Cartoon Hell #36 – “Circus Capers”

February 5, 2010

Cartoon Hell is Nicholas Merlin Karpuk’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. 

Not a food or a heist.

A shaky black and white slide accompanied by lazy clarinet music? This can only mean one thing. It’s about to get sleazy in this circus. 

It looks weirder in motion.

The opening shot screws with my perspective right off the bad. All the members of the circus are marching, but they’re propelled forward while walking in different directions. Some element of depth is missing, making it all look completely wrong.

 There’s several minutes worth of animal shenanigans. Elephants dancing and pantomiming driving, giraffes cavorting, and through all of it the visuals and audio keep fading in and out. It’s like watching television while trying not to fall asleep. 

I feel like I'm going to get sued just looking at this.

This is yet another cartoon blatantly borrowing the Mickey character design. I don’t think they did it out of any scheme to capitalize on the famous mouse, I just think it was something most of the artists already knew how to draw. 

Startling and disconcerting.

We cut to a sideshow, and in the tradition of most black and whites of this era, the carnival barker is as comprehensible as a drunken wino trying to seduce people on the streets. When he pulls up the sheet, it reveals a stunned obese woman. The expression gets to me, because it seems like she wasn’t expecting to appear in a freak show. It’s like the carnival owners told her they were going to Chili’s, and it was a surprise so she needed to get under the blanket, and BAM, she’s suddenly in front of a crowd. It’s the little tragedies that cut deepest.

 The fat woman does a dance involving her spanking her own ass, a dance shockingly similar to one witnessed in an earlier Cartoon Hell entry about Little Red Riding Hood. I have a suspicion that the animator is the same, or perhaps the studio head always saw the early storyboards and said, “Where’s the ass spankin’? You can’t keep drawin’ in crowds without a saucy slap on the ass!” 

After her little dance, she retreats into the sideshow tent, and the crowd stampedes in after her. Really? It’s that compelling? Having been born so close to the information age I just can’t appreciate why they’re frenzied by a fat woman’s shuffle. 

The animation in this one is truly an abomination. In the crowd shot you can tell they only animated the arms of the clapping animals, giving them the look of homemade windmills sold at a crafts fair. It loops endlessly while the ringmaster takes several bows. Not a single bit of animation in this goes unrepeated, it has a consistent feel of a penniless company trying desperately to wring the maximum runtime out of the smallest portion of ink.


Now on a horse, the Minnie Mouse lookalike stands on a high platform ready for a daring feat. Much like the sight of a Youtube video that starts with a kid on a skateboard or a BMX bike, you get the sense that tragedy is imminent. There are few word combinations sweeter than, “circus tragedy”.

 The horse spins in the air for a moment longer than is dramatically satisfying, and then hits the ground without incident, the girl dancing around it. It’s a lot of build-up to absolutely nothing of interest.

That horse is really into it.

After she’s done they go backstage, where the horse watches approvingly as she makes out with a clown. I just typed that. And now you’ve just witnessed it.

 For some reason when the clown goes out he’s actually handling wild cats. He lets a series of cheetahs jump between his arms. How am I supposed to enjoy this when they can’t even get the jobs right. This is work intended for a mustachioed man with a chair and a top hat! 

What a vaguely labeled barrel.

They then cut to the ringleader, whose mustache makes handling wild cats a little more acceptable. When the cage is opened man and lion have a bizarre stare down that devolves into dancing. Don’t act surprised. The lion ends the dance by kicking the ringleader square in the ass, a move I wish he’d do to nearly every character in this.

 The clown laughs hysterically at the ringmaster and only stops when he realizes he’s laughing at his boss. All repercussions are set aside so he can do a fabulous human cannon routine. This clown wears many hats.

 Ringleaders don’t take crap from clowns. Come to think of it, most people don’t take crap from clowns, nor should they. His response is to jam extra gunpowder into the cannon. Remember kids, most people grow mustaches to express their insecurity and rage!

 The cannon launches the clown right out of the circus, the ringleader and the clown’s girlfriend exchanging a laugh before they go to his private room to get amorous. No, I didn’t forget to describe something, the change in loyalties really came out of nowhere. Plus, both of them had a job to do. Did they just abandon the circus to have sex? There must have been a passionate love affair going on for months that the cartoon forgot to establish. 

I feel like I shouldn't be watching this.

Using an inexplicable magic-bullet trajectory, the clown comes back down right through the roof of their love nest. My theory is that he landed in another circus and they offered to shoot him back. He’s understandably shocked by the make out session. He then becomes the worst thing ever, a sad clown. The only thing worse than a clown is a clown with sagging jowls and flaking makeup weeping. 


He breaks into song, the thing I least desired. My earlier statement is incorrect. There is something worse than a sad clown: a sad clown who chooses to describe it with music. 

Love them singin' clowns.

The song lures the female mouse back from the ringleader. My advice would be to steer clear of that one, she’s terrifyingly capricious.

 What shocks me the most is he seems to take my advice. He gives her a big ol’ raspberry. The ending is   mashed up with another cartoon, because it then cuts to dancing ducks. There are several cartoons in this series I wish had terminated this way. There are also several Shyamalan movies that would have been enhanced.

 UNPC Moment:

 The characters in this are a little too sensual with each other. It’s hard to pin down, but they’re amorous and physically affectionate in a bawdy way you don’t see in most cartoons. The result is a creepy-uncle vibe I didn’t appreciate.

 The female character is actually more offensive than Olive Oyl, which is a feat.

 Rating: Nearly Unwatchable

 The pacing was so bad I actually sped up the playback several times just to keep my interest. Everything is repeated unnecessarily and stretched out for time, which seems like overkill since the short ended up being over nine minutes long. This was painful, creepy, and ugly. You are bad and wrong, Circus Capers!

%d bloggers like this: