Sunday, 20 May 2012

167. Streamlined Greta Green (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 166.
Release date: June 19, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Gasoline Service Man), Berneice Hansell (Junior Car).
Animation: Cal Dalton and Ken Harris.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A junior car wishes to be a taxi and ends up on a misadventure in the city.

Of course the cartoon title is from the popular song but "Greta Green" comes from the town called "Gretna Green" which is a town just on the border of Scotland; famous for runaway marriages; and I've been there before. I don't know whether or not the song relates to that town.

Our cartoon begins with a busy street of cars driving by in the road as well as trams. The traffic is busy with all the cars driving by. Two cars then accidentally crash into each other because of all the hassle with the traffic. The traffic light then turns green for "Go" as the two inanimate cars jump up to each other arguing about which way they should've turned before punching each other. The traffic light gags pop up as the red light turns to "Stop" and the two cars stop fighting but once it switches to "Go" - they continue to fight again.

After that bit of entertainment with the inanimate cars coming to life fighting; this is in fact a car's world where cars are citizens on this planet. Mmm; interesting that Pixar would later make a film out of it with a similar concept but I doubt they were influenced over this cartoon. There are a group of taxis entering the "Taxi Dance Hall" with cars coming in and out of the hall. These are of course cartoony cars with faces; as the wheels resemble their legs and arms and the indicators are their eyes; back when this cartoon was made - I'd say the character designs are pretty clever.

A group of cabs are inside the hall dancing to the title song Streamlined Greta Green. They are dancing on wheels that are making the movement of legs and even some of the cars have actual arms that look like humans. Some of the signs then read in the hall Five can dance as Cheap as one.

There is a lady taxi sitting down on a bench rather bashful waiting for a man cab to come and ask to dance. A male cab walks up to the female taxi asking to dance and accepts. The gag is that she parks herself with a meter besides her as the price is 10 cents for she is occupied by dancing. The taxi couples are dancing to the music. The animation of the cabs dancing is rather realistic in my opinion with the movement and all. While the female cab is dancing; her meter then ends up with the price ranking higher until it's busting up. The male cab realizes that he is lucky as he grabs out his hat (jackpot) and coins flow out into his bowler hat. An interesting little gag that shows meters and "parking".

As the city is pretty busy with cars driving by; we PAN over to the countryside outside the city where it is peaceful. There is a little boy truck sitting down by a tree reading a book. While he is reading the book he has his hopes to be a taxi and not in the country side which is why he sighs.

In the PAN scene; the garage door opens with the mother car wheeling out calling for him to enter. I like how that Mother shouts with the sounds of a car honk until shouting out for "Junior". She steps out on the garage standing on wheels walking around trying to find Junior not knowing that he's sitting by a tree. She finds Junior who (as we've seen) is sitting by a tree reading his book. He jumps in a fright once he finds his mother standing right next to him rather annoyed. She snatches the book off the child car as she reads what is being shown here much to her surprise. Junior then confesses that he wants to be a taxi when he is grown up but the mother rejects that dream insists, "A taxi?! Of all things. I want you to grow up to be a nice touring car like your father".

Junior rejects her mother's wishes as he doesn't wish to be a touring car and wanting to be a taxi instead. The mother has had enough of hearing from Junior and grabs him by the "wheel" which is meant to be the ear. She takes him inside the garage as he is still being pulled.

The mother then tells Junior that it is time to get ready for school. Junior then kicks the ground with annoyance about having to go to school which is often what children dread of going to every morning. "Now you wait right here 'til I fix your lunch"; the mother says as she walks into the fridge to prepare his lunch inside a lunchbox.

She fills up Junior's cup with a hosepipe which she pours in gasoline which is a rather clever idea since us humans need water while the cars need propane to recharge their batteries. She has finished making the lunchbox for Junior and places it inside the car of Junior as he needs to drive to school.

As she cares for Junior she asks like what every mother would say, "and remember; stay away from traffic and keep clear from those railroad crossings" as it probably suggests that Junior would drive to the city just to get to school. The facial expressions are rather interesting on Junior's face with a grumpy, disgusted look. As Junior is driving to school on the way; he encounters two signs that we find as there is a sign on the left to head to "Auto-school" which is wear Junior be heading to. Junior hears the bell which means it's time for lessons but Junior is reluctant and instead skives school to drive all the way to the city not giving a "hoot".

Meanwhile in the city the traffic is rather busy with cars just driving and going. Junior is walking on the pavement of the streets standing on wheels. Junior watches the cars go as though he hasn't seen so many cars like this before. The traffic lights change to "Stop" as Junior steps in the road in front the yellow car as he tries to drive off. Once the lights change to "Go" he is being run over by a group of incoming cars just shooting past.  Junior is rather timid of the incoming cars just driving by very fast.

Meanwhile another car is strolling down the street rather lazy to use the wheels thinking he's in the arena ring. Once the traffic light changes with a "ding" sound; the car tries to pick up a fight positioning himself in different poses as Junior is afraid. That's why he needs to be aware of stranger danger as there are odd people (vehicles in this cartoon) out there in the city streets. Junior runs off afraid of the man as he scampers off like a dog.

Junior then tries to find a part to hide and discovers a manhole cover. Too many cars are driving their way through not noticing poor Junior in danger and afraid of being run over. Junior jumps away from the incoming cars driving past him and lands into the "Safety Zone" area rather frightened and exhausted. Inside Junior (as he is puffing) we see a montage part inside his body as the radiator shows his heart pumping repeatedly from the horror he is facing through.

Junior therefore picks himself up as he walks over to the safety zone with him but falls down a manhole cover by accident. Junior peeps out of the manhole cover to check for safety but drives out of the way. Junior is still rather exhausted from the ride in the city as it has proven to be very busy and frightening for him - looks like he won't need to be a taxi driver then, don't he? He drives past a gas station which would be his favourite place to sit by and relax.

I love how the bar is being set out here that the gas station is just like a bar for cars to settle while it's just like what humans would sit down for a drink. The bartender (why not a vehicle bartender?) shown in this cartoon then asks Junior, "What'll you have son?" Junior then looks through the different flavored gasolines to have  in a point of view shot.

Junior then asks for a gas which is strong to drink. The bartender comments; "That's very powerful stuff, son". The bartender then pours the drink adding a straw to it. Junior slurps the drink down enjoying the taste at first. Shortly after finishing the drink Junior then starts to shake and react to the drink he had. The radiator inside Junior almost explodes as he jumps and jerks by force. The good part is that it gives Junior an awful lot of energy added to his boost as he boasts; "Gee, I can go fast now! Watch!" Junior then dashes down the road real fast until he is not seen except smoke which is an improvement with animation timing.

The bartender turns around to find that Junior is behind him with such speed; "That's nothing - watch this!" Junior then starts to dash out of the way again leaving nothing but dust swaying on the roads. Junior is standing by the railroad as he tries to catch the train's attention that is steaming straight ahead. There is a sign that reads "Stop" swinging sideways as the train is steaming past.

After the train has completely gone past Junior; Junior then tries to have a race with the train. Now how will the bartender be able to watch that in such speed? Watching the car speed up doesn't seem to look as fast as it was after drinking the gas. Junior then finds himself overtaking the train easily that shows he can travel faster than a train. After overtaking the train - he now has trouble with a huge truck that is too big to try and overtake.

Junior does his best to try and overtake the car; and the car is called a "Road Hog" which is also a pun itself. I love how the front part of that car has a hog's face oinking to make the fun accepted and received. Junior tries to overtake the car by sides of the road but the "Road Hog" just copies his actions not wanting any other cars to go in front.

To stop Junior from his attempts to overtake the "Road Hog" the wheels then stretch so that Junior will have no successful plans from doing so; and the road hog car has completely controlled the road. Junior tries to go in front but fails but the plan completely works after the Road Hog's car's wheels end up on the beams of a bridge which encourages Junior to go in front by using his sense of wits. Junior then turns to hear the sounds of a steaming locomotive riding it's way as Junior isn't far off from it.

Junior then starts to use his speed limit and energy to beat the train and they end up at the same amount of speed. The railroad traffic is ordering the car to stop but still drives at such speed; and the animation of the locomotive heading to the camera in perspective was animated well.

After seeing the scenes of the steam train and Junior just going at the same speed with no action being performed yet. Junior is forgetting of his fuel tank getting lower and lower which is nearly empty until the arrow goes completely empty. Ace Gamer would've done the effects animation of the locomotive as well as the fuel tank's arrow pointing to empty. Bad luck enters for Junior as he is about to cross the railroad but after using up too much energy; Junior suddenly stops straight in the middle. Now that is just very unfortunate for that to happen and yet anything could happen relating to danger with trains which shows that Junior must be aware of his actions.

Junior is facing death of the incoming train that isn't going to stop and Junior tries to clutch himself hopelessly until he is smashed by the train. After the crash an ambulance then arrives at the scene to pick up Junior after the accident. In the next shot we find that Junior is inside a "Auto Hospital Garage". I would imagine the building next to it would be a real hospital and the garage hospital would be for humans. It appears that in this world there are also humans but cars have their own civilized life - in garages.

There are human surgeons than performing massive surgery on Junior after the incident in order to save his life. There is a great camera effect shot showing two sides of Junior's heart pump and the surgeon passing over the oil can, and other tools to help cure Junior. A very neat camera effect show; and the heart pumping effects animation is pretty solid. This shows that Freleng's cartoons just got better and better by each cartoon.

Meanwhile the mother car is standing outside the hospital garage worrying if Junior will be alright. The sign on the door outside reads "Quiet! Keep Out". The door then opens as Junior steps out of the car covered with plasters and bandages which shows the operations have been proved successful. It must be in this world that surgery has been very well developed and anyone can have their lives saved by trains - at least in cartoon land. Junior and mother then reunite each other with hugs; but the mother then tells off her child for not crossing the railroads not realizing what Junior has been through - and even not knowing how he skived school.

Junior then hears an incoming steam train in which it forces himself to try and race it. A rebel he is; he attempts to cross the railroad in safety and manages to do so in the first part. He blows a raspberry at the train standing on another part of the tracks but turns around in time to find another steamtrain is steaming past and is crashed again. Junior is only weary from the crash but it has lead to a lot of damage with the train.
Overall comments: Interesting character designs on the cars I have to say as it was pretty clever for the 1930s while today it wouldn't really seem so special. I find it rather odd that Junior's dreams is of becoming a taxi doesn't even relate at all in this cartoon as it just shows his misadventures in the city and trying to race the incoming locomotive so I don't feel that there has been much focus on this cartoon. The animation of the car movement in my opinion was pretty cleverly animated with the vehicles and all as well as the effects animation. Despite the lack of plot in it; I like the fact about how in this cartoon it focuses on Junior who particularly wants to live in the city - considering he wants to be a taxi discovers that the city is rather busy albeit dangerous. However this cartoon in my opinion didn't really appear to go anywhere with its story and that's why I wasn't keen but I must say that Freleng's cartoons are getting better short after short with timing, gags, and all.


  1. Even back in the 1930s taxi drivers already had a reputation of being less-than-cautious with their driving skills. But Avery would up the ante 14 years later when he took the basic idea for this short and turned it into "One Cab's Family", where this time dad is the taxi and junior wants to grow up to be a hot-rod (a [plot more fitting with post-war America and it's growing love of fast cars).

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  4. A great cartoon! Around the time this was made, cars were replacing trains as the chief mode of transportation here in the USA.