insurance Company of Schenectady, offers a policy which will pay one million dollars for a black eye. Only a few minor conditions – provided ut occurs as a result of a stampede of wild elephants in your own living room on the 4th of July between 3:55 and 4:00 p.m., during a hailstorm. These terms are thoroughly disclosed to Porky – while his ears are covered in earmuffs. But Porky claims he’s not in the market for an accident policy, as he never has accidents. Daffy sets out to prove him wrong. Porky’s first act is to look for a missing screwdriver – which he recalls he left in the oven. (?) Porky looks for it inside the oven with a lighted match. Daffy advises him he should never do such a thing, even though Porky comes out unscathed. “You should use a flashlight, like so”, Daffy demonstrates. “BOOM” goes the stove, tight in Daffy’s face. “Must have been a short in my battery”, the battered duck surmises.

Daffy sets up various other “booby traps” to prove how easily accidents can happen, including “priming” a Fibber McGee hall closet to overflowing, setting a rocking chair with sawed-off rear runners next to a hole sawed in the floor, and substituting a TNT stick for a candle. All of course backfire on the duck. When the latter’s blast shoots Daffy through three stories of ceiling above him, the bedraggled duck reappears at the front door, claiming he represents the “sumptin’ or other insurance company”, but is shocked to find Porky receptive to purchasing a policy. After witnessing all of Daffy’s own unfortunate mishaps, Porky is ready to sign on the dotted line. Daffy gets his contract, bit then reveals all those nasty fine print terms. No matter – as everything in them starts to come true. Enter a herd of wild elephants through the front door, trouncing on Porky. 3:57 p.m., as patriotic music outside indicates the calendar date of July 4th is correct. A look by Daffy out another door results in a goodly share of lumps being received by Daffy’s head. “Hailstorm”, he informs the audience. And Porky has his black eye. But Daffy claims there’s one more fine print provision – that the stampede be of wild elephants, “and one baby zebra”. He asides to the audience that he just threw that one in. On cue, the gallop of tiny hoofs is heard, and the requisite baby zebra enters the door and tramples Daffy. The ruined dick faints dead away, and cue the iris out.

Snow Business (Warner, Tweety and Sylvester, 1/17/53 – I. Freleng, dir.) – In a curious twist on his usual role, Sylvester becomes predator and prey at the same time. Freleng returns to his notion of snowbound cabins from “Along Came Daffy”, this time with the residents being Sylvester, Tweety – and a crazed starving mouse. Granny’s stranded in the village on her errand to pick up supplies, with the roads back blocked for what is announced on the radio as a six-week closure. Tweety and Sylvester check the house for food. While there seems to be two lifetime supplies of birdseed on hand in every cupboard and closet, no cat food. The usual chicanery develops as Sylvester attempts to lure Tweety into pots and frying pans. But the surprises develop as a mouse, who states he hasn’t eaten in so long he’s forgotten what food looks like, decides the image of Sylvester will do as a substitute. First chewing off the fur from his tail like a piranha, the mouse next swings in on a string with a Tarzan yell and chews vigorously on Sylvester’s ear. Sylvester tries to knock him off his head with a ladle, but seems to have more success in clunking his own head. Chasing the mouse back to his hole, Sylvester bends down to look inside – and a gun barrel emerges from the mousehole and almost blasts Sylvester’s head off. Sylvester boards up the mousehole, then returns to his cooking pot. Tweety has escaped, but the mouse reappears behind Sylvester and pushes him into the pot. Escaping painfully from its confines, Sylvester chases the mouse back though a newly-gnawed hole in the board he just hammered in, and fills the hole with the end of a wooden mallet.

After another unsuccessful attempt to cook Tweety, the camera pulls back to reveal the mouse again, cooking Sylvester’s tail in a toaster. Sylvester puts out his red-hot tail in an ash tray, and chases the mouse back to the hole where the mallet has also been gnawed through. While Sylvester waits outside the hole, the mouse reappears above Sylvester on a shelf, pushing a bowling ball. Clunk, and Sylvester is out like a light. His leg is dragged into the mousehole by the mouse, and suddenly Sylvester is seen outside the mousehole rotating on the floor. Inside, the mouse has rigged up a rotisserie, basting Sylvester’s leg over an open can of “canned heat”. As Sylvester screams and leaps out of the hole, his leg still slightly aflame, he grabs an axe and attempts to chop his way into the wall. But Granny has finally arrived in the nick of time with a large backpack, having hiked up the mountain with food. But what kind of food? She’s mixed up the order, and brought nothing but more birdseed! The last scene shows Tweety and Sylvester at the dinner table, with the cat learning how to eat birdseed whether he likes it or not. But his tail is pulled into another mousehole, where the mouse applies a bit of seasoning and prepares to dine himself. Outside, Tweety asks how Sylvester likes the seed. We hear the offscreen crunch of the mouse biting into Sylvester’s tail – Sylvester screams, flies up into the air, and lands on his face, with his bowl plopped upon his head. Tweety gets the curtain line, stating “Oh, come now. It can’t be that bad.”

Another script which saw a not-so-faithful adaptation on Capitol records, as “Snowbound Tweety”.

Plumber’s Helpers (Terrytoons/Fox, Terry Bears, 5/1/53 – Connie Rasinski, dir.) – It’s a freezing morning in the forest, and the wall thermometer inside the Terry Bears’ home has a case of the trembles. Why? The radiator is producing no heat, and us covered in its own topping of icicles. On a table next to his bed, Papa’s set of false teeth chatter inside a glass. Papa himself snores soundly, but every exhale condenses into a small cloud above his head, which issues a miniature snowstorm to lightly coat Papa’s face. The Terry cubs finally awaken, and rush to Papa’s bed to tell him something’s wrong with the radiator. Grumpy Papa groggily climbs out of bed, but steps in a puddle the radiator has left on the floor – which has frozen into a sheet of ice. One touch of his toe to the icy surface, and Papa’s legs turn blue, causing him to dart back under the bedcovers again. When Papa is finally dragged out of bed, he approaches the problem scientifically, placing a thermometer into the steam vent of the radiator as he hammers upon its piping. The mercury breaks through the bottom of the thermometer and forms a red icicle. Refusing to call a plumber, Papa continues to hammer, only resulting in the radiator repeatedly spitting water in his eye. The cubs have their own solution to warming the radiator up – producing from a hiding place Papa’s bottle of “Private Stock XXX”. They pour a shot into the radiator, which instantly becomes inebriated, separating itself from the water pipe in the floor, then staggering around in a drunken stupor. An old gag is lifted from Chuck Jones’s “What’s Brewin’, Bruin?”, as Papa tries to plug the water pipe with his fingers, but has water flow out his ears. Each cub piles on to plug the ear flow, only to have the water come out his own ears. “Turn off the water”, shouts Papa to the cubs.

The cubs venture into the basement with a wrench, and attempt to close off a valve. The old piping can’t take the strain of the built-up water pressure, and suddenly, leaks are springing up everywhere, flooding the basement. The cubs run back upstairs to alert Papa. Papa races to a closet, producing a deep sea diver’s outfit and air pump. He proceeds down the cellar steps, but at first cannot spot the cubs. Instead, he spies what appears to be a gray fin in the water. “Sharks?”, he gasps. No, it is the cubs’ doing, as they float by in a barrel, taking the opportunity to tow arounnd in the water a toy sailboat with a gray sail. Papa orders them to stop playing around, and help him with the air pump. He submerges underwater, but encounters a school of fish who emerge from the leaking pluming. They open the face hatch on Papa’s diving helmet, and swim inside with him. Papa flounders around the basement, trapped in his internal water within the suit. The cubs know they must do something – then spot the obvious, leaving us to wonder why Papa didn’t use it first – a valve handle, labeled “Drain”. They turn it, opening a king-size bathtub drain in the floor of the basement. Papa, the suit and the fish are sucked down inside, then emerge miles away, crashing through a frozen-over storm drain pipe at the river’s edge. Papa has fish pouring out of his ears, and turns immediately blue from the cold. He trembles his way back to the house, where he is greeted at the door by the cubs. They claim everything is all right, as they’ve fixed all the pipes. Of course, the basement looks like a pretzel-bender has been at work upon it for hours. The film ends with Papa, covered in blankets in a chair, his feet in a tub of hot water. However, the water isn’t coming out of the tap that way. Instead, the cubs are obtaining the water out of a wall gas jet, and heating each pot over a gas flame emitting from the faucet of the kitchen sink.

Sparky the Firefly (Terrytoons/Fox, Aesop’s Fable, 6/13/53 – Connie Rasinski, dir.) – Nighttime in a nearby garden brings out the fireflies to light the evening for the local bugs and frogs. They perform service as traffic signals, street lights, and even in traveling groups that rival scrolling light displays in Times Square reporting the headlines, by grouping into the shape of letters to spell out, “Yanks Win.” However, tragedy strikes on this night, as a small firefly named Sparky, responsible for holding up the period in the sentence, suddenly has his tail light burn out. A firefly without a light is considered useless by the community, and Sparky is ridiculed by his peers as a “dim-bulb.” Alone and friendless, Sparky wanders away, happening upon a local airport. In an interior office, he discovers a bookworm (with the sped-up dialect of a German scientist) “digesting” the information from encyclopedias and books on electronics and light. The firefly musters up enough courage to ask the educated worm if he knows of any solution to his tail-light problem. The worm ingests more information from the electronics book, but finds nothing useful – then hits upon an idea of his own. Crawling over to a human-sized flashlight, the worm unscrews the glass cover, then removes the small bulb from inside the device. He then approaches Sparky, unscrewing the rear end of Sparky’s torso, revealing inside a small light fixture socket – precisely the same diameter as the flashlight bulb. The worm screws in the bulb as a substitute, then braids the firefly’s antennae together to increase the bug’s ampage and voltage. The trick works, and the bulb lights brightly.

Sparky happily returns to his community. But, although lit again, Sparky finds that his new light source is too bright for the likes of a firefly, causing his neighbors to squint from the glare, and be woken from their slumber by the over-illumination beaming into their windows. They chase Sparky away, insisting he is not a firefly, but a “fake searchlight”. Sparky returns to the airport, as a rainstorm hits the area, Sparky hides in a sheltered corner, and bemoans that he is still just a nothing. Suddenly, he hears his name being called. It is the bookworm, who informs him that there has been a power outage at the airfield, and a plane flying through the storm is in trouble, as it can’t locate the field. “But what can I do?” asks Sparky. “Dumkoff”, responds the bookworm, reminding Sparky of his one-of-a-kind light. The little firefly struggles to gain altitude in the rising storm, but inch by inch rises to attempt to intercept the plane. Above, the plane’s windshield wipers work frantically to clear a view for the pilot and co-pilot to locate a place to land, but everything seems to be blackness, obscured by the driving rain and periodic lightning flashes. Suddenly, a small but strong light is observed. “We’re saved! There’s a beacon light. Follow it in”, shouts the captain. Flying ahead, Sparky leads the plane straight to the airfield, where a cheering ground crew rejoice and hail the praises of the insect who saved the day. A ticker tape parade occurs for the little hero (reusing one background from Heckle and Jeckle’s “The Rainmakers”), and Sparky receives a special position of honor. Atop the Empire State Building, a new beacon begins service to provide guidance to all aircraft. A close shot reveals it is Sparky, riding on a tiny tricycle around the perimeter rim of a circular mirror positioned on the tip of the building’s flagpole, his tail flashlight providing a rotating light to all the planes passing the vicinity. The bug happily smiles to the camera, for the fade out.

Three more seasons of “seasons”, next time.


  • Pity you couldn’t include links to the three Warner Bros. cartoons. I remember them all as being pretty funny, certainly more so than anything the Terry Bears ever appeared in — not but that I don’t appreciate getting four Terrytoons in the same post. Papa Terry Bear’s ineptitude in the do-it-yourself realm was surpassed only by that of Lantz’s Papa Beary a decade later; I find the Terry Bears’ antics a lot easier to take, by comparison, but still….

    The denouement of “Papa’s Little Helpers” reminds me of that of the 1942 Terrytoon “Happy Circus Days”, where the little boy and his dog, having sampled all the circus has to offer, decide to go to the movies instead. Why stay at home and watch a mouse soprano sing “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” on the Corny Concert Hour? Maybe the movie theatre is showing the Mighty Mouse cartoon “The Perils of Pearl Pureheart”, in which she does the very same thing.

    I can’t help but feel sorry for poor Sparky the Firefly. His reward for saving the airplane is… being forced to ride a tricycle in tiny circles on top of the world’s tallest building for all eternity? Sounds like a hellish punishment to me.

    Where did that “Weather Bears” title card come from? There’s no Terrytoon by that name.

  • I’d never seen the original lobby card for “Cracked Quack” until now and it’s the first time I’ve seen one where the image has absolutely nothing to do with anything that happens in the short itself.

  • “A Cat’s Tale” (Terrytoons, Mighty Mouse, 1951 — Mannie Davis, dir.) begins with three mice chasing a frightened cat into his home, where he locks and bolts the door securely behind him. “I suppose you’re wondering why I’m afraid of mice,” he tells the viewers. “Well, you would be, too, if you knew what happened. It all started many years ago on a dark, stormy night….” In a flashback we see the shadow of a furtive figure in a peaked hat carrying a bundle through the driving rain. The figure comes to a door, knocks on it with a green, clawed hand, deposits the bundle on the doorstep and departs. A middle-aged mouse couple opens the door and finds a basket containing a baby mouse, whom they decide to adopt. As with Superman and the Kents, the infant immediately displays super strength and speed, and in time he grows up to become Mighty Mouse, the scourge of cats everywhere.

    This version of the hero’s origin story leaves several questions unanswered. Who is the shadowy figure with the basket? How did he or she get his or her green, clawed hands on baby Mighty Mouse in the first place? And how can anyone cast a shadow on a dark and stormy night?

  • Getting up for a drink of water in the middle of the night was, of course, cartoon shorthand for nocturnal micturition back in the day. But I suppose a yellow plume appearing around Bugs’ ears wouldn’t have flown back then… ;D

  • “The Mechanical Bird” (Terrytoons, Aesop’s Fables, 1952 — Eddie Donnelly, dir.) retells the same Hans Christian Andersen story as the 1935 Harman-Ising Happy Harmony “The Chinese Nightingale”, but more succinctly. A king is devoted to his pet nightingale, until he receives a gift of a mechanical songbird that monopolises his attention. Feeling neglected, the nightingale leaves the palace. When the mechanical bird breaks down, the king notices the nightingale’s absence and pines away for it. The king appears to the bird in a vision and begs it to return to him, and it does — as it happens, through a raging thunderstorm, even getting struck by lightning on the way.

    • I remember that one. It and Joe Glow the Firefly used to air a lot when I was a child.

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