September 7, 2023 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Willie Wildcat in “Problem Child” (1938)

These days have been completely packed, so having a little break to write about a Lantz cartoon is a welcome change!

In very quick and somewhat candid Thunderbean news:
I’m looking forward to actually visiting Thunderbeanland when I have a chance; I’m working on helping finish a program for broadcast, the Fleischer restoration project and, with the first week of school here there has been less time than I’d like to move others things a little further down the line. Even though it’s been exhausting, I find myself incredibly happy at all the good things that have come out of both the experiences of working on so many cool projects and, especially, the things to come. There’s just so many great possibilities right now and things I love getting produced to let any color correction missteps or PSYOPS slow them down!

There is some exciting shipping news though: The Flip the Frog Blu-ray set will be sent, finally, around the 18th of the month. The special discs that we’ll have ready to sent will be sent around the same time. The Van Beuren Tom and Jerry set will be sent near the end of the month as well, finally completing two of the longest projects here.

There has been some chatting here about revisiting a relationship we’ve had related to a little black cat. Since Halloween is less than two months away, it seems like a good season to think about this silent series of films. The hard drive archive is now out since we’ve had to do so anyway to provide some screeners for a good friend, and while I’m looking at these films I’m remembering how much fun it was to find and scan all this stuff from 2012 to early 2014. I’ve heard this little cat is bad luck though, and have some experience to prove it.

At some point I’ll chat about a Marie Callendar’s meeting and contract breach since it’s been many years now. It wasn’t all negative. After all, it was awfully nice for him to buy me a piece of cake *after* the public screaming. I’ll be less cryptic sometime about all this stuff, but it’s a fun story that should perhaps make the liner notes.

And, onto today’s cartoon!

Willie Wildcat seems like a name one might pull from a punchbowl of possible characters to use to compete with a duck, Kat (as in Krazy), mouse, pig or something from other studios. Until the studio’s lucky strikes with Andy Panda and Woody, it seems like Lantz was really trying hard to come up with any character that might work. From Baby Face Mouse to the Dumb Cluck and Lil’ Eight Ball and Peterkin, they may have the best record of almost completely forgettable characters in the late 30s.

Little frustrated characters with the same baby voice (by Berneice Hansell) seem to show up in Lantz cartoons more than any other. Even in the age of the Internet, those late 30s experiments seems a little less accessible than many other late 30s films. The pacing and overall storytelling isn’t at a great level, but often the animation is enjoyable and well produced.This particular film, Problem Child, is enjoyable enough entertainment. Oswald was even nice enough to lend his faithful dog Elmer to add as much star value as possible.

Even though these are not the most memorable shorts the studio produced, they’re all still pretty fun to see.

Have a good week everyone!


  • Oh boy, oh boy! I am so delighted to know the exact date when I can start looking in my mailbox for “flip the frog“ and some of those incredible special discs that I’m sure it will be amazing! I hope that your continued dig for those much desired missing links will become more and more fruitful as the years go by. I know I’ll be wondering about the contents of many things to come, and the reveal of special projects that you were working on. and thank you, as always, for a nice taste of 1930s Walter Lantz animation. I like that whole period, and I hope they’ll be more of these as weeks go by, along with more Terry tunes as well.

  • “Problem Child” may be a minor Universal cartoon, but it’s still worlds better than the “Problem Child” cartoons that Universal made in the ’90s.

    Does anyone know why Frank Churchill left Disney after “Snow White” and went to work for Walter Lantz? It doesn’t seem like a sensible career move to me.

    • My understanding Lantz shelled out money for him to write music for a feature and when the idea fell apart, Churchill went back to Disney.

    • The cartoons, of course, being based on two live action low brow comedies, the second of which was accompanied in theatres by a re-release of the 1947 Woody Woodpecker cartoon Smoked Hams.

  • “Problem Child” was later marketed by Castle Films as “Brat Cat.”

    Many years ago I bought a couple boxes of assorted titles, daters, and clips from a now long-deceased collector. (Steve knows who it was…) A lot of them were rolls of multiple prints, and in some cases negatives ( ! ) of the all-purpose titles used by Home Movie Wonderland; “Collector’s Corner,” “Movie Museum,” “Three-In-One Musical,” etc. But on a core, there was an original of the main title for “Problem Child”!

    I searched the Big Reel ads (yes, it was THAT long ago) and finally found a reasonably priced print of “Brat Cat.” Put the title on the print, and there ya go. Of course it still has the Castle “The End” title, but that’s OK by me.

    As for Frank Churchill, part of the answer might be found in a remark Lantz made, “People came to work for me when they didn’t want to work for Disney any more.” Maybe he was looking for a less stressful working atmosphere.

    • Churchill would make it back to Disney for Bambi, then, just after scoring it, took his own life, at home. He was by many accounts chronically depressed for many years, through a brilliant composer.

      I got to know Ken Southworth a little- a terrific animator who worked for Disney from the early 40s until just after Alice (he was one of Milt Kahl’s assistants on Alice). As Alice wrapped, he visited a friend at Lantz and loved the environment there, but commented on how there seemed to be a lot of things there that were way less pristine looking than at Disneys. He stayed for a while, and told me Lantz didn’t mind if you freelanced for other studios while working there (he did a lot of moonlighted for lots of small TV studios, including Sam Singer, Bob Clampett, Kling Productions and others). He said a lot of people at Lantz worked on comics and coloring books. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that work was actually done at the Lantz studio after hours, but there’s no official record of that.

  • Isn’t Willie Wildcat the little brother of Oswald’s girlfriend? one of the Lantz cartoons names him Willie.

  • The cartoons look a lot like they borrowed from Gillett’s time at Van Beuren. With people like Lovy onboard, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

  • Does this character have any relation to the title character in the MGM Barney Bear short “Wee Willie Wildcat?”

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