Thursday, 23 August 2012

Tex Avery’s Rejected Puns

Do I need to say it? Tex Avery made funny cartoons.

There was a laser disc set (we all got laser disc players, right?) something like 20 years ago featuring all of Avery’s MGM work. Then there was a French DVD set something like ten years ago. The discs contained some interesting things besides the actual cartoons. Facebook friend Silver Baritone sent me some snippings the other day. These are copies of layout drawings of gags that didn’t make it into Avery’s “Symphony in Slang” (released in 1951). It’s a cartoon consisting of little more than visual puns, with stylised designs by Tom Oreb. Why Oreb was brought in to design this cartoon is something I don’t understand; Avery had Ed Benedict in his unit and Ed could come up with flat, angular characters as well as anyone.

The plot of the cartoon is simple. A dead hipster from New York City (played by John Brown using his working-man character voice from the Fred Allen radio show) is explaining his life to the gatekeepers of Heaven. But he uses colloquial language known to Americans of 1950, confusing the hell heaven out of the guys hearing his story. Part of his autobiography involves falling in love, getting dumped and becoming an emotional wreck.

Here are some of the gags that missed the cut. Read the captions to yourself and see if you can hear Brown’s New York-ish voice saying them.

I was so nervous, I started mopping my brow.

It was like fate had brought us together.

She was a chain smoker.

I lost my head.

I started playing a one-armed bandit.

Drinks were on the house. (an Avery favourite, best used in 1945’s “The Shooting of Dan McGoo.”)

This may be Avery’s best example of limited animation. The final scene simply jumps from one drawing of a cat to another (used earlier in the cartoon), and there are others where just one or two body parts move, just like what Hanna-Barbera did on television. And there are some scenes that are simply static shots held for as long as Avery thought it took the pun to sink in.

All four of Avery’s cartoons for Walter Lantz are on DVD and it’d sure be nice if the rest of his were, too. Before my money runs out on me.


  1. Actually it's a DVD set from 2003, not laser disc.

  2. Too bad the poster was sadly lacking in composition but at least they got a pun in there somehow.

  3. and before time runs out. i'm not gettin' any younger.

  4. I have all the MGM/Tex Avery shorts courtesy of the laserdisc set!!