Thursday, 3 March 2016

Tex Avery Nails It

“I do stuff to him like this all through the picture,” was the Tex Avery credo at Warner Bros. but he carried the same attitude into the MGM cartoons practically to the end, even though the characters never had to express it in words any more.

That’s what happens throughout Deputy Droopy. Two safe robbers try to stay quiet so they don’t wake the sleeping sheriff, but Droopy goes to every bizarre length to make sure they make noise.

Actually, the first gag is more along the lines of a Wile E. Coyote plan that comes crashing down due to some unforeseen karmic circumstance. The crooks take off their boots so their footsteps won’t wake the sheriff. But they don’t anticipate (or see) nails bent upward from the wooden floor.

Any Avery fan knows what happens next. Selected frames.

Heck Allen helped with the story, but Avery and most of his unit were let go while this cartoon was in production in 1953 (it was released in 1955). Animator Mike Lah took over direction (he was working on other projects at MGM) and the Hanna-Barbera unit of Ray Patterson, Ed Barge, Ken Muse, Irv Spence and newly-promoted animator Lew Marshall joined Avery’s one other holdover, Walt Clinton. Patterson and Grant Simmons soon went to work for Walter Lantz before opening their own company the following year, Clinton went to work for Five Star Productions by year’s end.


  1. Of course, this was already a frequently used gag (including by Avery himself at MGM a few years earlier in "Rock a Bye Bear", and at Warner in "Cagey Canary", Hanna and Barbera in one of their Oscar Winners with Tom and Jerry, "Quiet Please" and the much later "Royal Catnap", Avery at Lantz in "The Legend of Rockabye Point" which maybe the only time both the running outside and "one step ahead of the other fella" gag appeared), and Hanna-Barbera at their own studio in two Augie Doggies with Doggie Daddy at both ends - briefly in "A Peck O'Trouble" and as a gag with that Frank Nelson soundalike librarian Rowser in "It's a Worm Day", at Hanna-Barbera--not to mention many other places.SC

  2. The nail gag is really the best in the short. The pain is (essentially) self-inflicted, and consequently well-deserved. The "karmic circumstance" you mention is heightened by the fact that going barefoot would be a clever strategy on any decent floor. In this case, whatever few smarts these two guys have leads to a brutally painful and hilarious situation. Of course, the viewer can expect some good old-fashioned foot pain immediately once the boots come off, given how tiny the boots are in relation to their huge, dopey feet.

    The cartoon really goes downhill after this gag, and Droopy's contributions seem less effective and necessary by comparison. He could have at least taken their boots away in the meantime so as to get in a repeat or two of the gag, more painful variations, or just a good old hammer-to-the-feet gag for the sake of giving the robbers ever-increasing punishment. Still, the nail bit helps this cartoon to shine.