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The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (1937)

A program for radio KUKU set in the woods, mostly starring birds as caricatures of celebrities of the day. The MC is bandleader Ben Birdie, heckled by Walter Finchell. Wendell Howell ... See full summary »

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
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Mr. Growlin (voice) (uncredited)
Tedd Pierce ...
Tizzie Fish (voice) (uncredited)
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Storyline

A program for radio KUKU set in the woods, mostly starring birds as caricatures of celebrities of the day. The MC is bandleader Ben Birdie, heckled by Walter Finchell. Wendell Howell prepares to lead a singalong; he gives several different page numbers in the songbook, then says, "Never mind, we won't use the books." The audience, responding "Oh yes we will" pelts him. Billy Goat and Ernie Bear introduce and sing the title song. Everyone sings along, except a fox, who informed he's singing the wrong song, responds, "Why don't somebody tell me these things?" We pan across a series of celebrity guests, like W.C. Field-mouse, Dick Fowl, Deanna Terrapin, Bing Crowsby, and the high-note competing duo of Grace Moose and Lily Swans. Tizzie Fish has a cooking segment. Finally, Louella Possums introduces a company performing a scene from The Prodigal's Return. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

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4 December 1937 (USA)  »

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The caricatured celebrities are, in order of appearance: Alexander Owllcott (town crier)= Alexander Woollcott; Ben Birdie = Ben Bernie; Walter Finchell = Walter Winchell; Milton Squirrel = Milton Berle; Wendell Howl = Wendell Hall; Billy Goat and Ernie Bear = Billy Jones and Ernie Hare; Fred Growlin = Fred Allen; Portland Hare: Portland Hoffa; Eddie Gander = Eddie Cantor; Sophie Turkey = Sophie Tucker; W.C. Fieldmouse = W.C. Fields; Dick Fowl: Dick Powell; Fats Swallow = Fats Waller; Deanna Terrapin = Deanna Durbin; Irvin S. Frog = Irvin S. Cobb; Fred McFurry = Fred MacMurray; Bing Crowsby = Bing Crosby; Al Goatson = Al Jolson; Ruby Squealer = Ruby Keeler; Lanny Hoss = Grace Moore; Lily Swans = Lily Pons; Raven McQuandry = Haven MacQuarrie; Joe Penguin = Joe Penner; Moutha Bray = Martha Raye; Tizzie Fish = Tizzie Lish; Louella Possums = Louella Parsons; Jack Bunny = Jack Benny; Mary Bunny = Mary Livingstone; Andy Bovine = Andy Devine. See more »

Connections

Edited from My Green Fedora (1935) See more »

Soundtracks

Are You from Dixie? ('Cause I'm from Dixie, Too!')
(1915) (uncredited)
Music by George L. Cobb
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User Reviews

 
Fascinatingly Outdated
23 February 2014 | by (someplace) – See all my reviews

I first encountered this short while re-watching many of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons on DVD. The Looney Tunes shorts in particular have been some of my favorite cartoons since childhood and I enjoy many of Warner's other early efforts as well. While many of these classic cartoons make pop cultural references that have become obscure or mostly forgotten in the modern day, most of them maintain a timeless quality that children and adults of all generations still enjoy. The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos however is one of the most outdated Warner Brothers cartoons that I have seen, to the point where it's one of the only classic cartoons I have ever felt the urge to write about.

This cartoon is simply a parody of 1930s radio culture, parodying famous celebrities of the time as birds and woodland critters. I imagine this short film must have been hilarious upon release and would have succeeded at its intentions, but 77 years later it comes off as mostly outdated and incredibly boring as a result of the now obscure cultural references. The celebrity references to Bing Crosby, Al Jolson and WC Fields, which I recognized, weren't enough to save this cartoon for me. This could be because in the current age of brutal and scathing celebrity caricatures as done by South Park and Family Guy, simply seeing cartoon versions of 1930s celebrities as animals with puns based around their names is anemic by comparison. Which is another reason this cartoon aged so poorly, its approach to caricatures and parodies is simply, "hey look who it is, your favorite star in cartoon form with a pun for a name." The jokes run on a "can you guess who this is?" basis and do little else with the caricatures. Today this cartoon plays out like watching a late night show 10 or 20 years after its first airing, many of the jokes become forgotten, and the ones that are possibly remembered are often too far removed from cultural context to remain funny. This style of humor ages poorly, but has a place in culture as it can be very funny before its expiration date.

While I've bashed the cartoon's comedic content and long expired cultural relevance, this isn't a terrible cartoon by any means. The animation is great, especially considering the amount of characters present and the beautiful hand drawn efforts of animators from the pre-computer time. There is also a high level of energy to the cartoon that makes it somewhat watchable for anyone who is curious to see how a parody of then-fresh cultural references from the 1930s would play out. And I understand that parodying celebrities in this fashion was popular at the time, considering that many other cartoons from this era do the same, though admittedly the references to classic film stars age significantly better than references to radio culture of the time. The classic cartoon "Goofy Groceries," in which food mascots come to life in a grocery store after closing, takes a similar approach and not only references brands that are still regularly sold in the 2010s, but also uses the caricatures in a much more creative way than the rather shallow approach seen here.

When all is said and done, I don't regret watching this as it gave me one of the most unusual reactions I have ever had to a classic cartoon, but unless you were alive and following 1930s radio culture during its time, or have researched it enough to understand the ins and outs of it, the humor and cultural references are going to fall flat for most modern viewers.


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