Skyscraper Caper

“What an easy job this is going to be. I think.”

Directed by Alex Lovy; Story by Cal Howard; Animation by Ted Bonnicksen, LaVerne Harding, Volus Jones, and Ed Solomon; Layouts by Bob Givens; Backgrounds by Bob Abrams and Ralph Penn; Film Editor: Hal Geer; Voices: Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by William Lava. A Merrie Melody released o March 9, 1968.

Daffy has a bad case of sleepwalking. Bad enough to have him walking out of his house. It’s a good thing that Speedy catches sight of this, but his warnings aren’t enough to wake Daffy, and the duck walks into a lake. (Speedy’s house seems disproportioned. Daffy comes up to its roof, but Speedy seems to be half as tall as that. I don’t know. It seems off, but there’s plenty more to complain about.)

Speedy offers a solution: Daffy gives him 5 pesos, and Speedy will watch over him. Waking him in case he sleep walks again. And, believe it or not, Daffy not only agrees to that, but happily so! He’s not convinced that’s too much? He’s okay letting Speedy in his house? This is not the Daffy I know and love. He’s…he’s gone. He’s changed for the worse, just like everything I’ve ever loved. (Fine. I’ll tone it back a bit.)

Staying up all hours is a tiring job, so Speedy rigs up a rope around Daffy’s bed. If Daffy walks into it, it will ring a bell that will wake them both. Speedy will then take the credit. He even has the nerve to ask Daffy for another payment for his services. Unbelievably, Daffy pays up. (Even calling it worth paying for? Daffy, come back to me, pal!) It’s not a perfect plan. Once Daffy exits his bed the other way, he completely bypasses the rope.

Daffy walks out of his already open door, and heads into town. (It’s clearly midday now. How late do those two sleep?) And now, halfway through the picture, Daffy makes his way to a skyscraper. It’s still under construction, but this is one of the oldest known cartoon ideas. Someone will blindly stumble around the place, but always be saved at the last minute. It’s worked with Popeye, it’s worked with Mickey, it’s worked with Bugs. So, it should work here!

And they immediately botch it up. Daffy walks onto a girder, walks to the edge, and…just stands there. BOR-ING! You took the fun out of this gag, why exactly? Now Speedy wakes up and notices the duck is gone. He rushes outside, (not taking the bell for no reason) and sees Daffy still WAITING on the edge of his beam. Speedy is fast enough to make it there, and keep Daffy from falling more.

There’s an ice cream man there. He doesn’t look happy. (But I suppose he is selling at a construction site. There can’t be much business.) His bell wakes Daffy up, and he falls off the building. He grabs on to the side, and saves himself from death. Speedy lowers down a NOOSE that Daffy is supposed to use to get back up, by sticking his head in it, and pulling the other end to get himself up. (Why are these two’s personalities switched?)

Daffy manages to get back up, but a jackhammer sends him back down. He grabs a clock hand, and, for no other reason than to get some more pain out of him, the hour hand begins turning at a rapid rate, hitting Daffy multiple times and causing him to let go. He bounces around the area, thanks to awnings, and telephone wires, before landing in Speedy’s wagon, knocking him out. Speedy returns him to his bed, and Daffy is convinced the whole thing is a dream. (I wish I could think the same.)

Favorite Part: Speedy telling the sleeping Daffy to wake up. Once he’s in the water, Speedy remarks that he is awake now. (Yes, that was the highlight.)

Personal Rating: 1. The characters were out character, the jokes weren’t funny, and the animation was as poor as it usually was at this time.

Big Game Haunt

“No use hiding! You can’t escape!”

Directed by Alex Lovy; Story by Cal Howard; Animation by Ted Bonnicksen, LaVerne Harding, Volus Jones, and Ed Solomon; Layouts by Bob Givens; Backgrounds by Bob Abrams; Film Editor: Hal Geer; Voice Characterization by Larry Storch; Musical Direction by William Lava. A Merrie Melody released on February 10, 1968.

On a nice day, such as the one shown in this picture, one should really be out hunting tigers. I mean, it’s not like they’re an endangered species, and we’ve already wiped out three of their subspecies. They’re just large cats in stripes. Really, Colonel Rimfire is totally in the right for chasing after Cool Cat. Yet, the tiger doesn’t want to be hunted for some unknown selfish reason. What’s his problem?

C.C. decides to take refuge in some derelict house he finds. Somehow, Rimfire missed that, and heads towards the house just to ask if anyone saw the tiger. Despite the rustic appearance the building has, Rimfire knocks. Cool Cat is on the other end and does the old “does your target have the same features I have, sorry, I haven’t seen him” bit. (He also slams the door on his hunter) Angry, Rimfire chases after him.

Knowing that the tiger is nearby, Rimfire purposefully says aloud that he is giving up. Cool Cat does indeed poke his head out of his hiding place, but manages to escape again. Rimfire gives chase, and despite being less than three feet away, still can’t manage to shoot his prey. The two of them run past an old trunk, and awaken the one who sleeps inside it.

The credits list this guy as “Spooky” but… that nose, that physique, that manner of speech. I think this guy is the ghost of Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore. (There was only so many times he could reprimand Humphrey, before the big guy realized he was a bear.) Despite his name, he’s a friendly ghost. He just wants to be pals with the two trespassers on his property. But the two aren’t so keen, just seeing a ghost is enough to frighten them.

Spooky is actually quite aware they’re afraid of him, as he indicates this has happened before. Still, he decides to return the hat and gun that Rimfire dropped in his attempt to get away. From where Cool Cat hides, all he can see is that someone is wearing that hat, and carrying that gun. It must be the Colonel. Cool Cat tries to team up with the Colonel, only to find himself facing the real one in front of him. The two flee again.

Rimfire tries barricading a door, but since Spooky is a ghost, he can go through walls. (And he can bring the Colonel’s belongings through too. That’s actually pretty scary.) Cool Cat, who was hiding in the curtains, gets scared when Rimfire tries to share his hiding place. The tiger runs, with the sheet still on him, making him look like a ghost. This spooks Spooky, who flees himself. He phases through a brick wall, that C.C. crashes into. (Why is that even in here?)

Rimfire decides to use this time to escape, running the same way the other two did. Despite the fact he clearly saw that Cool Cat was the one under the curtains, he gets scared by that and runs the other way. (Must be getting senile in his old age) Cool Cat follows, and Spooky does likewise. (Because, Cool Cat isn’t wearing the curtains anymore?) When he realizes he is still being followed, he runs and ends up jostling Rimfire out of the phonograph he was in. (I thought he was escaping. Why is he still here?)

Finally, Rimfire runs out the front door. (It really shouldn’t have been that hard.) Cool Cat follows suit, still pursued by Spooky. Ultimately, Cool Cat runs out of energy, and sits down. Spooky joins him, commenting that they had a great race. Cool Cat, still not happy to see the dead, admits that they’ll resume as soon as he catches his breath.

Favorite Part: The fact that Cool Cat was willing to try and save his adversary. Man, this guy really IS cool.

Personal Rating: 2

The Unmentionables

“Dis is fun, Rocky!”

Directed by Friz Freleng;(The last one from him at WB) Story by John Dunn; Animation by Gerry Chiniquy, Virgil Ross, Bob Matz, Art Leonardi, and Lee Halpern; Layouts by Hawley Pratt; Backgrounds by Tom O’Loughlin; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc, Ralph James; Musical Direction by Bill Lava. A Merrie Melody released on September 7, 1963.

You like television spoofs, right? You like “The Untouchables,” right? Then this is the picture for you! (And if you aren’t afraid of violence, then you won’t have a problem.) It’s the 20’s. (Looks at the calendar.) The roaring 20’s! A much better time to be living. I mean, the market surely wouldn’t crash, cartoons weren’t going to get any better than “Felix the Cat”, and people weren’t wearing masks. Truly, you couldn’t find a better place to live than the 48 states of America.

Okay, sure. There were still problems, even in the past. Namely, gangsters. They’re all eager to control the underworld, and aren’t afraid to kill each other to do so. (Witness the poor guy who tries calling the cops. His head and body will miss each other.) Things are bad, and when things are bad, you get someone to fix things for you. Enter agent “Elegant Mess” who is so different from Eliot Ness that even a tube worm could tell the two apart. Biggest clue: Mess is a rabbit.

This leads me to believe that Mess’s real name is Bugs. Bugs Bunny. (It’s a good name. Who knows what kind of fame he could achieve with a name like that?) He’s off to find crooks and bring them to justice. He enters a taxi and he finds them. Er, they find him? Someone finds someone, and when you find someone, you should make your feelings about them perfectly clear. In this case, Mess is given a new pair of shoes. Cement ones.

Rocky and Mugsy (who are making their final golden age appearance) drop the rabbit into lake Michigan. They don’t feel the need to stick around and watch, but if they did, they’d see the rabbit escaping. He had a pipe on him for breathing purposes, and he is strong enough to hop out onto the shore. As for the crooks, they’re celebrating Rocky’s birthday. (I got him a razor. He’s got a noticeable 5 o’clock shadow) Everyone is here. A nastier gang of miscreants you’d never see because they wouldn’t let you live. Just look at these case files.

Name: Jack “Legs” Rhinestone

Favorite baby animals: Calves

Favorite Cooking instrument: Wok

Name: Baby Face Half-Nelson

Favorite Sea Creature: Urchins

Favorite Potato Style: Tots

Name: Pizza-Puss Lasanga

Favorite Toy: Dominoes

Favorite Historical Figure: Caesar

Name: Pistol Nose Pringle

Favorite Game: Chutes and Ladders

Favorite Movie: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Name: “Teeth” Malloy

Favorite Looney Tune Character: K-9

Favorite Mode of Transport: Chopper

Bad enough individually, but together, they could only be bested by the best.

Everyone wants to show Rocky how much they respect him, so they got him one of those cakes that has a woman in it. Considering the time period, are you surprised that a flapper comes out? Wait, I recognize that “lady.” It’s Mess! Rocky is fooled and tries to hit on the woman, but she is too focused on her dancing to notice. (She kicks him a bit too. Just for good measure, you understand.) Rocky fires his guns in frustration, and Mess decides to flee. Rocky meanwhile, finds that firing your weapons so recklessly isn’t a good way to keep living henchmen. (At least Mugsy survived.)

The two chase after the rabbit, who leads them into some dark building. They fumble around in the dark a bit, before Mess turns on the lights. It’s a cereal factory that they’re in. Actually, it’s a cereal making machine they’re in. Once Mess starts the machine, the two find themselves boxed up quite nicely. Mess has won! He takes the two away, and they receive a good 20 years of hard labor. Mess, who handcuffed himself to the two is forced to stick around. He’s lost the keys.

Favorite Part: It’s not just one part. I like how they weren’t afraid to kill people in this cartoon. (Which usually portray characters as experiencing way worse and living) They’re portraying dangerous gangsters after all. They refrain from bloodshed, but it still is ballsy to me.

Personal Rating: 4

Daffy’s Inn Trouble

“This will put ‘im outta busineth, but permanently!”

Directed by Robert McKimson; Story by Dave Detiege; Animation by Ted Bonnicksen, Warren Batchelder, and George Grandpre; 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 September 23, 1961.

Daffy isn’t pleased with where his life is. Yeah, that’s nothing new, but really, who wouldn’t be upset if their occupation was nothing more than one who sweeps the floor of an inn? Considering who the boss is, I wouldn’t! Porky is a great guy to work for. Benefits, paid vacations, insurance coverage, and he’ll even give you a present on the odd occasion! Daffy is eager at first, but quickly sours when he sees the new broom Porky is gifting.

That does it! Daffy will start his own inn! With Blackjack! And Hookers! (No, not really. I just like to quote “Futurama.” But he really is building an inn.) Porky is a bit confused that Daffy is doing this, but is still a good guy, and wishes the new competition all the best. Daffy isn’t worried in the slightest. In fact, there’s a gentleman right now! With two locations right across from each other, how could he choose? Daffy will help with that, and brings him to his location. Turns out, this is a robbery, and Daffy loses his cash register.

Business at Porky’s is booming! Which is a bit odd, as Daffy is offering free refreshments. What could Porky possibly have that beats that? Live action dancers! They have actual depth! (Just try to imagine a hottie from the tenth dimension. You’d be attracted in ways you can’t even wrap your brain around.) Daffy can top that! He’ll dress in drag and dance himself! It attracts quite the crowd. (It’s a little known fact that all cowboys are bird furries. Er, featheries? I’m not curious enough to look it up.) When the record starts to skip, his lip-syncing is revealed, and the tomato throwing commences.

Yep, Porky is pretty much unbeatable. Daffy tries to save face by suggesting they be partners. Porky turns him down because he is already quite successful. Daffy decides to just destroy his place. Since Porky’s inn is located at the base of a cliff, Daffy can drop a boulder, and it will look like an accident. However, he chooses the bounciest boulder he could find, and he ends up destroying his own place. R.I.P. Daffy’s Inn. (Trouble) Today-Today.

Well, if Daffy’s out of a place, then the only logical action is to destroy Porky’s business still. Dressed in drag once more, Daffy smuggles a bomb into the place and orders some lunch. (Did he just order Foie gras? Even if he’s not really going to eat it, that seems like something he wouldn’t want to even mention. Especially since Porky has no problem preparing it.) Daffy plants the bomb and bolts, but is upset to find Porky has followed to ask if “she” meant to order no drink. (So, yes, Daffy was trying to kill Porky.)

The bomb goes off, and destroys Porky’s place, but better than that, strikes oil! Porky’s rich! What will he do with the wealth? Not retire, but expand and relocate his building! He’s even willing to hire Daffy back. In fact, with such a large building, Daffy can even have his own office! Of course, it’s a broom closet as he is still the janitor.

Favorite Part: When Porky turns Daffy’s team-up down, Daffy pulls out a gun. We know this won’t work, but before we can theorize how things will backfire, Daffy accidentally shoots himself in the head.

Personal Rating: 3

Injun Trouble

“Groovy, man.”

Directed by Bob McKimson; Story by Cal Howard. Animation: Ted Bonnicksen, Jim Davis, LaVerne Harding, and Ed Solomon; Backgrounds by Bob McIntosh; Layouts by Bob Givens, and Jaime Diaz; Film Editors: Hal Geer and Don Douglas; Voice Characterization by Larry Storch; Musical Direction by William Lava. A Merrie Melody released on September 20, 1969.

Well girls and boys, hamsters and tuna, this is it. The last cartoon from Warners during their golden age. In fact, it’s so recent that my father was already alive for about two months when it debuted, and my mother was only four days away from leaving the womb. We’ve truly come to an end of an era. (Though, since I review these in random order, we’re still far from done.)

Plot? Not really. It’s the final cartoon, they can skimp on the plot this time. Instead, we’re given a bunch of gags that mainly relate to Native Americans. You might be wary, but these are some decent quality jokes. Reminds me an awful lot of what you’d see during the heyday of “The Muppet Show.” (Let us have that, Disney+) These are tied together with the continuing adventures of Cool Cat, driving his dune buggy.

The natives don’t take too kindly to big cats in these parts, and one tries to chase him down. Cool Cat drives as fast as he can, and the bridge he crosses does him a solid, by falling away when the man and horse try to cross. The man falls rather quickly, leaving the horse clutching the cliff face, calling for help. (He sounds an awful lot like Quick Draw McGraw. Guy had to find some way to make ends meet after people realized he and El Kabong were one and the same.)

Cool Cat answers his call to give him a hand. (He applauds.) Good strength in that cat, as he manages to heave the horse back to safety. (To show he’s a good sport, he also throws a rope at the man.) C.C. wouldn’t mind continuing to hang with his new equine pal, but his car is rolling away. The horse helps him catch up by giving him a good kick. Maybe the others natives will act a bit more kindly to their guest? Well, one of them does try to stick Cool Cat with a portly dame. How… generous? (I’m not really sure what his motivations were.)

The gags continue. One native puts a bucket on his head to be a “pail face.” A rather fetching one asks the tiger if he wants to “Indian wrestle.” He happily/hornily agrees, then finds his opponent was the muscly man behind the rock. A third channels Groucho. Seem like friendly folks. Still, they clearly want Cool Cat to leave, seeing as they have smoke signals stating “Cool Cat go home.” (When’d they even learn his name?)

Wish granted. He exits their territory and enters the town of “Hot Foot.” Interesting place, this. The horses play human shoes, and the horse doctor, as his name implies, treats humans. Cool Cat sees a building that sounds like his kind of place: a topless bar. All right! Let’s see some knockers! Aw crap. The bartender is a guy. (I’m not sexist, just straight.) Cool Cat has a drink when someone else enters the bar. He looks familiar. But, it couldn’t be!

The two start up a game of cards. (Love C.C.’s poker face.) The tiger proudly shows his four aces. Seeing as how the other guy has a gun with his cards, he has the better hand. Yeah, this doesn’t look like a good place for Cool Cat to hang, after all. So, time for one of the most creative endings I’ve ever seen to a cartoon. Cool Cat declares that he is “cutting out” and, grabbing some scissors, actually cuts himself out of the animation cel. (That IS cool. I guess you have to admit the guy lives up to his name now)

Still, we can’t end Looney Tunes without one last quote, and I feel that Cool Cat chooses some pretty awesome closing words. “So cool it now, ya hear?” Reading too deep I may be, but I see it as a way of saying “We’ve been at this since 1930. We’re ready to stop. Disney and MGM have already pulled out of the business, and frankly, we don’t mind letting Walter Lantz have it all to himself. Enjoy our reruns, we have plenty of them.” And so, like the best westerns (not the motels) Looney Tunes rode off into the sunset. Shane! Shane! Well done, Shane!

Favorite Part: It was actually hard to choose. (I really did enjoy the jokes.) I choose the smile the horse gives when he boots his rider off the cliff. Clearly, this has been a fantasy of his for some time.

Personal Rating: I really, REALLY, want to give this a three, but the racial stereotyping and common sense tell me that I can’t. I’ll have to give it a 2. If you aren’t bothered by a little teasing of the Red Man, you might agree with a 3.

Strangled Eggs

“Some pretty posies picked for a pretty pippin.”

Directed by Robert McKimson; Story by Tedd Pierce; Animation by George Grandpre, Ted Bonnicksen, Warren Batchelder, and Tom Ray; Layouts by Robert Gribborek; Backgrounds by Bob Singer; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Milt Franklyn. A Merrie Melody released on March 18, 1961.

Foghorn and me, we agree on a number of things. Most notably, cold weather is a miserable experience that no living thing should have to live through. Especially if you’re living in squalor the way Foghorn is. But, you know, Prissy has a pretty nice place, and she is always pining for a husband, maybe pretending to be into her could allow Foggy to crash at her coop for the worst season nature ever spawned?

Not much is needed for the plan to go off hitchless. Foghorn gets in quite easily, and it looks like his cold problem is solved. (Not like Prissy would say much if given the chance. Her dialogue in this picture is nothing but her trademark “Yes.” and a few “No’s.” What a sad way to make your final film appearance.) Hark! A knock at the door. And an abandoned child. We know him as Henery Hawk, but Foghorn is convinced he is food. (Eating children left on our property. Another trait we share)

You might think Foghorn is just trying to adhere to the rule of “eat or be eaten” but he really does think Henery is a squab. The little hawk is quick to correct him, and Foghorn immediately tries to kill him for being a predator. (Who is also making his final appearance on the silver screen.) Prissy may not have a variable vocabulary, but she is smitten with the chick nonetheless. He is staying as her own. So, let’s see: Foghorn can either choose to die by beak, or die by sleet. (After which, I’m sure Henery would still eat him.) Neither sounds very pleasant.

Alternative time! What if Foghorn took the kid outside, under the pretense that he is teaching the child about how to be a chicken? Then they’d be out of Prissy’s sight, and she wouldn’t have to know if anything bad were to befall her foundling. She allows it, and Foggy takes Henery out for some training. And at first, his efforts seem sincere. He takes Henery up high for some crowing practice, and despite having an opportunity to push Henery off, and die via gravity’s hand, (because if he’s young enough to be left on doorstep, he’s also too young to fly) he actually tries to pull if off without a trick. Henery uses the height to try and hang the rooster.

Too dark? Henery quickly transfers the chicken to a cauldron, and prepares to make a meal. Foghorn escapes and berates the kid. Leading to some interesting thoughts from his tormentor. He’s not trying to kill the ones he is being raised by, but the scent of chicken is awakening his primal instincts. (And really, is it his fault that chickens are so dang delicious?) Enough philosophy, back to the original plan of trying to kill the bird. Foghorn tries to pass off sitting on grenades, and finding landmines as sitting on eggs and scratching for food, respectively. (They backfire of course.)

Well, if Henery is going to be a chicken, (which it looks like he has accepted) Foghorn is going to be the hawk. (Even managing to glide on thermals! Where was this guy in “Chicken Run?” Oh yeah, a different continent.) Henery flees to his mother, and the two take shelter, leaving Foghorn to crash face first into the coop he so desperately wanted to live in at the beginning.

Favorite Part: When Henery reveals that he is a hawk. Foghorn immediately grabs a gun.

Personal Rating: 3

Road to Andaly

“You crazy sthtupid bird!”

Directed by Friz Freleng; Co-Director: Hawley Pratt; Story by John Dunn; Animation by Norm McCabe, Don Williams, and Bob Matz; Assistant Layout: Homer Jones; Backgrounds by Tom O’Loughlin; Film Editor: Lee Gunther; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Bill Lava. A Merrie Melody released on December 26, 1964.

Apparently, this short’s working title was “Tequila Mockingbird.” I won’t lie, I like that one better.

It’s a well known rule of the universe: Sylvester can’t catch Speedy. He certainly does try, but the mouse is too fast, and his “Yee-Haw”‘s are liable to scare one over a cliff. Still, there’s gotta be some way, right? Otherwise, Sylvester is going to lose all respect for himself. Oh, what to do, oh, what to do?

Luckily, it’s not too weird if Sylvester just walks into a pet shop with intent to purchase one of the animals within. (Now that I think about it, is there any rule that says pets can’t own pets?) Sylvester opts for a falcon. (Because this pet shop has those. They’re kept right between the okapi’s and the tuataras.) The bird’s name is Malcom. This should definitely tip the scales, as the peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest animal. (Although, looking at his plumage I’d say that Malcom is really a merlin.)

Sylvester sics the raptor on the rodent, and Malcom does seem to have an easier time keeping pace with Speedy. However, he is currently keeping a rather tight grip on Sylvester, and the putty tat gets dragged into a cactus. New rule! When Sylvester says “Let Go!” Malcom should do just that. He’s a quick learner too, as the next chase goes very similar to the first, and just like it, Sylvester demands to be let go. (Once he realizes how high they really are, he asks to be caught. Too bad Malcom hasn’t learned that command yet.)

As Sylvester whispers to Malcom, Speedy, naturally wants to know what its all about. Sylvester won’t share, so Speedy tries to play it cool by saying he has his own secret. Better than theirs, and he keeps it under his sombrero. He asks the two to not peek while he naps. Sylvester is angry at the suggestion He would never go over there, peek under the hat, and learn what is under it. That’s why he has a falcon to get it for him. (He’s also abashed at how dumb Speedy was to trust him with his hat.) The secret: a firecracker.

Malcom is ready to call it quits as any non-anthropomorphic predator would. Sylvester can’t let him do that. It’s an insult to his species. Surely the next chase will be a success! Actually, Speedy has a trick ready. Pouring salt on the bird’s tail feathers. As the legend typically goes, this should immobilize the bird. Malcom looks scared, but Sylvester pours some of the seasoning on his own tail to prove the claim as false. Although, as  mammal, it should have no effect anyway. (Would that trick work on any and all birds from choughs to tinamous? Science should look into this.)

According to Speedy, as soon as they wiggle their rear ends, their tails will fall off. (Oh. That wasn’t what I was expecting) They give it a try, and it works! They are officially tailless! (From Malcom, this is really just an embarrassing inconvenience. Sylvester just lost a limb.) The two have no choice, but to head back to town for glue. As for Speedy? He really should have kept that salt in a safer location. It pours on his tail, works its magic, and he has no choice but to follow his pursuers back to town.

Favorite Part: The ending. It’s refreshing to see Speedy fall victim to his own scheme for once.

Personal Rating: 2

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

 

I was a Teenage Thumb

“Oh boo-hoo, oh hoo.”

Directed by Chuck Jones; Co-Director: Maurice Noble; Story by John Dunn and Chuck Jones; Animation by Bob Brnasford, Tom Ray, Ken Harris, and Richard Thompson; Layouts by Bob Givens; Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc, Julie Bennet, Ben Frommer, and Richard Peel; Musical Direction by Bill Lava. A Merrie Melody released on January 19, 1963.

This post would not have been possible, without contributions from Mr./Mrs./It’es AX. I thank you for your help.

Once upon a time, there was a couple. (But a couple of what, I couldn’t tell you. I think they’re humans.) George and Prunehilda Thumb are their names. George is quite content with the way his life has turned out, but the Mrs. doesn’t share those sentiments. She wants a child, and subtly hints this to her husband by knitting enough booties for all the infants in the world of 1963. Even then, George refuses to put out, (okay, so maybe she’s just impotent.) so she has to contend with making the local animals wear the garments.

Once upon a later time, a magician walks by their place. His name is Ralph K. Merlin, Jr. (He has that name because his mother married a Merlin, and he couldn’t be more creative when naming his child.) He’s actually quite skilled. His hiccups have the extraordinary ability to transform himself into other things. Dragons, cows, prams, babes, and cars, all with two legs! But he can do intentional magic too. He just so happens to hear Pruney making her umpteenth wish for a child, even willing to settle for one that’s the size of her thumb. Mr. Merlin decides to help out, and impregnates her with magic. (So, does that make him the father then? Or did he magically transfer some George juice into the lady? Am I ruining this picture for you? I’m sorry.)

She knows. She immediately knows. The cartoon has proved my theory that females always know the instant they are expecting. (One of the many superpowers I’m convinced they have.) She tells her husband she believes her dreams are going to come true, as the magician leaves. (Still hiccuping, still changing.) Some time later, her son is born, and he is indeed, small enough to warrant his last name. (I’m not sure a baby that size would require nine months to cook, but I’m also not entirely sure how magical insemination works.) George may be a bit shocked, but he’s good father, regardless and helps raise the child.

But you know what is the hardest part of having such a small child? Cats love to eat babies. It’s a well known fact, but most of them are so big, that the feline can’t get much more than a bite before the child’s screams alert the parents. It’s not everyday a cat is able to locate a child that requires only a swallow. The cat sneaks outside where witnesses are near zero, and attempts a snack. Swoop! Grasp! A bird takes the child for itself. Birds love babies, and loathe cats, but are known to drop the former. As long as there’s no water below, I’m pretty sure, Tom will survive.

Water? On this planet? What are the odds? Well, as long as there’s no fish-Oh no! A fish! Fish love babies even more than cats do, but eat them less because of the whole “most of them can’t breathe out of water” thing. (Someone really should wake a horror movie about walking catfish. It’d scare me.) Tom looks like a goner, but that fish just so happens to be the same fish that was caught for the local king. And either the king likes them raw, or the oven’s flames couldn’t harm Tom through all that flesh. Tom is alive and is found by the king.

The king decides to shower this child in luxuries. I guess he’s swayed by how cute Tom is? (Mr. Jones is well known for drawing cute infants.) Eventually, Tom is made a knight and is capturing dragons and defeating giants with the best of them. (Small dragons, you understand.) Eventually, Tom marries, and he and his wife have a child of their own. (I’m glad the stork is always a viable option in cartoons. I shudder to think how things would pan out otherwise.) Ironically, Tom’s child is the size of HIS thumb. And this continues down the line, with each following child being the size of the parents opposable digit. (Might want to stop, guys. Things could go too far.)

But whatever happened to Tom’s parents? Well, I guess Prunehilda is still unintentionally cheating on her husband with magicians, because she’s taken to knitting again. This time though, the booty is bigger than she is. (She’s probably just messing with George.)

(Right?)

Favorite Part: When the king decides he’s going to give Tom the good life. Knowing that his decision is random at best, he sternly declares that nobody argue with him.

Personal Rating:3

Clippety Clobbered

Space Science.

Directed by Rudy Larriva; Story by Tom Dagenais; Animation by Bob Bransford, Hank Smith, and Virgil Ross; Layouts by Don Sheppard; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Film Editor: Al Wharman; Musical Direction by Bill Lava. A Looney Tune released on March 12, 1966.

This here is the first Roadrunner cartoon I’ve talked about that wasn’t directed by the creator himself, Chuck Jones. (Golden age, I mean. Theatrically, too.) It’s also clear that Chuck was a master who could not be replicated. The whole short might seem fine to the common folk, but Looney-tics (like me) can tell it’s not as good as the others.

Wile E. isn’t wasting energy chasing his prey this time. He calmly waits by his mailbox for a package. Since he ordered it airmail, he really doesn’t have anyone but himself to blame for it landing on his head. So, what’s in this wonderful box? A chemistry set! Chemists are the unquestionable experts when it comes to bird trapping! Or, you know, Wile E is just trying out new and unique ways to catch some food.

Just mix the right ingredients together, and you’ve got paint! A special kind of paint that only comes in one color: invisible. Paint it on yourself, and you can’t be seen by anybody. (Including yourself, since your eyes no longer will gather the light needed for sight, but I digress) This does indeed include roadrunners, but this also means that they won’t slow down if you happen to jump in their way, so you’ll probably end up knocked off the road. A cliff, probably wasn’t the best testing grounds.

Wile E falls, and the impact knocks his paint off. (I guess? There’s not really much of a reason as to why he is suddenly visible) Then, something that should never happen in a Roadrunner cartoon happens. The bird paints a boulder invisible, and pushes it off the cliff, and onto his pursuer. WRONG! NO! UH-UH! That doesn’t happen! It goes against Chuck’s own rules for these cartoons: namely, the bird doesn’t hurt the coyote! It was one of the things that made these pictures different from the endless chase cartoons that people watched. Now I’m upset.

Fine, I’ll keep going.

Wile E invents a new thing with his kit. It’s bouncing capabilities mixed with the viscous consistency, lead me to believe that he invented Flubber. But since this is 1966, (and the substance is blue) what he really made is Phlubber. Coating himself in it, (but first giving us a completely unnecessary thought bubble. I mean really, if we weren’t going to guess what he was going to do with his concoction, his actions would show us) he gains a coat that allows him amazing bouncing properties. Too bad he misses his catch. He bounces all around the desertscape. He eventually bounces straight up (with very unfitting music, I might add. That’s the tune that accompanies a jaunty walk. Not deadly plummet) and comes down. (His protective coat getting snagged off by a rather ugly tree branch. It really looks out of place. Go back to Snagglepuss, where you belong!)

Next up, some type of jet fuel. It’ll be perfect for chasing down the bird. But instead of building an actual jet pack, Wile just pours it into a small seltzer bottle like container. (Again, why? It doesn’t add much to the comedy. You could still have an inevitable crash with a full size model) Either way, this actually gets the Roadrunner to… show fear? It’s not wrong, but it’s kinda werid to see that bird anything other than blissfully happy.  The chase leads to a railroad tunel. (First the bird has a spasm. I think he meant to go “Beep-beep.” but nothing comes out.)

Wile E. turns back upon seeing the approaching light, but it was the bird with a miner’s hat. So he turns once more, and doesn’t flee from the next light source he sees. It is a train, and he ends up pinned against it. We zoom into his stressed eyes and see that his pupils are the Roadrunner. The end.

That was the ending? Call it seven days because it was WEEK!

Favorite Part: When Wile E first gets the package, the bird runs by. Because of the speed, the resulting wind catches the parachute that came with it, and Wile E is dragged off a cliff. The animation of him landing in a cactus patch is rather nice. It builds the tension reasonably well, and the punchline is fast and funny.

Personal Rating: 2