Friday, 29 March 2013

258. Sioux Me (1939)

Warner cartoon no. 257.
Release date: September 9, 1939.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Indian Chief/Rainmaker/ Baby/Turtle/Worm/Indian Boy), Reid Kilpatrick (Inventor) and Bob Purcell (Narrator). Paul Taylor's singing voice; feat. Thurl Ravenscroft (singing bass for Sioux singing).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Herman Cohen.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: There has been no rain in the Indian village for ages; until an Indian boy has luck with 'weather pills'.

Original title card
Remake of the cartoon Porky the Rainmaker - a cartoon with practically the same concept: weather pills, gags, etc. released from 1936. It's close to being identical, except no Porky and its in colour.

However, considering this is a Blue Ribboned cartoon: this may be the last cartoon of the 1938-1939 season released with the opening titles with the green rings; or even maybe the first cartoon released with the red-blue rings (and clouds)..of the 1939-40 season. Although an original title DOES exist; its likely to be just artwork, so we'll never know for the time being. But, for the 'That's all Folks' card - I'm going to put the one from the 1939-40 season as we KNOW from the next Merrie Melody: Land of the Midnight Fun: it features the new opening.

The cartoon begins as we hear an off-screen narrator (narrated by Bob Purcell) who narrates about 'the worst drought in nearly a decade' which is located in Oklahoma in an Indian village. During the pan; we find the backgrounds dissolving into trees and grass burnt due to droughts.

After the pan of the indian village - we see a vulture standing by a rock; which illustrates the seriousness and the village are in dyre need of rain! The thermometer that is seen in the village already rises above 110 degrees Celsius.

Of course; that is just obviously an exaggeration as you would be dead by that point. Heh, I like how the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit is not that far apart from each other. Even the totem poles fan themselves. Cornstalks start to pop corn because of the heat; which I will take credit for being a funny and original gag. Even the plums start to rot with a little worm inside yelling for help which is a little amusing. The same concept that was seen in Avery's Porky the Rainmaker but pretty much different gags.

Meanwhile inside the Indian Chief's headquarters; a moose's head starts panting and the Chief paces around the room concerned of the heat. Looking outside, he finds a line of chickens protesting with signs which read; 'No Feed No Eggs', 'No Eggs No Chicken', 'Vice Versa', etc.

A pig strands into the scene with a sign reading 'No Corn No Ham' and even a buffalo walks in. The sign gags were also a reuse from Porky the Rainmaker - but different sign readings. The Indian Chief walks over to make an appointment with a local rainmaker.

Interesting puns as a 'rainmaker' relates to money business and of course its what Native Americans used. The Indian Chief demands: 'Ug my people they starve. I animals they die. You make um rain quick or -- (pantomimes cut throat)'. Some powerful Indian chief he is. The rainmaker responds and accepts to try and make rain.

The rain dance begins with a group of Indians playing with their tom-toms and the rainmaker begins his rain dance as the injuns chant 'We want rain!'. He even brings his face straight to the camera wriggling his cheeks. Even a group of cheerleaders join into chant. The Sioux singers were by Paul Taylor's vocals group, which featured Thurl Ravenscroft who is singing the bass singer chanting 'We want rain!'. Thanks to Keith Scott for his wonderful research.

There is also a little median-shot gag of Indians where the camera pans but the last Indian turns out to be short, which is an amusing gag. After the song concludes; we find the result is: not a drop.

As the Chief is busy blading his knife for an execution; the rainmaker quickly has an idea and climbs up a tree tower to find an Indian boy attempting to pump water. He looks at the boy trying to pump water, and gives him beads which is used as a currency. 'Take um beads. Get barrel water. Quick!'. The Indian boy swings down with a vine and rides on a horse with a cart to go to town to try and locate water.

Meanwhile in town; we find an inventor in town who is presenting his latest invention: rain pills. And yet, this is a sequence which is practically a complete reuse from the Avery cartoon. Practically all of the dialogue from the inventor heard in this cartoon was heard in the original Avery cartoon--so this makes the sequence unoriginal. But its a different voice actor in this cartoon.

The Indian boy arrives with his cart and walks over to listen to the inventor's presentation. The inventor then shows the categories that the weather pills have: and they're all the same from the previous cartoon (rain, sun, thunder, lightning, etc).

The Indian boy then leans on the rail to listen but the inventor uses this stick to push him off 'Scram papoose'. The inventor announces his demonstration of the rain pill as he uses a straw to shoot the rain pill up. After shooting it up, the rain pill explodes, and lo and behold: rain!

The inventor brags about how rain can be produced through that pill as it does rain. He asks for any customers to purchase his weather pills for a buck. A group of hands are raised holding dollar bills, and the Indian boy climbs through the crowd and offers beads for the inventor. 'Beads?! I think you're springing me, but I'll take a chance. Here ya are, bud'. He kindly offers the weather pills to the Indian Boy.

With the Indian rainmaker pacing up and down; and still in threat of the Indian Chief (playing with his knife). The Indian chief finds that the Indian boy has arrives with the horse cart and barrel. The rainmaker believes he has loaded the barrel with water, but finds its empty.

After tossing it away he bellows: 'Why you no bring water?!'. The Indian boy shows and brings out the weather pills from his pocket: 'Look, me got rain pills. They make plenty water I beeetcha'.

The 'betcha' was a line that Tini would usually say at the end of her sentences. The rainmaker tosses the box of rain pills away and a whole bunch of pills lay scattered around the ground. A chicken, resting under a tree, notices a pill and curiously swallows an 'ice' pill.

After swallowing the ice pill; the chicken reacts by feeling a little breezy inside. That's not all, as soon as she feels she has laid eggs: the hen then looks up and discovers her eggs have turned into ice cubes because of that effect. Meanwhile there is a passing-by turtle who spots a lightning pill (without knowing what it really is). After swallowing the pill; he turns into lightning and whizzes down until he crashes into a bark of a tree. He then blutters, 'Must've been something I did' with Mel Blanc's funny voice. All these weather gags are just recycled, but having seen both cartoons, its no surprise to me to see what's coming.

Then, an squaw is carrying her child on an Indian papoose, and notices an earthquake pill. Gee, even a squaw is animal-minded to not even read the label. She comments, 'Mmm. Food'. After swallowing the pill; she then gets an eruption inside as she runs to a tree to try and control the rumbling. The Indian Boy chuckles with a cretinous voice: 'That's fun, ma, let's do it some more!'.

The Indian boy points out to the rainmaker the use of the pills, and continues to quote 'I betcha!'. The rainmaker finds the rain pill, but a passing-by vulture flies at the spot to pick it up before the rainmaker does.

The vulture flies back on a limb holding onto the rain pill. By taking the pill, the vulture would not leave the area until a dead body is seen lying in the ground due to the heatwave. The Indian uses his bow and arrow to shoot straight towards the rain pill. Afterwards; the arrow aims directly at the pill, which explodes and so, the miracle arrives with rain pouring. The rainmaker looks out at the rain with amazement and performs a little gay dance with the Indian boy.

The crops then begin to grow back, as same with the watermelon and the plum. A really charming scene shows the plum drawing back with the worm relieved and no longer suffocated. A hen then receives joy of the rain and can now produce eggs. In fact, she can produce so many they fill up an entire, narrow tree. She comments: "Ain't that somethin'".

The Indians perform a rain dance whilst it rains. The cartoon concludes with the Indian Chief congratulating the rainmaker for being able to produce rain through rain pills. It starts with the rainmaker walking over to the Chief with confidence and asks, 'How am I doin', chiefy?'.

The chief shakes his hand, 'You fine fellow. You great rainmaker'. Whilst it rains, it suddenly then turns to sun and light. The Indian Chief looks towards the rainmaker with anger and he grabs out his dagger and chases him out of the scene. As soon as it rains again, they dash back to their spot and chuckle once again whilst the chief congratulates him.

Overall comments: For an audience member of the time -- probably watching the cartoon which would've been added as extra reels (shorts, newsreels, etc.) for features: there's not a doubt that they wouldn't know that this cartoon ripped-off Avery's Porky the Rainmaker. For us cartoon fans and historians: we already know this is a direct rip-off, as cartoons are very easy to access in the Internet age. The story climax, the gags, and even the entire concept is identical to Avery's own early cartoon. In some ways, it has been a rather challenging cartoon to review. You'd probably already realise that with the weather pill gags, I really didn't have to write about in terms of commentary. Why? Because I've already mentioned it when I reviewed Rain-maker, and it wouldn't be necessary to say so twice: in my opinion...and the fact Hardaway took the concept and only slightly altered the gags.

It feels as though Hardaway-Dalton were attempting to update or even improve the cartoon with better gags, dated radio catchphrases and adding an indian concept because: a Joe Dougherty stuttering pig was seen as obnoxious. But still, I think the Avery version is far more superior - why? Well, its Tex Avery, and also: more original. Considering that Hardaway and Dalton really don't have much merits in their tenure as directors: it's probably not worth saying (considering how their cartoons lacked creativity) but I'd say this is the least-creative entry they have made, largely because its more or less a remake. Nevertheless, the conclusion of the cartoon had its own moments: the Sioux gang chanting "We want rain!" is certainly rather effective, with the bass singing through Thurl Ravenscroft's notorious bass voice. The concluding gag, I'd say, is probably the only funny part of the whole cartoon.


  1. The production # for this short, per Dave Mackey's WB filmography page, is 8929, which would likely mean this short originally had the green rings at the open and close.

    The titles were replaced on July 21, 1951.

  2. i cannot find this video online anywhere i just found one but in another language :\