A Year in Shorts Day 178: "Little Johnny Jet"
Like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery is rightfully considered a legend in the history of animation. Like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery had a decent amount of success at the Academy Awards (even if, due to the strange rules the shorts categories had in the early days, he never received a nomination personally). And like Chuck Jones, it’d be hard to tell based solely on the films of his we’ve covered in our Year in Shorts. And unfortunately, his 1953 short Little Johnny Jet will do very little to change that. But we’ve got to get to it one way or another.
Little Johnny Jet is set in a world populated by sentient planes, sort of like the world of Pixar's Cars (or its spinoff, Planes, or the spinoff's sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue), except there are also humans living in this world. That is not the most bizarre thing about this short. It tells the story of a retired B-29 bomber (voiced by Yogi Bear himself Daws Butler) who, despite being a decorated World War II veteran, is unable to find a job due to the rise of jet planes. This is particularly troubling for the old bomber as it turns out his wife (voiced by voice acting legend June Foray) is pregnant. That's right folks. In this world, planes fuck. Which raises a lot of questions as to how exactly jets are replacing propeller planes. Is it just evolution? Is this an X-Men situation? X-Planes? I'd watch that. It couldn't be worse than most of the X-Men movies.
Well anyway, things go from bad to worse when the bomber's son is born and it turns out he's a jet! Once again this raises a multitude of disturbing questions that the short can never hope to answer, but what's important to know is that the bomber just absolutely hates his son. Just loathes this kid's fucking guts. He's just so racist against jets, you guys. So much so that he decides to enter an around the world race to prove that he's faster than the jets, which is just physically impossible. Fearing for his father's health (even though, again, he is the worst), the baby jet (named Junior, not Johnny) decides to help his father cheat to victory. The humans are so impressed that they give the old bomber a military contract- ordering one thousand more baby jets. Which means only one thing- these planes better get to fucking. I'm not being crude, by the way. That's literally how the film ends.
In case you couldn't tell, I really don't like this short. I give it some points for being nicely animated (which is what I expect from Tex Avery), but other than that there's just nothing going on here to recommend it. There's a reason I spent the majority of this post just nitpicking the film's bizarre setting instead of actually reviewing it; what else is there to talk about? Despite being packed to the brim with gags, not a single one of them made me laugh; the film unfortunately makes the fatal error of mistaking "loud" for "funny." And really, it suffers the problem that all Rudolph type stories suffer from- a character gets over their prejudice once it's discovered that someone else's differences can be used to advance their own particular ends. What kind of message is that to send kids? An honest one, sure, but still!
Still, while I might not like this film, I suppose it has an audience. After all, someone had to like it enough to make all these GIFs available! (Kudos to whoever did that by the way; I've rarely been this spoiled for choice!) So if you're an Oscar Baiter like me (or just a fan of Tex Avery or MGM animation in general), feel free to give it a shot. Maybe it'll work better for you than it did for me. But let's just say it's not a surprise that Little Johnny Jet lost to another MGM offering that year...
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