Cartoon Hell #33 – “The Little Stranger”

January 15, 2010

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.

What? You're telling me no one's ever given you a little stranger?

“Don’t look around, don’t make a sound, there’s a stranger here in town. Where he’s from, nobody knows. Lonely little stranger he looks so alone. He thought he was in danger, the day he was born.”

That’s a bleak opening song for a cartoon. In tandem with a title that sounds like an obscure sex euphemism, it makes for a bad first impression. Even the title card is messed up, giving me low expectations for the fidelity of this transfer. The first shot is damn confusing because it seems darker than originally intended. I’m fairly sure it’s a chicken worrying over a nest of eggs, but it’s doing it in the forest. Do chickens every really come in a wild variety?

The chicken cries over an egg before depositing it in the nest, making the whole scenario clear. This chicken is pulling a cuckoo-bird on some unsuspecting egg-laying species. This whole thing raises a lot of questions this cartoon isn’t prepared to answer. What sin justifies a chicken going to that effort? Is some farmer going to lose his temper from illicit chicken sex? They spoot out eggs and chicks as a lifestyle. Did she breed with another species? Is that a basilisk in there? Oh man, I’m starting to imagine cartoons far more interesting than whatever is about to happen.

Ducks, yes, but they are also milk maids.

It turns out this egg has been adopted by a species of bonnet-wearing ducks. When the eggs hatch the next day, there’s a baby chick in the mix. The ugly-duckling template doesn’t work as well with a baby chick, as a chick is roughly of an equivalent cuteness to a duckling.

Ducks are all trained in Krav Maga from an early age.

The mother duck starts training her ducklings, a regiment unsuitable for a baby chicken. It fails at both waddling and duck-singing, which is like regular singing, but with quacks. The mother duck rages over the bad singing, scolding the chick like a stage parent.

When the screen moves for their first swim, I discover I’m watching another wonky Fleischer film where the backgrounds are composed of glorious STEREOPTICAL THREE-DIMENSIONS! It basically means they filmed a diorama for the backgrounds and drew on top of it, like rotoscoping for scenery. In other words, they were too cheap to hire good background artists, a common problem in this collection’s cartoons.

Damn, that's adorable no matter who you are.

As expected, the chick is crap at swimming and gets left behind. Mother duck fixes this by giving the chick leaf-shoes to compensate for the lack of webbed feet, which is pretty damn crafty by duck standards. Sadly, it doesn’t work and the chick nearly drowns, but A for effort. The chick gets left on the shore, and is soon sassed by a crafty worm. Worms, they kick you when you’re down.

In a depressed funk, it goes back to its nest, and has a moment of inspiration, taking its shell and using it as a boat. These are some fearsome, tool-using birds. It even subverts diving instruction by getting on a log and jumping back into its shell, X-Games style. This guy is the Rodney Dangerfield of chicks, subverting expectations at every turn. All we need is for a snobbish chicken to get knocked into the pool to the sound of a classic party song.

This chick is action-packed!

A predatory bird, who I couldn’t identify on account of the cruddy drawing, starts circling the ducks. The buzzard (?) grabs the baby ducks, but gets an unsurprised tug on the ass from the baby chick. This bad-ass baby chicken yanks out the feather, drawing deadly bird’s ire. God knows I don’t react well to having my ass-feathers tugged on. The chick fights back by splashing water on the vulture (?), which responds by laughing. After all, who doesn’t like splashing water?

Wheels and birds are not friends.

The chick lures the australian eagle (?) into the nearby mill, a crafty gambit common to birds. It tricks the predator into sticking its head in a wagon wheel, which takes off at a swift pace. Anyone notice how many climaxes past and present end up at clock-towers, windmills, and other structures that turn? Tim Burton has made an entire career out of it. All that’s needed now is the villain hanging from the very top yelling, “We’re very much alike, you and I!”

Frogs are exceedingly coordinated.

The wheel bursts through the other end of the mill and lands in the water, where four frogs put on a song and dance around its edges. I will admit, this took me by surprise. Who ever expects a musical frog number?

Mother duck and her ducklings gather around the baby bird in celebration, and why shouldn’t they? It’s a crafty ass bird. They all begin crowing like roosters, a moment that I actually found unironically cute. Way to end on a high note, Fleischers.

UNPC Moment:

Nope. This one was almost startlingly good natured.

Rating: Genuinely Good

It’s not a master-stroke of animation or anything, but it’s composed of storyline, with specific events, and a few inspired sight-gags. It’s the first in a while where I wasn’t watching the time counter at the bottom to see how much longer I had to watch it.

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