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Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date: October 7, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
At the cafe they encounter two female dancers, and an angry guy who orders them to take part in a bullfight. In the arena Tom and Jerry defeat a battalion of bulls with their bare hands. Then a telegraph arrives to tell them the 18th amendment has been lifted, and immediately Tom and Jerry head home again on their raft…
The 18th amendment, abolishing alcohol, was not lifted until December 5, 1933, more than one year after the release of ‘A Spanish Twist’ , making this cartoon strangely prophetic. Unfortunately, it’s hardly enjoyable otherwise. The Spanish dancers are extremely badly drawn, and the bullfight is anything from entertaining. In fact, ‘A Spanish Twist’ is arguably the worst bullfight cartoon before the equally dull Pink Panther cartoon ‘Toro Pink’ (1979).
Watch ‘A Spanish Twist’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘A Spanish Twist’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’
Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: April 9, 1949
Stars: Droopy, the Wolf, Lina Romay
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
‘Señor Droopy’ is set in Mexico and features the wolf as an overconfident champion bullfighter and Droopy as his measly challenger. Both are in love with Mexican film star/singer Lina Romay, but it’s of course Droopy who wins her: the last scene shows live action footage of this forgotten film star petting our happy hero.
But it’s of course not the story that makes the short so memorable. It’s the gags, and they come in fast and plenty. The film is stuffed with Avery’s own weird logics and cosmic laws, which lead to many a hilarious situation. The best example of Avery’s unique logic may be the following gag: when the bull has vanished between two wooden doors, the wolf closes them together, then another time, but this time vertically, reducing their size by two. He continues doing so until the large doors have been reduced to a tiny cube. He then casually throws the cube behind him, which quickly unfolds to the size of the original doors, which open to reveal a stairway to a cellar, from which the bull rushes back into the arena. Seeing is believing.
‘Señor Droopy’ is not entirely flawless: the wolf’s transformation from über-confident to panic-stricken is not really convincing, and Avery reuses the road gag from ‘Wild and Woolfy‘ (1945), which makes less sense inside the arena. But who cares! The interplay between the wolf, the bull and Droopy is delightful throughout, and even a minor character like the Mexican announcer is animated with gusto.
Watch ‘Señor Droopy’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Hawley Pratt
Release Date: December 14, 1965
Stars: The Pink Panther
‘Bully for Pink’ is slightly funnier than contemporary Pink Panther cartoons, but it doesn’t come near the heights of bullfight cartoons like Tex Avery’s ‘Señor Droopy’ (1949) or Chuck Jones’s ‘Bully for Bugs’ (1953).
Watch ‘Bully for Pink’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: September 7, 1929
‘El Terrible Toreador’ is the second entry of the Silly Symphonies. It has been far lesser known than the first, ‘The Skeleton Dance‘, which is no surprise, because it contains none of the ingredients which made ‘The Skeleton Dance’ a classic: there’s no interesting mood, no spectacular animation, and there are hardly any funny gags.
Unlike the other early Silly Symphonies, ‘El Terrible Toreador’ is more silly than symphony-like. That is: it’s more of a ‘story’ consisting of silly gags than the song-and-dance-routine typical of the Silly Symphonies up to 1931.
The cartoon consists of two parts: in the first part we watch a Spanish canteen, where a large officer and a toreador are fighting for the love of a waitress. In the second part, the toreador is fighting and dancing with a bull in the arena. Surprisingly, the story of the first part is hardly developed here: the cartoon ends when the toreador has pulled the bull inside out, thus ending the fight.
‘El Terrible Toreador’ is notable for being Disney’s first attempt at the human form since the early 1920s. However, the humans are a far cry from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ from (only) eight years later. In this early cartoon the human characters are extraordinarily flexible and they do not move lifelike at all (I noticed I thought of them as bugs some of the time).
The most interesting feature of this short is Carl Stalling’s score. His music already bears his signature and contains many citations from ‘Carmen’ by Georges Bizet.
Watch ‘El Terrible Toreador’ yourself and tell me what you think: