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.

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.

Fresh Fish

Supervision by Fred Avery; Story by Jack Miller; Animation by Sid Sutherland; Music by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on November 4, 1939.

Well, the mice were a cute experiment, but let’s discuss more about what Avery really made a name for himself with: his blackout gag shorts. However, I’ll admit this isn’t one of his best ones. Simply because it’s full of fish puns. The same fish puns you’ve been hearing since you were in the womb. (Except maybe the one where a fish has five dollar bills for fins. It’s too old.) The fish comments made in Animal Crossing are fresher material! But maybe I’ve just heard them one time too many. You might not have. Yet.

We’re going on a glass bottomed boat ride and we’re all gonna like it! It is the best way to view the wonders of the water world, the scariest things to ever exist on Earth, the guys and gals with the gills, let’s hear it for the ichthyoids! While we enjoy the sights and tolerate the puns, the very one and the same Professor Mackerel Fishface will be manning a diving bell in search of a species that has yet to be captured by man, (and really, how else can we prove we’re the higher beings?) the Whimwam whistling shark. (Cephalosillyum wisling)

Under the sea, under the sea, there are sardines which aren’t a real species, listen to me! Really though; ‘sardine’ is a catch all term for small fish you can stick in a can. So while I understand the joke of the fish swimming in a packed together school, I can’t help but wonder if they’re actually anchovies or really herring. Then we get the expected “crab sounds like Ned Sparks” joke, a hermit crab that is very happy to be one, and a taxi crab. (Okay. That pun isn’t overdone. Yet.) And the animators try their darnedest to make a Katherine Hepburnesque sea star sexy. (Which is a very specific fetish, but to the one person into echinoderms, your life’s journey has concluded.)

Now, here’s a joke you’ve known about for about as long as ever: the electric eel that displays a neon sign. And the only reason I’m not bothering to mention that it shouldn’t be in saltwater is because the narrator himself calls it a visitor. I’m considering that a win. And then there’s the appearance of this thing:

A horrifying monstrosity of a being that must be living in constant agony. No doubt only wanting to see Mr. Ripley so it’s deformity can bring some goodness to the world. But our narrator wants nothing to do with it, and shoos it away. It will be known as a running joke. (Repeatus humorous).

There’s an octopus that has a mouth where its siphon should be and probably vice versa failing to catch a sun perch which means one of these animals is the very wrong habitat. (I’m guessing it’s the one with the spine.) And get this: a seahorse race. You get it? Cause land horses race so it’s a joke to suggest their aquatic (distant) cousins would do the same. I just wish someone would make a joke about how boring that would be. Slowest fish in the world folks. Oh yeah, I guess our monstrosity was female since it laid eggs at the narrator’s suggestion. I’m not sure how she did and I’m happy about that.

Want more fish puns? We’re swimming with them! (Nobody said I couldn’t get in on the act.) A “tiger” shark! A “hammer” head shark. A “shovelnose” shark! (Wait. That last one isn’t a shark.) At least the first two subvert our expectations with additional jokes; the tiger meows and the hammer is hitting himself. Okay, yeah. That’s funny. I need a gif of that. But wait… cartilaginous fish? Does that mean… Yes! That whistle! That’s the shark the professor was looking for! Good thing he came prepared with a net! He hauls the creature aboard his diving bell and is hoisted back aboard.

Too bad containing yourself in an enclosed space with a animal that can eat you means one of you has to die. Ah well. Sacrifices have to be made in the name of science. Let’s name an aquarium after Mr. Fishface to calm his wife down.

Favorite Part: A school of fish (sarcastic *ha*) is being taught how to get bait off hooks without, you know, getting drug to your demise. The teacher makes the mistake of showing what not to do, and the fry all cheer when they learn this means school is over for the day. (Funny because it’s true.)

Personal Rating: 2. It still looks wonderfully visually, but fish and fish puns both stink after three days.

Finally, I ask you to join me in raising a toast to “Coyote Vs Acme” a film I was really looking forward to viewing, but tragically died before it was even born. I try to adore Warner Bros. but its actions like this that make me think I should faun over different studios. It’s just one of those harsh lessons that never sinks in for me: just because you love something, doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to love you back.

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.

Porky’s Tire Trouble

“D-D-Don’t hurt that d-d-dog!”

Supervision by Robert Clampett; Story by Warren Foster; Animation by Norman McCabe; Music by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released on February 18, 1939.

Starring Porky Pig! (Look at that doofy smile he gives at the beginning. I love this dope!) And yes, it is vital to remind us, as most of the focus will be taken by Porky’s dog of the picture: Flat Foot Flookey. (Don’t you just love names that are tongue twisters? Cause I don’t.) He’s a strange looking one, as dogs go. It’s like Clampett wanted his unit to get Pluto and Goofy for a cameo in one of his shorts, Disney obviously said “Screw off.” (with that charming smile of his), Clampett managed to get a D.N.A. sample off both of them, but accidentally put the two into the same cloning jar. So why do YOU think the dog is wearing shoes?

Porky is heading off to another workday at Snappy Rubber Co. (The scenery is  jumpy today), with the loyal Flat right behind. (I’d really rather not type his entire name out again.) Porky doesn’t notice until the dog enters the building.  Porky yanks him right back out because his boss has some asinine rule that makes no sense to me: No Dogs Allowed. I mean really, what if Porky needed to hug something warm and I wasn’t around? Are you willing to be there when your employee needs you most, boss?

Okay. Tone it back. I’m letting my fanboying take over again. Rules are still rules and Porky has to tie Foot to a car. (Look at the poor dog’s face! Why would Porky do this to him?) I guess it’s a good idea; his walrus boss is another Billy Bletcher role, so he probably can be a pretty nasty foe. But he does his job competently. He uses a machine to chew up rubber trees, and pour the pulp into the giant, novelty waffle irons that Porky mans. Turning out rather handsome tires. How are they considered trouble? Porky handles them like the champ he is.

Flookey (Wait… Lessee… ‘Flat’… ‘Foot’… Aw crap.) doesn’t heed the sign because he can’t read. He digs into the factory, dragging the car along I might add. I do so hope it was the boss’s. (I kinda want to dub him ‘Bletch’ but I’d rather make less references to “The Feebles” than Disney has. He’s not getting a name.) Porky directs his dog to the exit, but the pup steps into a barrel of rubberizing solution. His body absorbs the properties, essentially making him a superhero. Eat it Krypto and Underdog! Before you both existed there was Plastic Pooch!

With the power of rubber, Plastic Pooch does the most obvious thing: turn his face into caricatures! (His Edna Mae Oliver could use some improvements in the eyes, and his Hugh Herbert’s nose changes color. Or maybe it’s just a change of the light?) He can now take on his nemesis: Porky’s boss! He’s fully aware there’s a dog on the premises now, and he aims to eradicate him. (I can tell Mel is doing the shouting for him. That guy was born shouting.) But the dog is rubber, he’s not glue, Plastic Pooch will defeat you! If you grab a hold of him, he can stretch far enough to bite your rear! If you throw him away, he’ll just bounce back! He’s. Gonna. Rub. You. Out!

The boss learns all too well that he can’t rid himself of the Tuniverse’s newest hero. Plastic Pooch ends up knocking him into Porky’s tire press. And now we’ve just witnessed the supervillain origins of P.P.’s greatest nemesis: Snow Tire! Don’t miss the exciting next issue! Our villain continues to get thwarted, and he sure is tired of that! (Wait… “He’s not getting a name!”… Mm-hm… “Snow Tire!”… … Doh!)

Favorite Part: Porky is so chipper, that he even does a little dance on his way to work. Even more adorable is mild mannered Flat Foot copying him. (Oh yeah, Porky is the only one who knows Plastic Pooch’s secret identity.)

Personal Rating: 3.

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.

Shop Look & Listen

I’d like to hold a hand like that myself.”

Supervision by I. Freleng; Story by Dave Monahan. Animation: Cal Dalton; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on December 21, 1940.

There was a video game released in 2007 titled “Super Mario Galaxy.” It was a major hit with both critics and consumers and everyone agreed; they wouldn’t mind a sequel. The creators would deliver with “Super Mario Galaxy 2”, but not because of fan outcry. Rather, it was because they themselves had so many ideas for that one project that one game wasn’t enough to hold them all. I tell you this, because I think something similar happened about 70 years earlier.

Earlier in the year 1940, Freleng’s unit released a cartoon titled “Little Blabbermouse.” It wasn’t anywhere near close to being the studio’s best work. It was just one of their gag oriented cartoons using a mischief of mice taking a tour of a department store as an overlay. The title was referring to one particular mouse who’s one defining character trait was not shutting up.  (A good three years before Sniffles took up that role.) They couldn’t have thought this idea was 14K of comedy gold. But hey, all these gags means one less cartoon idea to come up with while they were brainstorming about this rabbit of theirs that seemed to be taking off.

Thus, we have this sequel short. And Blabbermouse even gets his own title card!

*Is my internal fear showing?*

Eww. I don’t like that face. It’s making him look like a child comma molester. And you know, they didn’t need to use that at all. Blabby hardly features in this feature. Gets about four and a half lines total. Hardly befitting the blabber name.

Well, our gags take place in J. T. Gimlet’s department store. A few decent gags are available on the banners outside the building. But the one about the hours confuses me a little. Oh, I get the joke “Sunday 9-6 If we were open Sundays” But why do they bother listing weekdays and Saturdays separately if they’re going to say the same hours? Either switch the times up, or list them as one. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Our host is the same as it was in the previous short. (Which I’ve yet to discuss, because it’s more fun for me to not know what surprises I will discuss each week. I hope this isn’t your first time here. What a horrible post to sell someone on.) If I can steal a name from another short, then I can call him W. C. Fieldmouse. Showing some mercy to those of us who might have seen the other cartoon, they skip the preparation of their trip and take off. (Reusing the same animation they did last time.) Essentially, they travel by a gondola that is big enough to hold a crowd thrice their size.

Fieldmouse shows them the shoe section where we get a joke that I don’t get. (Are there shoes called mules?) Then, an art gallery where we see “Whistler’s Mother” and “The Thinker” doing what their names suggest. Then we see some of the robotic devices for sale, and they demonstrate what they can do. There’s a device that snuffs out cigars for you, and another one that seems like it was built to play poker all by itself. (It couldn’t be comfortable to sit with those robotic arm attachments pressing into your chest.) It can shuffle, cut, deal, cheat and kill cheaters all by itself. Which means you’re obsolete and not needed anymore, so you might as well go home.

B.M. has been annoying W.C. sporadically during this tour, and the larger mouse threatens him with bodily harm, should he speak once more. (I do love the animation of Fieldmouse stress sweating as he struggles to contain his rage. It was worth using in both shorts.)The tour then comes to a machine that can cut lengths of ribbon for your purchasing pleasure, and wrap it up for you as well. Blabber then opens his mouth again, and Fieldmouse prepares to make good on his promise. But instead of getting his hands dirty, he just has the machine wrap the little pest up instead. I hope it was worth it, as Blabbermouse’s father is a policeman. And policemen aren’t scared of anything. They’re brave and strong. We’reluckythey’resobraveandstrongandwillingtoprotectus.Geewhiz,IwishIcouldbeasbraveasstrongasapolicemansomeday.ToobadIhavenointentionofbeingapolicemansomeday.Itdoesn’tlineupwithmypersonalinterests,butIguessI’mgladthattheoptionisalwaysavailable.That’sthegreatthingaboutbeingapoliceman,anyonecandoit.Well,Iguessnoteveryone.Womenbecomepolicewomen,don’tthey?Oraretheystillcaleedpolicemanaswell?Orwhataboutcops?Isthereadifferencebetweenpolicemenandcops?Andwhy….

Favorite Part: The first time Blabbermouse speaks up, Fieldmouse gives him a good smack on the back of the head, while reprimanding him in rhyme no less. History’s first rap battle victory!

Personal Rating: 2. It only escapes one because it had different gags than its predecessor, and therefore, you can justify showing it to your friends if you feel you need to.

Bosko the Musketeer

“Hi-dee hi! Ho-dee ho! Ho-dee hey!”

Animation by Rollin Hamilton and Robert Stokes. A Looney Tune released on September 16, 1933.

Bosko gallivants along to visit Honey. (Bruno briefly appears, but won’t be featuring.) This surely ain’t no surprise visit, as Honey is dusting all things that might be any and every. (Poor fish looks uncomfortable.) Bosko arrives just as she finishes dusting a painting of the three musketeers. Truly awesome folks, eh Bosko? He’s not too impressed and starts fencing with an umbrella while his honey, Honey, sings.

And suddenly the screen dissolves to Bosko actually BEING a musketeer and fencing with a SWORD against four adversaries. Sounds like a daunting task, but Bosko’s got a an arm up his sleeve that can do a trick. Namely, letting the gauntlet do all the work while it nips out to unleash keg contents on the four anti-musketeers. Speaking of, counting Bosko we’ve got one short musketeer and two short. And a name like that will never sell. Where’s the rest of them?

In the tavern of course. Since their is three of them, I guess Bosko is our D’Artagnan. Can you name the others? I’ve never read the book or seen any film adaptations, so I’m useless. (But I’ve eaten the candy bar several times!) What a pal, Bosko is. Always looking out for those of us who spent our high school years reading “Asterix” comics for our french fix. I now know that they go by Athos, Amos and Andy. (Truly the “Star Wars” of their day if the amount of references is any indication.)

Lets sing! Dance! Have a good time! Drink and be merry! Look! They’re even inspiring Mickey clones 205, 634 and 431. Swell guys, these musketeers. Even if they do have a habit of using oddly quick cuts to down their drinks. The whole place loves these guys! And yes, that includes clone 511. But it doesn’t include the obvious villain; a man with really hairy hands, or prickly pears attached at his wrists. And now Honey arrives. Is she part of Bosko’s imagination? Or did she take over telling the tale so she could self-insert herself into it? Who imagines the imaginer?

Well, she’s not in period appropriate clothing, so I guess Bosko is the creator of all we’re seeing. (That’s why she can be as topless as she always is.) Obvious villain grabs her, which can’t be at all pleasant with whatever extremities he has coming out of his arms. Bosko to the rescue as the other three have suddenly ceased to exist. Or maybe they’re just giving him a chance to prove himself? Sword dueling commence! Both are evenly matched and damage to their weapons doesn’t automatically mean they’re out. O.V. has a caddy, and Bosko’s sword fits in the pencil sharpener.

Bosko is ultimately the victor because he places a shovelful of hot coals into his adversaries pants. Thus bringing Bosko’s little power trip to a close. But Honey doesn’t believe any of it. (Was Bosko claiming it really happened?) So Bosko busts out the big question: “Was you there, Charlie?” (But… you had her there. So were you really rescuing some homely lady the whole time and you just inserted your girlfriend to get brownie points?)

Favorite Part: While Honey entertains the tavern with a dance, Bosko can’t help but gush about her to the nearest patron. It’s sweet.

Personal Rating: 2. Pretty standard Bosko saves Honey plot. If you’re thinking the two should retire by this point, don’t worry. They only had two more shorts with the W.B. after this.

Prince Violent*

“I see you’ve never dealt with a viking.”

Directed by Friz Freleng; Co-Director: Halwy Pratt; Story by Dave Detiege; Animation by Gerry Chiniquy, Virgil Ross, Art Davis, and Bob Matz; Layouts by Willie Ito; Backgrounds by Tom O’Loughlin; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Milt Franklyn. A Looney Tune released on September 2, 1961.

*If you’re watching this short on TV, it’s called “Prince Varmint” because… kids won’t get the reference to “Prince Valiant”? Granted, I’ve never read it, but I’ve always known about it. Maybe Hal Foster didn’t like the pun? Either way, I like the original title better. If only because it doesn’t get name dropped twice in the picture. Feels forced.

The locales had best barricade themselves in the only nearby castle, Sam the Terrible the terrible viking has just landed and is clearly having the time of his life in the role. He follows the people into their castle before they can raise the drawbridge, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks down what little doors they have left. Having witnessed this, Bugs, ever altruistic anymore, gets into costume, follows Sam and rather easily throws him out. (Treating the guy like an errant trick-or-treater.) Time for Sam to spend the rest of the cartoon breaking back in.

He goes big, elephantine even. He gets one of those European elephants that totally existed trust me on this, so he can bust his way into the fortress. Bugs paints a phony door, and the proboscidean hurts himself. And when Sam tries to be Sam and berate the beast, it reminds him who’s the largest living land mammal, and throunces him. Since the walls are too thick for even nature’s best bulldozer to break through, the elephant just throws boulders over the parapets. Bugs stops him with pepper. (Did his ears shrink?)

The two decide to be smart and hide from view until Bugs declares the bridge safe to lower. They charge, forgetting that flimsy wood and nails were never meant to carry at least 10,000 lbs. Oh, wait. I guess as a zoologist, I should say 4535.924 kilograms. (But as a writer, I can’t help but notice how clunky that looks.) Seems their running out of ways to approach, but Sam, always learning from his mistakes decides they’ll sneak in via the back. He uses the elephant as a raft, forgetting that such animals are fairly adept swimmers, but this way means Bugs can shove a cork in the trunk without being seen.

The elephant flees back to shore, forgetting that he could just stick his mouth out of the water and breathe that way. But more confusing? Why is he afraid of Sam now? We already saw that this was a beast not to be trifled with. Did Sam threaten to wait until his tusks grow in, then kill him and sell them to the Chinese? Whatever the reason, Sam chases him off and tells him to stay gone. And I just fell like the reactions should have been swapped. Have the elephant get sick of Sam’s abuse, and turn on him before leaving. Makes more sense.

Sick of playing around, Sam grabs all the explosives he has on hand to blow his way into the stronghold. As he lights the fuses, he fails to notice that the drawbridge can raise in the opposite direction as well. A risky gamble the people are betting on here, as they’re still inside. I guess they figure Sam will die and the only other casualty will be the door? But he doesn’t die this time, it just roughs him up a lot. Even took his mask off. But he regenerates it and finally gets inside. Oh-ho boy! What he’s going to do with the women and chickens…

Uh-oh. Looks like he’s already rueing the today he offended Ali Phunt, as the elephant (Oh, snap! I get it!) has joined the other side and doesn’t fear Sam at all again, chasing him off with a club. Should be a happy ending, but Sam vows to return, and I have a hunch Ali’s services will only last as long as the free peanuts.

Favorite Part: The boat on the title card. I’m glad one of the shields is the W.B. shield. I wouldn’t have ever thought of that. Wait, if that’s my favorite part, then how low will the score-?

Personal Rating: 2. It’s just a weaker retread of “Knighty Knight Bugs“. And I’ve got a feeling this was one of the first shorts Mel recorded for after his coma. A good chunk of Bugs’s lines sound stilted and bored, almost as if Mel was hurting himself as Sam, and everyone decided his first takes for Bugs would suffice as the only takes.

Boston Quackie

“Come on out before I let daylight through ya!”

Directed by Robert McKimson; Story Tedd Pierce; Animation by George Grandpre, Ted Bonnickson, Keith Darling, and Russ Dyson; Layouts by Robert Gribbroek; Backgrounds by Bob Majors; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Milt Franklyn. A Looney Tune released on June 22, 1957.

The titular “Boston Quackie” is one of those detective types who is a “friend to those who need no friends” and an “enemy to those who have no enemies.” It’s the second time of three that McKimson would have Daffy play detective, but while the first short was pretty timeless by not parodying anything specifically, this one’s title alone will probably send a few later generations to the Google search bar. (Assuming the younger generations are willing to give these old films a chance and realize that they hold up beyond remarkably well. I’m doing what I can.)

At the moment, Quackie is having a Parisian vacation with his girlfriend, Mary, and a dog that can’t keep his mouth from disappearing. (He’s just the chaperone.) But work will have to come before pleasure as Quackie’s boss, Inspector Faraway, shows up. Don’t know why Mary isn’t pleased to see him show up. He’s the kind of boss I’d invite to go on trips with me. (Of course I still need a girlfriend. Why do you ask?) Quackie’s got a job to do: deliver a package to the consulate in West Slobovia. (And do say “Hi” to Judd Fudd if you see him. Heard he was looking for lepus in those parts.)

Sounds so simple that even a duckling could do it. But spies will be hunting that parcel and- actually, one’s got it already. Time to give chase! Target: male with green hat. I’ve already got a police sketch drawn up.

Careful! I hear he’s a merry man!

Quackie follows the thief to the train station, and onto the most threatening locomotive this side of “Cuphead”. If the shrieking whistle doesn’t make your pants wet themselves, the endless eyes watching from the compartments will make it so. But that’s why Quackie is a detective, and I’m an amateur animation historian. He gets on board. (Watch out for that blue guy! I bet he’s a ghoul.)

There’s the thief! He’s just ducked into one of the cabins. Quackie drills a hole and points his gun. Give up the case or make out with the bullets! Your choice! And yet, despite those very reasonable choices, he chooses to pun the gun inside and shoot Quackie! Cheater! Oh wait. We got the wrong guy. This one is clearly wearing a top hat. And it’s not green.  A customary tip of the hat and this guy is one his w-GREEN!  I saw green on that head! Get him, Quackie! Be a hero!

Well, we can’t be quite sure who this mysterious man is, but he is willing to have Quackie join him for a drink. Rookie error! Reveal that hat, Quackie! And… he’s got a number of any hat BUT green under that top one. Well played, Barty Clubbin. Drink time! And I wanna break character to say how on top of things Daffy is during this scene. Shoots the guy poisoning his tea without looking and dumping the deadly drink into the nearest spittoon. (Even makes Barty flinch.) Still, he manages to subdue the detective with the ‘how many lumps do you want’ gag.

Now we’re sure this is our man! Chase time! It’s brief, but Quackie is outfoxed, stuffed in a mail sack, and left hanging on the nearest mail hook. Barty could get away right here, but he didn’t see the railway crossing, and is knocked off himself. Just in time for Farway and Mary to arrive, the latter knocking the thief out for good with her anvil-laden purse. Time to get that package where it belongs. Upon delivery, Quackie is aghast to find that he has just participated in an instant coffee run. But the consulate reveals it’s better than that: it’s a jar of instant woman! (Err… was that water he added?) He needed an escort, and Quackie delivered. The duck figures their could be a market for this stuff, but I’m not sure humanity is ready for it. I still remember the instant hole fiasco.

Favorite Part: When Quackie is checking the compartments, he finds a man about to be stabbed. It’s also said victim who pulls the privacy shade down.

Personal Rating: 3. I’ve never really heard of “Boston Blackie” before today, but I managed to make it through without scratching my head.

Malibu Beach Party

“I don’t want’a be covered in sand.”

Supervision by I. Freleng; Story by Jack Miller; Animation by Gil Turner; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on September 14, 1940.

Like many kids, I had the standard ‘dream of being a celebrity’ dream. I was going to be a star of my own direct-to-video movies (I’m that old, yes) I was going to do all my own stunts, and people were going to love me and I’d be on talk shows. Oh, and parents and kids would both adore me because I’d be entertaining AND educational. What changed my mind about such solid and realistic career plans? Well, I don’t fancy the idea of having to socialize with other people in Hollywood. (Why must I entertain the amateurs?)

But thanks to cartoons like this, I can get a glimpse of what kinds of things happen when all the biggest stars of the day get together. Jack Bunny is playing host, and is still stuck with that name despite being all human in this short. He’s in character, seeing as the invitations he sends come with a coupon that will give you a free 25 cent meal in exchange for fifty cents. He’s accompanied with his lady friend Mary, who gets greeted by Spencer Tracy. She’s Miss Livingstone, he presumes, and Kay Kaiser confirms. (Both glad to have escaped from that squeaking Africa.)

Always on the lookout for a way to make money, Jack is selling boats and yachts. While a certain George hangs out with the rest of the rafts. The typical “Gable has big ears joke’ this time is him using them to paddle through the sea, and ‘Garbo has big feet’ one has her using them as water skis. Back on the beach, John Barrymore announces that he is here to bury Caesar. Bad luck for Mr. Romero. (At least now there will be no future arguments about his mustache.)

Bunny has musical accompaniment by “Pill” Harris and his orchestra, and the tunes are enough to get people dancing on the furniture. And we’ve got “Winchester” tending bar. Bunny wouldn’t spring for more than a half-pint of liquor, but it’s a party so he IS willing to splurge on his water bill to fill those glasses. Now for our singing act: Deanna Durbin. Her voice is so lovely that she could even get Ned Sparks to smile. (And he does with great effort!) Mickey Rooney is smitten with her but his difficulties with height means he can’t catch the flower she tosses. Carey Grant has just made a mortal enemy.

Bunny now hypes up the featured attraction: himself! And that means violin playing that many of us are too uncultured to appreciate as the highest art. But with the kind of celebrities we have walking out, I don’t fell like I’m in such bad company. (Even if they have comedically oversized heads.) Winchester too, tries to take his leave, but his boss ain’t having it. At least one person is going to listen to him play, and if he has to sit on Winchester to make it happen, so be it. (I wish I could say this was the first time in history the white man stood over the black.)

Favorite Part: Ned Sparks attitude is so bad that even a literal crab tells him to cork his windpipe. I like the crab’s line delivery.

Personal Rating: 2, if you know your old celebs. Probably a 1 for everyone else. At least “Hollywood Steps Out” had some decent gags that didn’t completely rely on knowledge of the stars.