In our first entry of “Comparing & Contrasting Forgotten Cartoons” we will look at two old cartoons with very similar plots. First we have “Prest-O Change-O” from Warner Bros. This 1939 cartoon is found on many cheapo DVDs and VHS tapes (due to having fallen out of copyright) and has also been shown on Cartoon Network.
In this cartoon we see two nameless dogs (the characters are known collectively as “two curious puppies”, but have no individual names) who stumble into the house of a magician while fleeing the dog catcher. The cartoon has no dialog to speak of (“Dialog! Speak of! That’s a jo-, I say that’s a joke son! You missed it, it went right by ya!” …Ok, I’m done channeling Foghorn Leghorn. …For now…), but we are treated to a string of visual gags based on the dogs encountering various magic tricks. This cartoon also features one of the earliest appearances of the Bugs Bunny prototype known as “Happy Rabbit”.
This cartoon is one of Chuck Jones’ earliest works, and is very different from the more slapstick style of his more famous later works. It is one of six cartoons to feature this pair of dogs.
In our second entry, we feature an early work of Walter Lantz, creator of world-renowned characters such as Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy. While this cartoon actually came out two years before the other one and has likewise fallen out of copyright, it (like most of Lantz’s black & white cartoons) is virtually unknown these days.
In this cartoon, we meet the characters Meeny, Miny, and Moe. These are three monkeys (they are officially considered to be monkeys, even though they are drawn without tails in many of their cartoons) have starred in 13 cartoons of their own, and also featured in four Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. This one, like the dogs one above, lacks dialog. Similar to the dogs cartoon above, this one has the monkeys run into a magic shop to escape from a rainstorm. This cartoon also has it’s heroes try to deal with magical props and the unexpected results they produce. This cartoon is also driven by site gags, with the plot merely acting as a vehicle.
Leaving aside color vs black & white, these two cartoons have a lot in common. The only real difference is that the dogs wind up victorious, while the monkeys wind up getting chased away. Since both are light on story and heavy on visual gags, it’s difficult to say much about either one, short of attempting to verbally describe the individual site gags. I must say however, that I prefer the monkeys one. It has a much better flow & action to it, whereas the dogs one tends to just plod along and be cutesy.