Screwball Squirrel (1944)
Article 5985 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Tex Avery
Featuring the voices of Cal Howard, Wally Maher, Dick Nelson
What it is: Tex Avery cartoon
After ridding the cartoon of its cute star, Screwy Squirrel takes over and spends the rest of its running length tormenting a bird dog.
This cartoon is listed in the Walt Lee guide, so I’d review it even if its fantastic content consisted of no more than the usual cartoon conventions. But the most striking element in this cartoon is its self-awareness that it IS a cartoon, and a Tex Avery cartoon to boot. The cartoon opens with a cute singing, dancing squirrel gathering nuts, only to be interrupted by Screwy Squirrel, who quizzes him on what type of cartoon this will be; the squirrel more or less describes it as a whimsical cartoon with cute characters. Screwy beats the crap out of the squirrel and takes over, turning it into a self-referential compendium of split-second gags. This opening scene may actually provide the manifesto of the Tex Avery style; manic gags with whisper-thin plots rather than cuteness and whimsy. A chase scene is interrupted by a skipping record player, a game of hide-and-seek takes place on a railroad track, the seasick gag caused by tilting a picture of an ocean knowingly and unapologetically recycled… this is Tex Avery territory. And though he’s done better, this is perhaps one of Tex Avery’s definitive cartoons.