Uncle Tom's Bungalow manages to be both appallingly racist and a little progressive. Director Avery turning the slave trader into the devil, poking a little fun at the angelic white girl, general mocking of Southern cultural all around….
But Bungalow just isn't a good cartoon. Ben Harrison's script–with Tedd Pierce obnoxiously narrating–doesn't even include a bungalow. It's just for the title. The first two or three minutes is setting up the characters and setting up the characters is the cartoon being both racist (with the black characters) and condescending (of the Southerners). The wrap-up even has the cartoon taking inexplicable pot shots at social security, which make it more significant historically than anything else about it.
The gags are trite and predictable. The slave trader turning into a snake and getting electrocuted felt way too familiar.
I kept expecting it to be worse, but it could never be any better.
Directed by Tex Avery; written by Ben Harrison; animated by Virgil Ross and Sidney Sutherland; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Tex Avery (Uncle Tom), Mel Blanc (Hound), Billy Bletcher (Simon Simon Legree), Bernice Hansen (Little Eva) and Lillian Randolph (Topsy / Eliza); narrated by Tedd Pierce.
The House of Tomorrow is such a well-made cartoon, the technical aspects more than make up for some of the weak writing. However, that weak writing does make the cartoon an interesting historical artifact.
First the technical stuff. Tomorrow is a tour through a house of 2050. The year’s made clear when the kitchenwares get their emphasis and the opening actually makes it seem more immediate. So there’s a bit of a disconnect, but whatever. Avery’s direction, from the first frame, is fantastic. His animators do an outstanding job.
Where Tomorrow goes wrong is in the jokes. There’s a lot of vague misogyny but then it gets a lot more pointed–there are endless jokes about killing one’s mother-in-law. It wasn’t until halfway through I realized the mother-in-law in question was the wife’s not the husband’s.
But besides that aspect, Tomorrow is great.
Directed by Tex Avery; written by Jack Cosgriff and Rich Hogan; animated by Walt Clinton, Michael Lah and Grant Simmons; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Narrated by Frank Graham and Don Messick.
I had read Magical Maestro was controversial and it took me quite a while, watching it, to release why it had that reputation.
There’s a montage of an irate magician turning an opera singing bulldog into various singing stereotypes. There’s a cowboy, there’s a redneck, there’s a baby… then an angry audience member squirts ink on the bulldog’s face and it’s blackface.
And at that point, I realized the earlier Chinese transformation would offend too (but that transformation is the only one where the bulldog is singing the opera as opposed to a stereotype appropriate one).
It’s a lovely little cartoon. There aren’t a lot of shots, not a lot of action, but it’s a hilarious cartoon set to good music.
The redneck caricature is probably the most shocking one. Maybe because it’s the only accurate one of them.
Regardless of any “controversy,” Tex Avery does absolutely brilliant work here.
Directed by Tex Avery; written by Rich Hogan; animated by Walt Clinton, Michael Lah and Grant Simmons; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring Daws Butler (Mysto the Magician) and Carlos Ramírez (The Great Poochini).
Screwball Squirrel opens with the protagonist mocking a Disney-like cartoon squirrel and sending him packing. The Disney-like squirrel sounds and looks enough like Thumper from Bambi I forgot Thumper was a rabbit. This moment establishes the cartoon—because the protagonist, the never named Screwy Squirrel, is mocking the cute squirrel to the audience.
Avery doesn’t do a whole lot with breaking the fourth wall—I think there are three or four big gags with it, not including the opening—but doing it immediately sets the cartoon up in that vein.
The majority of the cartoon is Screwy Squirrel tormenting a bird dog. One of the frequent jokes is how stupid the dog behaves. Screwy Squirrel’s not likable, he’s just not an idiot.
The cartoon ends on a reveal; it’s a pointless one… but leads to a funny moment.
Avery understands what he’s playing with and it all works.
Directed by Tex Avery; written by Heck Allen; animated by Preston Blair, Ed Love and Ray Abrams; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring Wally Maher (Screwy Squirrel) and Dick Nelson (Meathead)