Life with Feathers

“Aren’t you hungry?”

Directed by I. Freleng; Story by Tedd Pierce; Animation by Virgil Ross; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on March 24, 1945.

Some sort of domestic squabble is going on in a birdcage, and I’m proven right by one of the occupants being evicted. He tells us that he is a lovebird, that was his wife who hates his guts now, and as his name suggests, he needs love to live. No point in suffering. He begins brainstorming some ideas about how to off himself. I’m sure some people would think he’s overreacting, but I think it’s kinda sweet that he is dedicated to the one he loves if she wasn’t. If I ever lost a girlfriend, I’m sure I wouldn’t find life too enjoyable anymore, either.  Me and him should be drinking buddies.

Fate decides his death for him with a cat who looks like he’s in the mood for a snack, seeing as he’s picking through the trash. This cat is Sylvester making his first appearance. And he rushes over once the bird gets his attention. He stops short because this seems too good to be true. He deduces that the bird is poisoned and just wants one less cat in the world. Because that’s what poisonous creatures want right? No point in living if you can’t ever be hugged. (On another note, pay attention to the speck of background between Mr. Lovebird’s wing and head. It’s also depressed as it turns blue.)

Sylvester’s owner calls him back for some milk. Wait, why was he picking through the trash if someone feeds him? (On another note, if you watch his face closely, you’ll see it has more white than usual as he zips into frame.) He spits out every drop once he finds out who was at the bottom of the bowl. Since Sylvester is paranoid and Mr. Lovebird isn’t going to explain why he’s come to the worst life choice possible, he has no choice but to order a mallet, smack the cat, then enter his mouth whilst he shouts.

Sylvester smokes a pipe to get him back out. (Hey, if you want to die so much, why don’t you just inhale that smoke that’s being inhaled. That secondhand stuff is deadly.) He traps Mr. L in a glass jug, and proceeds to open some cat food. (Does he normally feed himself solid food? He’s really well trained!) Whilst his head is turned, a very familiar looking feather drops into the bowl. Not daring to not look behind him, Sylvester doesn’t notice until it’s sticking out of his mouth. His worst fears are confirmed upon checking on the jug. He ate the dirty birdy!

Mr. L is okay though. This is all part of his master scheme: give Sylvester some pills, and hop on the spoon himself before it goes past the gums. Sylvester catches on. The bird decides to play fowl. He turns the radio to some sort of program that does nothing but ask if you’d like to eat this’nthat or so’nso. (Maybe it’s an ad?) To make things harder, Mr. L also shows plenty of pictures of delicious looking meals. The torture is working. (Do those fish have hair on them?) Sylvester soon gives in figuring if this doesn’t kill him, spending the rest of his life starving will. I’d say that adds up. Just before the deed is done, a telegram is delivered to the bird.

Whatever it said, it worked like a charm. Mr. L tells Sylvester that things will be all right back at home, so he doesn’t have to eat him. (On another note, his beak turns blue because it’s still depressed.) Too bad his treatment worked so well! Sylvester is still hungry and this bird on his had is worth two in any bush. The lovebird just barely manages to escape with his life. (Now, aren’t you ashamed you took it for granted?) So what was on that note, anyway? Has the Mrs. forgiven you for whatever she did? Better than that! She’s going to go live with her mother. Oh, Mr. Lovebird. Here I thought you were loyal to the end.

Well, you know what fickle creatures lovebirds are. Sweetiepuss changed her mind last minute, and Mr. L resumes his Sylvester chase. Since the little guy never made another appearance, I think he succeeded.

Favorite Part: One of the ways Mr. L tries to get Sylvester to eat is by dressing as Santa so he can give him a “present”. His pathetic, wimpery “Merry Christmas” is music to my ears.

Personal Rating: 3. A fine way to start a new character off. Good enough to be nominated for the Oscar too! But since it was the forties, you already know it lost to a “Tom and Jerry”.

Joe Glow the Firefly

“ZZZzzz-ZZZzzz”

Supervision by Charles M. Jones; Story by Rich Hogan; Animation by Philip Monroe; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released on March 8, 1941.

Let’s say I asked four different people to draw up a firefly for a piece of media and these were the results:

Which one would get the highest scoring grade?

That’s right, none of them. For you see, I didn’t say “firefly” like a beetle from the Lampyridae family, I said “firefly.” You know, an insect version of a fireman. That’s what I’m choosing was going through Chuck and co.’s heads when designing the title character. That way, I can say that for once in my life, someone made one of these animals actually look remotely accurate to real life.

In these early, pre-Smokey Bear days, the job of keeping aware of potential threats to the forest fell to the smaller animals. Rather, that’s what I think Mr. Glow is doing here. His motivation isn’t really explained. He just enters a tent and explores therein. He doesn’t want to disturb the camper though, so he’s being extra quiet. We’re “light” on laugh-out-loud moments as this is short is in the vein of Chuck’s Sniffles’s pictures: tiny creature exploring the larger world. Hi-jinks ensue.

The man Joe lands on (awkward cut!) is indeed asleep, so that means Joe can make the rest of his rounds in peace. Relative peace, anyway, for this man snores. What’s a minor nuisance at best to fellow humans, becomes a mixture of wind tunnels and earthquakes to those at Joe’s scale. Shaken, he lands on the chest area. Things are a little more stable there. Making his way to the closest finger, he stops to make sure the wrist watch is set correctly. (Lovely shot from inside the timepiece.) Joe then sees another thing he’d better check out: a flashlight. That could possibly cause a fire! It’s had a troubled past!

Nope. Checks out. It’s in perfect working condition, too. The man briefly awakes at the brightness, but Joe is quick to turn it off, taking cover in the dark. Camper goes back to sleeping, and Joe decides to keep on. Even though the man isn’t a light sleeper, he is a sound sleeper, as Joe walking across a cracker doesn’t even make him stir. Better see how the rest of the food is doing. Looks like all the salt is still here, there, and entirely coating Joe. At least now he knows not to open the container that way.

Where there’s salt, there’s pepper. Joe checks that too. And he sneezes of course. Got a hefty set of lungs for an animal that doesn’t possess any. It rockets him out of the shaker, and into a catsup bottle that is now teetering on the edge of the table. But Joe earned that hat he wears. He knows just what to do in situations like this. He grabs some string (which looks kind of out of place, doesn’t it?) and is able to lasso it, and safely lower it to the ground. I’d say everything seems to be on the up and up. His work done, Joe flies out.

It’s then that he remembers the most important part of the inspection. Flying back he wishes the man “goodnight”. Making sure to shout it directly into his eardrum of course. It’s the only way to be heard at that size.

Favorite Part: When Joe is flying away at the table, the background artists remembered to show the spilled salt. I love when details aren’t forgotten like that.

Personal Rating: You know, I could see many casual viewers thinking this short is boring. It’s not. It’s charming. Still, for those who aren’t mature enough for this one, they can see it as a 2. Me though, I think us true fans can give it the 3 it deserves. This is a beautiful picture! The grayscale world really illustrates that the camper is miles away from civilization and its overabundance of light. Things are dark here, and the only source of light is Joe’s lantern. You just wouldn’t be able to sell the idea as well with technicolor. In fact, I’m giving it a 4 for me. Maybe you can do the same.

The Bird came C.O.D.

“Mm-nh.”

Supervision by Charles M. Jones; Animation by Ken Harris; Musical Direction by Carl Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on January 17, 1942.

Conrad! Hey, buddy! Haven’t discussed you for since the twenty-tens. Did you ever get more of a personality than Goofy wannabe? No? I’m sorry. You’ll always have a trio of posts talking about you eventually.

Conrad is playing delivery cat today. His company specializes in delivery of palms. Slogan is, “You grease ours, you’ll get yours.” (Clearly, I should have been writing for these pictures.) Being Conrad’s first film, he makes sure to look directly into the camera. Just to make sure that Mr. Jones know how grateful he is for this opportunity, and he could be the new breakout character for Chuck should Sniffles ever… you know… disappear. Just look at those exaggerated cartoon movements! He’s the ideal star!

His first problem is just trying to get the plant into the theater awaiting the delivery. It really does feel like a “Goofy” cartoon what with the tree getting caught on the door frame and flinging Conrad backwards, and the door shutting on its own when he thinks he found a solution by squat walking inside. No wonder Mr. Colvig would be voicing him. It was clearly always meant to be. Conrad finally figures out the secret: hold the door open with the delivery. Please, enter.

…AND BRING THE PLANT, STUPID! Geeze, hope you’re not expecting a tip after that. Now inside, all Conrad has to do is not trip and get it to its proper location. After he trips, he gets it to its proper location. Not even a scratch! Maybe he does know what he’s doing. He finds the old plant, switches it with the new, and is all set to go on his way, when he sees a top hat that has been left on the stage. That can only mean a magician has performed, and Conrad has always secretly been envious of those guys. He can’t resist having a little fun and pretending to be what he is not. (Without talking. He has no dialogue outside of nervous chuckles and exclamatory grunts.)

Wouldn’t you know it? First try and he pulls out a live rabbit. Even he wasn’t expecting to be that good. His reaction puzzles me. He looks less amazed and more nauseous. Does it smell that bad? Then it should have been a skunk. I bet Chuck could get a lot of mileage out of those. But what’s really worrisome is the other occupant of the hat. The title star finally shows, more than halfway in. Some early ancestor of Henery Hawk it looks like. But I guess he’s a dove? What magician uses hawks in his act? A fun-king awesome one, that’s who.

The little guy doesn’t seem too pleased to see some amateur messing with the hat, but he doesn’t do more than give Conrad a glare. Not even an angry glare, just a “do you mind?” kind of glare. And I get it. I hate when delivery boys bring me a package and then start looking in my drawers. But Conrad feels like he’s been the one wronged, and knocks the bird back out of the hat. Again, Little Birdy just kind of gives a look. A “this is getting old” look. He only slaps Conrad when the cat tries taking a closer peek inside that hat.

Angered, Conrad smashes the hat. Little Birdy is unharmed, but gives the peeking tom (cat) a poke in the eye. Come on, Conrad. It’s not worth it! He agrees, but decides to throw that hat rather than just leave. It comes back to hit him, and L.B. punches his nose now. Conrad should consider himself lucky, considering what silent birds usually do to cats, but he refuses to be three-upped and makes another attempt to get the bird. He’s caught in the act, and Little marches him back into the orchestra pit. I bet a lot of good slapstick is happening. You can tell by the number of instruments flying.

Now sporting a pair of black eyes, Conrad finally gets the hint that he should cut his losses before the bird cuts him. He takes the old plant and tries to flee, but runs straight into the theater’s brick storage room. (I love those rooms.) Dazed and disoriented, he next stumbles into wardrobe where he finds six more top hats. Surely you figured Mr. Birdy wasn’t the only one in the clutch, right? Too bad they don’t do more than pull Conrad’s hat over his face. Passive aggressiveness runs in the family.

Favorite Part: Conrad leaving the plant outside was a good gag made better by the triumphant music petering out.

Personal Rating: 2. I can’t relate to the main character because I think L.B. was totally justified in his threats. He deserves being the title character. (If only he showed up sooner.)

A Hick a Slick and a Chick

“No time like the present.”

Directed by Arthur Davis; Animation by J.C. Melendez, Don Williams, Emery Hawkins, and Basil Davidovich; Story by Lloyd Turner and William Scott; Layouts by Don Smith; Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on December 27, 1948.

This post would not have been possible without contributions from readers like Carl Hunt. Thank You.

Elmo Mouse will be our titular “hick” this evening. He’s in a good mood as he’s off to visit the resident chick, Daisy Lou. Upon arriving at her place, he thinks he’s made a mistake of addresses as the doe inside is busy making out with someone who isn’t Elmo. Sadly, he’s at the right house. Her make out partner was the third part of our puzzle, Blackie the prick. The two at least have the decency to take a breath now that they’ve got company, and to be fair D.L. is polite enough to let both guys stay. Oh, yeah. I meant “slick” earlier. Honest mistake.

Elmo has some (mouse-scale) flowers and Daisy does seem happy to receive them, even if Blackie already bought out a florist shop for her. Elmo’s flowers are so embarrassed, they regress back into seeds. Elmo tries to play her a song on his mouth organ, but Blackie can play piano. Particularly, a familiar piano piece that leads me to believe Blackie’s father was the mouse in “Rhapsody Rabbit“. About the only other good trait Elmo has is muscles and to his credit, I agree that Blackie could not make his arm go limp like that. His biceps look too healthy. Feel healthy too, seeing as they knock Elmo out of the house.

When Elmo returns, he finds Uncle Blackie (as I think I’m allowed to call him) presenting Ms. Lou with a fur coat. Elmo isn’t impressed like she is, claiming that he could get her something better. As Uncle B. points out, the only thing that feasibly could be better is ermine. Elmo agrees but it’s only once he’s out of the hole that he reveals he’s dug himself into another; he doesn’t know what an ermine even is.

Searching the premises, he looks in a bottle of champagne which really doesn’t help much. What it does do is remove his common sense. Most creatures his size would try to avoid creatures like the dozing cat in the house, but he’s actually approaching. It might have something to do with the fact that the cat’s name is Merman, but he can only see the last five-sixth’s of the word. And yes, the cat’s name probably really is ‘Herman’ but it doesn’t look like it at first glance! (Does this mean Blackie’s real first name is ‘Katnip’? No wonder he changed it.)

The cat isn’t fazed by the punch drunk rodent, and tries to eat him. Elmo escapes and falls into the milk bowl, which is good news since milk is nature’s natural sobering agent. He flees, and the cat chases, taking a swing at him as he runs on a table. This makes the leaf smack him in the face, knocking himself out but good. Well, well. Just look at all that fur just practically begging to be taken! Good thing Elmo’s a furrier! He presents the goods to Daisy and he totally wins. She’s got no problem being a trophy, because she gets things out of it. What a good moral.

Hick and Chick leave together, leaving the Slick to wonder where he managed to get the stuff. The cat tells him to mind his own business, showing us Elmo used his @$$ hair to make the coat. (Why to the you to the sea and kay.) Even the iris-out is coat shaped. And when you get pancakes tomorrow, they’ll probably be coat shaped too.

Favorite Part: Jealousy running rampant in Elmo’s mind, he imagines certain instances of bad luck Blackie could befall. Like Elmo mounting his head over a fireplace.

Personal Rating: 3

Hop, Skip and a Chump

“Expectoration’s essential, you know.”

Supervision by I. Freleng; Story by Michael Maltese; Animation by Cal Dalton. A Merrie Melody released on January 3, 1942.

This short’s off to a bumpy start, as the camera decides to follow a grasshopper. Try not to get motion sickness until he decides to stand still. He looks only slightly more like an Orthopteran than Jimminy did, what with the antennae. Hopalong Casserole’s his name, and just like his title suggests, he’d make a tasty dish. Two birds have been trying to catch him for years, he says. They better be modeled after a great comedy duo for me to believe they can’t catch one grasshopper.

Two little blackbirds, watching what they will. One’s not named “Jack” the other’s not “Jill”. They don’t actually have given names, but that’s what I’m here for. From now on, the pudgy one can be Bolivar, and his buddy can be Dan. Bolivar gives Dan instructions. Take a club, and hit the insect when he comes by. Let’s skip to the good stuff… and Bolivar is bonked. Classic. Not learning from this, Bolivar next sends Dan out with a sack to secure their supper. (Hopalong is definitely comprised of two servings.) He brings back a bee. Since they’re not bee-eaters, they duck into the nearby pond. (Despite not being ducks either.)

The main problem with catching Hopalong is that they can’t keep up with him. Their wings are just for show. Bolivar has a great idea: bed springs! With these on, he can match the pace of his prey! And he does, but he’s on Hopalong’s left side. There’s a great many low-hanging branches on that side. Worse yet, the two nearly go over a cliff. Instead, only one does. Just kidding! Two indeed go over once Dan asks which way his partner went. Which I know to this day doesn’t mean it’s serious, but screw you, the two are married. (Not sure which one is the better half.)

Hopalong decides to hide in a discarded clock. Does it only count as a cuckoo clock if there’s a cuckoo? Either way, this odd clock won’t chime on the hour every hour. It’s gotta be one of the fours. Or 4:00/16:00 if you insist on that confusing military time. (I don’t. I insist you don’t.) Bolivar totally botches his chance, so he has to roll the hands to the next hour they’ll chime: eleven. (No wonder this clock was thrown away.) He doesn’t mess up this time, he just forgot that grasshoppers with hammers tend to use them.

The cartoon’s ending, but Hopalong manages to leap through the iris-out. Shaken, but safe, he boasts once more about how he always escapes. Since the fourth wall will not protect him, Bolivar is able to snatch him back behind the black for more.

Favorite Part: Bolivar and Dan are hiding in a piano, but Hopalong plays the key to deafen/pound the two with mallets. There’s a nice touch in that he plays “The Storm”, the piece Oliver Owl once took credit for performing. Things are just done in reverse this time with the performer using it to mess with the inner animals.

Personal Rating: 2

Doggone Cats*

“That’s a nice doggy.”

Directed by Arthur Davis; Story by Lloyd Turner and Bill Scott; Animation by Basil Davidovich, J.C. Melendez, Don Williams, and Emery Hawkins; Layouts by Don Smith; Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard. A Merrie Melody released on October 25, 1947. (*It was reissued as “Dog Gone Cats” I didn’t misread the title.)

Wellington Dog delights in what any dog would: cat beating. His targets of choice are an orange one I named Stan, and a black one Chuck Jones named Sylvester. And he seems a little out of character as we know him; he’s more dope than oaf. This isn’t even the only time he was portrayed this way, as Davis’s unit would do it again in “Catch as Cats Can”. (That’s now two weeks in a row I’ve mentioned that short. That means I’ll discuss it someday.) I don’t know why he is portrayed this way, but I can’t help but wonder if Freleng said something along the lines of “My cat’s a clown, not a dolt.”, and that’s how Davis made Heathcliff.

Welly’s fun is interrupted by a call from his human. (And yes, that bit of him wearing a trashcan lid on his head and turning quote unquote Chinese had to be cut on some prints.) He is to deliver a package to Uncle Louie, because mailmen got sick of being chased by dogs and decided they could do the job themselves. She also threatens bodily harm on the dog if something happens to his cargo. This is good news to his prey, as now he has a weakness they can employ. They start immediately with glove slaps and eggs to the face. And Wellington can’t do more than growl at the pests, lest he let go of the package. (Wait, was Stan able to see that ghostly image of the woman Wellington imagined? That’s scary.)

Sylvester gets the package hooked on his fishing pole and reels it in, Wellington desperately hanging on by his teeth. This leads to him getting his head stuck in a gap of a fence. Stan is utilizing a crane to lift the end of the board that isn’t nailed down and wasn’t there when Sylvester was fishing, while Sylvester cuts the rope holding it up. (Ouch. A delicious ouch.) Wellington gets the parcel back from them, but loses it again when Sylvester leads him in a dance into Stan’s pin. Sylvester takes it and runs.

Hey! Error! Wait a minute! The next shot has Stan carrying the package. When did they switch? I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder. Actually, I don’t. It’s actually quite trivial and easily ignored in the grand scheme of things. Stan hurls it onto some train tracks, (Leading to a fun little skid on Wellington’s part where his body and head spin independently from each other.) imitates a train with Sylvester to scare Wellington into ducking for safety, and leaving him to get run over by the real deal.

Then, to really mess with the dog, they wrap an iron weight up the same way, and hurl it from a bridge. Wellington and his rental boat sink trying to catch it. (And the repairs are coming out of his pocket, too.) But they lose it again, because Sylvester hits Stan with a mallet instead of Welly. (Which would have happened even if he was in his smarter form. Let’s not fool ourselves.) With the brains of the outfit out for the moment, the dog retrieves the goods once more.

Stan blows on a phony cigarette of pepper to make Wellington sneeze, sending the package right into the line of Sylvester’s steamroller. It may cost every bone in his body, but Wellington manages to keep the package safe, and finally get it delivered to Uncle Louie. He seems a bit too young to be the lady’s uncle. Is he Wellington’s uncle? I guess that means Wellington enjoys beating his cousins up because the cats not only belong to Louie, but the package contained their dinner. Does the woman just have a side business of making homemade cat food? Was it a mail mix-up? Did the cats know what it was? And what was my favorite part?

Favorite Part: The “shh” Wellington tells the cats when his lady is calling him. You may see it as a psychopath telling his victims to stay silent or die, but I see it more like a child not wanting the other kids tattling on him.

Personal Rating: 3

Curtain Razor

“I killed them in Cu-… camonga.”

Directed by I. Freleng; Story by Tedd Pierce; Animation by Manuel Perez, Ken Chapin, Virgil Ross, and Pete Burness; Layouts by Hawley Pratt; Backgrounds by Paul Julian; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released on May 21, 1949.

Hope you enjoyed the green rings in the opening because they’re gonna be the iconic orange from here on out!

Today’s role Porky finds himself in is a talent scout at the Goode and Korny talent agency. It really is one of the world’s more entertaining jobs. You get to see the beginning of the greats, total failures embarrass themselves, and best of all: send the worst down a trapdoor. The operatic grasshopper that was singing over the opening titles wasn’t too shabby! Can any other acts top that?

We aren’t off to a promising start. Clara Cluck’s sister, Sara, instead of trying to develop a talent on her own, tries to copy her sibling’s opera shtick, seeing as how said sibling has been retired by now. Here’s a tip Sara: close your eyes when you do that. Makes you look more operatic and less “I’m being goosed by a poltergeist.”. She  stops her performance short upon laying an egg during the performance. Literal or figurative, that’s earned you a trap door ride. (Her egg hatches before it follows her, revealing Tweety’s stepbrother, Tweeter.)

A fox enters the room boasting about what a sensational act he’s got. Porky is willing to see it, but the fox totally cut the line. He’ll have to wait his turn. Next up for real is Cecil Turtle’s nephew, Sessile. He’s this universe’s Mel as he claims to have 1,000 different voices. (Of which, I can make out Bugs, Foghorn, Durante, and Rochester.) Despite his claim, Porky only counted 999. The poor reptile leaves, hoping he’ll remember the last one. (Isn’t it your normal speaking voice? Sessile, get back here! You need to be discovered!)

Next up, a parrot named Bingo, (who you can also see in Arthur Davis’s “Catch as Cats Can”) a chicken named Frankie, and a duck named Al, collectively known as the Three Cavalheiros! They sing just like their namesakes and I think they’re rather swell. Porky thanks them as they leave, but confines to us that that kind of stuff is only going to appeal to the bobbysoxer crowd. (Porky, pal, I can see your socks. Don’t be ashamed of what you like.)

And now a man with two heads enters. Porky is sure this act is going to be awesome, but the man angrily states that he is only the janitor. I figured two heads meant there was two of you. I guess me and Porky are both guilty of facial profiling. That poor guy! He’s just like every tall person who has to tirelessly tell everyone that no, he doesn’t play basketball. When will we learn as a society that we need to ask what other people are into. Oh, and the fox still tries to jump the queue.

After a couple more acts, including a regular old human using the same pigeon act Daffy tried in “Show Biz Bugs“, Porky finally gets tired of the pushy fox, and sends him down the trapdoor. Just in time for a dog to enter. He’s not a dog act. He’s merely the transportation. (Porky? What did we just learn from Double Header‘s son?) The dog’s got a flea circus act! And by that, I mean the fleas build a circus. (And judging by the musical accompaniment, they commissioned the  Rubber Band to join.)

Finally, finally, it’s that foxes turn to perform. This better be nothing we’ve ever seen before, considering how much hype he gave it. The act in question? Ingesting several flammable substances, before swallowing a lit match while dressed as a devil. … Well, I suppose back in 1949, people wouldn’t have yet seen this ending in a different cartoon by Freleng’s unit. I’ll give it to him.

Favorite Part: The scowl Porky gives after Sara’s performance. He’s all “B*tch, don’t you be having no babies on my floors. I just got these carpets cleaned!”

Personal Rating: 3. It’s a shame the aforementioned “S.B.B.” did this sorta idea better, mainly by having established characters with an established rivalry front and center. If you were watching this short before 1957, then it was a 4.

A Horsefly Fleas

“As long as they’re gonna chase me anyway, I might as well get paid for it.”

Directed by Robert McKimson; Story by Warren Foster; Animation by Charles McKimson, Phil DeLara, Manny Gould, and John Carey; Layouts by Cornett wood; Backgrounds by Richard H. Thomas; Effects Animation by A.C. Gamer; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released on December 13, 1948.

All work done between November 5th and December 10th continues to be lost. And I’m still in the dark about it. And I’m still UPSET about it. Any info on WHY this happened would be lovely. And you know what else? I don’t think I ever want to retype them until I get an actual explanation as to what happened.

It’s the return of A.! You remember A., don’t you? He’s that flea with the catchy song about dinner being around the corner. Yeah, that guy! Seems eating Elmer and Willoughy wasn’t a bright idea after all, as A.’s singing about finding himself a new home. (Now being voice by Mel as opposed to Sara Berner.) But he’s not alone for long. Another animal that normally feasts on mammalian blood is outside, and that’s a horsefly. (An animated horsefly. Which means he’s 80% horse.) Cars have made his “mane” food supply dry up.

Since they’re both in need of living quarters, A. invites his fellow pest to join him in the homestead hunt. The best looking land can be found in the mountains. (A dog.) They fly over and start settling. Chopping “trees” makes a mighty fine cabin, but a shelter won’t be of much use without a food source, so A. begins digging a “well”. (Never called an incision that before.) Of course, the “land” is aware of these activities, and scratches at the discomfort causing “earthquakes.” But that’s only the biggest concern in literal terms.

This “land” is “Indian” flea territory. (Really? The “land” doesn’t look like a jonangi to me.) These fleas look like Miniature Injun Joes, so you know they mean business. A. wasn’t foolish enough to try taking land without guns, and he’s a pretty good marksflea. At least five chibi Joes change up their usual diet and bite the dust. But A.’s shots are a finite amount, and he and his horsefly soon have to do what the title suggests. The chase begins and neither snow nor sleet (flea powder and… more flea powder) slows down either chaser or chasee.

You know, I think these native fleas really do have Joe’s blood in them. They have the stamina to wear down a horse fly just chasing on their feet and skis. A. and D. (Horsefly) are tied to a “tree” and a fire is lit beneath them. The “land” draws the line at this, and heads to the outdoor fountain to extinguish itself. In the panic and confusion, A. and D. escape via stolen canoe. The Joes still pursue them, but the “land” doesn’t care too much. It’s just glad to be his own “land” for once.

But not for long. The circus has just arrived! See, this “land” is actually their winter quarters. So, those little Joe’s aren’t really natives then? Well, they are now as their continued chase of A. leads all of them into the center ring. Just in time for wild west show! The “land” by this point decides to just take things in stride and enjoy the show.

Favorite Part: A. looking over the sign that warns he’s entering “Indian” territory. After doing so he comments that he probably misses out on important details being illiterate and all.

Personal Rating: 2. Light on new gags, D. doesn’t really contribute enough to warrant being part of the title, and it could be viewed as offensive today. But at least I’ve finally discussed A.’s entire filmography.

A Tale of Two Mice

“You’re scared of the cat.”

Directed by Frank Tashlin; Story by Warren Foster; Animation by Art Davis; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released on June 30, 1945.

It’s the first of the two times Babbit and Catstello were mice, and it turns out that hunting cheese is nearly as dangerous as hunting Tweety. There’s a cat that looks a lot like Babbit used to guarding the stuff, but the current Babbit is certain that his rotund chum can get past him to the dairy. He lays out the plan while his ears change color. Catstello is against it until he hears that the cat will be asleep. That’ll be a cinch! He’s ready now! He’ll show the old model of Babbit!

Change of plans! He wants back in the hole, pronto! But Babbit can’t let that happen, and flings Catsy back out via rubber band. Cats crashes into the cat and barely makes it back to the safety of the hole. Plan two is much more sensible: Catstello will fly over in a wind-up plane. Babbit is so sure that this will work, that he’ll be a jackass if it won’t. (His fur will change color regardless.) You know this is going to end swell when the wings get torn off on the small hole. No flying allowed, but the plane does beat the cat up a little before returning back home. Catstello is happy to remind him of his promise. (Number of times ‘jackass’ is said in “A Tale of Two Mice”: 3.)

The next plan must’ve worked great at first as we see the two in the middle of it. From what I can gather, Babbit hoisted a platform over the cat to the fridge for Catstello to load with cheese. But it was a hefty hunk of the stuff, and Babbit struggles to hold both it and Castello’s portly girth. He can’t hold on much longer and the load plunges down towards the cat, stopping at the last possible moment. I get a kick out of Catstello’s raspy, squeaky, whispery yells for help. And I can believe Babbit could hear them, as he’s been dragged right up to the cat’s maw. Soon as he realizes he’s in the danger zone, he’s out, leaving Catstello to face whatever fate the cat chooses, alone.

Catstello has a half good idea: using the cheese as cover. The cat following and appearing to just be gliding along the ground. (I’ve seen cats do that, sure.) Babbit tries to warn his companion, but is just reminded that this is a stealth operation. When the danger is revealed, Babbit does what I’d expect any best friend to do: start advertising for a new roommate. The cat tries to toss his prize into his mouth, but doing that in front of a fold-out ironing board was second only to doing so in the midst of a firing squad in terms of worst places to toss a prize into his mouth.

Catstello opens it, crushing the cat’s skull, somehow warping inside the iron that was also inside, and crushes the cat’s skull again. With imminent death right behind him, he grabs the cheese and makes it back to safety, with doom on his heels. Once safe, Babbit has the audacity to berate his partner for grabbing Swiss, knowing full well that Babbit hates the stuff. (I can’t blame him for not being able to tell at a glance. All cartoon cheese has holes. Without them, they’d look like tofu.) Having had a very tiring day, Catstello stuffs the stuff down Babbit’s throat.

Favorite Part: Babbit trying to go over his plan, with Catstello loudly saying that he’s not doing it. The face Babbit makes upon realized he’s being ignored, coupled with the threatening smile he flashes are two of the greatest gifts to animated facial features.

Personal Rating: 3. The animation on Catstello alone makes this at least worth one watch by every person on Earth.

The Gay Anties

“OW!”

Directed by I. Freleng; Story by Tedd Pierce and Michael Maltese; Animation by Ken Chapin, Virgil Ross, Gerry Chiniquy, and Manuel Perez; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on February 15, 1947.

The late 1800’s do look like an idyllic time to live. Media has told me so! It’s a shame that any cartoons at the time were on zoetrope, otherwise I’d definitely give these years a visit. Just long enough for a picnic, anyway. I’ve always wanted to go on one of those. They must’ve been the high point  of fun once. Just look at everyone high-stepping to the park to partake of food amidst the wonder of nature that mankind put a fence around and claimed as city property.

One couple has set up shop on the riverbank. Even though they look like a very healthy happy relationship, she won’t stop being so coy. She gives him the side peek of genuine interest, he responds with a mustache wave to show the feeling is mutual, (wish I wanted a mustache so I could do that) but when he tries to hold her hand, he gets a mousetrap for his trouble. I mean really, you’ll let a guy eat your food but physical contact is too much? These mixed signals are why I prefer animals to most people.

Oh goody! The local ants have heard the picnic’s call and will now take the remainder of the picture’s focus. Who likes food stealing gags? That’s mostly all you’re getting. They take the cake, the hot dogs, even the soda, too. But they’re pretty smart, so they use the goods as simple machines. Donuts make delectable wheels, and make transporting bananas much easier on the thorax. And like the old saying goes: teamwork makes the sandwich. A perfect opportunity to use the ‘hold the onions’ sign gag again. (I kinda wish they would shake things up with a ‘hold everything BUT the onions’ sign gag.)

But for their skills, you have to remember they are ants and as such, tend to be seen as nothing more than insects by humans if they’re even seen at all. The man takes the sandwich without even a thank you, angering the chef ant. But picnics aren’t just all sitting and eating I’m told. There is usually some sort of physical activity to take part in. Humans have choices like croquet, or horseshoes, or maybe even touch football. Ants are smaller than sports equipment, but they have solutions. Flowers make good dresses, corn silk can be used as hair, and olives can augment your nonexistent tats and iss. Put it all together and the you have the human equivalent of a fur suit. It’s not a fetish, it’s their lifestyle.

Some ants don’t dance, but they can sing. Being so small, their voice kind of sounds like the Chipettes with chipmunk voices. Now me, I never found sped up voices annoying like a majority of people. It seems like a majority of ants don’t share my views. They’d rather isolate themselves in areas that have little to no air, and thus, no sound. At least the one in the juice uses a straw to breathe. I hope the one in the jar is pleased with the prison she just made for herself. The singer is shut up the way most are: fruit. (Fruit that shrinks as it travels towards her. A whole banana was launched, but a chunk small enough to just cover her face hits her. What, did a fruit bat eat most of it in the air?)

Meanwhile, the chef ant has just had her third sandwich stolen by the man. (What kind of metabolism allows him to still be hungry after just sitting and ogling?) The chef sets up some karma by placing the woman’s hand in between bread and mustard. And hunger mcgee takes the bait. She slaps him into the water. Now, she could tell he was holding her hand. (Which she had no problems by now as their relationship was several minutes longer by this point.) Logically, she should have felt the handwich being constructed.  Was she expecting a very specific kind of foreplay I never needed to know about? Did she just think he was going to nibble around her fingers, and maybe lick the condiment off? (Hmm… that actually does sound pretty hot, to be honest.)

Oh yeah, the ants take what they couldn’t finish back to the nest. Humans may act high and mighty, but our insect overlords are the true rulers of the planet. How many mass extinctions have they survived?

Favorite Part: The ant dancers were actually kinda attractive, but I’m more impressed with their clever get-ups. I never would have though of using corn silk for hair.

Personal Rating: 2. It’s not terribly funny, but it’s cute enough. Too bad it can’t stand on ever footing with ant pictures Freleng’s unit had already made and would make later.