Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: "King-Size Canary" is a Tex Avery Classic (Remembering Tex Avery)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 101 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

King-Size Canary (1947) – animation
Running time:  8 minutes
DIRECTOR:  Tex Avery
WRITER:  Heck Allen (story)
PRODUCER:  Fred Quimby
ANIMATORS:  Ray Abrams, Robert Bentley, and Walter Clinton
COMPOSER:  Scott Bradley


The subject of this movie review is King-Size Canary, a 1947 animated cartoon short film directed by Tex Avery and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).  In 1994, animation historian Jerry Beck conducted a poll of animators, film historians, and directors, and King-Size Canary was the voted the 10th greatest cartoon of all time.  Pinto Colvig performed the voice of the “Cat” and Frank Graham the voice of the “Mouse,” but did not receive a screen credit.

King-Size Canary starts with a mangy cat on the verge of starvation.  The feline gives an itty-bitty, scrawny canary some “Jumbo-Gro” fertilizer, which in turns makes the canary grow to monstrously large yellow bird.  Thus, the cat has to engage the colossal canary in a pitched battle to see which will end up the other’s meal.  A vicious bulldog and a wily mouse also join in on a madcap comic adventure of gigantic proportions.

If there is a quintessential Tex Avery cartoon, King-Size Canary makes the short list.  In animated cartoon shorts, Fred “Tex” Avery is the most revered name next to Chuck Jones.  Everything that marked Avery’s cartoons, the quasi-normal realities, the series of sight gags – sometimes each more outlandish than the next, and the other improbably elements are all in ample supply in a cartoon that has less than eight minutes of narrative time.

Avery always wanted to make his cartoons wild and wooly, and he does here.  From a dog whose right eye becomes a searchlight to funny animal behemoths chasing each other across the country, King-Size Canary is a feast of gag comedy.  Much of that material would never make it into today’s cartoons, especially the gag in which the cat pours a bottle of sleeping pills down the dog’s mouth to knock him out.  This is a classic short and a superb example of cartoons for big kids, from a time when cartoon shorts were shown in theatres to entertain adults as much as children.

9 of 10

Friday, May 12, 2006

Updated:  Monday, August 26, 2013

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