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Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: October 29, 1951
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Wally Walrus
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Woody Woodpecker Polka © Walter Lantz‘The Woody Woodpecker Polka’ is one of several cartoons in which Woody Woodpecker tries to get some food.

In this cartoon Woody Woodpecker tries to enter a barn dance, but only for the food that is served there. The usher, Wally Walrus, doesn’t let him in however, for Woody can’t pay the one dollar entrance fee. Luckily, ladies are free of admission, so Woody dresses like one and makes Wally accompany him to the dance floor. What follows is a dancing scene in which Woody tries to eat as much food as he can, a story idea the studio borrowed from Walt Disney’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow‘ (1949).

The dancing scene is enhanced by the intoxicating title song, sung by the Starlighters, and for a change Clarence Wheeler’s music is inspired during this sequence.

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

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Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: January 22, 1951
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Buzz Buzzard
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Puny Express © Walter LantzAfter a squabble with his distributor Universal, and a short fling with United Artists, Walter Lantz was forced to close down his studio in 1948.

Only when Lantz and Universal came to terms again in 1950 Lantz could restart again, with a strongly reduced staff. For example, there was no story department, so the first new cartoon in two years, ‘Puny Express’, was based on storyboards Bugs Hardaway and Heck Allen had left behind in 1948. Worse, Woody Woodpecker was left voiceless.

Lantz himself picked up directing, something he hadn’t done in nine years. The studio owner directed eleven cartoons before Don Patterson took over in 1952. All these cartoons feature Woody Woodpecker; Andy Panda was not revived. Woody himself was redesigned, his looks made simplier and more appealing. It’s this new cute design which remains the best known to viewers today.

Woody’s voicelessness turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In contrast to the dialogue-driven cartoons of rival studios the 1951/1952 Woody Woodpecker shorts feature excellent silent comedy and situation gags, competing with the best of the Pink Panther, who would enter the scene only in 1964.

‘Puny Express’ is a western in which Woody volunteers to deliver the mail, despite the fact that Buzz Buzzard has killed no less than 125 mailmen. What follows is a gag-rich wild chase, full of fast and flexible animation. The humor is overtly Tex Averyan: at one point Woody’s little horse gets a flat hoof, and the cartoon cites the empty road gag from Tex Avery’s own western ‘Wild and Woolfy‘ from 1945.

The cartoon’s only weakness is its music by Clarence Wheeler, which is surprisingly out of tune with the short’s zany character, evoking a mellower 1930s feel.

Watch ‘Puny Express’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.funny-city.com/videos/3499-woody-woodpecker-puny-express-1951

Director: Tex Avery
Release date: December 20, 1954
Stars: Chilly Willy
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

I'm Cold © Walter LantzIn 1954 Tex Avery left MGM to return to his first employer in the animation field, Walter Lantz, at whose studio he had been an animator in the early 1930s.

I’m Cold’ was the first of a mere four cartoons Tex Avery made at Walter Lantz’s studio. In this cartoon he sets his teeth on a character introduced in 1953 called Chilly Willy, a cute little penguin.

Like Pablo the cold-blooded penguin from ‘Three Caballeros‘ (1944), Chilly Willy finds it too cold in Antarctica. Avery, however, uses this premise with much funnier results. In an attempt to get warm, Chilly Willy sneaks into a fur coat store, guarded by a phlegmatic dog who shares a Daws Butler voice with the laid-back wolf from Tex Avery’s ‘Three Little Pups‘ from 1953. This phlegmatic dog was reused in at least four more Chilly Willy cartoons.

Avery is in excellent form here, delivering a perfectly timed cartoon. ‘I’m Cold’ demonstrates how genius can overcome small budgets and limited (animation) talent. Even Clarence Wheeler’s music sounds more inspired and certainly funnier than normal. Of course, the product was much cruder than Avery’s films at MGM had been, but at the same time it was much better than any earlier Lantz film from the 1950s. And, Avery’s second film featuring Chilly Willy, ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point‘ (1955) would even be better…

Watch ‘I’m Cold’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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