Thursday, October 14, 2010

130 The Little Lion Hunter

Title: The Little Lion Hunter
Studio: Warner Bros.
Date: 10/07/39
Credits: none listed on print (but Chuck Jones)
Series: Merrie Melodies (Blue Ribbon Reissue)
Running time (of viewed version): 7:17

Synopsis: Inki hunts anything he can, including a mynah bird, fails, hides from lion, bird captures lion.

Comments: Opens on a dead eyed tropical bird. Kinda like Lost. Jokes in small movements like the giraffe's vibrating head and the mynah bird's hop walk. Lots of shading on Inki and the skunk (and the bird); picked up the habit from Old Glory I suppose. Really long eyelashes on Inki. The types of gags, the timing of them, the music behind them, strike me as later than '39. I'm not sure how to take the minah bird kicking Inki at the end; he lacks motivation, in spite of the fact that Inki had been hunting him. A completely voiceless cartoon (unless you count a "shhhh" sound). Not one of the censored 11, but a cartoon rare to US television for awhile as cartoon caricatures of blacks (Inki lives in a jungle and hunts old world tropical game; he is almost certainly not African American) are anathema to television if they were animated before the '70s. There's some very lush animation in this. This could be an unseen episode of Simba's time away from the pride (in his "I wanna look like Uncle Scar" phase). Hakuna matata!


These model sheets come from an interesting essay on the Disneyfication of WB cartoons, due to Charlie Thorson's influence. He worked on Little Hiawatha at Disney two years earlier; Walt Kelly claimed LH was essentially a Thorson cartoon. (Also informs me the music is Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave). It's an interesting essay, worth your time. Although as there were worlds of unique dogmen before Hobo Gadget Band at Schlesinger, I'm not sure I trust all its theories (tho Thorson was at Schlesinger's in '38, so maybe it's not off base).


  1. Warner Bros. 1937-38 cartoon season was generally funnier than the 1938-39 season and most of the '39-40 season because the studio really spent much of those two years on the Merrie Melodies' series figuring out how to draw better, and then figuring out how to draw funnier -- i.e., which details in a character were needed, and which were too excessively detailed, which might make the characters look more realistic, but didn't make them act or move funnier.

    "The Little Lion Hunter" is a beautiful-looking cartoon (albeit as Jones and Shamus Culhane later noted, they were still having trouble drawing the lion's face until 1943), but in some cases there's too much detail in the characters -- had Chuck done the opening gag a couple of years later, the parrot would have been designed with a little less realism and more for speed, to react and move after the spear is thrown at him.

    Watching the Schlesinger cartoons from 1939-42 is like watching an in-progress art class, as they learn via Disney's advances and their own trial-by-error efforts where the right balance between realism and cartooniness is. Thorsen was a key part in bridging the funny-but-uglier designed cartoons of 1937-38 to the funny-and-well-designed cartoons of the 1940s, even if the price was a step back or so in the overall humor level for a year or two.

  2. Wow!! I never thought of it that way. This rocks. I've noticed that a lot of the WB's from this years rank amongst my lesser favorites. This one in particular I find neither very funny or good looking. Transitional indeed.