Injun Trouble (1969)

My friends, the time has come for me to tell you the tale of the last Looney Tune, and I feel less like an animation blogger and more like Red from the Shawshank Redemption. I wish I could tell you that the Looney Tunes fought the good fight. That they brought Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc and Michael Maltese back for one last time and went out with a short that could stand up with the very best of them. That when that really was all folks, those folks knew that something wonderful had gone out on a high. But animation is no fairy tale.

Well, except when it is. Look, we're getting off track.

Well, except when it is. Look, we’re getting off track.

What animation buffs call “The Dark Age of Animation” lasted from around the late fifties to the early to mid eighties (meaning the next few reviews will most likely just be me making sounds of pain and distress) and I don’t want to exaggerate it so I’ll just say that this was the worst period in human history where everything good and pure in the world was killed and hung from a gibbet. It was around this time that TV finally came into its own and starting muscling onto cinema’s turf in a big way. Facing increasing financial pressure, cinemas had to cut back on luxuries like lavishly animated cartoon shorts of pure loveliness. Cartoons in this period had to find a new home on television, where the appetite was there (boy, was it ever) but the budgets simply weren’t. The animation studios that survived in this era did so by being cheap, lean and mean. This was the age of Hanna Barbera and Filmation. A wolf age. An axe age. Hell, even the Disney movies in this era looked dog rough.

And what of the Looney Tunes? Bugs Bunny very wisely sat the sixties out after False Hare in 1964. I don’t actually know why Warners decided to retire the character after that, but in my mind he went to Italy to pursue a celebrated career as a director of independent film. It’s what he deserved.

The Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies in this decade, at least after Chuck Jones was fired in 1963 for moonlighting on UPA’s Gay-Puree, focused more on Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote as well as Speedy Gonzales, who was now paired with Daffy Duck, thereby capitalising on the well known and established hatred between mice and…

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"Begone, pond-fiend. My kind have protected the internet from your filth for generations."

“Begone, pond-fiend. My kind have protected this land from you feathered scum for generations.”

"Your numbers grow few, furred one. One day you shall let your guard down, and the webbed ones shall rule over as was foretold in the prophecy!"

“Your numbers grow few, furred one. One day you shall let your guard down, and the webbed ones shall rule over all as was foretold in the prophecy!”

"Some day, mayhap. BUT NOT THIS DAY!"

“Some day, mayhap. BUT NOT THIS DAY!”

Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. So Warners were still using a lot of the classic Looney Tunes characters but they weren’t resting on their laurels (they were doing something else on their laurels but certainly not resting). As well as featuring older established characters, the new shorts studio  under the management of Alex Lovy* introduced such timeless household names to the Looney Tunes Pantheon as Merlin Mouse, Bunny and Claude and Cool Cat. Truly a who’s who of “Huh? Who?” It was like the Itchy and Scratchy and Friends Hour except that Disgruntled Goat did not have his moments. I don’t want to rip on Lovy or Robert McKimson (who directed this short) because they were both seasoned professionals who worked on some great cartoons over the years. But at the same time, COOL CAT IS THE GODDAMNED DEVIL AND SHOULD BE ON FIRE ALWAYS.

cool_cat

The enemy. I shall teach you to hate him.

Now, my problem is not that Cool Cat is utterly, completely, instantly dated as a concept and a character. The fact that he is a sixties pop culture creation to his very bones does not mean that he could not be a good character in his own right. Know who else is utterly a product of his time?

He’s literally a parody of a Clark Gable character from a thirties movie called It Happened One Night mixed with Groucho Marx.

He’s literally a parody of a Clark Gable character from a thirties movie called It Happened One Night mixed with Groucho Marx.

But there’s a key difference.  Bugs comes by it honestly, he is a product of thirties pop culture created by young men who consumed, enjoyed and understood that pop culture. And Cool Cat was created by a bunch of old men desperately trying to relate to the youth of the time in the most cynical and pandering way possible.

Also, his cartoons suck and are not funny.

So let’s take a look at Injun Trouble.

So the first thing you notice, after the weird minimalist Warner Bros logo and the remixed version of The Merry Go Round Broke Down is that the music by William Lava sounds less like the opening of a cartoon short and more like the bit in the porno where the pizza guy arrives. We see a desert landscape that I have decided to place next to some Maurice Noble artwork from the Roadrunner cartoons because I like making myself feel very sad. I think I may have some issues.

desert

maurice-noble

And that is the last time I’m going to judge this cartoon against the classic era Looney Tunes shorts on its art or animation because obviously that’s monstrously unfair. By the time Injun Trouble was made cinemas weren’t paying for shorts any more and the budgets just weren’t there. I know this. I accept this. Nobody’s fault. Quality costs money. But plenty of cheap cartoons still manage to be charming, or inventive or funny. But Injun Trouble’s…trouble is that is that it is completely, utterly devoid of wit or inspiration. So Cool Cat (Larry Storch) is driving his dune buggy through the desert while snapping his fingers because he is cool (is that the word? Is that what the kids call it?). Honestly, I don’t know why he even needs to snap his fingers. It seems redundant. I mean, he has the word “cool” in his name so he must be cool, right? He’s watched by some Native Americans who look at each other and say “Ug.” which is pretty much my reaction whenever I see Cool Cat too.

Cool Cat gets chased by a brave on horseback shooting arrows and whooping, who then turns to the camera and says “Injuns always yell like that when they mad.” Mad. Written by racist fuckwits. Tomayto, tomato. Funny story, this is actually the second Looney Tune/Merry Melody called Injun Trouble. The first one was a Porky Pig short from all the way back in 1938 and it is, no lie, far less racist than this one. Seriously. Think of a stereotype about Native Americans and they worked it in somewhere. This is how the cartoon goes:

  • Cool Cat is  driving through the desert snapping his fingers because he is cool, understand? He is a cool cat.
  • He gets flagged down by a still drawing of an Indian that they just zoomed in on to give the illusion of animation.
  • Cool Cat talks to the Indian which leads to some Indian based-pun that is either lazy, racist, stupid, lazily racist, stupidly racist, lazily stupid, racistly lazy or lazily stupid racist.
  • Repeat FOUR GODDAMN TIMES.

And even aside from the racism it’s just a bad cartoon. A Looney Tunes short needs a central conflict and each of the non-descript Indian characters just appears, does their schtick and vanishes never to be seen again. Can you imagine Long Haired Hare if instead of one opera singer, Bugs was fucking with a different opera singer for each gag? The fact that it’s the same guy that he’s heaping torment after torment on is what gives that short its comedic escalation. You could cut out the middle four minutes of Injun Trouble and reassemble them in any order and the cartoon would make just as much sense and that is not a good thing. And the short can’t even sustain its pathetic premise for its full run time. Having apparently come to the end of your racist uncle’s Bumper Indian Joke Book the writers have Cool Cat come to an Old West frontier town and go to a “Topless Saloon”. Yeah. You know, sex was always a more prevalent presence in Looney Tunes than you might think.

In answer to your question, Garth. Yes. Yes I did.

In answer to your question, Garth. Yes. Yes I did.

But there was always a, I dunno, classiness to it? Here it’s just, Cool Cat thought he was going to see some titties. Turns out the topless bartender is a dude. Men do not have breasts. That is the joke, you see. The cat has failed in his quest to see boobs. And I need a shower.

So after six of the longest minutes of my life, even Cool Cat apparently has had enough of this shit and cuts himself clean out of the cartoon with a pair of scissors. You may ask yourself, when has he demonstrated this ability previously? What does this have to do with Indians? Can we go home now?

And then Cool Cat pokes his head through the gaping white void he has cut in the fabric of the world and says to the audience “So cool it now, y’hear?”

And those were the Looney Tunes’ last words.

There’s going out with a bang. There’s going out with a whimper. And there’s going out with Injun Trouble. 

Goddamn I hate this short.

cool-cat-go-home

*This post originally stated that Injun Trouble was crated be DePatie Freleng studios. While DePatie Freleng did do some outsourced Looney Tunes shorts for Warners in the sixties, they had moved on by 1967 and this short was created in the brief period when Warners reopened their studio in ’67 and before they closed it again in 1969. Thanks to Devin for pointing out the error.

45 comments

  1. That terrible. The only joke that didn’t fall entirely flat for me was the typewriter smoke signals. I feel kind of dirty for watching that so, thanks, I guess.

      1. Unless your going to churn them out in a three days, surely Shortember is a misleading name!
        Shortember and Shoctober.
        Shortumn!
        Sholiday Season!
        And my personal favourite, Short-I’m reviewing shorts for the next few months-ember.

  2. Man, I remember this one. Terrible, each scene reminds me of a crappy newspaper comic, the kind that no one under 70 reads, and is only around because it has been for 50 years.

    As a kid, I’d watch Looney Tunes in blocks, and the shorts would be shown in no particular order. I had no conception that these films were produced over decades, and that times changed and the studio’s fortunes faltered.

    I just knew that when you got that weird modern intro, this one was gonna suck and you had better start channel surfing.

    Cool Cat was awful, but I’d give the prize to Bunny and Claude for Worst Looney Tunes. I had one of their shorts (they only landed two, thank God) on tape along with a bunch of other Tunes taped off Nickelodeon, and I’d always fast forward through it. Even years later, when I would sit through the recorded commercial breaks with a pleasant twinge of nostalgia, I wouldn’t watch Bunny and Claude.

  3. Holy shit, I’ve caught up. I started on the snow white review like 2 weeks ago and now im all caught up on every review here. Wow that was quite a ride. I don’t know what to do with my free time now.

  4. Christ on a cracker, that is a bad cartoon! You’ve pretty much hit on all the major sins but I’ll add one more: the cartoon doesn’t know if Cool Cat supposed to be a hero or an anti-hero.

    Here’s what I mean. When Bugs Bunny (a hero) got punched, kicked, or otherwise messed with, he took it as the signal that “this means war!” and his retribution was swift and hilarious. When Daffy Duck (an anti-hero) got punched, shot, or otherwise messed with, he would attempt retaliation that would backfire, resulting in him receiving even more (comedic) violence.

    When Cool Cat gets punched or smushed by a rock, that’s it. No escalation, no retribution, no backfiring. And no humor. The violence is barely even a punchline (if you pardon the pun.) Bad, bad cartoon!

  5. Me want brain bleach.

    I once had to cross a strait in Indonesia on a ferry with my extended family one stormy night. We had just flown for 9 hours, half of us were seasick, it was too dark to look at the view and my cousin wouldn’t stop asking me existential questions. Since then, the sound of 60s cartoon shorts has filled me with a kind of nauseous dread, for the crew provided a pirated copy of 6 WB shorts on an endless loop at full volume for the entire 90 minute journey. Half way through, my tired delirium convinced me that this was, in fact, the vomit-scented ferry to Hell. Just a few notes of that haunted carnival jingle, or a simple ‘hur-dur’ Hanna-Barbera-style voice, sends me spiralling back to that night, pitching wildly, surrounded by 30 of my beloved relatives at their worst, hungry, sweaty, exhausted, bombarded by philosophical conundra and awful puns…

    I feel your pain, is what I’m saying.

  6. Just for the record, DePatie-Freleng had nothing to do with Cool Cat and the rest. They stopped doing cartoons for WB after 67. Seven Arts and Alex Lovy would be the ones to credit/blame.

  7. I actually remember Bunny and Claude. They played a clip from it on a series that unearthed rare or lesser-known cartoons from Warner Bros. on Cartoon Network.

  8. I don’t think it’s possible to find a ‘worst’ Cool Cat cartoon as the body of work is one undifferentiated patch of brown liquid, which could be creosote or some extract used in industrial varnishing – but I might make the case for one that used the strength of the franchise to introduce Spooky the ghost (featured in the opening titles).

  9. The only joked here I laughed at was “throw me rope!” and they threw a rope down onto him. It was the only joke that had at least a semblance of speed. Now if you don’t mind, I’m gonna bleach this out of my mind with some REAL Loony Tunes.

  10. So….live action Lion King….is a thing that is happening. I was fine with Disney doing live action remakes of their movies at first but this is getting ridiculous. Cinderella, Maleficent (kind of), The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast comes out next year, there’s supposedly a Little Mermaid one in the works, and now Lion King? Slow the hell down Disney.

      1. Don’t get me wrong, The Jungle Book remake was gorgeous, but it also completely lacked the charm and heart of the original. Do not understand why everyone went head over heels crazy for it.

    1. It’s kind of stupid to be honest, I don’t understand the huge appeal of the live action Disney remakes other than nostalgia and the novelty of seeing classic cartoon characters be realized in live action and nothing more. The remakes are either forgettable “meh” versions of better marerial or the exact same movie, I know people hate Maleficient, but that concept had more going for it than Cinderella, Petes Dragon and Jungle Book 2016 ( the most overpraised remake I’ve ever seen). As for my interest in live action Lion King, it’s probably going to be Jungle Book 2016 all over again, tonally inconsistent, out of place musical numbers, underdeveloped and rushed development of characters, and maybe some stupid bait for a sequel and of fucking course Jon Favereau is directing it. 😑

      1. Wait a minute. There are no humans in Lion King. Which means they’ll just have the animals who will probably be done in the same CGI that they were in the Jungle Book. So…in what sense is this a “live action” movie?

      2. Maybe they’ll have CG animals against live action backgrounds.

        Like Dinosaur.

        Disney is going to make The Lion King more like Dinosaur.

        Someone at Disney read your Rankings page, Mouse, saw what was in first place and what was in last, and decided to do the most evil thing they could think of.

        Horned King confirmed for new Disney CEO.

      3. That’s a good point, Mouse. I think even though it’s not technically going to be live-action though, the style they went for in the Jungle Book was to make it LOOK like it was live-action. So I would feel comfortable calling the Lion King remake live-action. At the very least, it should look fantastic (as The Jungle Book did).

  11. The humor in this short is just…fascinatingly bad. There are a few times where it’s almost funny but then it just…isn’t.

  12. The question I have about this short is would it be better or worse if we used the more modern Cool Cat from ‘Cool Cat Saves the Kids’. Among his sins are being hilariously UNcool, potentially being attracted to kids (according to the Your Movie Sucks viewing of the movie) and his creator is willing to sink to pretty low depths to “protect” his brand.

  13. Wow. Just… sheesh, I’m tempted to use the word with the Sch and the Eszett. This was just painful and unnecessary. My prior exposure to 60’s Looney Tunes was mercifully limited to a few Road Runner cartoons. Now they weren’t funny, but at least they had no dialogue. However, even sans dialogue, they exhibit one of the prime deficiencies in common this unholy COOL. CAT. ABOMINATION. (Upon seeing the character name Cool Cat, I cultivated a forlorn hope that the protagonist of this cartoon might be the immortal hero starring in ‘Cool Cat Saves the Kids’ If only.) Namely, the timing is just awful. Every single attempt at slapstick falls flat because the animation timing is somehow critically off. Not every physical joke is necessarily terrible in itself, they’re just terribly executed. The frames and their speed are quite simply wrong, and the faux-funky discount-agent-thriller music sure isn’t helping. Every single attempt at a joke falls flat, and even the ones that could have amounted to something are abject failures. For instance, I can imagine a variant of the stupid and borderline offensive but still somewhat creative smoke signal typewriter joke in a 40’s or 50’s Looney Tunes cartoons, but it would have to be integrated more closely to the main narrative. Did I mention the narrative? Oh yes, the narrative exhibits the additional problems of somehow not existing and sucking ass at the same time.

    I have seen Looney Tunes. This was not Looney Tunes. This was not even Huckleberry Hound. This was Snagglepuss on his way to Andrew Jackson’s bestial BDSM weekend getaway. With bad tequila. I need to take a shower.

  14. Sorry for vanishing for the past while, I’ve been a bit swamped with school and all. Hmmm, an old-time cartoon about Those Guys, eh? Well, well, this really does mean trouble. Yeah, it seems pretty understandable this “Cool Cat” character (is that a cat? Looks like a tiger to me. Or maybe a failed attempt to clone the Pink Panther awkwardly painted with Garfield stripes) is remembered by no one. And by the sounds of it, I’m glad he is.

    Also, geese aren’t too close to ducks to be on the bad side of mice, right? …Right?!?

  15. Okay, I reeeeally want to know; “In answer to your question, Garth. Yes. Yes I did.”

    1. Who is Garth?

    2. What is his question?

    3. What is it that you did?

    4. Why did Bugs *always* dress in drag? Like, it wasn’t even always the best solution; he just took literally any excuse to dress in drag.

    1. 1) Garth is a character in Wayne’s World.
      2) “Did you ever think that Bugs was sexy when he dressed up as the girl bunny?”
      3) See point 2.
      4) He actually didn’t do it as often as people think.

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