Scrappy Mintz, Master Brewer

Kindly ignore the fact that the cartoon above was obviously shot off a screen during a public performance, and therefore features cameos by the people sitting in front of the videographer. It’s The Beer Parade, by the original Scrappy team of Dick Huemer, Sid Marcus, and Art Davis. This is one of the most amazingly Scrappy-esque of all Scrappy cartoons, and you need to see it. (I learned it was on YouTube when Devon Baxter linked to it in the pre-UPA Columbia cartoon group on Facebook.)

Plot summary: Scrappy and Oopy joyfully serve beer by the barrelful to dozens of drunken elves until Old Man Prohibition shows up. The boys and the little men assault him from the ground and the air–even using explosives–until he chooses to bury himself. Whereupon the good times roll once more.

(I particularly like the moment when Oopy, having rigged up a rope to trip Old Man Prohibition, tugs at it to verify that it’s tight enough to do the job.)

The cartoon is an obvious allegory concerning prohibition and its repeal. But it was released on March 4, 1933, when the federal ban on alcoholic beverages was still in force, so its celebration of unrestrained imbibing was anticipatory.

FDR, who famously made repeal part of his campaign, had taken office in January; a couple of weeks after the cartoon debuted, he signed the Cullen-Harrison act, which permitted the sale of wine and 3.2 percent beer starting the following month. In December, prohibition on the federal level was fully repealed.

Prohibition was never enforced all that rigorously in cartoon land. The 1929 Silly Symphony The Merry Dwarfs presaged The Beer Parade by showing its title characters quaffing beer; 1931’s Lady Play Your Mandolin, the first Merrie Melody, takes place in a saloon and is full of tippling animals, although it’s possible that it’s set in Mexico. But the sheer quantity of beer in The Beer Parade–served by two small boys without any adult supervision–remains startling. It’s unimaginable that anyone would have made a cartoon with this theme a few years later. Or today.

(Scrappy and Oopy aren’t shown drinking in the cartoon, but they are depicted brandishing foamy mugs themselves, and do seem to be in an awfully exuberant good mood.)

Bonus: Here’s the excellent original poster for The Beer Parade, which is preserved at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library. (Thanks to Nick Richie for alerting me to it.)

The Beer Parade

3 comments on Scrappy Mintz, Master Brewer

  • I love the anarchic streak in this one. I think it runs through the Huemer family; I know I’ve got it, and my son Mike, who’s posted some provocative lectures on YouTube. I’ve emailed you Joe DeNat’s 1933 Xmas card, which suggests that the Mintz crew (the music dep’t, anyhow) liked beer perhaps more than they should have. Interesting how alcohol was given a pass in those days. Consider Dumbo and the drunk scene: a juvenile character getting soused? and hallucinating?–shocking!

  • This is a topic near and dear to every animator of the day, I think. We can regard this as having taken place just prior to the events of HELL’S FIRE (aka MASQUERADE HOLIDAY), where we see that Old Man Prohibition just hadn’t been tortured enough yet, and where better to continue his vilification than Hell itself?

    We never see Scrappy and Oopy indulge, naturally, but the last shot of Scrappy atop a beer keg that never stops pouring reminds me of the old dictum about how “you can’t buy beer…”

  • I’m also impressed at how the greatness of the cartoon brings the MST3K guys to respectful near-silence, broken only by involuntary laughter and sounds of approval. It had to happen some day!

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