Monday 10 September 2012

Stale Popcorn

Am I missing something, or is “The Popcorn Story” one of the most inane cartoons ever made?

Maybe there’s some kind of symbolic allusion to the 1950s arms build-up, and building a bigger, more powerful bomb to accomplish the ends of corporate America. But all I see is a six minute cartoon that reaches the surprising conclusion that corn which you can eat is made into popcorn, which you can also eat.

The cartoon features only two characters, neither of whom are likeable. One is a speechless, almost-expressionless dolt and the other is an arrogant tycoon (Jim Backus using his Magoo voice) whose bombast and flowery vocabulary becomes tiresome pretty quickly. And we’re supposed to believe this pillar of industry would be willing to invest in a completely impractical, Rube Goldberg-esque shoe-shine contraption (in a town where no one wears shoes) from someone he publicly spanked for stupidity.

The story is by Bill Scott (I suspect he came up with the puns, like having the corn-growing dolt named “Shuck”), Phil Eastman and Bob Russell. I suppose the laugh highlight is supposed to be the businessman being abused by the machine but I found the whole concept to be implausible to begin with. The best gag is when the dolt tries to power his bicycle by lighting a load of corncobs in a barrel, and it simply powers him over the handlebars and into the ground. The set-up and timing reminded me of a gag in a Roadrunner cartoon (and Chuck Jones wouldn’t have a blank look on the coyote’s face like the dolt).

Bill Hurtz designed the backgrounds, with colour by Jules Engel and Herb Klynn. Let’s look at some of those.

The popcorn industry probably loved this short. Theatre patrons likely rushed to the snack counter to buy their product to avoid sitting through this cartoon.


  1. UPA prided itself on doing cartoons with humans instead of 'funny animals'. They should have tried making more cartoons with funny humans (and you can also argue that the idea promoted by UPA's backers that no other studio was using humans as main characters in their shorts gets thrown out the window simply by looking at the 40-year history of the Fleischer-Famous Paramount cartoons)

    1. That is important to remember when watching these. Certainly this was one of those times when they probably should've ate their words!

  2. Jeez, Yowp, did you like ANY of the cartoons on the set? LOL

    1. Can’t speak for Yowp, TCJ… But, honestly, I’ve come to feel that these cartoons are the VERY DEFINITION of “overrated”.

      I’ve never seen any of ‘em until recently purchasing the TCM DVD set. Beyond the initial Fox and Crows almost none of them are funny. Some of them are cute, like “Madeline” and “Willie the Kid”, “The Oompahs”, and a few others. …And, I’ll give “The Unicorn in the Garden” some props too!

      “The Tell-Tale Heart” is MAGNIFICENT! But most, “Giddyap” in particular, just leave me scratching my head.

      I say this not yet having watched Disc Three – but, the possibility of another “Tell-Tale Heart” aside, I’m not expecting many surprises.

      I’m just not the audience for these, I suppose. If this is art, give me Bugs Bunny… or Huckleberry Hound… or Freakazoid! …Or even SpongeBob!

      Have at me, critics! Should I perish in a sea of flaming comments, at least I’ll go true to my convictions! :-)