Friday, 5 April 2013

263. The Good Egg (1939)

Warner cartoon no. 262.
Release date: October 21, 1939.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown. 
Story: Dave Monahan.
Animation: Ken Harris.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A childless mother hen adopts a baby turtle who believes he is a chicken, but finds he is disowned by the other chicks in the farm.

The original Stalling cue for the original opening exists in The Carl Stalling Project. You can hear the original cue here. The original cue heard is Ho-De-Lay (Start of the Day Right), which is heard throughout the cartoon score.

The cartoon begins where we view a shot outside a barn. Inside we find a group of hens inside as they are seen as happy and contented. However, the hen at the far right is seen with a depressed face and she looks under her body and finds she has made no eggs.

Meanwhile a mother hen cracks an egg open--and, a baby chick is born. Mmm. The mother hen, in a close-up shot, looks at the baby chicks born feeling pleased, but still sad on the downside. Another mother watches her three eggs hatch.

The mother continues to look sadder. Another mother places her egg in an 'ACME toaster'. Yeah, it would only a work as a gag to include the word 'ACME'. After a few seconds; the chicks then hop out of their eggs completely born. The mother then steps out of the henhouse feeling completely dejected. She then looks and finds a lonesome looking chick. She immediately runs over to pick him up and ends up cuddling him like an mother. An angry mother walks over to snatch her chick back. The mother the pretends to cuddle and mother him, but bursts out crying. Some really good acting and personality animation on that scene; and even solid facial expression by Chuck Jones that shows he was more than the average director.

The mother hen continues to sob inside the henhouse that she feels she's doesn't want to live anymore. We find she already has a post-it note on her nest box which reads 'Goodbye, cruel work'. As soon as she is about to leave; she returns again to place a sign on top of her nest reading 'Space to Let' and then exits.

In a long-shot she is seen leaving the henhouse and there is a sign that points to the direction she is walking to...the river. Wow, for a cutesy cartoon like this, this is surprisingly dark and depressing for Chuck Jones..considering he never went as dark as suicidal thoughts in his early cartoons.

As soon as she reaches to the riverbank; she looks towards at the world behind her, waves, and then makes a run up to jump to the drown and down herself. As she is about to run and drown herself, she trips on an abandoned egg which is dug to the soil. After the trip, the hen then picks herself up and turns suspicious on the egg. Immediately no longer having any suicidal thoughts, she turns around to see if the coast is clear. She grabs the egg and runs off with it. Gee, you'd never think a mother hen would be so devoted to having chicks that it would drive them to suicidal thoughts and even kidnapping any egg, not mattering if its a chick or not.

In the next scene, we find that the mother hen is clucking very happily to The Umbrella Man. Uggh, that song is so hard to escape your head. She then posts a little note outside the henhouse reading: What local hen is expected a bless event? 

Afterwards; she then begins to knit the shorts for her 'child' who she is hatching, and still clucks to the tune. Afterwards; she clucks in theme of the song as she hears the egg about to be hatched. She steps out of her next with excitement.

 Much to our surprise, it turns out she has hatched a baby turtle. The baby turtle has already cracked open, and the mother hen is very satisfied with the results. She asks the audience, 'Isn't he cute?' which reminds me of the Harman-Ising days. She then opens up the baby turtle's shell where we all see his behind. The mother hen then wraps the turtle's behind by placing a nappy as a change. Then she closes the turtle's shell.

After the birth of the turtle, the mother hen decides she should be treated like some of the chicks and to befriend them. 'Now darling, go and play with the other little chicks'. We find a lot with a chick leader marching as they're playing a marching leadership game of some sort.

Afterwards; the mother hen then lets the baby turtle go and he ends up sliding down the henhouse. He hides inside his own shell so he could slide down more safely. Afterwards; there is a little chick who spots the turtle's shell inside. 

The turtle's legs and head then pop out of the shell which gives the chick a staggering take. The chick looks towards the turtle and asks: 'Who are you?'. The turtle responds in close-up: 'I'm a chicken', not knowing he is even a turtle. The little chick then giggles (in a Bob McKimson scene); 'He thinks he's a chicken'. All of the other chicks then laugh and humiliate the little helpless turtle. The turtle then feels hurt from being insulted by the chicks and he sheds a tear.

Afterwards; as the little chicks continue to laugh at the baby turtle, the chick leader is seen on a small model boat and encourages the other chicks to come on over: 'Hey, c'mon fellas, let's play pirates!'. All of the other chicks then follow on, the turtle looks up and decides to follow the other chicks and try to join in the game.

As the other tricks are allowed to hop on, the turtle is treated like an outcast and they remove the plank and he trips in the lake. All the other chicks laugh at him like he is a freak as they sail away. The turtle walks out of the scene feeling depressed and dejected.

After the turtle walks on top of a hill feeling left out; the chicks are seen in the middle of the lake enjoying their game of pirates. However, the plastic from the box detaches and then the model boat begins to collapse. All the chicks are seen in a panic as their model is collapsing. They all fall into the lake, and they all cry out for 'Help!' as they struggle to swim. The turtle is seen lying depressed but then he begins to hear the sounds of cries of 'help!' and then he decides to save their lives.

The turtle runs down a hill that he was seen lying on, crestfallen, just to save the lives of the chicks who teased him. Why bother? They teased him and made him an outcast, why bother saving them? We continue to hear the sounds of the chicks crying for help in the river, and the turtle dives into the river and speeds like a speedboat.

He then watches them drowning underwater; and he uses his shell to dive down like a submarine. Afterwards we watch him, managing to pick up the chicks as they're all piled on top of one another. The turtle counts the chicks - all four of them.

Afterwards; the turtle then saves the four chicks up the hill where they are now save. The following day, we find that the mother hens are watching the chicks having fun playing in the lake, and now the turtle is seen made as a popular among the chicks as he's made pirate on top of the crow's nest of their game. He turns to the audience and we find, however, he has been appointed as a life guard. Gee, scratch that, he has been appointed to being a lifeguard; and that expressionless look on his face...some ending for a supposedly cutesy, harmless cartoon.

Overall comments: A cutesy, charming and happy Chuck Jones cartoon? Cutesy--I suppose so, charming--if you insist but happy--of course not. If anything, my overall impression of the whole cartoon is I find it depressing. The fact that the mother hen suffers from childlessness and turns suicidal is really not pleasant to watch--even in a children's cartoon. Also, I find that the chicks tormenting the turtle to be so realistic that I really feel the sadness of the turtle, and even feel the depression of him, which isn't a compliment. Also, I'm not even completely satisfied with the ending as a whole, as you can see that the turtle has been appointed as a lifeguard, and not even considered a friend to join in with the ducks. I know this sounds like complete pointless analysis: but if the turtle feels even more depression of not joining in, he has to keep his life in case of the chicks drown any further...meaning they can have fun but he can't. I guess the moral is it sucks to be a turtle...if there ever was one. This cartoon really doesn't represent any happiness towards me, and its one of those cartoons that I wouldn't wish to watch again after watching it twice. If it must be said, this cartoon really doesn't feature any gags at all...well if you count the eggs hatching as a gag...but I suppose you can consider this cartoon to be a gag-free, dramatic cartoon...even if it feels that way.


  1. This sounds like the basic premise of Baby Huey: freak child born to a loving mother; tries to play with the other kids but is rejected for being different; saves the day when the kids who rejected him are in trouble; finally accepted at the end.

  2. The early Chuck Jones directions usually have a dark undertone to them. I guess I felt the same way when I was a kid as Steve Hartley mentions in this review. You actually feel bad for the childless/eggless hen while all the other hens are delighting in their newly hatched babies, and then when she "adopts" an abandoned egg only to hatch out a turtle (with a beak) and have that baby rejected by all the other little chicks...but could this have been Chuck's "statement" on having to do these cherubic cartoons? He once stated that he didn't like doing the SNIFFLES cartoons, even though I never saw anything wrong with that series. Just a thought, not an intention to reinvent history, here.