h1

Cartoon Hell #22 – “Professor Yaya’s Memoirs”

April 13, 2009

Cartoon Hell is TheKarpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.

No, it is not a sisterhood of any sort.

No, it is not a sisterhood of any sort.

That’s right, we’re moving on from obscure shit like Popeye and Betty Boop to the real stars of yesteryear. That’s right, the Hoffnung!

Yeah, I hadn’t heard of them previously either. The instrument wearing the hat who introduces the cartoon didn’t jog my memory. According to the title card they are, “Based on Books,” which is pretty awesome. I like books, heck I have a Goodreads account and I’m one of the five people that actually write reviews there. It’s literary grounding assures us of a superior viewing experience.

This sexy action-packed excitement can all be yours!

This sexy action-packed excitement can all be yours!

It begins the way all fast-paced cartoons should begin, with an old man napping peacefully. The action heats up when the old man receives a note. A simple card states, “Happy Birthday, The Family.” It’s good to establish the mafia connections up front.

Like the Adams Family, but with even clumsier intentions towards humor.

Like the Adams Family, but with even clumsier intentions towards humor.

Every single family member on the card breaks into song one after the other, giving me a good idea of how out of sync the dubbing will be for the remainder of the cartoon. All the sopranos sound like baritones and vice versa. I think the intention was for it to end with the child in the photo giving a vile belch, a weak but acceptable gag. The trouble is the sound is so off it seems more like the old man responded with the burp, like it’s an expression of anger, or perhaps satisfaction

This portrait inspires the old man, who I assume is Professor Yaya to go traipsing down memory lane by perusing an old photo album.

I request not to be "touched" by this specific angel.

I request not to be "touched" by this specific angel.

The first picture features a young, bowl-haired boy singing, because this cartoon is dead-set on being a musical experience whether we like it or not. He sprouts wings and flies out of frame, but sadly not out of hearing range. The next 30 seconds consists of pre-painted scenery related to churches, which implies that the young cherub is flying through all these scenes, but the effect doesn’t quite work, leaving me more with the impression that the animators were short on time and decided to pan the camera across still pictures instead of doing their jobs.

Empathize with your food, we beg of you!

Empathize with your food, we beg of you!

Next is Uncle Alfredo singing at a pig’s head. If rendered in live action this would disturb me beyond all reason, yet making the pig head cute softens the blow considerably. The pig head singing back is unsettling regardless.

Cousin Augusta rains down spit on a beleagured pianist while singing an opera surprisingly lacking in lisping.

He's under a fat woman's dress, just to give you context.

He's under a fat woman's dress, just to give you context.

A young boy, or perhaps a midget hides under her gown either inflating her lungs or pleasuring her, I can not determine which. The midget loses his shit, and the cousin deflates into a disgusting pile. I have not included a picture of the pile, as I never wish to see it again even to edit it into the article.

Uncle Giovanni is a classical style opera singer, and as he sings, it broadcasts the gag pretty clearly. The glass shatters, then different men come up with glasses shaped like their body types. How awesome would it be to go to a bar where they gave you a drink appropriate to your physique? I need to make this happen.

He ends up shattering himself trying to break a martini glass. I’ve never really understood why it’s considered prowess to break glass with your voice, that’s more a demonstration of someone’s yelling ability. It’s like showing off your guitar virtuoso skills by making the most annoying noise possible, or showing off your babysitting skills by seeing how quickly you can make a child cry.

Under the circumstances she doesn't seem surprised enough.

Under the circumstances she doesn't seem surprised enough.

Sister Penelope’s segments starts off with something damn inexplicable. There’s a large, flowering cactus in her cleavage. Is the humor in this simply too subtle for my American sensibilities? As she sings, the plant grows larger too the point of being terrifying, a venus fly trap squirming out of the depths. Cartoon directors have a strange tendency to veer from humorous to disturbingly surreal without seeming to realize they’ve made the transition. The venus fly trap snaps shut on her, leaving the poor audience to work out the logistics.

Quite possibly the most obvious transvestite ever.

Quite possibly the most obvious transvestite ever.

Aunt Emma’s portion of the program outright disturbs me. She’s built like the Eiffel Tower, and her adam’s apple bobs up and down while she sings. The expression she bares is far to extreme to be merely song related. I imagine that Emma loves to sing, but her mannish adam’s apple and terrifying neck make it extremely painful even to talk, rendering singing a hideously masochistic act. It ends with a midget hitting her on the foot with a hammer. I think that’s how all things should end.

Nothing aids singing as much as a snake-like ability to detach the lower jaw.

Nothing aids singing as much as a snake-like ability to detach the lower jaw.

Suave Uncle Enrico sings a song composed of the word “la”, his mouth gaping open wide enough to accommodate a honey-baked ham. In a joyous celebration of his gaping maw, the camera descends down his gullet, which conveniently has stairs, and find a worker toiling away in his guts. That’s the ending of the bit, there’s a jack-hammering man inside him. That’s the joke, it just stops there. Weak sauce Hoffnung, weak sauce indeed.

He makes rock and roll seem dirtier than usual.

He makes rock and roll seem dirtier than usual.

“Ja Ja Junior” is apparently the belching rock and roller of the family, seen posing in the photo with a guitar that looks to have been constructed from the parts of every single brand on the market. He makes a series of primal noises like “oohs” and “aahs” while playing his guitar in the style of mid-50’s rock, which always amused me because in the absence of distortion they just hit the strings really damn hard. All the other family members in their various scenes recoil in horror from the mild specter of a child play inoffensive rock and roll.

The film signs off by telling me that it’s, “A Halas and Batchelor Cartoon”, which is fortunate since I was wondering who to blame. There are other Hoffnung cartoons in this collection, I’ll treat this one as a warning shot.

UNPC Moment:
It’s pretty consistently mean about body image in its caricatures, but not in any way that’s strikingly offensive. The Hoffnung people don’t come off as having a lot of malice towards anything except the hideous, clanging, jangle music that we today call “Rock and Roll”.

Rating: Humorously Bad

It’s not good, but not from a lack of trying. A lot of style and whimsy went into this train wreck. It’s weird and unpredictable, but the jokes never came off all that well, the humor being pretty damn clumsy. The attempt at making it a high brow, music oriented affair just shows that taste doesn’t automatically render you talented.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. I actually liked this cartoon. Nickelodeon used to stick this one on as ‘filler’ back in the 80’s, sometimes in the early morning hours.

    It does seem funny how shorts like these get stuck on DVD’s that are meant to represent cartoons from before the days of television (usually known as the “golden age” of animation by experts). Films such as this resemble rather weak efforts to scavenge around public library film vaults and other hole-in-the-wall places for anything they might consider ‘Public Domain’ or uncopyrighted to use for these discs, whether or not there may still be any rights left in ’em. I usually don’t like buying these discs since I know I could do better.

    I would not knock Gerald Hoffnung for being a bad humorist, some of these characters can get downright lame with these endings (“The Hoffnung Vacuum Cleaner” is a good example, god that was so pre-women’s lib). In defence, Hoffnung died in the late 50’s, and never saw any of his work make it to the TV screen such as this one, so I don’t know what he might’ve thought about it if he had seen ’em, let alone if he had lived long enough to saw the eventual British Invasion luminaries like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hollies and others.

    The studio that made this and other other Hoffnung cartoons was a very famous studio in England, they were responsible for the Cold War-era adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and did a few TV projects like “Dodo the Kid from Outer Space”, though they were not spared from eventual US subcontracted work like Rankin-Bass’ The Jackson Five series in the 70’s.
    http://halasandbatchelor.co.uk/

    A while back I manage to pick up a DVD from merry ol’ England of the Hoffung cartoons including a standalone film that Halas & Batchelor produced that was the first adaptation of an operetta of it’s kinda, Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Ruddigore”. It’s worth picking this up as the cartoons are at their best possible quality (and nothing like the prints Mill Creek used for their set).
    http://www.musicweb-international.com/hoffnung/hoffsales/DVD.htm

    I think the one cartoon however in the Hoffnung series I would recommend seeing was “Birds, Bees & Storks”, in which a father (played by Peter Sellers) has a hard time trying to tell his son of the facts of life. A lot of clever takes on the animation in this film.

    Another Halas & Batchelor effort (though I don’t assume any of these PD companies have caught wind of it to exploit on their DVD’s just yet) I would recommend checking out is Hamilton the Musical Elephant…



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: