You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Hunky and Spunky’ tag.

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 22, 1941
Stars: Hunky & Spunky
Rating:  ★
Review:

Vitamin Hay © Max Fleischer‘Vitamin Hay’ was the very last of the Color Classics, a series that arguably already had run out of steam by 1938.

‘Vitamin Hay’ seems to have appeared almost as an afterthought, being released almost a year after the second to last Color Classic, ‘You Can’t Shoe a Horsefly‘. Like the previous three Color Classic cartoons it starred the boring burro duo of Hunky and Spunky.

This time Spunky refuses to eat his ‘vitamin hay’, and joins a goat in eating car parts. When he swallows a car horn he gets into trouble with some angry geese, and Hunky, once again, has to come to the rescue.

Hunky and Spunky never were remotely interesting to watch, and certainly not fit for the more adult war era, so I doubt whether anyone missed them when they were shelved. ‘Vitamin Hay’, is a fitting farewell to the donkeys, being as tiresome and as devoid of humor as the worst of their previous cartoons. Luckily, the Fleischer had a new, more daring star with ‘Superman‘. Yet he, like Popeye, had not been conceived by themselves, leaving Koko the Clown and Betty Boop the Fleischer’s only two successful creations during the long existence of their studio.

In hindsight the Fleischers’ Color Classics were a disappointing series that never fulfilled their promise. They never approached the quality of their original, Disney’s Silly Symphonies’, and most entries were ill-fated attempts at emulating the Disney style, resulting in sugary, childish and terribly unfunny cartoons. It was clear that in this series the Fleischers tried to be something they were not. This was a pity, for the contemporary Popeye series proved that they needn’t to. In the Popeye cartoons the Fleischers could stay true to themselves, producing some of the best shorts of the 1930s, including several classics, where in my opinion the Color Classics produced none, bar the very first one, the Betty Boop vehicle ‘Poor Cinderella‘ (1934).

Watch ‘Vitamin Hay’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Vitamin Hay’ is available on the DVD set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 23, 1940
Stars: Hunky & Spunky
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

You Can't Shoe a Horsefly © Max Fleischer‘You Can’t Shoe a Horsefly’ opens with a tired Hunky & Spunky laying themselves down to sleep.

Unfortunately, Spunky is soon troubled by a horsefly, who looks like a miniature winged horse and who sings the title song. The antagonism between Spunky and the horsefly, which even lead to a chase scene makes ‘You Can’t Shoe a Horsefly’ the most modern of the Hunky & Spunky cartoons, and the only one fitting the then emerging chase cartoon era. However, it’s still Hunky who has to come to the rescue, killing the horsefly and all his friends in one stroke.

Composer Sammy Timberg nicely intertwines the lullaby ‘Go to Sleep My Baby’ (which I know best as sung by Oliver Hardy in ‘Brats’ from 1930), into the soundtrack when the two donkeys are trying to sleep.

Watch ‘You Can’t Shoe a Horsefly’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘You Can’t Shoe a Horsefly’ is available on the DVD set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 19, 1940
Stars: Hunky & Spunky
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Snubbed by a Snob © Max FleischerIn ‘Snubbed by a Snob’ Hunky & Spunky encounter a snobby race horse and his/her son.

Spunky wants to play with the young horse, who tries to get rid of the eager burro. At one point the foal eats too much apples and drinks too much water, and Spunky rescues him from an angry bull. So, in the end all’s well between race horse and burros.

‘Snubbed by a Snob’ is as boring as other Hunky & Spunky cartoons, but it’s rescued a little by the Cousin Louie gag, and the rather silly singing bull.

Watch ‘Snubbed by a Snob’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Snubbed by a Snob’ is available on the DVD set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: May 17, 1940
Stars: Hunky & Spunky
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

A Kick in Time © Max FleischerThe last stage of the Fleischers’ Color Classics series was solely devoted to Hunky & Spunky, the donkey duo introduced in the eponymous cartoon from 1938.

When Betty Boop retired in 1939, the Fleischers were left without a star of their own (their biggest star Popeye was owned by King Features). Thus Hunky & Spunky, were promoted to be their top stars, together with Gabby from ‘Gulliver’s Travels‘ (1939) and the Stone Age characters, both introduced in 1940. None of these stars had any appeal, and they hardly stood a chance against contemporaries like Disney’s Donald Duck and Goofy, or Warner Bros.’ Porky Pig and Daffy. Nevertheless, Hunky and Spunky survived until 1941, starring seven cartoons in total.

In their fourth cartoon, ‘A Kick in Time’, Spunky is kidnapped and sold to an Italian rag collector, who irons the little burro. Spunky’s antics with the bit and irons are very reminiscent of Donald Duck’s problems with inanimate objects. However, as the bit and irons are clearly introduced as tools of torture, Spunky’s antics are painful to watch, not funny. Meanwhile Hunky seeks his/her son in the large city, and she saves his/her child in the nick of time from being crushed by an approaching streetcar.

There’s little to enjoy in ‘A Kick in Time’, but the cartoon is well animated by top animators Shamus Culhane and Al Eugster, and features quite elaborate human designs and realistic close ups of human hands. Moreover, the urban setting gives the cartoon a distinct character, absent in the other Hunky & Spunky cartoons.

Watch ‘A Kick in Time’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Kick in Time’ is available on the DVD set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: June 30, 1939
Stars: Hunky & Spunky
Rating:  ★
Review:

Barnyard Brat © Max Fleischer‘Barnyard Brat’ is the third of seven cartoons featuring Hunky and Spunky, arguably the worst comic duo ever put to the animated screen.

In ‘Barnyard Brat’ little burro Spunky is no less than a spoiled brat, who goes into tantrums and who bullies the other barnyard animals. These animals take revenge, however, and give the little brat a severe punishment. At that point Spunky’s mother comes to the rescue, but as Spunky remains as ungovernable as ever, she gives him a spanking. In the end it seems that Spunky has learned his lesson, but he has one final trick on his sleeve…

It may be clear that like ‘Small Fry‘ and the other Hunky and Spunky cartoons ‘Barnyard Brat’ belongs to the childish and cloying cartoons that had swamped the second half of the 1930s. By 1939 these were more and more replaced by gag cartoons. None of that, in ‘Barnyard Brat’, although there’s one mildly amusing gag of two ducks running away while stuck together in a pipe.

Besides the cloying story, the animation is rather poor. Spunky looks as if he’s seriously misshapen, and there’s some thinking animation on Hunky that’s anything but convincing, and cannot match that of Pluto in ‘Playful Pluto‘ (1934). Since that cartoon was already five years old by 1939, this only shows the Fleischers’ incompetence to catch up with the Disney style, and one wishes they never even tried this, for the Disney style would never become their strength. Besides, Warner Bros. and Walter Lantz were already showing that this copycat behavior wasn’t necessary for success.

Watch ‘Barnyard Brat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Barnyard Brat’ is available on the DVD set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 26, 1939
Stars: Hunky and Spunky
Rating:  ★
Review:

Always Kickin' © Max Fleischer‘Always Kickin” sees the return of that infamous duo of burrows, Hunky and Spunky.

In the opening scene we watch Hunky teaching Spunky how to kick backwards. Next we watch Spunky trying to be like the birds. He fails at attempts to sing, to build a nest and to fly, and all the bird mock the little donkey. Then an evil vulture or eagle (it’s not very clear) arrives, and kidnaps one of the young birds, much to the distress of the other birds. Spunky comes to the rescue, using the newly learned kicking technique to kick the hell out of the evil bird. In the end we watch all the birds admiring Spunky’s kicking practice.

It’s difficult to say anything positive about this cartoon. Its story is so utterly cloying, its protagonists so terribly boring, and its timing so remarkably slow, it’s a real pain to sit it out. When one does so, the short’s seven-and-half minutes feel much, much longer… One can only guess what the Fleischers ever saw in their donkey duo, as they made yet another five cartoons with them.

Watch ‘Always Kickin” yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Always Kickin” is available on the DVD-set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: June 24, 1938
Stars: Hunky and Spunky
Rating:
Review:

unky and Spunky © Max FleischerHunky and Spunky are two donkeys. Hunky, the large black one, teaches her child Spunky, a little brown one, to open cacti by kicking them apart.

A little later Hunky goes to sleep, while Spunky plays with a little rabbit. Unfortunately, he’s caught by an evil red-nosed man who uses the little ass to carry his heavy load. Luckily, Hunky comes to the rescue to Hunky’s cries for help. She kicks both the man and his house to another hill, and all is fine.

Absolutely nothing is remotely interesting in this cartoon, let alone funny. The two characters form arguably the most forgettable cartoon duo of all time. Even Fleischer’s tabletop is not present. The result is a sweet, but utterly boring cartoon, which starts and ends with a gentle country song.

The Fleischer studio had outstayed the Van Beuren studio and Ub Iwerks’s studio, but with films like these one almost can feel them losing the game, not only to the leading Disney studio, but also to the much peppier Warner Bros. studio. Nevertheless, ‘Hunky and Spunky’ got an Academy Award nomination (which it luckily lost to Disney’s ‘Ferdinand the Bull‘), and so this ill-conceived pair would star no less than six other cartoons, and lasted until 1941.

Watch ‘Hunky and Spunky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hunky and Spunky’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

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