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

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: Friz Freleng
Release Date: December 2, 1961
Stars: Tweety & Sylvester
Rating: ★★★★½

The Last Hungry Cat © Warner Bros.‘The Last Hungry Cat’ must be one of the best entries in the Tweety and Sylvester series.

The short is a parody of the television show ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, which aired from 1955 to 1965. Luckily, you don’t have to be familiar with this program (I’m not) to enjoy this cartoon.

Introduced by an Alfred Hitchcock-like shadow of a pig, the short tells the story of Sylvester, who for once thinks he has actually eaten Tweety and who is then eaten by guilt.

The cartoon makes use of a conscience-like voice-over and very beautifully colored and a surprisingly large amount of well-staged angular backgrounds (staged by Hawley Pratt, who gets co-directing credits, and painted in beautiful blues and yellows by Tom O’Loughlin). The images succeed in evoking an atmosphere that reflects Sylvester’s inner feelings. Especially the staging of Sylvester’s sleeplessness is very well done: still images of Sylvester lying awake are inter-cut with close-ups of his alarm clock, in rapid succession, zooming in all the time. These scenes are accompanied by Milt Franklyn’s ominous music and insistent ticking of the clock, only.

It’s a surprise such a well-made, beautiful and compelling cartoon could be made as late a 1961. The short is a worthy addition to the very small guilt cartoon canon, which also includes ‘Nursery Scandal‘ from 1933, ‘Pudgy Picks a Fight‘ from and ‘Donalds’ Crime’ from 1945.

Watch ‘The Last Hungry Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Gene Deitch
Release Date: December 12, 1961
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★

It's Greek to Me-Ow © MGMIn ‘It’s Greek To Me-Ow!’ we see Tom and Jerry as citizens of ancient Greece.

Tom tries to enter a building (we don’t know why) and Jerry hinders him in doing that (why he does that we don’t know, either).

‘It’s Greek To Me-Ow!’ is the third Tom & Jerry-cartoon directed by Gene Deitch and animated by his Czech studio, and this time even the plot is terrible. This cartoon also painfully shows the complete lack of character in the Czech Tom and Jerry designs. The sad result is one of the worst Tom & Jerry cartoons ever made.

Watch ‘It’s Greek To Me-Ow!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 117
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Down and Outing
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: High Steaks

Director: Gene Deitch
Release Date: October 26, 1961
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★

Down and Outing © MGMIn ‘Down and Outing’ Tom and Jerry join a fat man who goes fishing. During the cartoon Tom tries to get rid of Jerry, mostly on expense of the man.

‘Down And Outing’ is the second of thirteen Tom & Jerry films by Gene Deitch, and like in the first, ‘Switchin’ Kitten‘, a rather inspired story (by Larz Bourne) is ruined by bad design, bad timing, bad animation and bad sounds. The fat man would become Gene Deitch’s best attempt on a recurring character, returning in ‘High Steaks‘ and ‘Sorry Safari‘ (both from 1962).

Watch ‘Down and Outing’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 116
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Switchin’ Kitten
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: It’s Greek to Me-Ow!

Director: Gene Deitch
Release Date: September 1, 1961
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★½

Switchin' Kitten © MGMIn ‘Switchin’ Kitten’ Tom visits an eerie castle, where Jerry helps a mad scientist with an experiment changing cats into dogs and vice versa. An anonymous cat, thinking he’s a dog, protects Jerry against an incomprehensible Tom.

‘Switchin’ Kitten’ is the first of a series of thirteen Tom & Jerry shorts directed by Gene Deitch, three years after the MGM animation studio had shut down and Hanna & Barbera had left for television. Gene Deitch’s animation team was based in Czechoslovakia, and it had only seen a handful of the classic Hanna & Barbera films.

‘Switchin’ Kitten’ immediately shows their problems: there’s a fairly good story with some great gags, but these are smothered in ugly designs (especially that of Jerry), bad timing, unappealing animation, terrible sound effects and unimaginative music, resulting in a surprisingly unfunny film. One cannot help but thinking that this short was made only to cash in on Tom & Jerry’s popularity. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t get better…

Watch an excerpt from ‘Switchin’ Kitten’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 115
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tot Watchers
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Down and Outing

‘Switchin’ Kitten’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’ and on the DVD-set ‘Tom and Jerry: The Gene Deitch Collection’

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: March 16, 1961
Rating: ★★★

‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ was Disney’s last tall tale cartoon after entries like ‘Pecos Bill‘ (from ‘Melody Time‘, 1948) and ‘Paul Bunyan‘ (1958).

Unlike the former, which were rooted in American folklore, this story seems to be an original, although it retains a traditional feel. The story, which is narrated in rhyme, and partly sung by Rex Allen and the Sons of the Pioneers, tells about Windwagon Smith, a sailor who arrives at Westport, a small town in Kansas on a wagon with a sail. He convinces the villagers to make even a larger one to sail the prairies to Santa Fe with. But when it’s ready the villagers get scared and abandon the ‘ship’, except for Molly, the mayor’s daughter, who’s in love with Smith. Together they vanish into a storm.

‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ was the last cartoon to be directed by Charles Nichols. It’s also the last of only six shorts directed by him not to feature Pluto. It’s moderately stylized except for Molly, who’s conceived and animated in a charmingly stylized way, seeming to float more than to walk. Nichols left Disney in 1962 for Hanna-Barbera, where he worked on countless television series. In the late 1980s he returned to Disney, where he worked onto his death in 1992, 81 years old.

Watch ‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

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