Monday, 17 May 2021

A Dog Doesn't Land on its Feet

The last Columbia short is about violence. A dog beats up a cat during the whole picture just for the sake it of it. Apparently, that’s the joke.

However, there is a break. Not exactly a funny one, but the concept is amusing. Chuck Jones and Mike Maltese pulled it off in one of their cartoons but director Sid Marcus and writers Cal Howard and Dave Monahan don’t here.

A truism is (supposedly) a cat always lands on its feet. That’s exactly what happens here after the dog drops him from a great height. Just as he’s about to hit the ground. The cat skids to a stop in mid-air, flips over, and lands safely. (A drawing is missing because of interlacing).

The cat gives us a knowing glance, looks as if he’s about to barrel away, but then tie-tops out of the scene.

The dog decides he can do the same thing. Nope. He flips onto his back and crashed into the dirt. (Apologies for the fuzzy frame grabs).

The cartoon is Cat-Trastrophy, released in 1949. It was animated by Roy Jenkins, Ben Lloyd and Howard Swift. Darrell Calker provided the score, freelancing while he was working at Walter Lantz.

The animation is solid, though not showy, in some of the late Columbias, and the characters are attractively designed in this one, but the cartoons don’t fire on all cylinders. Howard and Monahan were more than capable gag people but their work at Screen Gems isn’t all that inspired (or, in Howard’s case, just plain odd at times), there’s no irony or humour in Calker’s really low-key scores and the idea of Scribner or Gould-like outrageous animation never told hold like at Warners in the ‘40s. It’s no wonder the Cohns shut down its operations and eventually signed a deal with the promising UPA studio.


  1. I don't know what it is with the COLUMBIA cartoons, but those last batch of shorts produced by Katz & Binder are very hit and miss - while I love FLORA and SWISS TEASE, others like LO, THE POOR BUFFAL and TOPSY TURKEY are real head-scratchers in terms of story and cohesion. Did they miss something going from storyboard to finished film??

    1. Flora is a good one. Not only do they come up with enough variations on the narration gag, they are able to structure them into a story that builds.
      The endings of Topsy Turkey, Lo the Poor Buffal and Kongo Roo just don't work for me. I guess Cal Howard was going for a surprise element but it comes across as "Huh? What did I just watch?" more than anything.

  2. Hans Christian Brando18 May 2021 at 17:45

    Considering how little interest the studios showed in their own animation units, and I'm sure Columbia least of all, it's a wonder the cartoons are as good as they are. If the animation staff couldn't work up their own inspiration, well, latter-day Screen Gems is what you got. That period between World War II and UPA was a dicey one for animation anyway.

    1. Really? Jones and Freleng both directed great strings of cartoons after the war.
      It was dicey maybe in terms of money. Screen Gems died, Warners and MGM each dropped a unit, Republic's plans for a series of Clampett cartoons was cancelled and Lantz closed to make money with re-issues.

  3. Ya know, funny enough, the main characters in this short resemble two other animated characters that would become very popular with french audiences that went by the names Hercule and Pif (or Hercules and Spiffy for English-speaking audiences).

  4. From out of nowhere, this actually just got shown on MeTV's "Toon In With Me" morning cartoon show the other day. Titles were complete so it wasn't from the Totally Tooned In package. Makes me hopeful they might dip into the Screen Gems collection some more in the future.