February '09

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Tex Avery's "Red Hot Riding Hood"




In our lives, most of us have experienced some kind of love. Love for one's family, love for one's mate, love for one's children, love for one's craft, etc. Now, this is all warm and fuzzy for we humans, but what about cartoons? Don't they deserve love, too? Are they not flesh and blood? Okay, to US they are. And, remarkably, it is clear that they DO love! Just look at the many examples. Off the top of my head I can think of dozens of them. There's mother love, tenderly showcased in Dumbo's "Baby Mine" sequence. Then there's the love for Snow White as portrayed by the Dwarf's grief over her "death". There's also, Geppetto's fatherly love for his little wooden boy and the strangely hypnotic relationship between a Hippo Ballerina and Ali Gator in the "Dance of the Hours" sequence of Fantasia. Remember the chaste love between Mickey and Minnie in most of their shorts and the infamous romantic triangle of Popeye, Olive Oil and Bluto. And lest we forget one of the most blatant of cartoon lovers, Pepe LePew.

Indeed, it would seem that the ubiquitous little bare-naked cupid of the silver screen made frequent visits to Termite Terrace, Disney, MGM, Lantz, and all the other cartoon studios scattered about Hollywood and throughout the world. In fact, next to looney, screwy, daffy, goofy, punchy and just plain "nutz", love may be one of the most common themes found in animated cartoons. But beyond the incremental inamorata I have touched upon so far, there is another theme in the depiction of animated amour that just cannot be overlooked. That theme is none other than, (dramatic musical sting)...... Animated LUST!

Aw, come on now, don't act shocked! You know what I mean. We've all seen it and we've all laughed uncontrollably at it's hilarious carnage. Animated lust is as prevalent, (if not more so) than all of the other cartoon depictions of romantic love combined. Think of it. The sweat, in large highlighted droplets, flying off throbbing brows, the heart-shaped heart literally leaping out of the rib cage of the unsuspecting suitor, the bulging, blood shot eyes and the unrolling, mile long tongue, the spontaneous wolf howl, "Howwwwwoooooolllllldisshe?!!!", and subsequent gallop towards the object of desire. Pretty, isn't it?

 The portrayals of cartoon lust, usually male, are widely varied in method and extremity and can easily be traced right back to the silent era. Why, even the first produced Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, shows Mickey trying, repeatedly, to pull Minnie into an amorous choke hold. It would appear that the lusty portrayal of animated love has been a staple of the animated cartoon nearly from the medium's inception and has been perpetrated by every studio in every way. But, for my money, no one ever so perfectly captured the frenzy of animated lust better than Tex Avery during his MGM years. I mean, just look at Red Hot Riding Hood, Swing Shift Cinderella, Uncle Tom's Cabana, and Little Rural Riding Hood, for starters, and you will understand. With Tex, no one was immune, either! Humans, dogs, cats, birds, fish, even the usually stoic Droopy has been known to come unhinged once smitten.

 

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And, let's face it, we've all been there, too. Haven't you ever found your eye's popping out of your head and bouncing around like ping pong balls on the table in front of you? Haven't you ever accidentally eaten your own hands like a sandwich? Didn't you ever want to hit yourself repeatedly on the head with your own legs? Haven't you ever found your limbs flying off your torso and your eyes stretching from floor to ceiling at the sight of the opposite sex?

Tex's characters did this and more. In fact, Tex would actually devote entire cartoons just to the comic depiction of lust such as he did in the somewhat obscure MGM cartoon Little Tinker. In this short, Avery turns the tables on the theme, switching from male to female cartoon lust and then escalating it to new heights. Here, a lovesick male skunk, who is shunned by the other forest creatures (for reasons made painfully obvious in the first minutes of the film), makes himself up to look and sound like 1940s bobby-soxer heartthrob, "Frankie" Sinatra. This transformation turns the adorable little bunnies and other woodland creatures into love starved maniacs who scream, swoon, melt and even produce blossoms by hugging a dead tree. This is soon followed by an ever increasing intensity in which an elderly bunny does back flips in the air, ending by burying herself in the ground, complete with headstone, and furry bunnies pounding other furry bunnies on the head with still other furry bunnies. It's all very exhausting.

So, being animators and animation artists as we are, play it safe on February 14th. Please remember to control yourself! Watch our for the unexpected "come hither" look, stay away from Uncle Tom's Cabana and keep out of the fluffy pink clouds. Keep your head on your shoulders, your feet on the floor, and your eyes in their sockets. Kindly restrict your heart to within your rib cage and keep the drawer of that cash register hidden in your pants closed! Don't hit anyone with anyone else and, finally, for heavens sake, please be sure to share a wonderful Valentine's Day with the object of your desire.

Love,

Dave Pruiksma