Every Thursday, Chris Robinson takes a look at films from animation’s past. Today's Tex Avery's Crazy-Mixed up Pup (1954)
With all due respect to Tex Avery’s classic MGM output, I’d take this later era work over many of them. He did some magnificent stuff at MGM but also repeated himself way too much. Over at Universal, Avery made a handful of shorts (4?) including the great, I’m Cold and this beauty, Crazy Mixed Up Pup – which I’d rank up there with his best work. It’s his fish slapping dance, an utterly manic piece of nonsense about a world thrown into chaos as the participants defiantly and struggle to maintain order. Kinda how it must be like in the U.S.A right now. You know madness has taken over, but you’re doing everything you can to grin grit and get on. The dog seems to be the sanest of the lot. He just rolls with it, unfazed by his ability to speak, eat ham and eggs and shave. I’d say the most perfect moment comes about 2:50 into the short when the resting dog suddenly rises and toes a quick two step before returning just as quickly to dogdom. He seems to know that this is but a moment and he’s gonna milk it all he can and toy with his delusional denying owners. The entire work has this blissful unhinged improv feel to it that is lacking in contemporary animation. Almost every attempt at comedy in animation today falls into bleak smartypants Beckettesque humour or utterly facile and cliché drenched work that thinks it’s funny but isn’t. Both are guilty of being too tightly wound, too anxious to be liked, too afraid to let go and take chances. Given how vibrant the stand-up/improv comedy scene is today, it’s surprising that animation is so void of fun(ny). Those so-called Golden Age cartoons remain fresh today because they took chances and didn't give a damn about realism, about logic, about people getting it. They just made stuff that made them laugh.
I think it was a Canadian poet who once said that the key to getting through life peacefully and pleasurably was to accept the absurdity of our existence. Animation could use an Avery… someone, anyone to guide us from the drone of reality and towards the ecstasy, freedom and power of absurdity.