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!