A Scent of the Matterhorn

“Le grunt.”

Directeur et Story: M. Charl Jones; Animateurs: M. Tomme Ray, M. Cannes Harris, M. Dicque Thompson, M. Robaire Bransford; Lai-out: M. Maurice Nobelle; Le Ground Bacque, M. Philipe De Guard; Effex Specialitie: M. Harre Amour; Film Editeur: Docteur Treg Brown; Voix Characterization: M. Mel Blanc; Musique: M. Milt Franklyn. A Looney Tune released on June 24, 1961.

While the road is in the middle of getting a fresh line painted through it, the machine responsible for doing so gets loose and rolls away, downhill as gravity intended. It paints what it passes, leaving a nice white line over countryside and livestock. And over a cat who is fleeing from a dog. The machine lands on the canine leaving the cat to escape with a pelt that one typically sees on skunks. Oh, the possibilities are expected.

If the title isn’t lying to us, then most of our short will be taking place on the Matterhorn. They speak French there, so the cast checks out. Shouldn’t Pepe be making some sort of appearance about now? There he is. Enjoying a stroll, and happily greeting the wildlife he meets along the way. (I love how his new frog friend reacts. Walks off with a look usually seen on Death Row inmates, lets loose a single scream, and has his eyes change color.)

Pepe spots Penelope and lets loose some pretty awesome pick-up lines. “Everyone should have a hobby. Mine is making love.” and “You may call me ‘Streetcar’ because of my desire for you.” If I thought I was worth dating, I’d totally use those. Yet Penelope just isn’t interested. Has she heard those before? Or is she just a little disturbed that one of Pepe’s feet disappeared when he grabbed her? Women are a mystery indeed.

Chase time! Penelope’s only got one option here, and it is called “up.” So that is where she goes. Pepe has no problem following her because he is muscular, and thinks her preparing to jump off a cliff is a sign of willing to commit suicide rather than be without him, because she is cute. Pepe is also quite savvy to how these kind of chases work out, as when she does jump he calmly notes that she will be back. And since the ground below was sloped like a bowl, she slides back up into his paws. (Pepe: “I told you so.”)

Well, now that Penelope has gone up, a new escape option called “down” is available. But this option is particularly slippery, and she ends up sliding into an ice cave. (Only some of the reflections of her move. Which makes me wonder: how many girls has Pepe already chased in here?) Penelope is now trapped, and seeing all the reflections really brightens Pepe’s day. Eet eez ow you say, a jackpot, no?

Favorite Part: The fact that was Penelope was painted, the dog wasn’t immediately scared away. The first time I saw this, I really expected him to, despite having seen her get painted with his own eyes. Good ole Chuck. Not insulting my intelligence.

Personal Rating: 3

 

Wake Up the Gypsy in Me

“The fools!”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Larry Silverman; Music by Frank Marsales. A Merrie Melody released on May 13, 1933.

I don’t know much about anything that isn’t related to zoology, so that means I don’t know an awful lot about Russia. But I do know that at the time of this short’s release, the country being portrayed here was known as the Soviet Union. With that said, I’ll still be referring to it as “Russia.”

It’s time for fun! Who likes dancing? And singing? And having a good time with their neighbors? I don’t, so I’m not sure how authentic this get together is. But everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, which is what I always thought happened in situations like this. But the festivities can’t really get started until an actual Gypsy joins the fun. Here she comes now. I’ll call her Kurabie. (Nobody else seems happy to see her. Rather they’re shocked and or appalled? Or just hungry? I’ve seen young blue tits make the same face.)

Look guys! It’s Kurabie!

While they continue to enjoy themselves, let’s follow what looks to be three kids in a trench coat, but is actually a little person and four bombs. They’re on their way to the residence of Rice Puddin’ AKA The Mad Monk. Clever name. Kids aren’t one to pick up on it, so they won’t know we’re making fun of someone who really existed. And here I thought the ire towards the guy didn’t start until 1997.

R.P. is just doing a jigsaw puzzle. A great way to spend one’s time. (And the bomb guy disappears after he gets inside. He was a waste of story if not animation.) Rice spies Kurabie and wants her. Despite the fact she looks to be about 8. These old shorts just suck at portraying age. Rice isn’t going to get her himself, though. He’s not very popular around these parts. He sends a guard to go and get the girl, while he stays behind and enjoys a cigar. (Helpfully lit by Mickey Clone number 551.)

When the girl is brought back by a completely different person, (Unless he stopped to shave off the rest of his stubble hair.) Rice sends him away (via trapdoor) so he can enjoy her “company.” If you know what I mean. Yet, she doesn’t appear into him. But why? He’s got a nice position of power. Well, I think it’s because of his run cycle. The animators really wanted to make him look like a Bauk. Lumbering, slobbering, and cackling. Such turnoffs.

But Kurabie’s calls for help were heard and a revolution was quickly formed. Rice tries to make an escape via donkey-copter, but the revolutionists were able to get at least one bomb in his attire. The resulting explosion makes him look a lot like that Indian guy, Candi. (No disrespect intended, but if Rasputin’s real name isn’t going to be used, then I don’t see why Gandhi shouldn’t get similar treatment.)

Favorite Part: Not only does Rice Puddin’ cheat at his jigsaw puzzles by cutting out the shapes he needs, but he isn’t shy of where he gets the material from. So we end up with a picture of a horse with the czar’s head on it’s butt. Political commentary!

Personal Rating:2

The Timid Toreador

“Who’s afraid of hot?”

Supervision by Robert Clampett and Norman McCabe; Animation by I. Ellis; Story by Melvin Miller; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released on December 21, 1940.

Today is Bullfight day. The day when everyone who wants to, can go watch a bull fight a man. Doesn’t sound like much of a contes- oh, the man gets a sword? That poor bull! But Porky has no time for such inhumane tomfoolery. He is a firm believer in the old adage of work coming before pleasure. To H-E-L-hockey stick with those who say otherwise! (*Glares at the dictionary.*)

Porky’s job is tamale merchant. And it looks to me like business is slow. I mean, why advertise your product as “hot” when the air temperature is already high enough to get a pig to sweat? (Don’t tell me that Toon pigs can do that. I have  a degree in Cartoozoology.) But I don’t know whether the “hot” equates to its temperature or spice. But it must be one of the two, as a rooster sneaks one, eats it wrapper and all, and is instantly ready for my dinner table. (Love Porky’s annoyed look. “Don’t d-d-expire near my ware-ware-merchandise.”)

As for that fight, we have our matador, Punchy Pancho, versus our bull, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbull. (Which is pretty near the top of my list of best names ever. Still can’t overtake “Schmidlap” though.) S.M.B. is not one to B.S. around, and P.P. is quick to realize that the bull probably isn’t going to be the one leaving the arena as hamburger meat. And if the announcer is any indication, this has happened plenty before. Note how he doesn’t even watch the match. I think he memorized a script, and recites it every time. Switching out names as needed.

It’s a crappy arena anyway, as Porky is able to waltz right inside with no problems. Slapsie isn’t one to discriminate. He’s willing to kill anyone who enters his ring. (Not the one in his nose. Don’t make this weird.) Porky does his best to fight back, but he’s just not cut out for cutting out bull hearts and so he tries to just take his wares and run. Slapsie blocks the way, but then he catches scent of a delicious waft. Something around here smells tasty! Like a good meaty filling wrapped in a corn flour wrap! Tamales! A whole box of them!

They may be hot and/or spicy, but Slapsie doesn’t fear such threats. He downs the entire box. Well… tries to anyway. If my count is correct, he only got seven out of thirteen. Still worth a passing grade. And judging my what animals have happily devoured those today, I’m deducing that they aren’t chicken or beef tamales. Which leaves… Oh no! Porky! Did… did you just…

DID YOU JUST LET A BULL CONSUME VEAL? Ohhh, poor Slapsie Jr.

Oh, and the heat and/or spice does its magic and sends the bull running in pain. (Demolishing a good chunk of the audience too, I will add.) Hats off to Porky! He’s our new champion! This calls for an Oliver Hardy impression! (Something we already know Porky is quite good at.)

Favorite Part: A picador who laughs at the bull. Not only does he sound an awful lot like a laughing fish that I find hysterical, but the angry bovine ends up smashing the man and horse into one being. Hey! Now you can be in that “Fantasia” sequel Disney is planning! Shouldn’t be too much longer of a wait…

Personal Rating: 3

Shamrock and Roll

“Anything that green has to be Ireland.”

Directed by Bob McKimson; Story by Cal Howard; Animation by Ted Bonnicksen, LaVerne Harding, Jim Davis, Ed Solomon, and Norman McCabe; Layouts by Bob Givens, and Jaime Diaz; Backgrounds by Bob Abrams; Film Editor: Hal Geer; Voice Characterization by Larry Storch; Musical Direction by William Lava. A Merrie Melody released on June 28, 1969.

You know, Merlin the magic mouse has spent every cartoon of his career so far in the USA. It really is a shame that he hoards his amazing feats of wonder (*cough*) away from the rest of the world. Aw, what the hey! For this, his final performance, he will perform in a different country. Picking one at random is the fun part!

Since he’s been a good sidekick, Merlin decides to let Second Banana be the one to pinpoint their destination for prestidigitation. He gives the kid a dart, and tells him to throw it at the spinning globe. After Merlin pulls the dart out of himself, he tells the kid they’ll just blindfold and spin him instead. After getting his eye poked, Merlin rescinds S.B.’s picking privileges, and decides they’re going to the emerald isle.

They travel by magic carpet, and it gets caught on a tree that I thought was part of the background. (It just goes by so fast!) This causes them to land on top of some shamrocks, and more importantly, some guy’s lawn. The lawn in question, belongs to a leprechaun named O’Reilly, who looks like kinda like a smurf that was designed by Dr. Seuss. I swear, just give the guy a couple of those half-moon pupils.

Don’t tell me you can’t see it

Anyhow, O.R. isn’t happy to see trespassers, and S.B. isn’t happy to be labeled as one. Does this guy know who he’s talking to? Merlin the magic mouse, that’s who! Maybe a demonstration of his powers is in order? Merlin’s got a great trick that a moose showed him once. You pull a rabbit out of a hat you see. But rabbits are a bit bigger than mice and leprechauns, so I can’t really be disappointed to find Merlin’s rabbit is a puppet.

The leprechaun isn’t impressed and decides to show the two a REAL trick. He makes Merlin’s watch disappear. When Merlin asks for it back, Reilly makes himself disappear. It was magic AND a trick! He’s keeping the watch, as he likes watches. Is that something leprechauns are known for? I thought they wasted their time hoarding cereal, and shining shoes.

O’Reilly says that if they can catch him, they can have the watch back. The mice chase the thief, but he leads them off a cliff. Merlin makes a paper airplane for them to ride in, and they crash into a tree. You’d think Merlin’s magic could be used to get a hold of that watch but he’s just going to use a trap instead. If you can believe it, Reilly actually falls for it. But I guess since the trap caught him, he doesn’t have to keep his end of the bargain, as he magics himself away.

His house was pretty close by, and Merlin once more demands the watch. (So angry is he, that he takes half a step back, rather than forward.) O’Reilly decides to make amends by giving the two a whole bag of watches. (He usually sells the things on the street at jacked up prices to unsuspecting brownies.) Merlin agrees to this, and he and his… son? (Are these two related?) are on their way again. (To another locale. The locals have cost Ireland its chance.)

Merlin has plans for these watches. He’ll sell them on the street at jacked up prices to unsuspecting voles! And it’s at that decision that the timepieces disappear. (Leprechauns are dicks.) But there is ticking up ahead! It’s Big Ben, and the mice visit him firsthand. And secondhand and hourhand too!

Favorite Part: Meeting O.R. When he says he’s a leprechaun, S.B. asks “Oh, really?” and is answered with “No, O’Reilly.” (Yeah, it’s a weak pun, but I’d never heard it before. And I happen to like puns.)

Personal Rating: 2

The Cat’s Bah

“We can spend the rest of our lives makking lo-ove!”

Directed by Charles M. Jones; Story by Michael Maltese; Animation by Ken Harris, Ben Washam, Abe Levitow, Richard Thompson, and Lloyd Vaughan; Layouts by Maurice Noble; Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard; Voice Characterization Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released on March 20, 1954.

Pepe is in a good mood today, for we are here to interview him about the love of his life. (Well, I am anyway. You’re kinda useless. Feel free to watch.) Pepe is also quite the gracious host. Offering me a glass of champagne, and calling me “Golden Girl.” (Would that I could be that attractive.) Now that we are all quite comfortable, he begins his tale.

It began a while ago. Pepe was living in what I assume to be Algeria. Even better, living right next to his namesake, Pepe Le Moko. His main goal is to find his soulmate, but he’ll settle for any attractive female. And wouldn’t you know it? An American tourist has just arrived, and like most tourists, brought her pet cat along for the trip. Said cat is Penelope, yes, but it’s not just me calling her that today! It really is her name! She doesn’t have to join the club of Jones’ characters who were given names years later!

What did you say, earthling?
*snarls*
No one will talk about you when you’re gone.

I hate it when my idols want to kill me.

Today is also paint the ship day, (which is every September 19.) and Penelope gets a good coating of white down her back. Her owner takes no notice of the new look, but Pepe does. (Love his face.) He decides to liberate the lady and that’s a good marriage proposal around here. She’d be crazy not to love him now. Even better? Pepe doesn’t appear to have any stench in this picture. No odor lines appear, no humans freak out at the sight of him. Heck, he managed to get an in-person interview!

Which, if this is indeed the story of how Pepe met his love, its odd to see the first female he’s encountered run away from him. I thought love always happens at first sight to both parties. Oh well, Pepe can chase. He finds it a turn on. Penelope chooses a rather ingenious hiding place: one empty jar among many. I mean, okay, its rather obvious to hide in one, but the odds of being found on the fist try?

Pepe finds her on the first try, and the chase continues all around the casbah. (Bah!) He finds her on the second hump of a camel who is really enjoying his cud today. Hey! Did you know that camels with two humps, known as Bactrian camels, aren’t native to this part of the world? Because I don’t think Chuck and his team did. Actually, no, I think they did. I think they just figured audiences back then would be too thick to know it. At least the camel doesn’t mind. (“If you’re a camel, you soon learn to put up with anything.”)

Pepe is everywhere, pretending to be anything and anyone. From a snake, to Rick Blaine. (Gets a quick case of Yellow Ear, though.) But even though she was shy, it seems that she eventually overcame that trait, as now she and Pepe are truly inseparable. Ball n’ chains will have that effect on people. She furiously files away, and I feel like I should leave the two alone. I don’t like to get involved in marital disputes. Interview over!

Favorite Part: Before the interview, Pepe asks us to let him slip into something more comfortable. There’s nothing to stop us from viewing him anyway, but he takes it well. “Intimate, no?”

Personal Rating: I’d love to give this a 4, but that ending combined with the fact that you can’t argue that Pepe’s actions are only not wanted because of his smell? I’ve a feeling that it will wad up the panties of sensitive types. I have to give it a 3.

Mouse-placed Kitten

“Happy birthday, Junior.”

Directed by Robert McKimson. Story by Tedd Pierce; Animation by Ted Bonnicksen, Warren Batchelder, Tom Ray, and George Granpre; Layouts by Robert Gribbroek; Backgrounds by William Butler; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Milt Franklyn. A Looney Tune released on January 24, 1959.

As a man drives his car, he throws out something in a sack. Judging by the sounds coming from within, I’d wager that it’s a kitten. And it’s a wonder that it survives to the bottom of the hill, as it looks like that trip hurts. The small creature comes to a halt at the home of two mice, Clyde and Matilda. Matilda is instantly smitten. A child is something she’s always wanted. So what if he’s on the big side? Just more of him to love, right?

Clyde isn’t taken right away. As he points out, this baby is a cat. One of him and his wife’s natural predators. In other words, the kitten is absolutely, positively, not going to be their child. Which is story-talk for “the very next scene contradicts that statement.” Looks like the kitten is a member of the family after all. But he can only stay so long before contrasting diets make things difficult. The kitten just doesn’t like cheese.

Matilda concedes that her husband is right. (Something most husbands can only dream about.) Junior would be better off being raised by humans. I mean, he’s well past weaned. Clyde takes him to be left on a different doorstop, telling him about how much better his life is going to be. None of that “We never really loved you.” B.S. Quite the contrary, as it seems Clyde has grown to love the kid, and tearfully bids him farewell. Since they didn’t leave Junior at MY house, the kitten is subsequently adopted by the lady therein. (So what if his nose disappears for a second.)

A year goes by. The mice are still alive, and figure that the day the kid is left on your doorstop is as good as any other day to call their birthday. Time for visit. Junior has grown up by this point. And it looks like he’s matured into quite the mouser, as when Julie (the name I’ve decided to give his owner) catches sight of the rodents, he jumps right into action. He grabs the mice, gives them a good sniff… and instantly recognizes them as his parents. It’s really a sweet scene. (Yes, I’m being sincere.)

Julie isn’t happy to find the cat not evicting them. And oddly enough, once Junior puts them in his mouth, she tells him to take them outside. (Your pet too good to eat mice? Or is there a strict “No blood on the linoleum” rule in effect?) Matilda figures that with the reception they’ve gotten from 50% of the household, it’s best that they leave already. Junior won’t hear of it. And I like that. One shouldn’t have to be ashamed of their folks. (Although, I think the other way around is totally fair.)

He invites the two to partake in some snacks. He grabs the most exotic cheeses from the fridge, when Julie catches him in the act. Birthday or not, she’s not going to allow him to touch the food she buys. Clyde is not one to be deterred. He wants that cheese. (I like this guy.) He uses a jug of cider as a boost, but accidentally falls inside it. It’s the hard stuff, and Clyde is thoroughly plastered.

Junior now has to keep his dad safe from the various dangers of the house. (Namely Julie.) The more his mistress catches him messing with various things, the more cross she gets. Culminating with her deciding to kick him out should he bother her one more time. Lucky thing, Clyde’s back to normal by now, and the two decide it’s time for them to go. Junior still feels no ill will towards them, and earnestly hopes for them to visit again.

Back at their place, Matilda is overjoyed to find another kit has been abandoned at their door. (That sounded a lot more sweet in my head.) But it’s not a feline this time. It’s a skunk. Interesting that NOW is when Clyde decides to clothespin up his nasal passage. I mean, skunks only spray when scared, whereas a cat has an unpleasant stench that will follow him beyond death. (THAT sounded a lot more cruel in my head.)

Favorite Part: When Junior sees his parents again in months. Mainly because, when I first saw this short back in the day, I really thought he was going to have forgotten them, and the rest of the picture was going to either be the two trying to escape, or trying to remind him of who they were. It was a heartfelt swerve.

Personal Rating: 4. It’s a sweet story. And I love how Junior knows he’s adopted, and it doesn’t diminish his love at all. Sometimes, your real parents are the ones who don’t throw you out of a moving vehicle.

Egghead Rides Again

“I’m a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’, snootin’, high falutin’, tootin’, shootin’, rootin’, tootin’, cowboy, fella!”

Supervision by Fred Avery; Animation by Paul Smith and Irvin Spence; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on July 17, 1937.

For once, talking about these shorts out of order has worked in my favor. You’ve heard me talk about Egghead before, but back in 1937, audiences hadn’t. So, I’m pretty sure there were a number of people who saw this title, and figured they had missed the first one. But they hadn’t. This was Eggy’s first appearance. (And since Daffy had only had one appearance so far, and barely at that, Mel uses the duck’s voice.)

Egghead lives in the city, but really yearns to be a cowboy. His room is coated in western merchandise, he rides his pogo stick like a steed, and he yells as loud as he can. This displeases the landlord, Mr. Dadburn. So much in fact, that he evicts Egghead right there and then. And since he’s a wannabe cowboy and not a cowboy, he doesn’t have a horse to just aimlessly ride. He needs a job.

The want ad he spies has just the answer he’s looking for. They’s looking for help at the Bar None Ranch in Wahoo, Wyoming. (I’ve been to Wyoming. And I swear it didn’t look as desolate and dry as they’re depicting. Looks more like Utah’s Bryce Canyon to me. Any Wyomingians who can confirm your state looks like this cartoon?) Cow puncher sounds a bit more barbaric than cowboy, but it’s a tomayto, tuhmahto thing. Egghead mails his resume.

And the best thing you can have on a resume is experience, and since that’s something the body supplies, Egghead sends himself. He may be short, bald, have a big nose, and short, but he wants this job so much, that his voice briefly hits puberty. The buckaroos are willing to give him a shot, and let him take a shot. See, cowboys can shoot a cigarette out of someone’s mouth while they stand x feet away. Eggheads can fire a gun, but only at the near cost of the target’s life. Good thing he had his hiding hat on.

Branding is another skill that is vital to know. The terrified little calf they have for practice sessions wants no part in this, so the authentic cowboys are willing to hold it down for the noob. (Is anyone still saying that term? I can’t help it if I’m fourteen years late. My mind never matured past 2010.) Egghead, being a toon, brands every hide butt the calf’s.

The guy in charge makes the little guy a deal, if he can catch the calf that has taken the opportunity to start escaping, then Egghead can have the job. Such a deal! Egghead mounts a pony and sets off. (Looks like all those years of pogoing has paid off.) The calf is quite the tricky one. It takes the rest of the picture for Egghead to make any progress. He does manage to get it back to the pen, but the calf hogties him. Destroying his dignity, and earning jeers from the ranch hands.

But the bossman is willing to keep his word. Egghead got the calf back, so he gets the job. His position is known as the “Sanitation Engineer.” Talk about starting at the bottom! (I’m sorry. I promise to not make anymore jokes of that caliber for at least seven days.)

Favorite Part: The cowboys hear the mail arriving, and decide to ride to its drop-off point. A whole two feet away.

Personal Rating:3

Tugboat Granny

“ANCHORS AWEIGH!”

Directed by Friz Freleng; Story by Warren Foster; Animation by Virgil Ross, Art Davis, and Gerry Chiniquy; Layouts by Hawley Pratt; Backgrounds by Irv Wyner; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Milt Franklyn. A Merrie Melody released on June 23, 1956.

Would you look at that! Granny actually got her name in the title! But… it’s only so they could make a “Tuboat Annie” pun, so she won’t be featuring much in the following short. All we get out of her is a duet with Tweety about tugboats. Granny has a tugboat, you see. I don’t think I’ve made that quite clear. As for Sylvester, he’s been trying to snag a meal by hanging around the fishermen. Since that’s not working out, he decides to try and board the boat and bag the bird.

He first tries a rowboat. Tweety drops an anchor, causing the cat to have to row back to shore, sans boat. Next, he tries a rubber raft. They’re impervious to anchors, but not darts, and it just so happens that Tweety has one of those on him. (Weird. The shot of his dart hitting the raft contains no water. It makes the raft appear to levitate.) Well, the tug is making its way under a bridge now, so Sylvester tries to simply drop down. He lands in the smokestack. (Which would be impressive if this was a video game. It’d probably earn you a piece of heart.)

Right. Going on the water didn’t work. Going over the water didn’t work. Since there aren’t any sharks in this cartoon, it looks like it’s time to try going under and through the water. Sylvester makes a pipe into a handy metal snorkel, but that is exactly the kind of perch that attracts penguin-gulls. And it is insistent on staying put. Since Sylvester has no gills, he has to return to shore. Only then does he find that the bird laid an egg, which is now in his mouth. He throws it at the pest, but gravity returns it to him.

That’s enough tugging for today. Granny (Still not on screen, mind you.) starts docking. Sylvester readies a lasso, but it flies too far, and grabs a hold of a passing speedboat, pulling Sylvester in tow. He starts to get into the spirit of things, and starts pulling faces and stunts. When one doesn’t look where one is going, one is liable to crash into a post. Quoth the fish: “I tawt I taw a puddy-tat.”

Favorite Part: Sylvester’s disastrous fishing trip. Hearing somebody got a bite, he hides in their tackle box. The catch that is put in with him, is a very angry crab. The natural enemy of the common house cat.

Personal Rating: 3

Tired and Feathered

“Some Road Runners have been clocked at 50 miles…”

Directed by Rudy Larriva; Story by Rudy Larriva; Animation by Hank Smith, Virgil Ross, and Bob Bransford; Layouts by Erni Nordli; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Film Editor: Lee Gunther. Musical Direction by Bill Lava. A Merrie Melody released on September 18, 1965.

Wile E. is not chasing the Roadrunner at the onset of this short, he’s just observing. And giving the most lifeless lick of the chops I’ve ever seen. His tongue is the only part that moves. Didn’t even blink. And then he’s chasing all of the sudden. The Roadrunner must be slowing down in his old age, for Wile E. is able to grab a hold of him! (!!!) But the bird manages to shake him loose on a sharp turn, leaving the coyote’s paws full of naught but tail feathers. (Pretty, but not very filling.)

Wile E. flaps those feathers hard, until he’s both tired AND feathered. And he flaps them for a full 5 SECONDS before he starts to fall. They really had to stretch the shot that long. The background even; it’s just an empty sky. No clouds! No distant cliffs to suggest he’s still in the desert! To think I used to defend this decade in Looney Tunes history! (Which I still do, just nowhere near as vehemently.)

Later on, Wile E. reads a book that doesn’t really tell him anything he doesn’t already know. (And as my quote of the day suggests, couldn’t even spell ‘roadrunner’ correctly.) This somehow encourages him to strap a propeller and motor to his back while he wears skates. His tail gets caught in the blades, and he leaps into the air making a noise of pain. Even more lifeless than his licking! He’s just a still image moving across the cel! At least they bothered to put some clouds in. (Yes, I’m aware they’re simulating his movement up. But it’s still nicer to look at since we get his still pose for three. Full. Seconds. Did you know that tedium ISN’T inherently funny?)

I guess Wile E. has given up now, seeing as how he’s not doing anything but imagining roast poultry. He’s not pacing, or reading, or any other way to suggest he’s still thinking up schemes. Then a phone rings. It’s the Roadrunner taunting him. (Rude.) This does give Wile E. an idea. First he disguises some TNT for the phone’s receiver and we then get a panning shot to show it’s attached to a detonator. A panning shot that is NINE! @%$#ING! SECONDS!

GOOD! LORD!

Calm… Calm… So the trap isn’t finished yet. In fact, it requires a brief building montage. (*sigh* Did Chuck ever need something like that? I miss the days where we got a few shots of Wile E.’s “ingredients” before just seeing the final project.) He’s built a phony building facade around the explosive phone, cut the wires, (so… nobody can call?)  and labels it as a bird sanctuary. Then he makes a billboard to advertise it, saying it gives birds a safe place that is free of things that want to kill them directly, and free phones. (No Wi-Fi.)

The Roadrunner takes note of the sign, but Wile E. hears a phone ring. But how? He cut the wires! (Was that really why we saw him do that? To set up for this obvious punchline?) Wile E. gives in and goes to answer the phone. He blows up because the Roadrunner stands on the detonator to reach the bird seed Wile E. had behind him for no given reason. And what of the ringing? Was that the Roadrunner? I don’t care. It’s over.

Favorite Part: Hard to choose. There really wasn’t much to spark joy. I choose Wile E. actually laying a paw on his prey. The Roadrunner’s shocked expression is slightly funny.

Personal Rating: 1. Yeah, this is the worst Wile E. short I’ve discussed. I hope that is never up for debate.

Fagin’s Freshman

“Boy! This is keen!”

Supervision by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton; Story by Jack Miller; Animation by Rod Scribner; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on November 18, 1939.

You remember the rhyme about the three little kittens who lost their mittens? I was never a fan. Even when you don’t take my feelings towards felines into account, I always found the tune annoying, the lyrics inane, and the plot just depressing. So, this cartoon doesn’t get to a good start with me, since it starts with that precise rhyme.

A mother cat and her kittens are singing, and smiling, and just making the world that much more saccharine. I’m with the kitten sulking in the corner, Alphonse. (He says the kids call him “Blackie” but I come from a millennium where that sounds a bit derogatory. I’m not one to judge kids by the color of their coat.) Now, the radio programs that feature guns, and violence, and death? That’s more his style!

His mother is angry about this. So much so that he’s getting the ole “bed and no dinner” punishment. Pretty harsh. Sure, he interrupted her inoffensively offensive sing-along, and yes, it’s probably not great that he is so fascinated by shooting, but to deny him his meals because of that? That’s poor parenting. Hasn’t she ever tried simply turning the radio off, looking her kid in the eye, and just spanking him?

Well, as long as Alphonse is in his bed, he might as well sleep. And if he’s asleep, he might as well dream. And if he’s dreaming, he might as well dream about something related to this whole thing. So, in his dream, he spots a sign asking for boys. It doesn’t really go into any further detail, so I don’t fault the kid for knocking on the door. He’s greeted by an older cat named Fagin. He seems like a kind enough gentleman, he’s running a school, and everyone knows those are always on the up and level.

Alphonse is introduced to the other classmates, and even though they permanently scowl, they seem chipper enough. But Alphonse isn’t too keen on hearing he just agreed to go to school. But Fagin makes a good point about how education gets you farther in life. (You think I WANT to write a blog that nobody reads?) Why just look at the students that he’s tutored. (I’m a little disturbed that one sometimes goes by “Holocaust Harry.” Wh…Why would that be an alias of his?)

Alphonse is starting to get worried, but Fagin makes a good point about how he just teaches. It’s the pupils who decide what they will do with their education. And yet, the cops just don’t see things that way and knock at the door. The police (who in this dream are all dogs) are doing their best to get inside. And they’re willing to use their firearms too. Either they don’t know their are kits in there, or said kits knew what they were getting into when they signed up.

Now that Alphonse is witnessing all this firsthand, he breaks down. He’s scared, and wants out of this lifestyle. But since he’s still asleep, he’d better find something he can get tangled up in, so they can become covers upon his awakening. Falling out the window, and getting wrapped in the curtains counts. He wakes. And now that he knows that being shot at is no fun, he joins in his families singing.

Favorite part: During the shootout, Fagin asks for everyone to cease while he answers the phone. They comply, and after answering, Fagin relays the message to officer Hogan. His wife needs butter.

Personal Rating: 2. But it teeters on the edge of one.