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This was the first effort of Tex Avery to give us the character,
"Screwy Squirrel." Reportedly, it was the answer to the popular Tom and
Jerry cartoons at the time.
Man, this squirrel is a mean rodent, almost sadistic. His pleasure, apparently, is to torment this dog called "Meathead." This poor mutt takes a bad beating, time after time, and Screwy delights in doing whatever he can to him, followed by a sadistic laugh. I could see where that laugh could become annoying if you heard it often enough, but I don't remember much of it in the other SS cartoons I saw. I can also see why Screwy didn't become a hit, even though he was funny. As a leading cartoon character, he's just a little too nasty. However, Bugs Bunny inflicted a lot of pain on others, too, but they often - at least Elmer Fudd - started trouble. Plus, there was something lovable about Bugs. Here, this dog was just minding his own business when Screwy called him on the telephone and used some psychology to get him to come over.....only so he could abuse him. Now, that's mean!
As in most Tex Avery cartoons, the jokes are more adult-oriented and the director emphasizes, through another Thumper-like "Bambi" squirrel early in this cartoon, that is is not going to be a cute and fuzzy story. Avery once said he was "the anti-Disney" type and preferred his cartoons with an edge. Screwy beats up Thumper right away, just to emphasize the point.
Avery and his main writer, Heck Allen, also were good at having the main characters stop the story and talk to us - the audience - a number of times. That, or they would hold up a sign telling us something like, "Stupid, ain't it?" These "asides" to let us know what the characters are thinking are almost always clever and add to the cartoon's humor. I particularly thought it was neat when the character would comment that he knew all of this baloney that was happening on screen was just a cartoon anyway, so he'd make some wisecrack about "this cartoon this and that." Supposedly, this was the first time this sort of thing had ever been done in a cartoon. It must have really surprised audiences in the theater. That's how inventive Mr. Avery and Mr. Allen were with their animated short features. Their "Droopy" cartoons featured a lot of those "asides," too.
After watching this, I viewed two other "Screwy Squirrel" episodes and found them spectacular.
Screwball Squirrel (1944) has to be the greatest single cartoon
character ever created. If Tex Avery is forever to be remembered for
one thing, it's this creation. He stretched the bounds of decency (and
sanity) with this cartoon. No matter what came beforehand or
afterwards, animation was never the same again.
This was the first in several animated shorts based upon Screwy a.k.a. Screwball Squirrel. The cartoon opens up with a thumper like character frolicking through the woods. He happens to come across the title character. He takes the rabbit by the hand and cold cocks him offscreen and hijacks the show. A collection of sight gags, pratfalls and a lot of physical abuse takes place during the rest of the show. A real funny short that has to be seen to be believed.
Take note that the show was created during the height of World War II so a lot of humor from that era is worked into the short. But besides the nitpicking it's truly a classic character and an extremely funny one at that. Watch Tex Avery change the face of animation forever.
It's going to be real hard to find an unedited copy of this short. Just keep your eyes open and you'll find it!
Tex Avery preferred doing one-shot cartoons as opposed to using a regular
character or characters. He was more interested in the gags than anything
else. Studios, of course, want something recognizable to the audience, to
developing continuing interest and thus sell more tickets. So Avery,
because MGM wanted him to come up with a character to rival the Tom and
Jerry shorts done by the other principle unit at the studio (Hanna and
Barbera) came up with Screwball Squirrel.
While Screwy was a decent enough character, the trouble was that he was too limited, too much a one-note character. He was a walking sight gag. There were five cartoons done with Screwy before the series ended, in typical Avery style, with Lonesome Lenny. The Screwy cartoons are funny, but also too predictable. The first one, here, opens wonderfully with a lighthearted (or maybe not) shot at cutesy little animal cartoons that were staples at "other studios" for years and takes off from there. This is probably the best of the series. Well worth watching. Most highly recommended.
This was the first appearance of Screwy Squirrel, and like most of Tex Avery's animated shorts for Fred Quimby at M-G-M, filled with sight gags aplenty,along with the usual kinetic pacing that put Avery on the map. Screwy wasn't as popular as some of the other cartoon characters of the period (let's face it---Screwy is little more than Avery's answer to Bugs Bunny,like Woody Woodpecker was Walter Lanz's answer to Bugs). This short begins looking like it's going to be yet another 'Happy Harmony' short (M-G-M's answer to Disney's 'Silly Symphony' shorts,complete with cutsy woodland creatures & plots that can bring on diabetic shock),but this is flushed down the crapper fast, once Screwy makes his debut. Screwy manages to taunt a bloodhound (known as Meathead)for almost all of the short (with some pretty sadistic,but funny results). Toss in a sprinkle of Avery's use of surrealism, and you have yourself a laugh fest. Aired at various times on Cartoon Network's sister station, Boomerang, or on one of several early M-G-M Avery DVD's.
This is the first of several Screwball Squirrel cartoons. It's a real
shame that this Tex Avery character never really took off, as I would
have really loved to see more.
The cartoon begins with a cute little squirrel talking about the film and all his friends in the forest. Screwball then walks him away from the camera and beats the stuffing out of him and takes over the cartoon. He then phones and insults a bird dog so that through the rest of the film this hapless dog gets tortured repeatedly by Screwball. The film ends with the appearance of the same cute squirrel and BOTH Screwball and the dog pummel him!
The film is great because of all the Tex Avery touches--great over-the-top sight gags (such as catching the street car inside the tree) and the completely surreal aspects of the film. While it's not the best Avery cartoon (that might be SWINGSHIFT Cinderella), it is pure vintage Avery and fun for everyone but complete stick-in-the-muds.
I'm interested in how we imagine as a society, so study movies. I'm
increasingly convinced that many of the cleverest folding ideas were
introduced first through shorts, specifically cartoons. They were
cheaper to produce and wouldn't drag down the bill if they failed.
1944 is a bit late in the game for the history of folding, so the experiments have to be outrageous.
This is. Superficially, it is a chase cartoon where the plucky small creature outwits and pummels the bigger, dumber one. I understand that the form was mandated by funders. Ignore it.
Much more interesting is how Tex wrapped that in a selfaware perspective.
It starts with a fight for control of the cartoon, one character saying: "what kind of cartoon is this anyway?"
Midway in the chase, the little guy the squirrel asks what the next scene will be, and literally lifts the page to see the cartoon underneath.
Near the end, the big dumb guy says that he's had enough and the cartoon is over. That shrinking iris effect begins, but the little guy begs for some more time. He makes a promise which is of course broken.
At the real end of the thing, the little guy comes on stage to talk to the audience and reveals that he was able to perform all those tricks because he had a twin. The final joke is that the big dog had one too (about which the screwy squirrel was unaware.)
Important stuff. Funny, engaging.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
I think that screwball squirrel was a really funny character,he's a orange squirrel that talks like he has a cold,this cartoon is similar to tom and jerry because this dog that screwball calls meat head is always chasing him and screwball would always beat the living crap out of him with baseball bats and all sorts of objects that can be used as weapons.For a cartoon that was released in the 1940's it's really hilarious and more funny than them crappy cartoons they show today.Tex Avery the creator of this cartoon made a whole lot of funny cartoons during the same time,but i find this one to bee the funniest,it's a shame that he didn't continue with this funny cartoon character this cartoon only had about 4 or 5 episodes than went off the air. Screwball Squirrel is such a underrated cartoon character,but is unforgettable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tex Avery is probably the best and most influence cartoon director of his time. He was truly the anti-Disney, and this cartoon is one of the best examples of that. I love his style, it was so unique and really ahead of it's time. My favorite character of his is Screwy Squirrel,he clearly was created as an anti-mickey mouse and this cartoon has very much an anti-Disney or anti-early MGM attitude. I love how he constantly breaks the fourth wall and how there is no plot, it's just screwy showing the audience that a manic chase is more entertaining then a sweet cartoon. My favorite gag is when the film start skipping and screwy simply walks over and fixes the record. I understand that some thought he was too violent and mean, but he's funny and unique! I like how for some reason he sounds like he has a cold and often sniffs, weird, but I like it. His laugh is great, Wally Mahar did his voice, and screwy reminds me of bratty kid who likes to cause mayham for his own pleasure. Mayabe movie goes at the time didn't get such a wacky character who constantly talks directly to them, but he has a cult following. I love that screwy squirrel!
MGM asked Tex Avery to develop a running character to rival Bill Hanna and
Joe Barbera's Tom & Jerry, and Avery, who was gag-oriented as a director,
developed a character suited to his style of animated comedy, Screwy
The cartoon features Avery's brand of superbly-timed and edited gags revolving around the chase theme universal to cartoons, but two gags display Avery's aversion to running characters and also hurt the cartoon's quality. Both involve a saccharine-sweet squirrel straight out of Disney central casting who is viciously pummeled to death, first by Screwy, later by both Screwy and the dog who's been chasing him throughout the short. The gratuitous nature of these assaults is repellent and unfortunately common to cartoons of the 1940s; unlike the physical gags elsewhere in the cartoon, these scenes are not done for laughs, but for sadistic joy and as such are unnecessary and ugly.
This is not the best entry in the five-short series for Screwy Squirrel, but it is a good start.
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