Sunday, 21 October 2012

209. Cinderella Meets Fella (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 208.
Release date: July 23, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Danny Webb (Egghead), Berneice Hansell (Cinderella), Mel Blanc (Cuckoo Clock / Royal Guards / Screaming Cinderella).
Story: Ted Pierce.
Animation: Virgil Ross.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Fairy-tale satire to the original Cinderella fairy-tale.

Of course - Ted Pierce has worked with Tex as it appears in his earlier cartoons (and even being the silhouetted man in his cartoons) and this is his only known story credit for Tex. Although mind you, the story credits were rotated back in those days that story guys would work in groups and it happened at least in the 1937/38 season, and you would notice a lot of story guys had credits will various directors.

Before I begin: this is Tex Avery turning in another parody; he already done a fairy tale one: Little Red Walking Hood, as well as a few parodies like the Uncle Tom story, and previously made his own first travelogue parody (and would go on to make much much more) and it appears that this is Tex's aim so far in this era when previously he was making funny stories and B/W Porkies.

The cartoon then opens up as we find that the titles of 'Cinderella Meets Fella' was a designed front hardback cover of a book. The book cover then opens up as we find a message that is directed to an audience: You are cordially invited to attend the King's Royal Ball R.S.V.P. At the bottom of the page we then pan back down as we discover a message reading in much more modernised, bubble writing: 'P.S. After the Dance Stop in at SWEENEY'S DRIVE IN for a CHEESEBURGER - They're Delicious! Of course - if you see Tex Avery's sense of humour - he is in fact trying to modernise and Americanise classic fairy tale stories which makes it mildly funny to me, and I recall that earlier in 'Little Red Walking Hood' there was no gag in the monologue pages but here its' spoofed very well with even modernised jazz music played that the sequence. Tex has done it again by successfully parodying fairy tales by modernising it.


Meanwhile back at home we find that Cinderella is at home sweeping as usual - which we all know are orders by her stepmother. We discover that as she is in rags; the stepmother and her stepsisters are dressed up in fancy balls as they are going to the ball and they leave Cinderella to the work. They then open the door chanting and boasting about going to the ball; 'We're going to the ball, we're going to the ball - but you stay home!' they close the door leaving poor Cinderella in the old house. They open once more quoting Jimmy Fiedlier, 'And I do mean YOU!'

As the door is closed we then find that Cinderella is weeping her eyes as going to the ball means a lot to her. We then hear in the background which I think is a reference to 'The Lone Ranger' with the William Tell Overture heard in the background. If that is the reference then I do find it very humorous in these fairy tales - although fairy tale parodies (being modernised) have been used in 'Silly Symphonies' but here Tex is adding popular culture into it. Later on, we find that Cinderella is all alone in the house and she has completed her chores for the night. She is sitting by the fire trying to keep her hands warm near the flame. The candle on the fireplace is very small and we find it is a very small flame. We then turns on the fuse to the flames would rise higher - which is a little amusing as its modernise.

Cinderella then hears the sounds of the cuckoo clocks (and many of them all over the clock) strike out as the time is now 9 o'clock. They shout altogether, 'It's 9 o'clock!' Much to Cinderella's surprise - she then rushes over to the phone booth to ring the police. She is in fact calling for her Fairy Godmother and it turns out that she is already 15 minutes late.

Ahh, what I really like about this part is that Cinderella is just treated like a character, we're not supposed to believe in her other than an actress playing that character which I think is really good satire to the original fairy tale - and something that Disney wouldn't dare to do. She then concludes the phone as she shouts, '...in other words..GO GET HER BOYS!' and she then hangs up. The screaming Cinderella was of course Mel Blanc's own voice as he knew how to make shouting really funny. We then find that there are a bunch of police officers trying to signal the Fairy Godmother in their offices through the signal department. That bit of reuse was also notorious in the 1930s as it originated in The Blow Out but I think it was a very suitable use of reused animation. Cinderella then rushes over to the radio where she appears to be making a reference to 'Philco' which is 'no stoop, no squat, no squint' although I don't personally get it. She then turns on the radio as she hears the sounds of an officer 'calling all cars' for the Fairy Godmother.


Cinderella: Gee, I hope they find her.
Police: Don't worry, lady. We'll search every joint till we do.

Of course that gag had originated from a Walter Lantz cartoon called 'The Merry Old Soul' and Avery even used it himself in 1936 in his hit cartoon 'I Love to Singa'. Cinderella then listens out to the sounds of sirens in which she then looks out the window to find that it is the cops.

We then discover ourselves that it is indeed a police van arriving at the scene of Cinderella's house. The back of the police car then opens as we find that a officer is holding onto the Fairy Godmother and she is tossed inside her house. After being tossed inside the house, she gets up and then meets with Cinderella. She then giggles as she remarks, 'Oh I hope I didn't break my appointment' - I like how Tex made her appear a bit of a fool as a Fairy Godmother.

The Fairy Godmother then grabs out her purse which simply labels, 'Magic Wand' instead what she pulls out of the bag by accident turns out to be a bottle of vodka. She is slightly embarrassed at the situation and she returns it into her own bag. She blushes, 'Pardon me' before returning it. I like how there is some slight adult humour in these fairy tale classics that Tex is bringing in. She quickly grabs out her magic wand and then there is some sparkling effects animation appearing up where Cinderella's rags then turn into a beautiful, fancy dress. Instead of being sophisticated about the dress and giving her compliments, instead Cinderella just jumps up to the Fairy Godmother and smooches her on the lips. She then moves onto the next stage: 'Now first, a pumpkin for the coach'. She then grabs out a can of pumpkin which still makes it funny since there appears to be no pumpkin outside her garden. She then pulls out a huge pumpkin out of the can which is quite wacky. She then moves on, 'and now some mice for the horses' and she giggles. I'm not sure whether the voice is supposed to reference to any woman celebrity of the time. I like how her voice is being displayed here although it appears to be rather unknown. She walks over to the wall where there is a mouse hole at the bottom. She pulls out her dress to try and find her coin as there is a slot machine on the wall. Very funny how she is wearing cowboy trousers and boots.

Afterwards, Cinderella then places the coin inside the slot machine and then she hits the jackpot. A group of rodents then race out of the mouse hole as she has her collection.

In the next sequence, we find that she has the groups of mice and her pumpkin sorted out together. She uses them to turn them into a carriage and the horse - just like in the fairy tale. Although Disney would make it magical in the 1950s with a musical song; but instead Tex just aims for laughs. She manages to transform it alright but instead the coach ends up transferring into Father Christmas on his sleigh and the rodents turn into Santa's reindeers. Now that is a very funny gag and Tex sure knew how to make laughs in every place. The Fairy Godmother then giggles as she comments, 'Oh I guess I got my dates fixed' which I believe was Irv Spence's animation but I'm not so sure. She turns Santa's sleigh but ends up then changing it into a coach but being rode by the lone ranger and at least the rodents are now horses. The Fairy Godmother then comments on the horse, 'Well, I guess it will have to do'. It shows that Tex decided not to follow the fairy tale and follow it his way which makes this a very entertaining sequence. Cinderella then ethers the coach.

The Fairy Godmother then opens up the door of the garage in which the cowboy then rides Cinderella out of the garage and she is on her way to the ball. The Fairy Godmother then waves her flag down as she shouts, 'There they GO!' which is a reference that you hear in horse racing from the commentator.

There is a neat silhouette scene of Cinderella's coach riding on the way to the ball by a full moon - although I always notice that in night scenes anywhere there has to be a full moon even though it comes once a month. The coach then rides inside the castle where the Royal Ball is taking place. I like how that the backgrounds show the lettering lights on them as this fairy tale is supposedly set in the modern day. The sign reads: The Royal Ball and there is some information at the bottom that reads: "Free Parking 'til Midnight" which refers to those parking cars, often in nightclubs. I like how another sign appears which reads: 'No Cover Charge'. Looking inside the ball; we find that there are some waltzing couples that waltz through Johann Straus' Blue Danube. Interesting to me that it appears much of the public know that classical piece of music because it was famously used in Stanley Kubrick's '2001' film but before that it was popular through waltz. Notice how that the ball looks almost empty with only a few waltzing couples and it hardly looks like anybody is in the background. Gee, I thought that every eligible maiden was to attend the ball.

In the next part of the sequence, we find there are two squires standing at the edge of the staircase as they announce the next part (sort of like narration) 'Cinderella approaches!' - they listen to the sounds of the horses clattering on the way to the castle. As they listen out - they immediately go into song of the old traditional folk song She'll Be Coming Round the Mountains which is a little funny scene  itself.

They quickly finish their small sing-song as Cinderella then arrives at the top of the staircase and she steps down. What makes it even funnier for me is that there is another reference where the King and the squires wolf-whistle whistle at Cinderella and then remark, "BABY!" but I'm a little unsure where the reference came from since I've heard it before used in Hollywood Steps Out and other cartoons, too. She walks down the steps of the ball and everybody applauds of her arrival and are happy that she has made it too the ball, and the crowd still looks too small! Looks like there is no sign of her wicked step-sisters after all. The two squires then make another call as another important role has arrived at the ball: Prince Charming. Another pair of squires then arrive at the spot as they are carrying a rug that features Prince Charming inside there - and we would all think why would a charming prince be inside a rug?

The rug then descends down the stairs and after it is then unrolled - it turns out that Prince Charming is in fact Egghead. Now that is just really funny since how can Egghead meet the charms and sophistications of Prince Charming in the fairy tales? But here, we wouldn't care.

Before I continue, I'm going to say that for those who consider this character to be 'Egghead's brother'. I'm not going to classify them as either. Egghead's brother was a merchandising name as far as I know but I don't know any source or model sheet that names it--but I don't care what he's called (despite different versions) I'm just going to go with Egghead. Anyway, back to the story - I like how that Egghead (Prince Charming) in fact just chuckles like Joe Penner and looks bashfully towards the audience which makes the satire very amusing. Funny enough - I like how Tex just goes beyond the limits as he tips his head out of his neck to greet the audience before placing it back which shows his head is already decapitated. Egghead then looks over at Cinderella's charms as she is rather shy towards him. Egghead then looks at her in a shy way and comments, "What a beautiful girl (bashful moment) I haven't get over..." she then walks over to Cinderella to greet her.

Egghead then walks over to Cinderella as he bows towards her. Cinderella then bows herself holding onto her dress which we would expect to see in fairy tales all the time - but not here. Cinderella then grabs Egghead and kisses him on the nose. The part where Prince Charming just floats on air with his legs scampering is very funny and mildly crazy. It was very cleverly animated.

Egghead then looks at the audience as we discover that his nose already has a kiss mark from Cinderella's lips. The lips then move from Egghead's nose as they shout 'Oh boy!' and Egghead is a little confused as to where he heard the voice. In the background - we hear an off-screen chorus singing a love song in the background called Boy Meets Girl - I wonder if Avery was trying to parody the love song heard in the background - unless it was some sort of parody from Disney's popular film of the time, 'Snow White'. Egghead and Cinderella then both dance together as they move towards the left whilst dancing. I like how that Egghead just uses his own legs to do the work then he steps on top of a table and then back down without even noticing which just makes it mildly amusing and Avery is certainly giving us some real funny entertainment. Egghead then turns to the audience in the middle of the love sequence and comments, 'Look fellas, I'm dancing, I'm dancing!' which I think is a quote that you often hear in jitterbugs. Whilst dancing - we hear that Egghead whispers to Cinderella's ear as they decide to step outside on the balcony.

They step outside of the balcony as the darkness from outside then fades to silhouette which makes it a nice touching subtle moment which gives them the excuse to kiss on the lips - I suppose a way to avoid censorship since kissing scenes apparently had to he rather short back in those days. The chorus appear to be singing the story where the 'time marches on'. We pan to find the clock is just about to reach midnight - the cuckoo is supporting the love moment for Cinderella and Prince Charming by trying to pull the hand away and is pausing time. Now that is just hilarious.

There is a little neat dream sequence of those lovebirds where they finish kissing each other on the lips and then there is a thought bubble at the top of their heads of how they would picture their wedding day. Cinderella is in her bride's dress and the vicar is performing the ceremony. I do wonder what Tex was trying to get at when he was creating this sequence as I suppose it was supposed to be a love-sequence with no gags but with the cuckoo trying to save time before it reaches midnight and Cinderella would have to run away from the ball.

The cuckoo then uses all the strength to keep the clock hand but the cuckoo loses the strength and eventually gives up. The hand then spins around and around as it is the midnight bell sound. The bell sounds is big news for Cinderella as she has to run away from the ball to get back home (and of course - a part of the fairy tale). She then discovers the time and she dashes out of the scene holding onto Prince Charming (Egghead). She then dashes but returns as she has forgot to drop her slipper.

I like how that Avery used her not as a character in that part as she is just an actress forgetting to drop the slipper which was a deliberate mistake. I think these scenes were also by Irv - since it reminds me of his own drawing or posing but that's all the resemblance that I see. She then leaves the scene as the other waltz couple continue to waltz and she runs up the top of the staircase.

Much later on - we then find that Egghead is on the hunt looking for Cinderella. He can't rest until he finds her as he is in love. Egghead is running around street to street looking for Cinderella and is going to find her in every nook and cranny. That scene there is definitely Irv Spence's animation of Egghead searching for her. He even looks under the saloon doors of a bar - and is rather curious after what he sees inside. He even tries to phone the phone booth asking for Cinderella but only for about a second.

He continues his run looking for Cinderella and even shouting out her name. Prince Charming (Egghead) then runs around still searching for her until he stops and sees some signs that read out (signs all over) in giant letters obviously pointing out that this is Cinderella's house and even mentioning that it is her house. Egghead then turns to the audience, 'That must be Cinderella's house'. Now that is just really funny and I like how it increases his ignorance to not noticing the sign. Egghead then runs inside the house in the main part looking all over and carrying objects to find Cinderella but has found no trace of her. Even looking in the unlikely places including the fire-place. Now that makes the whole sequence a mystery since she is not at home and where else would she be?

Egghead even asks the cuckoos inside the cuckoo clocks they remark rather sarcastically and even amusingly, 'Now you know she wouldn't be in here'. Then they zip right back into their clock. As Egghead then continues to call for Cinderella - he then finds on a table a note which is directed to her. The note then reads:

Dear Princy: Got tired of waiting--Went to a Warner Bros. Show. Lovingly, Cinderella xxxxxx


Now that makes the satire even more amusing for fairy tale characters to be going off to watch a Warner Bros. picture. Egghead then cries to himself as he bangs on the floor as he blames himself for the loss of Cinderella. He cries: "Woe is me, woe is me" feeling sorry for himself. As he continues to cry, he then hears the sounds of Cinderella calling for her off-screen.

It turns out that Cinderella was in the audience watching the cartoon and she calls out for his name and she then rushes over to enter the film. I really like how that was planned and at least it was made into a happy ending. I wonder if that was Ted Pierce wearing a girl's wig and pretending to act like a little girl on stage? "Keep your shirt on", she remarks, "I'll be right up!" She then enters the stage as Prince Charming and Cinderella both reunite together. They then embrace each other as they both kiss each other on the lips. She then suggests, what shall we do now? Egghead's suggestion is, 'Let's go back to the 10th row and stay the newsreel' which is a little sly reference there as they then grab onto each other and step out of the iris-out circle to go to the back of the theatre to probably doing 'you-know'.


Overall comments: I find that Avery's attempt in parodying and modernising fairy-tales to be of very good use here. This cartoon has excellent satire in the Cinderella story. I love the fact about how they make fun of it all and they exaggerate the whole story on it which I think makes an appealing cartoon. After what felt like a couple of cartoons made by text where he made that pointless musical 'Penguin Parade' cartoon and his travelogue parody previously, I find that this cartoon is a treat full of Avery's charms and even very funny gag situations. He also uses some radio references but at least they're amusing. The voice choices for the Fairy Godmother was rather touching and blessing but also amusing in a comic form, and the design of her was pretty good. I'm not always a huge fan of Hansell's baby-like voices but at least they didn't make Cinderella sound something like a Katherine Hepburn parody because I found that quite annoying.

Avery would tackle out a few fairy-tale spoof cartoons a few times and even making some very, very good ones at MGM but of the Warner catalogue I find that this was his funniest one he did. This cartoon did in fact make it into the '100 Greatest Looney Tunes' book although I would have to question that. Yes, it was a funny cartoon and a very clever satire to the fairy tale but is it really that great to be considered one of the 100 Greatest? That's just me. I suppose that the love sequence where they dream of getting married was mocking a romantic sequence whilst there is comedy in the background of the cuckoo trying to pause the time and not make the clock strike midnight. All in all, I find this a very funny cartoon and probably the strongest cartoon released so far this year...

2 comments:

  1. The “no squat, no squint, no stoop” line is indeed a Philco radio advertisement slogan. This particular radio model was inclined, so that the listener would turn on the radio dial whether they were sitting or standing. They wouldn’t have to neither squat, nor squint nor stoop to dial.

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  2. "Look, fellas, I'm dancin'!" comes from the first of the Dead End kids movies in 1937.

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