Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ridin’ to Rigor Mortis

The opening scene of “Wild and Woody” (1948) shows the Walter Lantz studio at its best. Woody is gesturing as he rides a pony, singing “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” He’s expressive. He drops down to lay on the horse during part of the scene, then forms his fingers like guns and flips them around. Top animation. It’s by Disney veteran Freddie Moore. Here are some frames.

The pony’s attractively designed and has a cute little trot cycle. Part of it is on twos at the start but then is completely animated on ones. Darrell Calker’s score complements the action nicely. Even the usually-flat Bugs Hardaway may never have sounded better than when he crooned the opening tune. And Lionel Stander is the best cartoon villain next to Billy Bletcher. He’s great as Buzz.

Ed Love and Pat Matthews receive the animation screen credits. Lantz had Disney’s Ken O’Brien besides Moore at the time as well. And La Verne Harding. A great animation team with director Dick Lundy and newly-acquired gagman Heck Allen that, unfortunately, was gone not too many months later.


  1. Stander's Buzz was the final touch for the studio in rounding out Woody's personality, by finally giving viewers a character they could root against. The Woody-Wally relationship and most of his others from 1940-48 suffered from the same problem Friz Freleng had with Elmer Fudd at Warners, in that they were too weak as characters to really let the hero go full bore on his adversary.

    The final three Woodys pre-shutdown give him his version of Yosemite Sam, only meaner, and the animation level high enough to take full advantage of it (the 1950s Woody-vs.-Buzz cartoons were still good, but they just couldn't wring as much out of the lower level of animation. And for some reason, once Paul J. Smith took over as the studio's main director Buzz was relegated to secondary status, in favor of whatever unappealingly-designed new adversary the studio was favoring at the moment).

  2. I guess the studio figured El Brendel's accent was funny so putting it in a Walrus would make it funny, too.
    Perhaps the studio just tired of Buzz, or thought he was limited, so we got stuck with Dooley and whoever else. And I wonder if Huckleberry Hound's success spawned the deep-southern gator.

    1. Gabby Gator was introduced as Woody's adversary in 1958, the same time as Huck. Theatrical cartoons require more time for preparation than TV cartoons, so it stands to reason the gator was conceived first. But Huck's TV popularity may have inspired Lantz to make more cartoons with Gabby over the next several years.

      Buzz actually did make a comeback in the last couple of years of Woody shorts. But by 1971, the studio's character design and animation was several levels below even that of the mid-late 50s.