Release date: July 19, 1941.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Philip Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Inki, while on the hunt for the Mynah bird, he becomes endangered by a ferocious lion for attempting to spear its cub.
The bird is symbolic in the Inki shorts, having a supernatural ability of being undefeatable. Inki would turn his attention towards the bird, but at some point in the short, he would face a more terrifying animal, which is usually a lion (an exception would be Inki at the Circus).
Despite having the exact same formulas, Chuck would attempt to make short slightly different whether it would mean using different scenarios or different deliveries in terms of gag approach.
This short, is mostly a repeat of Inki's first appearance, The Little Lion Hunter, in terms of story but Chuck invents some new situations and approaches along on the way. According to Mike Barrier's Hollywood Cartoons, the first Inki short happened to be successful amongst audiences, that Leon Schlesigner requested Chuck to produce another short. You could say this formula is almost prototype compared to the Chuck's Road Runner shorts, where the scenario and situations were no different each short, but just varying gags and ideas. This short is very much a repeat from its predecessor.
Jones shows a more comical approach for Inki such as the spear gag, where he vibrates rather jerkily.Chuck's timing is evident when Inki hears out for the rustling, crashing noises resulting in an appealing airbrush effect to emphasise his speed, when he rushes behind a tree.
When the rustling and violent effects from the shrubs continue, notice how the animation is much more broad and comical, which shows how Chuck is attempting to make his animation more humorous than Disney-fied. And so, the rustling from the bushes only lead up to a gag that actually pays off for Chuck. The Mynah bird approaches and does his hitch step, which only emphasises on the power he has, for such a tiny bird in comparison.
Inki prepares to aim his spear towards the cub, but finds a larger lion's hands hold onto the spear, and knocking Inki over to the ground.
The gag itself is a little clumsy in terms of timing, as the approach isn't delivered well, as Inki didn't use enough force in order to achieve that effect, making the gag not realistically effective. The other gag, however appears much later on in the short's ending shot. Inki and the Minah bird shake hands, but the Minah bird's hand show a very firm grip which takes complete control over Inki's body, and leaving him to the ground. This was a more better approach as this once again emphasised on the Mynah bird's power, and the whirling effect made the gag more believable in devilry, whilst the spear gag didn't.
Both Inki and the lion then respond to one another with a sheepish expression which only Chuck could master. Inki responds first with a sheepish grin towards the lion, but the lion's grim shows a much more intimidating grin, due to the largeness of his teeth, and gums. Whoever animated the scene, certainly captured the fear of this perilous encounter, the lion's teeth are very intimidating in terms of proportions and realism, and there is a great contrast in terms of size between those two characters. Inki, standing up sweating with fear, then makes a little twirl his foot before he skids out of screen. Another trait from the Warner directors, especially Chuck, where a character would attempt to act innocent by curling their foot before leaving, it makes great character animation.
The following sequence is another equivalence involving a vulnerable character standing on top of danger, a formula that Chuck loved in his early years. This time, Inki is standing on top of the lion's head, unaware of the danger he is standing on top of.
Believing that he has escaped from the lion, he proceeds to climb down the lion's head, but finds that his foot is touching the lion's tooth from his mouth. The rich character animation and gloss is evident in the scenes, to add tension.
This is a challenging scene to animate, as Inki has to act through his foot. Inki grabs hold of the lion's skin where he places it over the lion's tooth, in hope that he would be able to escape easily, despite being in a perilous situation. Inki then turns towards the right and then exits on top of the lion's head. This time he is hiding on top of a log, with the Mynah bird standing on top of his head. Inki now turns his attention towards the Mynah bird, in hopes of capturing it with his spear.
After a series of crumpling up stones to block the entrance, Inki weirdly mistakens the lion's behind as a stone in which he attempts to push his behind to the last gap from the cave. The gag itself is flawed because of the terrible contrast with colour between the rocks as well as the lion.
Had the cave and stones been painted like soil, then the gag would have probably worked better. Unaware of his danger, the lion looks Inki smugly, in which Inki's double-take leads him inside the cave.
Inside the cave, Jones only uses the eyes and teeth putting a lot of emphasis of black-and-white to emphasise darkness inside the cave. The animation itself is communicated well, when most of their body is in silhouette, and the sheepish expressions they make really work well. Inki then rushes outside the cave again, scrambling all the stones frantically, but finds he's been outwitted by the cunning lion. The scene then follows through a very confusing and somewhat incoherent sequence where the lion is attempting to entice Inki to walk inside the lion's mouth. The incoherent part follows when Inki ends up somewhat in a trance, and walks straight towards the lion's mouth. The gag itself doesn't pay off, having no indication or a source that casued Inki to almost go in a trance.
The short is very much parallel towards the first shot, so it is nothing much different in terms of story, except just new gags along the way. It feels somewhat typical to name the short Inki and the Lion, as it's no different to the previous short's title. Artistically, Chuck Jones does manage to keep it rather fulfilling, not only the animation, but the use of camera angles like the POV shots, as well as the use of colour contrast, even though it worked well in some areas, and others it didn't. The opening sequence I felt showed a lot of promise of a much, improved Chuck Jones when looking at his comic timing and liberal movement in animation. After the opening, however, it felt too slow and much like Chuck's usual cartoons he was making around that era. Overall, the short is nothing new from Chuck in terms of gags and story, and it feels as though I've already seen this short only two years previously.