Willoughby’s Magic Hat (1943)

Article 5373 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-17-2017
Directed by Bob Wickersham
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Columbia cartoon

A magical hat knitted from Samson’s hair ends up in the possession of a tiny little man named Willoughby, who is given super-strength when he wears it. Will he be able to rescue a damsel in distress and manage to keep his hat on?

There are no anthropomorphic animals on hand in this cartoon, but that doesn’t mean there’s no fantastic content; we have a magic hat, Samson, Hercules, Atlas and a villain that looks like a robot version of the Frankenstein monster. Columbia didn’t really come into its own until UPA took over in the fifties, so I’ve learned not to expect too much from their pre-UPA material. Sure enough, there are problems here; some gags don’t work (there’s no reason for Nero or Napoleon to be wearing the hat, for example), and there’s at least one big glaring dead spot in the cartoon where nothing is happening. Nevertheless, the premise is unusual and interesting, and it manages to have some solid fun with the concept; for example, I like the sequence where our hero first gets the cap and has to contend with his own strength. Also, there are moments when the sketchy background illustrations are reminiscent of the work of UPA, which is interesting. No, it’s not a great cartoon, but it’s a good one, and it may be one of Columbia’s best from the period.


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