Hit the Beach (Part 4)

Ending the 30’s and into the 40’s, we find numerous additional outings for the sand and surf crowd, mostly for leisure purposes, but with a couple of returns to the “Robinson Crusoe” theme. Interestingly for old time radio fans, we find two episodes broadly lampooning the famous “Jack Benny Program” radio show, which was peaking in popularity, one of which also plays upon the popular “radio feud” between Jack and rival comedian Fred Allen.

Beach Picnic (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 6/9/39 – Clyde Geronimi, dir.) – This week Donald is our first average beach visitor, setting out the traditional beach umbrella and picnic lunch. What is rather unconventional is that he still wears Victorian-style beach attire and a straw hat for sunblock. As did Betty Boop, he has also brought along an inflatable rubber horse (nicknamed “Sea Biscuit”), designed with inflation valve sticking out of his nose. Donald makes considerable efforts to mount his steed, but the floatation device continually bobs, bounces, or rolls out from under him, causing Donald to interpret the behavior as the horse getting “frisky”, and to attempt to sooth the beast with soft verbal requests to “calm down” and “take it easy” as if talking to a real horse.

Still unable to stay in the saddle, Donald’s attentions are diverted to the sight of Pluto asleep at the water’s edge, gargling and near-drowning with the approaching water from the rising tide. As he had done before in “On Ice”, Donald’s childish side conceives a prank on Pluto, and, replicaring the sound of a horse’s whinny, Donald nudges his inflatable horse forward so that it will drift behind a rock near Pluto’s position, periodically bobbing its head out from behind the rock as it drifts with the flow of the waves. On each head bob, the horse’s nose-valve makes slight contact with the rock, adding more simulated snorts for sound effects. Pluto’s attention is attracted, and he is intrigued to investigate. Wading out to the rock, Pluto plays a round of hide-and-seek, as the horse’s bobbing head appears first around one side of the rock, then the other. The nose valve makes contact with Pluto’s rear for a further alarming effect. Finally the horse drifts around the rock, collides with Pluto, and is fully revealed. Pluto snorts at the intruder, sending it floating backwards into the rock. Its rubber construction merely makes it bounce back, bumping Pluto aggressively. Pluto leaps on the horse’s back, and his weight wholly submerges the horse below the surface. But not for long, as first the beast’s tail, then its nose, fight to rise again to float upon the water. Pluto gains leverage by planting his rear feet in the bay bottom, and pressing on both ends of the horse with his front paws, until a trail of bubbles from the nose valve seems to denote an exhaustion of air supply. But the minute Pluto releases his hold, the horse springs up anew, still peppy and invigorated, and impacts Pluto from the rear, causing the dog’s ears to tie themselves into a bowknot. Pluto chomps onto the horse’s nose, connecting with the air valve. All the horse’s air now transfers into Pluto, inflating him like a balloon, then zipping him through the air back to the beach, and into the porthole of a partial ship hull wrecked on the beach, as the ship’s bell is also knocked loose to come crashing down on Pluto’s head with a loud “BONGGG”.

The remainder of this film has been largely described in my prior series “Bugz Livez: Antz” of a few seasons ago, featuring an invasion of Donald’s picnic blanket by a colony of anrs, done up in facial colorations that resemble Indian war paint. The body and head designs for the ants are a breakthrough, featuring segmented bodies and elongated and angular head shapes closely resembling the genuine species, but only four legs – a clear departure from the generic round-headed “buggy” designs previously used in “The Grasshopper and the Ants” (1934) and by numerous other rival cartoon studios for many a year, and a basic structure which would become the anatomical model for nearly every ant character to come in cartoon history. In organized and orchestrated fashion, the ants stage a massive raid on Donald’s food, building themselves their own towering sandwich complete with olve and toothpick, carting sausage links around like a slithering snake, and lifting segments out of a sliced layer cake. Donald arrives to intercept the feeding frenzy, and to ensure that the ants won’t get a second chance, he surrounds the entire picnic with sheet after sheet of flypaper.

Meanwhile, a lone ant carrying a cake slice doesn’t watch where he is walking, and winds up nose ro nose with Pluto. Pluto follows after the ant, tracking him with his nose. Donald sees the lone ant approaching ahead of Pluto, and tosses another sheet of flypaper just in front of the ant. The clever ant stops just short of stepping into the glue, then proceeds forward by ducking under the non-sticky backside of the flypaper – leaving Pluto to plant his nose directly into the sticky side. The next two minutes present a Technicolor retracing of an extended sequence lifted from Playful Pluto (1933), in which the dog attempts to escape from precarious positions systematically seeming to stick every part of his person to some other part through the connection of the flypaper. Finally, in this version, Pluto collides with Donald, and both their rear ends are stuck together by the sheet of flypaper. Donald struggles in a few trysts with the dog, then Pluto flips the duck and the flypaper off his own rear end. Donald rolls through all the other sheets of sticky stuff he has laid around, and is wrapped up like a postal bundle, with only his head exposed. Happy to be free, Pluto (in nearly the identical ending previously used in Donald and Pluto (1936)), slurps Donald’s face, in the process rolling two more sheets of flypaper across Donald’s face to put a muffle on the non-stop complaining emitting from Donald’s bill.

Beach Picnic

A Wicky Wacky Romance (Terrytoons/Fox, 11/17/39 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – An exception to my rule regarding separating pirate pictures from the pages of these articles, as so much of this plot also has to do with the acrivities of romantic native islanders. At a tropical paradise, a native boy and girl mouse enjoy a typical day of exotic beach fun, as the boy rides bareback atop a swordfish, while the girl is towed from a line behind while riding astride a sort of primordial wakeboard. The girl falls off, and the boy makes a timely rescue by turning the swordfish with a yank on his nose, then diving into the water, to swim under the wakeboard and carry her on his back while swiming for shore. A group of island mice dancing the hula welcome the couple back to safety by throwing flower leis to them, each making a ringer around the girl’s neck as the boy mouse carries her proudly ashore.

But out in the bay lurks trouble. A passing pirate ship carrying a crew of cats, also carries a lookout parrot, who spots the hula dancers through a spyglass while standing lookout in the crow’s nest. “Oh, boy, oh boy! Woo woo!“, shouts the parrot, then breaks the news to the captain. The captain and crew pile up on one side of the ship, causing it to tip and list at a steep angle. The cats then shift backwards into a single file column, allowing each one to have a vantage point like stadium seating from which to raise his own spyglass to get a good look at the dames on the shore. The pirates then position a cannon in the direction of the island, firing a coil of rope out of the muzzle. As the rope reaches the shore, it forms itself into a lasso loop, and catches the same girl mouse seen in the opening shots. With the other end of the rope tied firmly to a capstan, the mouse’s retreat is stopped dead in its tracks. Two peg-legged cats insert their wooden legs into the capstan head like turning arms, and dance merrily around the capstan with their good legs, hauling the rope back aboard ship, along with their prize at rope’s end. Once the girl is aboard the ship, the captain deands that she perfom a little dance. She complies, but adds an extra move – a swift kick in the captain’s face. A chase commences, with the captain installing a special peg leg for such emergencies – equipped with a roller skate wheel.

Back on the island, the boy friend suddenly reappears in the plot (where was he during the abduction?), mounting to the top of a palm tree and letting out a Tarzan yell. At this primitive command, two rows of six palm trees on either side of the island bend themselves into doubled-over position, to act like the oars of an ancient galley, rowing the entire island at top speed on an interception course to overtake the pirate vessel. Noting his approach, the pirate cats start firing their cannon. The captain tries to shoot one himself, but his weapon is a dud, which merely develops a coughing spell rather than fire any projectile. So instead, the capain lies on his back, and sets up cannonballs on his peg leg like a golfing tee, allowing another pirate to make chip shots using an oar for a golf club. The boy mouse is almost caught in the line of fire – except the conscientious lead cannonball has the good etiquette to stop cold in its flight long enough to holler “Fore!” The boy dives into the sea, finds his old friend the swordfish, and has the fish swim in close to the ship. The mouse holds on to the fish’s nose, while the fish’s tail pulls back on the mouse’s feet, springing the mouse off the swordfish’s nose like an arrow shot, directly aboard ship. He takes the girl aloft into the rigging, and an action chase ensues, knocking most of the cats off the ratlines and spars to the deck below. A modification of the climbing gag from “Mickey’s Man Friday” has the caprain throwing daggers at the boy as he climbs another mast. The boy reaches the crow’s nest a step ahead of the daggers by shimmying up the pole. The captain then follows by climbing the daggers like a staircase. The boy and girl remain a step ahead, sliding back down to the deck upon another rope. Then, the boy sets fire to the rope’s end to prevent the captain from following. The rope burns like a fuse, causing the caprain to climb until he collides with a yardarm above. Then the captain falls to the deck, knocking a gaping hole through the decks and the hull below. As a stream of water plumes up through the deck, the boy and girl climb over the side, making escape atop the swordfish. We could have just had the pirate ship sink in the distance – but Terry inexplicably adds overkill, and has the ship explode for no discernable reason. En route back to the island, the swordfish bobs on a wave, toppling his riders from standing position into each other’s arms, with a heart outline appearing behind them as the scene fades out.

Malibu Beach Party (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 9/14/40 – I. (Friz) Freleng, dir.) – A printed invitation invites us to a party at the Malibu home of Jack Bunny (or as we know him, Benny, whose cast and all guests are actually in their caricatured human form throughout the film). An attachment to the invitation includes a coupon which, together with 50 cents, entitles the bearer to a free 25 cent blue plate lunch (figure that one out). Mary Livingston pokes fun at Jack’s bathing suit, calling it his underwear. Jack insists it’s the same type of suit Robert Taylor wears, but Mary states that Taylor’s had “a better filling”. Some guests are hard (at least for me) to identify – the first (accomanied by musical cue of “California, Here I Come”), appears to be Bob Hope – but he had already left Warners for Paramount. The next is more easily recognizable as Bette Davis, in her role as Queen Elizabeth from “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”. The third is recognized in an instant – Andy Devine, Jack’s old “saddle partner” from his “Buck Benny” western sketches and feature film, who greets Jack with his usual call of “Hiya, Buck”. I believe Spencer Tracy addresses Mary as “Miss Livingston, I presume” (reference to his role in Stanley and Livingston), while “professor” Kay Kyser (host of the “College of Musical Knowledge”) affirms the conclusion with an enthusiaic “That’s It. That’s it. Y-y-y-yesss!” Robert Donat exits early, as Mary calls out, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (title of his Oscar-winning film). A group shot includes Greta Garbo. A used ship lot nearby includes sales of boats, yachts, and rafts – the latter accompanied by George Raft, performing his trademark gesture of flipping a quarter over and over. Clark Gable floats by in the ocean, using his large ears as oars to row himself. Garbo appears again, using her oversize shoes as water skis. Ceasar Romero is approached on the beach by John Barrymore, who proclaims, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise hum”, and starts to cover Romero with sand. Grumpy Ned Sparks, lying nearby, declares, “I never go anywhere, I never do anything, I never have any fun.” Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks gets him to agree to let her cover him in sand, just to shut her up. She copies Pinky Pig’s gag from last week, burying Sparks with a dump truck. Another silent guest in a group shot appears to be a sun-tanned Jimmy Cagney.

“Impromptu entertainment” is announced by Jack. “Pill” Harris and his Cornfed Cuties provide music as on the radio show. Director Frelemg cheats by reusing animation of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers performing a dance from the previous Merrie Melodie, “September in the Rain”. Manservant “Winchester” (Mel Blanc’s vocal parody of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) is told by Jack to fill the guest’s glasses – which Winchester knows from working with stungy Benny means to add one drop to each glass with an eyedropper. Winchester notes that Jack’s “half a pint” of booze still isn’t going to be enough to go around to all the guests, so Jack tells him to “Dilute it”. “Okay, boss, but you’re gonna have a powerful water bill next month”, replies Winchester. An extended version of “Charissima” is performed by a caricature of Universal’s juvenile singing star, Deanna Durbin (resulting in an actual creaking smile from Ned Sparks, and some sprucing up by Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy). Then, the afternoon’s “feature attraction” – Jack himself, playing “Traumeri” on violin. No one applauds even when Jack holds up a cue card to the audience, except Winchester on command with a mechanical hand-clapping device. As Jack’s violin groans out the sour notes, all the guests quetly slip away – and, to maintain some audience, Jack sits upon the back of Winchester, pinning him down to keep him in attendance until the piece is finshed, and Jack can wish the viewing audience his trademark “Good night, folks.”

How Wet Was My Ocean (Terrytoons/Fox, 10/4/40, Eddie Donnelly, dir.) -The center of this film is a nameless pantomime pig which Donnelly seemed to be featuring as a new potential star (previously encountered in this column’s articles on skiing, as featured in the director’s black and white effort, “Swiss Ski Yodelers”). This time, he appears in glorious Technicolor, paired with, of all characters, another of the studio’s new faces, Sourpuss (in what is probably the character’s only pair-up with someone other than Gandy Goose). A typical sunny day at the beach finds our pig emerging from a beach locker in very large swimming trunks that almost resemble dungarees, complete with belt. He tiptoes to the water edge, playing with but not actually making contact with the rising and receding surf, until his toe finally touches a drop – causing him to turn blue with cold. He retreats inside the beach locker, and emerges again with a boiling teakettle. He pours a little of its contents into the surf, then comfortably wades in a few feet, pouts a little more, and wades in a little deeper – until the bottom drops out as he passes over the continental shelf. An underwater shot shows him scrambling to swim back up to the shallows, getting nipped on the rear end by a crab in the process. After re-mustering his resolve, the pig takes a dive at the surf – repeating the old gag of not being fast enough for the receding tide, and getting his head burried in the soggy sands. Another wave pushes him further back upshore, where he finds the tide has washed in an old plank. Deciding to use the wood as a surf board, the pig tries to enter the surf again, with typical bad timing and wave pounding, but finally reaches an odd collision point where his board is positioned at an upright angle directly below an oncoming wave. As if the pole were propping up an old-fashioned rabbit trap, the board catches itself under the crest of the wave – and holds the whitecap at a standstill, unable to crash down upon the pig. The pig crawls under the wave crest, playfully splashing a few drops of sea water from the calm pool at his feet upon his person, when the board’s support gives way, swamping the pig yet again. When the wave recedes, the pig pulls up his belt around his waist, in a pose of determination to take a stand against his watery adversary – until he realizes that he is wearing nothing below the belt, his bathing trunks having ben dragged out to sea. The pig’s face turns an embarrassed shade of red, and he dives into the water to retrieve the trunks.

Further out in the bay is Sourpuss in a small rowboat, busy with a fishing pole. His line has caught something, and he begins reeling in. His “catch”, however, is the pig’s trunks, leaving the pig dog-paddling to try to catch up to them. “What is this?”, Sourpuss repeats twice in frustration at finding no fish on the hook, and he throws the trunks away, where they land atop an old wooden piling protruding from the bay. The pig tries to reach upward for them, but cannot reach, until a wave lifts him into the trunks – but still caught by the seat of the pants atop the wooden piling. Sourpuss casts his line again – and snags the trunks once more. “Let go of that hook”, Sourpuss commands the pig. Instead, the pig’s grip let’s go of the piling, landing the pig in Sourpiss’s boat. “Get outta here”, challenges Sourpuss, chasing the pig back inti the bay. In a move entirely counterproductive, Sourpuss drives the pig further away by tossing at him what objects he has in the boat – meaning most of his catch of fish for the entire day. The pig finally rakes refuge upon a high diving platform (curiously constructed to emerge from a concrete piling completely surrounded by the ocean water, leaving no simple means of access for beachgoers to use it, excepting a short swim out to sea to reach it). The pig climbs a ladder up to a first diving platform, to get out of range of Sourpuss’s flying fish, but balks when he looks down from the diving board, causing him to cautiously retreat back to the safety of a bench seat on the solid portion of the platform. From the ladder below him climb three little kids, who race for the diving board, climb upon each other’s shoulders, and dive off the board together, making the feat look effortlessly easy. Well, if a kid can do it…but the pig’s heart tells him it can’t be as easy as it looked, as another view from the board’s height sends him into trembles. Now, an old dog with a cane arrives on the platform. Not content with the elevation, he climbs a second ladder to another board mounted high above the first one. Then, he jumps off, performing a triple flying loop, and drifting down past the pig as if falling in slow motion – even tipping his hat as he passes by. Is this demonstration enough to raise the pig’s courage reserve? We may never knoww, as yet another swimmer climbs to the higher diving board – a female pig, about a third fater than our hero. He cowers in knowing distress as the female pig prepares to dive. Her trajectory ids off, and she makes contact with the diving board below on which our hero is standing. Miraculously, he is not vibrated off – but just as the board stops bouncing, the end of it abruptly cracks off, and the pig plunges into the water. The wooden board floats him back upwards, where he collides again with the boat of Sourpuss. “It’s you again!” Soupuss swats at the pig with the rowboat oar, leading the pig to make another retreat.

He encounters an inflated rubber raft, and climbs aboard. Below the surface, a playful fish observes the situation, and gets an idea. The fish grabs Sourpuss’s hook, and snags it into the bottom of the rubber raft, causing it to spring a leak. The raft takes off jet propelled, with Sourpuss and his boat in tow. Having no idea what’s on his hook, Sourpuss clings with determination to the line, as the craft is towed violently through the surf like a water skier, then flips upside down, dumping Sourpuss and his pole into the sea. The boat drifts ashore upside down on the next wave, coming to rest on the sand. But where is everybody else? Eventually, Sourpuss washes up on the beach, still with something on the end of his line, and attempts to reel it in from the shore. The line curiously emerges from the sea, and curvves backwards, leading to the overturned rowboat. Figuiring something must be under the boat, Sourpiss tells the audience, “Success at last”, and flips the boat over to reach underneath. With a moan of “Ohhh!”, he views the concealed contents – the pig, sitting on the sand and broiling Sourpuss’s last fish over an open fire. The pig winks at us for an iris out.

Pluto’s Playmate (Disney, RKO, Pluto, 1/24/41, Norman Ferguson, dir.) – Without the presence of his master, Pluto plays along the quiet sands of a seemingly deserted beach, with a bright red rubber ball he has brought along to amuse himself. The ball bounces into the water, and Pluto attempts to retrieve it. But every time he is about to pick it up in his jaws, the ball bounces alonh the water surface to a new position, seemingly under its own power. When the ball jumps a complete circle around Pluto, he knows it’s no natural phenomenon. Pluto chomps below the water surface, but only comes up with sand, as a wave washes him back, also sending in the ball, and something below it – a baby seal. Pluto’s never seen such a creature, and curiously sniffs at it. The seal imitates him perfectly, and sniffs back. Pluto barks an irritated bark. He is completely taken aback when he finds the stranger can bark, too, and just as loud. Pluto leaps at the seal to retrieve the ball from atop his had, but the seal darts under him, taking uo the spot from which Pluto’s jump started. Pluto repeats the act – with the same result back to original positions. Pluto keeps it up until he is wearing two holes into the sand at each opposite landing position, while the seal watches the back and forth jumping with all the intensity of attention of a spectator at a tennis match. Pluto finally catches the seal in his paws – but didn’t figure on how slippery a sealskin could be, as the creature slickly pops out of his grip. The ball is left for Pluto to grab, but the seal falls to land on Pluto’s head, leaving Pluto with an unexpected mouth full of gritty sand. Pluto tries to bury the ball to keep it away from the seal, digging a deep, deep hole, then dropping the ball in, the sound of its fall taking awhile to hit bottom. But the seal is observing everything from the rim of the hole, and simply slides into the cavernous opening to go after the ball again. Well, if the ball is going to be out of reach, at least eliminate the competition too – so Pluto fills the hole as fast as he can, hoping to bury seal and ball together. He piles on so much sand that a new tower of it rises about six feet above where the hole had been, with PlUto plopping himself down upon the top of the tower to make sure his victim stays put. Not likely in this environment, as the tide rolls in again, sending a wave under Pluto. From under the water pop out both seal and ball, as the wave recedes, revealing it has washed all the sand away from below Pluto, leaving him to plummet back to sea level.

Now Pluto takes the battlefront to the seal’s own element. As the seal continues to play with the ball amidst the ocean waves, Pluto takes a deep breath, and creeps under the next wave into the sea, hoping to take the seal by surprise from below. While creeping through a patch of underwater seaweed, Pluto encounters an unexpected passenger aboard his snout – a small octopus. The creature is upset at being awakened, and begins to braid its tentacles around Pluto’s snout. As Pluto raises his head above water, standing atop a submerged, partially buried ship’s barrel, the octopus clamps Pluto’s lower jaw closed. Pluto changes position into one that angles his head below water, attempting to raise his front paws to gain leverage to pry off the sea creature. But the octopus gets two arms entwined around the tip of a submerged anchor, and holds Pluto’s snout below water – even getting better grip on the snout with his remaining tentacles to ensure that Pluto can’t open his mouth. Having no place to stand but the curved barrel, Pluto can’t muster the strength to break free from the creature’s grip, and gasps and sputters for air. Atop the water, the seal spots Pluto’s protruding, struggling tail, and, thinking the dog is playing a game, bounces the rubber ball off Pluto’s posterior – until the tail disappears below the water surface. Sensing something is wrong, the seal looks below, and spots Pluto’s peril. The seal grabs hold of Pluto’s tail, and engages in an underwater tug of war for the dog over the barrel surface. The struggle jolts the barrel loose from the sand, and the force of the barrel’s upward float is just enough to cause the octopus to lose his grip on the dog’s snout. A moment later, Pluto, the seal, and the barrel are performing a “barrel-roll” over the waves and back to the shore. As Pluto lays motionless on his back, the seal resuscitates him by rolling the barrel over his abdomen, forcing out the water from his lungs. Pluto groggily comes to, as the seal presents him with a goodwill gift – the ball, which the seal balances atop Pluto’s nose, teaching him the old seal trick. Pluto is both impressed at this new skill, and happy to be rescued by the little guy, who claps his flippers and begs Ploto to play, in the manner one would expect from a little puppy. Pluto bounces the ball from his nose to the seal’s, then the seal tosses it back to Pluto – and a spirited game is on, as the two new fast friends compete happily up the beachfront toward home.

It Happened To Crusoe (Columbia/Screen Gems, Fable, (3/14/41) – Louie H. Lilly, anim./Allen Rose, story.) – Not really many beach scenes in this cartoon – but we’ll include it anyway just for completeness on the subject of the Crusoe epics. In a cannibal village, the tribal chief (an impression of radio comedian Fred Allen), expresses his dissatisfaction with his skinny son Westchester (another impersonation by Mel Blanc of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) for being a vegetarian in a tribe of meat eaters. As Westchester makes it quite plain he has no intention of changing his eating habits, the chief tells him to go and never darken his door again. Wandering along the beach, Westchester encounters the hut of Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe is a pure impression of Jack Benny (with the same voice used in “Malibu Beach Party”), with a parrot that addresses him, “Hiya, Buck” in Andy Devine voice, but can’t tolerate Crusoe’s violin playing. Westchester observes a help wanted sign on the hut door, advertising for a Man Friday, and applies for the job. Crusoe is hesitant, inquiring if Westchester is a cannibal. But the prodigal son’s attestations of love for vegetables convince Crusoe he’s okay. Crusoe announces his first job will be to assist him on a tiger hunt. Westchester wants dearly to tender his resignation as fast as his job application, but gets talked into driving Crusoe’s car – a sound alike for Jack Benny’s famous Maxwell (and why not? Mel is right there to do all the vocal impressions of a spittering jalopy, the same as he did on the radio). A tiger horns in on the hunt by climbing into the vehicle’s back seat. Without outwardly letting on to the tiger that he’s been spotted, Westchester tries to talk up a storm about the merits of only eating vegetables to quell the tiger’s appetite, while Crusoe remains unaware of the tiger’s presence altogether. Only when Crusoe pulls out his violin is the instrument’s power as a secret weapon revealed, causing the tiger to faint and fall out of the back of the car. But the shock of the incident causes Westchester to faint, too, and the car crashes into a tree. The sound of the impact arouses the cannibal community, and Crusoe and Westchester are brought before the chief.

The chief is surprised and pleasantly willing to accept Westchester back into the tribe, as he’s come back with a live captive – meat on the table. “Say, do you belong to this tribe?”, Crusoe asks Westchester, and the native sheepishly admits it is so. The chief addresses Crusoe “Mr. Livingston, I presume” (borrowing the gag from “Malibu Beach Party”, making double-reference to “Stanley and Livingston” and to Jack’s marriage to Mary Livingston). The chief brings up the striking resemblance of Crusoe to a famous radio personality. Crusoe denies he is the same, saying, “I wish I was him. I wouldn’t be here.” Crusoe then brings up the chief’s resemblance to his radio rival – but then realizes this could not possibly be, either. “He could never get that sunburned.” The chief orders Crusoe tied to a stake. But while the tribe busies itself with its prisoner, the tiger sneaks into the encampment. All the natives run for the dense underbrush, leaving Crusoe alone to face the tiger’s attack. From a tree above, Westchester clues in Crusoe to his secret power. “Hey boss, play. Play!’ Crusoe’s arms are still unbound enough for him to reach his violin, and the squawking notes again cause the tiger to freeze in his tracks, clutch his heart, and expire. Soon, the native bearers are carrying in the bound tiger upside down on a spit. The chief is so impressed with Crusoe’s bravery, he abdicates the crown and throne to him, as Crusoe says, “Well, this is more like it.” The old chief asks for Crusoe’s first order of business – what will be on tonight’s menu. With the tiger at the ready, Crusoe announces that tonight, they will have meat. Westchester moans, realizing he’s on the outside looking in again, and tells the audience, “I may be a vegetarian, but I sure brought home the bacon.”

Robinson Crusoe Jr. (Warner, Looney Tunes (Porky Pig), 10/25/41 – Norman McCabe, dir.), takes the Defoe classic into a wartime vein. The film begins with Porky’s vessel about to set sail, and a last call of “all ashore that’s going ashore”. On cue, hundreds of rats desert the ship. A last two resemble Fannie Brice’s “Baby Snooks” and Daddy, as Snooks asks Daddy why he’s so anxious to get off the boat, and Daddy answers, “Confidentially, it sinks.” Nine weeks later, after nothing but smooth sailing, Porky tells the audience those rats were silly to abandon ship, as he has a written guarantee from the ship’s manufacturer that it is unsinkable. He then questions to himself how iron clad the guarantee really is, thinking aloyd, “Gee, I wonder if that goes for hurricanes?” Instantly, the sky lights up with a bolt of lighting, and in the time it takes to perform a cross-dissolve, Porky is on his belly on a sandy beach amidst the wreckage of his ship, sifting beach sand through his fingers in irritated fashion, and remarking “I h-h-had to open my b-big mouth.” But, to his pleasant surprise, there is a welcoming committee of one – man Friday is waiting on the beach with a sign reading, “Welcome, Robinson Crusoe”, and greets him in Mel Blanc’s impression of Eddie Anderson, with “Hello. Boss. What kept ya?”

Perhaps the true highlight of the fil, is a completely extraneous production number demonstrating everyday life at the Crusoe compound (built on an F.H.A. loam), in which Mel performs a splendid rendition of the Ink Spots’ novelty hit, “Java Jive”. Porky, Friday, and a turtle they use as a washboard, all get into the caffeine-enlivened act, with lively animation and choreography of unusually high quality for a Looney Tune episode of the day. You’ll carry away the tune in your head, and have difficulty erasing it from your memory – if you even wanted to.

Porky engages in various spot gags of exploring – including discovering a group of animals around the “watering hole” – an office water cooler, of the type the animators probably frequented when they wanted to goof off and kill time. A parrot won’t answer Porky’s call of “Polly want a cracker?”, because he’s “waiting for the $64 dollar question” (reference to a famous radio game show of the same name). Finally, Porky finds the inevitable cannibal footprints, leading to a mysterious cave, and ponders, “N-now, what would D-Dick Tracy do in a spot like this?” Mustering up his courage, he decides to march right in with his musket – but quickly thinks better of it, as we hear from inside the cave a Jack Benny-style “Yipe!” Porky exits the cave in a blur, pursued by spear-throwing natives – the last of which returns to the cave entrance to post a sign, reading “Out to Lunch”. Porky runs so fast, it takes a few seconds for his footprints to catch up to lay their indentations into the sand. Friday hears them coming, and hangs a “For Rent” sign on the Crusoe compound before vacating. Porky reaches the water’s edge, finding a large log and an axe. In a matter of seconds, he has carved the log into a working speedboat, into which he and Friday hop. As the pair take off at full speed, several natives fling their spares at them from the shore. Porky, however, knows the power of the Allies, and hangs the image of an American flag on the ship’s stern. In respect, the spears slam on the brakes just out of collision reach, and dive into the water short of their target. Friday holds up a V for Victory sign, and Porky waves for the iris out.

Robinson Crusoe Jr. (1941, Norman McCabe) from Lorenzo Pulito on Vimeo.

Aloha Hooey (Warner, Merrie Melodies, 1/31/42 – Fred (Tex) Avery, dir. (uncredited)), has been visited last year in out “Toons Trip Out” series, so receives here only a short recap. Aboard the S.S. Sabotage, two stowaways meet in the same lifeboat – Sammy Seagull, a street-wise sailor who’s been around (particularly with the ladies), and Cecil Crow from Oatville, Iowa (voiced by Pinto Colvig), an innocent newbie fresh off the farm, hoping to see his first “hulee hulee dancers like Dorothy Lamour”. Sammy spots just such an opportunity in the form of a tropical island, with a resident saronged bird named Leilani. Sammy demonstrates his technique to Cecil, and the pupil attempts to follow suit, but generally with disastrous results. Sammy dives for an oyster, producing a large pearl. Cecil also retrieves a pearl-laden oyster – except his fights back, grabbing back the jewel and squirting water in Cecil’s eye. Sammy uses a cigar’s smoke to skywrite a heart. Cecil’s cigar goes out in mid-flight, and as he attempts to relight it, he forgets to flap his wings, plunging into the ocean. “Gosh, I didn’t know I could light this underwater……..UNDERWATER!!!!”. A school of fish battle over the discarded cigar butt while Cecil counts off with his hand that he is going down for the third time. Sammy dives into the water for a rescue – except Cecil ultimately drags the water-logged Sammy ashore.

Sammy recovers for trick number 3 – a power dive from ear-popping heights (except he averts impact with the water by pulling up just short of hitting the surface). Cecil again repeats the trick, but dives straight into a shark’s mouth – then out again before the shark can close its jaws, returning to the shore so fast, he beats his own feathers to the beach. Out of nowhere, a gorilla appears, dressed in a shirt reading “The Villain”, “As if you didn’t know”. Sammy is for some reason nowhere to be found, and Cecil battles the gorilla entirely unseen behind a bush, unexplainedly coming out the victor. (Maybe this film wasn’t actually completed when Avery left, and someone had to come up with a hasty ending). The final scene has Sammy reappear to wave a bon voyage to Cecil, who is winging his way homeward as the sun sets in the West, followed by Leilani, followed by two young fledglings who are tintypes of “mama”, and one son, who is a dead ringer for Cecil, with a slightly sped up laugh.

Aloha Hooey (1942) LaserDisc print from Rudolf on Vimeo.

More 40’s floating fiascos, next time.

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