"The Hole Idea" is a wonderful cartoon, but anyone could have animated it; because of its stylized nature and lack of "character" moments, it doesn't really tell you how good an animator McKimson used to be. This brief scene from "Too Hop To Handle" does recall McKimson's glory days as a master of subtle character animation and perspective. (A YouTube commenter says that the first shot might be Keith Darling because of the Chuck Jones-ish look Sylvester has, and he might be right.) What's great about this scene is not only seeing a little of the '40s McKimson style again, but realizing that in McKimson's own hands, his directorial choices actually make sense -- the lowered eyelids and pointing are tolerable when he's doing them himself.
Warners somehow managed to get through six Looney Tunes DVD collections and
It is, of course, one of the most limiting concepts ever to become a successful series -- it and Pepe Le Pew both suffer not so much from being formulaic as from requiring so much setup before the cartoon can really start. (The Road Runner cartoons are formulaic, but they don't require us to wait around for two minutes until someone gets a white stripe down her back or a baby kangaroo gets mistaken for a mouse.) And the ones that stick to the rote formula of Sylvester and Sylvester Jr. encountering Hippety Hopper can be pretty hard to get through, especially the post-shutdown ones, with the exception of "Too Hop To Handle," which benefited from Warren Foster coming back to write it. (And the ones that have Sylvester and Jr. without Hippety Hopper, like "Cat's Paw" and "Fish and Slips," are downright dismal.) But unlike Pepe Le Pew, which never did a single change-of-pace cartoon except "Really Scent," the Hippety Hopper series mixed it up sometimes with some cartoons that had unusual new characters or premises, like for instance:
- "Hop, Look and Listen," pairing Sylvester with "Benny" ("But I can't say Sylvester, George"), allowing Tedd Pierce to write one of his beloved "Of Mice and Men" parodies and Stan Freberg to do his classic goon voice.
- "Bell Hoppy" (1954) - Like most of McKimson's surprisingly strong 1954 output, this one is really quite interesting and different, not only because it actually puts a new twist on the premise (cats trying to put a bell on a giant mouse) but because it offers a different characterization of Sylvester, who spends the whole cartoon imitating (I think) Bert Lahr.
- "Lighthouse Mouse" (1955) - I still haven't figured out whether I like this cartoon, what with its cruelty (even for Sylvester, he's treated badly in this one), crazy Scottish lighthouse keeper and parrot, but like all cartoons written by Sid Marcus, it's certainly different.
- "Hoppy Days" (1960) - The Jimmy Durante boxing promoter cat cracked me up as a kid, even before I knew who Durante was.
The Hippety cartoons are easier to appreciate when you're a child, because the fact that he has no personality doesn't matter so much to a kid (kids just like his happy attitude), and because this is one of the few WB cartoon series with kids as characters: Hippety is a baby mouse and Sylvester Jr., unlike Bugs' nephew Clyde, is a genuinely effective and funny kid sidekick character, one of the few such characters in classic cartoons.