Happy Henfruit Pt

6: “Eggs-trapolation”

Into the late 1940’s, with another springtime holiday for eggs on the plate. It’s high time all of Hollywood’s chickens and bunnies took some tips on the subject from the greatest “Wabbit” of them all.

Easter Yeggs (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 6/28/47 – Robert McKimson, dir.) – If Walter Lantz could turn his staring Rabbit into an Easter Bunny, it was inevitable that Bugs would sooner or later have to follow suit. (In fact, Bugs would perform Easter services twice, also appearing as an Easter bunny (but without eggs) in the “Freddie, Get Ready” number with Doris Day and Jack Carson in My Dream Is Yours (1949).) But in the 1947 edition, Bugs, while minding his own business catching up on his reading (a volume titled “How to Multiply” – which he guards like a teenager with a vimtage edition of Playboy), is set upon by a miserable old coot of an Easter Bunny (a character which had provided Mel Blanc a resume credit in another medium, as the established voice of the “Happy” Postman on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio show – a dour fellow who was in fact anything but happy). The stoop-shouldered geezer complains that he has all these eggs to deliver – but his feet are killing him. Bugs, not doing anything, volunteers to deliver the “Technicolor henfruit”. The Easter rabbit, using the by-line of the Happy Postman, gives Bugs a final word of advice in a quavery voice: “And remember, keep smiling” – then asides to the audience that “Every year I get some dumb bunny to do my work.”

Bugs’ first stop is on a “Dead End” street, at the home of the “Dead End Kid” (reference to a long-popular series of B-movies about juvenile delinquents). While Bugs improvises a song, “Here’s the Easter Rabbit, hooray!” to the tune of his old introductory theme, “Woo Woo” from 1939’s “Hare-Un Scare-Um”, he comments that it’s a good thing he doesn’t have to do this for a living. And how right he is. Delivering his first egg to the junior brat inside, he gets it returned – right in his eye. (The Easter Bunny really didn’t do his work this year – none of his eggs have even been boiled!) Then, while still insisting “I wanna Easter egg!”, the kid comes to wrestling blows with Bugs. The minute Bugs tries to retaliate, the kid lifts a line from Red Skelton’s “mean widdle kid”, feigning “Oooh, he bwoke my widdle arm”. The kid’s giant relatives appear from nowhere, armed with shotguns. Bugs leaves in a hail of bullets, the last few riddling the door with bullet holes reading “And stay out”. Bugs tries to retun his load to the Easter rabbit, who insists that if he quits he’ll give the Easter rabbit a bad name. “I already have a bad name for the Easter rabbit”, says Bugs – but still gives it one more try.

The next house is adorned with signs and banners welcoming the Easter rabbit. But inside is Elmer Fudd, disguised as a child, waiting for his prey to come to him – then “Easter wabbit stew.” Bugs decides, however, to get the drop on this one, and squashes the delivered Easter egg between Elmer’s hands before Elmer can make his first move. A typical (and largely uninspired) chase ensues for the next few minutes. One surprise gag has Elmer dig a pit for Bugs to fall into, then insert a hose to try to drown him – only Bugs comes up floating on a rubber raft. Bugs attempts to hide in several houses, somehow always finding Elmer inside one step ahead of him. One house has someone different – the mean widdle kid again. “Oh, no!” shrieks Bugs, slamming the door on him. At the last house, Elner appears again, and races toward the door from the inside. Bugs slams the door with perfect timing to trap Elmer’s head in a crash through the door. Then, producing a paintbrush, he paints Elmer’s bald head to look like an Easter egg, and whistles for the kid next door. “I wanna Easter egg” repeats the brat kid, and attacks the “egg” with a hammer. Howling in pain, Elmer, with the kid clinging to him, disappears down the road.

Without a thought to continuity (since we’be never seen Bugs prepare any booby trap), the Easter rabbit comes along to check on Bugs’ progress, and finds one large egg lying in the road. “Ohhh here’s an egg that crazy rabbit forgot to deliver. Things like this just make me go all pieces.” Picking up the egg himself, he fails to notice a long fuse sticking out of it – which Bugs lights. After a pause (“It’s the suspense that gets me”, says Bugs), the egg egg-splodes, and the frazzled Easter rabbit is left drooping over a high tree branch. “Remember, Doc, keep smiling!” shouts Bugs for a final horselaugh and iris out.

Solid Ivory (Lantz/Universal, Woody Woodpecker, 8/25/47 – Dick Lundy, dir.) – Lundy was an up-and-coming director at Disney about the time that Donald Duck’s “Golden Eggs” was produced. While there is no definite confirmation that Lundy worked on that film, he most certainly was aware of it, and must have remembered portions of it fondly. So much so that, as in the parallel case of reworking his own previous Donald project “The Flying Jalopy” (1943) into the basis for Woody Woodpecker’s Wet Blanket Policy (1948) when he reached Lantz studios, he also brought with him the story concept of “Golden Eggs” for a Woody Woodpecker reworking into this title. Motivation point is changed, but still geared to put our hero in conflict with poultry. Here, Woody is a pool playing fiend, practicing on a table in his home, adjacent to a barnyard. A wild shot sends the pool cue bouncing off the table, out the door, and to the foot of a chicken’s nest, where a mother hen provides a free plug for a Universal feature by reading a copy of “The Egg and I”. Woody enters, retrieves his cue ball, and is about to leave. The mother hen hasn’t counted her eggs very well, and assumes the worst – that Woody just made off with one. She blocks his exit – but Woody is not about to be pushed around by an old biddy. He tries to muscle his way though her with speed – but she slams the henhouse door in his face, making his beak go right through it, then returns the cue ball to her nest. Woody tries various means to trick or subdue her. A frontal attack with an axe only results in Woody being given a butch haircut. Corn bait on a fishing line is countered by the hen sticking the ear of corn in a light socket, deep-frying Woody until the tip of his beak looks like a burnt matchstick. Even tempting the hen with custom three-toed nylons accomplishes nothing. Finally – you guessed it – Woody dons the identical red glove and feather duster used by Donald, and masquerades as a sexy rooster (adding the touch of a vocal impersonation of Charles Boyer). The inevitable tango dance ensues, with Woody adding apache moves to throw the hen for a loop. He makes off with the entire nest, but, as with Donald, trips. The eggs shatter on his head, producing baby chicks like Little Lulu’s. Finally, the cue ball lands, conking Woody into near unconsciousness. The proud mother and her brood make their exit walking all over Woody’s face, while the last chick holds proudly the feather duster tail, and gives Woody a case of his own signature laugh.

Crowing Pains (Warner, Henery Hawk/Foghorn Leghorn, 7/12/47 – Robert McKimson, dir,), is the only golden era Foghorn cartoon to feature a surprise appearance by Sylvester the Cat. Since we have a guest character, Foghorn redirects his tactics against Sylvester instead of Barnyard Dawg, despite Dawg’s presence in the episode also. As usual, Henery can’t figure out just what a chicken is. Foghorn misdirects him to Sylvester, and provides him with a means of getting right under the “chicken” – by wearing a trick egg disguise. Sylvester at first accepts his new motherhood, until he remembers that tomcats don’t lay eggs. The persistent egg, however, sticks to him like glue – except for a brief instant where, distracted, he grabs the dog instead. The dog reacts, “I take a step and presto, I lays an egg.” A nearby overworked mother duck lifts verbatim the dialogue line from Daffy and Porky’s “The Henpecked Duck” – “And for 15 years I’ve been doing it the hard way.” Sylvester finally seizes a mallet and prepares to smack the egg into oblivion. At the crucial instant, Henery pops out and screams, “STOP!!!” The shock sends Suyvester into a visually-funny moment of temporary insanity, stretching his facial features like they were rubber, then repeatedly pulling his own tail and having his head pop in and out of his torso! (I wonder if this scene was animated by Rod Scribner.) The dilemma of who to take home for dinner is finally solved by Henery by waiting until dawn to see which “rooster” crows. Come sunup, all the cackling emanates involuntarily out of Sylvester’s mouth – thanks to Foghorn’s quick study-up on the art of ventriloquism.

The Shell-Shocked Egg (Warner, 7/10/48 – Robert McKimson, dir.), is almost “Booby hatched” revisited, except using turtle eggs (a la Chuck Jones’ The Good Egg) instead of chickens. A mother turtle buries her eggs in a sandy beach to hatch (shooing away an explanatory sign informing the audience of this trait of the species – “Oh, my goodness, those people know that, for heavens’ sake”). While Mama is getting a sun lamp to increase the sand’s heat, one egg emerges half-hatched, just as the sun goes behind a cloud. As usual, the walking eggshell looks for someplace warm to complete the hatching. One funny scene has him climb on the back of a sleeping cow. Without even opening her eyes, the cow’s tail smacks at the egg, then, transforming into opposable digits, “tees up” the egg like a golf ball, and again transforms into the shape of a driver to smack it into the barnyard. There, the egg briefly crawls under a dog, who repeats the line from “Booby Hatched”, “So I layed an egg.” But this dog sees possibilities in such happenstance – fame, fortune, and liver three times a day. He pursues the egg, who runs into a chicken coop. The usual ensues – the dog steals egg from the nest of mama hen, and a rooster engages in endless pursuit of the dog. Meanwhile, three identical siblings have hatched at the beach and follow mother – until Mama, with the help of an adding machine, realizes there’s one missing. She desperately digs with a shovel in the sand, while the siblings also dig with toy beach shovels and pail, adding musical vocal accompaniment to the search with doggerel lyrics to familiar tunes including “Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “Billy Boy”. The action switches back and forth between the digging party and the chicken-dog chase – with the beach excavation reaching deeper and deeper levels with the aid of a steam shovel. The chase finally reaches the beach, and Mama turtle scoops the rooster, dog and egg into the bucket of the steam shovel, then conks rooster and dog on the heads. The egg is placed under the sunlamp, and finally hatches. The little one pops his head into daylight for the first time – but is disappointed at the outlook for his new life as he looks down. “Wouldn’t you know it? I’m still in a dad-blamed shell!”

The Hard-Boiled Egg (Terrytoons/Fox, 10/1/48 – Connie Rasinski, dir.) – One almost wonders if the order of production did not match with the order of release for this title. The film marks the screen debut of Dingbat – a goofy yellow bird generally animated by Jim Tyer, who is an obvious derivative of Disney’s Aracuan bird character from The Three Caballeros and later from Blame It On the Samba and Clown of the Jungle – sort of a chirping Daffy Duck in his screwball days, taken to levels of surreal nuttiness more appropriate for Screwy Squirrel. What is odd, however, is that the character – complete with name – gets a proper launching during the next year in Gandy and Soutpuss’s “Dingbat Land” (1949), in a jungle setting directly paralleling the setup of Clown of the Jungle – so you don’t possibly miss the resemblance of the Terry and Disney characters. However, by releasing Hard-Boiled Egg first, Dingbat’s appearance and demeanor appear to be out of left field and a bit unexplained, as nobody’s set up the character’s disposition with any exposition. He also is not identified by name. Plans may thus not have gone as the writers anticipated, and let’s just say that you’ll be much better prepared to accept this character’s insanity if you watch Dingbat Land first.

The film has some funny moments, and some typically-wild Tyer animation – but it is really an assemblage of wacky kitchen gags without much of a plot line, plus tremendously lacking in a punchline for a closing. Dingbat spots a fox (Sylvester the Fox, I assume) out to round up some eggs for a morning breakfast, but having no luck as the birds are fighting back. One clever gag has a mother bird in a nest atop a pole fold the nest into a traveling suitcase to fly away just in time, leaving the fox a mousetrap in the nest’s place to catch his fingers in. The fox falls, knocking away enough tree limbs on the way down to build a nest for himself when he lands! Dingbat is in a mood to pester, and conveniently has two halves of a cracked eggshell to hide in a la Dinky Duck, to get the fox to bring him home. Once there, he engages in several ways to bring about violent injury to the Fox while at the same time eating him out of house and home. (This fox must just like the taste of eggs, because he obviously wasn’t starving, having a rather full pantry for Dingbat to devour.) Leave it to Terry to lift several gags from other studios. A golf gag from Tom and Jerry’s Tee For Two, with the Fox using a driver to smack the egg he believes Dingbat is in out of the county – only to have Dingbat appear on the wood end of the driver peering over his shoulder to watch the shot. Also, a bomb painted like an apple, straight out of Screwy Squirrel’s Happy Go Nutty, which Dingbat eats to the core – leaving just enough to explode in the fox’s face for a blackface gag. And Dingbat holding a flag with the design of a screw and a ball – right out of Bugs Bunny’s Hare Remover.

The Playful Pelican (Lantz/UA, Andy Panda, 10/8/48 – Dick Lundy, dir.) provides another shellbound orphan. In one of the most Disney-like of Lantz’s productions (and why not, with an ex-Disney director, as well as the rumored added assistance of Disney veteran Fred Moore). Captain Andy Panda ejects with difficulty a stowaway Pelican from his ship (planting an anchor in her beak to deep-six her), then discovers the coil of rope she had been sitting on was serving as a makeshift nest for the egg she had laid. Andy is forced to play “sitter” and hatch the baby out. The newborn pokes head, feet, and tail out, then “shimmy dances” away the rest of the shell. Immediately hungry, he pantomimes to Andy that he needs a fish. But while Andy rounds up a meal, a passing frog on deck looks like a handy between-meal snack. The baby swallows it whole – but the frog continues to jump inside him, and bounces the baby up the rigging to the highest mast – where the bird realizes he hasn’t yet learned to fly. Andy discovers the baby’s precarious perch, and follows the bird out onto the spars. But the baby’s live lunch persists in jumping at inopportune times, causing Andy and the baby to run out of spar and fall. Andy grabs a rope, resulting in a fiery rope burn. Coming to a stop at a knotted end, he and the baby find themselves danging only a few feet above a shark in the water. And the heat from Andy’s hands has set the rope above them on fire. In desperation, Andy calls for “Mrs. Pelican!” Mama, who has struggled below the water for five minutes, finally gets the anchor out of her mouth, and swoops in for a nick-of-time rescue. The final shot has Mrs. Pelican with open beak, inside of which is Andy, on top of which is the baby. (I’m surprised they didn’t manage to have the frog somehow come out unscathed.)

Lucky Ducky (MGM, 10/9/48, Tex Avery, dir.) – No doubt conceived as a “Georgse and Junior” short, but ultimately populated by a pair of pantomime dogs subbing in in place of the bears, this barrage of hunting gags runs the gamut from racial stereotype to the insanely surreal. (Cases in point – a “School Crossing” – literally walking across the road – and a borderline in the middle of the woods with self-explanatory sign: “Technicolor ends here.”) The egg connection comes when a mother duck flies overhead, with her whole nest strapped to her by a belt. A well placed shot severs the strap and sends the nest falling, its egg sprouting wings on the way down and gently landing on the dogs’ rowboat. A baby duckling pops its head and feet out, then provides one of the most “adult” hatchings in animated history, gracefully removing the shell like the garments of a female stripper!

The Cuckoo (Gaumont-British Animation, 1948 (release date unknown) – David Hand, dir,) – My personal favorite of the “Animaland” shorts produced by David Hand’s short-lived venture to give life to a domestic animation industry in England after leaving Disney. It was thought a lucrative deal due to importing restrictions making American cartoons more costly for British distributors – and worked for awhile until the restrictions were loosened and American product became more readily available – drying up the marketplace for the new crop of local animators. While at least one other American animator (George Moreno Jr.) tried the same idea on a comparatively minuscule budget with his Bubble and Squeak cartoons, David Hand’s unit at least gave the Americans a run for their money, by pouring exceptionally high standards into his artwork – of suitable caliber to match nearly anything he had done at Disney, including his feature work on Bambi. Where he lacked, however, was in sometimes wandering plotlines in other episodes and in some weak choices for animation voices, failing to possess the distinctiveness of American cartoon icons. However, this one’s the gem of the bunch.

Despite the title, there are no clocks in this cartoon – we deal with the actual bird in the wild. Starting with a plot premise from nature that prompts a sort of revisit to “Ugly Duckling” territory, a narrator sets up that the mother cuckoo never builds a nest of her own, but in dastardly fashion destroys someone else’s egg and drops her own in in its place. The “fowl” deed is committed in the nest of some English sparrows. Whie a small and cute baby hatches out of the remaining real egg, the fraudulent second egg hatches a behemoth mammoth lummox, ten times oversized, with a voracious appetite. Mama and Papa desperately forage for its food, tossing their findings into the nest as they disappear to get more. Meanwhile, Cuckoo, whose arms and neck reach farther than baby sparrow, swallows every morsel, leaving baby sparrow with no meal at all. At night, Cuckoo hogs all the space in the nest, kicking Junior in his sleep. In the most creative sequence of the short (not so short at that, giving us a full 9 minutes!), we are treated to Junior’s nightmare – a surreal dream sequence against black backgrounds, directly reminiscent of Dumbo’s “Pink Elephants On Parade”, with a trio of matching cuckoos finding unique and clever ways to devour a dream world full of ice cream, candy, and other goodies, always one step ahead of Junior – all set to a catchy ditty with excellent lyrics sung by male chorus, “The Cuckoo’s Not So Cuckoo After All”. Finally, dawn breaks, and the cuckoo’s kick sends Junior falling from the tree. He is immediately noticed by a slippery and uniquely-flexible weasel, who, finding him alone and hungry, invites the sparrow home to dinner. (In a nice touch of directing, the weasel conceals and kicks out of view in the cave entrance the loose bones from the carcass of his last victim, so that Junior doesn’t wise up too soon.) The weasel announces that dinner for the evening will be a pot of “inside soup” – a special dish, that must be stirred from inside the pot. As Junior obliges with a ladle, the weasel clamps a lid down on the pot with Junior “inside”, congratulating himself with “That’s a good one.”

The wafting aroma of fresh cooking, however, has drawn another unexpected guest – the Cuckoo. Getting past the weasel, the huge glutton has no heroic impulses whatsoever – instead, he lifts Junior from the soup just because he’s in the way, and starts devouring the pot’s contents. The weasel violently attacks the Cuckoo, who yells for help. Junior heroically attacks the weasel’s tail, distracting his attention to him. Yet, saved from a beating, the Cuckoo is no more noble than before, and returns to the pot – even kicking Junior away when he tries to signal for help. Taking a lead from Mowgli in the Jungle Book, the sparrow finally rids them of the weasel by using a hot coal to set fire to the weasel’s tail, sending him soaring like a comet out the cave entrance. The sparrow gets a chance to tell the Cuckoo off, and leaves him. For a split second, the Cuckoo almost shows some remorse, attempting to follow Junior in half-apology. But then, there’s still that pot. So Cuckoo turns to slurp down the remainder of its contents – then swallow the pot, too. Most prints on the internet are from a 35mm which was missing its last shot, but the lost scene has shown up separately from a Super 8mm copy with sprocket noise. Having swallowed the pot, the Cuckoo finally turns to follow Junior – but is now too big to exit the mouth of the cave, and gets stuck. The camera follows from behind him, and the letters “The End” appear on the rear of his trousers for the closing.

Hatch Up Your Troubles (MGM, Tom & Jerry, 5/14/49 – William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, dir.), owes a great deal to Sniffles’ “Lost and Foundling” for setting up its plot. A mother woodpecker leaves the nest, also leaving a sign saying “Gone To Lunch”. The egg in the nest starts to pop to life, and topples out of the tree. Taking the “egg that wont break” trope from The Lost Chick, we get Hanna and Barbera’s version of the same elaborate fortuitous events that safely deliver egg from nest to home of mouse in the manner of Lost and Foundling – here, in much briefer fashion, the egg lands in a spider web, slowly breaks through, gently lands in a flower’s petals, rolls out upon a leaf, across the yard, and into Jerry’s mousehole, where, as with Sniffles, it rolls under the sleeping Jerry, who looks at the audience with nearly the same perplexed expression as Sniffles, wondering if mice lay eggs. The egg hatches a baby woodpecker, who instantly assumes Jerry is “Mama!” Jerry pats the little one fondly on the head – until the chick’s instincts kick in – and he begins to devour Jerry’s walls and furniture faster than a termite. Jerry realizes the kid’s gotta go, and spots the nest up in the tree.

Carrying the young one, he returns him in the nest, tucks him in, and assumes he’s done with him. But the young woodpecker follows on the underside of the tree limb Jerry is walking on. When Jerry arrives home, Junior is right there with him, leading to a Tex Avery-style eye “take” and “Ah-Ooga” sound effect. Jerry places the bird outside – but he pecks an entrance in Jerry’s door in the shape of his own silhouette. Jerry puts him outside once more, and in pantomime, makes clear that the bird is to go and never come back. The despondent bird wanders aimlessly through the yard, and randomly pecks at something wooden – which turns out to be the supporting leg for Tom’s folding chair in the backyard. An angry Tom pours his drink on the bird, and the bird retaliates by pecking through the chair leg entirely, causing the chair to fold on Tom and force his drinking glass halfway down his throat. The inevitable chase is on, with Jerry and the woodpecker taking alternating turns saving each other from Tom’s clutches. One gag has Tom throw a long pole at Jerry like a javelin – but the woodpecker’s pecking is so rapid, he intercepts and disintegrates the pole before it can make contact with Jerry. (This gag would be reworked at Lantz studios a number of times for later Woody Woodpecker cartoons – and in fact, Lantz’s redhead had already done something similar with baseball bats in the early 1940’s title, The Screwball). Ultimately, Tom corners Jerry atop a tree stump, where he hopes to do the mouse in with an axe. The woodpecker, spotting a telephne pole, pulls out a pencil and paper and (though no one ever gave him a grade school education) comes up with a complicated set of mathematical calculations to plot Tom’s doom. Drawing an X at the calculated spot on the pole, the bird buzzes through the pole’s base.

It topples like a tall tree, hitting Tom squarely on the head, then repeatedly bounces on his head to drive him into the ground like a pile driver. At this moment, Mama returns from lunch. One look of recognition, and baby gets the idea who the real mother is. He leaps into her arms and Mama flies off, leaving Jerry alone and seemingly overlooked. He heaves a sad sigh. But junior returns, remembering his debt of gratitude, and plants a big kiss on Jetty before leaving, as Jerry returns the gesture with a fond wave goodbye. The film was nominated for an Academy Awatd, and also selected as one of the first titles to be “remade” (merely by retracing and photographing the original pencil drawings in a new widescreen format, set to the same original soundtrack) for Cinemascope as The Egg and Jerry (3/23/56).

Strife with Father (Warner, Beaky Buzzard, 4/1/50 – Robert McKimson, dir.) is essentially McKimson’s revisit to “The Ugly Duckling” – with a baby destined to never grow beautiful. Beaky Buzzard is the waif left as an egg on the doorstep of Mr. and Mrs. English Sparrow (parodies of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Colman). While Mama is convinced that Beaky will transform like the Hans Christian Andersen character, the little ugly bird grows up to be a big ugly bird. Mama convinces Papa that Beaky should be taught how to forage for himself. Even the mention of Beaky’s name brings thoughts of revulsion to Papa – “Not while I’m eating!” But Papa tries to teach Beaky how to raid henhouses (strange that a sparrow would have any knowhow in such a field – the blind leading the blind?) Of course, Beaky regularly flattens Papa, and gets him in trouble with the local rooster. Papa finally resorts to heavy artillery, attempting to attack the henhouse with a hand-grenade. The chickens toss it back out, and it rolls over to Beaky. Thinking it’s an egg, Beaky decides to surprise Papa with it. The situation becoes a repeat of Porky Pig vs. Mad Bomber” in 1936’s “The Blow Out”, with Beaky surprising Papa at every turn with the ticking grenade. As Papa continually flees in terror, Beaky finally catches on that Papa doesn’t want it – so decides to give it to Mama. Mama, however, has had experience in the British Blitz, and seeing the explosive device, instantly tosses it outside so “No one gets hurt”. BOOM! Appearing at the door comes a bedraggled Papa, uttering as a delirious curtain line Ronald Colman’s famous movie quote, “If I were king……”

An Egg Scramble (Warner, Porky Pig, 5/27/50 – Robert McKimson, dir.) – Porky is chicken ranching again, his farm being the home of the famous “Hammond Eggs”. He checks the nests of his laying hens in the morning, pleased with most results except for Miriam (who shows off by laying a painted Easter egg) and Prissy (Mckimson’s blue-bonneted spinster hen, in her first role), whose nest is empty. “Prissy, why don’t you ever lay an egg?”, Porky demands. She whispers confidentially in his ear. “Embarrassing??”, Porky reacts. “Yyeeeessssss”, says Prissy, in her first use of her catch phrase. Porky threatens she’d better produce or it’s her neck. Prissy tries to settle down to business, pulling down a curtain reading “Hen at Work”, and reading up on a hardbound edition of “The Egg and I”. The other hens gossip that she’ll never make it – too O-L-D. Then one of them gets an idea. Taking an egg from the nest of hen Agnes, they write the name “Prissy” on the shell, then slip it into Prissy’s nest. Prissy becomes ecstatic at what she believes is her accomplishments, and stuffs cigars in the mouths of the other hens like a new parent. “Okay, so ya’ laid an egg” saus Porky upon hearing the commotion – then demands she hand it over. For one of the few times in her career, Prissy says, “No!!” Porky won’t take that for an answer, grabs the egg, and gives it to the grocery truck just leaving with the day’s shipment. Prissy desperately chases after the truck as it disappears out of sight, and continues down the country road.

In the big city, she tracks the truck to the grocers. She slips in and starts searching through the egg rack, dropping half the grocer’s stock in her frantic search. The grocer’s brow explodes like a volcano, and Prissy runs for her life. Hours later, she’s traced the egg to a housewife’s home, where the woman ponders over the strange inscription on the shell. The woman drops the egg into a pot of boiling water – but Prissy sneaks behinfd the stove and turns off the gas jet. The wife turns it on again with a pop, and as soon as her back is turned it gets shut off again with a poof. The woman tries a fake-out by verbally repeating the “pop” of the gas jet. Prissy extends her hand and reveals herself. The woman chases Prissy with a broom, but she retrieves the egg and runs deeper into the city, to the seamy side of town (1313 13th Street). She hears sirens of police. “Heavens to Betsy. I’m on the lam!”, Prissy states, and disappears inside a dilapidated apartment house. The police of course could care less about her (as Porky finds out at the police station, reporting a missing hen), but are in fact on the trail of Pretty Boy Bagle, a killer – who just happens to be hiding out at the same apartment house. Prissy winds up in the middle of a police shootout, with the apparently unarmed criminal throwing bricks at the cops out the window.

“That nice man. Fighting to protect my egg”, Prissy remarks. While Porky watches helplessly outside, the police throw in a tear gas bomb. Pretty Boy is subdued – and so is Prissy, whom nobody notices except Porky, who takes her home. Back at the farm, Prissy is still not willing to give up the egg, until the other hens reveal the joke. “Take it from her. Agnes laid it.” A saddened Prissy drops the egg and walks away – but out of the shell pops a miniature version of herself. “Well, y-you really were Prissy’s egg after all”, Porky asks the chick. “Yyeeessssss!” answers the hatchling.

Here’s a small clip:

Golden Yeggs (Warner, Daffy Duck, 8/5/50- I. (Friz) Freleng, dir.), has been previously described in depth in my “Countdown To 2020″ series. It is another tale of the goose that laid the golden egg – except this goose is smart enough to shut up and take no credit for the act, to save her own skin. Instead, she points fingers at Daffy Duck, who, despite being the wrong species and a male to boot, basks in unexpected celebrity. Until gangster Rocky hijacks the fowl as “better than the numbers racket.” After attempting every means of stalling or escape, Daffy finally lays a golden egg – at gunpoint. “You don’t know what you can do until you’ve got a gun against your head.” But one egg won’t satisfy Rocky, who has a whole closet full of egg crates. “Fill ‘em up”, orders Rocky. “Oh, my aching back!”, moans Daffy, fainting for the iris out.

Here’s the first two and a half minutes:

Chicken In the Rough (Disney/RKO, Chip ‘n’ Dale, 1/19/51 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – In their first solo short, the two mischievous chipmunks collect nuts next to a farmyard. Several introductory shots are saved upon by clipping a sizeable piece of footage out of the 1938 Silly Symphony, “Farmyard Symphony”, allowing us to establish a rooster in the usual position of command. Several other ideas are lifted too. Dale spots a nest of eggs, and thinks they’re walnuts (borrow from Harman-Ising’s “The Lost Chick”). Chip corrects him by pantomiming a chicken. A frustrated Dale sits on one of the eggs, and accidentally hatches it. He shows his creation to Chip, only to have Chip instruct him to take it back in a hurry. Dale attempts to reassemble the shell around the chick (reminiscent of Sniffles’ “Little Brother Rat”), but the chick brushes away the shell fragments as if Dale were crazy. Dale tries to teach by example, rebuilding the egg again around himself. Instead of sticking around, the chick ditches this crazy character and is never seen again. Dale looks out of the shell just long enough to see mother hen returning – and again seals himself in the shell. He perspires under the mother’s warmth (borrow from the studio’s own “Contrary Condor”), and finally bursts out. Mama calls to the rooster to announce the hatching.

Dale plays a game ot “peek-a-boo’ with the rooster, trying not to be found out, until the rooster brushes away the shell fragments. Dale keeps up the masquerade, peeping and pecking like a baby chick. Pop rooster is still not convinced. He grabs a caterpillar crawling nearby, and places it in front of Dale – then drums his toes impatiently as if to say, “All right. Eat it!” In perhaps the funniest shot of the film, Dale and the caterpillar simultaneously look at the camera in helplessness and swallow hard – You almost expect one or the other to say, “Here’s another nice mess we’ve gotten into.” The two get the same idea, and keep up the act, Dale pecking at the caterpillar until they both disappear around a corner. Behind a box, they stage a fake fight with screams and pounding. However, Papa looks over the top of the box, and catches them in the act. Dale emerges smacking his lips like he’s just had a tasty meal – but the rooster is not fooled. Rebuilding the eggshell for a final time, Dale hides again while the rooster attempts to stomp the egg flat. But Mama hen arrives, chastizes the rooster for his behavior, and takes Dale inside, where her other chicks are now also out of the shell. Dale is sat upon once again – but there is nowhere to run, as the rooster paces impatiently outside the henhouse. From the rafters of the barn, Chip laughs uproariously at Dale’s plight, as Dale is forced to continue to lead a chick’s life, with his brothers and sisters scratching at him and pulling his ears.

Golden Egg Goosie (Terrytoons/Fox, 8/1/51 – Eddie Donnelly, dir.) is a good active episode with modern timing. The title character looks like a sister, girlfriend, or at least second cousin to Gandy Goose – with just about as much brains, spending her whole day skipping along and senselessly playing with a yo-yo. Two wolves, one small smart one and one tall dumb one, watch her hungrily from the bushes. In a clever sight gag, they see her in a mind’s eye thought view as roasted on a platter – but with her wing still playing with the yo-yo! They give chase, but the goose runs into a barn, crashing into the opposite wall and temporarily knocking herself out. Above her, a can of gold paint is knocked over on a wall shelf (odd choice of colors – when was the last farmhouse you saw painted in gold?). The whole can pours out, straight into the goose’s open beak. When she awakens, she groggily smiles at the camera, exhibiting two glimmering gold buck teeth (a lift from the closing gag of Paramount’s “Cilly Goose”) She hiccups, and with a softly-heard pop, finds she has laid a shiny gold egg. More hiccups – and the room is full of them. The wolves catch up, and their eyes pop with dollar signs in them, convinced they’ve found the fabled goose that lays the golden eggs. Chase gags soon abound. The wolves (voiced by Dayton Allen in essentially his Heckle and Dimwit voices) prove about as effective and at odds with one another as Tex Avery’s George and Junior – right down to one scene where the little wolf administers punishment for a misstep by the big wolf much like George’s typical “bend over” admonishment.

One clever diversion to get the goose to stop has the big wolf masquerading as a Keystome Kop directing traffic to stop, while the little wolf cavorts in kiddie clothes as a pedestrian crossing the street. Eventually, the goose is caught. But as the little wolf instructs the big one to round up the eggs too, the voice of greed awakens in the form of a shoulder devil, who reminds him, why should he share? Isn’t he the brains of the outfit? The little wolf thus rigs a cigar loaded with TNT, giving it to the big wolf for his good work. The little wolf waits outside for the explosion – but nothing. Along comes big wolf with the goose and eggs, taking a last drag on the cigar which has now been reduced to a mere butt, and tossing the butt on the ground. The little wolf picks up the useless stub and shrugs his shoulders – then the Ka-Boom! Friendship is at an end, as the little wolf now gives chase on a motorcycle equipped with cannon. Big wolf dodges the blast only by crashing into a tree and falling into the lake with the goose. The goose cleanly escapes and swims off, but big wolf still has the egg basket. He is still willing to share with the now pacified little wolf – but the river water washes the paint off the eggs. “Counterfeit!” yells little wolf (the same line as the two-headed giant in String Bean Jack). The final scene shows the wolves dividing up the eggs – “One for you, and one for me” – except they are neither hoarding them nor eating them – each egg is being thrown by the other at his partner, so both learn a lesson they won’t forget.

Next Time: Only one hatchling holds the record over the Cuckoo for sheer bulk and clumsiness. We’ll meet him – twice – next week.
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