Yesterday we looked at Friz Freleng's 1937 terror comedy "Pigs is Pigs." Seventeen years later, the Walt Disney company released a cartoon with the same title. The two have nothing in common - not even the definition of the word "pig" - but the newer cartoon is just as entertaining as the older one. It's a charming, breezy little fable, and it looks beautiful.
In fact, this cartoon has a much longer history than the WB film. It's based on a short story from 1905 by Ellis Parker Butler, which had previously been adapted into a pair of silent films (in 1910 and 1914). The cartoon cuts out the original tale's quasi-racism (there, Postmaster Flannery assumes that "Guinea" is the pigs' home country, so he has to charge more money than he would for good old familiar Irish pigs), but it retains the rest of the quirky, clever story.
That story - wrapped in folksy rhymes and UPA-style absract character designs - is a not-quite-biting satire about the hazards of following the letter of the law. After Postmaster Flannery receives a package containing two guinea pigs, he get into an argument with the intended recipient over whether the animals are "pigs" (which are shipped for 48 cents) or "pets" (44 cents). When the fellow refuses to pay, Flannery is stuck with a population of rodents that multiplies exponentially.
The guinea pigs themselves are the focus of many of the cartoon's best gags. I'm especially fond of the gag towards the end where a couple gives birth to four babies in mid-air. Less expected, but just as hilarious, are the synchronized movements of the various members of bureaucracy, all moving together in perfect harmony.
In addition, listen for the stellar voice cast. In addition to Bill "Droopy" Thompson as Postmaster Flannery, you'll also hear the narration of
I don't have as much to say about this cartoon as I have some in the past, because so much of the fun of it comes from the execution. But I want to add one final note - the version here is slightly out of sync, but I think it still plays okay. The jokes are mostly visual.
A restored, synced-up version is available on the Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities DVD set, which is one of the best entries in that series (certainly one of the most varied in its content), and is still in print and reasonably cheap.