Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Hair Gag

When you say “Tex Avery” and “hair gag,” you know exactly what I’m talking about. Sure, he used it in “Aviation Vacation” (1941) at Warner Bros. but it’s best known from the great MGM cartoon “Magical Maestro” (1952).

Here are some shots of Spike-as-Poochini interrupting his opera singing to pull out a hair that supposedly is stuck in the projector and tossing it away.

Are the stories true that projectionists were warned not to try to get rid of the hair when showing this movie? Absolutely. Here’s the story from Daily Variety, January 8, 1952:

SOMETIMES A GAG can have strange repercussions. In the case of the MGM Technicolor cartoon "The Magical Maestro," producer Fred Quimby found it necessary, after a few playdates, to place a card in every film can telling the projectionists about a gag in the reel so they would not stop the picture to see what was the matter with the film. The card reads: "Notice to projectionists: Approximately 850 feet from the start of the film a hair appears at the bottom of the screen. Later, the singer reaches for the hair and removes it. This is a gag in the picture, not something in the aperture of your projector!"

Yes, this story was published a full month before the cartoon’s release date of February 9th. I haven’t been able to determine when it went into production.

Rich Hogan got the story credit and animation credits went to Mike Lah, Grant Simmons and Walt Clinton.


  1. That's Mike Lah's animation of the "hair gag".

  2. One of the cartoons that made me an animator. First time I showed this to a guy I worked with at the Laser Show he said "Agh -- I wish they'd get rid of that hair" right before Spike removed it. He freaked out yelling "Oh My God! He (Tex) got me! From the grave he got me!".

  3. The "hair gag" would later be "borrowed" by Benny Hill in one of his ending chase scenes - specifically, that of his 25 April 1984 show where, having posed as a doctor and been outed as a lowly sign painter, he is chased outside and around the grounds of a hospital that recently had its grand opening. At one point he notices the offending hair and stops his pursuers long enough to pluck it out before the chase resumes. It was one of quite a few Avery gags that Hill "borrowed" or stole outright over the next couple of years.