Tuesday, 3 January 2017

What's Zoo in the World of Puns

Tex Avery made some of the greatest cartoons of all time. And then there are some others that...well, they’re full of something you associate more with Nebraska than Texas—corn.

There was a temptation in the 1930s and into the ‘40s to engage in the most obvious puns possible when coming up with spot gag cartoons. Tex and writer Mel Millar fell for it in A Day at the Zoo (1939). Here are five. I probably don’t even have to say what they are; you’ll get it looking at the drawing.

A pack of camels. Carl Stalling gets into the punny mood by underscoring the scene with The Campbells Are Coming. Camel. Campbell. Get it?

A North American Greyhound. (Note the Greyhound bus logo on the side). Stalling plays California, Here I Come in the background.

Two bucks.

And five sense. Stalling hokes it up with We’re in the Money in the background.

Here are two friendly elks, played by Mel Blanc and (I think) Danny Webb. Background tune: For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. The rotund member of the Elks Club has an elk’s tooth on his watch chain; teeth and watch chains were standard any time there was an elk gag on radio.

At least we don’t get a dog/tree gag.

Gil Warren is the narrator and if you ever see a version of this with original titles, it’ll say that Ham Hamilton was the animator.


  1. The more characters with strong personalities the studio developed the less Warners used spot gag cartoons (they almost completely disappear from 1945 to 1957). But Avery's last cartoon at the studio (Crazy Cruise) was still a spot gag effort, and he did use them at MGM in the early 50s -- it would have been interesting to see how Tex would have handled things as far as the spot gag efforts if he had remained at the studio.

  2. The 'elks' gag is actually pretty funny