THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
April 7, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Willie Whopper in “The Good Scout” (1934)

Let’s take a break and watch a Willie Whopper!

One of the wonderful things about working on sets of classic animation is having a really good archive to look back on, knowing you have pretty good copies of lots of stuff — AND going back to past Thunderbean Thursdays is a reminder of just how many cartoons we’ve posted here over these 10 years — and how exciting it is to add new things to that group.

On the Thunderbean end of things, Flip the Frog is nearly in the can and just waiting for a few things, Aesop’s Fables Volume 1 is nearly done too, and the “special” disc release called “The Other Betty Boops, Volume 1” is nearly done. They’re all taking up all my time when not at the school, so when all three are actually out I may have some time to watch Ray Pointer’s Toby the Pup cartoon set again— plug intended!

I’ve been happy to take a little break here and go back to visit the “Ub Iwerks’ Willie Whopper” Blu-ray set. In hindsight, there’s things I’d fix a little more, with steadying everything being the one major difference, but overall I think the collection turned out pretty good.

One of the last of the series is The Good Scout. It’s a great example of the advancements of the studio at that time- well animated and timed, enjoyable in its simplicity. It also features a great version of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Milingburg Joys” by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers — a great way to save some money on the last releases for MGM (this is the second to last Iwerks cartoon produced for release by Metro). There’s a really funny inside joke at the beginning of the cartoon featuring Bosko waiting in line. Bosko *was* waiting in line, or more accurately Harman/Ising were- to replace Iwerks as MGM’s cartoon studio after the next short.

There’s great background layout throughout this film, especially impressive near the end of the film. It’s mostly dialogue- free through the majority of the short, leaving the jazzy music to cheerfully supplement the action.

It was a challenge finding a really good print of this one. It’s one of the two without a 35mm element as part of the masters, and the Blackhawk negative (a reduction in 16mm) was just fuzzy. Several sharp originals were found and lent for this cartoon, with the body being mostly a sharp old original 16mm printdown from David Shepard.

While not a perfect presentation, I think it’s a really fun entry in the series…

Now, You tell one! Special Thanks to Serge Bromberg and Lobster Films, and of course to David Shepard, who is missed greatly as Flip the Frog leaps forward.

Have a good week all.

11 Comments

  • Describing the Blu Ray as “pretty good” is a huge understatement.

  • I wish I could like “The Good Scout” more than I do. But with apologies to Jelly Roll Morton and young Izzy, I just find it terribly lethargic. Everything Willie does, whether it’s running on top of a tire or dangling from a flagpole or swinging from a ceiling lamp, seems to happen in slow motion and drags on longer than necessary. All in all I prefer “The Cave Man”, which also boasts a great vintage jazz soundtrack and a cute damsel in distress, but has livelier action and a more cohesive story.

    That’s Don Redman’s arrangement of “Milenburg Joys”; animation fans will remember him from the Betty Boop cartoon “I Heard”. He led McKinney’s Cotton Pickers for several years before starting his own orchestra. I won’t chide you for misspelling the piece’s title, because the title itself is a music publisher’s misspelling of the Milneburg neighbourhood in New Orleans.

    I first heard of Willie Whopper when I read Jeff Lenburg’s “The Great Cartoon Directors” in the nineties, and it occurred to me then that the depth of obscurity into which the character had fallen could be gauged by the fact that no conservative columnist or commentator ever saw fit to refer to President Clinton as “Willie Whopper”. If even one of them had, just once, the nickname would have spread like wildfire and stuck like glue. For Willie’s sake, I’m glad that didn’t happen.

  • What’s amusing to me is that the scout in the thumbnail looks a great deal like the young Chuck Jones, who I know worked at the Iwerks studio before beginning his long run at Schlesinger/WB.

  • Do you have a translation of the Cantonese (?) and Yiddish?

    • Izzy stammers too much for me to give you a word-for-word, but he says he rescued a cat that a dog chased up a tree. He uses a first-generation American’s “Yinglish”, for example saying “tree” instead of the Yiddish “boim”. Can’t help you with the Chinese.

  • Animators Robert Stokes and Norm Blackburn both worked on the Bosko series for Harman-Ising.

  • I assume either Stokes or Blackburn animated the scene from about 2:30-3:00, which looks like something out of a Harman-Ising WB cartoon in both animation timing and the design of the heavy. Standard Iwerksian “zap” to emphasize the slap, though; I wonder if Ub had some sort of cleanup person assigned to keep the shock lines and pain stars consistent between animators.

  • Come on, the scoutmaster bought that? And why are everyone’s knees two-thirds down their legs? Even in those early days of animation, they should have known human anatomy better than that. At least it’s an integrated scout troop; was that Bosko behind Willie?

    • Psst… don’t look now, but they’ve got only four fingers on their hands, too.

  • I’m with everyone else here in praise of your WILLY WHOPPER collection. Here’s to having the FLIP THE FROG in my hands real soon, but I’m sure the wait will be worth the final product quality! I like any cartoon that samples or even plays its own version of a classic jazz or big band swing tune. This is also apparent in the oldest Warner Brothers cartoon of that very rare mid-1930’s variety. Thanks for all that you continue to do.

  • Long thighs and short shins were a standard feature of Iwerks Studio character design. This actually reflects anatomical reality: the ratio of femur to tibia in humans is about 56/44. Iwerks exaggerated this disparity, as cartoonists do, but not by all that much. However, I’ve long noticed that in cartoons, legs are more attractive when their upper and lower components are of equal length, or if the calves are a bit longer: q.v. pre-Code Betty Boop, Daisy Mae, Jessica Rabbit, etc. There’s got to be a dissertation in this somewhere.

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