Saturday, 25 August 2012

198. The Penguin Parade (1938)

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.

The cartoon begins as we hear in the beginning the song in which the title song of the cartoon called The Penguin Parade is heard in the background. After the credits then fade away - we then find that what could probably be a resemblance to Northern lights but it's just beam lights shining and waving.

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 penguin that walks out of the refrigerator then waddles out of the refrigerator carriage as he walks over to the walrus that is a bartender and works in a part of the bar. The penguin then orders a drink from the walrus bartender. "Give me a scratching' (?) soda and a pinch of lemon". After the penguin places his order - the Walrus then starts to make the penguin his drink.

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.

As the penguin then continues to walk on staggering and of course drunk from being mixed from the drink -- there is a walrus that is seated in the nightclub. It turns out that there aren't only penguins - at least two walruses are in the nightclub (one of whom being a bartender). The penguin then staggers over to a table that is seated next to the walrus and Spence continues the animation even there.

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.

After the sequence with the penguin and the walrus; then we hear the sounds of music heard in the backgrounds in which everybody then turns to watch that will be seen. All of the penguins seated then turn to watch the stage in which a penguin presenter then enters the room. The penguin that we find on stage is in fact supposedly a double-talking emcee who appears to be talking too fast but in fact mentions some parts about the North Pole.

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.

As the presenter then leaves the scene - we then find that there are a group of soldiers which they have trumpets and they blow in it to begin with their introduction. After the blowing from the trumpet - it looks like that walking down the staircase is, evidently - the Penguin Parade. They then start to waddle down the stairs as normal penguins would do and the animation movement that is formed here gives it a decent effect. In a bird's eye view shot we find that the penguins are forming a separate line from each part of the stairs.

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?

The penguin audience still applaud at the act as the penguin commentator then returns again as he uses his hand postures to quieten the audience. After the penguin presenter then finishes the sound of applause -- he then goes to introduce the next fact. The next act then features the act of a popular crooner (called Bong Crisby). And of course they're going to have to have Bing Crosby's name sort of swapped around since I guess its for jokes and probably to stop Bing was trying to file lawsuits on ol'Leon.

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.

As we view the crooner penguin holding onto the microphone - everybody applauds when he is standing on the stage. He then starts to fix his bow-tie as he announces to the audience that the song that he is going to sing is the popular 1930s song When My Dreamboat Comes Home. He then asks the guys in the orchestra to "Take it, boys" which is a popular Crosby reference as well as the soft voice he had.

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?!

After the sequence with the vocal groups finishing - the amount of curtains then starts to rise one at a time in which then there is now a penguin orchestra band that then continue to play some music for the nightclub. There is a pretty wacky scene where it involves a penguin playing the piano and I believe that Irv also did that shot as well.

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.

It turns out that when the penguin waiter enters the spot there is in fact a walrus (now there's three walruses in the nightclub) but the walrus is playing a cello. The penguin conductor then finds that the cello has done out of tune and the gag is that he opens up the cello where there is a fireplace inside and he dumps some coals in to lighten it up. The walrus then finally starts to play some real music afterwards which is a clever gag by Tex. Irv Spence also did the walrus scene there with the cello.

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 next sequence then focuses on a parody of Fats Waller but instead it features ANOTHER walrus (the forth one I've spot so far in this cartoon) and it's a parody as his name is called "Fats" Walrus. He is seen playing on the piano since that's what Fats Waller is well-known for. As he is playing the piano - it looks like as though the piano is going to melt and it ends up falling as it appears but then Fats Walrus picks it up and forms it into a normal piano and plays it.

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.

More music playing then continues from the penguin bands as we find a crazy penguin drummer, a penguin drummer, etc. The trumpet playing is heard so intense that even the musical notes in the bar sheets then start to show the musical notes burning up and melting which is a pretty cool effect probably by Ace Gamer. The finale then arrives as the penguins are just playing like crazy to the songs that they play as they are using an awful lot of energy. The music then finishes as the audience applaud for their performance. The penguins then walk over to the audience with the final line of the cartoon, 'If you people out there in the audience think we're gonna keep this up all night. You're screwy! And we DO mean YOU!' The last time '...and I DO mean YOU!' is a reference to a line that columnist and movie critic Jimmy Fiedler used to say.

Overall comments: Despite only a few moments that this cartoon had with some Avery gags -- I have to say that I find Tex's effort here one of his forgettable cartoons. I mean it's just like a musical type cartoon and I'm already through with that but I thought Tex had enough of those pictures but yet he's still making those cartoons? Has it REALLY affected his film making and it just doesn't make too sense to me. I found that this cartoon was a bore most of the time as it also has too many references and I really disliked the double-talking emcee penguin even though he makes a funny reference mentioning Leon Schlesinger and Ray Katz. I didn't find that finale of the cartoon to be very special in fact since it feels like that it was just a bunch of tedious orchestra playing but with a few gags too short but the finale with the final quote was a pretty fun way to end the cartoon as they know they had enough of the music, too.

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.


  1. Penguin at bar ordered a scotch and soda.

    Penguin eating soup is not on the phone [?]

    Penguin couple is dancing the Jitterbug.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Cliff Nazarro was an emcee in vaudeville. He did a double-talk routine like that on radio. He was on Jack Benny's show fairly frequently in 1938.

  4. You forgot the synopsis.

    I wonder who Byron Gay was. He only got credit for this cartoon's songs. Usually it was Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar or Harry Warren and Al Dubin in ntose before 1937--this was the last to give songwriter credit. I wonder too if it was just an original song so there'd be one. THe penguinss silly faces freaks me out since it;s so sudden. Cliff Nazzarro is heard here and possibly in maybe a few other Warner Bros.cartoons but NOT as Egghead as others have said (or the early Elmer Fudd when he was mistaken for Egghead--see "Little Red Walking Hood" review that Steven posted).Steve C.

  5. "KFWB" was the Los Angeles radio station owned by Warner Bros. at that time.