Scrappy, by Paul Etcheverry and Will Friedwald

Scrappy

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

Scrappy and Yippy

[Click here for 1937-1938]

1939

Producer Charles Mintz, in debt to Columbia, is fired, and replaced by his brother-in-law, George Winkler, whose eye for cutting costs and staff to the bone has a disastrous effect on the cartoon product (1), the black and white series in particular. Hence, the majority of the final Scrappies appear cheaply produced; in terms of humor several merely go through the motions.

(1 Interview with Harry Love by Paul Etcheverry, taped January 23, 1981) `

75. SCRAPPY’S ADDED ATTRACTION / January 13 / Story by Art Davis / Animated by Sid Marcus.
Opens inside a theatre, where animated humans watch the end of a Columbia live action western, then scramble all over the place to get better seats. A hilarious parody of the excesses of coming attractions trailers, starring Scrappy, Margie, Poopsie (Oopy with buck teeth), a dumb lion and a chortling villain (delightfully voiced by Mel Blanc) named Titan, the Terrible Twerp, ensues. Everything on screen contradicts the narrator, who at one point just can’t think of another superlative. Live action hands add a daisy to a putrid junkyard setting. Bold titles proclaim, “More Suspense And Very Much Expense!” Titan corrects the narrator’s pronunciation. Scrappy and Margie do impromtu impressions of John Barrymore and Greta Garbo respectively The film breaks so live action hands sew it up with needle and thread In closing the narrator admits, “In as much as this is the most marvelous story ever told, the greatest cast ever assembled and the most colossal production ever produced, we feel that no picture we might make could ever justify this description, we have decided not to make it. Besides, you’ve seen it, anyway.”

76. SCRAPPY’S SIDE SHOW / March 3 / Story by Allen Rose / Animated by Harry Love and Lou Lilly.
With various costumes, carnival barker Scrappy has transformed his friends into a swell collection of “Freaks” for his side show. Soon, the little girl known as “Brat”, so impossible in HAPPY BIRTHDAY, barges in and quickly sets to work unveiling all trickery behind the acts. She reveals that strong man Scrappy’s barbells are balloons, wrecks the “Dog Balancing” act and tears the costume of “Daisy the Dancing Horse” in two. As the closing gag of this moderately humorous effort, an escapade with a cannon results in Scrappy and Brat being shot into the air, then landing atop a water tower.

77. A WORM’S EYE VIEW / April 28 / Story by Art Davis / Animated by Sid Marcus.
When Scrappy goes fishing, he baits his hook with a fast talking worm. The entire film is devoted to the bait’s life and death encounters with hordes of goofy and grotesque looking fish. Finally, after singing “We’re going to get you in the end,” the fish catch the worm and trap him in a pot. Neon lights blasting “RESTAURANT” attract an endless line of fish, all patiently waiting with plates. At this crucial point the worm tells the fish that eating him will only cause them to end up in a frying pan and convinces the fish to free him. An unusual] film, A WORM’S EYE VIEW for the most part eschews stock gag situations in favor of stressing the bizarre nature of the conflicts and designing a variety of exotic fish characters.

78. SCRAPPY’S RODEO / June 2 / Story by Allen Rose / Animated by Harry Love and Lou Lilly.
While Oopy fails miserably in his bid to lasso a feeble cat, Brat demands a chance to star in the rodeo; cowboy star Scrappy tells her this is no place for little girls. Oopy and another strange kid sing, “We’re the bad men of the West,” and, armed with slingshots, try-to rob the stagecoach. Scrappy, rising a hound, pursues the would-be bandits; he doesn’t apprehend them, but then, they didn’t steal anything, either. A rock from Scrappy’s slingshot hits Brat’s lazy St. Bernard, who then runs with blazing speed, enabling her to prove her riding ability and catch up with Scrappy. After she shoots him with arrows that tear his clothes off, Scrappy concedes, “You win!” This was to be the final official entry of the Scrappy series, although he would appear in nine more cartoons.

79. THE CHARM BRACELET / September 1 / Story by Harry Love / Animated by Allen Rose / The first PHANTASY cartoon.
Margie receives a lovely gift from Scrappy. That night, she dreams that the characters on the bracelet, including an aging drummer, a jack in the box, a grandfather clock, Oopy, three “Speak No Evil” monkeys and Yippy, come to life. The primates sing “We Are the Wise Little Monkeys.” Yippy makes mischief. As dawn, all stop their merry antics and scramble back to the charm.

80. MILLIONAIRE HOBO / November 24 / Story by Art Davis / Animated by Sid Marcus / PHANTASIES.
This has been listed as a Scrappy cartoon, since one character, a messenger boy with pie cut eyes (who appears for maybe ten seconds), vaguely resembles Scrappy in a roundabout way. The plot is about a lazy tramp, voiced by none other than the great Mel Blanc, who thinks he has inherited a million from his late Uncle, and goes around spending like mad. It turns out that he’s been left a million cats. The soundtrack music includes Hoagy Carmichael’s “Lazy Bones”, with appropriate trombone solos. Not a Scrappy cartoon by a long shot.

81. PARK YOUR BABY / December 22 / Story by Allen Rose / Animated by Harry Love and Lou Lilly / FABLES.
Scrappy has the unenviable job of taking care of customers’ tots at a department store. A tough guy deposits his two pugnacious babies, who browbeat Scrappy and run amuck in the store. Finally, Scrappy catches them and places the little monsters in a “Bad Boy Pacifier”, a contraption with metal hands that wash their mouths out with soap, force feed them vitamins, and slap their behinds. The thug returns, and is aghast at finding two model children, halos atop their heads. Several gags–Scrappy using bellows to feed the infants, the diapers on the clothesline singing “How Dry I Am”, the babies shooting Scrappy with arrows– are repeated verbatim from the 1931 cartoon, MINDING THE BABY, and ineffectively.

1940

Charles Mintz dies on January 4. George Winkler presses for cheaper and cheaper product; until the reorganization of the Screen Gems studio, under Frank Tashlin, in 1941, “cheaters” remain the rule rather than the exception.

82. MAN OF TIN / February 23 / Story by Allen Rose / Animated by Harry Love / PHANTASIES.
Scrappy’s employer, a mad scientist, weeps over constructing a robot that doesn’t work. So Scrappy brings it to life by climbing inside the machine and operating it from within. When the tin man wrestles with his maker and hurls him across the room, the scientist decides to promote him as a wrestler. A match between the robot and a big bruiser proves disastrous, until Scrappy pulls a “Floating Power” lever, converting it into a miniature rocket. The robot wins, but, in the process, gets smashed into scrap (not Scrappy) iron. This one’s at least reasonably funny.

83. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT / April 4 / Story by Harry Love / Animated by Allen Rose / FABLES.
Scrappy devises various ways to avoid piano practice. Once he finally gets down to practicing, he has nothing but trouble, because his brother, Oopy, and his dog, Yippy, keep speeding up his tempo and falling into the piano.

84. THE POOCH PARADE / July 19 / Story by Allen Rose / Animated by Harry Love and Lou Lilly / FABLES.
Scrappy wishes to enter Yippy in the gala dog show, so the canine masquerades as a rabbit, and engages the contestants in a high spirited race. Most of the film consists of used spot gags (the Spitz spits, the German Shepherd wears a policeman’s uniform, Dobermans pinch each other). As animation writer Joe Adamson would say, “Stay home and watch cartoons on television.”

85. A PEEP IN THE DEEP / August 23 / Story by Allen Rose / Animation by Harry Love and Lou Lilly / FABLES.
Deep sea fishermen Scrappy and Oopy find a bottle floating on the ocean; it contains a map showing the location of a sunken treasure. Leaving Oopy on board, Scrappy dives down to the ship where the treasure lies, and has to do battle with a lobster and a vicious octopus. Oopy pulls Scrappy’s line in, and finds him face to face with the octopus. The protagonists eventually get the treasure chest, only to find that another octopus resides inside it. It’s a pretty decent cartoon, though about one tenth as funny as 1932’s TREASURE RUNT.

A little bit of background: Several months prior to this film, the Fleischer studio released a Popeye cartoon entitled STEALIN’ AIN’T HONEST. In 1946, Famous Studios remade the film in Technicolor, with some new gags added, as PEEP IN THE DEEP. This Columbia title has a similar plot, and many of the same gags as both of them. The “X marks the spot” gag with “X” shown floating on the water is identical in all three films!

86. SCHOOLBOY DREAMS / September 24 / Story by Harry Love / Animated by Allen Rose / PHANTASIES.
Scrappy daydreams that his teacher is a beautiful girl whom he, brave hero, rescues from a ferocious dragon.

87. FARMER TOM THUMB / September 27 / Story by Allen Rose / Animated by Harry Love and Lou Lilly / FABLES.
A farm’s on the brink of bankruptcy, since the farmer’s tiny son, Tom Thumb, cannot help with the, chores. Tom has a brainstorm: feed vitamin pills to himself and to the ailing crops. Tom doesn’t grow but the crops enlarge to gargantuan proportions, and he becomes a king sized success in his parents’ eyes. Although Tom Thumb, as an infant, is Oopy, and as an adult bears an uncanny resemblence to Scrappy, this really has nothing to do with these two characters– it’s no more a Scrappy cartoon than THE EARLY BIRD, THE CHARM BRACELET, MILLIONAIRE HOBO and HAPPY HOLIDAYS. Nevertheless, this, with MAN OF TIN and A PEEP IN THE DEEP numbers among the most entertaining of the 1939-40 black and white Columbias.

88. HAPPY HOLIDAYS / October 25 / Story by Harry Love I Animated by Allen Rose / PHANTASIES.
Re-released to television by Samba Pictures as a Scrappy cartoon, though he doesn’t appear in it, a largely unfunny spot gag cartoon about holidays. Oopy, the “New Year’s Baby”, hangs on to a calendar for dear life, framing the spot gags by pulling off pages. Margie briefly appears as a kid who hates to go to school.

1941

The Mintz studio finally gives up the ghost. Ben Harrison leaves, later resurfacing as a successful producer of animated commercials in New York. Manny Gould and Harry Love move on to Warners. Allen Rose eventually returns to New York to work for Famous Studios. Lou Lilly contributes to Paramount’s “Speaking of Animals” series (The original idea for which came from the prolific comic mind of Tex Avery), before joining ex-colleague Gould in Bob Clampett’s crew at Warners. George Winkler is fired, replaced by business manager Ben Schwalb and producer/director Frank Tashlin. Only Sid Marcus and Art Davis stay on with the overhauled Screen Gems studio. In 1941/43, this, revitalized outfit would, in a brief burst of creativity, produce imaginative, unique, and in some cases ground breaking animated shorts–THE FOX AND THE GRAPES, THE BULLDOG AND THE BABY, SONG OF VICTORY, KING MIDAS JR., THE VITAMIN G-MAN, WAY DOWN YONDER IN THE CORN, IMAGINATION and FLY IN THE OINTMENT among them. But that’s another story.

89. THE LITTLE THEATRE / February 7 / Story by Harry Love / Animated by Allen Rose / PHANTASIES.
Scrappy serves as a ticket seller, ticket taker, usher, orchestra, popcorn vendor, and featured performer in his theatre. Alas, that upstart, Oopy, shows up and immediately ruins Scrappy’s balancing act by hurling a pie. The rascal cuts the strings controlling the second act, “Dancing Long Johns” (who still manage to make their bows at curtain call), then leaps on stage and dances while spinning a pie on his finger. Appropriately, Oopy’s final action in the series turns out to be throwing a pie on Scrappy’s butt. The show does not go on. Scrappy no more. Scrappy the last. Finito. Finis.

2 comments to Scrappy, by Paul Etcheverry and Will Friedwald

  • Tara

    I have a 16mm film with the title “Excel Presents: Scrappy in Eskimoland”. According to the edgcode data on the film (three circles) the print is from 1948. Did Scrappy come back in the late 40’s?

  • Harry

    That must be a home-movie version of SCRAPPY’S EXPEDITION, which involved a visit to the South Pole. Scrappy, sadly, never came back in new cartoons.

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