Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Oh, Brother, Not That!

After watching Bambi, a good cartoon to watch for a sort of alternative viewpoint is Tex Avery's "Screwball Squirrel," which came out in 1944, and was probably begun not long after Bambi came out. Tex Avery had always sort of defined himself as the anti-Disney (even if he sometimes used ex-Disney people, like Preston Blair, who animated Red Hot Riding Hood's dance), and he loved to parody Disney's sentimentality about animals and his attempts at animated "realism." But the opening of "Screwball Squirrel" is unusually vicious and direct even for Avery: it starts with a realistically-drawn but unnaturally cute animal character, Sammy Squirrel, romping through the forest... until he meets up with Screwy Squirrel, the most un-cute, anthromorphized cartoon squirrel ever. (The contrast of a realistically-drawn animal with a "cartoony" version of same is so funny I'm surprised it isn't done more often; Tiny Toons did a great version of this gag once, but aside from that, I rarely see this done, and it's just such a great visual effect.) Upon being told that this picture will be all about Sammy and his cute little furry friends in the forest, Screwy cries "Oh, brother, not that! Not that!" and beats the hell out of the cute little squirrel. It's sort of the ultimate example of Avery throwing down the gauntlet and saying that his ugly, cartoony animals can lick Walt's cute, realistic animals any day of the week.

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