Wednesday, 22 February 2012

116. Little Dutch Plate (1935)

Warner cartoon no. 115.
Release date: October 19, 1935.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Billy Bletcher (Vinegar Bottle Landlord). Bernice Hansen (Dutch girl)?
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Paul Smith and Bob Clampett. Ken Harris uncredited?
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).

The second-to-last cartoon released before Tex Avery arrives; and let's cope with this cartoon and hopefully find the next cartoon a delight to see. As far as I know Friz Freleng and other directors don't immediately change direction skills when Avery arrives; as it probably takes Friz a year or two to finally improve.

 In a small, quiet town in Holland we hear the sounds of an off-screen chorus. The canals in the Dutch town are beautiful looking (if it were real life). We view inside a random house and look at the lovely Dutch plates that are inside. The optimistic voices are singing the song The Girl on the Little Blue Plate which is a different title to the short title, evidently.

The little Dutch girl inside the plate steps out of the plate as she is notices a salt shaker boy who is in love with the little Dutch girl with love-hearts popping out of his minds. The salt shaker boy then walks out of the shelf he belongs and walks along the kitchen table trying to walk in a sophisticated attitude. The optimistic singing comes from the Dutch ladies in the Dutch plates (coloured in blue) are singing the song with the kettle boiling to play the rhythm of the song.

The next sequence is then a clog dance performed by the Dutch girl and the salt shaker boy. The animation of the dance they did is great animation in terms of the movement. They dance around and move around quite a lot (but I wouldn't say it would be loose animation).

Of course; you might think this is just an ordinary dance animated by "some animator" at Warner Bros. but as far as I know this is believed to be animation done by legendary animator Ken Harris. Greg Duffell (who probably knows about Ken Harris more than anyone else) told me that Harris got his breakthrough in animation with Friz Freleng and wanted to prove Friz he could animate; and Friz gave him a test scene on this cartoon to animate the clog dance. Friz was impressed and Harris was animating since then; but probably didn't join the screen credits list until 1937. Is there a source to back this up since this is coming from Ken Harris' words. Yowp? David Gerstein?? Anyone?

 Two beer jugs with faces carved and painted on them join into the dance (at this point I don't know if this could still be Harris animation). The mugs then swap different swishes of beer to the other. More inanimate objects start to dance such as a pair of suspenders dancing with wooden shoes.

The next dancing sequence shoes blue Dutch ladies inside the dishes moving the dishes and they are sliding it in different positions. The gag at the end shows the Dutch ladies doing a hatstand at the end with their different types of blouses showing - and then they continue to dance off. I really don't know if that could be a Harris scene as well; in fact I don't know if he did the whole sequence. The Dutch girl and the salt boy dance off the lengthy dance sequence (probably Harris).

A vinegar bottle who is rather evil-looking with the villain's mustache; wearing a tuxedo and top hat. The vinegar bottle walks through the cob webs that was blocking his way and looks at both the Dutch girl and the salt boy in an envious, angry attitude.

The vinegar bottle walks up to a candle holder in which he finds a way to climb up the kitchen table and does that by climbing onto the candle holder and touches a mousetrap that will send him flying up to the top of the kitchen table but the end of the candle holder hits the vinegar bottle villain on the head with his top hat stuck in his head. The vinegar bottle then starts to waste some time in the cartoon focusing on trying to get his top hat off so he can see properly. True the gags are in fact improving (and the gag with the candle holder) is certainly an improvement but the timing could be better; but that was how the timing was back then - but I don't think the hat gag shouldn't REALLY take a tiny bit of time.

 The salt boy and the Dutch girl from the plate then reach a small windmill model that is in the kitchen table. It is now the home of the Dutch girl since she was already living in the plate at the beginning of the cartoon. The salt shaker boy then goes into song to the Dutch girl. The boy is singing to the Dutch girl (that he admires) the song Puppchen.

The vinegar bottle seems to be even more annoyed or jealous as he appears to admire the girl himself and wants her to be his lady. The vinegar bottle walks up to the Dutch boy and girl and their song is interrupted.

The vinegar bottle is singing to the Dutch boy and girl as he is holding out a mortgage paper that they are very low on their mortgage. It's hard to hear what the exact words are but I think I can grasp what it is. He seems to point to them that they have until 12 o'clock to pay the mortgage of the windmill or out they go.

Just a darn minute; since WHEN was that their windmill??? The girl was living in a plate and the salt shaker in a damn shelf the whole time so since when have they lived there and ran low on their mortgage; they would've lived there for a while for that to happen. This doesn't make much more sense to me. Anyway; the vine Dutch girl pleads the vinegar bottle to give her a "little more time" as she "hasn't got a dime" I think she is saying. if she's saying "dime" do they EVEN have dimes in the Netherlands (before the Euro currency came)?? This feels unrealistic for a Dutch setting.

 The vinegar bottle then says by using rhyming couplets says if she hasn't got enough money for the windmill then the vinegar bottle suggests her to "marry him and save the bill". The salt shaker boy is extremely against the idea and complains but the vinegar bottle laughs evilly.

A cuckoo clock strikes with a cuckoo shouting that the sound of the bell means it will be 11.30. The figure then whacks the cuckoo which is the sound; to and it means they've got only half-an-hour left to pay the bill. The salt shaker boy promises to save the mortgage for the Dutch girl so she doesn't have to be married to the vinegar bottle man who used her to get married because of short mortgage. Now WHAT a rotten trick. The salt shaker boy walks up to the vinegar declaring him "You old meanie!" but the vinegar razzies him out of the scene. Looks like this villain is more cunning than the other ones since he's the landlord and comes up with an idea to marry the Dutch girl (which he wants to do) if she doesn't pay the mortgage.

The time starts to fly very fast and it's already 12 o'clock and the cuckoo flies out with a figure banging the cuckoo and changes the time to 11.30 to give the salt shaker boy more time to pay the mortgage.

The salt shaker boy has been walking in circles for a long time but notices a piggy bank. So, he HASN'T noticed that piggy bank all along. Stupid. The boy shakes the coin out of the piggy bank which is only a penny which is useless and throws it away. THROW IT AWAY? Hasn't he even heard of the saying "every penny is worth"?

The Dutch girl is walking around in circles with the vinegar bottle self-satisfied as he looks at his pocket watch hoping for the salt shaker to never return. The Dutch bottle then looks at some objects that amazes him in which he is going to use. Instead of paying the mortgage which is hopeless; he seems to plan on killing the landlord. The salt shaker grabs out dynamite and places it on false teeth hoping for it shake out; but as it explodes. It doesn't work and only pieces of false teeth fall out.

The cuckoo clock comes out and gets whacked again (which appears to be the recurring joke throughout this cartoon) and the time is taken back to 11.30. The landlord looks at the time and convinces the Dutch girl; "He won't come back he never will; marry me and save the bill". The Dutch girl stomps her feet shouting "I hate you" three times. The landlord grabs the Dutch girl but she kicks him in the face.

The landlord is furious as he has had enough of the behaviour of the Dutch girl as time has already ran out but he takes her inside a grandfather clock. The landlord then shouts "Now, you'll marry me" in which the Dutch girl still rejects.

Meanwhile the salt shaker boy has finished picking up the pieces of the false teeth lying about and places them in the sack. I imagine that he's going to fake it as "money". Back at the grandfather clock the landlord has already tied up the Dutch girl onto a log that is being cut by a table saw. The salt shaker boy then  approaches the windmill but can't find anyone inside there (not even the landlord or the Dutch girl).

The salt shaker boy hears the cries for "help" and he rushes over to the grandfather clock. The vinegar bottle tries to block the salt shaker boy from going inside the grandfather clock but he whacks him with a sack of teeth in which he struggles to take his hat off his head which is blocking his eyesight.

 The Dutch girl is very close to having her skull cut in half but is saved by the salt shaker boy who turns off the machine from the log moving any further. The salt shaker boy then unties the Dutch girl as they are running out of the grandfather clock with the vinegar bottle struggling to take his hat off.

The salt shaker boy and the Dutch girl then encounter the vinegar bottle landlord. The salt shaker boy whacks him in the face in which his face spins. As the boy punches the landlord in the stomach his head pops out each time. The salt shaker boy then punches the head out of the way in which his head is missing and hunts for a new one.

The final parts is probably the highlight of the cartoon and makes the gags work; and proves the hero doesn't always win. The headless vinegar bottle is looking for a head but finds one out of another vinegar bottle and it has a handsome face.

The salt shaker boy was about to go to the next stage of punching that face off but is stopped by the Dutch girl. The Dutch girl therefore develops a crush on the vinegar bottle because he has a new handsome face on it. She shouts "Don't you DARE hit him!" She has a crush on him with love hearts flowing out of her mind (just like from the salt shaker boy earlier). She takes her arms around his wrist commenting "You handsome man". They walk out of the scene with the salt shaker boy heart broken.

The next shot of the cuckoo clock the cuckoo pops out but turns around with his quick reflexes and shoots the figure on top until it dies. Now that is something which was probably hilarious at the time and it would be funny today as we didn't expect that to happen; and at least this is an example of Freleng coming up with better ideas in cartoons. The cuckoo continues to cuckoo continuously and...

...that's all folks!

Overall comments: It was interesting to hear about the "claimed" Harris scenes in the dance sequence  whatr Ken Harris mentioned and it could be true. This isn't a really good cartoon itself but it saves the cartoon with gags and they do work that scene of the cuckoo clock shooting the figure was probably the highlight of the cartoon but I wonder if that was ideas from Ted Pierce? Of course; Billy Bletcher does the villain voice and don't be annoyed by the usual casting because he was the main "villain" voice actor of the 1930's and 1940s.


  1. love the ending it really made me laugh out loud..really caught me off guard including the vingar head being changed..
    a very Tex Avery gag..changing heads and shooting dead characters...maybe when Tex came in he said more gags like this ending But all the way throughout..just guessing..

  2. If Greg Duffell says it's Ken Harris, that's the end of the debate. You can see if he can look at it.

    I don't know when they changed to one story man assigned to a cartoon from the everyone-pitches-gags method of writing, so whether Pierce is responsible is anyone's guess. But clearly the ending is a step up from a lot of the stuff that had gone on before. Maybe it's from Cal Howard.

  3. Was Cal Howard already at Schlesinger's in 1935? I thought the shooting gag could've been one of Pierce's gag ideas.

  4. I wanted to view this cartoon online, but have found that it has been removed from all sources, presumably at Warner Brothers' request.