A Year in Shorts Day 146: "Fish Fry"
If one were to dedicate a gallery to the characters of the Golden Age of Animation, Andy Panda’s portrait would probably be hung up next to the bathroom. (As a side note, is there an animated character portrait gallery? Someone should get on that.) You can’t help but feel for the guy. He’s been so eclipsed by Tom and Jerry, pretty much every Disney or Looney Tunes character, Mr. Magoo, even his old co-star Woody Woodpecker. But you shouldn’t feel too sorry for him. As the 1944 short Fish Fry proves, there’s probably a good reason no one remembers Andy Panda anymore- he’s boring.
James "Shamus" Culhane's Fish Fry is the second short in a row to have the distinction of losing the Oscar to a Tom and Jerry short, this time losing to Mouse Trouble. Watching Fish Fry, it's pretty obvious there was no real competition. In the interest of fairness, I should say that I was unable to rewatch this short for the purposes of this blog; I know I've seen it, but whatever video I found for it was taken off the Internet, and Universal hasn't made it legally available to stream. That sort of thing really pisses me off. You want to preserve your copyright, fine, even if everyone who actually had anything to do with this short is dead. But if you're not going to make your film easily accessible, don't be an asshole when other people try to make it so people can see them. As a result I'm writing this bad boy from memory, which is tricky because this short is forgettable.
Here's the basic setup- Andy Panda buys a goldfish. A stray cat wants to eat said goldfish. The goldfish fights back. Pretty standard stuff, and none of it's particularly funny. Really the most interesting thing about it is how perfectly it demonstrates how thoroughly uninteresting Andy Panda is. This is ostensibly HIS short, and yet he's barely involved. That wouldn't be quite so bad if the short he exists to set up was interesting, which is obviously not the case. The plot is thin, the gags are lackluster and the animation is average at best. Andy Panda has been more or less consigned to the dustbin of history, and shorts like Fish Fry make a good case for keeping him there. Maybe that's why Universal doesn't want anyone to watch it.
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