Tuesday 23 May 2023

Gophers, McCabe-Style

The elements were there, but Norm McCabe and his writing staff just couldn’t pull it off.

Art Davis (and, I guess, writer George Hill) invented some heckling gophers in The Goofy Gophers (1947).

Tedd Pierce and Chuck Jones came out with a couple of mice, one a Brooklyn sharpie, the other a dullard, who terrorised a cat in The Aristo Cat (1943).

McCabe tried both concepts a few years earlier in Gopher Goofy (1942).

It has familiar elements from Warner Bros. cartoons—a character happily copying Jerry Colonna saying “Something new has been added!”, a human character with a red nose (a la Elmer Fudd in A Wild Hare and other cartoons), characters talking to the camera (“Keep your shirts on, folks. Us gophers go through this all the time), and Carl Stalling loading up the soundtrack with “42nd Street.”

McCabe and writer Don Christensen also pull a variation on a Maltese gag from The Heckling Hare (1941) where a dog crushes a tomato but thinks he’s killed Bugs Bunny. Here, the farmer thinks he’s crushed one of the gophers.

Here’s the punch line.

I really want to like Norm McCabe’s cartoons. Really I do. But most of them are full of blah characters and weak jokes. None of the characters in this short do anything for me. The farmer is a zero and the gophers don’t have the wit of Hubie. The dummy says, out of nowhere, “I miss Central Park.” What? Why? Lame characters equal lame cartoons.

This was a Looney Tunes cartoon. The series still featured Porky Pig in the opening and closing titles, but Leon Schlesinger had given up any pretense that the LTs were a showcase for the pig. Porky d-dee-uh-doesn’t appear anywhere in this short. It might have been stronger if he had been the farmer and got some decent dialogue.

Izzy Ellis is the credited animator and Dick Thomas remains uncredited as the background artist.


  1. "I'm not a mean man folks, honest."

    This seems one of the few of McCabe's efforts that doesn't have any kind of war reference. The garden isn't even a victory garden.

  2. I do like the Bugs Bunny-esque voice on one of the gophers, but yeah, not a great short. Beautiful animation though.

  3. While there is no doubt that the Looney Tunes helmed by McCabe are beautifully animated and produced, the films themselves are hit-and-miss in terms of laughs and gag content. It's like Schlesinger purposely gave him the studio's weaker story men (Melvin Millar, Don Christenson) to sabotage the B&W product, which was slowly graduating to all-color production.