Friday, 12 August 2016

The Way of All Pests

The best joke the Columbia cartoon The Way of All Pests (1941) is an inside one. Like a lot of Columbia shorts, it’s just not funny. A bunch of goofy bugs—one of whom sounds like Al Pearce’s Elmer Blurt character—take revenge on a homeowner whose crime is he doesn’t like goofy bugs in his house. All of them are voiced by Mel Blanc, who proves that it is possible to get sick of hearing Mel Blanc in a cartoon. Dopey voices and witless lines don’t necessarily equal funny.

The studio put some effort into the scenes where the bugs march toward the home. There’s perspective animation, there are overlays and there’s even a scene where bugs march behind a broken bottle and the characters are fuzzy, like you’re actually looking through glass. You can’t gauge the effect too well in these screen grabs.

The best joke is the fact that the homeowner is a caricature of the film’s director, Art Davis. Nobody in the theatre watching this would have known (cartoon studio employees excepted).

Davis ran away from the house at the end of the cartoon. By the end of 1941, he had been run out of Columbia and after a brief stop working at Fleischers in Miami (working in the Waldman unit on Raggedy Ann, found a new home animating at Warner Bros.


  1. Listening to Mel in some of the Columbia cartoons, along with some of the MGM and even a few of the Universal efforts, you get an increased admiration of the skill of the folks at the Schlesinger studio not just for their groundbreaking comedy, but for their skill at voice direction of Blanc.

    The other studios either seemed to want Mel to be screaming or doing moronic voices 90 percent of the time, as if those were the keys to setting yourself apart from Disney. Warners would employ Blanc for both those types of voices, but had far more parts with nuance in them that best showed off Mel's vocal skills.

    1. That's a great way of putting it.

  2. I didn't know that was Davis, either. Looked almost like a poorly designed Edward G. Robinson.

  3. 'Art Davis' looks pretty old in this photo considering he would be active in the animation industry for another 50 year or so, either directing or animating for WB, H-B, Lantz and DFE.

    After reading your post, I watched this cartoon on Youtube and agree with your assessment. The animation is decent, and Blanc emits his usual energy. (The 'Elmer Blunt' insect was probably his idea.) The plot is old- the little guys plotting revenge on the big guy- but presents comic possibilities. You'd expect some wittiness or off-the-wall non-sequiters from the bugs as they're plotting out their revenge. Likewise, some fast-paced, violent methods to dispatch the 'villian'. Alas, none of that.

    This may be one reason Columbia cartoons have faded into relative obscurity while WB, MGM and Famous/Paramount cartoons would rerun on local TV stations well into the 90s.

  4. Davis lost his hair at an early age. He's bald in a photo taken of the Mintz staff in 1930 on the eve of moving to Hollywood.