Words and Music by Byron Gay
Warner cartoon no. 197.
Release date: April 23, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Tex Avery (Walrus), Cliff Narrazo (Penguin Presenter) and Mel Blanc (Dancing Penguin / Drunk Penguin).
Story: J.B. "Ben" Hardaway.
Animation: Paul Smith.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: New penguin nightclub opens with new acts featured.
I recall reading from a Avery interview that Avery at the beginning didn't like having to make cartoons where a song HAD to be included; and already by this point the Warner directors didn't have to make them in the 'Merrie Melodies' and yet, Tex is making this cartoon.
We then get to fade into the next scene so we know what is doing on. It turns out that it is a grand opening of a new nightclub for the penguins which is called Club Iceberg where it appears in bright lights as well the words that read 'Grand Opening'. We then find that the beam lights are standing outside the nightclub (made of iceberg) in which it shines and there are a lot of penguins attending the nightclub. As there are penguins entering -- we then find that there are some huskies that are riding along also entering that are being sleighed by these penguins in a carriage and they are carrying with them a fridge. I guess that the gag means that the fridge is meant to be a carriage and the huskies were meant to be like horses. Okay but with a gag like that which feels like it took a while to get the gist of it - I don't see how that's supposed to get laughs. The refrigerator then opens in which the penguin then steps out as he appears to be an important entertainer for the nightclub.
The walrus then picks up the penguin as he is about to make him the drink in which he orders. He grabs out a glass as he pours champagne in it. He opens the penguin's mouth in which he then starts to guzzle it down his throat. Afterwards the walrus then starts to toss an ice-cube and squeezes lemon inside his mouth. After squeezing them he that starts to squirt some water inside the penguin and shakes the penguin like smoothing it. After the walrus has finished mixing the penguin -- he then places him down the table. The penguin ends up staggering drunk and hiccups as a result. It changes to Irv Spence animation of the penguin hiccuping and Irv knows how to make a stagger walk move in a amusing way. The penguin then starts to cover his mouth in which he then covers it with - after covering his mouth it follows on with just continuous and uncontrollable hiccuping which isn't a good thing for the penguin.
The penguin then gets seated at a dinner table in which the walrus appears to be drunk with laughter then starts to attempt to get into conversation with the penguin. "Hey bud, (chuckles) did ya ever hear the story (chuckles) about the poor mules in the army?" The walrus is chuckling in that Tex Avery which must've have been so infectious around the studio which is why we hear it in these cartoons as well. The walrus then continues the joke, "Well one day these two old mules..." he then starts to whisper the joke to the penguin's ear in which he whisper it and we don't even get to hear the punchline of the joke -- unless that it is supposedly a dirty joke it had to be slyly referenced. The penguin then starts to laugh out loud at the joke as well as the walrus and there is that funny little jump that the penguin does after listening to the joke - a funny little jump that Irv planned out when animating. The penguin then comes to conclusion after bursting out laughing, 'I don't get it' which is a rather funny line and also one of the old line-ups after laughing at a joke though not understanding which is vaudeville.
Even Leon Schlesinger gets a mention from the penguin presenter which would've been a nice surprise for Leon and the staff. Even Ray Katz also gets a mention from the penguin as they were both the bosses of the Schlesinger studio (and along with Henry Binder) then the blabbing penguin presenter then continues to mention a few media associations and even mentions Warner Bros. After mentioning a couple of references and such - although in talking in quite a fast voice and how would be supposed to figure it out? I believe that the penguin presenter is in fact a reference to a radio celebrity or such in that double-talking voice but I'm not too sure who that would be referencing. After mentioning some references the penguin is then about to introduce an act at the grand opening of the nightclub. After just doing nothing but talk, talk which gets rather tedious for me - the penguin presenter then passes it onto the show.
With the orchestra still playing the music - the group of penguins then begin their act in which they all walk straight to each other when forming the line. The gag shows that the penguins are walking to each other but they end up walking on air when they touch each other's feet whilst walking as this a march of the penguins act. I like how they just walk up there and only holding onto each other by using their feet. That type of gag would be reused later on in Porky's Preview. The result then turns out that as they successfully manage to march upwards in air - they suddenly then fall down to the ground bundling each other. They then stand back up in which they then greet the audience as they bow and the curtains close after the act has finished. As the curtains then close - it turns out that they have so many curtains to close which makes it slightly amusing since how many curtains are they gonna want to need?
He then starts to brag on a bit longer in which he appears to be making a joke about Bing Crosby's horse racing (as I heard him say 'races' or 'horses') and that was parodied since Bing Crosby loved betting on horses but it turned out that in fact he never had luck at it for his love for horse racing. I don't know what the gag he is saying but I have at least an idea what he could be saying but that it all - considering that the penguin character is a double-talknig emcee - I really hate that character if you ask me - I mean even I don't find that funny for Avery; it feels really weak. He then conlcudes the gag in which he then passes on the Bong Crisby penguin act over to the penguin crooner who is standing with the microphone as part of the radio station "KFWB" and that was a popular radio station even at the time.
The electric guitar then starts to make a rising sound as the Bing Crosby crooning penguin then begins his song. As he starts off by singing the first verse of the song, 'When my dream boat comes home---' we then hear the trumpets being played by the other penguins as they go into theme of the song. As he continues to sing the song - we then start to PAN towards this vocal group that then go into a more upbeat version of the song. As they continue to sing their version of the song - for fun they then go in a freeze frame where they make silly faces before going back into song. As the song is being sung we then watch that there is a penguin guest at the table slurping very sloppily on the phone as he's also causing stains in his own bib - I guess I don't what the coherence of the gag is supposed to mean but I guess it has to go with the song or something. Oh, and it turns out that after that gag the penguin realises the mess he's made in which he uses a windscreen to wipe his bib -- well, WHY didn't they just have that in one shot then? It appears whilst singing the song they went into a medley by singing 'The Penguin Parade'. The sequence then finishes as the vocal group then leave. Well, THAT was just a pointless sequence in my opinion - it had a crooner penguin and I would've been amused by watching gags of any lady penguins being swooned but instead I just see these vocal groups singing this very boring jazzed version?!
The next scenes then start to focus with one of them being a penguin player just playing the clarinet and this certainly feels like something very tedious from Tex Avery as I know he could come up with something better than that. As much as the animation of the penguin playing the clarinet may be interesting - still, it's just boring. Finally there appears to be a gag that finally turns up where the penguin orchestra are still playing but without any breaks until they start to slow down their playing and start pant for breathe as well as the drummer, too. The drummer penguin then starts to pick up the beat again playing a playful drumming sound as the penguin band then continue to pick up the pace too by playing again. As the penguin conductor is still conducting he then turns around to find that he is seeing something which isn't going very well and walks over to an orchestra member that is off-screen.
As the dancing then starts to continue onwards - we then find that there is a dancing penguin couple that dance together but they both go into that dance which I'm not sure what's it's called where they wave their arm but I've seen it referenced in these cartoons elsewhere. Then one of the penguins then starts to break the forth wall in which he comments 'Hey look fellas, I'm dancing, I'm dancing!' I'm not too sure of the reference but I'm sure that it was from an actor in some of them motion pictures before.
The fifth walrus that I've gone to spot so far in this picture then turns out to be a lady walrus who looks large at the back and it looks like she's dancing with somebody who might be large as her. It turns out as she turns around that the walrus she's dancing are three penguins who are dancing with her as it takes up to three to get them to dance with her. I believe that it is a 'Laurel and Hardy' reference there. Irv Spence then gets an animated scene as it shows that a penguin is playing the saxophone in a real loosey style. Then we find that there are a band of marching penguins in which they are playing woodwind instruments to 'The Merry Go Round Broke Down'. These trumpeting penguins then also join in with the beat as they play the part where it's often the whistling sounds of the song.
There were only a few gags that were presented here which I thought were only worth those few fine moments of the cartoon which was the walrus laughing (in Avery's infectious laugh) as well as the walrus playing the cello, also the finale but off the top of my head that would be it for me. The cartoon definitely could've been much better -- even around the crooner penguin sequence where I felt it was just wasted with either little or no gags there which I feel is out of Avery's league since he was the master of cartoon gags - the King of Cartoons. Well anyways, we can't expect every good director to turn out every single cartoon to be outstanding or classified as "good". Even at the end of the day; Avery just didn't make a very good or funny cartoon but hey - nobody's perfect.