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Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: August 1, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tot Watchers © MGM

‘Tot Watchers’ was the very last Tom & Jerry cartoon directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

The short was released in August 1958, but it had already been made in 1956, before MGM closed its animation studio in April 1957. Surprisingly this short was penned by Homer Brightman, instead of Hanna & Barbera themselves.

The cartoon stars a teen-age babysitter who, instead of watching the baby, is hanging on the telephone all the time. It’s up to Tom & Jerry to rescue the baby time and time again, especially when the baby wanders off to a building site. The building site sequence harks back to similar cartoons taking place there, like the Popeye cartoon ‘A Dream Walking’ (1934), the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Clock Cleaners’ (1937) and the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Homeless Hare‘ (1950).

The baby looks like a Chuck Jones character. Like Jones’ Minah Bird the infant is almost a force of nature, devoid of personality, but with a drive of its own. Unfortunately there’s no conflict between Tom & Jerry themselves in this cartoon (apart from the very beginning), thus ‘Tot Watchers’ lacks the duo’s traditional comedy. Moreover, the short is hampered by the babysitter’s extensive dialogue. In all, this makes ‘Tot Watchers’ a rather disappointing ending to the series.

The short marks Spike’s last screen appearance, who has a very short scene in this cartoon, and only as a cliche bulldog. Tom and Jerry, however, would return to the silver screen, in 1961, with an ill-conceived new series, produced by Gene Deitch’s animation studio in Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile Hanna and Barbera would start a television adventure, founding their now legendary Hanna-Barbera production company in July 1957, and producing television series starring such beloved characters as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and the Flintstones, to name just a few.

Watch ‘Tot Watchers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 113
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Robin Hoodwinked
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Switchin’ Kitten

‘Tot Watchers’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry 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: 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’

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