Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Woody Dines Out

One of my all-time favorite cartoons is Shamus Culhane's Woody Dines Out (1945). To me, the character in this film really is Woody Woodpecker. He is obsessed with food and sex, making him the Anti-Christ of sorts among cartoon superstars.

It has the simplest plot... Woody is hungry and all of the restaurants in towns are closed (probably because they've had his patronage in the past), except for one, which is really the shop of a feline taxidermist wanting the $100K prize for a "King-Size Stuffed Woodpecker".

That sounds like a pretty generic plot, but this cartoon, as all cartoons under Culhane and Dick Lundy's direction, contains fantastic animation and timing that make it unique. It is this piece below that I feel Pat Matthews is at his zenith. Woody's reaction to the concoction is incredible, his head spinning into all sorts of shapes, changing colors, then his neck stretching skyward and crashing down again.

Sex is a regular source for gags in Culhane's shorts, and the cat's hilarious fantasizing is no exception. Matthews also animated that scene, showing off his tremendous girl drawing abilities. (He and Marc Davis are my favorite 'girl animators' from the Golden Age.)

Plus, only Woody is enough of a gluttonous bastard where he'd eat something handed to him with such a cryptic warning. (The cat is voiced by the tremendously talented Hans Conried by the way.)

Woody Dines Out 1
Uploaded by thadk

Later in the cartoon, there is a fantastic piece by (my favorite) Emery Hawkins with the cat falling down an elevator shaft. This is another great example of his use of delay timing, particularly when the cat comes to after the fall.

Woody Dines Out 2
Uploaded by thadk

This short also has one of my absolute favorite endings. Only Woody is the kind of pervert who'd invade another character's fantasy to get the last laugh (literally) before the fade-out. Matthews animated this scene as well, with the great bit of Woody smashing the cat's skull in with the champagne bottle.

Woody Dines Out 3
Uploaded by thadk

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