Three Little Bops

I’ve been doing the Forgotten Films blog for almost four months now and have been pleased with the response (though I do wish more readers would comment) and have been having a lot of fun doing it, which is the most important thing.  But even with all the movies I’ve covered so far, I haven’t taken the chance to delve into one my favorite areas of cinema history…classic animated shorts.  Disney, Looney Tunes, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, Tom and Jerry…I love them all!  Many people think of these cartoons as being classic television…and wrongly so.  Even though afternoon TV is where many people of my generation first experienced these films, they were originally created for theaters and are as much a part of film history as the feature films are.  So I want to start doing some reviews of some forgotten animated shorts, in addition to the feature film reviews.

Let’s begin with a great Looney Tunes short from 1957, a jazzy take on the three little pigs story called “Three Little Bops.”  Of course, to animation fans, this short is a true classic…but it’s probably not as well-known to casual viewers because it does not star any of Warner Brothers’ classic characters.  Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and the rest are nowhere to be found in this short directed by Friz Freleng.

This is basically the story of the three little pigs, but in this version they are a jazz combo playing in a club made of straw.  When a trumpet playing wolf shows up, the pigs are not excited about turning the act into a quartet…so they throw the wolf out.  His response is to use his trumpet to blow the club down.  The same happens at the second club the pigs visit, which is, of course, made of sticks.  Finally, the pigs move to a club made of bricks.

Though this film came nearly a quarter of a century after Disney’s “Three Little Pigs,” there is definitely an element of parody at play here.  That film was such a huge success and it’s song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” became an anthem for Americans battling the Great Depression.  Here, the pigs are hip, upbeat, prosperous…the thought of being afraid of the wolf never even enters their heads.  If the Disney fllm’s pigs reflected the determination and resolve of the depression era Americans, these pigs reflect the confidence and prosperity of a people who had come through the depression and a world war to boot.

The film is done as one long musical number, with all the voices being done by Stan Freberg.  Freberg did many voices in the Looney Tunes shorts, but he rarely received credit.  Mel Blanc, the voice artist behind Bugs, Daffy, and many of the others, had a deal that gave him sole onscreen credit for the voices.  But for “Three Little Bops,” Blanc was not involved.  I first became familiar with Freberg when my father gave me a copy of Freberg’s classic album “Stan Freberg presents The United States of America.”  I’ve been a fan ever since.    Freberg was the perfect choice for this short.  He has always had a strong grasp of how humor and music can work together…this short depends on that.  It also doesn’t hurt that Freleng brought in a jazz pioneer, Shorty Rogers, to take care of the music.

“Three Little Bops” is a great example of 50’s style animation.  Interesting shapes and angles are used in the character design and backgrounds.  There’s also a fun minimalism used in the design of the backgrounds.  The visual style, music, and Freleng’s signature grasp of musical timing make this a classic…and without any of the studio’s signature characters.  Heck, it doesn’t even say “That’s All Folks” at the end.

That’s All Folks!

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2 thoughts on “Three Little Bops

  1. Thanks much for this review and your Twitter repost in honor of Freberg’s passing . . . . My first thought after reading it was to wonder if it’s already in my collection to watch, and it looks like it is — on Disc 4 of the second Looney Tunes: Golden Collection set (from 2005). I’m tossing this comment in here in case anyone else a) happens to have it and b) wants to go and watch it right now! 8^)

    • Thanks for the comment! I have always loved Freberg’s work. I was probably about 8 or 9 years old when my dad turned over his collection of Freberg records to me…and I wore those things out. The United States of America is still one of the greatest comedy albums ever made.

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