Thursday, 30 August 2012

202. The Isle of Pingo Pongo (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 201.
Release date: May 28, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Egghead/Canary Bird/Eskimo&Polar Bear), Gil Warren (Narrator) and Tex Avery (Native Football Coach) (?).
Story: George Manuell.
Animation: Irv Spence.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Travelogue parody where we take a look at the land of 'Pingo Pongo'.

This is another cartoon that has fallen into the Censored 11 as it features black and racial stereotypes. This is also the first of what Tex Avery would be famous for in his Warner Bros. career which is the many travelogue and spot-gag cartoons that he has made which would he very dated in today's standards.

The cartoon then begins in which the narrator of this cartoon begins his lines for this cartoon: Pingo Pongo - the pearl of the oyster island. The scene then fades to the funnel of a boat where it is called the S.S. Queen Minnie. The sign then reads 'Half Dollar Lines'. The narrator then makes the comment that the 'Queen Minnie' is in fact in New York. The whistle at the funnel of the ship whistles to the theme Shave and a Haircut which is just too typical.

The ship then starts to get sail in which it starts the expedition to Pingo Pongo. As the Queen Minnie then starts to get sail - what I find interesting but I guess this was because of budget purposes as it shows just one drawing of the liner moving away from the docks. Of course - it's cheaper and easier to do so. The Queen Minnie liner then starts to look at a part of New York and even find the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty then starts to make some movement as it shows that it is the traffic for the liners. As the liners coming past then halt - it turns out that a small boat is rowing past which controls the traffic before the Statue of Liberty can then let the other liners go past. Okay, that is a decent gag idea since the Statue of Liberty could make a good traffic for the ships and I like the little boat that just sails past. There is then a map going from New York all the way to Pingo Pongo and I imagine it was a type up map and world for gag purposes. There is a line that they travel through in which it turns out they end up travelling all over the place.

The ship that then starts to steam past then start to go through some interesting islands as the narrator identifies the islands that they travel past. The islands that they end up travelling are just a mere visual puns that are just in my opinion - not funny. The first sign from a tiny island reads "Los Angeles - City Limits".

The Narrator then identifies the first island being the Canary Islands. The island then features many cages that have canaries in them which is the visual gag as the Canary Islands do exist near the coast of North Africa. Another island then identified is the "Sandwich Islands" - which is one of the Hawaiian Islands. The island then has a picture of a hot dog sitting on of the island as we hear a dog barking - hence the hot dog sitting there. The ship then sails past the 'Thousand Islands' - another island where located in the U.S.-Canadian border - but it is also a brand which is a special type of salad dressing and is still in use. These gags are just too corny for me as I'm not too keen on visual puns. The island next to it as he sail along then features Egghead standing there holding a guitar as he asks "Now, boss?" which is one of the spot-gags that is going to be seen through the cartoons before reaching their conclusion at the end of the cartoon. The narrator then responds to Egghead, "No - not now". That whole scene is Irv's animation (who probably animates all of the Egghead scenes here) but at least the Egghead part is his scene.

The narrator then comments (camera shot done by telescope view) in which he comments that the Queen Minnie has been out at sea for 10 days and finally spots Pingo Pongo "which rises suddenly on the distant horizon. The visual pun then appears as the island then suddenly starts to pop up from the sea which makes it rather interesting and amusing.

As explained by the narrator; before the ship docks slowly to Pingo Pongo - the passengers on the ship then start to throw some coins to the river so that the natives can do so. Irv Spence also animated that short sequence. There is a fat lady who then starts to open up her purse. As she opens her purse there are a couple of passengers standing beside her. She places her hand inside the wallet digging for the coin. As soon as she has finished picking up one coin she then starts to toss it to the native who is sailing on a small rowing boat. The native then jumps under the water to grab the coin which is where the coin landed. Suddenly all the other passengers (except for the large lady) then start to dive under the water as they also want to grab it. My guess is that the gag of the cartoon is that this is still the Great Depression (though not as serious in 1938) and that every penny would be luck which is why they dived down there. Afterwards - the ship then docks as all of the other passengers run out and arrive at Pingo Pongo. The last passenger to leave is Egghead who keeps on asking for his cue in this part but the Narrator replies, 'No, not now'. Okay, but I don't think that long-shot with Egghead looks like a Irv scene - it looks like somebody else. What I forgot to mention is that every time Egghead pops in in case his cue is ready - the music heard in the background is called 'Organ Grinder's Swing' which was used a lot in those 1930s cartoons.

We then start to arrive at the scene near the villages of Pingo Pongo but arrive at tropical foliage. There are birds that are flying around the tropical forest but the narrator describes that the birds are rare and unusual. The narrator then starts to speak about one of the species sitting on a limb that is a hummingbird. It turns out that this 'hummingbird' in fact just stand about humming to himself - which is the visual pun.

After we then view the hummingbird - the next grid to be seen is the mockingbird. The narrator then comments about the specie, 'Intensely interesting is the mockingbird'. The mockingbird then responds back but in a mocking voice - 'intensely interesting is the mockingbird'. That is basically the visual pun shown here but at least Avery is coming up with new gag ideas. The narrator continues, 'Notice it's brilliant plumage'. After the mockingbird then responds with that mocking voice - the narrator responds to his mockingness, 'Mmm - this bird must've been crossed with a cuckoo'. The mockingbird continues to mock what he has said but realises his smart comeback as the mockingbird then shouts out in a reply, 'WHO ME?!' I don't find those visual puns very amusing to me but I suppose it's because I'm not a terrible fan of spot-gag cartoons though. I did like it when the jokes on the mockingbird as he reacted to what the narrator said 'crossed with a cuckoo'.

After the visual puns that feature the mockingbird and the hummingbird - we then PAN forward to how the narrator describes it in his own, descriptive words of a baby canary lying in a bird's nest. The baby canary bird is in fact (as told by the narrator) calling for his mother. The gag that builds up then starts to show the canary bird slowly rising but then shouts out "MAMA" in a loud Blanc voice before resting. We would've expected at least the bird to chirp to his mother but the loud roar to his mother was what I thought was funny.

After the view of the birds in the tropical forest - we then start to go over to a different location as we find that the narrator moves to a different part talking about the intelligent facial features of a pachyderm. It turns out that a mistake happened deliberately on screen as Avery was trying to gain some laughs. Afterwards - the camera flips aside as we find the front part of the elephant as the narrator explains 'That's better'. The elephant then makes a response to the Narrator's comment as he replies back with a "Ohhhhhh yeeeeeeaaaaaah!' which is ANOTHER reference from the Ken Murray show as the line was answered by Tony Labriola's character - Oswald. I do wonder who at the studio was a big fan of that catchphrase as it sure must've been a hit with gags back in that era. Irv Spence also animated that scene with the elephant as the timing and his facial features are there.

After that sequence with the elephant - we then start to view at another sequence where it focuses on the fastest animal running in action - the Pingo Pongo spotted gazelle. The narrator is also calling it the first to be spot in camera. The narrator then comments 'Notice its beautiful markings'. The gazelles then start to zip through the scenes which is some very good timing.

One of the gazelles is then paused in which the narrator comments, 'Whoa - slow down girl, we want to know what you look like'. The humour that is based in that shows that the gazelle then starts to stand up like a model and poses. I'm really unsure of the name of the music that is played in the background to where the deer dances and shows herself. This is also the first time in his spot-gag parodies where we find that a deer or any four-legged animal stand around like a human as they either model or expose themselves. I never particularly found it amusing but I just particularly found rather creepy looking rather than funny. After the gazelle finishes dancing the narrator thanks the deer as the deer zips back replying 'Thank you!'. Egghead pops back at the scene again in which he asks 'Now boss?' but the narrator still isn't ready for Egghead's cue. That whole sequence that is a continuous shot is all Irv Spence's animation - and did all of that sequence - even with the deer. Even though watching the gazelle model in that movement showing herself may not seem to look like the work of Spence - but that's definitely his posing.

As the narrator then starts to PAN forward through the scene moving on to another part of the jungle - all of a sudden we find an Eskimo and a polar bear turn up. The narrator then interrupts his lines as he asks curiously, 'Hey, what are you fellas doing here in the tropic?!' The eskimo and the polar bear then respond to that, 'We're on a vacation' - which makes the excuse reasonable and amusing.

They then pull faces at the camera as the Eskimo continues to feed the polar bear with fishes. Besides; it feels weird that gag since I thought polar bears hated tropical weather - but not in this cartoon. Irv Spence also animated that eskimo scene (but it's still a part of that continuos shot). After the sequence featured with the eskimo (Well, they prefer to be called Inuits now) - the narrator continues the travelogue: 'the islanders are skilled hunters'. As there are some deers standing around - they then spot some hunters coming their path. The hunter that is chasing after the deer turns out to be an African tribe chasing after the deer. As they are seen behind the bush - off-screen violence then goes on. After some violence and punching that goes on - the violence stops and it is revealed that the two deers have caught the hunter in his own stick. The fact that the deers even captured him with so struggle at all makes the satire funnier for the animal hunter.

After the sequence with the hunter captured by the animals - we are then nearing the village of where the Pingo Pongo civilians live. We hear the sounds of African drums that are performed by the natives in the village. The narrator continues, 'We come upon a group of native musicians beating out the savage rhythm that let us all primitive as the jungle itself'. We then start to get even closer as we find the natives are walking around in a circle to the tribe.

In a median close-up shot - we find that the natives are beating on the drums to the savage rhythm. As they continue to repeat that serious beat and even with serious - the atmosphere then changes. Suddenly they then get rid of their own drums and they stand up singing the song to She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes. There are three backup singers from that group as they sing the lyrics whilst tapping their feet and the other native at the far right is playing the guitar to the traditional folk song. The atmosphere change is rather amusing in my opinion as we expected some seriousness going on but then they start to lighten up by singing folk songs which Avery was trying to make laughs with that change. As they continue to sing the lyrics - I really like it when the native playing the guitar yodels like a yokel - makes the stereotype even funnier. After a moment of singing a folk song which lightened up the sequence - they stop playing music and return to the drums. They continue with their serious faces just banging on those drums repeatedly over and over to the same rhythm.

In the next sequence - the narrator then narrates the next part of the civilisation in the Pingo Pongo village. We find that there is a villager walking around and eating a peeled banana. The narrator explains that the native is untouched by civilisation and rather ignorant about the cameraman, the narrator and 'their presence'. The response to that lineup results with the villager taking a snapshot from a camera. The words that pop up then reads 'Life Goes to a Party'.

That is rather funny since he proved him wrong. The animation where he walks chewing the banana is just very solid and I love that walk he makes which feels very realistic. The music heard in the background is the 'Congo' music. Another part of the civilisation in the village shows the villagers enter their own restaurant that is called Dark Brown Derby. The reference to the name of the restaurant is a reference to an old, food-chain restaurant called Brown Derby which was very popular around Los Angeles back in that era - it was even changed exactly like a brown derby but huge in size. Inside the restaurant we find a native that is cooking a meal for the native which is some boiled eggs as well as a ice-cream to go on top of that. I see that a reference to that is the lower mouth is a black stereotype because they would have a lower lip sticking out quite a bit but its greatly exaggerated for it to be used as a plate inside the restaurant but again I guess it would also come in handy since you could just eat it in one bite.

The narrator then moves onto the next part and explains that a popular drink to the islanders and villagers is the milk coconut. The native is holding onto a can opener to open up the coconut. That is a rather cool and interesting way to open it. After opening up the coconut - the native then guzzles it down his mouth and throat. I love the looseness Irv Spence animation where the liquid flows through his lips. The native then starts to hiccup in which his slinky neck springs up - which is a stereotype to their slinky necks that they would have.

After that sequence - the narrator then reports on another part of the island until all of a sudden footage from out of nowhere then appears. It is footage from a horse race in which the narrator then starts to yell "Hey...I'm sorry folks, I'm sure I don't know how it got in here". The satire there is also very amusing and that is also Avery pushing the boundary to where he is using stock footage on purpose just for laughs which you must give Tex credit for that. After the footage of the horse races finish; the travelogue then starts to focus on a part about culture in the island - beginning with sports. The sports that the natives play is equivalent to what the Americans would play which is American football. The coach then starts to call for signals for several numbers - as he mentions '34'; the native then responds to that '34 - that's ma number!' Okay, but I don't understand that gag but it feels really dated.

The narrator then moves to another part in this travelogue where we listen to the sounds of the drum beating and mentions the villagers are having a native celebration. We PAN around as we find that the natives are seen with partners as they are about to dance. Their dancing starts off to begin as they are dancing very slowly and formerly as the animation there was rotoscoped. The designs of the natives there in my opinion look really ugly with rotoscopes and those huge lips, too - it really doesn't look right as well as their own bodies that is featured there, too.

After that slow and smoothing introduction to the dance - the rhythm starts to quick up the voice which more liver music heard. A Fats Waller native then pops over at the screen then says, 'OK' - I think before going off. The natives then start to dance to the music to the song Sweet Georgia Brown. The way that they are dancing to one another is that they appear to be moving their heads close together up and down and they continue their dance. Notice that the animation from where the natives start off their dancing was later reused animation five years later in Bob Clampett's classic Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs.

After the natives then start off their own dancing - the natives then start to sing in the microphone to the song Sweet Georgia Brown as it even looks like a radio microphone - which makes it slightly amusing as they appear to have their own radio station. The small letters of the radio station is called 'Foo'. As the vocalists are singing the song - the Fats Waller stereotype villager is walking up and down but is picked up every time when he sings the verse 'Georgia Brown' in his gruff singing voice.

What I find rather amusing is that every time he gets placed back down - the native that keeps on picking the Fats Waller caricature up for the backup rhythm voice effects but then keeps on holding onto him and keeps on picking him up and down but it is only shown here in a subtle way. The native even starts to change his body position where the Fats Waller caricature is even standing on his backside and he sings his part. The whole vocal groups that they have then finish off the song 'Sweet Georgia Brown' with Waller providing the vocal effects that were heard. A part of the song or at least the music was heard earlier on in the cartoon Buddy in Africa but I suppose much of you would've probably have forgotten about that cartoon.

After that song sequence; the natives then play the drums along with the song. The natives that are playing music then start to show Pingo Pongo's own orchestra band which I believe shows a similar finale to what Avery previously had in The Penguin Parade. We find a large native couple that dance to the music. Another stereotype is featured as we find a native using his own big lips to play a type of trombone sound.

Some reused animation even turns up as we find that it is the famous reused scene from Clean Pastures. There is one part that I do quite like where it features this couple as they appear to be almost puckering their lips together but they both move upwards and downwards but not at the same time - if you know what I mean and I like that rubbery animation on that. The band then still continue to jam to the music until the music itself then fades out.

After the sequence with the tribal music and their own band dancing is now over. The scene now reaches sunset as we have reached the conclusion to the travelogue parody at Pingo Pongo. The narrator comments, 'But - all good things MUST come to an end'. We then start to hear the music to 'Aloha O' in the background as we continue the pan through the  village during the sunset setting.

The narrator then starts to conclude the travelogue parody in which we view the actual sun standing by the sea. The narrator then comments as he is finishing his part, 'As the sun sinks slowly in the west'. There is no movement of the sun sinking slowly at all as it is still staying afloat. The narrator then tries again believing he could've delayed himself. 'As the sun sinks slowly in the west!' As he is about to try again the third time - Egghead then enters the scene (as we almost forgot about him) as he enters the scene asking for his cue, 'Now boss?' - the narrator then finally found the appropriate time for him to turn up in this part in which he replies, 'Yeah now'. Egghead grabs out a gun out from his guitar case as he shoots straight towards the sun. The sun then reacts to the shotgun in which he then sinks downwards and we reveal nightfall at Pingo-Pongo. Egghead laughs at his own little trick he did to get the sun to sink down in that Irv Spence scene which finishes off the cartoon. Egghead in this cartoon was the recurring gag of this travelogue parody and was the result of the conclusion which shows it's rather amusing since he interrupted moments in the travelogue when not needed.

Overall comments: With that being Tex Avery's first travelogue parody and also being a part of the Censored 11 - I personally think more of it as a spot-gag cartoon of the 1930s. Tex would later love to experiment with dated spot-gag cartoons later on in his period and even influenced the other directors, too. This cartoon being the first of Tex would later encourage him to make more of those parodies which did get too much afterwards. As also being a Censored 11 - I have to say that I really don't think of this cartoon as much of an offensive cartoon at all. There is very little or if, no stereotypes in this cartoon other than the designs that they were given. I don't feel as though the cartoon would be enough to carry the Censored 11 title since only about half of the cartoon really features the black stereotypes. I mean September in the Rain managed to be cut in such a short amount of time  - and they could've done it that way if it was on television but yet again - it would feel pointless to do so.

What interests me about this cartoon is that this is another approach to Tex Avery himself. Before that -he was really developing satire in the past and really focusing on humour and getting edgier in his cartoons. It really feels like the humour and style he's trying to make is really no edgier approach at all as it feels much milder being a travelogue parody but I feel as though he managed to try and pull it well. However most of the time he would have to heavily focus on the backgrounds in the cartoon where there wouldn't be a lot of on-time animation on the screen as Avery was trying to make the narration seem serious so that the gag can be developed. It would later on differ the way the animators worked since they even ended up having to draw realistically to make the gag work. Avery didn't appear to be taking any risks with humour at all whatsoever. However he was mainly trying to aim for laughs which is what the audience would've got but that's what Avery really wanted. The fact that Egghead who became the recurring character is a very interesting sub-plot as well as they keep on coming in the picture a couple of times with warning before their own fate/situation which happened in many Warner Bros. cartoons.


  1. Nice ending...XD - yeah, I think this is the best of Texs travelogue cartoons.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.