Thursday 10 October 2019

The Birds of Pingo Pongo

There’s a series of bird gags in The Isle of Pingo Pongo (1938) that, a few years later, director Tex Avery would be ridiculing instead of treating straight.

“We notice many rare and unusual birds,” says narrator Gil Warren. In the original Technicolor release, the scene must have looked great.

First up is a hummingbird. You can guess the gag.

Next, a mockingbird. You can guess the gag again. The narrator, a little miffed at being echoed, says “Hmm. The bird must have been crossed with a cuckoo.” The mockingbird repeats the line, then realises what it just said.

Now a weak little canary. You know what Avery’s going to do, just like he does any time there’s a weak or timid character—the character becomes momentarily strong, loud or obnoxious. In this cartoon, it calls to its mother.

This was the first of Avery’s spoof on MGM’s Fitzgerald Travelogues. It got this rave review from the manager of the Strand in Schroon Lake, New York: “This is one of the best shorts I've seen on any screen, and has been highly commended by my patrons, who have asked me to repeat the booking. Audience consisting of many vacationists who are accustomed to better type entertainment, advise me it is the cleverest thing done in animation, including by Walt Disney.” Another review came from something out of an Avery cartoon: “‘Merrie Melodies’ comes through with a good one again. Lots of fun and good musical accompaniment. Probably the funniest ‘Merrie Melody’ ever shown here. Great for adults and children alike.” It was from the Director of Recreation at the State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey (Children in the State pen?)

The Strand won’t be repeating the booking any time soon, and you won’t see this cartoon on TV either, thanks to the stereotyped South Pacific natives taking up the second half.


  1. It and "September in the Rain" were two cartoons Turner did air in 3 1/2 minute formats in the late 1980s and 1990s, hacking out the scenes towards the end of the cartoon that featured the stereotypical African-American images. It made "Pingo Pongo" the only one of the 1969 "Censored 11" to get a partial reprieve when the cartoons were transferred from film to video.

  2. I never knew that "Pingo Pongo" aired in a heavily edited form in the 1980s and 1990s. I do remember seeing "September in the Rain" once on CN. Is there a specific year when "Pingo Pongo" had that abridged airing?