Thursday 25 October 2012

Joke's Over

Tex Avery had a real challenge to meet. On one hand, he had types of gags that became fairly familiar to cartoon watchers. On the other hand, he got his biggest laughs when something unfamiliar happened and came out of nowhere.

Avery and writer Heck Allen pull off one of those in “The Three Little Pups” (1953).

This is another of Avery’s takes on three little pigs except, this time, the star is a low-key North Carolina wolf (played by a pre-Huckleberry Hound Daws Butler), who gets bashed around by just about everything. The pigs are dogs, all versions of Droopy, except two are brain-dead with tongues hanging out.

There are some fun sequences, but my favourite is when the wolf puts on a cat hand puppet, which comes alive at the sight of a wind-up mouse. It drags the wolf with it all over the place, only to stop in front of a sleeping bulldog. There’s a typical Avery frightened-hair-on-end take and the scene ends with the bulldog biting the wolf in the butt.

The wolf’s not bothered. He simply changes pants behind a convenient screen in the back yard.

“Good dog, man!” praises the wolf.

Cut to next scene. The wolf puts a target on the door of the pigs’ brick house. He turns. The smart pig, er, pup (Bill Thompson using his Droopy voice) puts the target on the wolf’s butt. Any cartoon fan can predict what will happen next. But then Avery surprises everyone. The wolf goes behind the screen and change pants again.

But there’s the bulldog from the previous scene still clamped down on the first set of pants. The wolf strolls past the dog. “Okay, break it up, son. Joke’s over, hear?”

Running gag out of nowhere. That’s why Tex Avery’s great.

The credited animation crew includes Bob Bentley with Avery’s regulars: Mike Lah, Walt Clinton, Grant Simmons. Ray Patterson was borrowed from the Hanna-Barbera unit. Avery’s into his flat character stage so I suspect Ed Benedict did the designs.


  1. Love that line...Break it up Joke is over...very funny...

  2. Ha! The one joke I can still remember from that cartoon

  3. Another wonderful example of Averyesque stream-of-consciousness comes in the scene in which they're watching the TV the wolf swallowed in the previous scene. "Now, don't ask us how we got the television back." Either Allen and Avery are commenting on the absurdity of cartoon license, or implying that the wolf somehow 'passed' the TV through his system thus enabling them to watch it again. Maybe both. But hilarious either way.