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Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: April 25, 1961
Stars: Chilly Willy, Wally Walrus
Rating: ★★

Clash and Carry © Walter Lantz‘Clash and Carry’ pairs Wally Walrus with Chilly Willy. The latter is hungry and tries to steal fish from Wally’s fish market.

To be frank, Wally clearly is no match for Chilly Willy, who easily empties the complete store before Wally’s eyes. The best gag is when Chilly Willy uses cardboard plaques attached to shopping carts to empty Wally’s market. The cardboard women all carry a sign telling Wally to ‘charge it’. Soon, more outlandish cardboard figures follow, like a picture of Napoleon. But Wally only sees his fish selling, and calls all ships out sea to catch more fish. This leads to live action footage of fishing boats, and even a whale hunt.

Unfortunately, neither story man Homer Brightman nor Jack Hannah apparently knew how to work this gag into the finale, and so, the cartoon dies out with the lame sight of Chilly Willy playing a vacuum cleaner like bagpipes, with marching fish behind him, apparently sucked by the vacuum cleaner.

Apart from the utterly disappointing finale, the short is hampered by Wally’s omnipresent vocalizations (by Paul Frees), which only become funny during the great scene mentioned above. Apart from that ‘Clash and Carry’ remains a very mediocre cartoon.

Watch ‘Clash and Carry’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Clash and Carry’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: June 1962
Stars: The Beary Family
Rating:
Review:

Mother's Little Helper © Walter Lantz‘Mother’s Little Helper’ is the second cartoon featuring ‘The Beary Family’, new cartoon stars that Walter Lantz had launched in April 1962 in ‘Fowled-up Birthday’, and which would last until 1972, the very last year of Lantz’s theatrical cartoons.

The Beary family consists of Charlie and Bessie Bear, who are a clearly traditional family with Bessie being a housewife and Charlie a rather Fred Flintstone-like husband (in fact the Beary family was modeled on the live action sitcom ‘Life of Riley’). Inexplicably, though, the two have a pet called Goosey, who doesn’t speak, but who is able to tell-tale on Charlie, nonetheless.

The short starts with Bessie vacuum cleaning and complaining about how much work it is to keep the house clean. So much she can’t even go to the beauty parlor! Luckily, Charlie offers to do her work, so she can go. But Goosey tells Bessie about Charlie’s unusual cleaning methods and even sabotages his work, and part of the cartoon is filled with Charlie getting rid of the pest.

‘Mother’s Little Helper’ is a terribly unfunny cartoon: the short relies heavily on dialogue, with Charlie’s nautical references being the supposed source of humor. Moreover, none of the characters is sympathetic, and the Goose’s role is unclear, anyway. An opportunity to satirize man-wife relationships is wasted by the outlandish antics of Charlie and Goosey. It’s absolutely unbelievable that such talent-rich Disney veterans like story men Al Bartino and Jack Kinney, and director Paul Hannah worked on this abysmal product.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mother’s Little Helper’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: July 1961
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:
Review:

Franken-stymied © Walter Lantz‘Franken-stymied’ starts with a classic stormy scene and Woody Woodpecker trying to hide from the storm in a castle.

Inside the castle a Frankenstein-like mad scientist has made a chicken-plucking robot called Frankie, and as soon Woody arrives, Frankie starts plucking him (luckily we see no effect – throughout these scenes Woody keeps all his tail feathers, no matter how many times they are plucked). It takes a while before Woody can take control, and in the end he manages to cover the scientist in feathers and make Frankie go after the unfortunate villain.

‘Franken-stymied’ was made by talented Disney veterans like Jack Hannah (direction), Don Lusk (animation), Homer Brightman (story) and Clarence Wheeler (music), but it doesn’t show. The cartoon suffers from bad timing, awful dialogue, canned music, ugly designs and poor animation, as if the budget was way too tight to deliver anything decent. Clearly, ‘Franken-stymied’ never comes near any Disney product, but even worse: it cannot even compete with Walter Lantz films from only one year earlier.

Watch ‘Franken-stymied’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 109
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: Sufferin’ Cats
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Busman’s Holiday

‘Franken-stymied’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: January 1961
Stars: Inspector Willoughby
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Rough and Tumbleweed © Walter Lantz‘Rough and Tumbleweed’ introduces Inspector Willoughby, an incarnation of the little guard from ‘Salmon Yeggs‘ (1958).

Inspector Willoughby is a very, very Droopy-like character: he is small, undisturbed and persistent and even sounds like Bill Thompson, the voice of Droopy. The animators added a funny jumpy walk to the character.

In his first film Willoughby tries to arrest fierce bandit Boy McCoy. This leads to several gags in the best Tex Avery tradition. Particularly inspired is the scene in which Boy McCoy tries to get a train to run over a safe full of dynamite, which is attached to his leg. Unfortunately, there are two train tracks, and a multitude of trains pass by without McCoy succeeding in his plan. It’s nice to watch such inspired comedy in a cartoon made as late as 1961, when the golden age arguably was already over.

Watch ‘Rough and Tumbleweed’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rough and Tumbleweed’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

Director: Alex Lovy
Release Date: April 20, 1960
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Ballyhooey © Walter Lantz‘Ballyhooey’ was the last Walter Lantz cartoon directed by Alex Lovy. In 1959 Lovy left Lantz to become an associate producer for the now clearly successful Hanna-Barbera studio.

It’s perhaps ironic that the cartoon actually spoofs television. In this cartoon Woody Woodpecker trying to watch his favorite quiz show, but he has to sit through a multitude of commercials (“but first a word of our sponsor”). When the quiz arrives Woody thinks he has the right answer and rushes to the studio.

At this point the cartoon becomes less static (the first part was just a string of commercials), but also less funny. Woody’s antics at the studio feel out of place and old-fashioned when compared to the more biting satire of the first half. In this respect ‘Ballyhooey’ isn’t really a successful cartoon, but Woody Woodpecker’s annoyance during the first part, and the absurdity of the multiple commercials make the short a fun watch.

Watch ‘Ballyhooey’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 98
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Pistol-Packin’ Woodpecker
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Heap Big Hepcat

‘Ballyhooey’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: November 3, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Dooley
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Jittery Jester © Walter Lantz‘Jittery Jester’ takes place in a medieval castle where Dooley is court jester to a bored king.

Then the King hears Woody Woodpecker singing his own variation on ‘The Woodchuck Song’ from 1904. The king finds our hero infinitely more funny than Dooley, and he orders Dooley to catch the bird. During the obligate chase scene the king is too often the unwilling victim of Dooley’s attempts to catch Woody. In the end Woody is the new jester, using Dooley in his pranks.

Like many other Woody Woodpecker cartoons from 1958 ‘Jittery Jester’ is a rather run-of-the-mill chase cartoon, which features some anachronisms like a speedboat and dynamite. The draw bridge scene is the most inspired, even if it’s as predictable as the other gags in the cartoon.

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 88
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Tree’s a Crowd
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Tom Cat Combat

‘Jittery Jester’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: September 8, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tree's a Crowd © Walter LantzWoody rides a bus through Colonel Fleabush’s 60,000 acre estate full of trees.

Woodpeckers are not welcome there, and when the colonel discovers Woody, he orders his big yellow cat Filbur to catch the bird. What follows is a typical chase cartoon in which all the trees are destroyed.

Filbur is distinguished by a typical laugh (provided by Daws Butler), and sounds a little like Muttley from the later Hanna-Barbera television series ‘Wacky Races’ (1968-1969). The chase sequence is very formulaic and has little to offer, especially as Smith’s timing is a little too relaxed to make the gags work. The short also features three puns on trees, while the Latin tree names the colonel utters are all nonsensical.

Watch ‘Tree’s a Crowd’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 87
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Everglade Raid
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Jittery Jester

‘Tree’s a Crowd’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: August 11, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Gabby Gator
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Everglade Raid © Walter Lantz‘Everglade Raid’ opens with Woody Woodpecker reading a newspaper add telling tourists to come to the Everglades to make a fortune on alligator bags.

So Woody goes to Florida, where he encounters a hungry alligator, voiced by Daws Butler as a variation on the Southern wolf from the Droopy cartoon ‘The Three Little Pups‘ (1953). What follows is a chase cartoon with blackout gags, in which the alligator tries to catch Woody, and vice versa. In the end the alligator succeeds, yet it is Woody who has the last laugh.

‘Everglade Raid’ suffers from slow timing and a surplus of dialogue, but some of the animation is very fine, especially the alligator’s walk cycle. Later, the alligator was christened Gabby Gator, and he would return in ‘Southern Fried Hospitality’ (1960). The character lasted until 1963.

Watch ‘Everglade Raid’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Everglade Raid

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 86
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: His Better Elf
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Tree’s a Crowd

‘Everglade Raid’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: July 14, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

His Better Elf © Walter Lantz‘His Better Elf’ starts with Woody Woodpecker being poor, full of debts and living near a city dump.

Suddenly a four-leaf clove grows through the floor, which turns into a leprechaun woodpecker (a miniature green Woody) called O’Toole, who speaks in rhyme. First O’Toole demonstrates his powers, and then he grants Woody three wishes.

Woody’s first wish is, as expected, to become filthy rich. But O’Toole grants him the wish by placing him inside the National Bank, and soon a cop tries to arrest Woody for bank robbing. The rest of the cartoon is essentially a chase cartoon with the cop trying to catch Woody, and O’Toole sabotaging these attempts, using a lot of dynamite. In the end Woody uses his third wish to sent the little pest to hell.

‘His Better Elf’ is a genuine gag cartoon, but it’s a pity the wish concept isn’t used more, but instead taken over by a routine cartoon chase. There’s a shot featuring a moving background when Woody is caught by two policemen, a rare feat since the early 1930s.

Watch an excerpt from ‘His Better Elf’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 85
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: Half Empty Saddles
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Everglade Raid

‘His Better Elf’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: April 21, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Dooley
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Half Empty Saddles © Walter Lantz‘Half Empty Saddles’ opens with Woody Woodpecker looking for an old treasure in a Western ghost town.

Strangely Dooley already is there, hiding in a barrel, and he soon tries to steal Woody’s treasure (which is something (we don’t know what) hidden in a wooden box).

The complete cartoon is filled with Dooley’s attempts in a blackout gag cartoon. The one-dimensional story is saved by two excellent strings of gags, one in which Dooley’s foot gets hurt repeatedly, and another which he rides a wooden horse. Composer Clarence Wheeler accompanies the wooden horse with a particularly silly sounding version of Franz von Suppés ‘Light Cavalry’ overture. The cartoon ends with Dooley exploding in the distance, forming a mushroom cloud (!) in a rare cartoon reference to the atomic bomb.

Watch ‘Half Empty Saddles’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 84
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: Watch the Birdie
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: His Better Elf

‘Half Empty Saddles’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: March 24, 1958
Stars: Windy & Breezy
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Salmon Yeggs © Walter Lantz‘Salmon Yeggs’ marks the first solo cartoon of Windy and Breezy, the two bears from the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Fodder and Son‘ from 1957.

The short starts as a spot gag travelogue telling about salmon, throwing some puns in the mix. Then we cut to Windy and Breezy. The father bear (who’s Breezy and who’s Windy is quite unclear) doesn’t want to catch salmon the traditional way, and heads for a salmon canning factory, which is unfortunately guarded by a little, very Droopy-like mustached watchman, who fights the father bear with a deadpan expression.

‘Salmon Yeggs’ is one of the most Tex Averyan cartoons to come out of the Walter Lantz studio. The comedy between bear and watchman is very similar to that of Wolf and Droopy in ‘The Three Little Pups‘ or between polar bear and Chilly Willy in ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point‘ (1955). Like in ‘Fodder and Son’ the son does little more than addressing the audience with ‘that’s my pop’, with all the comedy going to the watchman and his father.

In 1961 the watchman would return as ‘Ranger Willoughby’ in ‘Hunger Strife’ (1960) and as ‘Inspector Willoughby in ‘Rough and Tumbleweed‘, starring several cartoons until 1965.

‘Salmon Yeggs’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Alex Lovy
Release Date: February 24, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★
Review:

Watch the Birdie © Walter LantzIn ‘Watch the Birdie’ we follow a bird watcher, who repeatedly addresses the audience with his sophisticated voice (by Daws Butler).

After watching two love birds and a humming bird (both gags are puns), Woody Woodpecker invites the bird watcher to watch him. First the bird watcher doesn’t believe Woody is a bird, but then he does, and the rest of the cartoon consists of Woody taunting the bird watcher, for no apparent reason.

This cartoon falls short in several ways. First, Homer Brightman’s story is less consistent than his contemporary efforts, and the gags more trite than usual. Second, Alex Lovy’s timing is too relaxed to make the gags come off, especially when compared to contemporary Woody Woodpecker cartoons by Paul J. Smith. Third, the bird watcher himself is a rather unfunny character, and the cartoon is hampered by the large amount of dialogue. And fourth Woody’s appearance feels too small in this cartoon.

Watch ‘Watch the Birdie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 83
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Misguided Missile
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Half Empty Saddles

‘Watch the Birdie’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: January 27, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Dooley
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Misguided Missile © Walter Lantz‘Misguided Missile’ starts with a familiar Woody Woodpecker trope of Woody being hungry and looking for food.

In the first scene we watch him picking with a bunch of pigeons, until he says ‘this is for the birds’, and tries to steal a man’s lunch box. When this fails, Woody immediately turns his attention to the ‘Jobs wanted’ page in the newspaper the man is reading, looking for a “Job for Goldbrickers”, as a super salesman selling insurance. Woody even dresses like a skunk to get the job, in a sequence that is reminiscent of a similar scene in Carl Barks’s comic ‘Land of the Totem Poles’ (1950).

In his new profession as a travelling salesman he tries to sell Dooley an insurance policy. This sequence forms the highlight of the cartoon, as Woody reads to Dooley which calamities the insurance covers, which promptly make these happen to the bearded fellow. In a matter of seconds Dooley gets hit by a safe, hit by a streetcar, falls into a printing press, is hit into the ground by a pile-driver, etc.

This remarkable selling strategy succeeds, and Dooley signs. But Dooley double-crosses Woody, thinking he now is insured against everything. He is, except for guided missiles. So Woody launches the slowest guided missile thinkable on Dooley. The rest of the cartoon consists of the guided missile slowly following an agonized Dooley. This is by all means a remarkable sequence, greatly enhanced by the tick-tock sound effects and Clarence Wheeler’s inspired music accompanying the missile.

Curiously, eleven days later, the slow missile would return in the earlier produced Droopy cartoon ‘Sheep Wrecked‘. Indeed, both cartoons were penned by the same writer: Homer Brightman.

Watch ‘Misguided Missile’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 82
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: Fodder and Son
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Watch the Birdie

‘Misguided Missile’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: November 4, 1957
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Windy & Breezy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Fodder and Son © Walter LantzIn Yellowstone Park a father bear shows his son how to get free food from the park visitors.

Father bear gets cake from an old couple, looking particularly miserably, and food from some youngsters playing ‘rock-‘n-roll’ (the tune the bear plays is more rock ‘n roll in name than in sound). The next customer is Woody Woodpecker, who for once isn’t short of food himself.

After making the bear perform some tricks, Woody gives the bear a sandwich and a bottle of ketchup, but when the greedy bear wants more, a gag routine starts, with Woody placing some food on ‘Old Faithful’ (a geyser), and the bear falling for it, no less than five times. This sequence is surprisingly fast-paced, making the comedy, which are essentially variations on one theme, work.

The little bear’s function in the plot is only to address the audience once in a while with an admiring ‘that’s my pop’, no matter what calamity befalls his father. In this respect he resembles Sylvester jr, who had made his debut eight years earlier in ‘Pop ‘Im Pop!’ (1950).

The bear pair was later christened ‘Windy & Breezy’ and starred four cartoons of their own, starting with ‘Salmon Yeggs‘ (1958).

Watch ‘Fodder and Son’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 81
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Dopey Dick and the Pink Whale
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Misguided Missile

‘Fodder and Son’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: December 1, 1941
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

$21 a Day (Once a Month) © Walter Lantz‘$21 a Day (Once a Month)’ is the first of the Swing Symphonies, a wartime cartoon series of fifteen based on swing music.

‘$21 a Day (Once a Month)’ reflects the war era perfectly, even though it appeared five days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The cartoon celebrates the draft that had been installed in 1941. The short’s original twist, however, is that the title song (by Felix Bernard and Ray Klages) is sung by toy animals, toy dolls, toy soldiers etc.

The designs are a mixed bag, some harking back to the early 1930s. Some animals are clearly stuffed, while others look like any other cartoon animal. Unfortunately, this first Swing Symphony hardly really swings. Darrel Calker’s arrangement features a lot of close harmony, but no jazz solos. Only after five minutes some boogie-woogie piano kicks in. Woody Woodpecker has a cameo, making some marching toy soldiers walk differently.

‘$21 a Day (Once a Month)’ is a joyful cartoon, but there were much better Swing Symphonies to follow.

Watch ‘$21 a Day (Once a Month)’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘$21 a Day (Once a Month)’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: February 9, 1942
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

hollywood matador © walter lantz‘Hollywood Matador’ is Woody Woodpecker’s contribution to the bullfight cartoon, a trope that comes back to the animated screen from time to time, from the early Silly Symphony ‘El Terrible Toreador‘ (1929) to the late Pink Panther short ‘Toro Pink’ (1979).

Woody Woodpecker is introduced as matador without any back story. His opponent is ‘Oxnar the Terribull’, who ends sadly as ‘fresh bull burgers’, in a gag that echoes a similar one in the Popeye short ‘I Eats My Spinach‘ (1933).

‘Hollywood Matador’ is the least inspired of the early Woody Woodpecker films, but Darrell Calker’s music is spiced with Spanish flavor, and there’s a great gag in which Woody Woodpecker directs a huge crowd with an applause sign, making it applaud and stop applauding without pause. Tex Avery reused this gag to great effects in his own, vastly superior bullfight cartoon ‘Señor Droopy‘ (1949).

Watch ‘Hollywood Matador’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 4
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: What’s Cookin’?
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Ace in the Hole

‘Hollywood Matador’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’

 

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: November 24, 1941
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:  ★★★★½
Review:

what's cookin' © walter lantzThis short opens with a groundhog warning for a terrific cold wave and urging all birds to go South at once.

All birds (drawn in cute 1930s fashion) leave the forest at once to take off to Miami. Not Woody Woodpecker, who takes another swim, only to discover that his summer scene changes into harsh winter within a second. Later a whirlwind deprives him of all his food, and Woody is left hungry and miserable. At that point an equally hungry cat drops by, and both characters try to eat each other, in what must be the grimmest and most violent cartoon of the sound era thus far.

The idea of characters trying to each other was revisited later by other film makers, e.g. Chuck Jones in ‘Wackiki Wabbit‘, Tex Avery in ‘What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard’ (both 1943), and James Culhane in ‘Fair Weather Friends’ (1946), which also stars Woody Woodpecker. Woody Woodpecker’s search for food would become a recurring theme in his films, e.g. ‘Ski for Two’ (1944), ‘Chew-Chew Baby’ (1945) and ‘Banquet Busters’ (1948).

Watch ‘What’s Cookin’?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 3
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: The Screwdriver
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Hollywood Matador

‘What’s Cookin’?’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’ and on the Thunderbean DVD ‘Lantz Studio Treasures Starring Oswald’

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: August 11, 1941
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The Screwdriver © Walter Lantz‘The Screwdriver’ forms an important step in the evolution of Woody Woodpecker.

Woody had been a clear woodpecker in his first cartoon, ‘Knock Knock‘ (1940), and he remained a forest animal in ‘Woody Woodpecker‘. Now he had become more or less an American citizen, capable of driving a car. In fact, the cartoon opens with Woody driving his rather silly vehicle, singing his theme song from ‘Woody Woodpecker’.

The bird soon turns out to be a road maniac, but the gags really start rolling in when he’s confronted by a police man. The woodpecker gives the officer a hard time, driving him nuts, in a string of fast and funny gags, greatly helped by an inspired score by Darrell Calker.

Watch ‘The Screwdriver’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 2
To the first Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Woody Woodpecker
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: What’s Cookin’?

‘The Screwdriver’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: July 7, 1941
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:  ★★★½
Review:

Woody Woodpecker © Walter LantzAfter his knockout debut in ‘Knock Knock‘ (1940) fledgling star Woody Woodpecker was given his own series.

The first two entries in this new series, ‘Woody Woodpecker’ and ‘The Screwdriver‘ clearly play on the character’s lunacy. In fact, in his first scene Woody sings a song about how crazy he is. The other forest animals, all cute characters straight from a 1930s cartoon, think so, too, thus Woody goes to visit a psychiatrist, who turns out to be a fox who is even loonier than Woody is. What follows is a string of random gags of nonsense. For example we watch Woody swimming in the doc’s carpet, and the doc and Woody dancing the conga out of the blue.

‘Woody Woodpecker’ is full of wild gags, and owes almost nothing to Lantz’s previous cartoons, except of course for the cute forest animals. In this film Woody shows both a Donald Duck-like fighting style and a Porky Pig-like stutter, when he says: “maybe I AM crazy. Maybe I’d better see a psy… a psy… I go see a doctor”. Soon Woody’s lunacy would be downplayed, as this was a little too narrow a scope to build a series on.

Watch ‘Woody Woodpecker’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 1
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: Knock Knock
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: The Screwdriver

‘Woody Woodpecker’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: March 31, 1941
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

Hysterical High Spots in American History © Walter Lantz‘Hysterical High Spots in American History’ is one of the first cartoons reflecting the peace time conscription that had been initiated on September 26, 1940, when Europe and Asia already were at war, but the United States were not: the short is supposedly brought to you by draftee number 1-58. But then he’s swept away from the screen by his sergeant, who, in his turn, is looking for draftee number 1-9-2.

However, these soldiers don’t return to the screen, and the rest of the cartoon is filled with spot gags on American history, dwelling on e.g. Columbus, Thanksgiving, the war of independence, Lincoln’s Gettyburg address and the opening of the Panama canal.

The “story” of ‘Hysterical High Spots in American History’ is by Ben Hardaway, and he clearly had brought the humor of Tex Avery’s spot gag cartoons to the Walter Lantz studio (see also ‘Fair Today‘ from one month earlier). Spot gag cartoons like this were rarely very funny, but the gags are surprisingly inspired in this cartoon, with the Capistrano mission gag giving the lowdown of a complete cartoon: Robert McKimson’s ‘Swallow the Leader‘ from 1949.

‘Hysterical High Spots in American History’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’

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