Tuesday, 31 July 2012

179. I Wanna Be a Sailor (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 178.
Release date: September 25, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Elvia Allman (Mama Parrot) (?), Mel Blanc (Duckling), Billy Bletcher (Father Parrot), Berneice Hansell (Patricia Parrot, Patrick Parrot ?) and Robert Winkler (Peter Parrot).
Animation: ???
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A baby parrot wishes to be a sailor like his drunk father; and tries to follow an adventure at sea.

This is the first cartoon where we don't know fully on who the animator in the screen credits could be. We don't know if this is the first cartoon to change the credits for one animator and one story man; or the last cartoon where the screen credits credit two animators. Of course; judging by the last cartoon Sid Sutherland and Elmer Wait got screen credit; in the next Tex cartoon (Little Red Walking Hood) Irv Spence gets screen credit. It's likely the animator credits could read Paul Smith and Virgil Ross; but because this would be proned as guessing - I'm not going to put that up as the credited animators as we don't know for sure. Considering that this cartoon fell into the public domain because it wasn't copyrighted properly when it was first released; it was released as a Blue Ribbon in 1949; so the copyright catalog would fail to list its animators - and even for the public domain cartoons in Blue Ribbon released; presumably. If anybody knows any helpful information or knows the original titles - could you please ask me? I'd be obliged by your help.

I wonder who claimed that Bob Clampett was the animator of that short; he was directing by that point. If Clampett said anywhere that he animated on that short or a document, or animator draft that lists Clampett as an animator then I won't go against that.

The cartoon begins as it features a family group of parrots inside a bird cage. The mother parrot is inside giving her parrot children a lesson into saying "Polly want a cracker". The mother is conducting the lesson as she starts off, "Alright now children - follow me and Patrick and say 'Polly want a cracker'". The first parrot then starts to try and practice saying 'Polly want a cracker' but struggles and ends up talking in baby talk such as 'Powwy want a cwacker'.

After the first parrot managed to succeed; the mother compliments and encourages him, 'You're doing fine Patrick. The mother then moves on to the daughter parrot of the family, 'Now Patricia, now I'll make you try it'. The daughter of the parrot family is slower when trying to learn to say it and hesitates it in one of Berniece Hansell's typical child voices. I'm not too sure if she did the voice of the son; but it's certain she provided the voice of the daughter parrot. Patricia Parrot then giggles after she's finished reciting the line. The mother compliments her again; 'That's nice honey; now Peter he a nice boy and say Polly want a cracker'. Peter Parrot is seen sulking towards the camera and is a bit of a sour egg. Peter Parrot then gets angry and annoyed as he replies, 'I don't wanna a cracker, see? I wanna be a sailor like me pa, see?' Peter Parrot then points to a picture hanging on the bird cage that features his father as a sailor. There is some pretty decent character personality coming out there which Avery was pretty good at showing to an audience; I'd say.

The mother parrot then walks over to Peter Parrot as she bitterly exclaims, "Huh, like your pa! Why that sea-bear and home wrecker, that high-thieved hitchhiker?' After listing the names of insults about his father; she then sarcastically comments, 'A fine father he was, the sea-goin' slob - a sailor.' There is some pretty good dialogue coming from the mother which is a little juicy in my opinion.

The mother then continues onwards in which she recites the story about Peter Parrot's father about the say she walked out on him. It then fades to a flashback to when they were living together. She asks; 'Let me tell you something, when your father and I were first married; we lived in the Canary Islands'. We find a rather nice-looking background of the Canary Island at night time and of course parrots are popular in the Canary Islands. Inside the house; we find that the mother parrot is inside with three baby parrots inside a crib and come together as triplets. The mother continued; '...then the stork brought you lovely children. Oh, I was so happy'. The mother in this flashback is giving the crying carrots their milk bottle to suck on.

There is a rather funny volume change towards the mother and the setting of the flashback. We PAN towards the drunken father to find that where he is sitting is much more darker; and the music changes; and so does the mother's tone of voice which I think fits very well. We find that the drunken father is seen drinking many couple of shots.

The mother continues; 'But your father the rotten so-go seagull, couldn't stand being an (?) anchor in a harbour for five minutes. So he sipped the door and set sail for Hawaii'. We find that the father parrot is walking out of the door leaving his family. After the mother's bit of description; the father parrot opens the door for some correction; 'No Ma, it was Catalina!' and then closes the door. The mother is stood corrected; and mentions 'Oh yes, it was Catalina'. Now that is also rather funny since she's even being corrected through her flashback which is just crazy but funny, too. That lengthy scene from where the baby parrots are in their cribs to the PAN of Pa walking out the door; is of course Irv Spence's animation. It doesn't look too distinctive like was in that period but that's his posing and timing. The mother continues on as she sadly says; 'I used to burn a little light in the window'. We find that it is in fact exaggeration as there is a huge beam coming out of her window in order for the father to return. That is rather funny since she exaggerated there; and it turned out she used a beam to search for her father.

The flashback then fades back into the present day where they aren't living in the Canary Islands but in the bird cage. The mother parrot then shows a saddened face showing that he hoped for his father return; she immediately changes mood and replies bitterly, '...and he never did!' She then goes emotional again as she asks Peter who is weeping; 'and now Peter you don't want to be a sailor don't you?' Peter Parrot; who is sobbing then replies 'Yes' because he still wants to be one not caring about what happened to his father.

The mother parrot is thunderstruck that her son doesn't take her word in which she gaps, 'WHAT?!' in which she faints on the spot dangling onto the swing of the bird cage and that is a rather funny way of making a bird faint, by lying down upside down still attached though. Peter Parrot doesn't care what he is doing or where he will be going but he opens up the bird cage in which he flies down leaving to become a sailor. Peter Parrot is walking on the floor as he turns his head back and forth at the bird cage and walking as though he is a toughie. While the parrot is still talking; we find the animation is still the same but only the backgrounds change which is a rather cool background effect. The parrot is still walking in that characteristic Avery walk cycle as he turns his head again but hits a barrel. After feeling the hit; he finds that the barrel is useful to make a shop and he carries it.

After we find out that Peter Parrot has escaped from his bird cage; we find that the next location is set in a pond as there are cat-tails all over. We hear some banging noises off-screen but we continue to PAN as Peter Parrot has finished making his ship by hammering the nail.

Meanwhile there is a yellow duck that walks into the scene while Peter Parrot is still nailing the last piece of plank to make his ship. The yellow duckling is rather curious of that parrot's curiosity as he asks, "Heya fella, what'ya doing? What's your name? What ya building for? What ya building?' Peter Parrot is rather annoyed of the duckling who keeps constantly asking question as the parrot doesn't get a word in edgewise. Peter then closes the duckling's bill shut so he wouldn't speak. Peter Parrot then answer's the duck's question, "Well, see, I'm building a boat, see? That's I'm putting out to sea, because, because, because..' and then Peter Parrot is making a reference to what a Jewish person he passing onto childhood '...today I am a man'. That was a funny little reference here; at least for its time. The little duckling then starts to feel some excitement as he pleads to ask if he can be at sea.

The duckling talks too fast which of course annoys Peter Parrot but he allows him to join his crew as he slaps his bill shut. Peter Parrot then grabs out a peg in which he shuts the duck's bill so that he can't speak anymore. Peter Parrot and the duckling then walk up the plank towards his new ship as the parrot brags about being the captain of this ship.

Peter Parrot and the duckling then walk up on deck, and being given to join the crew - the duckling is the cleaner of the deck. Peter Parrot tells the duckling is job is to "scrub the deck, or I'll switch your feather (?) neck". Peter Parrot then walks over boasting in which he rips off a label of a skull off a poison bottle. He climbs up the crow's nest to make the sticker to be formed into a flag. We find some effects animation (probably by Gamer) of the buccaneer flag rising in which he continues to boast about going to treasure island. Irv Spence also animates those scenes where the duck is assigned to being the deck cleaner; you can tell that it is his drawing style and his way of movement through those scenes.

The effects animation then show a shot of the anchor being pulled upwards as the ship then starts to set sail. The ship is already sailing along the river past the wind-mills in the background and Peter Parrot is steering the ship; as he even mentions about himself that he is the "captain's kid".

While Peter Parrot is sailing by steering on the ship's wheel, he looks upwards - and from his point of view shot we find a pair of dungarees floating to sail the ship. As Peter Parrot is riding; he turns to the audience in one of Avery's typical line-ups, "This picture is kinda like Mutiny on the County, don't y'think - or don't ya?" Of course; he's parodying Mutiny on the Bounty but why couldn't he not just say the actual film title; it's unlikely that Warner Bros. would get sued for using the title. Peter Parrot then grabs out some liquorice in which he grabs the liquorice and chews it with his mouth. After chewing the parrot then spits out the liquorice and it lands underwater into a spittoon. A nice little gag that would've been an idea for Tex for use - or probably anybody but certainly what Tex would've approved of back in that era. After that spit; Peter Parrot then decides to walk up the crow's nest as he holds onto the pole and climbs it up with his feet to look out; so far everything is going well for him until he spots something shocking off-screen.

There is a terrible storm that is coming overhead; and there is a lightning bolt that strikes and after the lightning strike; the bolt forms into the word "BAM!" which is of course a clever gag for the lightning bolt to change into words; and animated well. This leaves for Peter Parrot to climb down the crow's nest which leaves him into a panic as he is facing a storm.

Peter Parrot runs over to the duckling who is still scrubbing the deck to help do some very important duties in order to survive a storm. In a panic he shouts out to the duckling, "Well don't just stand there, do something!" as he tugs onto his bill. The duck then starts to talk very fast by complaining, "What for? I like rain. I like water, etc." he then interrupts talking as he turns to the audience appears to be speaking in a radio voice, "Ain't I the talkingest (?) little guy?" I'll go to say that I don't know that reference but anybody who knows the answer to that I'll be grateful. The duckling doesn't particularly care about the weather being shown here since and insists that it is fine. The dungarees tide to the ship that are meant to keep the ship's sailing strong isn't any good in this type of storm.

The storm is still striking pretty badly and poorly; Peter Parrot is doing his best to ride the ship's wheel but the ship's wheel is almost jammed as it makes it almost impossible for him to steer it. As he makes to make it nudge; the ship's wheel starts to spin very quickly; and so does Peter Parrot. A little silly gag is shown where there is a bucket of red paint that tips when the ship tips. The red paint slides down but as the ship tips back so does the paint and it doesn't leave any marks.

The duckling is just walking around on deck feeling the rain which is just splendid for a duck like him not for a parrot who lives at home. The storm continues to get even worse in which Peter Parrot continues to spin as he tries to pull the ship's wheel. Peter Parrot then starts to pick up an anchor and he swings it like a lasso to try and stop the ship from moving. Since the storm is so strong; that the anchor drops down but so does the aft of the ship that was attached to the anchor; so the parrot has very little luck now. The ship is will suffer from a type of collision and the duckling and the parrot won't be able to survive on the ship in that type of storm. As they dive into the stormy sea the parrot is sitting on top of the duckling crying for his mother like a helpless child.

From what is being heard outside the mother parrot can apparently hear the screaming from outside which means she must have some strong hearing sense. Peter Parrot off-screen then shouts "Calling all cars" which is what police would use to say back then. The mother parrot is in a panic as she jumps out of her cage running for her life after her son, "Peter I'm coming!" she quickly then goes into melody singing a popular of a song called 'Old Black Joe' which features the lyrics 'I'm coming' and she also dances to it. Now that is also very funny and cleverly put out.

After that bit of song when she runs after her child to the rescue. Peter Parrot is then shouting out for "Help" but as he nearly drowns; he is picked up by the duckling. Peter Parrot then goes into rhythm of shouting "Help" to the tune 'Shave and a Haircut' which is also really funny since the theme is very recognisable. The duckling then punches Peter Parrot in the face and then swims him back to shore where he is on the grass and calls the duckling "You big sissy" and swims away; the voice and the comment is also funny to me since even the duckling isn't afraid of the name.

The mother parrot then runs up to Peter Parrot as she reunites with him and cuddling him up. Relieved, she cries; "Oh my baby boy, are you alright? I knew you'd get in trouble. Now you don't want to be a sailor do you?' Of course she spoke about this to his son earlier on in the cartoon; but of course even after what Peter has been through he still weeps and replies "yes". Now that is something that I find very funny because in endings like this you think the character actually changed his mind but he still wants to be a sailor after all. The mother is thunderstruck again as she shouts "WHAT?!" in which she faints in some characteristic faint, I guess and the cartoon irises out. We iris back in as the mother parrots breaks the forth wall, "Now what would you do with a child like that?" as though she can't even do anything about Peter Parrot.

Overall comments: I find that this cartoon is one of Avery's better cartoon of this year; I think that so far 1937 has been an average output for his cartoons (even though only some Merrie Melodies he maid I'd consider weak). This cartoon is at least different as it has a story of a baby parrot who aspires to be a sailor. With the title similarities and plot-wise I always thought that this cartoon was sort of a recycled theme from I Love to Singa which was released the previous year before this cartoon; Owl Jolson wishes to be a jazz singer and Peter Parrot wants to be a sailor. Of course - the story constructions are different but what makes it the same is that they both don't give up on their dreams.

Some of the effects animation I thought in this cartoon was what made the cartoon look rich in its ways; the lightning and storm effects were pretty good and it would've been a challenge to animate back in the 1930s but at least it's solid. Of course even the character animation in the cartoon was very decent. Even though the animator's original credits may be unknown until further notice (or if anyone owns a original copy) - I guess Blue Ribbon released aren't really as degrading; I mean at least we still got the actual cartoon itself. I like the mother parrot who has some good personality here and even shows some hatred towards the father of the family who was a drunk and comes up with funny insults. I'm thinking that the voice of her could be Elvia Allman; but maybe Martha Wentworth but I can't say for certain which is which though.


  1. First cartoon of the 1937-38 release season, going by the new end title music (probably also the first with the orange/yellow rings, though until an original print shows up no positives on that), and also the first cartoon in a nine-year attempt by Warners to find humor in the idea of a fast-talking little guy who just won't shut up. Hardaway and Dalton ("It's an Ill Wind"), Clampett ("Porky's Hotel") Freleng (the Little Blabbermouse cartoons) and Jones ("The Brave Little Bat") would give it a shot, with Jones and Michael Maltese finally re-imagining Sniffles with that personality for his final three cartoons.

    It worked better than WB's efforts to do a funny ostrich cartoon, but it never worked out quite the way they hoped.

  2. Nicejob on the voice cfredis, incl. RObert Winkler ("Fagin';s Freshman").SC

  3. A l young parrot soon learns THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

  4. The last cartoon Bob Clampett animated on was "Porky's Super Service",by Ub Iwerks.