Circus Today

“It’s different from anything you’ve seen before, folks!”

Supervision by Fred Avery; Story by Jack Miller; Animation by Sid Sutherland; Musical Direction by Carl Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on June 22, 1940.

I’ve had a pretty tiring week. I need a short to blog about that won’t require much effort on my part. (It usually takes SO much out of me.) Let’s see… “Joe Glow the Firefly?” Nah. “Freddy the Freshman?” Nope. “Corn on the Cop?” Mmmmm… What do you mean the title of this post means I’ve already made my selection? What if I’ve changed my mind?

Time for some more of those Avery spot gags his unit did so well. Just… not here. I’m sorry, but this might just be the weakest one of these cartoons he directed. (At W.B. at least.) Weak jokes, references common folk won’t get, and a setting that tends to make people uncomfortable these days.

Welcome to Jingling Bros. circus! Where you’re sure to have a good time, even if our performers don’t. Why not remember your trip with a genuine helium balloon? Not only are they powerful enough to lift a man into the air, but they change color constantly! What do we put in these things! (We won’t tell. It might talk you out of a purchase.)

We’ve got plenty of sideshow acts as well. Gamer the glutton will eat anything you put in front of him; so what if it makes him all jangly inside? Hot Foot Hogan can walk across burning coals. Sure it causes him great pain, but he can do it! (Pay no attention to his disappearing act.) And Captain Clampett can be launched from a cannon, go on a round-world trip, and have the postage to prove it! (Any relation to A.C. Gamer, Rich Hogan and Bob Clampett will be lost on the casual viewer.)

What kind of circus would be complete without exotic animals being housed in cramped, unsanitary cages? There’s a repeat of the person feeding the animal when they really shouldn’t joke that was seen previously in both “A Day at the Zoo”, and “Cross Country Detours”. At least the punchline differs slightly with the monkey being a narc. There’s also a large gorilla being referred to as an assassin of the jungle, terrifying brute, and all around vicious beast. It might have been a punchline to see it be so gentle back then, but nowadays it’s like “no, crap.”

Inside the tent is where the REAL action is. The Flying Cadenzas are quite the amazing acrobats. Flying really is the perfect word to describe them. “Successful” and “Full set” are not. Then there’s Dixie Dare. A rather hot honey who attempts to grab a handkerchief off the ground with her teeth whilst horse riding. Maybe on the return trip, she can attempt to grab her teeth. Another performer, Madame Trixie, prefers to dance with her horse. He leads. (Is she supposed to look like Freddie Bartholomew?)

Elephants. A majestic animal that has been forced into this humiliating line of work ever since circuses took off. The trick is have a trainer who acts like one of their own. Hence, Ignatz Ignatzavich as part of their parade, a tail in his mouth. Still, the creatures have large developed brains, and just can’t bring to complete a trick that requires them to put all their bulk on his fragile, soft head. Instead, watch our performer who will do one of those death dives from an ungodly height, to a bucket of water. And I do mean “death”, quite literally. You’ve haven’t truly experienced our circus until you’ve heard our band play “Taps”.

Favorite Part: Lion tamer Clyde Binder (who you’re probably not recognizing as a nod to studio executive Henry Binder) has just put his head in a lion’s mouth and lived to show it. Seeing how much applause this gets, has the lion putting his head into the human’s mouth. (His envy is cute.)

Personal Rating: 2. I could see people laughing and enjoying this. But if you’re no stranger to Avery’s works, I can’t imagine you’ll think this is anywhere near his best.

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