Sunday, 19 August 2012
194. The Sneezing Weasel (1938)
Release date: March 12, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Tex Avery (Weasel), Elvia Allman (?) (Mama Hen) and Berneice Hansell (Wilbur).
Story: Cal Howard.
Animation: Sid Sutherland.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A weasel is hungry for a sick chick by disguising himself as a doctor.
I know that this is definitely not the first time where Tex Avery does a voice, but I believe it was probably his first cartoon where you hear that heavy, distinctive laugh of his that he uses later on in his own cartoons.
We then start to pan forward to this strange looking house as it is shaped like a barrel with a roof though. The door then opens in which we find that the mother rooster is stepping out carrying with her a spade and some other tools as it looks like that they're out farming today. There are a line of chicks that then step out in a single file line as they are following the cockerel. The line then follows until the last chick out of the house turns out to be the odd one out in terms of colour. All the other chicks have yellow feathers but this chick has brown feathers. I guess that it is supposed to be amusing but I don't see any gag that follows up instead the brown feathered chick speaks to the audience, 'Yes, we're going to eat worms' and of course the chick is voiced by no-one else but Berneice Hansell.
The worm then starts to escape from the grinder in which the brown chick then starts to chase the word; and I believe that bit of animation was reused from the cartoon Billboard Frolics. Meanwhile as the brown chick is chasing after the worm, the mother chick is still digging some soil to place in the grinder for more food. As she continues doing that, she then suddenly feels a breeze in the wind as he gets rather windy. Suddenly the sunny sky out there then starts to turn grey and cloudy as it covers the sun away. A lightning bolt then appears as there is a storm that is starting; the lightning bolt then forms into words that read 'SCRAM' and of course that was an idea that Avery would come up with. This is probably the first typical Avery gag I've seen so far in this cartoon. The mother hen then starts to get rather afraid of the storm in which she then starts to get her children to hide under her skirt so that they will be okay as they dash back into their own home.
We know that Avery is already not following the cartoon rules and instead adds in these gags that will be outrageous for an audience back then watching it. As she has finished calculating, she then reads the results but she goes into a scared take as she finds out that one has gone missing. She dashes to the front door as she grabs out an umbrella to put over her head but it turns out that the umbrella in fact doesn't even have a proper on top and it's broken so it's funny as they still wears it when she's going to get wet from the rain anyway. The brown chick is the odd one out and the mother calls for name and his name in this cartoon is Wilbur; and of course we probably would've guessed it was a girl if it was voiced by Berniece Hansell, right??
The mother hen then takes him inside the house as he closes the door. Wilbur, still rather cold from being ouside from the weather then speaks to his mother about the worm he saw. 'Oh boy ma, he was a big worm. He was THAT long'. He even demonstrates it bigger than him (as he can't do any higher with his arms) but I guess he could be mistaking the weasel as being the worm since they look alike. The mother hen then starts to tell off Wilbur for being out in the cold, 'Did you know you'd catch your death a cold?' Wilbur then decides to continue to brag about the "worm" he saw and states, 'I'll catch it' but he then proves that he has a cold as he ends up sneezing. The mother hen then carries Wilbur's arm and takes him over to bed as she states, 'Ah I told you so, I told you so!' as she holds him away from the front door.
The weasel then enters the scene in which he starts to chuckle broadly. 'When the weasel will play...' the weasel chuckles, 'now you folks pardon me just a minute, and I'll make a quick change' in which he exits the scene still chuckling. The weasel then starts to pull down the curtain as to show that he is getting changed but he pulls it back up when we discover that he is in fact wearing a doctor's outfit. We know what his dirty plan is as he plans on eating the chick while pretending to treat him. He then comments to the audience wanting an opinion, 'Not a bad disguise, huh?' He then starts off his plan, 'Now for a meal' as he walks over and knocks on the door. The scene of the weasel in the doctor's outfit is of course Irv Spence's recognisable animation. After hearing the knock on the door, the other chicks then comment when they answer the door, 'Who's there?' the other chicks are standing on top looking after Wilbur. The weasel (disguised as a doctor) then responds pretending he is Dr. Quack in which the ducks then respond to that but I can't make out what they are saying there.
It's Irv Spence animation again as the weasel enters the bed scene still pretending to be Dr. Quack. The weasel is then starting to plan his evil trick as he is about to ask Wilbur, 'Open up your mouth and say 'Ahh!'' Wilbur then starts to open his mouth but then starts to get ready for some sneezing in which he sneezes and blows off the whiskers off the weasels disguise in which the other chicks start to get frightened. The chicks then start to go in a state of panic as they shout, 'It's Willie the Weasel!' as they scamper off and the weasel then starts to chase after them. The chicks then go to war with the weasel as one of the chicks holds out a funnel and plays the theme to 'Reveille'.
Wilbur then tries to make an escape by climbing up a pair of blinds, but the weasel then shuts them which causes Wilbur to slide down and get grabbed by the weasel. A pair of chicks then place some popcorn inside the boiling pot in which the popcorn then starts to shoot out like a cannonball shooting straight out of the weasel which is a pretty cool gag idea as they are in war. The weasel is then being distracted by being shot from the amount of popcorn. Wilbur then starts to hide under a floor hole so that the Weasel won't be able to find him. The weasel notices his escape in which he peeps his long nose under to check but instead Wilbur comes up with the cunning idea in which he pops the weasel's nose as though it is like a boxing bag. The weasel then pulls his face out as he feels his nose rather weirdly from being boxed (which was pretty cool as well) but then the weasel starts to reach his hand under there to try and find Wilbur and then finally grabs him successfully.
Wilbur then tries to run off until he discovers that he is cornered (whilst attempting to run up a hill but fails so when he is trapped by the weasel). The weasel then remarks to Wilbur, 'Now I've trapped you behind the 8-ball' which I believe is a saying but in fact a visualised gag appears where an actual 8-ball appears as the chick is hiding beneath it; I guess that it is a reference meaning as though it is a fortune-telling his chances of being eaten by the weasel is likely and that's why it appears. Just a theory but I'm sure someone has a better answer than me. The '8-ball' scene looks like Irv did it; at least the weasel looks like his posing. Wilbur then ends up sneezing in which he starts to sneeze on the weasel. The 'sneezing' weasel however then catches the cold as he starts to sneeze back rather violently. He sneezes back so much that he causes the carpet rug to roll over and even carry up the stairs where the chicks are caught inside the rug but they end up sliding back down the stairs as normal.
The weasel has got the cold rather badly that when Wilbur runs up towards the weasel he tries to whack him with a mallet but in fact what happens is that we find that the weasel sneezes him away before Wilbur even tries. Wilbur then gets caught inside a pair of match sticks but once he gets up - we find that the front part of the packet read 'Eat at Sloppy Joe's'. Ahh, another cartoon where we have spotted the Eat at Joe's gag. More violent sneezing then continues from the weasel that he even sneezes one chick out of the way and even gets caught through a type of plug hole that takes the chick all the way up and trapped inside a light bulb. The weasel is still sneezing pretty badly but Wilbur is standing on top of a cuckoo clock and whacks him on the spot where he lands on the bed. Wilbur then walks over to the sneezing weasel where he then grabs out a bottle of smelling salts. The funny part of the gag is that we find that Wilbur has managed to wake up the weasel but only to find that he just whacks him unconscious again which was pretty amusing.
Wilbur then climbs up on top of the bed where the weasel is about to wake up but taps him on the head once where he can fall back to sleep again. Wilbur and the chicks then cover up the blanket over him and they then hide in the closet to fool her mother and Dr. Quack. Dr. Quack and the mother arrive at the spot at the bed where the weasel is laying there. Dr. Quack was about to originally treat Wilbur with some castor oil as he grabs out a spoonful. That makes it even terrible news for the weasel since castor oil has got a really horrible taste that make children feel ill. The weasel then wakes up in which he realises that he is about to have some castor oil as he makes a scared take. He jumps out of bed and jumps out of the window running away in the distance. That was a rather funny scene since even the weasel was set up so he wouldn't return to the house.
Notice how that this is the second cartoon in a row so far that in fact features war going on, previously we saw chickens and ducks in What Price Porky going to war and we find here again where there was a war going on between the weasels. The 'Gone with the Wind' gag I thought was very funny and of course that gag has been around a few times. Around the time of the release, the very famous movie was in the works (but still in the early stages). I do feel as though Avery is in fact rather underrated for his voice work that he does for his own cartoons since we all know him as the comic-timing expert but not too much is spoken about for his voice work I have to admit.