Monday, September 22, 2008

That Cartoon That Traumatized You When You Were a Kid

As Thad says, there's been a lot of Irv Spector talk going on lately, and that reminded me that I've been meaning to talk about another cartoon that Spector wrote, "Chew Chew Baby." (Not to be confused with the Woody Woodpecker cartoon of the same name.) This is not a good cartoon, at least as far as I can remember; I'm almost relieved that it's not online anymore (it used to be, but I guess it was pulled before I could see it), because I saw it once, as a young child, and absolutely never wanted to see it again. Probably some of you also remember being traumatized by the sight of a little cannibal who can, and does, devour people whole. You don't see any blood or anything, but you see his teeth get really, really big and then he swallows them whole, snap! It's like Tex Avery's Billy Boy if Billy went around eating innocent people, and also with all the jokes replaced by scary unpleasantness.

When I saw this on TV -- it hasn't been shown on TV for some time, as I understand -- I was young enough that this was actually the first I'd ever heard of cannibalism; and I assumed that this cartoon's definition of the term was accurate, and that there actually were people who have the ability to swallow other people whole.

I was sort of lucky in that I was able to find out the name of the cartoon (by Googling "cannibal" and "cartoon"; there are other cartoons about cannibals, but not that many, and certainly none whose description is anything like this); other people were traumatized by cartoons whose names will forever be a mystery to them. Other people have told me that they had a similar experience, not with this cartoon, but a cartoon -- something they saw on TV in one of those "filler" time slots that used to be filled by cheaply-purchased cartoons (Famous, Terrytoons, and so on) that really creeped them out and stayed with them, not because they liked it, but because they didn't. For many people, the ending of "There's Good Boos Tonight" was the formative WTF experience, though at least that one had a familiar main character.

So did anybody else out there see an old cartoon, in their childhood years, that really freaked/creeped/grossed/[fill in something]ed you out? It's not necessary to recall the titles; the whole point is that we don't remember the titles, and probably would never know them without the internet.

Oh, and if anybody out there has a pristine copy of "Chew Chew Baby" -- I don't want to see it. Not even for curiosity's sake. I've worked long and hard to re-integrate into society after seeing that cartoon on my grandparents' TV in Montreal all those years ago (yes, I remember where I saw it; that's how much it scared me).

Update: Sigh. It is online, and in a very nice print. It was all I could do to watch a few seconds and find that it's even more disturbing than I remembered it. Brrr.



27 comments:

Thad said...

I LOVE this cartoon.

I don't think there is a "cartoon that traumatized [me] when [I was] a kid." Once you've seen your parents having sex, nothing can scare you ever again.

Mattieshoe said...

There was a point in a "Rocko's modern life" episode taking place at a gym where someone's arms are torn off.

This was NOT done in a cartoony way.

you could see the thing's bones, and when his arms flew off, there was blood everywhere.

I mean, WTF?

Jody said...

I remember once, after an episode of Dr. Who, the local PBS station showed a cartoon about someone having nightmares. After 25+ years, the details are fuzzy, but I remember the main character finally waking up fine and dandy, getting out of bed -- and falling several stories to his death. That last part gave me nightmares for a while.

Aside from that cartoon, I can't think of any that traumatized me as a kid. (Except the Daffy Duck & Speedy Gonzales cartoons, but I don't think that's quite what you mean.)

Anonymous said...

Izzy Sparber's rote direction came closest to being alive when working with the subject of cannibalism. This cartoon and his "Pop-pie A La Mode" were made about half a century too early. Today Sparber would have a career in live action features, as long as he kept to the one subject he executed with some panache.

Sean Gaffney said...

ALL of Heavenly Puss as a kid. This was not your typical violent Tom and Jerry cartoon, and it scared the bejabbers out of me.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Almost any cartoon where inanimate objects come to life. I was wary of appliances as a child, never turning my back on them. They could sprout arms any minute and grab you.

Kasey said...

I was a really wimpy kid, so I have a good list of cartoons that traumatized me as a youngster.
-The ending to "The Two Mousketeers".
-Pluto's Judgement Day
- Any Courage the Cowardly Dog episode
-The "Rocko" scene mentioned by Mattieshoe
-Monstro scene in Pinocchio (though that being scared in a fun way)

Jorge Garrido said...

No classic cartoons for me, but Feat Of Clay from B:TAS, when they pour clay down Matt Hagen's throat, that Spiderman episode where he grows two pairs of arms, which literally made my leg go into pain as I watched it and scared me off Spider-man for 2 years as a child.

Lastly, the first episode of Ren & Stimpy I ever watched, Superstitious Stimpy, when my parents weren't around, which freaked me out so much I didn't watch Ren & Stimpy again for 10 years.

Anthony Strand said...

It's not a cartoon, of course, but that Ernie & Bert sketch where they go to a pyramid and a statue who looks just like Ernie comes to life and messes with Ernie's head.

The whole sketch is dimly lit, and Ernie is just as frightened as I was, and it's just generally not a pleasant experience.

J Lee said...

My suspicion for a while has been Spector came up with their cartoon after the successful debut a short time earlier of the old Hal Roach Little Rascals shorts on WPIX in New York. The most famous one of the time was "The Kid from Borneo", which had cannibalism as its theme (growing up, I don't know how many times I heard the line from that short "Yum, yum, eat 'um up" repeated), and would be banned by Ch. 11 for its African stereotype character in the late 1960s.

The stylized design of the Paramount cartoons by 1958 actually helps a little here -- try to imagine how graphic this short would have been if it had been made by the studio in 1947 -- but even so, it can be unnerving if you see it for the first time as a child. On the other hand, while Paramount's recurring character series were plot simplified for children by the end of the 1940s (Casper, Audrey), the one-shot Noveltoons and Modern Madcaps aimed their plots more at adults, and Spector (along with Eddie Lawrence in the early 1960s), probably wrote less towards kids in mind than anyone else at Paramount.

Anonymous said...

The skilled camera jars go a long way to making this cartoon work. One thing American animation houses executed far better than their overseas counterparts was the basic camera jar. In "Chew Chew Baby" they serve a dramatic/comedic purpose, as well. Because they obscure the act of cannibalism itself, yet are so surprising that they end up amping it up, they are almost a forerunner of digital frame pulling, in the pre-digital era.

Jenny Lerew said...

For me the most hands down disturbing cartoon I saw as a small child was the one I only discovered years later was titled "Chow Hound" directed by Charles M. Jones.
The end line in that one wasn't funny. At all. Just sick. What the hell was Chuck thinking? Real sadism in that one.

Thad said...

Chow Hound is a brilliant masterpiece. That asshole dog deserved worse.

lonestarr357 said...

"This time, we didn't forget the gravy."

That line's a classic.

For me..."Louvre Come Back to Me". The WTF effect that Pepe's scent had on the artworks freaked me out...though Mona Lisa's line at the end is pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

"Chow Hound" may have been inspired by E.C. Horror Comics, which were all the rage at the time it was conceived. It was one of the few (another was Jones' adultery-themed 'Nellie's Folly') shorts the TV networks wouldn't run on Saturday mornings.

Joe said...

I'm with Jenny Lerew... To this day, I STILL can't watch the ending of "Chow Hound." Chuck Jones gets another vote from me for "The Ducksters" which ends with Daffy Duck tied up, about to be sawed in half.
Another cartoon with ending that bothered me was "The Tree Surgeon" a very unappealing MGM cartoon. It ends with a terimite about to eat a horse character. That may not sound too disturbing, but it worked for me. You'd have to be there...

policomic said...

I'm just old enough that when I was a kid, there was one theater in our town that still showed a cartoon before the feature. One that freaked me out was about a department store, where the mannequins come to life after hours. That was fine, in and of itself, but one of the mannequins sat on the radiator and melted. THAT was creepy!

slowjack said...

Not really a cartoon, if you agree that it is not really animation, but:

Any episode of "Clutch Cargo."

It was like God was punishing me for turning on the t.v.

Linda said...

I remember one from my childhood that I always wondered was actually the product of a horrible nightmare. I recall it being a Harveytoon, but I can't believe a Harvey would be so gross. The situation I remember is a nice comfy living room with a fire. The cat in the cartoon had caught a mouse or two mice and spitted them on a stick and was roasting them on the fire. Gave me nightmares for years. Was this a real cartoon? Does anyone know?

Russell H said...

Pretty much any cartoon where a character fakes being dead, or is mistaken for being dead, in such a way as to cause other characters to be overcome with apparently genuine, non-comic grief and remorse, only--surprise! Not dead after all!

Arguably the worst offender of this type was the Max Fleischer Color Classic "Song of the Birds."

Christopher said...

Well, I was fairly upset when Rainbow Brite finished her movie by blowing up a teenage girl.

I mean, she was an evil teenage girl, but still. I guess you don't !@$% with Rainbow Brite.

But I've got a worse one that's a little more in keeping with the rest of these. Back in I guess the early 90s, Nickelodeon used to show short little cartoons during the commercial breaks.

One of them was a terrifying tale of brutality called "The Killing of an Egg"

That scared the hell out of me when I was little. I lived in dread of commercial breaks. And of course, before the advent of youtube I had no idea what it was.

Sometimes you come back to these things and find out they weren't that scary. And sometimes they're exactly as terrifying as you remembered. I think that's true of both my egg one and Chew Chew Baby. I think it's the drums that really send Chew Chew into nightmare land.

Anonymous said...

This 1930's Lantz cartoon, "Confidence", which Tex Avery animated on, features one horrific character, named "Depression", essential to its plot, in a scenario errily mirroring our own times, should the FDIC fail:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjGTCchapOk

Jenny Lerew said...

Oh, damn--that Dreissen EGG short! My best friend and I still occasionally say "Hey, stop-a that!" to each other.

Mr. Semaj said...

Having seen Chew Chew Baby several months ago, it's a disturbing cartoon, but not in the sense where I never want to see it again. It's the good kind of disturbing.

The granddaddy of all child traumatizers was Lampwick's transformation into a donkey from Pinocchio.

C.L.J. said...

jeez. That IS freaky.

Various said...

The Lair of the Beast in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix:

Fortunately it's immediately followed by the Place That Sends You Mad - the best bit of the film!

(But somehow the other ghostly bit later on, with the Roman ghosts on the haunted plains, never bothered me.)

Anonymous said...

I just recently saw this cartoon on you tube. Never saw as a kid and yes it is/was very disturbing and creepy. However, I'm wondering though was this cartoon shown with the Casper cartoon series. I remember watching the Casper cartoon series back in the early 80s on some local Boston TV station and it seems like one of those cartoons that would be shown with the Casper series although I don't remember seeing this one (I'm glad too!)