A potpourri of selected weather cartoons from various studios, as we attempt to wrap up the subject as to cartoons produced for television. I’m sure there are notable omissions, which our readers may feel free to discuss in supplementation to these materials – but we have to break somewhere. These are some of the ones that stood in the memory from my viewing experiences, so if you will, call them Gardner’s choice.
Joe Oriolo’s Felix the Cat cartoons would include an odd episode involving weather, acquiring over the years the title Mount Boom-Boom (circa 1959-61). Felix wants to check whether his pocket watch is keeping accurate time, so proceeds to a garden sundial, presuming he can get an accurate reading on such a nice sunny day. But only the sundial is basked in shadows. Felix looks up, observing the source of the problem – a small cloud with a face is hovering overhead, blocking the light. Felix refers to him as nothing but an “itty-bitty” cloud, and the cloud’s smile turns to a frown, as it begins to rumble from within. “Touchy about being itty-bitty?”, asks Felix, as the cloud continues to rumble. Felix insistently asks the cloud to move so he can read the time, bit only gets squirted in the eye with a jet of rain. “Don’t get smart just because you’re little”, says Felix. The cloud has had enough, and blasts Felix with a thunderbolt. “I take it back”, yells Felix, bit too late to avoid the jolt. Felix’s pocket watch seems to have taken a beating too, but its metal casing somehow begins to pick up nearby radio signals. A conversation is intercepted between the Professor and the planet Mars. Without a disclosure of what’s in it for him, the Professor is hatching a scheme to deliver the planet Earth to a Martian warlord (same voice as the Master Cylinder, but, as such character had not yet made his first appearance in the series, the warlord is depicted as a giant humanoid warrior, shown only in one still, with nothing animated except his eyes). The Professor plans to drop an atom bomb from a personal stockpile into a hollow peak known as Mount Boom-Boom, using the force of the explosion to propel the Earth in the direction of Mars. (So, what stops the collision of the planets when Earth reaches Mars’ orbit? The best-laid plans of cartoon villains often aren’t best-laid.) The Professor puts his brain in gear (pounding his head with a hammer until a readout appears in his eyes) to calculate the precise time to trigger the bomb to attain the proper trajectory. Meanwhile, Felix attempts to set off for Mount Boom-Boom to foil the plan. Converting his tail into a bouncing spring, Felix propels himself skyward – crashing face to face into the temperamental could, who again hits him with a lightning bolt.
Felix will not take these interruptions when he is trying to save the world, so he unscrews the sundial from its center post, and tosses it at the cloud like a frisbee. He puts too much English on his throw, and the disc curves around the cloud entirely, returning like a boomerang toward Felix. Felix is lifted atop the whirling disc, and makes the trip to Mount Boom-Boom by air. He falls upon the Professor and his henchman Rock Bottom. Felix springs up and attempts to flee, but collides with the stockpile of the Professor’s bombs, which come in assorted sizes and shapes, some looking like missiles, while others resemble Bolshevik-style black balls. Felix picks up one of the ball bombs, and threatens to throw it at the villains. Bluffing, the Professor responds, “Throw what? My automatic bowling ball?” Felix is surprised, and the Professor tells him to push the bitton on the top of the ball to see how it works. Felix does, and the ball begins ticking, but undergoes no other transformation. The Professor and Rock run for cover, awaiting the forthcoming explosion. When the ball continues to do nothing, Felix decides to throw a strike the old-fashioned way. The villains leap into the air as the ball-bomb approaches, rolling under their feet and off a cliff, where it explodes loudly. “Sounded like a strike”, Felix proclaims. Without concern for fallout, the villains give chase, and Felix is captured and carried by Rock to the summit of the mountain, to be dropped into its crater to accompany the forthcoming bomb. Not anxious to have a bomb dropped on his head, Felix again uses his spring-tail, and bounces back out of the crater. Rock prepares to toss him back in again, and refers to Felix as a “little shrimp”. Who should overhear this but the temperamental cloud, who has drifted into the area. The could begins rumbling again, and Felix plays on the opportunity, shouting up to the cloud that Rock just called him a little shrimp. The cloud begins another lightning barrage, this time directed at Rock, chasing him off the mountain. Felix gets an idea to solve the whole situation, and tells the cloud that, in return for saving him, Felix will now do the cloud a favor. Felix dashes back to the bomb stockpile, returning with two large missile-style shells. Handing them to the cloud, Felix zips off the mountain, then instructs the cloud to drop the bombs into Mount Boom-Boom – too soon to meet the Professor’s calculation. We don’t know in what direction the blast may propel the Earth, but at least it’s not up to Mars. The force of two bombs destroys the entire mountain, removing any future launching site for the Professor’s plans. And the resulting explosion fills the sky with a giant atomic mushroom cloud (which nobody runs in terror from, or even pauses about to put on goggles). The little cloud is now transformed into the biggest cloud in the world, and Felix ends the episode by bidding him a fond farewell, “Goodbye, big boy.” (I wonder what the producers of “Duck and Cover” thought about this episode, defeating everything taught by the turtle by the name of Bert.)
Very little weather animation seems to have come out of the classic days of Hanna-Barbera, aside from incidental thunderclaps at a haunted house or outside the abode of Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist. No doubt, this was the result of the studio’s ever-present priority in its early days to keep within budget. I have not followed closely the annals of Jonny Quest, so am unaware if the slightly higher budget permitted some weather action, nor can speak for H-B’s numerous action-adventure productions of the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s, which I tended to avoid like the plague, so leave any possible exceptions from these series for the comments of the reader. Two films having something to do with weather are discussed below.
Cloudy Rowdy (Snooper and Blabber (From The Quick Draw McGraw Show), 12/28/59) – A “mystery cloud” is causing a single-handed crime wave upon the city. Actually, make that single-clawed – as the cloud’s extra feature is a jumbo-sized apparatus excised from an arcade claw machine, lowered from a rope, which nabs up any valuable located below it. The cloud’s choice of valuables is quite broad, including citizen’s wallets (“I’ve heard of money flyin’, but this is ridiculous”), apples out of the hand of an officer mooching them from a fruit stand, and even a kid’s candy bar. Snooper and Blabber are called to guard the Spectacular Sapphire at Spiffany’s jewelers. Snooper has already deduced that the cloud culprit must be one Nimble Nimbus, “the cloud-high crook with the sky high-Q”. Blabber is posted as sentry, watching the jewel in a display window. The mysterious claw drops into the jewelry shop from a skylight. Blab witnesses the claw descend into the jewel case, missing the sapphire by inches. Blabber begins to give the claw directions, caught up in the idea that he is assisting as if helping someone win an arcade prize – “A little to the left…no, back some more…” The claw finally hits its target, and rises with the sapphire. Snooper returns to chew out his bumbling sidekick, then the two detectives take to the skies in a helicopter. Blabber is instructed to look for suspicious clouds. They pass several, which Blabber classifies as “above suspicion” – even one including a face sticking out with a prominent moustache. It is Nimbus. “Folly that cloud!”, orders Snooper. Catching up as the cloud attempts to speed away, Snooper orders the cloud to halt, and Blabber adds, “Yeah, where’s the fire?” “Here’s the fire”, responds Nimbus, blasting away the windshield of the helicopter with a cannon, and leaving our heroes notably charred. “Ask a foolish question, get a foolish answer”, observes Snooper. “Prepare to board cloud”, he directs Blabber, having his assistant dive into Nimbus’s cloud to engage in a fist-fight within the vapors. The claw descends from below, with Blabber in hand, and disposes of him in a trash can. (Blabber is impressed by Nimbus’s neatness). Nimbus takes off again, but Snooper declares there’s some cleaning up to do first. Producing a vacuum cleaner from his cockpit, Snooper turns on the suction, sucking up all the vapor from around Nimbus, and the sapphire too. Nimbus falls, and Blabber waits below with the trash can. The villain is caught within, and Blabber slams the lid upon it, announcing, “The case is closed.” As Snooper receives a hero’s decoration from the Mayor, Blabber arrives at the festivities – seated in his own mystery cloud. He has discovered on the person of the now incarcerated villain an aerosol can marked “Cloud 9 spray” which Nimbus used to create his cloud. Snooper tries out the can too, producing his own cloud. The two detectives decide that what they will do next is fly South for a well-needed vacation, and end the episode soaring off into the skies.
Scooby Doo would beat Scrooge McDuck to the Bermuda Triangle by a good nine years, in A Creepy Tangle In the Bermuda Triangle (9/16/78). The plot line is full of holes like Swiss cheese. For no explainable reason, the Scooby gang has taken time off from driving around in the typically overheating Mystery Machine, and somehow just happens to be on a catamaran voyage along gulf stream waters. The radio announces the recent disappearance of a weather plane within the coordinates of the Bermuda Triangle, and that a second plane has been sent out to search for it. Suddenly, the wind picks up, and the gang find that the wind and current are driving them in the direction of the same region. Scooby attempts to lower the vessel’s sail, but is struck by lightning, which appears to also strike twice in the same place, cutting away the top half of the mast. The boat enters the eye of the hurricane, where everything is remarkably calm – but witness overhead the arrival of the second weather plane, which not only fails to see them, but appears to be swallowed into the docking bay of a huge flying saucer, then disappears with the alien craft. As the catamaran reaches the other side of the hurricane’s vortex, the winds pick up again. Despite Shaggy and Scooby attempting to dog-paddle for their lives from the ship’s pontoons, the craft is no match for the current in navigation without a sail, and the mastless ship runs aground on a sand bar. Exploring the island, Scooby and Shaggy encounter an old sea-dog (human variety), who warns them to leave the island while they still have a chance, as the place is haunted by the skeleton men. A patch of mist passes in front of the old sailor, and he is suddenly gone.
A convoluted investigation and chase follows. Velma, Daphne, and Fred find the remains of an old airstrip, seemingly abandoned since island occupation in WWII, but with freshly-used smudge pots lining the airstrip, and state-of-the-art tracking equipment inside the dilapidated control tower. Shaggy and Scooby meanwhile stumble upon a subterranean docking station for a submarine. Inside, they find the crew of the weather planes bound and gagged – and a trio of costumed “skeleton men” who give chase both on land and water. The group investigating the airstrip find it leads to a concealed mountain hangar, where they missing planes are located intact, but in the process of being repainted to different markings. They also find an odd projection device, and puzzle over what it is for. Eventually, Shaggy and Scooby catch up to the rest of the gang, and some use of loading equipment within the hangar by Fred lands the three skeleton men into a steel holding bin. The old sea dog appears again, but turns out to be a government agent who was also on the trail of the missing planes. The projector is a sophisticated hologram device, used to project images of the flying saucer into the clouds to mask view of what presumably was the real craft of the skeleton men capturing the planes. The whole affair turns out to be a scheme to resell the captured planes in a foreign market. And the mastermind behind it all is unmasked to reveal the unlikely culprit of a chief weather officer from the military base – who couldn’t possibly have been everywhere at once, since he was twice seen at the control tower of military headquarters, at times when he apparently should have been present in the Bermuda Triangle. Scooby takes his fill of Shaggy’s food as a self-reward, for the usual fade out.
Hal Seeger’s Batfink series would produce another villain with his head in the clouds – The Rotten Rainmaker (6/8/67) – A miliary rocket test has been placed on hold indefinitely, as ten days of non-stop rain have remained isolated over the rocket’s launching site. A ransom note is delivered to the military brass from “The Rotten Rainmaker”, demanding one million dollars to stip the rain. Rather than abort the mission or pay the ransom, a call is placed to Batfink and Karate. They arrive just as a call is received from the villain, demanding an answer to his note. Batfink answers the call, inquiring, “If we give you the one million dollars, how do we know you can stop the rain?” The villain, an average-looking man in a raincoat calling from a pay phone, retrieves a small electronic control box, presses a button, and demonstrates as the cloud over the rocket evaporates. The military try to start the countdown, but the Rainmaker quickly presses the button again, returning the cloud to block the launch. Batfink informs the villain that neither he nor the military will be blackmailed. The villain responds, “Then you’d better buy a pretty big umbrella.” This just happens to be the rainmaker’s day-job – selling umbrellas from an umbrella-covered pushcart, the central pole of which is the transmitter for his weather-creating signals. Batfink and Karate happen upon him in their search of the city. He asks if they wish to purchase an umbrella, but Karate asks why should they, as it isn’t raining. The villain remarks “No wonder business is rotten”, then reaches for his controller, transmitting a signal for instant rain. Having given himself away, the villain is soon pursued by Batfink (after he buys an umbrella).
A press of the control button, and more rain pours down on our heroes. Karate states, “Do you think you can stop us with raindrops?” “No, with hailstones”, responds the rainmaker, selecting a cloud modification with his control box. Karate is conked out by the falling hail, but Batfink uses his super wings as a shield of steel to dodge the downpour. Hearing the word steel, the Rainmaker makes another modification, producing a lightning storm, which zaps out hero’s wings, knocking him into unconsciousness. The scene changes to a metal-walled holding cell, which the villain refers to as his “rain chamber”. Karate awakens to think he must be seeing things or going crazy, as a beam of sunlight is streaming in from a porthole-size window, yet a cloud is with them inside the chamber, pouring down rain. “In another few moments, we’ll be underwater”, declares Batfink. Karate looks for water wings in his utility sleeve, but the best he can come up with is a rubber duckie. Batfink discovers an unexplained and unexpected object on the floor of the chamber (a leftover from a preceding victim?) – a hand mirror. Positioning it to reflect the sunlight from the window onto the cloud, Batfink causes the cloud to evaporate. The rainmaker, thinking the room must by now be filled with enough water to drown an elephant, pulls a lever to open a drain, whirlpooling Batfink and Karate out under the street, where they quickly appear through a manhole and capture the Rainmaker and his umbrella cart. Karate chops the control box in two, causing the clouds over the military rocket to also be sliced in half, and the rocket is finally able to be launched. As Karate watches the liftoff, he remarks to the Rainmaker, “Ir ain’t gonna rain no mo’.”
An excellent installment of Warner Brothers’ prime-time Pinky and the Brain was Brain Storm (9/19/97). No doubt inspired in its plot by the recent feature “Twister”, we find Brain calculating a new scheme to conquer the world. He believes the power of a tornado can be harnessed, so that he who is in control can make the world do his bidding, trembling at its mighty feet. Studying the research of past scientists, Brain has encountered the work of the late Dr. Verkimer, who invented a vortex suit, designed to allow the wearer to ride inside a tornado funnel. Pinky is leery as to whether the suit was ever tested. “Only once”, replies Brain, from which incident the late Dr. Verkimer became “one with the wind”. However, Brain has made some design modifications of his own, including a gyroscope to keep the suit from being tossed around like a coin in a laundry dryer, and an electromagnet to stabilize the suit and alter the whirlwind’s electromagnetic ions, making steering of the funnel possible. Pinky’s only worry is that the tornado will carry them to the land of Oz, where they’ll be chased by flying monkeys.
Before long, Brain has not only constructed a human-sized Verkimer suit, but has hijacked a pickup truck to haul It in, equipping the truck with robotic arm extenders from the dashboard to a mouse-sized set of controls atop the head cushion of the front seat. They have arrived at a remote midwestern town, and wait in the parking lot of a roadside cafe for any sign of storm action. There, they meet the competition – a redneck human in a souped-up truck of his own, calling himself Kale Mumphausen, the Twister King. He is the champion storm chaser of the region, and doesn’t like “rookies”. He warns Brain to stay out of his way, while Brain retorts that Kale should go somewhere and evolve. Kale, however, proves a formidable foe, as the two mice close in on a twister sighted on weather radar. Just as Brian lines up the truck in the path of the oncoming cyclone. Kale arrives on the scene, and rams their truck with a broadside, forcing them off the road and making them miss their “whirlywind” ride. Brain retaliates that night, tracking Kale to a seedy motel, and using the Verkimer suit to rip the rear axle off of Kale’s truck, then place it in the angry Kale’s hands as if he were holding a barbell – pinning Kale to the ground under its weight. Kale vows revenge. When next the mice encounter a tornado, they attempt to be at the ready inside the Verkimer suit, by constructing a robotic driver out of an old scarecrow to pilot the truck until the suit is sucked out of the truck’s bed by the cyclone. Kale, who has managed to have his truck repaired, again appears on the scene, advancing upon the scarecrow-driven truck with front bumpers now studded with spikes. Brain’s truck is forced into a tree for a tremendous crash, and the Verkimer suit topples, again missing its cyclone ride. While the mice attempt to recover their balance and composure, Kale trashes Brain’s pickup truck, and the scarecrow, too, leaving them without transportation. With only the suit left, Pinky and Brain attempt to hitchhike, then wander back to civilization down the road (but only after Pinky insists that Brain rebuild the scarecrow who sacrificed everything for them, back to the way he was in a cornfield).
Before they can find another vehicle, Pinky and Brain become caught betwee opposing forces. A cyclone is sneaking up directly behind them. Ahead, Kale has spotted them, and attempts to ram the suit with his truck. Brain gets an idea, and activates the electromagnet, causing a magnetic pulse that stalls out Kale’s engine. Kale finds himself motionless, and also in the path of the oncoming twister. He exits his cab and tries to run, but the cyclone picks up his vehicle then smashes it down upon him, knocking him senseless, and driving him waist-deep into the ground. Meanwhile, the twister is also pulling upon the Verkimer suit. Brain gives Pinky instructions to man the switch for the gyroscope while Brain steers. Brain tells Pinky to only turn the switch on when he says to turn it on, and to only stop it when he orders “stop it”. The suit is powered up, remains stable in the eye of the vortex, and rises into the funnel, where the tornado’s ions transform into the shape of a mighty, lumbering giant. Brain declares “The world is ours!” But Pinky begins playfully spinning in his seat, yelling “Whirlywind, whirlywind”. “Stop it”, reflexively calls Brain – and quickly realizes he will soon regret it. Pinky flicks off the gyroscope switch. The suit begins to spin and tumble, and Brain is thrown against the control panel, also hitting a button to deactivate the electromagnet. The suit is now helpless, and, with the boys pinned to the wall by centrifugal force, climbs up and up inside the funnel. The scene dissolves to a heavily-forested area of dark purplish hue. Brain and Pinky appear, running toward the camera, as behind them pursues – a flying monkey. They have indeed been transported to…well, as Brain explains, in informing Pinky of tomorrow night’s plans, they will do what they do every night – try to take over Oz. The final scene shows them walking down the yellow brick road toward Emerald City, with the scarecrow-driver and Verkimer suit as tin man following closely behind them.
Mr. Plow (The Simpsons, 11/19/92) – For once, Homer Simpson has a creative idea – well, at least, he takes the creative suggestion of a fast-talking salesman at an auto show. Winter is hitting Springfield with a vengeance, and Homer, while driving home from Moe’s, encounters conditions that render him snowblind inside his vehicle between passes of his windshield wipers. One moment, he sees clear road. Then snow completely covers the windshield, and he feels the impact of a crash. When the wiper blades pass over the windshield again, the front end of his car is visible, piled up into the rear end of another vehicle. Homer seems reasonably satisfied when it appears that he got the other car with as much damage as he received himself – until he steps out of the car, to discover he has collided with Marge’s parked car in his own driveway. Homer somehow manages to collect two insurance checks for the damage, then scours the market for alterative transportation. At an auto show, Homer sees a $20,000 snowplow (sounds like a bargain compared to today’s automotive prices). Though the salesman’s spiel is tempting, Homer can’t imagine how he could meet the payments on such a conveyance – until the salesman suggests that he can plow people’s driveways, and the vehicle will thus pay for itself. Homer signs on the dotted line.
Homer tries putting flyers on the windshields of everyone’s cars in town, but the winter winds merely blow them away. Homer’s alcoholic friend Barney Gumble is likewise experiencing a bad holiday season, equally unsuccessful handing out flyers for a baby store while dressed as a fat, oversized infant in a diaper. Lisa suggests buying cheap advertising time on a UHF station at 3 a.m. in the morning, and the entire Simpsons’ family appears in a commercial (including Grandpa Simpson as old man Winter). Homer amazingly begins receiving calls. The Qwik-E Mart has its parking lot cleared – just in time to permit a pair of armed robbers to pull up at the door. The doorway to Grandpa Simpson’s retirement home is cleared, freeing the residents from being snowed in – but they might as well be, as none of them has the courage to face the cold, unfamiliar world outside. Springfield Elementary is saved from closure by a snow day – causing the other kids to hammer Bart with a barrage of snowballs in retaliation for Homer’s ruining of their holiday. Mayor Quimby gives Homer the key to the city, for permitting people to get where they’re going without resorting to carpooling or public transportation. Marge is more responsive than usual in the bedroom, turned on by Homer wearing his snazzy new “Mr. Plow” Winter jacket. And even Moe gives Homer a free drink on the house. Barney, also at the bar, is envious of Homer’s status as a hero, and wishes he could be one also. Homer gives him words of encouragement, stating that wishing won’t make it so, and that he should go out into the world and be the best Barney he can be. Barney takes these words to heart – then becomes obsessed with them.
By the next day, counter-programming is seen on Springfield TV, as Barney, dressed in similar snow jacket and driving another huge snowplow, is seen beating up upon an effigy of Homer, and wearing a crown making hum the “Plow King”. Homer accuses Barney of stealing his idea, but Barney responds that a little healthy competition never hurt anyone. All of Springfield seems to switch allegiance to the new plow on the block, and Homer has the city key taken back to hand over to Barney, and is also receiving threatening calls about repossessing his own plow. Then news of a record snowfall and blizzard conditions on a hugh mountain peak hits the evening newscast. Homer tries for a double-cross, making a crank phone call to Barney requesting road assistance on the mountain, so that Barney will remain occupied all day while Homer cashes in on all the local plowing jobs. The next evening newscast, however, shows startling footage of Barney setting off an avalanche with one of his signature belches, burying himself and his plow in fallen snow and rock. Homer dons his jacket once again, and heads yp the mountain for a rescue. He nearly teeters off the ledge of a narrow road, but counterbalances his vehicle by tuning the pointer arrow of the radio to a higher-numbered bandwidth, tipping the truck back onto the road. Homer saves Barney, and Barney apologizes for the way he treated Homer, suggesting they join forces and become partners. Homer approves, noting that not even God himself can stop the combined efforts of two good friends. “Oh, yeah?”, says a voice from the heavens, as a strong ray of sunshine peeks through the clouds, not only quickly melting away all the snow, but plunging Springfield into a record 70 degrees plus heatwave. The boys are quickly out of business, and Homer’s truck is repossessed. Marge consoles Homer in their room that he still has his health, his friends, and that “special something” in the closet. Homer once again puts on his “Mr. Plow” jacket from his wardrobe, and lowers the lights for another night of steamy romance with Marge.
By the way, I recall a night of broadcasting on Fox when the network coordinated four shows to develop similar, interlocking plots, as if the same storm front were hitting each show in the lineup in consecutive order. I am unable to recall which night and which episodes were involved, but I believe the storm ran is course from “The Simpsons” to “Family Guy” to “Bob’s Burgers” to “American Dad”. Anyone with details on this unusual programming idea is invited to contribute.
The “U.S. Acres” segment of Film Roman’s Garfield and Friends produced Rainy Day Robot (12/19/92) – Roy Rooster is getting robbed blind by Orson’s three mean pig brothers, who have raided the barn’s supply of vegetables by disguising themselves as a car with pigs’ feet instead of wheels. Orson, busy with his own task of seeking a location for a new well to avert the effects of a dry spell, gets into a war of words with Roy, in which the two challenge each other to trade jobs to show that each can do the other’s better. But Roy is no diviner, and his burrowing efforts come up bone dry. Wade Duck suggests maybe they could make it rain, a suggestion which brings only scoffs from Roy – but prompts an entirely different reaction from a passing traveling sales-bird from the Schlocko Company. He happens to be exclusive distributor of the Dance-O-Matic Weather Robot, a device that looks much like a red cannister vacuum with protruding eyes and a voice speaker. The robot is guaranteed to perform the Indian rain dance, as well as dances for snow or any other kind of weather you might want. A demonstration proves it can produce both by its jiggling maneuvers, and Roy makes a purchase. However, the robot’s eyes have a tendency to doze off, and every time Roy repeats the word “rain”, the robot appears to be asleep. However, when Roy reaches frustration point and flings a verbal insult, the robot pops to life, and interprets the insult as a command. Thus, Roy receives a painful barrage of objects falling from the sky, as every phrase gets interpreted too literally. (“You bucket of bolts.” “Overgrown vacuum cleaner.” “He’s gonna make me yell until I’m hoarse” (producing the four-legged variety). “I’m really up a tree.” “Someplace where it’s safe.”) The horse and safe falling from the sky make one realize the setup is something of a homage to Tex Avery’s Bad Luck Blackie, as well as obviously influenced by Porky the Rainmaker. Meanwhile, the mean pig brothers raid the barn again, right under Orson’s nose, and their escape path crosses that of Roy trying to get away from the robot. The pigs are about to throttle Roy, but the clever rooster asks for a few last words, well chosen. They as “27 pianos.” The robot arrives, and takes the cue. In Avery style, each of the pigs is buried under a rain of the musical instruments. Orson asks Roy to return to his job of guarding the vegetables, and Roy takes the comment with the remark, “I can take a hint, I don’t need a house to fall on me.” Of course, what falls, thanks to the robot? The only thing they could have done to make this ending more complete, was to have Dorothy Gale step out of the door, and wonder if she’s back in Kansas.
One more from Disney which we overlooked last week was Mickey Mouse’s Stayin’ Cool (7/10/13 – Mickey Mouse Cartoons – Dave Wasson, dir.). The hottest day of the year finds the residents of Mickey’s home town in states ranging from distress to heat prostration. Children collapse off of playground rides, and one kid sliding down a metal slide sets his rear end on fire. Lampposts look like melted candlesticks. But within the walls of a nearby mansion, we find Mickey, Donald and Goofy, all comfortably resting upon floatation devices in the waters of a placid swimming pool, sipping lemonade and having a wonderfully cool time. Donald thanks Mickey for finding them this choice spot, and Mickey responds, what are friends for? Except that the pool they are in is not theirs. The real owner emerges from the mansion, irate over the uninvited trespassers, and sics the dogs upon them, causing our trio to scurry over the estate walls in a frenzy to avoid getting mauled. “It’s a million degrees out here”, complains Donald. Mickey promises to find them another place to beat the heat, while Donald informs Mickey that he better do it in a hurry, as Goofy’s not doing so good. The dimwitted dawg is revealed to view, slowly melting into a black puddle of ink.
Mickey tries an array of ideas to keep his friends cool. A visit to the local car wash provides refreshing jets of water in their faces, but becomes less endurable as they are spritzed with soap, then spin-dried through a large pair of violently-spinning rollers. Standing in the wind path of the propeller of an old twin-engine plane only succeeds in first blowing their fur or feathers off, then their skins, reducing them to skeletons. Hanging themselves on hooks in a butcher’s meat freezer seems a comfortable solution, until the butcher takes Donald down from the hook, and prepares to carve him into nuggets. The irate butcher pursies the trio down the street, until Mickey finds them a quick hideout inside the open rear doors of a parked truck. Once inside the panel truck, they light a light, and find they have locked themselves inside the refrigerated compartment of an ice cream truck. The boys jump around gleefully, not realizing their celebrating is vibrating the brake lever out of gear in the driver’s cab. The truck begins to roll with no driver at the wheel, down a steep and winding city road. The boys are too busy to notice they are moving, as they engage in snowball fights with ice cream scoops. Goofy basks in a tub full of popsicles, inserting two of them into his battered shoes as sole inserts. Mickey pulls open the elastic of his trousers, and fills the front of his pants with ice cold soft-serve ice cream, reacting to the chilling feeling, “Oh, Mama!” As the truck hits a bump, Mickey is prompted to ask, “Who’s driving?” A look outside reveals the fearsome sight of the truck careening out of control. The truck leaps over a rise in the road, then comes crashing down atop a fire hydrant, busting it, and allowing a jet of water to race through the interior of the truck, picking up the boys atop its resulting fountain. But, as the water passes through the truck’s refrigerated interior, it is rapidly chilled, and spreads out over the community for blocks around, as a blanket of snow and ice. Mickey, Donald and Goofy fall atop the new-fallen snow, iced into the shape of three snowmen. Their heads pop out of the snow, as their arms extend toward one another, each holding a popsicle, performing a sort of high-five of success with their frozen treats. The final shot shows the community happily playing in their new winter wonderland, while Donald, never satisfied, remarks to Mickey, “I’m freezing”.
We’ll finish this installment with a surprise charmer from Australia. Bluey, a computer-assisted 2-D animation produced by ABC (that is, Australian Broadcasting Company, not the letters’ American counterpart – though the show airs in the US on Disney+), follows the family-friendly adventures of an anthropomorphic husband and wife, both dogs, living in a suburban setting as the masters of the house without the interference of humans, and their two young daughters, aged a few years apart. Bluey is the older of the two pups, and the most precocious, often finding unique ways to get into trouble, or engaging in misunderstandings that snowball in proportion. The parent dogs are understanding and supportive, and generally manage (at least by the end of each episode) to rope in Bluey’s energetic outbursts and mischief without breaking her spirit. The first few seasons of the show are surprisingly well-written, with a gentle appeal, its author claiming that many of the plot ideas took direct inspiration from his own raising of two daughters in the real world. (Some later episodes begin to fall off in quality, storylines becoming more centered on Australian life, rather than following themes universal to all nations.)
In Rain (12/8/21, an unusual episode produced almost entirely without dialogue and set to original music, Dad and little sister Bingo leave the house on a morning errand, leaving Mum and Bluey at home. The skies mildly darken, and a summer rain begins to fall. Mum runs to take in laundry hanging on a clothesline, but Bluey, seeing no need for protection from the gentle shower, begins to dance around in the falling water playfully. She observes a flow of water emerging from the house’s drainspout, forming a narrow stream that trickles down one side of the home’s front walkway. At first, she playfully splashes her feet in the passing water, then gets a better idea. Placing her hind feet close together, Bluey attempts to block off the flow of water down the walkway. Her feet cause only mild interference, as the water builds up around her toes, then finds its own path around them, off to one side. Bluey extends the blockage by placing her front feet in line with her rear ones, but the same thing happens, as the water still builds up, then finds a path past her. Bluey determines to improve the design of her dam. Mum calls to Bliey, offering her an umbrella if she is going to stay outside. Bluey takes the umbrella, but makes no use of it for her own protection. Instead, she opens it, then lays it of the walkway, its inside curve facing the water stream, to catch the water inside the umbrella fabric. The idea isn’t successful, as the umbrella topples over, and the water continues to find its own route past the curvature of its fabric. Bluey spots the morning paper on the lawn, delivered rolled up in a clear plastic canister to protect it from moisture. She places the canister in the path of the water, next to her own feet, to extend the width of her dam. Not only is the canister too light to remain in place, but the walkway is still about double the width of Bluey’s dam, and the water trickles past again.
Bluey charges into the house, obtaining an armful of building blocks from her toy collection. Mum exchanges a few words in pantomime to Bluey, reprimanding her for tracking watery puddles into the house without wiping her feet. Eventually, Mum relents, letting Bluey back outside, to give herself time to mop up the mess indoors. Bluey adds her blocks to the canister to extend the barrier, but again, the water pushes blocks and canister out of alignment, leaking its way through Bluey’s defenses. Mum appears on the porch with a cloth floor mat, pointing to it and reminding Bluey to use it the next time she comes inside. Bluey instead grabs up the mat, rolls it into a cylindrical shape, and places it for insulation behind her wall of blocks and newspaper. The floor mat is only half the width, however, of Bluey’s existing dam, and as Mum goes to the closet for another floor mat, Bluey snatches it away, adding it as a second length of insulation to her dam. Bluey, together with the width of her paws, has now blocked up about two-thirds of the walkway – but there is still enough water accumulating to find its way past on one side. Another extension is needed, and Bluey barrels toward the front door, seeking to obtain her doll house from within. With no more floor mats to put out, Mum tries to block Bluey’s entrance into the house, but the determined girl succeeds in a pushing battle, squeezing past Mum to get the doll house. Placing it on the walkway next to the remainder of her dam, Bluey again adds her rear feet to the dam’s span, then her front feet – bit there is still a gap of a few feet to one side, which Bluey can see is going to cause the same old result with the water. That is, until Mum, watching from the porch, begins to smile at Bluey’s unstoppable determination. A moment later, as Bliey watches the water about to trickle past her again, another pair of larger paws joins hers along the dam line. It is Mum, carrying the umbrella, who has joined Bluey to stand in the rain and complete the project. When they both see that a mere few inches of walkway remain unguarded, Mum throws caution to the wind, tosses away the umbrella, and adds her front paws to the dam wall, completing the obstacle. The water does not pass, and Bluey’s and Mum’s tails happily begin to wag. Then, the water flow subsides, as the shower abruptly ends. Bluey is momentarily disappointed that the fun is over, but observes in the sky the lovely sight of a double rainbow, which she watches fondly with Mum’s arm around her for a few moments. Then, Mum and Bluey begin to pick up and head back to the house. To their surprise, a light clap of thunder is heard, and another wave of clouds arrives overhead, resuming the summer shower. Bluey and Mum exchange knowing looks, then eagerly race back towards their positions at the dam, as the film cuts to closing credits and the fade out.
Next Week: We’ll wrap up this trail, with a survey of relatively-recent feature films on rainy/stormy day subjects.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and thanks for your readership.