THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
January 11, 2024 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Walter Lantz “The Dog that Cried Wolf” (1953)

It’s the first week back to school here, and I’ve spent the whole week exhausted, coming off a cold and just busy getting all the classes situated. Fortunately the little Thunderbean staff helped keep things running. Dave and Becky have been cranking on keeping orders going out, while Becca has been working daily on cleaning things up. It’s a tiny group but we’re getting a lot done. I can’t wait to be fully mended and up to my usual energies. I’m sure a lot of folks here have just had— or had— this cold going around. Wishing everyone a fast recovery if you’ve had it.

The Van Beuren Tom and Jerry will be back from replication in these next few days, and we’ll start sending out the pre-orders late this week and early next. It will be available on Amazon and the shop in about a week. Right now I’m most excited about finishing the Mid Century Modern, Volume 3 disc. I didn’t get absolutely everything on the set I’d like to, but as I was looking I kept finding things that made the set better and better, so now I’m pretty happy with the films on it. At the rate Becca and the handful of people we have working on them, we’re coming close to getting everything cleaned up for the set. Pretty soon Rainbow Parades and the Bunin set will be the main things on the plate.

I was talking to my friend Jeff Missinne about a week back, and, for some reason, every time I talk with him I’m reminded of how much fun we have talking about Walter Lantz shorts. I have a special love for many of the early 50s ones and have enjoyed collecting Technicolor prints of many of them.

I got to know animator Ken Southworth a bit in the late 90s, at first talking with him about his career, then doing freelance work for my tiny studio in Ann Arbor- his idea. One day we were chatting about the projects we were working on and Ken said ‘Why don’t you send me a scene?’ He worked on several projects with us in 1997 and 98. I’m not sure if it was the last work he did in the field professionally, but it may have been.

One of the things he talked about was his experience working at Lantz in the early 50s. He had been at Disney’s since 1944 as an assistant. He was working as one of the assistants to Milt Kahl on Alice, and as people were rolling off that film, some were getting work at other studios. He remembered ‘going down the hill’ at lunch into Hollywood and visiting a friend at Lantz. After seeing what a relaxed environment it was there and flipping some scenes he asked for a job at the studio. It wasn’t long before he was credited, something that never had happened at Disney.

While the Lantz cartoons from this period are not all top films, they are all pretty fun and full of energy. I especially love the Don Patterson ones, as I’m sure many of you do too. I really enjoy all of them.

This week’s cartoon is The Dog Who Cried Wolf (1953) directed by Paul Smith.

I have to admit that I loved The Woody Woodpecker Show as a kid for *all* the different eras, but I especially liked Toyland Premeire (34) and Tom Thumb Jr. (39). The on-Woody early 40s shorts that were part of the package were all bizarre to this once 6 year old’s eyes, especially the unfunny (but really funny-strange at the time) Hysterical High Spots in American History (1941). While I didn’t always love the 50s ones in exactly the same way, I loved moments in all of them. The Moon getting buried in Dig that Dog, the outright strangeness of Ally to Bali, the mean Termites in Termites from Mars, Sugarfoot getting slapped with the giant make up powderpuff in A Horse’s Tale—-the list went on and on. I was also thrilled when they ran an early ‘ugly’ Woody, and was always confused in the later cartoons that Woody would drastically change sizes depending on the scene.

In this short, the odd take where the dog’s skin peels up to reveal his skeleton really stuck with me as one of the oddest moments when I was a kid. I remember trying to draw what that scene looked like. The Avery-esque gag also struck me as really odd — some years before I ever saw any of the Avery shorts.

This 16mm Technicolor print was from Thad Komorowski. I hope to keep getting Technicolor Lantz shorts from this period— and perhaps, someday, we’ll be able to gather all the Coke spots Lantz did around this period.

Have a good week all!

15 Comments

  • Thanks for posting “The Dog Who Cried Wolf”. I don’t remember ever seeing it before, certainly not in recent decades.

    You’re quite right that the Lantz cartoons contain many grotesque and gruesome elements like that skeleton gag. Those disturbed me when I saw them on the Woody Woodpecker Show as a child, and yet I kept coming back for more. On the other hand, I like it that Lantz wasn’t averse to a bit of cheesecake now and then. The girl in the fleecy bikini doesn’t hold a candle to the dolls in the Swing Symphonies — some of whom have nipples visibly protruding beneath the material of their dresses — but she’s very cute just the same.

    It’s curious that the wanted poster in the establishing shot establishes Ole Snaggletooth as a “sheep killer”, yet he only wants the sheep for their wool and sets them free after they’ve been shorn. Reminds me of “Mighty Mouse and the Wolf” (1945): the title villain steals the fleeces from Little Bo Peep’s sheep and only wants to jitterbug with Little Red Riding Hood. Makes me wonder what his intentions were with the Three Little Pigs, but Mighty Mouse saves the day before we have a chance to find out.

  • Man Steve I Really Love This Print. This Is More Better Than Metv Did

  • So sorry to hear that you have a cold! I hope the weather at your end is much better than ours is right now. Of course, I’m writing from Long Island, here in the New York area, and we’ve had heavy rains and will have heavy rains that could flood!

    I remember the cartoon “dig that dog“. When “the woody woodpecker show“ aired on New York television, I remember having a realtor, real tape recorder that I had by the television set, and I recorded the soundtrack to that so many years ago. Always like that cartoon! Very surreal, just the way I liked them.

    I have to admit though, that I really do like the 1930s cartoons even more, especially some of those “Oswald, the lucky rabbit“ cartoons. Years ago, you put out a fantastic Walter Lantz Studios disc, and I was hoping someday that would be upgraded to Blu-ray. I’m still hoping. Anyway, please rest up and get well soon and so glad to hear that there is so much progress at Thunderbean!!

  • Unbeknownst to most, this film had a special historical significance in the history of Walter Lantz studios.

    During the late 1970’s, I assisted for a time in organizing and cataloging a collection of surviving artwork donated to the UCLA library, which I believe eventually made its way to the Smithsonian. Among the materials was what I believe was photostatic replications of the original storyboard art for this film. The boards seemed to follow the final cartoon pretty closely – but with one major exception which I found fascinating. All scenes of the farmer were drawn using Andy Panda!

    This made logical sense, considering the references to the dog as Dizzy – the same hound who had starred opposite Andy in “Dog Tax Dodgers”. The film was thus planned as Andy’s comeback, following the hiatus caused by the loss of the United Artists distribution contract. But what happened? Why was the Panda’s career (excepting a walk-on in a repeating cycle in “The Woody Woodpecker Polka”) aborted by substitution of a generic farmer?

    Two possibilities come to mind. First, the matter of a suitable voice. Perhaps Walter Tetley was no longer available for the gig, or came too expensive to suit Lantz’s now more restrictive budgets. Yet, this was not necessarily an insurmountable problem, given that a commercial film made around this period for Auto-Lite marks the final theatrical speaking appearances of Andy and Miranda Panda and even Oswald Rabbit! (I’m betting that Andy’s voice in this commercial is supplied by Dick Beals).

    Animation on the commercial doesn’t look bad, probably provided by LaVerne Harding. So was the decision for the cast substitution in the “wolf” short that of director Smith, who perhaps for some reason just didn’t feel comfortable with handling a Mickey Mouse-style straight-man character, or didn’t properly absorb Andy’s standard book of facial expressions?

    One would easier conceive of the decision to axe Andy as the result of Smith’s influence rather than a first choice of Lantz himself or the studio execs, as Lantz would have had no logical financial reason for killing off a franchise which continued to remain profitable to him in the “New Funnies” comics series, and as the Universal execs would also have more likely favored the re-establishment of a second running series instead of the current use of the generic banner “Foolish Fables” as used for the one-shots “The Mouse and the Lion” and “The Flying Turtle”. (It was in fact odd that “Wolf” was not given the “Fables” banner, being the first of Lantz’s one-shots not to use it.)

    There was certainly no reluctance from Universal in allowing Lantz to have a secondary series when Chilly Willy came along, so the possibility of a revival of Andy couldn’t have been greeted with a cold thumbs-down. Finally, the abandonment of older characters would also be consistent with Smith’s practices in a few short years, as his productions gravitated away from the use of stock villain Buzz Buzzard, replacing him with Smith’s own Dapper Denver Dooley, and completely avoided the use of Wally Walrus (who would not reappear in a Lantz cartoon until a few revivals by Jack Hannah in the 1960’s).

    “Wolf” is thus a poignant indication of what could have been, and it is remarkably easy to visualize and hear in one’s mind how the film might have played had the Panda acted out his intended part. More so, it intrigues the imagination to wonder what sort of films might have followed, had Andy’s reappearance been deemed a commercial success.

    • Charles, your comment probably deserved its own daily post.

      You could have had a bonus Monday or Tuesday post, in addition to your regular Wednesday,

      Don’t tell Jerry you have more such stories – he may start sweet-talking you to fill some of his gaps.

    • Dog That Cried Wolf was one of the cartoons started by Dick Lundy and put into production when the studio reopened (the other two were Puny Express and Sleep Happy). I think Walter gave a bull answer with regards to retiring Andy Panda, and it’s obvious why: the character was a complete nothing from the start. Think of the tradition that star characters some times get shunted aside by their costars (Mickey, Porky), but that’s after years of their existence. From the word go, Andy was always overshadowed by his dad, the Rochester turtle, his dogs, and various animals. He was in some great cartoons, but Andy was always a non-entity, so it’s no shock for me he was replaced with a generic farmer and the cartoon turned out just as good. (It’s long been a favorite of mine… that FACE Dizzy gives after being kissed.)

      (Also, Buzz Buzzard was unceremoniously revived in the late era Paul Smith cartoons, some of them anong the last cartoons Lantz produced. MeTV ran some in jaw-dropping restoration quality.)

      • Two things I’d thought I never read in the same sentence: late-era Paul J. Smith and restoration….

    • Seems that recycling earlier characters was also a PJ Smith thing : recycled penguin from “Sliphorn King of Polaroo” complete with red bonnet to create Chilly Willy and called it a day — until Tex Avery came up with the definitive look. Recycled the wolf from two earlier Culhane shorts where he was paired with Woody — called it a day.

  • Wow, the ink lines are pretty thick for an early-Fifties non-UPA cartoon.

  • I’ve always been sort of fond of this wacky cartoon; I was glad to see this IB print this morning. That backstory involving Andy Panda is fascinating!

    I’d like to see a really good print of “Tom Thumb, Jr.” again. I remember being impressed by the cartoon’s use of colored ink-lines; I wondered whether Lantz was toying with the idea of making a feature back in the day.

    Collecting all of Lantz’ Coke ads — there were a bunch of these, weren’t there? — would be fun!

  • It’s your birthday and all you got was a cold? Tough break, pal.

    Speaking of Bunin, I just happened to see a dental hygiene short he did called, “Maxwell, Boy Explorer.” It’s kind of a cut-out / stop-motion hybrid done for Punch Films. The voice actors look to be two of Shamus Culhane’s kids plus an “Amy Bunin.”

    Will this be on that set?

  • That shaggy, mangy looking wolf saw several more appearances in 1950’s Lantz cartoons; including “Red Riding Hoodlum” and at least one if not more of the Coca-Cola commercials. Couldn’t help also noticing the names La Verne, Anna (Osborn?) and of course Gracie among the farmer’s flock. A really enjoyable cartoon with numerous “one of a kind” gags.

  • Virtually all of the Lantz pre-code cartoons in the early thirties seem to feature at least one skeleton gag. It was practically a studio signature!

  • Since it’s your (belated) birthday, instead of singing ‘Happy Birthday’, I’d like to sing this verse about how each one of us feels about you from one of my favorite Sesame Street songs:
    ♫ We seldom have a doubt of you, ♫
    ♫ We love every in and out of you, ♫
    ♫ We think we have to shout of you, ♫
    ♫ Because we are so very, very, very, very proud ♫
    ♫ Of you! ♫
    : )

  • Sorry to hear you got a cold – on your birthday, no less!
    Excited to know that Tom and Jerry will be out the door by next week or so!

    (P.S. Happy Birthday, Steve! ☺
    ♫ “I think I have to shout of you, because I am so very, very,
    very, very proud of you!” ♫)

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