Scrappy, by Paul Etcheverry and Will Friedwald

Scrappy

Reprinted from Animania #20, February 1981
and Animania #21, June 1981

Yippy

[Click here for the introduction]

Filmography compiled by Will Friedwald, with Paul Etcheverry. Special thanks to Mark Kausler, Ron Hall, Jerry Beck, Leonard Maltin, Kit Parker, Martin Quigley and Chick Lewis.

The series stars a round-headed boy, Scrappy, and his pesky little brother, Oopy (known as Vontzy in the 1931-33 episodes; he’ll be referred to as Oopy here, to avoid confusion). In supporting roles are his dog, Yippy, his girlfriend, either Heidi or Margie, and a host of funny animal wise guys. All have active imaginations and a flair for mischief. Unless otherwise noted, these on reel shorts were produced in black and white by the Charles Mintz Studio for release by Columbia Pictures, and had musical scores by Joe DeNat.

Two kinds of cartoons are included in this listing: films originally released as part of the “Scrappy” series, even though he appears extremely briefly in some of the later entries; cartoons starring Scrappy that were released as part of other series-the COLOR RHAPSODIES, FABLES, and PHANTASIES. There are no director credits given on most of the films. Release date follows title.

1931

1. YELP WANTED / July 16 / Story by Dick Heumer / Animated by Sid Marcus.
Scrappy finds Yippy groaning in agony, so he heads for the drugstore to buy some “Dr. Woof’s Dog Tonic.” Unfortunately, the lad must pass through the extremely dangerous “Rough House Alley” to get there. And once he procures the elixir, Scrappy is faced with a larcenous, sadistic band of runts. After many nerve wracking adventures, he arrives home safely, but promptly trips and breaks the medicine bottle. Luckily, Scrappy is soon greeted by a healthy Yippy and her newborn pups.

The crude, uninhibited gags and rough and ready urban setting of YELP WANTED bring to mind the New York~produced Fleischer and Van Beuren cartoons, rather than the Mintz Studio’s West Coast competitors. The incredible establishing shot of “Rough House Alley” includes: passing cars being stolen by sinister hands which protrude from an open manhole; gangsters machine gunning each other; muggers attacking a drunk, leaving only his skeletal remains. But strangely enough, as in the Fleischer’ Popeyes, the violence is choreographed in such a way that only its absurd extremes stand out.

2. THE LITTLE PEST / August 15 / Story by Dick Huemer / Animated by Sid Marcus.
In an effort to keep little Oopy from tagging along with them on their fishing trip, Scrappy and Yippy beat him up, take off all his clothes, and do all sorts of sick things to him that would today be labeled as “Child Abuse”. But after all this, the little guy manages to stay a step behind (or at times ahead of) Scrappy and Yippy. Eventually, Scrappy gets so mad that he hurls his brother into the lake. He has second thoughts, however, when Oopy appears to be drowning, and dives in to save him. Scrappy cries over the kid’s limp body, “Speak to met” When Oopy comes to and wails “I wanna drink of water,” Scrappy hurls him back into the lake for the fade out.

3. SUNDAY CLOTHES / September 15 / Story by Dick Huemer / Animated by Sid Marcus.
Scrappy merrily bathes and dons his spiffiest suit in preparation for Sunday school. En route to church, he encounters a gang of nasty bullies, whose sole purpose in life is to push Scrappy into the nearest mud puddle. At on point, these bizarre little characters (in design, strangely similar to R. Crumb’s “Snoids”) glue themselves onto each other’s heads, forming an odd human chain. Strange circumstances, as well as sporting assistance from the neighborhood dogs, enable him to emerge from this escapade unsoiled. Only then does he fall into a disgusting pig sty.

A breezy, delightfully simple cartoon, SUNDAY CLOTHES is epitomized by deliciously off-the-wall humor. The most hilarious moment has Scrappy “mud-skiing” around a huge mud hole; he clings on for dear life to the mustache of a local grotesque who lives in the puddle!

4. THE DOG SNATCHER / October 15 / Story by Dick Huemer / Animated by Sid Marcus.
A hideous dog catcher learns that Yippy has no license. Instantly, the pooch is tried, found guilty, and thrown into the slammer. Thanks to a dog skin and a sympathetic lock and key, Scrappy engineers a brilliant escape. But ultimately, a platoon of leering, gun-wielding dog catchers corner our heroes. The film ends with Scrappy and Yippy breaking through a seemingly endless series of prison walls.

THE DOG SNATCHER’s “biting” commentary and black humor compare favorably with that of the Fleischer TALKARTOONS (1930-2). The .jurors at Yippy’s trial have to be clobbered by mallets to be awakened from deep slumber; in unison, they shout “Guilty!”, spit, then go back to sleep. During the escape attempt, Scrappy and Yippy take a wrong turn, and wind up sitting in an electric chair! Evil dog catchers are so set on executing Scrappy and Yippy that long tongues loll and drool from their humongous rifles. A masterpiece of paranoia, this cartoon moves at a much snappier pace than its predecessors in the series.

5. SHOWING OFF / November 16 / Story by Dick Huemer / Animated by Sid Marcus.
When Scrappy is struck by Cupid’s machine gun he falls in love with little Margie. He tries to impress her by making her think he’s a real he-man, in contrast to the “Little Boy” she calls him, smoking an “El Ropo” cigar., lighting it on a drunk, sky writing “Oh you kid” with it, then doing a little dance and impersonating Edward G. Robinson. Somehow, he accidentally manages to set her panties on fire. Scrappy yells to the audience, “Is there a fireman in the house?”, and strangely enough, there is, and he dumps on to the screen and puts out the flames.

6. MINDING THE BABY / December 1 / Story by Dick Huemer / Animated by Sid Marcus and Art Davis.
Scrappy’s mother tells him to take care of the baby brother while she’s away. The brat makes life miserable for Scrappy. Oopy punches him, bawls uncontrollably, eats oatmeal with his hands, violently resists his brother’s attempts to change his clothes and soothe him to sleep with a lullaby. After the kid shoots him with an arrow and provokes the destruction of his violin, Scrappy gives up the fight and goes to sleep in Oopy’s cradle.

1932

All Scrappy cartoons released during this year have the following credits: Story by Dick Huemer / Animated by Sid Marcus and Art Davis.

7. THE CHINATOWN MYSTERY / January 4

8. TREASURE RUNT / February 25
Scrappy and Oopy search for deep sea treasure. Along the way, they conquer a giant python and a ravenous clam. Yet, the lads are no match for a pair of wise guy fish, who make a mockery of this quest for high adventure.

A few extremely funny bits enliven an otherwise typical early Scrappy. Scrappy blindfolds Oopy and orders, “Now walk fifty paces.” As “Hail to the Chief” plays in the background, the little tyke crashes through doors, tramples fences, etc. Trees split and boulders obligingly jump out of his way. When Oopy takes off the blindfold, he falls straight down into the ocean. The insouciant fish, who appeared briefly in MINDING THE BABY, steal the show; among other things, they utilize Oopy’s single hair as a Jew’s harp and enjoy a few rounds of golf on his head.

9 RAILROAD WRETCH / March 31
Scrappy and Qopy are locomotive engineers, in charge of a full sized train. At one point, Oopy inexplicably tosses away all the controls, causing the train to crash into a barn. As in TREASURE RUNT, Scrappy continuously abuses and beats up Oopy for absolutely no reason. This somewhat Weaker early effort is embellished by several elaborate moving backgrounds, and a halfway decent blackface gag, in which the kids’ eyes revert from pie cut black circles to white eyes with pupils.

10. THE PET SHOP / April 28
Scrappy and Oopy are in charge of a downtown pet store. While playing Indian, Oopy shoots Scrappy and causes him to crash through the front window. Before long, all the animals are running wild. Birds take turns puffing off a cigar butt. Cats use a dog for a jumprope. The fish (seen previously in TREASURE RUNT) play tic-tac-toe on Oopy’s head and slam his butt repeatedly with a two-by-four. Monkeys throw all kinds of things at out hapless heroes. Finally, an ambulance, staffed by a group of strange animals, arrives. But instead of saving the day, they point a cannon at Scrappy and Oopy and blow up what’s left of the store. A classic of anarchic humor.

11. STEPPING STONES / May 17

12. BATTLE OF THE BARN / May 31
A bully invades the Scrappy club and beats up all the members, so Scrappy declares war. Little Heidi wants to enlist, but he replies, “Scram-Wars are for MEN” In spite of valiant efforts, the gang is completely overwhelmed by this rock hurling tough. The aggressor does make one fatal mistake: splashing Heidi with mud. She retaliates with a sound trouncing.

This Waterloo of slingshots, rocks and spitballs provides the base for a series of wild and crazy gags, starring the ugliest, shabbiest, most ridiculous looking band of runts imaginable. The climactic charge scene features two imaginative moving background shots: a pan showing brave soldiers being felled systematically by spitballs; a tracking shot with Scrappy and compatriots charging, swords in the air. Also noteworthy are the quick cuts of the kids’ hilariously ecstatic reactions to the bully’s comeuppance. If the characters in the Scrappy club resembled real children, the numerous slapstick indignities they endure would elicit sympathy rather than laughter.

13. FARE PLAY /July 2

14. CAMPING OUT / August 10
Scrappy, Oopy, and their hound (not Yippy) merrily go camping. Scrappy drives their wreck of a car while Oopy plays a mean washboard. This plotless string of visual hyperbole gags (for example, the hot dogs they roast bark, etc.) mostly concerns the two main characters singing, dancing, and ‘making merry with various woodland creatures. The dimwitted dog’s battles with an irate squirrel, a hungry mosquito, and two impudent hares supply the only semblance of a story conflict.

15. THE BLACK SHEEP / September 7
A gravely voiced, most unpopular black sheep wants to sing along with Scrappy the Shepherd and his flock, but since he’s such a rotten singer, they not only refuse to let him sing, but gang up on him and practically stone him. Later, he gains newfound strength and manages to wreak his revenge by trapping the lot of them ma barn and swiping all their wool. A somewhat bizarre Scrappy carto6n, but then again, aren’t they all? This one advocates sheep abuse rather than the usual child abuse.

16. THE GREAT BIRD MYSTERY / October 20

17. THE FLOP HOUSE / November 9
Scrappy, the cute little early thirties cartoon character, runs his own sleazy flop house. The arrival of Oopy jeopardizes this thriving business. None of the grimy tramps in the place can sleep as the little pest gargles loudly, shatters a window for want of a place to spit, prematurely activates his alarm clock, etc. The kicker comes when Oopy pulls back his bedsheets and discovers a nest full of frolicking cockroaches and lice. Immediately, he starts leaping from bed to bed, yelling in Mickey Mouse-style falsetto, “Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!” Soon the boys are frantically spraying everything in sight with D.D.T. The well-organized bug battalion gets the last laugh, taking possession of the poison and using it on their attackers.

One of the funniest cartoons in the entire series, THE FLOP HOUSE is notable for its excellent gag timing. Nuances of movement reap maximum humor out of the various funny animal bums, exemplified by a debauched billy goat, whose socks have been on so long, he has to chisel them off. The New York-Fleischer influence was never more strongly felt on a Hollywood cartoon.

18. THE BAD GENIUS / December 1

19. THE WOLF AT THE DOOR / December 12
A bloodthirsty wolf tries to invade the home of a goat, who calls the mounties, Scrappy and Oopy. Oopy goes after the fiend with a lethal weapon: a butterfly net. Not surprisingly, he does not strike terror in the wolf’s heart. Scrappy jumps in a plane and flies to the scene of the crime. Oopy shovels burning coals on the wolf’s buttocks, and Scrappy uses icicles as ammunition for his handy dandy machine gun. They drive the wolf away by bombarding him with snowballs. Presents an interesting contrast to the more subtly and expertly animated, but less humorous THREE LITTLE PIGS.

[Click here for 1933-1934]

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