Friday, 6 July 2012

174. A Sunbonnet Blue (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 173.
Release date: August 21, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Various Mice), Billy Bletcher (Villain Mouse) and Berneice Hansell (Girl Mouse).
Animation: Sid Sutherland and Virgil Ross.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A lovestruck mice couple entertain the hat shop infested with mice.

The cartoon begins outside the shop of a hat store at night reading Snobby hatte Shoppe which is closed for the night. We then start to view inside the dark hall where the hats are sold. There are some interesting overlays of inside the shop to make the effect more realistic such as watching the shelves with the hatstands. Could be funnier if Avery could add a gag into it.

A mouse then peeps his head out of the mouse hole to check if the coast is clear to step outside or not. The mouse then starts to tiptoe quietly out of the mousehole in case the mouse might get spotted or something. The mouse continues to tiptoe through the shopping hall to check if anybody is around and then bursts out roaring, "IS ANYBODY HERE?!" and then dashes back into the mousehole in case of a guard or a cat lurking around. That was a slightly funny scene considering that it was not expected during a sneaky tiptoe scene. The mouse then steps outside to find that the coast is clear and that nobody is about. The mouse walks over to the elevator next door to his home and catches a lift going upwards. The mouse then reaches to a piece of wood that reaches to the last part of the elevator.

The mouse presses a button to take him to his next step but the buttons he press bash him off the top and he lands on top of a top hat. Now that is a clever and fun way to try and get to contact the other mice even though it may hurt. The little boy mouse then warns the other mice "There's nobody here. Come on!" The top hat then grows back to normal size pushing the little boy mouse out of the way.

All of the other mice then rush out of the hole so they can have fun. The little boy mouse then quickly nibbles at the hole in which it forms into a loveheart as he takes his sweetheart out. I wouldn't call that a gag as I'd say it's rather sweet. The little boy mouse then shows his sweetheart at the loveheart shape he created as she comments, "Aw George, you're so cute" and she giggles. As the couple run out of the scene holding each other's hands; the villain of this picture turns up laughing evilly who is up to no good and acting as a stalker on the couple. The villain with that stereotyped  moustache and black cloak then steps out of the love-heart shaped hole to spy  on them.

Meanwhile the two mice then walk over to the hats as the female mouse picks up a blue bonnet to wear. The male mice then grabs out a boater to place on top of him so he can match with his girlfriend holding the blue bonnet. The animation of the mice holding the hats is rather realistic looking and looks as though it was taken good care. The villain then stand by his hat which is black and to represent how evil he is then starts to laugh evilly.

There are a group of mice that then push buttons in which they are trying to create dance lights to make the mood and atmosphere more colorful; and even in animation, too. The two mice then walk into the spotlight as they are holding the hats. They place the hats down and start to dance by moving their hands to the song A Sunbonnet Blue (and a Yellow Straw Hat) that was composed by Sammy Fain. They are a singing duet together as they and of course even Berneice Hansell provides the singing voices for the two mice (at least of the girl mouse) but I'm not sure if Berneice is singing the voice of the boy mouse whilst they sing.

Meanwhile as the singing mice couple perform 'A Sunbonnet Blue'; the boater hat then starts to comes to life as so does the blue bonnet. They have now got legs and arms. Okay but am I being taken back in time to the Friz Freleng 'Merrie Melodies' era? This cartoon so far really doesn't feel very much like the work of Tex Avery and feels soppy to be his work so far.

The boater and the blue bonnet then walk over to a priest hat that weds them. The boater has got shakey legs which is good timing on the shaking legs. We then move back to the mice couple still singing their song and then a point of view shot shows a hat couple sitting down like a married couple with babies sitting in the lounge near them. Okay, but I don't particularly understand the appeal of hats in this particular cartoon - is it because hats were popular back then and they decided to make a cartoon out of it?

As the mice couple still continue to sing their song; the mice changing the colors of atmosphere in the spotlight grabs out a coloured hat with a cap in which it changes color to a yellowed atmosphere. Watching the dance scenes; I'm not sure but these dance scenes of the mice might be done by Virgil Ross as he animates dance scenes but I'm not so sure.

The colors of the spotlight changes color to demonstrate mood and I find it much more interesting than the dancing mice couple as the song and dancing routine is starting to become monotonous. After they have sung the song; the finale then finishes as it includes the boy mouse scatting at the music which includes. The scatting at the end is more fun to listen to and makes the rhythm more appealing in my opinion than the overall song which was a bit of a bore for me, but that's my opinion though. All of the mice applaud at the music they have enjoyed it but I imagine that the song was enjoyable of the time.

After the group of mice have finished clapping to the song; the next sequence that is added includes a dunce hat which appears to be sold in these stores maybe for teachers to purchase as school supplies. There is fighting going on inside and the caption underwards reads The Three Ratz Brothers which is of course a reference to The Ritz Brothers who were a popular comedy team of the 1920s even spanning up to the late 1960s.

The three "ratz" brothers then rip up the dunce hats that they sing the song I Haven't Got a Hat which of course you'll be familiar with. The animation of the ratz brothers is animation by Irv Spence who definitely gives it some loose movement and I like how that he makes the rats look rather goofy looking and gives the scenes much more appeal. It appears to be that Spence loved to draw open-mouths wide even in these drawings. As soon as the spotlight changes to green; the Ratz brothers then got on a dramatic version of the song they were singing which is rather entertaining. I like how that this cartoon is focusing on hats but it looks like Avery is desperate to try and make a gag featuring hats which is why they sing "I Haven't Got a Hat".

After the green spotlight fades to normal; one of the Ratz brothers then starts to quote Ted Lewis "Is everybody happy?" As the other two brothers shout "No!" and the spotlight changes atmosphere. They conclude the song singing the last verses repeatedly "I haven't got a hat...". They then start to change song to; Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet which is another hat song. Looks like this cartoon has made it clear that Avery was trying to use songs about hats to put in this cartoon for it's plot; but it's interesting that there were a lot of songs about it in the 1930s.

The Ratz Brothers appear to go into a medley that they switch chorus on different verses which appears to go off quite clever but probably dated in today's standards as they go off singing 'The Lady in Red'. They then conclude their performance in which the mice also applaud. Well that was some rather entertainment - at least with the medleys which I wonder if that was meant to be a gag pulled off by changing songs from verses to be pulled off cleverly even though it may be dated. Irv Spence animates all the scenes of the Ratz Brothers who managed to make the sequence a fine performance, I'd say. Although I'm not saying that just because I like his animation but because I find it more interesting than the other animators in this cartoon..

The boy and girl mouse were also amused at the performance. After some entertainment at roughly 2 minutes of just singing and dancing the villain then steps back into the cartoon. The villain then starts to tiptoe inside his hat to come up with a plan. As the little girl is still amused by the performance, the villain then captures the girl in an escape as the little boy has to think up of a plan to rescue.

Oh great, it looks like Tex Avery has been influenced by these recycled cartoons of the villain capturing the girlfriend - not you Tex! The little boy then starts to make an alarm by whacking a spoon on an army helmet informing  the mice that his gal has been captured. All of the mice's ears then stretch and start to dash out of the scene to try and capture the villain. An army mouse then starts to make the "Reveille" call but his pants falls down at the scene. There are a group of army hats in which they start to march as they are at war with the villain who has the girl mouse. Okay but watching this I do feel like I'm being returned to the 1935 Merrie Melodies except that it's got Tex Avery's drawing style on there. Meanwhile the boy mouse then starts to look through the hats to find anyone by going through the bowler hats but there is no trace to be found so the boy mouse has to put in more effort.

After going through several hats; the boy mouse then encounters a  police officer hat in which the boy mouse warns the officer mouse about a villain who's captured his girlfriend and is on the loose. The officer barks, "Why don't somebody tell me these things?!" Okay, I can see that this is also Avery's humor except this is a reference to the Listerine commercial. The officer scenes were also Irv Spence's animation.

The police officer blows the whistle to warn the other mice about the situation in which police hats are on the run; and also firemice slide down the fireman hatstands to also help. Although I don't know why fire would have to be involved in this sequence; I don't think the villain is planning to burn the girl mouse. Even a cowboy mouse is on the run and appears to shout in what sounds like a type of reference to me. A hillbilly mouse then pops out of the straw hat and shouts "Hello bub". Then a group of cheer leading mice are on the run with their hats as another group of cheer leading mice shout for their team. So basically an entire group of hats are on the run in this store. With these action scenes going on; now I'm starting to notice some Tex Avery humor but it's not appearing an awful lot in this cartoon.

The boy mouse then starts to run around the stalls of hats whooping excitedly and you can hear Daffy Duck's whooping sounds that Mel Blanc has added in this cartoon. The boy mouse is still looking around and even looks under a George Washington hat. The boy mouse then starts to ask the George Washington mouse.

Boy mouse: Which way did he go? Which way did he go?
George Washington Mouse: I cannot tell a lie. They went that way.

The George Washington mouse points at his left direction to where the villain went in which the boy mouse starts to follow to find out. The George Washington mouse scene was also Spence animation. The boy mouse then looks under a hat with a sign reading "blind" in which a blind mouse responds to the mouse who asked, "Which way did he go?" It feels like a bit of a blind joke to me since the mouse is blind; it can still know which direction to go which doesn't make the mouse blind at all - which means Avery is showing a blind joke. I wouldn't redeem the joke as offensive as it's presented rather harmless.

The boy mouse has now caught up with the villain they step up the steps of boater hats and then descend down them. The boy mouse then steps on top of a top hat in which it flattens. The boy mouse then picks up the flattened top hat and spins it like a Frisbee and the animator on that sure has focused on the hat movement carefully. The flattened top hat then slides down on the floor and the villain slips on it releasing the girl mouse.

Afterwards; the villain then starts to slide by automatic, apparent force and gets' trapped inside the knight's helmet. The boy mouse then starts to lock up the villain for good after his crime towards his girlfriend and all the mice start to laugh at the villain's misfortune. The villain then shouts, "'T ain't funny, McGee" of course - he's referencing to the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly. The mice couple then pick each other up from the ground as they reunite together. The boy mouse then whispers to the girl mouse to extend his hand in marriage - a proposal. The girl mouse then nods enthusiastically as the boy mouse jumps with delight.

The scene then fades out but fades in as we find that it's the mice's wedding day and they are sharing the same top hat. They walk down the aisle of the ceremony as the priest then starts the speech of accepting marriage to the mice couple. The priest then asks one of the mice, "Do you?" in which he starts to blab with a "blah, blah, blah" noise as though he wants to get it over and done with. A group of mice then start to deliver in a wedding present in which is delights the girl mouse now married who gleefully shouts, "Ohh, a wedding present". The girl mouse then unties the ribbon and opens up the box to find what's inside the box. The girl mouse chuckles delightedly and snuggles up to the boy mouse lovingly. Now that is some nice character animation of the snuggling up part. The boy mouse looks inside the box which comes to his surprise. This is definitely an Avery idea added in which shows a photograph of a bonnet featuring baby mittens that suggests they're having a baby.

Overall comments: I find that the overall cartoon to watch from beginning to end is rather interesting in many ways to explain. To begin with; I find that much of the beginning of the cartoon starts off and feels like watching a Merry Melody cartoon made around 1934-1935 when Friz Freleng was directing the cartoon as it was a Freleng feel to it. Avery appears to have returned to the singing and dancing routine in this cartoon as it was roughly 2 minutes long and must've felt desperate to try and add gags to it. I wonder if this cartoon was backlogged when Avery was still having to make cartoons and forced to add songs to it; but if he did then it would've been very early on for Irv Spence to animate on this cartoon.

Nothing in this cartoon starts getting into action after the villain captures the girlfriend when Avery appears to be following that old routine that's even old enough to be featured in very early Disney cartoons. After the capture sequence, I feel that's when the gags typical of Avery start coming in in which it makes the cartoon not bad after all. It feels rather off to me as to why Avery wanted to make an animated short about mice wearing hats which seems like a crazy idea for a plot but I guess Avery was just experimenting and finding ideas to go along.


  1. Re-released in the Blue Ribbon series on November 17, 1945.

    This is the last cartoon to have the last piece of stock music over the end title; this practice would only occur sporadically afterward, such as on 1943's "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs," "Two Crows from Tacos" and "What's Opera, Doc?".


  2. Actually the cowboy and hillbilly mice were references to the cowboy routine Jack Benny did on his radio program. His cowboy name was Buck Benny, so the hillbilly mouse was actually saying "Hello Buck".