A Year in Shorts Day 162: "The Legend of Rockabye Point"
Here at The Great Oscar Baiter we’ve discussed a lot of iconic characters from the Golden Age of animation, from the Looney Tunes at Warner Bros. to Donald and Goofy over at Disney. And, unfortunately, we’ve also looked at the characters belonging to universal- Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda. Yes, unfortunately the creations of Walter Lantz productions don’t quite have the staying power as their contemporaries did. Case in point- Chilly Willy, the star of Tex Avery’s 1955 short The Legend of Rockabye Point.
I kind of feel that Tex Avery has gotten a raw deal in our Year in Shorts. Aside from A Wild Hare, most of his work that we've covered has been his post-Looney Tunes output, which I think we can all agree isn't nearly as good. Sometimes the Academy ignores a lot of the great work an artist does, only recognizing them for their later, inferior work. I call it Sam Rockwell Syndrome. Anyway, The Legend of Rockabye Point follows your standard cartoon formula, following a rivalry between Chilly Willy (a small penguin) and a dim-witted polar bear as they try to steal fish from an sleeping bulldog. Chilly Willy wakes the bulldog up, the dog attacks the bear, the bear sings it to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's basically just Quiet, Please! except not good.
We'll set aside the fact that polar bears and penguins live in entirely different environments, or that in real life a polar bear would simply eat the bulldog instead of the fish; it's a cartoon, it's not supposed to be logical. Instead we'll discuss the meat of the short itself, which, quite frankly, is rather slim pickings. The animation is fine, I guess, but nothing spectacular. Chilly Willy is just the poor man's Jerry, but he's cute enough. And while there are some decently funny gags sprinkled throughout, the short's never hilarious and it's pretty repetitive. Plus the polar bear's constant singing of "Rockabye Baby" is just plain annoying. It's no wonder this short lost to Speedy Gonzales.
It feels wrong to call anything directed by Tex Avery a pale imitation (indeed, he is typically the one being imitated), but there's no other way to describe The Legend of Rockabye Point. Or really any of the Universal shorts we've covered soon. It's pretty clear that from shorts like this they were just chasing after the success of Warner Bros. and MGM, content to ride their coattails instead of developing a style of their own like UPA did. I suppose that worked in the short term; I imagine it made them money and they got their fair share of Oscar nominations. But there's a reason no one watches Chilly Willy shorts anymore. In 1955, you had a captive audience; even if they might have wanted Tom and Jerry, they were left to the whims of whatever the theater was showing. But nowadays with so much animation history at our fingertips, why would anyone go out of their way to watch this? Unless they run an Oscar blog, of course.
Then it's a necessity.
Keep up with the Oscar Baiting here on Letterboxd!
The Great Oscar Baiter is a not-for-profit work of criticism. All images herein are property of their respective owners and are protected under Fair Use.