Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Sign of Tex Avery

Phoney title card introductions and explanatory signs were all part of Tex Avery’s comedy arsenal during his directorial career. We get both in “The Early Bird Dood It,” Avery’s first cartoon at MGM.

Here’s the introduction sign, reminiscent of the kind of thing he did at Warner Bros. (Scott Bradley plays “Here Comes the Bride” in the background).

Avery opens the cartoon with a slow pan over a background. There’s no music or dialogue. Finally the camera stops for a sign commenting on the action so far.

The worm in the picture pulls down a window shade with a title on it. Naturally, it rolls up again and the scene has changed.

And that’s followed by another explanatory sign.

Foul language is not permitted in cartoons, we’re informed.

A fun little gag (which Avery used in other cartoons) is when the chase stops for a drink. I really like how the bar is shaped like a beer keg. The bird puts out a sign informing us the cartoon is momentarily on hold, then puts out another sign when the break is finished. One of the great things about the early ‘40s MGM cartoons is checking out the different drawings of characters slipping and sliding around before they take off out of the frame (Tom does this in the Tom and Jerry cartoons). But eventually, Tex realised it slowed down the chase, making it take longer to get to the next gag, so he eliminated all those drawings.

A flurry of street sign gag follows. The bird and the worm race past a sign saying “SLOW.” So they back up and run past the sign again slowly, picking up speed when the next sign allows them to.

The cat races past the bird, we hear a screech, and the camera shakes as it pans across a background drawing littered with road signs.

Then the camera pans down the cliff to the lake below.

Another sign leads the bird and cat off another cliff.

Ah, but the worm gets eaten by the bird and the bird gets eaten by the cat. The cat closes the cartoon with another sign that Avery used again.

Rich Hogan was Avery’s writer. Animation credits go to Irv Spence, Preston Blair, Ed Love and Ray Abrams.


  1. Often I wonder what headaches this cartoon provided foreign translators when it came to dubbing or subtitling this gem? I'm sure plenty.

  2. Irv Spence did the slow motion sequence and the cat under water. One of my heroes, I still miss him.