Release date: August 8, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Bob McKimson and Paul Smith.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Nicodemus refuses to go to Sunday church; and truants it. While trying to kill a chicken; he turns unconscious after being hit by a fence until in his dream he is being sorted out by the Devil.
This is the 2nd cartoon I'll be reviewing that's on the infamous "Censored 11" list created by Ted Turner. The last time we saw one was 'Hittin' the Tail' and it's been five years so we'll see what happens on this short.
I do quite like that song the preacher sings at the beginning of the cartoon as well as when the bell rings.
Another stereotypical gag shows a black person sleeping on a rocking chair as it rocks; his head hits the bell to show his head is the clapper of the bell. It appears to be stereotyping as it's showing us how his head doesn't seem to be positioned in a right angle and changes as he hits the hell. It seems a little harsh to show them working hard on bells which could lead to injuries although that is just me; and I guess everyone used it back then for entertainment.
A black man walking to church that that sloppy looking walk with his head down and a rather loose lip is for sure stereotyping African-Americans in this short; and I notice how that there are no whites in this short although they probably live in an area where they all live together considering that back then blacks had no civil rights towards white people like that's why they would have separate bars, separate churches (as shown here) or separate parks, etc. The couple then finish off the title song they were singing and then they go off to church.
A black mother walks her twins to church in a wooden-type pram (probably can't afford it and is made out of wood) walks out of her front yawn but steps back inside when she picks up her bra and places them on her two children's heads forming a type of baby hats that they would wear to keep their heads worn. But I'm just thinking isn't that part where she places the bra on the twin's heads just wrong??
The mother then spots Nicodemus' hands as he's seen playing dice gambling with the others. Although to me; it suggests as though black people back then liked to gamble with the pair o'dice they had in teeth; or whatnot - I don't understand it all since I'm too young to know it all I guess. The mother then shoves Nicodemus about having to go to church (and saying it in a type of black church) but Nicodemus with a black stereotyped voice shouts "But I don't wanna go to church". The mother keeps on pushing Nicodemus to go to Sunday church or worse could happen to him "You good for nothing! Get yourself to that Church! The Devil's gonna get you as sure as you're born!"
Nicodemus then starts to sneak out of church as he escapes and runs off. Nicodemus then skids as he's ran off far enough. Nicodemus has stopped by a farm where there are chickens that live there. This is a bother to Nicodemus' conscience as he grabs out a club as he threatens to kill one of the chickens to eat. Now that is some pretty sadistic stuff that tells us Nicodemus is mad to kill chickens; although it doesn't matter what race this is stereotyped but no-one should try to do that - unless he's supposed to be a troublemaker.
Nicodemus (stereotyped as a minstrel show and coon song) then attempts to whack the chicken with the cub until a chase sequence begins and starts to chase the chicken around as it squawks with fear. Nicodemus then reaches the end of a gate but a plank falls on him leaving him unconscious in which this all dissolves into a dream sequence. Notice how that Nicodemus is standing by a poster of a judge reading Vote for Judge Jailem for Court of Justice. It turns out that the poster used was used in Nicodemus' dream as he has ended up in hell in the Hades Court of Justice.
The devil opens the pages to read what he done; the list shows us he's been "Shooting craps" in a simple form gambling with dices; "Stealing chickens" as he tried to kill one earlier, "Missing Church", "Raisin' Dickens" and "Stealing Watermelons". The devil then laughs as he pulls the switch in which Nicodemus falls down a trap door as he is falling down the scary parts of Hell where there is a lot of fire. Nicodemus then lands on an edge of a cliff but dangles while holding onto the edge. He tries to climb back up but Hell proves to be his emotions as the grass rips off while trying to climb back up but ends up falling again.
A group of little devils then start to grab Nicodemus in the arms and legs as they capture him; but Nicodemus tries to break free from the group of small devil creatures. The animation of Nicodemus trying to break free isn't very good as he seems to stretch quite a lot and it doesn't look good on cartoons like this where the characters were rather stiff.
The group of little devils then dump him on the ground after grabbing him as they all go into some type of coon song about going to dispose Nicodemus - even the devil does so. The close-up of the devil singing to Nicodemus is pretty expressive animation.
The devil then starts to poke Nicodemus in the eyes numerous times with those funny springy sound effects heard. The little devils are the chorus singers while the devil is singing in gospel music. There is sort of a fire dance performed by the little creatures where they walk up and down shouting "Yeah" almost going into perspective animation. The devil keeps on reminding Nicodemus "You gotta, you gotta, you gotta give the devil his due". The devil has finished the song as he shouts; "Okay boys - give him the works" as the group of little devils start to yank him with their pitchforks which causes Nicodemus to scream.
We fade back into the real world where Nicodemus is being pecked by a group of chickens which gave us the feeling of being hit by pitchforks. Nicodemus then wakes up scaring all of the chickens out of his way. Nicodemus hears the sounds of church bells again and from the nightmare he had; he decides to be a good Christian in which he dashes all the way to church running up and down the fences just to travel to church. He continues to run all over the place as he dashes into church and we see him in a silhouette singing a hymm; and on the stained glass window is an angel where he's standing which probably suggests that he's a good person now; going to heaven - I guess.