Friday, 22 June 2012

168. Sweet Sioux (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 167.
Release date: July 3, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Native American Coach / Mohican / Hiccups).
Animation: Bob McKimson and A.C. Gamer.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Hollywood's take of Native America with Indians attacking an incoming wagon.

I've returned from my hiatus readers. That's me all relaxed with my schoolwork out of the way and I've hoped you've enjoyed a break from this blog, I know that break was really worth it but I'm back with more reviews; and I'm roughly one-sixth of reviewing all of the Warner Bros. cartoons which I feel is quite good so far.

Our cartoon begins with a sunrise shot of what we see is an Indian in silhouette. As the sky starts to rise and get clearer; we see the Indian more closely; but from what we are seeing is of an Indian statue standing on top of a mountain. That is some pretty decent effects with the sunrise and the colors shown here.

We are then set to a different location where the story is set in West America as this is an Indian village; as we PAN through the tepees. We continue to pan until we find a tent that reads Chief "Rain in the Face" in which this is a reference to a warchief named Rain-in-the-Face from the 19th century. We PAN after we see the name on the tent as the gag is that the Indian chief is sitting outside the tent with what appears to be an off-screen shower running on top of the Indian's face which I think is a little bit of a lame gag; and probably dated since the name may not be familiar these days. Another tent by the river is pulled up like an umbrella tent in which a Native Indian sits down by the umbrella tent sitting on a deck chair. More tepee gags pop up such as an Indian's head popping up from the top wearing it as a clothing walking around playing the ukulele.

Meanwhile there is a rooster that is sitting down laying an egg but stands up in which clucking and performing an Indian tribe call which I guess is the gag as it's a chicken performing it and not a Native American. There is a hitchhiking Indian standing by giving the hitchhiking sign for an Indian to pick him up. There is an Indian woman walking past on a Papoose as the Indian jumps past as the Indian woman appears to be used as some type of transport.

Meanwhile there is a brave bout on the mountains looking out for any of their enemies or wagons trying to get past the Native area. The brave is looking all around with his body circulating continuously at 360 degrees. The Indian on a lookout then spots a wagon driving through their valley as you can hear "Oh Susanna" being played in the music. At the back of the wagon is also a caravan attached to the back of the wagon which is meant to be a funny gag considering that this wagon would be rather modernized for Native American history. 

After the brave has spot the wagon - the brave then runs through the top of the mountains to deliver a telegram to warn the other Natives about an incoming wagon. You can hear the 'Sun Dance' being played in the background. Interesting camera and layout angles on the brave running. The brave then enters the tepee to write a telegram to warn the warriors. The Indian delivers it to an Indian postal clerk to delivers the message to all the Natives. I'm not too sure what the 'Eastern Onion' sign is meant to mean but interesting sign reading '90 Words for 90 Wampum' and a wampum is a type of clam that was worn or fashioned by Native Americans.

The telegram is delivered through a hole outside the tepee in which the postal clerk shows the message as the Indian uses a delivery pipe that makes annoying sounds which signals the smoke to the Natives. The brave who is looking out on the mountains then notices the smoke signals the message to the brave. A funny gag is heard as the messenger decides to have fun by signalling Shave and a Haircut before hiccuping performed by Mel Blanc.

The brave on the mountain then decides to signal the village by signalling in a police form, "Calling all braves, calling all braves. Pick up a covered wagon at Cactus Canyon and Red Ghost. Go get 'em boys. That is all".

The entire villagers then start to run out of their tepees charging for the wagon hollering with their tribal sounds to set attack. As the Natives are about to set attack; there is a tribal drum sound being played by an Indian drummer to make the scene dramatic. As the drumming is being performed; there is a Native dancing to the drum rhythm copying every movement that the drum makes. The drumming then starts to get faster as the dancer starts to dance faster in which the movement gets so fast that Friz Freleng gets a chance to experiment with timing in which all you see on the screen for a few seconds is nothing but those speed-lines that make it look as though he's spinning around with such speed. After the dancer has finished dancing and the drumming; the dancing Native then sweats and puff after dancing with a lot of energy. The animation of the Native dancing was solid animation and it's even got good pacing in my opinion - for a 1930's cartoon.

The Native Americans then start to make a tribal dance around a fire with the dancing of the animation done in a cycle. I do like that short scene of the fat Indian woman who is making the drumming sounds by tapping her belly and then slapping her behind for a beat. During the dance scene there is a Indian mother carrying a baby on her back that is attached as she makes an Indian call but then the baby stands on his two feet making the Indian call. Now that is another funny gag with good timing on the body changing to the ground and boy that baby sure must've been strong. The mother then stands back on her two feet.

During the dance scene where is an Indian singer who is a direct caricature of Martha Raye who was an American comic actress at the time as well as singer; and she would've been very young at the time this cartoon was being made. The Martha Raye Native is singing Goombay Drum. The dance scene is entertaining to watch and even when you watch her comic acting is sort of fun to watch. But I appreciate the animation of it though.

More Indian tribe dancing continues; and the scene of the Indians dancing around the fire is a repeated scene before the Martha Raye sequence. There are two Indians who entertain the audience by instead of performing the usual Indian tribal dance like you'd expect to see in many dances; they dance to the Hopak which I think is funny considering they're performing the Russian dance and the fact they're evidently not Russian so that's fun to watch.

The animation on that part with the Hopak dance is fun to watch I'd say; and I think much of the overall animation on this short is in fact in very good standard; as Friz Freleng had a quality bunch.

After the Hopak dance as well as the Indian tribal dance; and the Indians then start to chase after the wagon that has been spotted by the braves. The Indians are riding on their horses crossing the rivers as they are on the hunt. Indian framed on the left; that isn't supposed to be a caricature of Joe Penner, isn't it? You only see it just ride past the screen and I guess that if it was a caricature of Penner then there would've been a gag added to that. But the scene is obviously a cycle since the exact same Indian (seen on close-up) is seen twice in that scene.

As the Indians are on the attack on the wagon; a pioneer riding the wagon steps out of the wagon to see all the commotion and makes a fright when he spots Indians savaging after him. The man then hides behind the barrel of his wagon as he grabs out his shotgun to try and shoot at the Indians but finds that he is surrounded by the Indians in their horses circulating the area of the wagon. Well, the human could've easily made a target by shooting one of the surrounding natives. I like that circulation animation of the Indians surrounding the wagon.

The human continues to blast with his shotgun at the Indians but finds that he has no luck until he glances at a stool that delights him. The human then sits on the stool, swings at it to make it higher and shoots after the Indians with his shotgun. An Indian riding his horse shoots with his shotgun but spins around the horse numerous times after firing; and that continues on every time he hires as it's a funny gag but also recycled often. Why no sound effect for the spinning effects?

An Indian then charges with his shotgun while riding his horse but as he fires; the force of the shotgun is so intense and forceful that it pushes the Indian and the horse back but in such a swish that it swishes with a type of socket effect. The timing on that is extremely good and even believable. Friz Freleng is starting to get better with his comic timing that even feels suitable when watching a cartoon which I'm glad to see. The Indian then runs forward on his horse to fire with his shotgun but the same effect is repeated towards him again.

The human behind by the wagon is still shooting after Indians even though being in peril. After blasting a couple of times; he then fires at the Indians on a canal rowing. There is a funny gag that pops up with a carnival-eye shot of the Indians on the canal done in a carny style as the human shoots at them as they fall flat in carnival style and that is a good gag.

As the Indians are still surrounding the wagon causing a rampage; the horses that they are riding on then starts to turn into a merry-go-round style as they are moving like merry-go-round horses which plays the theme to The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down which would later (in the year) become the most famous scene to the Looney Tunes series. Now that is a funny original gag which is nice and it even works very well as they're circulating the wagon and turn it into a merry-go-round style which makes the looney sequence funnier. There is an Indian trying to reach for a hoop on a tree in which one Indian on a horse grabs it successfully until making a tribal call. I guess that it means back then in merry-go-rounds you had to reach for a certain hoop. After that funny sequence, the Indians continue to be warriors surrounding the human again.

Meanwhile as the Indians are continuing to circulate; there are even substitute Indians seated on benches with numbers on their back as there is a coach Indian walking up and down rather worried. Another group of Indians are even practicing cheer leading as these Indians are practicing it high school style.

During the battle scene; one Indian is shot in the behind and falls off the horse wounded with a burning behind and lying down unconscious. I like how the battle is being performed in a high school American football style as an Indian referee walks into the scene blowing the whistle because of an injury. After the whistle blows; the surrounding stops as the injured native is taken by the medical team and placed on a stretcher. The Indian Coach (voiced by Mel Blanc) then sends an Indian to fight for the warriors. I'm not sure what the reference is to what the Coach is saying but the Native who replies "Ohhhh yeahhhh" is a catchphrase from the Ken Murray show, said by Tony Labriola's character, Oswald. The substitute native then leaves the scene to call for a replacement. 

The substitute Indian then  replaces the injured native by jumping onto his horse and resume the surrounding of the wagon. The rampage then continues on wards as we get to see some neat montage shots of the Indians firing and running after the wagon. 

Much of the montage shots is just recycled footage of the Indians chasing after the wagon that appeared earlier on in the cartoon. It's easier to do so and cheaper as the Schlesinger budgets were lower at the time (I believe that they probably averaged less than $10'000 at the time but I wonder if anyone can support me on that).

After the battle and the fighting through the montages shots (which I thought was a neat effect so show the continuous battles). The wagon is seen destroyed and smoke is still fading out as it shows of how much damage and fighting has happened. Two Indians then step out of the damaged wagon as they both look at one another:

Indian #1: Who you?
Indian #2: Me Mahican. Who you?
Indian #1: Me Mahican.

The two Indians then fight each other over being a Mahican was basically a Native American tribe on the Eastern side and it appears in this sequence they fight over being the last one. After the 2nd Indian whacks the other Indian on top of the head; the Indian concludes, "Me Last Mahican".

Overall comments: Now that I've returned to the blog after my roughly 3-week hiatus; it does feel good to return again even though I needed the break. This cartoon I feel was a good one for me to review as it's a cartoon that I've actually particularly enjoyed throughout the cartoon. I like mostly how that it's mainly a lot of gags that pop up with Native Americans but I find that they're good gags in my opinion, as well as silly gags that are charming. The dance sequence of Martha Rays was particularly fun to listen and entertaining to watch - including animation wise. I like the fact about how that it doesn't have to be all tribal dancing; and they'll even perform a Russian dance for us. Even the merry-go-round sequence in my opinion was a highlight of the whole cartoon.

Friz Freleng is definitely showing some improvements with this cartoon; especially with his comic timing as the pacing is starting to become slightly faster and even more interesting to watch. Much of the animation is very good in this cartoon as there is a lot of realistic animation of the Indians in particular as well as dance scenes; which I feel was animated well by Freleng's quality bunch of animators at that time (Bob McKimson, Ken Harris, Cal Dalton, Phil Monroe, etc). I feel that the cartoons even by Friz are starting to get better and even he is showing some humor in the cartoons which is better than say; the cartoons he made from 1934 up to mostly the 1936 cartoons.


  1. Eastern Onion = Western Union telegraph service.

  2. That's not an arrow holder on the squaw's back , but a Papoose, a child carrier used by Native Americans.

    "Eastern Onion" is a pun on Western Union.

    "Cactus Canyon" is the location given by the dispatcher Indian.

    Kids would try to grab rings as they passed by on the merry-go-round to win a free ride.

    Hope you have a great summer.

  3. THanx for the new post on one of the WB shorts...glad to see you enjoyed your time oiff...:)S.Carras

  4. Oh and wampum is generally understood (by White North Americans) to be Indian money, so 90 words for 90 wampum would be like saying 90 words for a certain amount of money, something like 90 words for 90 cents.

  5. The "Coach" at 6:30 is speaking Yiddish to the substitute brave. (This about 37 years before the same gag in Blazing Saddles.)
    I would urge you to edit this, so as not to call the settler "the human". Ostensibly, all the Indians are humans too.

  6. I noticed that you never seem to realize that the entire series dehumanizes and caricatures Native Americans. It is not funny. It is a piece of history that demonstrates why Native Americans are ignored and denied the historic right to the Americas and the Caribbean.