Nelly’s Folly

“The world’s fist singin’ gyraffe!”

Directed by Chuck Jones; Co-Directors: Maurice Noble and Abe Levitow; Story by Dave Detiege and Chuck Jones; Animation by Richard Thompson, Ben Washam, Tom Ray, and Ken Harris; Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc, Gloria Wood; Musical Direction by Milt Franklyn. A Merrie Melody released on December 30, 1961.

This tale begins in Africa. Precisely, in one of its jungles. Mistake number 1: there’s a lion. Mistake number 2: there’s a warthog. Mistake number 3: there’s our titular star, Nelly. She’s a giraffe. Now that we’ve got the mistakes named, let’s move on to the rest, because it really is sensational.

Nelly isn’t like your normal giraffes. Chewing cud, and splaying her forelegs out to drink. Well, okay. She probably does those things too, but she has a more unusual talent too: singing! Yes, she can sing! In fact, she attracts quite a crowd from the other animals. They love her voice. And because she has the longest neck in the animal kingdom, her voice can carry for miles around and attract all kinds of public. Including a human. It looks like he came here to hunt, but a member of the Artiodactyla Order that is capable of producing music? That’s even more valuable than some taxidermy trophy!

He offers to help her get discovered. I guess he is a talent scout on the side, because he already has a contract on him. (Even more incredible: Nelly knows how to sign it!) It is with tears in her eyes that she leaves the continent she has known all her life, but she has a gift, and must share it with the world. (Hey, why is a tiger seeing her off?) Next stop: New York City! Her first role: a commercial jingle for some cure-all tonic that probably does jack all. You may think she got scammed, but this is pretty accurate. Even for a giraffe. You have to start at the bottom, gain some notoriety, and then you move on to the big stuff.

It pays off. Her commercial gig leads to lead roles in musicals. Then comes the merchandise. Clothing inspired by her, and albums. Lots of albums. Soon, she is attracting bigger crowds than ever before. (Usually consisting of background of people, with images of clapping hands pasted over it. Stylistic.) She has fame, good looks, and is known the world over! (Probably.) Why is she so unhappy? Well, I’m no giraffe psychiatrist, (at least, not anymore) but I’d wager that these people may love the idea of her, but they don’t love “HER her.” Life is lonely. (That I can attest to.) She can’t enjoy success without someone to share it. (Agents don’t count.)

As she mopes, she finds herself in the zoo. And just look at that fetching bull giraffe! She may have just laid eyes on him, but she knows what she likes. Wait, he’s already in a relationship? That’s a bit of a turn-off, but loneliness is powerful. (Again, I know this well.) She begins to see him, but does this ever cause problems. Of course it makes headlines! The biggest, tallest star getting involved in such a scandal? The public won’t hear of it! It’s well documented that they will accept anything starlets do, except infidelity. In fact, at her next performance, she finds an empty house. Everyone has abandoned her. Her fans, her agent, could her boyfriend be next?

Yep. Now that she’s lost her notoriety, he wants nothing to do with her. (Luckily for him, his original cow easily forgives. I guess if he can be so shallow, so can his mate.) Here’s where the cartoon gets dark. As the narrator explains, “those who remember Nelly, like to think she went back to Africa.” Notice that? They like to THINK that. Seeing how its being said as she lingers on a bridge, could it be that Nelly actually jumped? (No wonder this cartoon was an Academy nominee. I mean, I guess Maurice Noble’s brilliant backgrounds played a part in that. And there’s no shame to losing to “Ersatz” That film deserved to win.)

Even if it never really happened, we see how things would turn out if Nelly did return home. She’d be sad, but at least surrounded by her old friends. They too feel bad for her, because they are true friends. But wait! Another giraffe! Another male giraffe! Another SINGING giraffe! But the absolute best part? He looks faithful. The other animals feel the love in the air, so I’d wager he’s for real. (I love the warthog taking an aside glance to realize he is hugging his predators. He probably has just realized that they have no intention of letting go.) I hope this is the canon ending. It’s a great reward for Nelly, the world’s only singing giraffe. (As far as humanity knows.)

P.S. There’s no “That’s all Folks!” end card. That doesn’t happen often.

Favorite Part: The reveal of Nelly’s true love. You’ll first think it’s just another shot of her, since only the legs are shown. But then his baritone joins her song, the color comes back to her life, and everything looks like it will be all right after all.

Personal Rating: 4

 

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