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Cartoon Hell #26 – “Toby the Pup In The Museum”

December 9, 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.

I think they forgot to finish this title card.

The first Bugs Bunny cartoon did not start with a title card proclaiming that he was the star. This would come later, of course, but a cartoon featuring an unestablished character probably shouldn’t start with such unearned familiarity. At best the title of this cartoon should be, “In the Museum” with a smaller bit of print at the bottom stating that it features one Toby the Pup. You, Toby, are no Popeye the sailor. You’re not even a Screwy Squirrel.

My suspicion is that the title card may have been added later, as the sound doesn’t seem to come from the same room the microphone is in, giving it that fresh, cable access quality. It has the scent of repackaging, making its appearance in the collection double repackaging.

We start with a lion sleeping at a desk next to an open window, a brass band playing music that doesn’t necessarily resemble brass instrumentation. While the lion sleeps, his fountain pen dances because, well, as we’ve established, things dance in old cartoons. In the world of old cartoons even the densest of masses would do a little soft shoe if you put on some ragtime.

The pen wakes the lion up with a healthy squirt of ink and he uses his own tongue to clean his face off as though it were a washcloth. I initially screen-captured this moment, but upon looking at the results, it looked visually nonsensical. It looks like he’s vomited in zero gravity.

A janitor at street level is playing his mop like a flute, which enrages the lion for some reason. It takes a few beats for me to put together the visual shorthand going on here. The lion has long, wild hair (as opposed to all the lions with crew cuts), a monocle, and a suit jacket. His anger at amateurish music must mean he’s a conductor. So far the cartoon is making me do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to characterizing. Hell, the only way we know the character he’s picking on is Toby is by the hat with “Toby” clearly written on the label.

The lion chastises Toby and sends him off on his cleaning duties, which involve mopping a room full of randomly placed statues. This confuses me further. I’m not sure if the lion is really a conductor, or just a snooty guy who hates music. Is it a college? A museum? A gentleman’s club? Gay brothel? Help me out here.

If you make the obvious pun here, I will haunt you.

Toby takes his duties to the limit, taking off a statues foot to give it a full on manicure. What’s odd is that he throws it back at the statue without looking it, the leg lodging in the statues throat, creating an image more compelling than the animators probably intended. I don’t understand how he’d give so much tender loving care to the statue one minute and then discard it with refuse upon finishing. Capricious bastard.

His behavior comes off as more malicious when he pulls the head off the next statue, dusts it, then smashes it on the floor. This isn’t funny, it’s insane. It’s like if a Looney Tunes cartoon started with Daffy Duck walking into Porky Pig’s house, gave him a present, and then without explanation took a angry, screaming, veins-bulging-out-of-the-neck shit on the rug.

The fact that he fails to destroy the dinosaur skeleton after giving it some mouthwash for its halitosis amazed me, as the exhibit survived Toby’s wave of destruction. Few of the other works remain so unmolested.

Fortunately for the exhibits, Toby is distracted by his ability to turn a mop into a musical instrument. No, I’m not making sense, but I’m accurately reporting. The mop, probably the least musical cleaning supply becomes a part of his one-man jamboree.

The statues dance. Okay, fine, this doesn’t surprise me one bit. But when the statues begin running their fingers on their tongues, I get confused.

I don't think this is something anyone will find relatable, not then, not now, not ever.

I don’t know if there’s a precedent for this. I’ve never seen this anywhere before. A tongue scratch is inaudible, and no cartoon exaggeration has previously suggested they have musical potential. It’s a non-sequiter, but the cartoon presents it like it’s a natural response to mop-playing. This film is a little surreal even by old cartoon standards.

Toby plays a cartoon skeleton like a xylophone, because I’m pretty sure it’s the law. The music is so compelling The Thinker breaks into a cossack dance, which is a little weird for a french statue. Would it have killed the animators to visit a museum and read the little plaques?

More mummy ass than you probably know what to do with!

Some exceptionally poorly drawn mummies get in on the dancing action, working their asses with exceptional grace. Historical texts seldom mention the stellar booty control of the mummy. Toby seems to tire of this quickly, and decides to unravel one, revealing…

Guess what? They're dancing! Twist!

Yeah, wow, I would not have predicted that. Take note, people, mummies are full of tiny skeletons, presumably from gnomes, or perhaps ancient fraggles.

The next minute is spent with Toby dancing, then statues dancing of their own accord. It’s a museum jamboree. If you’re a fan of rubber-hose-limbed capering, you probably have an erection right now.

What's disturbing me is how seriously they're taking this wackiness.

I’ve noticed in many pre-Bugs Bunny cartoons there’s a real strong inclination on the part of the writers to give up and just have the last three to four minutes de-evolve into a series of wacky dances. The only ending this cartoon gets is when Toby’s boss appears out of nowhere and punches him.

To summarize. Toby has a job. Toby dances. Toby is assaulted on the job.

UNPC Moment:

Pretty tame. There’s no sexism because there’s no women. No booze, no smoking. Surprisingly there’s not even any casual racism. It’s downright wholesome.

Rating: Surreal

I’ve added this category as a rating because sometimes the other three just don’t apply. Sometimes it’s neither good, nor unintentionally funny, nor really bad. It’s just a loopy trip without a destination. Toby’s adventure definitely fits.

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