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Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date: January 16, 1933
Stars: Bosko, Honey, Rudolf Ising
Bosko enters a saloon in Red Gulch, immediately starts a dance and goes on playing the piano. Meanwhile his girlfriend Honey rides a stagecoach, which is chased by three vicious bandits. This chase scene is simply stuffed with animation cycles. As Bosko is busy entertaining, it takes quite a while before Bosko rides off to rescue his sweetheart.
The complete cartoon is rich in action, but surprisingly low on gags (there’s one about a homosexual). It ends surprisingly however. Suddenly we cut back to three animators. Rudolph Ising asks “Say, how does Bosko save the girl?”, an animator replies: “I don’t know.”, and another: “Let’s go home”, leaving Bosko on his sheet of paper. This gag is pretty unconventional, but one cannot but feel a bit of laziness and disinterest in this scene, as if the animators didn’t care much for their own star themselves. Even so, Bosko would star in fourteen more Warner Brothers films, before Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising took him with them to MGM.
Watch ‘Ride Him, Bosko!’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Ride Him, Bosko!’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Six’
Director: Boyd La Vero
Release Date: 1932
Stars: Marty the Monk
Like Marty’s previous cartoon, ‘Mere Maids‘, it opens with live action footage of Boyd La Vero himself, but this time, the cartoon is a complete original, even though it thematically covers similar grounds as ‘The Cactus Kid’ (Walt Disney, 1930) and ‘Hot Tamale’ (Van Beuren, 1930).
‘Mexican Lilly’ thus is a classic Western cartoon. It starts with Marty riding horseback, being followed by a bunch of thugs(?). He escapes to Mexico, where he visits a canteen. There he encounters another villain, but he’s rescued by a fan dancer, who takes him to her bedroom, where she – believe it or not – strips before Marty’s very eyes. She leaves Marty to perform a risque fan dance. But then the thugs appear, and in a dark gun fight, everyone gets killed but Marty, the fan dancer, and the Mexican villain, who runs into the distance, naked.
‘Mexically Lily’ makes a little more sense than Marty’s first two films, but the animation remains crude and erratic. Unfortunately, Steve Stanchfield’s copy is rather poor, and devoid of sound, which was recreated, with okay results. The film was to be Marty’s last known screen appearance. I’m sorry to say that he will not be missed.
‘Mexically Lilly’ is available on the DVD ‘Cultoons! Rare, Lost and Strange Cartoons! Volume 3: Monkeys, Monsters & More!’
Directors: John Foster & George Rufle
Release Date: March 26, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
‘In the Bag’ opens the same way as the Waffles and Don short ‘The Haunted Ship‘ (1930): with the two main protagonists flying a plane that soon crashes.
This time the plane crashes into some Western setting, where Tom and Jerry meet a villain. We can also watch Jerry performing some impossible lasso tricks. Then the two go to a saloon where they perform a Mills Brothers-like song. Unfortunately, the villain appears, robbing everybody, but Jerry saves the day, bringing him back and earning a $1000 reward. Tom then steals the money, or does he?
From beginning to end, ‘In the Bag’ makes little sense at all. The film is surprisingly low on gags, and the action is devoid of any timing. The result is one of the weakest of Van Beuren’s Tom and Jerry films.
Watch ‘In the Bag’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘In the Bag’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’
Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 21, 1945
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
His introduction music is Franz Schubert’s Erlkönig, and train robbery is his profession. However, on the train he encounters Bugs, who gives the short-tempered bandit a hard time.
The cartoon contains a shot of an über-cool Bugs rolling a cigarette, a gag repeated and improved on in ‘Bugs Bunny Rides Again‘ (1948). The short also contains live action footage in the ‘club bar’ wagon. The gun drawing scene is a highlight, as is Yosemite Sam’s death scene, which bugs invokes with ketchup. The cartoon ends brilliantly with a tongue-in-cheek cliffhanger.
According to Freleng he needed a stronger adversary to Bugs than Elmer Fudd ever was, and Yosemite Sam perfectly fitted the job. He was a delightful opponent to Bugs Bunny, and he became Friz Freleng’s favorite bad guy, lasting until 1964, and starring 31 cartoons in total, nearly all with Bugs Bunny. Perhaps Freleng was so fond of the character because he was partly based on Freleng himself.
In any case, he soon took Sam out of his Western origin, making him a.o. a pirate (‘Buccaneer Bunny‘, 1948), a foreign soldier (‘Bunker Hill Bunny‘, 1950) and a sheik (‘Sahara Hare’, 1955). Free from his Western origins Yosemite Sam could be Bugs Bunny in every country and every period of time, and in this respect he anticipates the Little Guy, the Pink Panther’s adversary, who also sprouted from Friz Freleng’s imagination.
Watch ‘Hare Trigger’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 32
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Unruly Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare Conditioned
Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: July 23, 1951
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Buzz Buzzard, Wally Walrus
In ‘Sling Shot’ Woody Woodpecker enters a shooting contest in a Western town.
Woody wins time after time using his slingshot. His main rival is Buzz Buzzard, who ‘plays’ an evil, but extraordinarily dumb Indian who fails to understand the slingshot’s mechanism. When Buzz steals the prize money, Woody destroys the villain with an H-bomb, a nuclear weapon that would be tested the following year.
Despite the animation being surprisingly good at times, ‘Sling Shot’ is a rather mediocre cartoon, but it is noteworthy for being the first Woody Woodpecker short to feature both Buzz Buzzard and Wally Walrus, who appears as a sheriff.
Watch ‘Sling Shot’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: January 22, 1951
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Buzz Buzzard
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:
Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: November 17, 1951
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Following the premise of ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel’ (1950), Chuck Jones launched a series of cartoons starring Daffy as a misguided hero and Porky as his calm side-kick. ‘Drip-along Daffy’ is the first of this excellent series, with the others being ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century‘ (1953), ‘My Little Duckaroo’ (1954), ‘Rocket Squad’ (1956), ‘Deduce You Say’ (1956) and ‘Robin Hood Daffy‘ (1958).
In ‘Drip-along Daffy’ Daffy is a typical Western hero, clad in white, riding a well-groomed horse, with an unshaven (!) Porky as ‘comic relief’, riding a donkey. Daffy wants to clean up ‘Lawless Western Town’, which lawlessness is depicted in a series of Tex Averyan gags. However, Daffy finds a heavy adversary in the villain Nasty Canasta…
‘Drip-along Daffy’ is a delightful and gag-rich cartoon, highlight being the strong drink scene, an elaboration on a gag Avery had made in ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo‘ (1945). Also noteworthy is the high noon scene, in which Jones and his team indulge in numerous camera angles depicting Daffy and Canasta approaching each other. Such original and devoted cinematography was rarely been seen since the Frank Tashlin days.
Nasty Canasta who would return in two more cartoons: ‘My Little Duckaroo’ from 1954 and ‘Barbary Coast Bunny’ from 1956.
Watch ‘Drip-along Daffy’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 135
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: The Wearing of the Grin
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Dog Collared
Directors: Tex Avery
Release Date: November 3, 1945
Stars: Droopy, Red, The Wolf
After the successful ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo‘ Droopy from earlier that year, Red and the Wolf join forces again in ‘Wild and Woolfy’, a hilarious spoof on the classic western.
The cartoon has the simple plot of Droopy following the wolf, who has kidnapped Red after her performance of a nice country & western yodeling song. But Tex Avery once again packs the film with gags, including a wonderful and now classic empty road gag.
Film composer Scott Bradley reuses his twelve tone row he had introduced in the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Puttin’ on the Dog’ (1944) to accompany Droopy riding his little blue horse, with equally funny results.
Watch ‘Wild and Woolfy’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: 1949
The film uses all the cliches of the genre: a stagecoach, masked bandits, a damsel in distress, a hero with a white hat, a villain fancying the girl, and a climax on a cliff.
Trnka’s animation has much improved since ‘The Emperor’s Nightingale‘: the cinematography is excellent, and particularly the illusion of speed is astonishing. The film is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek and full of brilliant silent comedy, showing Trnka’s then unsurpassed mastery in stop-motion. ‘The Song of the Prairie’ is one of Trnka’s most enjoyable films, and deserves a more classic status.
Watch ‘The Song of the Prairie’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: March 3, 1950
These specials were essentially the successors of the Silly Symphonies, and a few were made during World War II. However, most of them were made in the fifties, if not necessarily to advance animation, then certainly to keep animators busy between feature films. Unfortunately, almost none of these shorts match the inventiveness of the Silly Symphonies or were really successful (the Academy Award winning ‘Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom’ (1953) is the prime exception).
For example, ‘The Brave engineer’, the first special from the fifties, looks like it has been a left-over from the compilation feature ‘Melody Time‘ (1948). Like this feature’s sequences ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘ and ‘Pecos Bill‘, it’s a half sung and half narrated tall-tale based on a poem about a legendary American hero from the 19th century.
This time comedian Jerry Colonna sings and tells the story of Casey Jones, a train engineer, a character who really existed. In the cartoon Casey desperately tries to deliver the western mail on time. On the way he encounters all the cliches featured in westerns involving trains: a damsel on the rails, train robbers and a villain who blows up a bridge. The ride ends in a clash with another train. Unlike the real Casey Jones, who died in the crash, the cartoon Casey survives and delivers the mail on time, almost…
Despite the relatively fast pace and many corny gags, the story never really takes off. The viewer somehow never gets involved in the story and remains uninterested to the end.
Watch ‘The Brave Engineer’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘The Brave Engineer’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’
Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: March 11, 1950
Stars: Tom & Jerry
This ranch is visited by a sexy kitten in cowboy dress, and Tom tries to impress her: first, by an outrageously cool smoking of a cigarette, then by singing to a record player and courting her at the same time. This is a wonderful scene and undoubtedly the highlight of this cartoon, which is highly enjoyable throughout, anyway.
The record player is an early testimony of the introduction of 331⁄3 and 45 rpm records two years earlier, for it is able to play with variable speeds. The cartoon also features a long bull chase, and ends with Jerry kissing the girl, and riding Tom into the sun set .
Tom and Jerry would return to the West four years later in ‘Posse Cat’, with much less funny results.
Watch ‘Texas Tom’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Release Date: May 27, 1948
The last sequence of ‘Melody Time‘ is framed by the sentimental ballad ‘Blue Shadows’, sung by country & western singer Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers.
After a while, we see them sitting in a cartoon-style prairie, accompanied by two children. The boy asks Rogers why the coyotes howl at the moon, which prompts him into telling the tall tale of Pecos Bill, his horse Widowmaker and his love interest Slue Foot Sue.
Although it only becomes funny after several minutes, the story itself is quite good, the highlight being the part where the cowboys sing of the mighty deeds of Pecos Bill, who singlehanded creates the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande, the gold in the hills and the painted desert.
Unfortunately the cartoon is rather slow-paced and accompanied by mostly dull country & western music, preventing it of becoming a real classic. Disney would tell other tall tales from American folklore, in ‘Paul Bunyan‘ (1958) and ‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith‘ (1961).
Watch ‘Pecos Bill’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Release Date: June 12, 1948
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
For example, when Yosemite Sam exclaims that ‘The town is not big enough for the two of us’, Bugs responds by building an enormous block of skyscrapers in a few seconds! Its finale, too, is hilarious. When Bugs tries to board an unwilling Sam on a train leaving town, they discover this train’s going to Miami and is full of dames in bathing suits. Then they both want to board it! Needless to say our hero wins the day.
‘Bugs Bunny Rides Again’ is a brilliantly hilarious cartoon full of great and flexible animation, and undoubtedly one of Bugs Bunny’s finest entries. The short reuses some footage of a dancing Bugs from ‘Stage Door Cartoon‘ (1944).
Watch ‘Bugs Bunny Rides Again’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Gene Deitch
Release Date: September, 1962
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Its storyline, like in most of the Gene Deitch Tom & Jerry´s, is very weak, and its gags are mediocre, but its opening credits are marvelous. This cartoon ‘borrows’ Friz Freleng’s classic light and stairs gag.
Watch ‘Tall In The Trap’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Bruno Bozzetto
Release Date: October 1, 1965
‘West And Soda’ has a classic Western story: an evil villain is after the land owned by the lovely Clementine. Luckily she is rescued by our cool hero, Johnny, who doesn’t talk much, but who can shoot!
‘West and Soda’ is Bruno Bozzetto’s first feature film and unfortunately, it shows. The Italian animator is at his best in short, well-timed pantomime gags, and he clearly has difficulties with this longer medium. Neither the animation nor the designs are particularly appealing, and the feature suffers a little from its length. Generously mocking almost every aspect of the classic western, ‘West and Soda’ is as silly as it is predictable. Luckily there are many throwaway gags to keep the viewer laughing from time to time.
However, Bozzetto’s comic genius really shines through in two offbeat scenes, in which Bozzetto does what he does best: like his funny short ‘I Due Castelli’ from 1963, these two scenes use a fixed long distance perspective, pantomimed action and a perfect timing, with hilarious results. The first of these two scenes shows us several failing attacks of ferocious ants on Johnny, who is buried up to his head in the desert. The second depicts the villain’s attempts to drop a huge rock on our hero.
Watch the ant scene from ‘West And Soda’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 1, 1924
Stars: Virginia Davis (Alice)
All goes well until the bully Tubby O’Brien and his gang show up. Her fellow actors chicken out, so Alice has to improvise some stories about her experiences in the ‘wild and woolly west’. Enter the cartoon sequence.
In her first story she defeats some Indians. In the second one she’s a sheriff in a saloon, smoking a cigar and attending a bad performance of ‘Sweet Adeline’. Meanwhile, the villain, “Wild Bill Hiccup” tries to steal the safe. He and Alice end up in a gunfight in which every other person in the saloon gets killed. She chases the villain by car, returning the safe in the end.
The gang of bullies is not impressed and they pelt her with vegetables. But Alice chases them all out of her humble theater, beating up Tubby O’Brien herself. The cartoon ends with her triumphant smile.
The live action footage, with the instantly lovable Virginia Davis as Alice and a bunch of local children, is highly entertaining. None of the animation, by Ham Hamilton and Walt Disney himself, is particularly interesting, however. Indeed, two months later, Disney would quit animating himself, leaving that to his more skilled employees, like Ub Iwerks.
Watch ‘Alice’s Wild West Show’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Alice’s Wild West Show’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’