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.

A Sunbonnet Blue

“Oh, George! You’re so cuute!”

Supervision by Fred Avery; Animation by Sid Sutherland and Virgil Ross; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on August 21, 1937.

Let’s finish off Avery’s mice trilogy. This time, our short will take place in the “Snobby hatte Shoppe”. A mouse who plagiarized Porky’s blazer and tie checks to make sure there are no people or cats. Nope! Not in this picture! He calls for the rest of the gang to come out of hiding. Well, he tries to. I couldn’t find any prints of this cartoon without his line getting awkwardly cut o-

These mice aren’t here to nibble the hats, or even just to futz about with the things for their own amusement. These mice are performers! They’ve got a little song and dance number to the title song. But I can’t imagine the audience is paying them much thought. Oh, ours for sure, but also their animated one. While they sing, something far more surreal happens with a straw hat and bonnet. They get married! (Good thing there was a priest’s hat nearby.) And these things reproduce like aphids! In the three seconds the camera pans back to the mice, the hats have produced about 13 offspring. (Mrs. Bonnet? Why are you washing so many diapers? Do hats even have urinary tracts?)

Next on the docket is the three Ratz brothers. (It’s kinda weird that their introductory text is just flashed on the bottom of the screen. But then, I guess the mice already would know who they are.) These guys are the highlight of the picture and the reason I’m not rating it a two. They’re having such a fun time hamming it up, singing hat related songs, making faces, acting crazy. Basically being cartoon characters figuratively and literally. It’s a crying shame that they aren’t going to help out during the climax.

Our two mammalian romantic leads have been eyed this whole time by a rat who either has the plague or is Rat Fink’s grandfather. Using Judge Doom’s hat as cover, he is able to steal the doe. George notices immediately and rallies the troops. (I think he identified the villain as “Roughhouse Ratchet”. Which is a pretty awesome name for someone born looking evil.) They march into battle, all wearing the appropriate hats. Hats that are at human scale. They may not be able to see, who they’re looking for, but darn it, they look so cool! I’m sure George will understand.

With sufficient numbers gathered, some of the rodents… float in midair? What happened? Was this the only background available? Did the animator’s just not get to see what their cels were going to overlay? Whatever it is, it’s actually pretty unintentionally funny. Still, this oversight is an oversight, so I couldn’t let it be ignored. I mean really, you think the guy who mentions things like George’s ear being miscolored for a frame would miss a chance like that?

Seems not being able to see anything other than your feet really came back to bite these little pipsqueaks as George is the one who does all the rescuing. He flings a flattened top hat at the villain, scooping him up and loosening his grip on the girl. When the hat pops up again, Roughhouse is flung into a knight’s helmet that George locks up. Now he can ask his lady a question he’s probably been holding in all night. Happily, she agrees.

So the two non-hat romantic leads are also getting wed. Good thing we have a living priest ha-. another rodent in the priest hat. That works too. He pronounces the two buck and doe and a wedding present is presented to the two: live-action baby clothes. (Hint hint, you two. You evolved the ability to replenish your numbers to ludicrous degree for a reason.)

Favorite Part: When George panics, he let out some Daffy “Woo-hoos.” It’s funny to hear them coming out of a mouse for a change.

Personal Rating: 3, for those glory that was those Ritz Bros. I’m sorry, Ratz Bros.

Ain’t we got Fun

“3rd shelf: Things ‘n stuff.”

Supervision by Fred Avery; Animation by Charles Jones and Robert Clampett; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on April 17, 1937.

Let’s return to that strange time when Avery tried to make cute little mice cartoons. (Although, chronologically, this was the first of the three.)

It’s snowing. Isn’t it awful? I like the plan of Old man Numbles: sit in a comfortable chair in front of a beautiful fire. Only thing wrong with that? His cat beat him to the best seat in the house. Easy fix. He smacks it with his newspaper until it returns to the floor where it belongs. This guy isn’t just smart, he’s great with animals. I nominate him as my third grandfather.

As cats do, the cat falls asleep. Ever hear the saying, ‘When the cat’s asleep, the mice will creep?’ It’s playing out right now. Sentry mouse sends the word via paper airplane. Using a model that experience has told me doesn’t fly at all. Side-tangent, but if you’ve thrown the perfect paper airplane, you’ll spend the rest of your life cursing your inability to duplicate it. With the word spread, it’s creeping time. (It’s a hauntingly hypnotic creep. It’s also another great image to screen-cap for memes. When you become the trendiest person on the internet, the right thing to do will be to send me half of the money you made with this great tip.)

Cat’s out like an old fad. Feast time! While the food gags commence, the mice are smart enough to set another one on guard duty. If the cat appears, he’s to whistle. Just a suggestion, but you might want to take those crackers he’s standing in front of with you. I know mice, and I know crackers. Mice will nibble on edible things. Crackers can not be whistled through. When you put the two together, it equals trouble for your soiree.

And the giggles roust the cat. Um, you’re looking the wrong way, moron. The pantry was located to your right. His eyes have changed color, too. Maybe because if you squint as much as Numbles does, he kinda looked like Beans at first? Guard mouse can’t whistle to save his friends lives, but his ear can flash. Good thing a different mouse sees the feline and everybody flees back to the mouse hole in time. With the cat separated by wall, the stragglers hand him the food they pilfered from the pantry. Oh, Numbles! You might want to take a look at this!

The geezer ain’t happy.  Despite the cat’s insistence, he is deemed guilty and doomed to freeze outside. Strangely enough, seeing my two least favorite things together is actually making me laugh. Now the mice can really creep! In fact, things are so good that they sing our title song, with a few modified lyrics. And I think one of the singers is a doe. I mean, she’s(?) wearing a dress, but the singer’s all sound masculine. An oversight? Or an Avery joke? Guard mouse even got himself a metal whistle, so his snacking won’t be a hindrance anymore.

With less caution, the resulting noise manages to wake Numbles. The mice don’t fear him, so they pelt him with food. (I’m sure they won’t mind nibbling it off of him afterwards.) Remembering why he got a cat in the first place, he begs for it to come back inside, apologizing for the mix-up. Cat’s hearing none of it. The man can fix his own mess. It’s the mice’s taunting that convinces it to chase them back to the hole once more. Maybe now they’ll stay put. The cat claims the chair once more, andNumbles, realizing he owes him one, takes the rug instead.

Favorite Part: After smacking the cat away from his chair, Numbles throws a book at it for no real reason. Maybe you have to dislike cats like I do to get it.

Personal Rating: 3. Putting my personal view aside, I don’t think there’s too much cat abuse here for cat lovers to hate it. C’mon, he wins in the end!

Circus Today

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

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x39ly2x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cagey Canary

“Mama’s poor, little, frightened bird.”

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x462bse

Supervision by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett; Story by Michael Maltese; Animation by Robert McKimson; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on November 22, 1941.

Today, Warner Bros. is no stranger to being well known for cartoons about a cat chasing a canary. But before it was Tweety and Sylvester it was unnamed cat and cagey canary. (Which are terrible names, so we’ll call them Petey and Lester) And it wasn’t Freleng’s unit taking charge. It was started by Avery, he left for MGM, and then finished by Clampett. What a guy.

Petey the cat is hungry (or just plain bloodthirsty) and makes no effort to hide his attempted killing of Lester the canary. Luckily for him, the mistress of the house catches the cat in the act and rescues her beloved bird. She tells him that all he needs to do is whistle for her should the cat try and get him again, and she’ll throw the feline out into the rain where he belongs. Petey is not fond of this idea, so he’s going to behave. And by behave, I mean: try again as soon as the lights are out.

Lester is good at feigning sleep, and just when Petey is about to grab him, he whistles. Petey dashes back to his rug and feigns some sleep of his own. He figures he might as well just take the whole cage, but the bird slips out and the cat doesn’t notice until after he’s thanked him for holding the door open for him. So if we review the facts, we see that: Lester isn’t going to fall asleep, and if he wants the woman, all he has to do is whistle.

Petey creeps away with a smug grin, and like the saying goes: “curiosity nearly got the canary killed.” Lester is now stuck in a jar, and Petey’s paw is the lid. No sound is coming out of that jar, and Lester doesn’t have a pin to poke with. Petey would win right here and now, but there IS one fly in the ointment: a fly. And he has made himself comfortable on Petey’s nose. Those tickly little legs, that high pitched whine of the wings, and the all in one disease zoo it’s packing are enough to get Petey to swat at it. Lester whistles once more and the cat zooms back to his rug.

The cat’s next plan involves crackers. Birds love them, and even better: can’t whistle with a beak full. Lester doesn’t know this, and takes the bait. Petey gets closer than ever before, but Lester finally swallows his snack and whistles again. Petey has no choice but to return him to his cage. Now the bird starts to get cocky. Taunting the cat with faces, and slapstick and rushing back to the safety of his cage each time. The one time he returns with his eyes closed is when Petey beats him to the cage. The bird barely escapes. (No whistle this time.)

Petey hasn’t had any trouble with the woman yet, (she just never wakes once to the whistling. Probably just said she would to give the animals peace of mind/paranoia.) but he isn’t about to take any chances. He places some earmuffs on her, and they work great! He even whistles himself, then poofs away and she still doesn’t wake up. (I like that. It’s funnier than showing him zoom off in a blur. But I can’t say it was intentional.) This will surely turn the tide. He returns to the battle with no fear.

Lester whistles, but the woman didn’t come earlier, I doubt she’d come now. Even if she wasn’t muffed up. The bird flees, and turns on every sound making device he can, which makes no difference. But he is able to find out what’s wrong and waves the empty earmuffs in front of the cat. Realizing he’s lost, the cat rushes outside himself. But the old woman is awake now, and I guess is angry at all the noise the canary made. (Why would she even suspect him?) The canary joins the cat outside. Before the short ends, the bird asks us if we’re interested in adopting homeless pets.

Favorite Part: Lester gets Petey to whistle himself at one point, by holding up a sexy picture. Funny enough on its own, but what’s even better is the fly having a similar reaction when he sees it. (Who knew both species found humans attractive?)

Personal Rating: I give it a 4 thanks to some great facial reactions. If they don’t make you smile, you can call this one a 3.

Of Fox and Hounds

“Well, thanks a lot George! Thanks a lot!”

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7u0q0c

Supervision by Fred Avery; Story by “Draft No. 1312”; Animation by “Draft No. 6102”; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on December 7, 1940.

Mornings are so peaceful. So serene. So nice to sleep right through. And if you’re not allowed to do that, you try to ruin it for everyone. And so, the fox hunters blowing their ungodly horns and bringing their hounds along for a round of “kill the animal for sport.” One hound, is a bit slow. And I do mean both ways. His name is Willoughby and he is making his screen debut here. He’s packing quite a bit of meat here, (making him look an awful lot like a St. Bernard) and his coat has more white than his later years. (Huh. Usually it’s the other way round.)

Willoughby takes off after the rest, and he has some pretty decent luck, as he almost immediately finds a fox. But he doesn’t know that, and asks the fellow, (named George) if he’s seen a fox. George, (who is to Bugs what Foxy was to Mickey: a ripoff desperately wants some love.) gives him directions. Just past a stump up ahead, and on the other side of a rail fence. Willoughby takes off, jumps the fence and falls off a cliff. At the bottom, he realizes that the chap he was talking to was actually the fox of which he seeks.

He heads back in a murderous fury, but finds another hound. It’s George in disguise, but he doesn’t know that and asks the fellow if he’s seen a fox. George, (not even bothering to disguise his name) gives him directions. He just has to pass a stump up ahead, and he’ll find the fox on the other side of a rail fence. Willoughby heads off, leaps over the fence, and falls off a cliff again. He doesn’t catch on this time. (I do love his little resigned sigh. Sometimes that says it all.)

He returns to George to tell him the directions were faulty, and the little dog decides to go with him this time. But while squeezing through a log, his costume comes off and Willoughby catches on again. (The costume loses a leg for a brief second, and this scares the dog so badly, that his ears turns white.) He chases the vulpine, waking a bear in the process, and barricades off the hole George is hiding in with a boulder. He happily tells the bear what he’s done, before realizing it’s a bear and climbs a tree. (A good safety tip. You can learn a lot from cartoons.)

George is able to move the boulder, and sees the ursine and the treed canine. Some might say it’s a conscience thing, but I think George just can’t resist the opportunity he has here, and gives the bear a hot foot. ( A great reaction I’m not spoiling if you choose to read this synopsis before the watching the short.) Willoughby tries to act cool, but faints in relief. NEXT MORNING! Those cruel hunters are at it again, and Willoughby is once more the last one out. But this time he has George with him, as the two live together now.

Still, a hound has to do what he was bred to do, and he asks George for directions towards the nearest fox. (Preferably one that he isn’t on a first name basis with.) George tells him to head for a stump, turn past it, and he’ll find the fox on the other side of a rail fence. Willoughy heads out, leaps the fence and there is no crash. The dog is learning, and this time he left some mattresses to cushion his landing.

Favorite Part: The little chuckle George gives when pranking the bear. He kinda sounds like a marmoset.

Personal Rating: 3. Sad really. I saw this one all the time back in the day on Cartoon Network, and was looking forward to seeing again for the first time in twenty-one years. I remembered it being a lot funnier, George. A lot!

Egghead Rides Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Rating:3

The Early Worm gets the Bird

“Who’s-a scared?”

Supervision by Fred Avery; Story by Jack Miller; Animation by Robert Cannon; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on January 13, 1940.

A short that starts with a cotton field? That can only mean one thing… Yep. Blackbirds. So of course they look like stereotypical black people. At least they don’t do much insulting. (If you can take the opinion of an uneducated white guy.) Birds can automatically escape the “big lips” treatment, and there’s no Stepin Fetchit homages.

A mother bird puts her chicks to bed. Two sleep, but the third one, Willie, decides to so some reading. His book is entitled, “The Early Bird Gets The Worm.” (It’s probably about ibexes.) He likes what he reads, but his nestmates really couldn’t care less. His mom isn’t too thrilled either. That book is way out of his age range, but that’s not the only reason she doesn’t want him learning.

Seems like the food chain doesn’t end at them. In fact, while birds hunt worms, they in turn are hunted by foxes. Large creatures with teeth. I think they look something like this:

(Note the lack of empathy.)

The threat of death by vulpine is enough to keep the other two chicks in bed, but Willie will not be deterred. He sets his alarm clock early, so he can be an early bird, and catch an early worm. (Then he’ll have plenty of time left over to write that novel he’s been yammering about. Talking won’t make it happen!)

Come morn, Willie slips on his clothes and sneaks out. He’s not the only living thing up at such an ungodly hour. Something is stirring. The cartoon seems to think it’s a worm, but it has legs, antennae and pants. But I guess a worm it must be. I’ll call him Mickey. He finds the book Willie’s mother tossed away the night before, and figures he might as well see what this “early bird” looks like. (I do hope you’re careful Mickey. You’re kinda freakin’ adorable.)

Predator and prey meet, and prey tries to hide. He is briefly able to lose his pursuer by pretending to be a bee in a flower. This scares Willie off, even leaving a bit of a ghostly image behind. (I can’t tell if that was intentional.) Mickey reveals that it was him hiding, which means Willie is willing to ignore anymore buzzing and leap into another flower that holds a REAL bee.

Enter the fox. Willie just assumes that this new creature is also hunting the “worm.” The fox goes along with it, but as Willie talks, he realizes that his new friend has all the features his mom told him foxes have. (Except green eyes. Those are not green eyes, and I know green eyes. I’ve been attracted to them.) The fox prepares a bird sandwich, which leaves Mickey with a choice: let his hunter fall prey to nature’s gran plan, or save the squirt, possibly ending his own life in the process.

Mickey chooses option Bee. He gives the insect’s flower a good shake, then gives his rear end the same thing. Angry bee on the loose! Mickey leads him right to the fox, and the fox gets stung. He’s not allergic to bee stings, so he doesn’t die, but his bottle of catsup does break on his head, and he is led to believe that he is bleeding. (Which probably would be more believable if it wasn’t HIS catsup.) Still, he falls for it and runs off to seek medical assistance.

Willie goes back home, his mother none the wiser to what he’s been up to. She comes to wake her children up and asks what they would like for breakfast. The first two nestlings request worms, of course. But the other two would prefer something a little less familiar. Luckily, we end before Mickey is no doubt torn to pieces by hungry avians.

Favorite Part: When the fox first appears, he introduces himself with two signs. One says, “The Villain.” The other, “As if you didn’t know.”

Personal Rating: 2

Land of the Midnight Fun

“Many of the passengers made the entire trip by rail.”

Supervision by Fred Avery; Story by Melvin Millar; Animation by Charles McKimson; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on September 23, 1939.

Before we begin, I must insist you watch this if you haven’t done so already:

Now that you’re properly hyped, (and if you aren’t, then you aren’t living properly. Try again.) we can move on to today’s feature.

Time for a ocean voyage up north. As a cold loather, I can’t fathom why anyone would want to subject themselves to such an excursion, but I might as well follow and see if we can scrounge up a few good jokes. Considering Avery thought bringing back the “fairy boat” joke was a good idea, I’m apprehensive. (And I don’t buy the narrator’s claim of this being “educational.” That penguin on the title card already disproves that theory.)

Actually, maybe Tex is already proving me wrong. For when we take a peek under the Atlantic waters, we see an abundance of sea life, that is drawn fairly realistically! A battery of barracuda, a pair of swordfish, a float of tuna! Oh, and a can of salmon. There’s even life above the waves; witness the castaway on a raft. The boat tries throwing him a line, but he throws it back. Seeing as how he has a woman on board, he’s fine thanks. (That situation actually sounds like a decent basis for a novel. DIBS!)

When the ship arrives at Nome, (parallel parking, no less) we get to see some “Eskimo humor.” The caricatures are a bit outdated, and the lifestyle seems to be composed of outdated stereotypes, but don’t worry. None of them are gutbustingly hilarious, so you don’t have to feel guilty. There’s one native sitting in cramped igloo, a woman putting lipstick on her nose, (yeah, okay. She’s kind of cute.) and a telephone pole for the dogsleds.

So, if that’s what the humans are doing, what are the animals up to? Chicken’s lay eggs encased in ice, a timber wolf constantly yelling his namesake, and a…. penguin.

There’s a penguin in Alaska.

The clearly North American Alaska.

Come on, Fred! You’re insulting my zoology cred! And to go even further, you state that the birds live entirely on fish! No, I don’t care if science hadn’t dis-proven these claims in the 30’s. By that logic, I should be okay with every racist caricature that gets shown on the screen. Happily for me, the last fish on the penguin’s menu turns the tables and eats it. Thus leading me to believe that it was just an invasive species that got nipped in the bud. Thank goodness.

Before the tour ends, we take a peek at the nearby night club. There’s no hurry, as the nights are a good six months up here. We get some nice rotoscoped skating, courtesy of one of the natives. But the tour has to end sometime, so we head back down to New York. (Wait, did we really sail over the Arctic circle to get here? Eat it, Nautilus!) However, due to heavy fogs, the boat somehow ends up on top of the Trylon. (We’re kings of the world!)

Favorite Part: That wolf. Not only is he being voice by Avery, doing that infectious laugh I know and love so well, but he even takes the time to comment on how silly the gag is. (Darn it, Tex. I can’t stay mad at you.)

Personal Rating: 3

Believe it or Else

“I don’t believe it!”

Supervision by Fred Avery; Story by Dave Monahan; Animation by Virgil Ross; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on June 25, 1939.

You ever hear of “Ripley’s Believe it or not”? It’s a bit obscure. Newspaper comics, books, museums, and more: all to inform you of things you might just claim as false. I mean, a little boy named Chalres Schulz getting a drawing published? Preposterous. I’m sure he never went anywhere, did anything, knew anyone.

So yeah, obscure it may be, it was still worth a parody in a Warner Bros. picture. Brought to us by the master of gags: Tex Avery. Imagination is limitless, so we’re guaranteed a good time! Egghead is also here, but he’s going to play the role of doubting thomas. (Which isn’t fun to be. Be warned, children.)

What sort of oddities, strangeities, and weirdities could we possibly be shown? Example: a man has been drinking fifty quarts of milk a day for two years. Would you believe that all those calories didn’t kill him? It just makes him unleash a good lowing. (Which is odd. Cows give milk, they don’t drink it. Would eating enough apples make you act like a tree?) There’s a snake charmer, (Whose hood looks more like a shell than anything. Cute gag though.) and a man who builds ships in bottles. (You might not be impressed, but I am. I couldn’t even fit my head in one.)

A man calls pigs from several states away, (you don’t believe that most of our states are just misshapen blobs? We said “Believe or else!”) another hasn’t left his room in years. (Jails frown on that, you know.) There’s even a human basketball! (I’m not jealous. You’re jealous.) Keeping in “Ripley’s” style, there’s even some demonstrations on brain tricks you can play with your friends. (If I had friends, you know I’d give it a try.)

Take a look through the telescope. There’s life on Mars you know. (Warner cartoons with martians? No!) Well, it’s really just “Buck Dodgers.” (What a bad pun. Why isn’t he named “Duck?”) And he’s an over the top gay stereotype. The third I’ve seen this year. Okay, there’s life on Mars. Is there any on the Moon? Nope, and we’ll check to prove it- Hey! There’s men on the moon! Men who sing! I wouldn’t have thought that possible, what with the lack of an atmosphere and all, but I guess I’m just wrong about everything.

With what we’ve seen, is there any reason to return to Earth and see what wonders are still there? I’d say so. There’s a wishing well that responds to the wishes made. It doesn’t grant them. Technology isn’t there yet. There’s even a device that allows us to hear the ants talk. (Must be a newly discovered species, as our narrator identifies it as a male, but I see no wings.) Last up, we’re going to see the classic trick: sawing a person in half. Egghead still doubts, despite all he’s experienced, and offers himself as a test subject.

Believe it or Not! (By Dr. Foolio)

Today, a one Egghead Penner found out that the human body can survive in two halves! His head and torso stayed in one location, but his waist and legs walked off by themselves!

This drawing of a nose was submitted by Bradley Daniels, of Annapolis, Maryland.

TRY THIS TRICK!

Draw a square. Cut the square in half. Magically, you now have two rectangles! Amaze your friends!

 

Favorite Part: Seeing the berth of a baby, for the first time on screen. (It’s much more funny when you hear it spoken, as opposed to reading it.)

Personal Rating: 3