One of the greats in the animation character pantheon has just hit his golden anniversary. First appearing in the opening title sequence of the 1963 film The Pink Panther, the animated cat had such an influence on audiences he went on top star in a series of animated theatrical films, various television series, and, of course, a slew of other animated title sequences. In fact, the only Pink Panther film the panther was not featured in was the second, A Shot In The Dark.
A sprightly young bird gets up early, the better to get the jump on his neighborhood worm, but he finds his quarry elusive. The worm, for his part, sets off with a flute and jazzes along happily, out-finessing the bird repeatedly. Then a pair of shiftless crows debate the virtues of early rising and decide that no worm is worth it (clearly, these are shiftless “Negro” stereotypes, though the ethnic angle isn’t stressed here so much). Finally, a rattlesnake practices some hypnotic moves on both bird and worm before getting tied up in knots.
The two lazy crows are caricatures of then-famous blackface comedy team Moran and Mack. Much of their dialogue is directly lifted from their hit 1920s comedy recording “Two Black Crows.”
Our first Tex Avery short of the year is Bad Luck Blackie, from 1949. Not his most popular character or short, but one worth watching if you are a fan of Avery.
Bad Luck Blackie is a black cat whose job it is to bring bad luck wherever needed… and it IS needed by a poor little kitten, constantly tortured by an evil bulldog. “Whenever you need me, just blow the whistle,” Blackie says to the kitten.
Whenever the dog bothers the kitten, the kitten blows the whistle and Blackie comes out of nowhere, crossing the dog’s path and giving him bad luck… usually in the form of something large and heavy falling on him from the sky!
As his luck gets worse and worse, the objects get bigger and bigger. Falling objects include (in successive order) a flowerpot, a kitchen sink and a battleship.
From nearly the end of the theatrical series, The Missing Mouse was unique in a few ways. Popular voice actor Paul Frees– Captain Hook from Disney’s Peter Pan from the same year– handles the voice duties for this short, and therein is one of the unique aspects of the film.
While Jerry is looting the fridge, Tom comes by and hammers him… He pinches Jerry’s tail in a mousetrap, and while running away, the mouse spills a bottle of white shoe polish on himself.
Suddenly, the radio blurts out that an experimental “explosive” white mouse has escaped from the lab. Tom sees Jerry and is frightened to death. Jerry takes advantage, and keeps trying to fall off shelves and such… the cat catching him no matter what. Tom lets irons and pianos fall on him instead of Jerry.
When the mouse falls in the sink, Tom realizes that he’s been a fool; he hits Jerry with a hammer and throws him out. The real white mouse then enters, and when Tom washes the fake one and then sees Jerry, he ages 50 years! The radio then announces that the explosive mouse is no longer dangerous… Tom strikes him and BOOM! The cat sticks his head out of the rubble and says, “Don’t you believe it!”
This is one of the rare cartoons in which Tom speaks; although here it sounds as though he is imitating character actor Ned Sparks in the final scene.
This is the only Tom and Jerry cartoon (and possibly the only MGM cartoon) for which Scott Bradley does not receive music credit.
Chuck Jones made a lot of memorable films. But the best may not have starred a Rabbit, a fleet-footed desert bird, or a martian, or even the Grinch… it may have only featured a couple simple geometric shapes. Released on the last day of 1965, The Dot And The Line won an Academy Award for best short film with it’s simple yet timeless story.
A love story in which the line has unrequited love for the dot; she only has eyes for the squiggle. He overcomes his straight-laced life, and the dot sees him for what he truly is. The moral? To the vector belong the spoils. The dot has an evil laugh and goes around doing bad things. It misbehaves quite a bit, but it shows colors, shapes, and a smily face which mouths off to the narrator. The first 30 seconds of the cartoon take place in an art room with easels.
Chuck Jones would animate two books by author Norton Juster; this, and 1970’s The Phantom Tollbooth.
This and 1967’s The Bear That Wasn’t were MGM’s only non-Tom and Jerry animation after 1958.
A classic Christmas film, Good Will To Men was an Academy Award nominee for MGM in 1956.
A group of young mice is in the ruins of a church, practicing singing for an upcoming service. After singing an adulterated version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” the mice wonder about the last line, “Good will to men.” One of them asks the chorus master, an old mouse, “What are men?”
The old mouse explains that they all killed each other off by building bigger and more destructive weapons, first guns, then missiles, then bombs. At the end of the fighting, clouds are seen, implying that nuclear weapons were used by each side.
The old mouse shows the boys some rules to live by that men seem to have forgotten. He is reading from a Bible.
This film was a remake of “Peace On Earth” (1939).
Back before their television empire, back before the Flintstones and Scooby Doo, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera played a cat against a mouse. From Tom & Jerry, today’s cartoon of the day is Mouse Cleaning from this date in 1948.
Mammy-Two-Shoes tells Tom that if the house gets dirty or untidy, he will be thrown out. Once she leaves, Jerry uses a cigarette ashtray to spread filth all over the place. Gags and chase sequences ensue. Jerry diverts a coal chute into the living room as Mammy comes home.
She and Tom collide outside the front door. When Tom pokes his head out of the coal, he becomes a stereotypical black Stepin Fetchit-style character. Mammy thinks Tom is a man and asks, “Hey you! Has you seen a no-good cat around here?” Tom replies (in a stereotypical black voice), “No ma’am! I ain’t seen no cat around here! Uh-uh! No cat, no place, no how, no ma’am!”
Mammy spots Tom’s tomfoolery and yells “Thomas!” Tom runs away and hobbles along the sidewalk, shuffling and mumbling.
This cartoon was redubbed in the 1960s, with Mammy-Two-Shoes speaking in an aggressively non-racial white-bread accent (her legs are still 100% “of color,” though!).
Additionally, the scene where Tom, in blackface, does his “Stepin Fetchit” routine was excised and replaced with some newly-created animation by the Chuck Jones MGM unit nearly 20 years later.
Kenneth Muse did the animation in the sequence where Tom juggles eggs and an ink pad, according to animator Mark Kausler. Ed Barge animated the old horse and the coal, while the final sequences were done by Ray Patterson and Irv Spence.
#CotD: The first of four of Tex Avery’s “Tomorrow Themes” cartoons, “The House Of Tomorrow” was a trend-setter predicting the future.
The House Of Tomorrow (1949) — MGM Theatrical Short
One of Tex Avery’s “Tomorrow Themes” which featured the “house of the future” with many custom and adjustable gadgets around the house, such as a record changer that starts throwing the records against the wall. But the accommodations for the mother-in-law (including a medicine cabinet) is the real selling point.
You can watch “The House Of Tomorrow” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase
#CotD: Hugh Harman directed “Tom Turkey And His Harmonica Humdingers” at the same time Hanna and Barbera were creating the first Tom & Jerry cartoon across the hall.
Tom Turkey And His Harmonica Humdingers (1940) — MGM Theatrical Short
Tom Turkey wanders over to the general store, his harmonica in hand. In no time he and the good ol’ boys there begin a jam session on harmonicas (and one piccolo) that end up turning the store into a total wreck.
You can watch “Tom Turkey And His Harmonica Humdingers” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase