Sunday, September 19, 2010

Walter Lantz Cartoons Part 10: Ski For Two, The Pied Piper of Basin Street, The Painter and the Pointer, Chew-Chew Baby, Woody Dines Out

A nice variety of cartoon this time, with 3 Woodys, a very weird Andy Panda, and the last Swing Symphony we'll be watching - there was only one more after this, sadly not on DVD, and after that Lantz turned his attention to classical music for a bit.

We get some classic Russian folk singing in the first Woody seen here, Ski for Two. Woody's looking for food, as always, and finds a ski lodge that notes it specialized in delicious food. So he hops on a train and heads to far northern climes, then skis the rest of the way (40 miles!), while singing the folk song 'The Sleigh', a classic in its day. He also throws in a line or two from Ochi Chyornye to boot. Naturally, this being mid-40s Woody, the proprietor is Wally Walrus, who notes that Woody doesn't have a reservation. Despite noting that he has tons of reservations - for other inns and sporting events - he gets thrown out anyway. (Great line when Wally calls Woody impulsive. "IMpulsive? I'm REpulsive!".) Woody then tries to get in by pretending to be Santa. Wally does not do himself any credit by buying this, mostly as it's only October. In the end though, Woody gets beaten up by Wally when trying to abscond with the food. Most of these Culhane Woodies have 7 minutes of him going insane at people, then briefly getting his comeuppance.

For the final Swing Symphony we get to see, it's a barnburner: The Pied Piper of Basin Street boasts in its credits that it features Jack Teagarden, one of jazz's most prominent trombone players of the time, as well as a bandleader. The plot is essentially your standard Pied Piper, with the rats wreaking havoc all over the town. The mayor (a not particularly good caricature of Lou Costello - Lantz still can't do celebrity impressions that well) is far too lazy and shiftless to do anything himself, but jumps at the chance for a Durante-ish piper to drive the rats out of town. And, of course, then reneges on the deal, paying the piper in peanuts (literally) and throwing him out. So the piper turns into Frank Sinatra and lures EVERYONE out of town - from the high school kids to swinging grannies. (I note that one shot has a guy in a malt shop sharing a drink with identical twin hotties - nice work, kid.) The town ends up on a swing riverboat with Ozzie Nelson and Glenn Miller's band. The mayor ends up with the rats. Great stuff, and fantastic music.

The next Andy Panda cartoon is rather bizarre, especially in amongst the others in the series. Andy's been redesigned by Shamus Culhane, and looks more adult but also less like a panda. In addition, he's apparently gotten a bit psychotic. He's having his pointer hold a pose while he paints him, yelling at the dog whenever he tries to move. A nagging fly gets the best of the dog, who not only moves but wrecks Andy's painting. In response, while going to get a new canvas, Andy ties a shotgun to the dog's leg, set up so that if the dog moves, it will shoot him dead. Yeah. For fans of the cute and harmless Andy Panda, this must have been jaw-dropping. Lantz himself hated it, and the personality and design reverted in the next cartoon. The plot itself is weird even beyond this, as it involves two goony spiders who decide to forgo their usual fly menu and catch and eat the dog. Even for a Culhane cartoon, this one's nuts, and I'd call it more interesting than good.

Back to Woody and Wally for Chew-Chew Baby, yet another in a progressively long series of cartoons where Woody is obsessed with food. He's also a deadbeat, so we open the cartoon with Wally throwing Woody out of the boarding house he runs for eating everything and paying nothing. Woody, searching for ways to get food and revenge - in that order - finds that Wally has put an add for 'female companionship' in the paper, so dresses up as Clementine in order to get some more food. Another fast one-liner - "Are you refined?" "Refined? I'm 110 Octane!" The usual Woody eating and abuse follows, with some cute cartoon gags such as the stoplight breaking Wally's fall. In the end, Woody blows Wally up AND gets away with all the food. What a jerk!

He's even more obnoxious in Woody Dines Out, which takes a break from Wally Walrus for a bit and has Woody battle an evil-looking cat. Woody has more right to be appalling here, though, as the cat is trying to kill him. Woody, desperate for food and finding only closed restaurants, wanders by a place that specializes in "stuffing birds". Yeah, well, Woody doesn't have to be smart, he gets by on being loud and appalling. The cat is a taxidermist, who at first thinks Woody's just annoying, but then recalls he has a flier offering $100,000 to anyone who can stuff a king-sized woodpecker. That's almost 1.2 million dollars in today's money, so the cat turns bloodthirsty. He gives Woody a soup laced with knockout drops ("Blackout borscht"), then prepares to slice him up. Woody quickly escapes, and proceeds to abuse the cat mercilessly, mostly with an elevator. In the end, the cat abandons his dreams on money, mansions, yachts, and women, with Woody invading the last one and taking the women for himself!

Some excellent cartoons, with one exception, and even that was bizarre and wrong enough to be interesting. I am hoping that we get something soon other than Woody trying to get food.

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