Tuesday, 31 January 2012

99. Country Boy (1935)

Warner cartoon no. 98.
Release date: February 9, 1935.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Bernice Hansen (Bunnies).
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Bob McKimson and Paul Smith.

This cartoon reminds me of an adaptation of Beatrix Potter's A Tale of Peter Rabbit. Why do I think that? The concept of the story is pretty similar to the book and the fact that the boy rabbit of this cartoon is called "Peter" so there's no doubt it's a possibility they could've got the rights to the Potter story - but who knows??

Our cartoon begins with these background singers singing in the background about the life of a mother and her bunnies that she's raised. They appeared to have lived a happy life and "not worried about the rent". Today for the bunnies is a school day for them and the mother pats the children to walk on to school. The girl bunny then steps out of the door of the tree they live in. Peter Rabbit steps behind the mother and grabs out a handkerchief. The mother grabs out a hankie for the girl bunny to blow her nose. Peter Rabbit makes the effect by tearing the hankie in half. The vocals sing "It's a very hard job you can see, underneath the big oak tree".

Meanwhile inside the house, we see these two boy bunnies who are running to put their shorts on and they are strapping their suspenders. The suspenders are then tangled to another bunnies' suspender and as they are about to run - the straps stretch and then loosen with the bunnies crashing each other. Ouch - but it's a fine gag. The mother notices all her bunnies running to school but notices that Peter isn't around and shouts "Peter". Is the elderly bunny meant to be the mother or grandmother - of course; the vocals singers tell us it's their mother but she really looks like an elderly grandmother - in my opinion.

The mother then searches for Peter through the hen farm where all the chickens are. Peter is hiding with the chickens until the mother screeches for his name and all the chickens scatter off. Peter Rabbit is therefore still     hiding not knowing the mother is about. Peter has a duster behind his rear end trying to disguise himself as a chicken - which obviously didn't work. Peter still makes those chicken sounds until the mother snatches the duster off Peter. The mother then grabs Peter's behind and smacks him with the duster. Gee, she really thinks that would hurt - I'd thought it would tickle. Apparently it must be that painful that Peter Rabbit squeals in pain. Peter Rabbit then walks out rather sad and tearful. Bob McKimson? Anyone?

Peter Rabbit then sees a used can lying on the ground and kicks that out of the way. After doing that the second time the can then lands on a root that is sticking out of the ground. Peter then tries to kick the can but doesn't realize that he kicked a bit of wood in which it hurts his throbbing feet. As Peter yells for his foot in pain, he then notices a garden full of carrots. Peter Rabbit looks at the garden of carrots and appreciates the looks of it. He's about to take some rabbits until the voices of bunnies shout "We're gonna tell"...

It appears to be that Peter Rabbit's schoolmates are goodie two-shoe teacher's pets. They then go into song and I have to say that it's all set up quite well with the argument. The bunnies sing, "We know what you're thinking, Naughty Boy. You better stop your (slinking ?)  naughty boy. You'll be playing hooky on the way to school, teacher's gonna get you 'cos she's not a fool". Peter Rabbit argues back into song; "If you tell the teacher - tattletale. I'll be sure to beat ya - tattletale". The bunnies then warn Peter that he ought to stay away from the garden "or that man will do him in a pot". Nice hand movements going on there from the bunnies.

Peter Rabbit then tries to act all brave claiming that he's "not afraid of any man". He thinks that he will just beat the man on the garden and thinks he's tough enough - which is all nonsense. All the bunnies don't take it all seriously and stick to the conclusion that they'll tell the teacher, and that he'll be sorry once "she's" met them. The schoolbell rings which is of course - school time for the children. All the bunnies rush to the school hall; and so does Peter Rabbit as he grabs his book. They all run inside the school hall but Peter Rabbit runs up and runs down pretending to run back. He stops and thinks if he ought to go indoors but the bell rings again and runs away from the school. I like how the song was organized as there was some rhythm in there.

Peter Rabbit runs off and then trespasses into the garden field. Mmm - remember when "Peter Rabbit went into Mr. McGregor's garden?" - Yeah; that's what it's like. Peter Rabbit then runs starts to eat all the carrots all in one bite - with only the roots of the carrots showing. Peter Rabbit then approaches the next part which are these peas in a pods and chews them. I wonder if Paul Smith animated that scene of the rabbit eating the peas since Peter Rabbit looks fat and not so solid.

It turns out that it wasn't peas in a pod that Peter Rabbit was eating - it was "Mexican Jumping Beans" - Uh-oh. Peter Rabbit then starts to jump due to eating those reactive beans. Of course it was meant to be a gag - but the timing wouldn't tell but I imagine if Friz made that cartoon years later - he'd make the timing really funny. But anyways the speed in timing wasn't really brought along yet before someone like Tex Avery or Frank Tashlin could do it right.

Peter Rabbit's next attempt is to pull some beetroots out but it's proven to be too tough to pull out. He attaches a rope to a beetroot and then to a wishing well. Peter Rabbit then turns the well which causes all the beetroots in a row to fall out (with that funny sound effects). Mmm, I seem to notice better sound effects are being used. Another fine gag that is used is a cow chewing the beetroot but gets pulled by the rope and falls right into the well. Poor cow.

The cow then starts to moo down at the well. Meanwhile there is an old man who is mowing the lawn (doesn't he resemble Mr. McGregor - anybody?). The old ma then hears the sounds of the cow mooing and is furious because he believes that somebody has trespassed onto his farm and therefore he grabs out his rake. He finds Peter Rabbit standing on the well and then he starts to run away from the angry farmer.

Peter Rabbit hops away from the angry farmer but manages to try and get away by sitting on his lawn mower to speed away from the farmer. Peter Rabbit pulls a silly face with the attitude as though he "can't catch him". But Peter Rabbit jumps into a rock in which the lawn mower starts to go all over the place. Peter Rabbit then starts to damage a lot of the farm - mowing the flowers off; and then the bushes. This of course angers the angry farmer - I feel sorry for him. At least in the book Peter Rabbit didn't make such a damage.

Peter Rabbit (who can't control the lawn mower) then starts to mow the crops off but they are organized into stacks. Poor Peter Rabbit then gets covered in barrels of maple syrup as he is about to fall off that darn lawn mover.

Peter Rabbit then reaches into the farm full of chickens. All the chickens scatter around making clucking sounds due to the horror they're seen. All the feathers start to fly out and the chickens fly out of the henhouse. Peter Rabbit comes out of the barn and is covered in chicken feathers. He sees a fence so that he stands on stop of it making a chicken call - and that's all folks.

You can't be certain if this is an adaptation of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter because we don't have evidence if it was true or not. But Beatrix Potter tales did fall in the public domain in the U.S in the 1920s so they probably didn't need the rights. The similarities are the name "Peter Rabbit" itself - inc. the mother and bunnies; also the part when Peter Rabbit trespasses into the garden. Peter Rabbit has a red coat while in the book; his coat is blue. I quite liked this cartoon - the song of goodie two-shoes bunnies was quite good and set-up well. I thought it was kinda silly for Peter to look like a chicken at the end by impulsively clucking like a chicken.


  1. When Peter fakes being a chicken is animated by Chuck Jones

  2. Surprisingly, this was redrawn in color in the 70s despite already being in color. I think it was only 4 minutes long.

  3. Surprisingly this was redrawn in color in the 70s, despite already being in color. It was 4 minutes long.

    1. Yes- Radio & Television Packagers "recycled" it in slightly edited form [the closing gag was omitted] in their 1973 TV cartoon inventory "package" as "Country Boy Rabbit"- and Fred Ladd had it RECOLORED in South Korea (presumable from a black and white print) by South Korean animators. Despite the original "crude" animation by McKimson, Smith and Jones, their work looks MAGNIFCIENT compared to the Korean unit's!

  4. Norman Spencer uses "I'm Going Shopping With You" (from "Gold Diggers of 1935") when Peter starts chomping away at the farmer's garden.