King Sized Canary
Posted: February 13, 2010
King Sized Canary
This is one my favorite cartoons of all time. All laffs aside, my take on it (considering the time it came out) was that it was a brilliant Cold War metaphor; prophetic about the looming tit for tat arms race that was just around the corner.
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Posted: July 23, 2006
I think what makes "King-Size Canary" so great is the careful build-up that leads us to accept the basic premise. Whether this was conscious or the story just evolved like that I don't know, but there is a definite step-by-step dismantling of our disbelief.
First, the cat's desperate hunger is established, and when he loses his scraps to the other cats we feel sorry for him - we want him to find food.
The fridge in the kitchen promises food, but the dog is stopping him. Now comes the first "it does what it says on the label" gag: the cat produces a box of sleeping pills and pours them into the dog's jaws. The dog falls asleep INSTANTLY. This is funny because we know it wouldn't work like that in real life but we're rooting for the cat so we WANTED it to work: but it isn't just a one-off gag - we've been drawn into the expectation "it does what it says on the label"!
The shining fridge is empty! We are as shocked as the cat, and our desire for him to find food is heightened. Ransacking the kitchen he finds one lone can of catfood! Hurrah! On opening it he finds it contains a live mouse (second "idwisotl" gag: "it does what it says on the label" - a mouse is traditionally cat food - "but not necessarily the way you'd expect!").
The mouse talks the cat out of eating him ("I've seen this picture...I save your life!") and promises him a big fat canary in the next room.
When the canary turns out to be scrawnier than the mouse we feel the cat's despair at having been (apparently) cheated.
So when the cat sees the Jumbo-Gro we are ahead of him! As he slowly has the idea that it might just be worth a try we are screaming at him: yes! yes! do it! We have totally bought the premise!
Only now can the rest of the film play out the twists and turns of its one joke, until, ideas exhausted, it comes up with the best excuse for a lame-ending-to-a-cartoon-that-has-nowhere-else-to-go in the history of animation: “We’ve run out of the stuff!” So logical; so inevitable… and then the payoff long-shot to show how far they’ve gone!
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Posted: November 02, 2003
Most of Tex Avery's cartoons towers over the rest of the industry. This one towers over those.
Avery was indeed the master.
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