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Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: March 4, 1942
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Hams That Couldn't Be Cured © Walter LantzThis short has probably grimmest opening shot of all Hollywood cartoons: that of someone about to be hanged.

It turns out to be the wolf, who will be hanged for harassing the three little pigs. The wolf pleads innocent, however, and tells us “what really happened”. In his own story the wolf is a classical music teacher, loving peace and quiet (the most ridiculous illustration of this is the image of the wolf crocheting a bath tube out of a sheep). He’s visited by the three little pigs who play hot jazz, bullying the wolf, wrecking his instruments, and finally his house.

It’s a bit odd to associate such intoxicating jazz with random violence à la Clockwork Orange, but the result is an entertaining cartoon, although it is clearly tributary to the 1941 Warner Bros. cartoon ‘The Trial of Mr. Wolf’, which features a very similar story idea. Interestingly enough the director of that cartoon, Friz Freleng, would later also direct a cartoon about a wolf and three little pigs playing hot jazz, in ‘The Three Little Bops‘ (1957).

Watch ‘The Hams That Couldn’t Be Cured’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://vk.com/video-20905395_162788911

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Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: August 27, 1949
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Windblown Hare © Warner BrothersThe three pigs sell their straw and wooden houses to Bugs Bunny, because they’ve read in a book what’s going to happen.

The wolf, who’s reading the same book, indeed blows both houses down, to much dismay of Bugs. Bugs revenges by dressing up like Red Riding Hood. This leads to hilarious sequences, including a perfectly executed light and staircase gag. In the end, Bugs helps the wolf blowing the pigs’ brick house down, by blowing it up.

‘The Windblown Hare’ is a nice example of a fairy tale mix-up cartoon, comparable to ‘The Big Bad Wolf‘ (1934),  ‘The Bear’s Tale’ (1940) and ‘Swing Shift Cinderella’ (1945). It is hampered a little by large amounts of dialogue, but it still has plenty of silliness to laugh at.

Watch ‘The Windblown Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 64
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Grey Hounded Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Frigid Hare

Director: Dick Rickard
Release Date: February 24, 1939
Stars: The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Practical Pig © Walt Disney ‘The Practical Pig’ was the fourth and last of the ‘Three Little Pigs’ cartoons*. It’s also arguably the least inspired one of the four.

Again, the two pigs flout the practical pig’s warnings. Again, the wolf dresses up (this time as a mermaid, and, surprisingly, it works), and again, his three little brats try to bake the two pigs alive. The complete cartoon feels routine, it’s as even the animators had lost the interest in the trio, and the result is a rather tiresome watch. The only new idea comes in the very end of the cartoon, when the rather goody-goody practical pig is punished by his own lie detector.

It’s no wonder that the three little pigs were dropped after this cartoon. Of course, the Silly Symphony series were about to stop, but the pigs had had their time, anyway.

Nevertheless, in 1963, they were revived for a special animated sequence for the Mexican live action feature ‘Cri Cri el grillo cantor’, which can be seen on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSkbZArXSXI.

Watch ‘The Practical Pig’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 74
To the previous Silly Symphony: Mother Goose Goes Hollywood
To the next Silly Symphony: The Ugly Duckling

* Not counting ‘The Thrifty Pig’, which was a propaganda film made for the Canadian government and which used the opening music of this cartoon.

Director: David Hand
Release Date: April 18, 1936
Stars: The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Three Little Wolves © Walt Disney‘Three Little Wolves’ follows ‘The Big Bad Wolf”, being the third cartoon in the ‘Three Little Pigs’ series.

Penned by Joe Grant & Bill Cottrell, it introduces the Wolf’s three sons, who anticipate Huey, Dewey and Louie (who would make their cinema debut two years later, in ‘Donald’s Nephews‘). They even speak in a similar way. The wolf, on the other hand, suddenly has an inexplicable German accent.

In this cartoon he dresses up ridiculously again, this time as Bo-Beep, but he does manage to lure two of the little pigs to his house. When he closes the door, the pigs turn red and say ‘why, Bo-Beep!’, as if they’re being seduced. Of course, the wise pig comes to the rescue, this time using an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, called the ‘wolf pacifier’.

The three little wolves would return in the last ‘three little pigs’-cartoon, ‘The Practical Pig’ (1939), but in the subsequent comic strip only one would remain, and he eventually would befriend the pigs, contrary to his lookalikes in this cartoon, who are even more aggressive than their father.

The end-shot of this cartoon was later reused in the propaganda film ‘Food will win the War‘ (1942).

Watch ‘Three Little Wolves’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 60
To the previous Silly Symphony: Elmer Elephant
To the next Silly Symphony: Toby Tortoise Returns

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: August 22, 1936
Stars: Max Hare, Toby Tortoise, The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Toby Tortoise Returns © Walt DisneyOne of the few sequels in Disney’s pre-video era, ‘Toby Tortoise Returns’ features the two stars of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ from 1935.

In this cartoon, written by Ward Kimball and featuring his typically zany style of humor, Max Hare (who’s still a bragging bully) and Toby Tortoise combat each other in a boxing match, which – of course – Toby eventually wins, albeit by means of Max’s own trickery.

Apart from Toby Tortoise and Max Hare there are many cameos of other Silly Symphony stars, among them the three little pigs, Dirty Bill (from ‘The Robber Kitten’), Jenny Wren and the Cuckoo from ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ and, Elmer Elephant and Tilly Tiger (from ‘Elmer Elephant’), as if all Silly Symphonies were taking place in the same space and time.

This makes ‘Toby Tortoise Returns’ akin to the earlier ‘Mickey’s Polo Team’ from the same year. The whole atmosphere is rather like that of a future Warner Brothers-cartoon, and one can sense the sheer joy the makers had in bringing all these characters together in a cartoon which sole reason of existence seems to be pure fun.

Notice the black bunny and the black turtle that are Max’s and Toby’s helpers, respectively.

Watch ‘Toby Tortoise Returns’ yourself and tell me what you think:


This is Silly Symphony No. 61
To the previous Silly Symphony: Three Little Wolves
To the next Silly Symphony: Three Blind Mouseketeers

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
April 14, 1934
Stars:
the three little pigs, the big bad wolf
Rating:
★★★½
Review:

The Big Bad Wolf © Walt Disney‘The Big Bad Wolf’ was Disney’s very first sequel.

It was undoubtedly made to satisfy the masses who, after the huge success of ‘Three Little Pigs‘ (1933), demanded for ‘more pigs’. As one can expect, it’s not as great as ‘Three Little Pigs’, but it’s fun to watch.

The title card shows the main characters as if they were playing their parts. The cartoon, however, is named after the wolf, and deservedly so, because not only is he drawn better than in the original cartoon, he’s also the star of this sequel. Clearly being the greatest actor,  he not only impersonates grandma, but also “Goldilocks the fairy queen” in a ridiculous and aimless costume, and even Jimmy Durante! Furthermore, he alone shows to be aware of the audience: he often looks into the camera, and even addresses the audience with a Mae West-like “how’m I doing?”.

After this cartoon, the demand for pigs apparently still wasn’t satisfied, for it was followed by even two more sequels: ‘Three Little Wolves‘ in 1936 and ‘The Practical Pig‘ in 1939.

‘The Big Bad Wolf’ might be the first “fairy-tales mixed up” cartoon. It may very well have inspired Tex Avery to make similar, yet more hilarious cartoons like ‘The Bear’s Tale’ (1940) and ‘Swing Shift Cinderella’ (1945), both starring Little Red Riding Hood.

Watch ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 44
To the previous Silly Symphony: Funny Little Bunnies
To the next Silly Symphony: The Wise Little Hen

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