Reviews of Merrie Melodies (1931) and related work

Merrie Melodies (1931Moving picture)

A spin-off from Looney Tunes (1930), focused on the musical genre, allowing Looney Tunes to develop narratives instead.

References here: “The Scarecrow” (1943/1946), Over the Garden Wall (2014), “Alternate Histories” (2019).

moving picture animation fiction

“Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

First of the Merrie Melodies. Well made, anarchic, extending anthropomorphization to the entire building that forms most of the set, and showing alcohol-induced psychosis for comedy. It introduced Foxy, a copy of Mickey Mouse, and Roxy, who combines Betty Boop (launched a year earlier; her vocal flourishes are imitated here) with the redundant markers of femininity that are also applied to Bosko’s girlfriend Honey. The attempt to promote a Warner-owned popular song is more obvious than in the earlier Looney Tunes (1930).

References here: “Bosko’s Fox Hunt” (1931), “Goopy Geer” (1932).

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“Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!” (1931Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Imitative of “Box Car Blues” (1930). Hobos chime in while cooking a living bird, and knocking it out, which seems entirely appropriate to the underlying grimness of the song.

References here: “Goopy Geer” (1932).

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“One More Time” (1931Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Amid violence and urban alienation, it achieves the distinction of being especially nonsensical because the music it promotes is very poorly matched to the action. Perhaps it could be profitably remixed to Daft Punk’s song by the same name.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!” (1931Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

More hobos, and an amusing advertisement for asbestos on the theater curtain, deliberately comical in the era of escalating concern with the negative health effects. There’s good anarchic energy in a few shots, but the nightmare scene doesn’t quite sustain the right intensity.

References here: “Bosko in Person” (1933).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Hittin’ the Trail for Hallelujah Land” (1931Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

More hobos, and Uncle Tom; one of the Censored Eleven for its obvious racism. I like the lights from the windows on the boat reflected in the water, Porky’s trick with the propeller, the third-act ripoff of “The Skeleton Dance” (1929), and the extreme (though not graphic) brutality of the melodramatic villain’s comeuppance.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Red-Headed Baby” (1931Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

References here: “Santa’s Workshop” (1932).

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“Pagan Moon” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Hawaiian natives.

I like the slowly rising sun, and the last shot is fun.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Freddy the Freshman” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Good potential for prefiguring the college comedies of a later era, with wild partying verging on the surreal, but it doesn’t live up to its potential.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Crosby, Columbo, and Vallee” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Native Americans complain about popular singers.

I initially thought it might be Christopher Columbus in the title, but it really is Russ Columbo, even though the characters are racially caricatured in a 15th-century lifestyle. I suppose the most interesting thing about this short is the relative similarity of the girl and the boy, compared to the previous couples in this series and Looney Tunes (1930): The extreme feminine attributes of Honey, Roxy and Fluffy are absent here.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Goopy Geer” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

One good detail for ecocriticism: A waiter orders “One soup!” from a plucked chicken in the kitchen. The bird replies “Comin’ up!”, leaps from its shelf into a bowl of water on the stove, swims around, rubs its butt in the water a little extra before getting out, and then towels off. The waiter returns and takes a scoop of water from the bowl to serve his customer. Compare “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!” (1931). The scene of the psychotic, drunken horse is repeated from “Lady, Play Your Mandolin!” (1931), but the wild energy of that film is sadly absent here.

References here: BoJack Horseman (2014).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“It’s Got Me Again!” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Mice defend themselves from a cat using musical instruments, in what appears to be a school.

First Warner Bros. Oscar nomination for an animated short. It’s plain to see why: It’s much more European and poetic in its sensibilities than other early Merrie Melodies shorts, and much more sedate. The shot of the cat creeping across the roof in the rain is actually beautiful.

References here: “A Great Big Bunch of You” (1932).

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“Moonlight for Two” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Worth watching purely for its painfully bad dance animation, which looks like a 1990s parody of this era’s cartoons.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Queen Was in the Parlor” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Evidently thoughtless faux-medieval romanticism.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Love a Parade” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

A circus.

Itchy & Scratchy logic: A lion beats a bass drum too hard, breaking the skin, and pushes it down a dog’s throat to fix the problem. Also a freak show of mostly-ethnic characters.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“You’re Too Careless with Your Kisses!” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Drunkenness, domestic quarrels and war among bees.

I like the war sequence: From cavalry to modern warfare with an aircraft carrier and a submarine (U-Boot) that is a boot.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Wish I Had Wings” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Another sack of easy targets for ecocriticism. I like the rooster calling out the marching pace in German, just five months before the Reichstag fire.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“A Great Big Bunch of You” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Rather less successful in its European-style gentrification than “It’s Got Me Again!” (1932).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Three’s a Crowd” (1932Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

The atypically realistic character designs for Cleopatra and Tarzan look out of place. Indeed, Hyde here functions as a villain against the characters from other works.

Sambo and Uncle Tom are both present as literary classics, as would be expected from early Merrie Melodies; they’re the only ones present that would completely drop out of the canon in the 85 years between the production and my viewing. Unexpectedly, Hyde does not morph into a black stereotype like them after being splashed with ink.

References here: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999).

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“The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

The design sensibility of the opening shots seems prescient, but it all devolves into a fantasy of wish fulfillment, racism and recycled footage.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“One Step Ahead of My Shadow” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Musical pastiche of US stereotypes of East Asian culture: Mostly Chinese but with Japanese torii and stratovolcano etc.

No improvement over “The Dragon Painter” (1919). The title song is delivered in broken English. As usual, the WB animation studio likes to mix its racial stereotypes for variety, so there’s a Mandarin version of Amos and Andy in one shot.

References here: “Buddy the Gob” (1934).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Young and Healthy” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

The opening walk down the stairs is an ambitious effort in manual technical animation, but watch the bad geometry when figures are exchanged.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Organ Grinder” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Watch the background repeat. The monkey is pretty well animated when its gets going.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Wake Up the Gypsy in Me” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

The usual casual racism and exoticism dressed up for comedy. The comment on Rasputin is curious in its lack of apparent meaning. He’s just a scheming villain, disloyal to an unseen tzar. He’s not even hard to kill. The amusing figure entering his castle with a bunch of bombs—perhaps a 1910s-style anarchist terrorist vaguely influenced by Khioniya Guseva—is dropped without comment or consequence.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Like Mountain Music” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

I like the many-eyed anthropomorphic potato crying, the anthropomorphic egg slipping in lard to fall and crack open, revealing an unharmed anthropomorphic chicken, and finally the literal doughboy who gets doped up on yeast and cooked by his enemies.

References here: Rick and Morty (2013).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“We’re in the Money” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

I was reminded of my niece’s 2017 fascination with “Shopkins”, little anthropomorphic representations of consumer goods, a more recent form of imagining inanimate objects of desire as friendly creatures. It seems both Rudolf Ising and Friz Freleng did a ton of shorts on this theme, resembling “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (1838).

References here: “How Do I Know It’s Sunday” (1934), Brewster’s Millions (1985).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I’ve Got to Sing a Torch Song” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence” (1933Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Inanimate objects and cats.

I like the long johns doing circus acrobatics in the breeze.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Pettin’ in the Park” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Honeymoon Hotel” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Catchy. The funniest thing about it is the deliberately broken coy causality. Observe the cut away from the shot of the thermometer, starting with a heart-shaped red bead of mercury and rising to indicate that the honeymooners are shtupping. High pressure breaks the glass (orgasm) and triggers the fire alarm. In isolation, that’s expected in the genre, but it becomes apparent that the same event somehow caused an actual fire too, which is not shown and upon which there is no comment whatsoever.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Beauty and the Beast” (1934Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

A gluttonous female protagonist, no less.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Those Were Wonderful Days” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Parody of Gay Nineties and turn-of-the-century stereotypes.

I like the villain’s well-timed dynamite toss and the damsel’s subversive preference for him.

References here: “Little Dutch Plate” (1935).

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“Goin’ to Heaven on a Mule” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

An imp and a cherub get into a brutal fistfight and leave the protagonist to drink his gin. He goes to a casino-themed Heaven where everyone is black. Saint Peter gets rid of a salesman at the gate.

There is no implication that whites go to a segregated Heaven elsewhere. As a satire of Christian belief it’s pretty funny. It would have been less funny with a white Saint Peter, and funnier without the racial stereotypes.

References here: “Those Beautiful Dames” (1934), “Fish Tales” (1936).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“How Do I Know It’s Sunday” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Another short about what happens in a store when there are no people around; this time a grocery store.

No doubt the result of bored animators using their imagination in everyday life, hence more pleasant than “We’re in the Money” (1933).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Why Do I Dream Those Dreams” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Rip Van Winkle.

Surprisingly pedestrian. Three years earlier the animators would probably have done wilder things with the legend.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Girl at the Ironing Board” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Miller’s Daughter” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Shake Your Powder Puff” (1934Moving picture, 6 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Joyful. I particularly enjoyed the careful characterization of individual band members, whereas collectives are undifferentiated in e.g. “Buddy’s Circus” (1934).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Rhythm in the Bow” (1934Moving picture, 6 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

A Depression hobo utopia.

Pretty well composed.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Those Beautiful Dames” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

A poor girl, possibly an orphan, freezes in the winter. When she falls asleep, toys come by to give her an extreme home makeover. Unlike “Goin’ to Heaven on a Mule” (1934), there is nothing here to indicate that the fantastic event is only a dream.

Cognitive dissonance. It is a curious reversal of the several previous Merrie Melodies where toys party by themselves. See it for the implication that what destitute children need is the appearance of a middle-class lifestyle, not attentive parents, friends, money, education, talent, effort etc.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Pop Goes Your Heart” (1934Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Colour and no real theme, plot or energy.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Mr. and Mrs. Is the Name” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Observe the lobster, alive and well in the sea, yet red.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Country Boy” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

The sole highlight is the rhyming conversation between bad-boy Peter Rabbit—whether licensed or a knock-off I don’t know—and his classmates, who warn him not to steal from the farmer, because the teacher will find out. Also, the farmer is a human who will kill Peter and eat him “in a pot”; I like how the funny-animal setting makes this bogeyman threat uncommonly credible. The speaking, anthropomorphic prey animals wear (some) clothes, unlike the farmer’s mute cow.

References here: Charlotte’s Web (1973).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Haven’t Got a Hat” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

A jump forward in character design and planning, including the thoughtful use of colour.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Along Flirtation Walk” (1935Moving picture, 6 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Hens, with apparently male coaches, compete at laying eggs. Viable eggs are cause for a penalty.

Poorly put together, but recommended for ecocritical thinking. The animal glee club sings, but none of the animals talk.

References here: BoJack Horseman (2014).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“My Green Fedora” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Into Your Dance” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Country Mouse” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Merry Old Soul” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Lady in Red” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Roaches in a Spanish kitchen and a parrot villain.

A minor graphical upgrade on the recurring motif of small creatures running the show and repurposing everyday objects when there are no people around.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Little Dutch Plate” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

The twist ending is that of “Those Were Wonderful Days” (1934).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Billboard Frolics” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Yet another animist Warner Bros. short about environments coming to life without people around.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Flowers for Madame” (1935Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Flowers in a garden have a parade and put out a living fire.

The first 3-strip Technicolor cartoon in the series.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Wanna Play House” (1936Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Bear cubs at play.

A marked improvement in the use of shot length and Technicolor. The plot is not yet clever and the characters are weak, but the basic technical building blocks are in place for the golden age.

References here: “Mickey’s Trailer” (1938).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I’m a Big Shot Now” (1936Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Let It Be Me” (1936Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

I like the rural boyfriend getting up the nerve to head out in the winter storm and being blown through several rooms of his house and out the back.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I’d Love to Take Orders from You” (1936Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2017.

A family of scarecrows.

Looks and feels like a conservative Disney production.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Bingo Crosbyana” (1936Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

An awkward combination of several of Freleng’s most common tropes: Musical bugs repurposing a domestic scene in the absence of people, melodramatic villainy threatening the women, and gentle, conventionally moral parody of a pop star.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Page Miss Glory” (1936Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2017.

A Hicksville bellhop fantasizes about meeting a star.

The Art Deco, with echoes of Fritz Lang, suggests Tex Avery’s talent and bright future.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“When I Yoo Hoo” (1936Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

The final shot, of non-funny-animal cocks on the bleachers when their funny-animal owners and trainers fight, is no punchline. It is more interesting, ecocritically, that the two feuding hillbilly clans are both represented as biologically similar to one another and internally diverse.

References here: “The Martins and the Coys” (1946).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Love to Singa” (1936Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2017.

The Jazz Singer (1927) according to Tex Avery.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time” (1936Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“At Your Service Madame” (1936Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

Anthropomorphic piglets are taught to eat gracefully out of individual troughs. One hyperactive piglet who fails at this task is the only one with the initiative to stop a con man.

Neatly contained, without anyone thinking too hard about the contents.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Toy Town Hall” (1936Moving picture, 6 minutes)

Seen in 2017.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The CooCoo Nut Grove” (1936Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Cartoon caricatures of real contemporary celebrities at a glamorous night club, patterned after the Cocoanut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Wikipedia names over 20 celebrities, many more than I could recognize. For something so extremely heavy on reference humour for its time and medium, it is surprisingly well put together; there is even a restored version where the colour looks lovely. Though it alludes to the various celebrities rather than naming them, it is a more direct form of reference humour than the mere idioms of “Bosko in Person” (1933).

References here: “Porky’s Road Race” (1937), “Speaking of the Weather” (1937), “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos” (1937), “Bambi Meets Godzilla” (1974).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Don’t Look Now” (1936Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

Cupid and a devil.

The two turtles dancing inside the male’s shell are cute.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“He Was Her Man” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Pigs Is Pigs” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

A gluttonous pig—not Porky—is force-fed but learns nothing.

References here: The Simpsons (1989).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Fella with the Fiddle” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

A beggar living in luxury is menaced by a tax collector.

While the premise is offensive, the execution is not bad.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter” (1937Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

A brief Hitler cameo is used to illustrate the uselessness of seats crammed in very close to the movie-theatre screen, as was common at the time.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Only Have Eyes for You” (1937Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

Pun title, misuse of Blanc. The only good part is the love interest’s ambition to marry any radio crooner.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Clean Pastures” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Streamlined Greta Green” (1937Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Anthropomorphic cars.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Sweet Sioux” (1937Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Native Americans.

As in “Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid” (1929), there is not much going on here except ethnicity viewed from the outside. Like Bosko, the Americans dance the czardas to mix things up. The individual jokes all fail, which leads me to believe that this game of ethnicities was itself considered a selling point.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Egghead Rides Again” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

A weak Wild West fanboy gets to try being a cowboy.

Egghead looks a bit like a proboscis monkey.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Plenty of Money and You” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Ain’t We Got Fun” (1937Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

Neatly condensed plotting.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Speaking of the Weather” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

There is a direct textual reference to “The CooCoo Nut Grove” (1936) in it, and I like the concept of magazines coming to life as a variation of the perennial series motif, but it it isn’t developed.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Dog Daze” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

A pedigree dog show.

Some of the individual acts are short enough for the Vine video sharing service of 80 years later.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“I Wanna Be a Sailor” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

A fledgling parrot and a duckling team up as pirates.

Avery switching fluidly between miniature musical numbers, pop-culture allusions and a thin plot, but the characters are weak.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Lyin’ Mouse” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“A Sunbonnet Blue” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

Mice in a hat shop.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Stars of radio and music. A collection of celebrity impressions similar in style and concept to “The CooCoo Nut Grove” (1936).

Comparatively poor, perhaps because I recognize even fewer celebrities, but it doesn’t seem to have the same verve.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“September in the Rain” (1937Moving picture, 6 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Figures on grocery store packages come to life at night.

Bad rotoscope dancing and a relatively dull take on the recurring motif.

References here: “Daffy Duck & Egghead” (1938).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Little Red Walking Hood” (1937Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

References here: “Red Hot Riding Hood” (1943).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“My Little Buckeroo” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

A Western. I like the hero’s horse getting distracted.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Jungle Jitters” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

One of the Censored Eleven. The non-racist humour in it is based on references, apparently to Al Pearce, Clark Gable and Robert Taylor. So it’s two kinds of comedy that do not age well.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Sneezing Weasel” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2018.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“A Star Is Hatched” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Anthropomorphic A Star Is Born (1937) without female success or male failure.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Now That Summer Is Gone” (1938Moving picture, 6 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

Squirrels gathering, or gambling for, nuts.

A pretty good catalogue of the serial production tricks developed up to this point.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Katnip Kollege” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

A kitten learns to swing by listening to the ticking of a clock in detention after school.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Have You Got Any Castles?” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Love and Curses” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

1890s melodrama.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Cinderella Meets Fella” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2019.

A remarkably complete retelling of Cinderella’s tale with an alcoholic fairy godmother and multiple rounds of Avery metatheatre to cap it off.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Penguin Parade” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2019.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Major Lied ’Til Dawn” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“A-Lad-In Bagdad” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Cracked Ice” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Isle of Pingo Pongo” (1938Moving picture, 9 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2019.

The first handful of jokes about the black “aboriginals” on the island all undercut prejudice and exoticism. Only after that, the notorious racism of the Censored Eleven enters the picture. There’s enough other stuff going on to keep it funny.

References here: “Clown of the Jungle” (1947).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“A Feud There Was” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2019.

Hillbilly families shooting each other.

Especially poor shot continuity but some decent metafiction.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Little Pancho Vanilla” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

References here: “Ferdinand the Bull” (1938).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas” (1938Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2019.

Pretty intelligent anti-racist use of racist motifs. The native Americans are simultaneously portrayed according to stereotype and as modern Americans outclassing the white settlers on the Mayflower.

References here: “Scalp Trouble” (1939).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“You’re an Education” (1938Moving picture, 6 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

Yet more of Tashlin’s stores-coming-to-life, now with more puns.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Night Watchman” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Count Me Out” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

The correspondence course in boxing, which extends to coaching a title match in real time on vinyl, is the first noted use of an ACME product in a Warner Bros. cartoon. It’s a fine start.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“The Mice Will Play” (1938Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2019.

The closing punchline is good: Overhearing the heroic newlyweds’ talk of babies, the villainous cat who’s been stalking them throughout the film decides to hold off its attack. It’s a tame anthropomorphic animal deciding on animal husbandry, in further imitation of a human.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Dog Gone Modern” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

Smart-home automation.

Poorly conceived and animated.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Hamateur Night” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2020.

Vaudeville.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Robin Hood Makes Good” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

Squirrels play at The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Gold Rush Daze” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“A Day at the Zoo” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2020.

Very Lewis Carroll.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Prest-O Change-O” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

A magician’s rabbit does magic tricks with itself.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Bars and Stripes Forever” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

The joys of the US prison system.

Good title; the US prison system is unique and deeply connected to the country’s history of slavery. I assume this is not an intentional glamorization of it, but it’s hard to believe this sort of purposeful naïveté for comedy is harmless.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Thugs With Dirty Mugs” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2020.

A fine parody of Warner Brothers’ gangster movies. I particularly like the recurring motif of various objects functioning as slot machines, infusing the whole world with a love of thrills and money.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Naughty But Mice” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

A transitional fossil between the “store coming alive” motif and Chuck Jones’s usual stuff. The only point of interest is the creative voice modulation for Sniffles’ drinking buddy, an electric razor.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Believe It or Else” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2020.

A series of simple, mostly bad jokes parodying Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The best of them is a pun that layers in the studio system’s strict self-censorship in the Hays Code era: The narrator promises to show the birth of a baby and shows a baby on a berth. The integration of the Warner musical element that ostensibly drives Merrie Melodies is curious: Short performances mixed into the jokes.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Hobo Gadget Band” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

The soda fizz gag prefigures the “Diet Coke and Mentos” geyser meme popular in the ten years after 2005. The portrayal of the Great Depression’s homeless here is romantic and comedic, subtly dehumanizing but not disparaging.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Old Glory” (1939Moving picture, 9 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

Porky falls asleep reluctantly studying the Pledge of Allegiance and gets a lecture from Uncle Sam, consisting of short scenes featuring Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty, or give me death!”), Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, settlers heading west, and a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln.

This was before the pledge was adopted by Congress, and before the Christian faith was snuck into it, so Porky does not say “under god”. Regardless, the short would make no sense at all to a viewer who was not already familiar with US history as taught to its children. It’s pure propaganda, making no argument other than “love the country because people have died for it”, and only vaguely alluding to internal enemies who are not so fervently patriotic.

Despite Lincoln’s appearance, and despite native Americans and other people of colour having featured pretty heavily in previous Melodies and Looney Tunes like the preceding week’s “Scalp Trouble” (1939), there is no direct mention here of native Americans, slavery, the civil war, segregation, US wars of expansion etc., nor do they appear on screen. This delineation of the subject matter misrepresents history for the purpose of indoctrination. Its total lack of humour is typical of authoritarianism. In my opinion, to go from a comedic, cartoonish, squash-and-stretch colonial war one week to this rotoscoped sermon the next, with the same protagonist, is more vile than simply including caricatures of native Americans being killed in the earlier short, or even calling it “Scalp Trouble”. Yet, when the list of the Censored Eleven was drafted, I’m sure they never considered this piece of shit.

References here: A People’s History of the United States (1980), “American Psychosis” (2017).

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Dangerous Dan McFoo” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2021.

Good typewriter piano.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Snowman’s Land” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Hare-um Scare-um” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Seen in 2022.

At this point, the lead animator gave the hare a name on its model sheet: “Bugs’ Bunny” because director Hardaway was already nicknamed Bugs.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Detouring America” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2022.

A spoof of the travelogue short-subject genre.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Little Brother Rat” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2022.

“I don’t have anything against mice”, says the owl, sensibly.

Near surrealism.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Sioux Me” (1939Moving picture, 7 minutes)

Seen in 2022.

Based on “Porky the Rain-Maker” (1936). Same premise.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Land of the Midnight Fun” (1939Moving picture, 8 minutes)

Tex Avery (director).

Seen in 2022.

A cruise from New York to Nome, Alaska.

Ah yes, the famous penguins of the Arctic.

moving picture entry animation fiction

“Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs” (1943Moving picture, 7 minutes)

The censors should have had more sense than to martyr this crap.

moving picture entry animation fiction