Friday, January 4, 2013

Screening: The World's Greatest Cartoons at the Alex Theatre

The Brother and I decided to check out the annual post-Christmas cartoon fest at the Alex (presented by the Alex Film Society) last weekend.

I usually enjoy screenings at the Alex, but this one was unfortunately a bit of a letdown.  For some reason I was expecting a couple hours of non-stop classic animation, but only ten were actually shown and the two-o'clock screening ended well before four.  In addition, the advertising was a bit misleading - of all the characters shown on the flyer, only Bugs and Daffy were shown.  I would have liked to have seen some old black & whites (particularly Betty Boop).  They were supposed to screen a Koko the Clown short, but apparently it's an old print and there was some concern that it wouldn't hold up, so it was replaced with Madeline
  • Fast and Furry-ous (Warner Bros., 1949): The first Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoon, originally made as a one-off.  The duo caught on and the rest was Acme-fueled history.  As usual, the "Latin" names given to each (Accellertatti Incredibus and Carnivorous Vulgaris) got huge laughs from the audience.
  • Billion Dollar Limited (Fleischer/Paramount, 1942): It's Superman to the rescue when bad guys attempt to rob a U.S. Mint-bound train loaded with a billion dollars in gold.
  • Madeline (UPA/Columbia, 1952): A sweet story based on the classic children's books.  This short received an Oscar nomination.
  • Hockey Homicide (Disney, 1945): Thanks to this short, The Brother and I got to see more hockey in an afternoon than we'd seen since June.  Narrated with increasing insanity by Doodles Weaver, this short features a world populated by Goofys in a hotly contested hockey game.  Needless to say, there's lots of fighting both on the ice and in the stands.
  • Pet Peeve (MGM, 1954): Technically a Tom & Jerry short, however it features Tom and the family bulldog attempting to prove which is the more desirable pet when their owners decide it's too expensive to keep and feed both (Jerry, as a tiny mouse, emerges as the winner, mainly because the owners have no idea of the gigantic stash of their food he's managed to squirrel away).
  • The Fox and the Grapes (Columbia, 1941): Columbia came up short when it came to creating characters that the public wanted to see over and over again, however this was still a terrific one with a Heckle & Jeckle-type blackbird trying to distract a cheerful, happy-go-lucky fox from his picnic with a juicy bunch of grapes, because apparently foxes love grapes.
  • Casey at the Bat (Disney, 1946): Originally a segment from Disney's Make Mine Music, Casey was later released as a stand-alone short.  Based on the famous poem about the overconfident baseball star who brings no joy to Mudville.  Narrated by Jerry Colonna.
  • The Ventriloquist Cat (MGM, 1950): A cat finds a device that enables him to "throw" his meow and uses it to torment his canine foe.  A great example of Tex Avery's hysterical, lightning-paced work.  This one got some of the biggest laughs all day.
  • Rabbit Seasoning (Warner Bros., 1952): One of the all-time greats, with Daffy Duck trying to persuade Elmer Fudd that it's really rabbit season, only to be thwarted by the always crafty Bugs Bunny.
  • Rock-a-Bye Bear (MGM, 1950): Tex Avery again, this time with two dogs battling for the job of guarding the home of a hibernating bear, while trying (and failing) not to make any noise that will disturb the snoozing bruin.
The screening was halted every couple of cartoons by an animation historian and Alex Film Society rep, who would give us some historic info about the next couple of cartoons.  It was interesting, but could have been included in a handout.  More cartoons would have been preferable, especially in a program called "World's Greatest".  There were a lot of kids in the audience and it was a kick to hear them laughing at these decades-old cartoons, but they got restless during the talks.

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