Friday, 3 August 2012

Meathead Takes

Dopey dog Meathead just can’t catch a break against Screwy Squirrel, even when logic should be on his side.

In Screwball Squirrel, the dog is armed with a handgun, and marching Screwy backwards along a tree branch as the camera pans. Screwy disappears from the shot. Meathead comes to end of the branch. There’s a surprise sign waiting for him. A tame-for-Tex Avery shock take follows.

If you analyse the gag, it makes no sense. Meathead would always have Screwy in his sight as he’s facing him while backing him up. It’s only the fact Screwy vanishes from the scene faster than the camera is panning that makes it work.

Suddenly, Meathead hears a sound. He faces the camera, looking puzzled. He turns around and sees Screwy sawing the branch to the Irish Washerwoman tune. Another take.

How did Screwy get behind him? To quote Jerry Colonna: “I don’t ask questions. I just have fun.” That’s what you have to do with an Avery cartoon. Revel in the nonsense and complete lack of logic.

Screwy saws off the branch. Meathead falls. The cruel squirrel promises to catch him in a net but pulls it away at the last minute. Screwy holds out his fingers a pinch and tells us “Just missed it.” Then he laughs in a three drawing cycle on ones. Watch what Avery does. Below are three consecutive frames.

The dog-as-brushstrokes indicates speed, and so does the fact it takes a mere two frames for Meathead to get off the ground. But what makes it even faster is Avery has Screwy laugh for 41 frames. The comparatively long laugh makes the dog’s two-frame zip into position look even quicker.

And the chase continues.

Credited as the animators are Ed Love, Preston Blair and Ray Abrams. Claude J. Smith, formerly of Disney, designed the characters. Wally Maher is Screwy. Meathead’s voice hasn’t been definitely identified.

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