One Step Ahead of my Shadow

“Me show you Melican way!”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Max Maxwell; Music by Frank Marsales. A Merrie Melody released on February 4, 1933.

With a title like that, I’d assume our picture would take place in the land of the rising sun. I guess China is a close enough choice. We dumb Americans think all Asian cultures are one and the same. Considering the time period it’s coming from, should we expect plenty of stereotype jokes? Yes, but luckily most of them seem pretty subdued. Seems the animators were more focused on “the Chinese have long braids of hair” jokes, over the classic “they have freakishly large teeth!” ones. (Though there is one of those in here.)

Although, really, we shouldn’t make fun. The people there are not that different than you or me. They have traffic, folks who quote “Amos N Andy,” and Mickey clones, just like we do! (Numbers 704 and 251, to be precise.) And who is our hero of the day? It’s a young oriental boy named…I won’t lie. I’m afraid to supply him with a name, in case I somehow choose something offensive. I’ll just go with Craig.

Craig sings the title song, while on his way to pick up his girlfriend for a date. If it isn’t Fortune Cookie! (And if it isn’t, it must be her sister, Fortune Wafer.) The two enjoy some swinging. (That’s not a music joke. They use a literal swing. Do couples still do this sort of thing?) Let’s step away from the two for minute and look at another character. Some fat guy who you’d probably expect to be the antagonist, at first glance. Not only does he treat his rickshaw driver as a horse, (but then, he IS neighing. Why do they keep doing that?) but he also has claws, and takes joy in finding the meter go down to zero after hitting a bump. (Actually, that one is rather relatable.)

He heads into a building, and they start swinging. (That’s not a literal description. They play some music) The building in question is right next to where Craig and his gal pal are playing, so they go inside and have more fun. Now we’ll meet the antagonist. A dragon that is in captivity. (It’s easier to worship something when it doesn’t run away.) It has fire breath, (which these type of dragons don’t normally do, so maybe this one IS just a zoo exhibit.) and it is able to melt the bars of its cage and escape. It begins terrorizing everyone, but Craig has the rather brilliant idea of shoving some fireworks down its throat. This doesn’t kill it, but it does succeed in blowing off all the skin and organs within.

Favorite Part: While Craig paddles his boat along the Yangtze (I’m sure there are other rivers in China, but its the one I’m declaring canon) he sees a quacking goose eat some fish. The last fish is big enough to turn the tables.

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