The late ‘40’s were a period when the gag was king. Warners’ and Avery’s rapid-fire styles carried the day, and had their influence on nearly every studio. While Disney would still find occasion to concentrate on a story of charm, even its ranks were now populated with the likes of Jack Hannah and Jack Kinney, who could match gag timing with the best of them. So, get set for another round of slam-bang lunacy and snappy patter, as our toons continue to seek out exotic locales and woodlands that are anything but peaceful, to break the monotony of their otherwise humdrum lives in downtown Toontown.
Safari So Good (Paramount/Famous – Popeye, 11/7/47, I. Sparber, dir.) – While I prefaced this series as intending to avoid purely hunting trips, this one provides mixed motives. Popeye packs a gun (though possibly for defensive purposes rather than initially intending to bag himself a trophy), while Olive is purely along for the sightseeing and some nature photography. A lion threatens (with dentures that prove to be dentist’s falsies), but a shot from Popeye shears him of his mane. Olive, riding in an elephant-saddle style chair on Popeye’s back, gets hooked up in some tree branches, and is replaced in the passenger seat by a gorilla, while Olive is swept up by a jungle wild man (Bluto, who has only one line of dialogue in the whole picture – discussed below). He, however, has his own means of communicating, as electricity out of his scalp reveals his feelings for Olive in letters above his head – “Wotta Woman” – and as he does somersaults and backflips set to the sounds of a cacophony of auto horns. Popeye of course rises to the challenge. Bluto smashes him into a tree, them, with a flex of a bicep, crushes a cocoanut and revives Popeye with a spray of cocoanut milk. Popeye counters by knocking down a tree full of coconuts, and tossing them at Bluto with some fancy hip action, where they play percussive notes off Bluto’s chest like a bass drum, climaxed by a last cocoanut in the teeth, making the sound of a cymbal. Several old gags are revisited – an encounter with an alligator, whom Popeye socks into the proverbial luggage ensemble. An exhibition of elephant lifting by Bluto, topped by Popeye lifting Bluto with the elephants.
A climax is also borrowed from Max Fleischer’s Wild Elephinks (1933), with Bluto sounding a trumpet to rally all the beasts of the jungle to surround Popeye, while whisking Olive by vine up to his own penthouse treehouse. Olive screams for help, punctuating her yells with an errant call of “Taxi! Taxi!” Meanwhile Popeye cautiously reaches for his spinach (in a pop-top can yet), but is pounced on before he can chow down. As his head emerges periodically from a fight cloud, desperately gobbling at air in hopes of finding the spinach, a helpful monkey retrieves the can and passes the green stuff down to Popeye’s waiting jaws. From the fight cloud, Popeye’s revitalized arms emerge, the muscles of which sprout into an additional set of arms and hands which shake hands with each other. As in the Fleischer original, transformational gags now come fast and furious. A zebra receives a sock, transforming it into a striped window awning. Two leopards becomes a pair of fuzzy dice. A tiger becomes an archery bulls eye, with a rhino’s horn following as the arrow for a direct hit. The little monkey rolls a department store clothes rack through the fight cloud, and emerges with a wardrobe of furs. Popeye brings Bluto’s treehouse down to size by pulling it to ground level from the tree’s root system. Bluto responds to Popeye’s tapping on the door – “Did somebody, I say, did somebody knock?” (reference to Kenny Dalmar’s “Senator Claghorn” character on the Fred Allen show’s “Allen’s Alley” skits – the precursor to Foghorn Leghorn). Popeye socks him into a grove of trees, which transform into the lumber for a sturdy cage, leaving Bluto to cry a tantrum inside. In the final shot, the helpful monkey appears under Popeye’s helmet, and delivers the signature “toot toot” with Popeye’s pipe.
Mexican Joyride (Warner, Daffy Duck, 11/29/47 – Arthur Davis, dir.) – It’s a little late for the good neighbor policy. But Daffy decides anyway to spend his vacation in sunny Mexico. Immediately across the border, all vehicular traffic changes rhythm and dances in a conga line. In town, a restaurant advertises “El Bleu Plate Especial” – a pot of jumping beans, with happy customers emerging from the eatery bouncing as gingerly as the beans. Daffy tries a bowl of the local cuisine, then comments, “Who said this food was hot? It’s just a silly rumor that somebody….” His line is interrupted by his own scream, as his beak opens wide to reveal fireplace logs burning inside his throat like a hearth. “It’s burning holes in me!” Daffy yells. Another patron, using Mel Blanc’s “Si So Sue” Mexican dialect from the Jack Benny program, tells him that the food is not hot. “I eat it for years, and it no bothers me.” Of course, he’s just taken a drink of water, and the water trickles out of him on all directions as if he were a sieve. Daffy continues to plead for a drink, and the proprietor slips him a shot of tequila. Daffy is instantly frozen “stiff”, and the proprietor, entirely used to this, picks him up and tosses him on a pile of fellow American tourists, all likewise frozen in place from the “stiff” drink.
A fade out brings us to a new sequence, with a bullfight taking place in the arena. Tourists and local fans flock into one entrance, while spectator bulls enter through another. Daffy’s take on the spectacle is definitely that of the uninitiated. As the toreador makes a successful “pass”, Daffy is shocked at the bull’s lack of results. “He missed him! He missed him again!” He tells fellow spectators that the bull is blind as a bat, and that they should “throw the phoney out.” Below in the arena, and hearing this criticism, the bull reacts, “Enough is enough!” Approaching the stands, the bull removes the outfit and cape from the present matador. Half the arena clears of spectators in a hurry, as the bull climbs into the bleachers and confronts Daffy face to face. Daffy melts down the stairs and into the toreador’s box below, with the bull following. “Now wait a minute, stupid, that is, pal…” begins Daffy on the completely wrong foot. “I was only kidding. Why, I really don’t know the first thing about bullfighting…” His dialogue is interrupted as the bull whisks him into the toreador’s outfit, leaving Daffy to complete the sentence, “…yet.” Daffy darts into the arena, nailing shut the corral doors behind him – only to find the bull hammering in extra nails on the same side as Daffy to keep him in the arena. The bull charges, reducing Daffy’s cape to a bull-shaped row of paper dolls. Much insanity ensues. Daffy revisits Bugs Bunny’s idea from “Wabbit Twouble” by putting a pair of dark glasses on the bull during a pass, causing the bull to don a nightshirt and comment “Caramba, what a short day this was”, until he walks into a wall and the glasses crack. Three sombreros are knocked into the ring, for yet another twist on the old shell game – but this time with an unusual payoff. After lifting two hats unsuccessfully, the bull is about to lift the third, when who should appear outside the hat but Daffy himself, telling him “Uh uh.” “Leesten”, says the bull, “thees one he’s GOT to be under.” “He’s not”, responds Daffy. “He ees!” insists the bull. “He’s not”, repeats Daffy. The two banter back and forth “Ees” and “Not”, then Daffy reverses, taking the “Ees”, while the bull reflexively responds ‘NOT!” “Little bet?”, suggests Daffy. “Why not?”, responds the bull, as two wads of cash are placed down for an ante. The audience must now be as confused as the bull at seeing Daffy bet against himself, but the duck has everything well under control, as the bull raises the third hat, to find Daffy already underneath it. “See, I was under here!”, Daffy shouts, pocketing the bull’s life savings.
A suicide sequence (which surprisingly aired uncut on many stations for inability to tell the story without it) follows, where Daffy suggests that the bull, now destitute and unable to face his friends, must end it all. When the bull misses himself with a small pistola, Daffy offers him a Tommy gun. But before the bull can pull the trigger, he spots Daffy sharpening butcher knives next to an empty supermarket-style meat chest, with a sign reading “T bone steaks – any minute now.” “CARAMBA!!” shouts the bull, and finds a better use for the Tommy gun – turning it on Daffy. The duck races back to his hotel, takes the elevator upstairs, and passes the bull coming down, suitcases in hand. Speeding in his car for the border, Daffy resolves to spend the rest of his vacation at home, for “Nothing but rest and relaxation”. The camera pans to the rear seat of the car, where the bull rides as passenger, Tommy gun still at the ready, winking at us as the car speeds over the horizon for the iris out.
Wide Open Spaces (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 12/12/47 – Jack King, dir.) – Donald’s on an extended road trip (for business or for pleasure, we may never know), driving into the wee small hours into unfamiliar territory. However, he’s made the mistake of making no room reservations for the evening. The local provider of lodging facilities (the Hold-Up Motel) informs him there’s nothing left but the cot on the porch. Donald’s so tired he’ll take anything – until the proprietor quotes the $16.00 rental rate. Cheap by today’s standards, but Donald considers it a “hold-up”, all right. He twists the proprietor’s arm in a knot – but instead receives the man’s foot through a panel in the motel door, booting Dionald back into his car. Donald drives further into the countryside, and, finding a clearing, produces from his trunk the old Barney Bear special – an inflatable mattress. A bicycle pump gives him no end of trouble, inflating the bed but letting it deflate just as quickly. Donald forces the pump handle too hard, and bends the shaft at a right angle. Donald merely bends the pump cylinder at a matching right angle, and the fool thing works anyway. But the mattress deflates again. Donald angrily disposes of the pump, and does a deep inhale, inflating himself to huge proportions, then manually blows all his air into the mattress – himself deflating to wafer-thin size as he floats down like a fallen leaf onto the bed. A rock under his bed still keeps him awake, and he tosses it high onto a nearby peak. It begins to roll downhill, colliding with a slightly bigger rock, which hits a bigger one, then another, then another, resulting in a boulder worthy of Indiana Jones bearing down on Donald. Donald zips into his car, and tries desperately to outrace the boulder, but runs out of road, colliding with a tree while the boulder collides with his car – quickly reducing the streamlined vehicle into a Model T jalopy.
Donald tries the mattress again, but shifts his weight all to one end, toppling off and over a cliff into a river. Underwater, he briefly finds himself “sleeping with the fishes” – literally – as he and a large fish fight over who gets the blanket. After he gets back to dry land, a tree branch is his next predicament, as his snoring sucks its leaves into his mouth. He props the branch up with a stick and returns to sleep, but begins to snore again. This time, his wind suction pulls out the stick propping up the branch, causing the branch to land on the handle of the bicycle pump. The pump overinflates Donald’s mattress into a balloon, but unlike Barney Bear, does not explode it. Instead, the bed unhooks from the pump hose and whooshes Donald through the skies as it deflates, returning him to the Hold-Up Motel, where he lands neatly on the porch cot as dawn breaks. The manager comes out, and requests his $16.00. Still practically asleep, Donald pulls out the money and is now willing to pay. One catch – it’s check-out time, and the manager dumps Donald off the porch, where he lands in a large cactus plant. Needles or no, Donald pull the cactus arms to cover him like a blanket, and continues in his well-earned but prickly sleep for the iris out.
Swiss Cheese Family Robinson (Terrytoons/Fox, Mighty Mouse, 12/29/47 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – Even superheroes need a rest now and then. This film starts in the unlikely setting of Miami Beach, where a bare-chested Mighty Mouse appears incognito, lounging under a sun umbrella and hiding behind a pair of dark sunglasses, taking some well-needed rest. His vacation is not destined to last for long. Victims of a shipwreck, the Swiss Cheese Family Robinson, have escaped their sunken vessel on a raft consisting of a mast set in a floating hunk of cheese . Papa sets afloat a distress message in a bottle. Then hunger begins to gnaw at them – and they begin to gnaw at the cheese. As their appetites grow bigger, their raft grows smaller, until it is a mere morsel. Swordfish close in, and saw at the mast where the family takes refuge. But an island appears, and a local turtle provides them with shuttle service to land. They are, however, far from alone, as the island is inhabited by a tribe of cannibal cats. (Notably, although about a minute is missing out of most TV prints, this is one of the last cannibal films I remember still being in TV circulation, somewhere around the 1990’s, in the syndicated “Mighty Mouse and Friends” package – and even after the edit, the amount of potentially politically incorrect footage left is still surprising.) In scenes missing from the current TV edit, one cat’s head emerges from the brush, his face featuring a large nose ring. Another’s head appears, but this one uses the ring to greater advantage – dangling from it are his car keys. The family’s shapely daughter finds a stalk of bananas, and begins peeling them to eat. A cannibal reaches his gloved hand out to seize her – but the girl takes hold of his thumb, peels away the glove fabric, and chomps on it, sending the cat wailing. The cat gives chase, while mom and pop Robinson fend him off by pelting him with cocoanuts. But as they look around for more things to throw, three more cats’ faces rise from the bush. The TV print resumes as the family are surrounded by a flight of spears, and tied over an open fire. Meanwhile, the message bottle wends its way toward the mainland.
It takes the long way – around the Southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico – and almost makes a turn up the Mississippi, until narrator Tommy Morrison tells it, “No, Not that way!” Finally it reaches the Florida shore, floating nearly at Mighty’s feet. But Mighty is sound asleep. “Mighty Mouse, wake up!” calls the narrator – but the only thing that rouses him is the bottle popping its cork as if full of champagne. “The bottle. Look in the bottle”, continues Morrison. Mighty finally reads the distress message, and does a smooth quick change into uniform – as it turns out the “blanket” he was sleeping on was really his shirt and cape. Now, since the message was written before they sighted land, it is never explained how Mighty knows precisely where to find the family – and even Tommy Morrison doesn’t give any hints. But somehow Mighty arrives, and wages the usual one-mouse battle upon the cats. The chief cowers as Mighty stands on his hat while warding off a volley of flaming projectiles. Another native approaches with a mallet to take care of the rodent, but Mighty dodges just in time, letting the chief take the blow and get squashed into his own hat. In more footage missing from the TV edit, a native is socked to land on one of the flaming projectiles – setting his grass skirt on fire. He dives into the community cookpot to douse the flames. Another tosses a cocoanut at Mighty. Moghty belts it back into the native’s jaws, causing all his teeth to fall out. The TV print resumes with Mighty tossing natives like a ring-toss, with their nose rings hooked over a pole. The family eventually becomes famous by converting the once-wild island into a popular summer resort, complete with amusement park and Atlantic City style boardwalk, with rolling blue chair pushed by the bandaged cannibal king, and Mighty and the family’s lovely daughter riding cozy.
A Wolf in Sheik’s Clothing (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 7/30/48 – I. Sparber, dir.) – So you say you’ve never seen a perfect-looking print of this title? Welcome to the club, as virtually no one has in living memory! Recent vault scouring revealed that somehow or other, the reason for the diminished colors on this film was that one of the three Polacolor separation negatives has been missing ever since the series was sold to television – and all surviving prints have been processed only from the remaining two! (Shades of 1933!) A recent DVD restoration has taken pains to attempt to balance and add some hues to compensate for the missing negative, but the result is still decidedly weak on greens – resembling a sort of 1940’s version of an Iwerks’ Comi-Color. But there’s still plenty of gags left in this old chestnut, so grab a flying carpet, and hop along for the ride.
Popeye and Olive just can’t seem to get enough of the Middle East after several previous visits in one guise or another, and return aboard a camel, this time equipped for passenger comfort with the attached chassis of an old jalopy. Popeye raises the hood at an oasis service station. Underneath, the camel’s hump features an easy-open screw-off lid, where an attendant fills the camel with water from a gasoline-stye pump similar to one used in Fleischer’s “Popeye Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves”, measuring supply by number of days, but with added readings, “Belly Full” and “Belly Ache”. Popeye uses the “little men’s room”, which is quite deluxe. Instead of a washroom, it includes a full size harem-style swimming pool for freshening up. Olive waits outside in one of her usual fickle man-crazy moods, dreaming the dream of all star-struck females when in the desert – that a dashing sheik would come to carry her away. In one of those rare instances where the animators decided to draw somebody different for a change, an original sheik design is opted for instead of Bluto. He is of apparently questionable motivations, spending his idle time reading the racing form, and seems to have an eye more for prospective greenbacks than the ladies. But he knows how to exploit their weaknesses, and, overhearing Olive’s self-musings, sets up with the aid of a small assistant a kissing booth at $1.00 a smack. The assistant plays a snake charmer flute to draw attention, and a gag is repeated from “A Balmy Swami” with Olive briefly hypnotized and drawn to the Shiek with the movements of a snake.
“Oh br-other! A hubba-hubba-hubba”, Olive comments when she sees the setup, and lays on the counter a pile of George Washingtons that probably amount to her entire life savings. The sheik pockets the loot, and gives Olive an obligatory pucker on the forehead. Olive pops into the air, propelling herself skyward by flapping her feet, saying “Looka me! I’m a lovebird!” Whether the Sheik really wants her or smells more dough, he gives her the usual line about a life of fine clothes and precious jewels, and before we know it, Popeye emerges to find Olive being carried off into the desert on the Sheik’s semi-decrepid taxi-stallion, “Just like in the movies.”
Popeye pursues into the desert. As in “Ali Baba”, he is forced to stop in the middle of the desert for a traffic signal, where cross-traffic includes an Eskimo and sled dogs with sign reading “South Pole or Bust”. Popeye’s camel develops a blowout (a flat foot), and Popeye becomes a desert pedestrian (his shadow having the good sense to carry a shade umbrella). Olive has meanwhile arrived at the Sheik’s tent – quite small on the outside, but one look inside the tent flap reveals a gigantic layout the size of a palace within. Olive cranes her neck clear around the small outside perimeter, and comments “I don’t believe it!” (Attention Harry Potter fans: would J.K. Rowling confess to having seen this cartoon in her childhood, considering that she used the same tent-with-endless-space-inside idea during the group’s trip to the Quidditch World Cup?) Placing in front of the tent a sewer-worker’s railing and sign reading, “Sheik at work”, the Sheik provides Olive with harem pants and arms full of bracelets. Popeye hears the doings within and enters, making challenge. The Sheik plucks out one of Popeye’s hairs and slices it in two with his scimitar. Popeye removes the threat of the weapon by blasting it with flame from his pipe, melting it into a giant safety pin with which he fastens the Sheik’s flowing robes around him like a diaper. Olive tries to make peace between them with a “piece of pipe”, shoving the mouthpieces of a hookah water pipe into their mouths. The Sheik blows into his end and inflates Popeye. Popeye counters by inhaling, sucking the Sheik into the hookah bottle.
A completely ripped-off gag is borrowed from Fleischer’s Popeye Meets Sinbad the Sailor, with the Sheik releasing his equivalent of the giant Roc bird – and Popeye returning with it steaming on a platter: “Your goose is cooked.” Not only has the Sheik’s tent got room for the giant monster, but for a cannon as well, as the Sheik catches Popeye in a lasso-end of a strip of bandage, and winds him into a mummy, then cannon-fires him into the mouth of the Sphinx, inside of which Popeye bounces like a pinball machine down to the deepest chambers, with a “Tilt” sign lighting up on the Sphinx’s forehead. Olive is chased around the perimeter of the image-frame of the projected film, then falls into yet another secret room of the sheik’s tent, where she dangles by her spread-eagled legs over a crocodile pit. In the Sphinx, Popeye wishes for some spinach about now. A convenient ancient can on a nearby shelf, with label design in human-figure hieroglyphics, reforms its figures into the word, “spinach”. Say no more. Popeye is out of the Sphinx lickety-split, blowing its head and shoulders clean off. He zippers up the mouth of the crocodile, and socks the Shiek flat into a wall, where he also becomes one of the hieroglyphics. The final scene has Popeye and Olive flying home aboard a magic carpet piloted by the Sheik’s assistant, with Popeye producing a magic divider curtain from nowhere to pull down between himself and the driver, so that he can smooch with Olive on the trip home without interruption.
Pueblo Pluto (Disney/RKO, Pluto, 1/14/49 – Charles Nichols, dir.) Mickey and Pluto vacation in Pueblo Indian territory. For a change, there are no natuve American stereotypes depicted in the film – only various items of pottery and trinkets at a souvenir shop, which Mickey and Pluto stop to investigate. Hanging in a basket by the shop entrance, Mickey spots something Pluto would enjoy – huge Buffalo bones. He tosses one to a happy Pluto, then goes inside the shop to browse. Pluto settles down on the wooden porch of the shop to chew upon his succulent prize, but has taken only a few gnaws when he encounters something else hanging on to one end of the bone – a small and hungry puppy (a reappearance of the character “Ronnie”, introduced in The Purloined Pup (1946)). Pluto will have none of the pup’s wide-eyed innoence and hungry stares, and snorts the pup away. Ronnie tumbles under the wooden flooring of the porch, and finds himself below Pluto – then gets an idea. Using his tail pushed up between the floorboards, Ronnie spins and maneuvers the bone away from Pluto in a game of keep-away, then finally off the end of the porch where he can catch one end of the bone in his jaws. But the bone is quite a load for a little pup, being bigger than he is, and Ronnie makes slow progress dragging his prize. Pluto catches up to him amidst a display of Indian pottery. A wide blue jar slowly rolls out of position, seemingly under its own power, and passes Pluto. A camera reveal shows us Ronnie inside the jar with the bone, and running as if inside a hamster wheel.
The chase leads into the desert, where Ronnie, being so small, finds the perfect hiding place – a circular patch of giant saguaro cactus, which only he is small enough to enter without encountering the sharp needles. Pluto is stopped cold in his tracks, and, circling the cactus grove, is unable to find a way in. He climbs up a rise of layered mesa rock to get a better view, and from this vantage point sees Ronnie in a clearing within the circle of cactus, partaking of his bone. Pluto barks fiercely, and the vibrations cause a crack to develop in the mesa ledge. A portion of the rock formation topples, taking Pluto on a sort of surfboard ride atop a rock slab, over the top of the cactus below and into the center clearing. Pluto finds himself face to face with Ronnie, and the end of the buffalo bone squarely in Pluto’s jaws. Pluto smiles a toothy grin of victory, and haughtily parades past a disappointed Ronnie to leave his company. But not so fast. There’s still the little matter of finding a path out.
And Pluto finds that everywhere he turns, the same problem – needles, needles, NEEDLES! Even the blossoms on the cactus barrels take on the appearance of eyes, until every patch of cactus looks to Pluto like a horde of looming monsters, leaving the poor dog trembling in his tracks. Ronnie can’t understand what’s so upsetting, until Pluto pantomimes his predicament in the manner of a Stan Laurel cry. Ronnie thinks a moment – then remembers something that worked once before. He darts out through his own little tunnels to the outside world, and returns to the pueblo, finding the biggest earthen jar he can locate. Climbing inside, he again runs inside the wheel, precision steering the jar straight at the cactus grove. Like a steamroller, the jar pushes the cactus to either side, leaving a clear path big enough for Pluto to travel. Pluto is overjoyed, and to show his gratitude, gives the buffalo bone to Ronnie. Pluto returns to the gift shop, where Mickey is emerging, his hands full of small potted cactus plants, which briefly cause Pluto to recoil. Mickey asks Pluto what’s the matter, adding “Didn’t you get any souvenirs?” Pluti understands and nods yes, revealing strapped to his rear end a carrier designed for an Indian papoose, in which rests his new friend Ronnie, happily crunching on his yummy bone.
Soup’s On (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 10/15/48 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – Donald heads for the woods again, this time with his nephews in tow. Instead of roughing it, Donald has rented a cozy mountain cabin, where he works over the rustic stove preparing a savory turkey dinner with all the trimmings. (Oh, these cartoon birds that always eat other birds. Talk about a pecking order!) The nephews cavort to their heart’s content outside, playing marauding Indians. The only thing guaranteed to bring a halt to their play is Donald sounding the dinner bell (at which they mow Donald down getting in the front door). But Donald insists that they wash off all the mud and war paint before sitting down to supper. The nephews head upstairs to the washroom – but fake it, merely running the water rather than applying it, and rubbing off facefuls of mud and paint onto the bath towels. They return to the dinner table appearing superficially clean – until Donald tries to pass food to one of them, and finds his hand still caked with mud. Donald snarls at the deceit, and the boys zoom for the safety of their room – with Donald locking them in from outside, without supper. Putting their head together, the nephews devise a plan B. As Donald sits at the dinner table, about to devour the nephews’ share along with his own, he hears sobbing and wailing from upstairs.
“Aw. shut up”, Donald first glowers, and chews his turkey leg with even more fierce determination. But the sight of the three empty chairs at the table reaches his rarely-seen softer side – and he has tremendous difficulty swallowing his mouthful. “Well, we are on a vacation”, Donald tells himself, convincing his angry spirit to show some forgiveness. He returns to and unlocks the now darkened room upstairs – not realizing that three shadowy figures have passed him at the entryway. He attempts to rouse the boys from slumber – bur discovers in the bed not the boys, but a waiting mousetrap, which springs painfully on Donald’s hand. Downstairs, the turkey and all the fixings are now in the hands of the nephews, who step cautiously to escape through the front door, with each step accompanied by the sound of a locomotive just starting up. Waiting outside the doorway is an irate Donald, shaking his head from side to side for a definite “no way” message, accompanied on the soundtrack by the bells of a railway crossing gate. Continuing in train motif, the nephews about face and increase speed, as Donald pursues. Making a swing around the dinner table, all courses of the meal are returned to their original positions, and the nephews head for the door again. Donald pursues them wildly into the night air and up into the hills, where Donald takes a turn on a mountain path too widely, and falls off a small ledge. But above him is a large boulder, which is also loosened in the process. Donald looks up to see the huge rock closing in upon him, and cowers to await his fate. The boulder lands with a crash – missing Dionald entirely. But a small pebble bounces down from the cliffside, and lightly taps Donald on the forehead – knocking him cold!
Another meeting of the minds between the nephews, and plan C is hatched. With the use of a pillow and some broomsticks, the nephews create an effigy of Donald – appearing to be crushed under the fallen boulder. Donald himself has been placed on a platform suspended from a tree by a rope and pulley, now dressed in a sheet, with halves of a feather duster adapted as “wings” for his back, and a piece of wire attached to Donald’s head as a halo – the perfect angel. (This was actually sort of a reworking in reverse of a climactic sequence in “Truant Officer Donald” (1941), where one of the nephews had played angel – and a gag which would also be remembered for later use by Chuck Jones for Claude Cat in “The Hypo-chondri-Cat” (1950).) Of course, gullible Donald falls for the ruse hook, line, and sinker, believing he is bound for the great beyond. One of the nephews even gives him a harp as a going-away present, on which Donald plunks out a heavenly version of “Aloha Oe”. The nephews leave him to his fate in the woods, returning to the cabin to down their belated dinner. Donald looks to the skies, solemnly stating, “I’m ready”, and “takes off” from his platform, wings flapping. Of course, his progress is straight down. Getting both a closer look at his effigy, and at the bent wire that once was his halo, Donald is wise at last. Back at the cabin, the nephews receive the intrusion of Donald, knocking the front door off its hinges. The “fallen angel” transforms in one burst of wrath into a horned red devil. Grabbing a farmer’s pitchfork, which magically glows red in Donald’s hands, the chase resumes, as the red glow of Donald disappears after the nephews over the crest of the farthest hills.
A Lad In His Lamp (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 10/23/48 – Robert McKimson, dir.) – This one doesn’t start out as a vacation, but results in one anyway. Bugs is digging a new home in the forest, and complains upon hitting a solid object that “People gotta bury their old junk right here were I’m woikin’.” The “junk” turns out to be Aladdin’s lanp. One rub, and we witness the cartoon debut of Jim Backus (pre-Magoo) as the boisterous and Harvard-accented Smokey the Genie (a voice which, with slight modifications, he would continue to use in his late career as Thurston Howell III). The genie offers Bugs a wish, but vetoes everything before Bugs can even finish stating his desires: “Much too small….No, too delicate, too sen-sitive!” Bugs gets fed up, and insists on a carrot – then ups the wish to “Two carrots, as long as you’re down there”. After granting the easy wish, the genie announces he is going back to his fabulous estate in Baghdad. The idea planted in Bugs’ head, he too wishes he could go there. The Genie obliges, by pushing Bugs into the lamp, then shooting him from a cannon blast out the lamp’s spout, following himself inside the lamp a moment later. Soaring through the skies, Bugs tells us, “Look. I’m a hare-plane!”
In Baghdad (spelled by its alternate spelling “Bagdad” on a neon sign), we see many local businesses. The Brown Turban restaurant. Temple Bell Telephone – Persian to Persian calls only. And Mad Man Hassan’s used flying carpet lot. At the palace of Caliph Hassen Pheffer (sign on the door reading “Built by G.I. loan”), Bugs drops from the skies right onto the Caliph’s head. “Eh, what’s up, beaver puss”“, Bugs inquires. A moment later, the lamp also falls from the skies. “Aladdin’s lamp!” shouts the Caliph. “Correction. Bugs Bunny’s lamp”, replies Bugs. The Caliph pulls out the usual scimitar. “Let’s not start splitting hares”, responds Bugs. A typical chase through the palace ensues. Bugs pokes his head into a door, then pulls out quick as we hear ladies’ screams. “A harem…I think”, says a shyly embarrassed Bugs. Out pops the genie from the lamp, and opens the door to take his own look. “Oh, that was a harem, all right. I know a harem when I see one”, he says as the voice of experience. As the chase continues, both in the palace and on a magic carpet hijacked from a palace parking lot, Bugs periodically tries to enlist the help of Smokey – but Smokey is always engaged in other activities – taking a bath, eating dinner, or romancing a female jini! (This idea is somewhat borrowed from Popeye’s “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp” (1939), where the genie was periodically found shaving or eating ice cream cones.) Smokey insists that Bugs go away, and warns him on the third time that if he is disturbed once more, “I’ll beat you to a pulp!” Bugs’ carpet runs out of gas and crashes back in the Caliph’s palace. The lamp bounces away from Bugs and into the hands of the Caliph, who begins rubbing. “You’ll be sorry!” says Bugs. With a poof, the genie appears, fighting mad. “Sock ‘im, Smokey!”, cheers Bugs. From out of a fight cloud, Smokey announces, “Three cheers and a tiger for me. I have won!”, and decides to celebrate by granting Bugs another wish. After having seen the harem, Bugs’ imagination has now developed far beyond wishing for mere carrots. He whispers his wish into Smokey’s ear. With a blast from a magic smoke bomb, Bugs is transformed into Arabian finery, in a palace of his own, surrounded by veiled rabbit harem beauties. “I wonder what the poor rabbits are doing this season”, says Bugs for the iris out.
My Bunny Lies Over the Sea (12/4/48 – Charles M. (Chuck) Jones, dir.) – Writer Michael Maltese makes Bugs miss his first “left turn at Albuquerque” since he wound up in the German Black Forest in WWII’s “Herr Meets Hare”, and end up in the highlands of Scotland, instead of his intended vacation to Los Angeles and the La Brea Tar Pits. There he encounters one McCrory, a kilted highlander wandering over the moors playing his bagpipes. Having no idea what the thing is making that awful sound, Bugs reacts in shock. “Look at that horrible monster attacking that poor old lady!” Grabbing the bagpipes out of McCrory’s hands, Bugs wrestles the instrument to the ground, waging an intense struggle, until the pipes lie in pieces. “He put up a terrific battle, Ma’am”, Bugs tells a bewildered McCrory, “but clean living prevailed.” McCrory reveals his male voice, yelling “Y’ve ruined m’pipes!” Bugs is even more incensed with outrage at finding the fellow’s a man. “You can’t go around like that”, he says, observing McCrory’s kilts. “It’s indecent.” He straps a barrel over McCrory. “It ain’t got no two pair of pants, but it’ll do till you get home.” Bugs now asks for directions to his destination. McCrory zips out of frame and returns with a shotgun. “There are no La Brea Tar Pits in Scotland.” Finally realizing his actual locale, Bugs asks, “Eh, what’s up, McDoc?”
McCrory takes a pot shot at Bugs, but misses. He races ahead of Bugs to retrieve – and reuse – the bulet. “It’s been in me family for years.” Bugs appears in disguise as a Scotsman from another clan, accusing McCrory of poaching on his property. McCrory insists they settle the dispute in highland fashion – at games. Bugs interprets this as opportunity to set up a poker table and deal a hand. “Sit down, pigeon.” McCrory states they don’t play that game here. “Is there another one?” asks Bugs. “Golf!” insists McCrory. “Have it your way, Mac”, replies Bugs, “but don’t’cha get a little tired running’ dem 18 bases?”
Various antics follow on the golf links. Bugs scores a hole in one on his first stroke by beating the ball to the hole and shoveling until the cup is enlarged to a cavernous pit. Bugs outwits a situation where his path to the cup is blocked by McCrory’s ball, by shooting with a pool cue instead, caroming the shot off several objects into the hole. A hopeless sand-trap situation causes Bugs to cheat on his score card and enter a “2″, while McCroty insists it was 55. Bugs pulls a psych-out of confusion by turning into an auctioneer, starting the bidding at 55 and asking for lower and lower bids. McCrory bargains against himself, and finally enters a bid of “One – and that’s m’final offer.” “One it is”, as Bugs enters a hole in one on his scorecard. The final shot has Bugs miss the cup entirely, but race ahead of the ball and dig a furrow with his club, around in a wide circle and back to the hole, for another hole in one. “That was a dirty bit o’ cheatin’”, says McCrory. Bugs counters with an endless chatter of “similar” situations allegedly encountered by champion golfers in the deciding holes of mythical “opens”, and concludes, “Cheating, indeed!” Bamboozled, McCrory concedes defeat. “Tis plain that the weight of evidence is greatly against me.” However, McCrory is still determined to prove he’s the better man in one field – playing the pipes, and returns with another set of bagpipes for a brief solo. His playing is silenced quickly, however, as Bugs appears, carrying bagpipes to which he has attached all the instruments of a one-man band to each pipe, adding drums played with his ears, for a jazzy version of “The Cambells are Coming”, giving us a conspiratorial raise of eyebrows for the iris out.
Tea For Two Hundred (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 12/24/48 – Jack Hannah, dir.), has been thoroughly reviewed in last year’s “Bugs’ Lives: Antz (Part 2)” article. To briefly recap, in this Academy-nominated episode, camper Donald encounters a passing trail of ants minding their own business, carrying kernels and lima beans as if bearers on safari. Donald conducts a series of cruel experiments to see just how much they can carry, by piling items from his picmic lunch sky high aboard the last ant’s back – then making things impossible for him by rigging a high wire for him to climb out on, and plucking the wire like a guitar string. Everything falls – but the ant also gets his first taste of picnic food. By sending a relay message through his chief on mushroom tom toms, the entire ant colony is roused into a war dance, lift Donald bodily while he sleeps, and toss him off a cliff. A battle royal follows over the picnic lunch, with several scenes developing into a virtual football game, and an olive tossed for a forward pass. Donald tries to blow the colony up with dynamite, but only succeeds in cracking the high ledge he is standing on off the mountainside, plummeting into a canyon with Donald along for the ride. The ants celebrate their victory, as the ant originally picked on feasts on the cherry atop a cupcake. (Phew! That’s practically a shot-for-shot description of the old 8mm 50 foot “digest” edition from the home movie days!)
Into the 1950’s next week, with more returns for several old friends, and vacation fun for some relative newcomers – Mr. Magoo and Heckle and Jeckle.