Scott Bradley

Puss Gets the Boot (1940, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera)

Until the exceptionally racist caricature of “Mammy Two-Shoes” arrives, the most distinguishing thing about Puss Gets the Boot is the exceptional cruelty of the cat. Puss is the first Tom and Jerry cartoon, before Tom is named Tom (he’s Jasper here) and Jerry doesn’t get an onscreen name.

For the first two minutes, it’s just Jasper–sorry, no, it’s just easier to call him Tom–it’s just Tom tormenting Jerry. Jerry can’t run away faster enough or smart enough; the awkwardly cruelest moment is when Tom revives Jerry with some water after knocking him unconscious. I’m sure cats can be this evil playing with their prey but… not sure I have any interest in seeing it.

And it doesn’t really play for slapstick laughs because, until this point, it’s just the cat beating up on the mouse.

Then Mammy shows up and Puss gets gross and then grosser. It’s not just how the cartoon portrays the character, voiced by Lillian Randolph, it’s how Joseph Barbara writes the dialogue. He goes out of his way to be more racist about it all.

At that point, there’s no real way for Puss to save itself–later versions of the cartoon lightened Mammy’s skin and redubbed her–but, even so, the cartoon doesn’t do anything special or even interesting. Randolph tells Tom he’s out on his furry behind if he breaks anything else in the house. Jerry tries to get Tom break stuff. On and on it goes. There’s some amusement when Tom turns the tables on Jerry for a moment, but it’s far from significant.

The animation is fine, though it dips in quality as the cartoon progresses. Tom gets too loose. The direction’s all right too. Nothing special. Just racist.

1/3Not Recommended


Written and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera; animated by Carl Urbano, Tony Pabian, Jack Zander, Pete Burness, and Robert Allen; edited by Fred McAlpin; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Rudolf Ising, Jack Petrik, and Bill Schultz; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Lillian Randolph (Mammy Two-Shoes).

The House of Tomorrow (1949, Tex Avery)

The House of Tomorrow is such a well-made cartoon, the technical aspects more than make up for some of the weak writing. However, that weak writing does make the cartoon an interesting historical artifact.

First the technical stuff. Tomorrow is a tour through a house of 2050. The year’s made clear when the kitchenwares get their emphasis and the opening actually makes it seem more immediate. So there’s a bit of a disconnect, but whatever. Avery’s direction, from the first frame, is fantastic. His animators do an outstanding job.

Where Tomorrow goes wrong is in the jokes. There’s a lot of vague misogyny but then it gets a lot more pointed–there are endless jokes about killing one’s mother-in-law. It wasn’t until halfway through I realized the mother-in-law in question was the wife’s not the husband’s.

Comedy’s changed.

But besides that aspect, Tomorrow is great.



Directed by Tex Avery; written by Jack Cosgriff and Rich Hogan; animated by Walt Clinton, Michael Lah and Grant Simmons; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Narrated by Frank Graham and Don Messick.

Old Smokey (1938, William Hanna)

Technically speaking, Old Smokey is a fantastic cartoon. The animation and the backgrounds are both excellent. Hanna composes some great shots, as well as the camera “movements.”

But it’s not a fun cartoon. There are no gags, because there’s real danger. A house is on fire and only The Captain (the cartoon series’s lead) can stop it. Or can he….

The Captain is actually a dumb, mean-spirited, technophile immigrant who stupidly fired the fire department’s fire horse and got a fancy engine. And the fire engine, it turns out, is just too new-fangled to be any use.

Oh, I forgot… The Captain (and the woman in danger) are both fat immigrants. Couple of real mean fat jokes.

The cute fire horse saves the day and The Captain rehires him. The Captain then kills the fire engine, which has just been anthropomorphized.

While masterfully made, Smokey‘s a little creepy.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by William Hanna; based on a comic strip by Rudolph Dirks; animated by George Gordon; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Billy Bletcher (The Captain).

Magical Maestro (1952, Tex Avery)

I had read Magical Maestro was controversial and it took me quite a while, watching it, to release why it had that reputation.

There’s a montage of an irate magician turning an opera singing bulldog into various singing stereotypes. There’s a cowboy, there’s a redneck, there’s a baby… then an angry audience member squirts ink on the bulldog’s face and it’s blackface.

And at that point, I realized the earlier Chinese transformation would offend too (but that transformation is the only one where the bulldog is singing the opera as opposed to a stereotype appropriate one).

It’s a lovely little cartoon. There aren’t a lot of shots, not a lot of action, but it’s a hilarious cartoon set to good music.

The redneck caricature is probably the most shocking one. Maybe because it’s the only accurate one of them.

Regardless of any “controversy,” Tex Avery does absolutely brilliant work here.



Directed by Tex Avery; written by Rich Hogan; animated by Walt Clinton, Michael Lah and Grant Simmons; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Daws Butler (Mysto the Magician) and Carlos Ramírez (The Great Poochini).

The Goose Goes South (1941, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera)

There aren’t any real gags in The Goose Goes South until the finish. And that gag is sort of predictable.

The cartoon concerns a goose who can’t fly and therefore has to find other ways south for the winter. The uncredited narrator explains the goose’s problem and describes some of his adventures.

But The Goose Goes South is really—for the most part—just an excuse to make fun of the South. Whether it’s inbred “hillbillies,” the cartoon’s term, or a moonshiner—or even two Southern gentlemen who prove the most moronic—the cartoon’s constantly slinging mud at the South.

And it’s funny.

Hanna and Barbera’s direction isn’t exactly inspired, but the animation is all solid. The locations don’t change much, but when they do—the first scene and last—they look quite good.

Goes South moves very fast, probably because of the narration, and it’s a pleasant, slight diversion.



Directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera; animated by Ed Barge, Pete Burness and Irven Spence; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Screwball Squirrel (1944, Tex Avery)

Screwball Squirrel opens with the protagonist mocking a Disney-like cartoon squirrel and sending him packing. The Disney-like squirrel sounds and looks enough like Thumper from Bambi I forgot Thumper was a rabbit. This moment establishes the cartoon—because the protagonist, the never named Screwy Squirrel, is mocking the cute squirrel to the audience.

Avery doesn’t do a whole lot with breaking the fourth wall—I think there are three or four big gags with it, not including the opening—but doing it immediately sets the cartoon up in that vein.

The majority of the cartoon is Screwy Squirrel tormenting a bird dog. One of the frequent jokes is how stupid the dog behaves. Screwy Squirrel’s not likable, he’s just not an idiot.

The cartoon ends on a reveal; it’s a pointless one… but leads to a funny moment.

Avery understands what he’s playing with and it all works.



Directed by Tex Avery; written by Heck Allen; animated by Preston Blair, Ed Love and Ray Abrams; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Wally Maher (Screwy Squirrel) and Dick Nelson (Meathead)

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