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Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: March 7, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Nibbles
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Royal Cat Nap © MGM‘Royal Cat Nap’ was the last of four cartoons in which Tom & Jerry are musketeers in 17th century France.

In this cartoon the king is taking a nap, and Tom has to keep the king’s sleep undisturbed, otherwise he will be beheaded. Jerry and Little Nibbles, who, like earlier entries, speaks French in this cartoon, take advantage of the situation.

With this story the cartoon harks all the way back to Tom & Jerry’s debut ‘Puss Gets the Boot‘ (1940), and to ‘Quiet Please’ (1945) in particular, in which Spike poses Tom for the same problem. Two of the gags, however, are borrowed from Tex Avery’s Droopy cartoon ‘Deputy Droopy’ (1955), with Tom running to a far away hill to make the noise he can’t make in the king’s bed room.

Tom really gets into trouble when he has to scream, after he has locked all the doors himself, and swallowed the key. Luckily little Nibbles rescues Tom from certain death by lulling the king back to sleep, but outside the king’s bed room the fight continues.

‘Royal Cat Nap’ is no classic, but it shows that even in their last year at MGM Hanna & Barbera still had maintained their talent for comedy and timing. The heydays of Tom & Jerry were clearly over, but compared to most contemporary theatrical cartoons ‘Royal Cat Nap’ is surprisingly inspired and well-timed. The animation, too, is still of high value. This is partly because the 1957/1958 cartoons were made much earlier, in 1955 and 1956. Already in the Spring of 1957 MGM had closed his cartoon animation studio. By July Hanna & Barbera had founded their own production company, and by December 1957 they had launched their first television series, The Ruff and Reddy Show.

Watch ‘Royal Cat Nap’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 111
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Happy Go Ducky
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Vanishing Duck

‘Royal Cat Nap’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: January 3, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Little Quacker
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Happy Go Ducky © MGM‘Happy Go Ducky’ starts with the Easter bunny delivering an Easter egg to Tom & Jerry.

The two fight over the egg, which soon breaks, hatching into Little Quacker, which immediately goes swimming in whatever fluid containing device he sees, being it Tom’s milk bowl, a fish tank, a water tank or a bath. Tom & Jerry try to get rid of the little duck, even putting it back into the egg shell and sending it back to the Easter bunny, but to no avail. In the end, the whole room is flooded, and Tom and Jerry have to watch Little Quacker swimming around with his four duckling friends from the local public park pond.

‘Happy Go Ducky’ is remarkable for lack of conflict between Tom and Jerry. As soon as Little Quacker enters the scene, the two work together to get the intruder out. This hampers the comedy, which remains mild and friendly. Part of the humor stems from Little Quacker exclaiming ‘Happy Easter!’ enthusiastically every time he has found a place to swim. The best gag however is when Tom tries to shut a shower door, which Little Quacker has filled to the max with water.

Watch ‘Happy Go Ducky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 110
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tom’s Photo Finish
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Royal Cat Nap

‘Happy Go Ducky’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

Director: Michael Lah
Release Date: July 4, 1958
Stars: Droopy, Butch (Spike)
Rating: ★★
Review:

Droopy Leprechaun © MGMIn his last screen appearance, Droopy is a tourist with a few hours in Dublin, Ireland where he buys a leprechaun hat.

Then street bum Butch (Spike) thinks Droopy is a real leprechaun, and follows him into (non-existing) Shillelagh Castle to catch him. There Droopy mistakes Spike for the mad duke of Shillelagh Castle. What follows are several appallingly uninspired blackout gags, involving medieval instruments like an iron maiden, a catapult, and a crossbow.

Droopy is completely out of character in this cartoon: he’s no more than a helpless victim of Spike’s fancy, never in control, and constantly fleeing for ‘the mad duke’. Spike, too, has little of himself: he speaks with an Irish accent and has none of the trickster character traits of earlier Droopy films. The result is certainly the least funny Droopy film ever made. As ‘Droopy Leprechaun’ was also the last of the Droopy cartoons, this is a particularly sad farewell to the once so hilarious character.

Watch ‘Droopy Leprechaun’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Droopy Leprechaun’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’

Director: Michael Lah
Release Date: April 4, 1958
Stars: Droopy, Butch (Spike)
Rating: ★★
Review:

Mutts About Racing © MGMIn this Cinemascope cartoon ‘Daredevil Butch’ (Spike) and ‘Buzz Droopy’ race against each other in a car race.

As should be expected, Spike hardly plays fair, and the cartoon consists of several blackout gags in which Spike tries to stop Droopy from racing, including the classic paint-a-tunnel-on-a-wall gag.

The cartoon suffers from a bad sound design (especially Butch’s voice sounds like it was recorded in a toilet) and from an inconsistent story line, which does not build to a climax. Moreover, Lah’s timing is too relaxed for the race theme, and none of the gags really come off. All this unfortunately makes ‘Mutts About Racing’ one of the weakest of all Droopy films. Only the last one, ‘Droopy Leprechaun‘, would be worse…

Watch ‘Mutts About Racing’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mutts About Racing’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’

Director: Michael Lah
Release Date: February 7, 1958
Stars: Droopy, the Wolf
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Sheep Wrecked © MGMIn ‘Sheep Wrecked’ Droopy is a sheepherder, or more clearly, a sheep dog guarding his flock inside a fenced pasture against the laid-back Southern wolf character ( in his last screen appearance).

‘Sheep Wrecked’ arguably is the most inspired of Michael Lah’s six Droopy films. The animation is fine, and the gags plentiful. Among the wolf’s attempts are him dressing up like a stork and like Bo-Beep, a gag harking all the way back to the Silly Symphony ‘Three Little Wolves‘ (1936). Both Droopy and the wolf are in fine shape in this cartoon.

Unfortunately, the pace is rather slow, and the best features of this Cinemascope cartoon are Scott Bradley’s very inspired music and F. MonteAlegre’s beautiful backgrounds, with their minimal indications of settings on a bright orange canvas. Remarkably, this Homer Brightman-penned story involves a very slow guided missile, very similar to the one in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Misguided Missile‘. ‘Misguided Missile’ was penned by the very same writer, and only released eleven days earlier.

Watch ‘Sheep Wrecked’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sheep Wrecked’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’

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:

 

‘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.

Watch ‘Salmon Yeggs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘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:

 

‘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:

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

Director: Seymour Kneitel
Release Date: August 29, 1958
Stars: Herman and Katnip
Rating:
Review:

You Said a Mouseful © Paramount‘You Said a Mouseful’ builds on two ideas: Katnip suddenly is an Italian chef, making pizza, while Herman runs a gym for mice, to keep them in shape enough to escape the cat.

Unfortunately, little Chubby hardly cooperates, eating everything in sight, and Herman has to rescue the brat repeatedly. Surprisingly, in the end little Chubby saves Herman by telling Katnip they’re Italian, too, and the cartoon ends with Katnip and the mice dancing around a pizza.

There’s very little to enjoy in ‘You Said a Mouseful’. Chubby is clearly modeled on Nibbles, the hungry orphan mouse Jerry adopts in the Tom & Jerry ‘The Milky Waif’ (1946), and who appeared in ten cartoons in total, up to 1957. Chubby hardly shares Nibbles’ charm, however, and the cartoon is hampered by rather cliche chase routines. Little is done with Katnip’s sudden Italian roots, except for him singing in mock-Italian. The whole cartoon looks like a poor man’s Tom & Jerry short.

The best gag may be when Katnip lures Chubby with help from a very large spaghetti string, the most violent one is when Herman puts Katnip’s hands into a toaster. This makes a painful watch indeed.

Watch ‘You Said a Mouseful’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘You Said a Mouseful’ is available on the DVD ‘Herman and Katnip – The Complete Series’

Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date: March 14, 1958
Stars: Herman and Katnip
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Frighty Cat © Paramount‘Frighty Cat’ revisits the premise of ‘From Mad to Worse‘ (1957) and mixes it with the idea of the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Fraidy Cat‘ (1942).

Nobody knows why (it’s completely irrelevant to the story), but the setting is the Illside sanatorium, where Herman and his cousins play pool. Then Katnip arrives and manages to trap the four mice in a mouse hole. He decides to ‘wait them out’, while reading a ghost story aloud. This, of course, prompts Herman and his kin to play tricks on the cat, making him believe the house is haunted. In the end Katnip flees into the distance, haunted by his own ghostly image in a mirror.

Even though ‘Frighty Cat’ is one of the more entertaining of the latter day Herman and Katnip cartoons, it’s difficult to praise the cartoon, as it completely fails to live up to its peers (apart from ‘Fraidy Cat’ ‘Mouse Wreckers‘ from 1949). The animation is often subpar, and Herman looks quite misshapen at times. At least some of the background art is nice.

Watch ‘Frighty Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

‘Frighty Cat’ is available on the DVD ‘Herman and Katnip – The Complete Series’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 8, 1958
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Robin Hood Daffy © Warner Brothers‘Robin Hood Daffy’ is the last of Chuck Jones’s great series of Daffy and Porky pairings.

Like earlier entries, such as ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ (1951) or ‘Deduce You Say’ (1956), Daffy fails completely in acting out the hero he is supposed to be. In this cartoon Daffy Duck is Robin Hood, but he has a hard time proving that to a skeptical Friar Tuck (Porky Pig). He does so by relentlessly trying to rob a rich nobleman who rides on a remarkably little donkey in a hilariously silly fashion.

This nobleman character is totally unaware of the antics around him and is a late addition to a series of similar odd characters that populated many of Jones’s early films, like the Minah Bird (1941-1947) and the bearded sailor in ‘The Dover Boys‘ (1942). Daffy’s attempts, on the other hand, are more akin to those of the Coyote in the Road Runner series. The best gag is when he tries to swing on a rope, Errol Flynn-style, shouting “Yoicks and away”, only to crash into multiple tree trunks.

Porky is redesigned completely into Chuck Jones’s late design: with ridiculously cute eyelashes, anticipating similar redesigns of Jerry in Jones’s Tom & Jerry cartoons seven years later. The redesign is not a success: Porky looks a little too feminine and too cute for the purposes of the cartoon.

Watch ‘Robin Hood Daffy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.b99.tv/video/robin-hood-daffy/

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 150
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Boston Quackie
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: China Jones

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 83
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Don’t Axe Me
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: China Jones

‘Robin Hood Daffy’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Les Clark
Release Date: August 1, 1958
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Paul Bunyan © Walt Disney‘Paul Bunyan’ belongs to a group of Disney specials that retell tall tales from the West, following ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘ and ‘Pecos Bill‘ from ‘Melody Time‘ (1948).

The short is told by three “eye witnesses”, who tell us about the great deeds of the mighty lumberjack Paul Bunyan, who was “63 axe handles high”, and his equally gigantic ox Babe. The best part describes how Bunyan and Babe have reshaped the American landscape: their footsteps turn into the land of 10,000 lakes (in Minnesota), and they themselves build landmarks like the Missouri River, Pikes Peak in Colorado, and the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Falls in Wyoming.

Eyvind Earle supervised the color schemes, while Tom Oreb designed the characters, like they  did for ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1959). Their designs are very bold and angular, and the background art, painted by Eyvind Earle and Walt Peregoy, is a delight to watch. Composer George Bruns composed a catchy theme song for the giant hero, which is sung several times throughout the short.

Unfortunately, the short is hampered by a remarkable slowness and a terrible lack of good gags, which make it at 17 minutes too long to remain entertaining. In the end ‘Paul Bunyan’ is more interesting for its looks than for its story.

‘Paul Bunyan’ was the only non-educational short directed by Disney veteran Les Clark, who had been with Disney since the birth of his own studio in 1928.

Watch ‘Paul Bunyan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Paul Bunyan’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

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