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Who Killed Cock Robin? (1935)

Robin is crooning to a Mae West-like Jenny Wren when he is shot with an arrow. A court is convened; the judge, an owl, keeps singing the title. A variety of birds are brought to the witness... See full summary »

Director:

(uncredited)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Billy Bletcher ...
Judge Oliver Owl (voice) (uncredited)
Clarence Nash ...
Legs Sparrow (voice) (uncredited)
Purv Pullen ...
Cock Robin's Whistling (voice) (uncredited)
...
Jenny Wren (voice) (uncredited)
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Storyline

Robin is crooning to a Mae West-like Jenny Wren when he is shot with an arrow. A court is convened; the judge, an owl, keeps singing the title. A variety of birds are brought to the witness stand, but nobody knows a thing. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

26 June 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Flecha do Amor  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Connections

Featured in Frank and Ollie (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

The Farmer's in the Dell
Sung with new lyrics by the Jury
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Disney's surprisingly caustic take on the justice system
1 August 2004 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This notable entry in Walt Disney's famous Silly Symphony series is perhaps best remembered for its parodies of current movie stars, including Bing Crosby, Harpo Marx, and -- most spectacularly -- Mae West, but seen today the film is even more striking for its subversive treatment of the legal system. The sassy attitude on display here smacks more of the Fleischer Studio or the wise-guy aggressiveness of Warner Brothers' Termite Terrace boys than what we usually get from Uncle Walt. This cartoon also appears to have just barely slipped past the newly strict Hays Office censors with its naughty insinuations (via Jenny Wren, the Mae West stand-in) and blatant "pansy" references.

For the first few moments after the opening credits the tone is typical of a Silly Symphony: Cock Robin croons a love song to his girlfriend, as we take in the rich palette of Disney's Technicolor flowers and trees. Abruptly, Cock Robin is bumped off, plummeting to the ground before the Old Crow Bar in what looks like the seedy part of the woods, and suddenly we're in a different universe. As the morgue orderlies carry Cock Robin away, one of them casually tosses his hat onto the arrow protruding from his chest. A nice dark touch, that.

Then the cops show up and roust three suspects out of the bar, and here's where things get really disturbing. All three suspects are dragged away and clubbed, but a black bird who talks like Stepin Fetchit and wears a white jacket is singled out for special brutality. Despite his protests that he "didn't do nuthin', don't know nuthin', and didn't see nuthin'" the black bird is clobbered repeatedly. The segue from the sequence before the trial to the trial itself is an amazingly bold cross-fade, timed to the rhythm of a cop clubbing this guy's head as it blends with the pounding of the judge's gavel. Eisenstein couldn't have done it better! And when the black bird repeats his denials, the jury mocks his cries with a minstrel show parody. It's only funny in the most grim sense of the word.

Am I being excessively P.C. in examining a Disney cartoon in this fashion? I don't think so, nor am I calling the filmmakers racist. The animators who made this cartoon seem to be taking a very bleak view of the justice system and playing their own cynicism for laughs, the way the Marx Brothers took on politics in Duck Soup. But I do wonder how the cartoon went over in cinemas in African American neighborhoods. Did black audiences laugh ruefully? Or watch in stony silence?

Beyond that, what's interesting to me about Who Killed Cock Robin? is the fact that, with the exception of Jenny Wren, the Hollywood caricatures really aren't central to the success of the whole. The Judge (an owl) and the D.A. (a parrot) are more impressive characters in terms of design than any of the others, and the jury acting as Greek Chorus is a great idea -- even if Gilbert & Sullivan thought of it first. Still, it's Jenny Wren we remember from this film, and this is where the animators and the uncredited performer who provided her voice really outdid themselves: this is a superb parody of Mae West that beautifully captures her look, her sound, her moves, and her style, especially in her courtroom musical number.

All in all this is a remarkable cartoon, and one that the Disney Organization would never have made after the mid-1930s. Once the war came, and forever after, Uncle Walt never sanctioned anything that could be deemed critical of the American Way of Life.


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