Saturday, 30 June 2012

172. Plenty of Money and You (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 171.
Release date: July 31, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Weasel).
Animation: Cal Dalton and Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A curious baby ostrich is born by mistake and experiences misadventures in the back yard.

This is the first known cartoon to use the 'Eat at Joe's' gag reference that would be used even through the years as it was a fictional name for restaurants.


The cartoon begins with a henhouse and there are hens standing outside plucking the ground at some corn. Inside the henhouse shoes a hen sitting on top of her nest waiting for her eggs to hatch. The hen turns to the pinup calendar hung against the wall and places a cross on "July 14" sighs as though the eggs might not be ready on time after hatching all the time.

While the hen is still hatching waiting for the eggs to be born; they happen to be born just on the spot as the hen is getting impatient. The hen jumps after one egg cracks making a "plop" sound effect with the first chick born. Then a couple of other eggs are hatched with more chicks born in the nest. After most of the eggs have been hatched; there is just one more egg that needs hatching; and it turns out the hen grows because it turns out she has apparently laid an ostrich egg and a baby ostrich has been born. This leaves me rather confused and so many questions: Why is there an ostrich egg inside the henhouse? How did an ostrich egg even end up in the henhouse? How can a hen hatch an ostrich egg when not being an ostrich? Wouldn't an ostrich egg be much larger from what is being hatched? I could continue asking these questions but here are the main ones.

The hen then flies away in perspective and clucks outside to warn the other hens and chickens that there is a baby ostrich being born. The hen just clucks "Look what I did". The chicks look at the baby ostrich afraid as they dash off but dash back in again to look at the size compared to theirs before dashing off.

All the other hens then dash into the henhouses to look at the baby ostrich as though it must be the most unusual poultry they've ever seen not knowing what an ostrich is or what it looks like. They look at the baby ostrich with amazement; but the ostrich tries to stand up but slips inside the nest not keeping itself in balance. The ostrich uses it's long neck to help pull itself upwards to stand. All of the other chickens and hens are amazed at what they are seeing; the ostrich then leans it's neck towards them and blows a silly face towards them. The chickens have a stunned look afterwards as they gossip towards each other on what they are seeing. Personally; I really dislike ostriches; I'm really scared of them in real life - no joke. However I find this cartoon ostrich rather cute here so I don't have a problem (although I swear I've already told this before in a review that I hated ostriches).

After the baby ostrich has been born in the poultry farm; the chickens just accept the ostrich as though it's a part of their poultry farm or even one of their chicks. In the next scene; we find the mother hen walking in the farm with the other chicks; until we pan to the baby ostrich who has a weird walk compared to the other chicks which I love because it shows the characteristics of a baby ostrich.

Meanwhile the ostrich peeps its head through the hole of the fence with curiosity as to what is seen. The baby ostrich then finds a pond in which there is a small fish swimming across it. The baby ostrich believes that it is food in which it gobbles the mouth with its beak and tries to swallow it. The fish is still seen swimming inside and alive as it is swimming inside the ostrich's beak and the ostrich can't keep control. The ostrich from the rear is caught on the fence as the mother hen walks into the scene to try and pull the ostrich out of the fence and uses its weight to drag it off. As the ostriches' head is being pulled off the fish is pushed out of the ostrich's mouth and back into the pond. The mother hen then starts to tell off the ostrich for not following orders even though the ostrich doesn't particularly understand. Boy; if that was me trying to tell off that ostrich I wouldn't dare because I'd rather cry my eyes out or faint before being pecked or beaten up.

After that shot of the curious ostrich and that fence incident - the mother hen continues to walk on with her chicks as they do what they told. The hens appear to treat the ostrich as (well, I'm not trying to refer the ostrich as a dog but ) a type of 'mongrel' if it's okay to put it that way. The mother hen then walks past a basement door as the other clicks walk besides it. The baby ostrich however looks at the basement door that leads to it also in curiosity. The ostrich then steps down it by accident (and I like the fluid movement of the ostrich falling).

The ostrich then trips and falls down the stairs that leads to the basement. The baby ostrich has already crashed inside the basement with a few items lying over the place. The baby ostrich does not realize what is in there or any danger and starts to eat some of the tools in which it is mistaken for food. The ostrich has already swallowed a type of vice in which it starts to hiccup (hiccups were done by Mel Blanc) in which the neck starts to extend as it forms into a type of funny gag. The ostrich's neck then ends up with parts of the vice sticking out.

Meanwhile back up in the surface; the mother hen is finding some food for the chicks to meat as she is standing by a grinder. She picks up some of the soil in the earth and places it onto the grinder to grind it. The mother hen then calls up for the chicks to turn up as it's being grinded. After being grinded; the worms fall out of the soil as the chicks scatter to eat the worms; which I guess was sensible since we didn't want to see the worms get eaten up, I guess.

Back inside the basement door; the ostrich peeps up from the top as the baby ostrich probably heard the mother hen calling for worms and probably went up to see what the clucking noise was for. The baby ostrich then finds one of the worms sliding out of the way and past the ostrich trying to escape the chick. The baby ostrich takes an interest in eating the bird and chases after it. Well, the worm would definitely be in peril considering that ostriches run extremely fast and the ostrich could get it easily.

The baby ostrich then steps out of the basement; and it already appears now that the ostrich has some personality which is trying to eat other living creatures as foods as the baby ostrich sneakily creeps up on the worm sliding past. The baby ostrich then turns around making an innocent facial look by whistling as though the baby ostrich isn't after any worm. I noticed how that the baby ostrich turning around acting innocent almost has a type of smear to it - I wonder if there was a specific animator for Friz who did that back then?

The worm then starts to stand on two legs; and considering that this is definitely a cartoonie worm since it has arms and legs. The ostrich turns around to chase after the worm as it's turning away. There is a little chase sequence that follows on with the baby ostrich is trying to snap at the worm for food. The worm then escapes under a small hole in which the baby ostrich takes the wrong direction but turns with it's neck which is some interesting animation movement. The neck turning movement is repeated a few times each time the worm jumps down the hole and that the ostrich is still going to follow after the worm.

The worm then starts to slide near a hosepipe in which the ostrich follows. The baby ostrich looks through one of the holes attached to the hosepipe looking out for the worm. The sprinkler machine then hoses on the baby ostrich's face which would've been one of the worm's tricks. In this scene the baby ostrich is being mimicked by the hosepipe where they go eye-to-eye with one another copying each movement of their necks moving up and down.

The ostrich looks closely at the holes of the hosepipe but the ostrich gets soaked in the eye from the hose. With one eye open; the ostrich gets squirted in the eye from the hosepipe. The ostrich then opens up the other eye but gets squirted with water again. With both eyes opened the hosepipe squirts both eyes as the ostrich is moved out of the way. Now the baby ostrich is running away from the hosepipe; although I do wonder if it's being controlled by the worm because it wouldn't make sense if it wasn't. The ostrich then starts to dunk it's head in the sand; which is a make belief of what ostriches do which makes the gag work but fact is ostriches do NOT bury their heads when frightened as it's just made up.

The hosepipe which I think is being controlled by the worm then squirts the ostrich in the rear end as the ostrich pops its head out of the hole and into the air being squirted from the water. The baby ostrich then starts to try and attack the hosepipe like it's a type of snake; and during the fight action scenes you can notice some type of minor smears of the ostrich and the hosepipe.

The ostrich then starts to chew up the hosepipe into it's mouth but as the baby ostrich walks on; the handle for the hosepipe is let go as the ostrich is sprayed backwards because of that effect which makes it a decent gag. The ostrich runs off rather frightened after the hosepipe sequence that went on for a bit (and by this point I'm surprised that the chicks or the mother hen haven't noticed anything so far). After the ostrich buries it's head under the hole; the ostrich is encountered by a weasel who plans to eat it. The words "The Weasel" (The Rat!) pops up for the audience to know who the character is of the cartoon. Of course; those words popping up is a little Avery influence unless by that point there were story artists working for Freleng and Avery, too. The ostrich from the outside of the hole then gets dragged in by the weasel and the mother hen looks under to discover and ends up in state of panic; as NOW she's noticed.

The ostrich is seen inside a box trapped so it wouldn't be able to escape. We PAN across as we are inside the weasel's kitchen room as he's going to cook some ostrich meat and reading through the cook book. The weasel is singing the title song but it's sung in substitute lyrics called Plenty of Gravy On You.

 The weasel here I don't know if it's voiced by Mel Blanc or not as I swear it's the same voice actor in I'm a Big Shot Now or He Was Her Man but I don't know who the voice actor for that would be [01/07/2012 update: I stand corrected that the weasel is in fact Mel Blanc]. The weasel continues to work on his recipe by shaking the salt of the vegetables and also peeling the potato skins to add into it. As the ostrich is inside the cage still curious; there is a lamp hanging from the ceiling in which the ostrich gobbles it inside his joke with curiosity but the weasel finds it's rather dark. The weasel walks over to the ostrich and pulls the lightbulb out of the ostrich's mouth. The weasel then walks back to the cooking table to continue the recipe after sorting out the baby ostrich.

The weasel is back with the recipe as he grabs out a bottle of olives on the casserole dish to add to his ostrich stew still singing the song he sung whilst cooking. Meanwhile the ostrich still trapped then finds a box full of fireworks. The ostrich then starts to swallow the fireworks not aware of the dangers and effects towards it but only believes it's a type of food. The weasel then finishes the song he was sung and takes the ostrich out of the cage.

The ostrich is being placed inside the pot as the poor baby ostrich is going to be cooked alive. The weasel then places the baby ostrich inside the casserole dish and then inside the oven. The weasel then walks over to the stove carrying the casserole dish and closes the door inside. All the weasel will have to do is wait for the ostrich to be cooked as he sits down waiting for the baby ostrich. Well that is just cruel to cook them away; especially from weasels who just want to eat them which will just kill them. The weasel is sitting on the chair humming waiting for his dinner to be ready.

The ostrich is sitting inside the casserole dish and is extremely hot as the stove is cooking. The ostrich is slightly starting to burn; with it's face turning red from the heat and starts panting. Since the ostrich had eaten the firecrackers just before he was taken; this leads to the climax of the cartoon as the heat reacts to the fireworks inside the ostrich's body and it will cause the stove to turn crazy and then does so.

The weasel makes a 'take' at the stove starting to react badly with exploding fireworks and the stove continues to jump. The ostrich then falls out of the stove reacting to the amount of fireworks but stops after being driven out of the stove rather dazed. I do like the animation of the ostrich being stirred up by the fireworks and I imagine that the firework effects were done by Ace Gamer. The weasel walks over to the ostrich rather gobsmacked as to what had happened. The weasel opens the baby ostrich's mouth but more fireworks then start to react. Even the weasel is starting to shake badly as though there is an earthquake going on underground.

The fireworks then start to fire out of the front bottom part of the tree as it's rather reactive. The mother hen then starts to feel an eruption that is going on underground as though there is an earthquake going on. The mother hen and her chicks then hold onto the crops tightly so that they'll be alright. The fireworks then start to shoot out from the tree with that stunning fireworks effects animation by Ace Gamer. After some eruption; the weasel then drags out the baby ostrich with a lot of anger in his face. The baby ostrich is placed backwards to return to the mother hen as it shows the weasel has given up. The mother hen and the ostrich then reunite together; but the ostrich's stomach then starts to erupt again with one firework blasting high up in the sky also animated by Gamer; and it explodes with the letters reading Eat At Sloppy Joe's which would be the first 'Eat at Joe's' reference in a Warner Bros. cartoon.

Overall comments: Personally I find that this cartoon feels it has a Disney's Silly Symphony-ish feel to it; at least story-wise as it focuses on a curious born baby ostrich born at the wrong place and encounters a weasel. I like how that the ostrich in this carton has personality of a new-born animal and they're going to be curious once they encounter new things they've never seen before and are unaware of it's dangers which is exactly what the personality of the baby ostrich here is. We got to see which I believe is the first 'Eat at Joe's' reference in a Warner Bros. cartoon as it's the earliest I could actually find. There are still many questions I have for that cartoon which I don't particularly understand and I'll probably never know the answer to which involves why did an ostrich egg end up in a poultry farm and as to why the hosepipe is moving inanimately. Of course; Friz would just be experimenting with his cartoons trying to have fun but the moving hosepipe (if the worm really is controlling it) feels really realistic and desperate for a gag which I feel fails for a bit and makes the sequence too slow-paced for the overall cartoon but that's just my opinion. Freleng got better with comic timing here for sure at least with the firework reaction scenes from the baby ostrich.

5 comments:

  1. The first use of a permanent Warner Bros.Cartoon theme, Merrie Melodies's "Merry Go Round broke Down", as a theme closing, with the "Looney Tune" theme "Merry go Round Broke Down" still to come as both open and closing.

    "Eat at Joe's" was used in MGM shorts, too, but the title song is an odd one for a ostrich short as no money is involved!) Anyway, congratulaitons on another Post.
    SJ.Carras

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    1. It refers to the name of the tune the weasel sings-- okay, outright mangles-- while he's cooking. This is another of my favorite shorts because of the judicious amount of suspended disbelief it employs: Why is an ostrich egg in a henhouse? Why did the weasel pop the bird in a hot oven alive and fully feathered? And who stores fireworks less than three feet from a wrought-iron stove? Don't ask a lot of questions, bub, just enjoy it, is my mantra. The same goes for shorts like Bob Clampett's "A Gruesome Twosome" and most of Tex Avery's pre-Bugs output.

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  2. From Jack King's Lulu in 1936 to Bob McKimson sticking one in Foghorn's barnyard in 1962, Warners never really did figure out how to make a really funny ostrich cartoon. To me, this one's always felt like a bit of a throwback, plot-wise -- the gags are faster, but it seems like something that Friz would have done in 1935, not 1937.

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  3. I'm glad that they're aren't many ostrich cartoons made by Warner Bros. Although I find that Disney have made some fine ones like "Donald's Ostrich" directed by King; as he recycled the idea from WB with "Porky's Pet".

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  4. Re-released in the Blue Ribbon series December 9, 1944, with the original end title card intact. Blue Ribbon releases between September 11, 1943 and January 20, 1945 had their original end title cards intact.

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