Tuesday 20 December 2011

Crazy Mixed Up Dog Fight

Of the four cartoons Tex Avery made at the Lantz studio, ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point’ is my favourite. Other Tex fans make a case for ‘Crazy Mixed Up Pup’ the second Avery cartoon released by the studio. It’s okay, but a couple of things spoil it for me. The character design is downright ugly in places. The facial features tend to be small and not helped by the thicker ink line at Lantz. And the crazy flag gag starts to become predictable.

Tex went for wild drawings like his team at MGM gave him and the most successful in ‘Pup’ is probably the fight between Sam (acting like a dog, thanks to a transfusion of dog plasma) and his pet Rover (who is acting like a dog again; the effects of human plasma having temporarily worn off). There is a cycle of 12 drawings on ones. Take a look at them in order.

Avery only had a team of three credited animators—Don Patterson, La Verne Harding and Ray Abrams—at Lantz. Reader M. Yorston informs me the scene is by Abrams.

After Avery left the studio, Walter Lantz brought back Alex Lovy to direct. Lovy was handed all of Avery’s characters, and there weren’t many. There was Chilly Willy and his dog/polar bear antagonist, and there were Sam and Maggie. Lantz wanted continuing characters so he could see them in merchandise, so Lovy turned Sam and Maggie into a series. It limped along with three uninteresting cartoons. Sam and Maggie, like almost all of Avery’s characters after leaving Warners, existed solely to accommodate Avery’s gags, which were the real stars of his cartoons. Without Tex Avery, there was no need for a Maggie or Sam.


  1. This set Tex Aveyr apart from some of the others--I probaly, had I been around then, just had Sam and his dog get run over and then get amnesia, act like each other. But Tex has the plasma angle to it, so that Sam and his dog DON'T just get run over and act like each other by virtue of thinking [compare, "Gilligan" with one of its last episodes, "The Second Ginger Grant", "Popeye" with "I Yam what I Yamnesnia",from the Jack Kinney outfit for the King Features series, or Bugs and Elmer, "Hare Do", where ELmer mysteriously thinks he is a wabbit, apparently from a director's cut where he's run over]--but Tex adds the "plasma apply" angle, so Sam and hmis mutt don't act like another due to being run over. And no Mad Sceintist to switch their minds around like in that Yogi short "Brainy Bear" or the Flintstones, Gilligan, or that Bugs short "Hot Cross Bunny". Reverting now and then to the original selves kis another unique idea [the 1967 waning era H-B "Abbott and Costello Cartoon" series episode "Vaccuum VIllian" used, with the amnesia setup, this back-forth switch in characteristics.]

    So I can only imagine how another cartoon director would do this, the same setup, just no medical plasma mixups, just a good-old fashioned amnesia tale, or tail.:-)

    Steve C.

  2. It's really too bad that -- given the number of attempts they made to resurrect their animation short subjects in the 1960s -- that MGM didn't keep the studio open, because there was one character that Tex created that showed he could have existed beyond Avery's gag format, and that's the Wolf from "Three Little Pups" and/or Smedley from "I'm Cold".

    As Leonard Maltin and so many others have noted, Hanna-Babera basically took Daws' voice and the personality Tex gave his wolf/dog and turned it into Huckleberry Hound. But by the time the "Pups" hit the theaters, Avery had been gone from MGM for over six months and his unit disbanded.

    Mark Kausler's comment in the other thread about how Tex felt about Screwy Squirrel indicates there may have been a little frustration on Avery' part that he was never able to create another Bugs Bunny. But for the tighter animation budgets of the 1950s, it would have been interesting to see where he might have gone with the wolf if he had stayed on the job at Metro for several more years (and Michael Lah did squeeze two more cartoons out of the character before the studio closed for good, so everyone knew even before Huck arrived there was something there worth building on).

  3. Rover (to Sam): "Sam, you bited me!"