Monday, 19 December 2011

Screwy Squirrel and the Sam Prototype

Tex Avery dug out some familiar gags to toss into the final Screwy Squirrel cartoon, ‘Lonesome Lenny’ (1946). The whole ‘Of Mice and Men’ routine came over from Warners (though it had a long life there, too), we get an alum gag and a “Silly, Isn’t It?” sign gag.

Avery also tried out a chase-through-multiple-doors gag, one more associated with ‘Red Hot Riding Hood’, where the chase gets faster and faster and doors appear everywhere in the frame. Here, Tex’s timing is perfect again, as he establishes the routine of the chase and then starts adding ridiculous things to it. We end up with multiple Screwys and Lennys, a deer, a cow complete with udder (the holder of the forementioned sign) and a stocking-clad babe being chased by a tubby guy.

Is it just me, or is the guy a forerunner to Sam, the suburbanite pumped full of dog plasma in ‘Crazy Mixed Up Pup’, which Avery made at the Lantz studio in 1954 (released the following year)? Granted, his work at Lantz was more, but here’s a comparison of the two.

Boxoffice magazine of April 6, 1946 rated the cartoon “Amusing” and decided “What the two cartoon characters do to each other is nobody’s business but it’s all in good fun.” But while Screwy pretends to be killed at the end (prompting a facetious sign by Avery and writer Heck Allen), Avery really did kill Screwy’s career

Ed Love, Preston Blair, Walt Clinton and Ray Abrams get animation credits on ‘Lonesome Lenny.’ It was Avery’s last attempt to make anything out of Screwy Squirrel. Fans still love the gags—they’re vintage Tex Avery after all—but Avery didn’t like talking about the character. “He was never too funny” is about all he said to historian Joe Adamson. Animator Mark Kausler used to send letters to Tex with his rendition of Screwy. Later he learned Avery so disliked the character, he tossed away anything with Screwy drawn on it. Says Mark: “Tex really hated Skrewy, because he didn't catch on like "the rabbit".”


  1. The guy's design also looks a little like Tex's character design for the model sheet of himself. While he no doubt wouldn't have minded chasing red-hot redheads through hallway doors in the mid-1940s (more of that Warner Bros. rowdyism Quimby hated), I'm not sure if the Avery of 1946 would have drawn himself the same way as he did in 1974.

  2. Interesting to find that out about Tex's rather hatred of said character since he didn't get up there with that "rabbit".

  3. So Screwy was meant to be the initial Bug Bunny for MGM and it didn't turn out so well. Such a shame because I would have loved to see more cartoons with Screwy.