Half-Pint Pygmy (1948)
Now here's a truly weird cartoon even by Tex Avery's standards. "Half-Pint Pygmy" (release date: 8/17/1948) is one of Avery's less known and rarely seen works, and it marks the fourth and final appearance of George and Junior.
These characters inspired by George and Lennie from John Steinbeck's depression-era novel "Of Mice and Men" have previously appeared in three very good and entertaining cartoons:
• Henpecked Hoboes (1946)
• Hound Hunters (1947)
• Red Hot Rangers (1947)
Then for some unknown reason, Avery decided to take away nearly all of George and Junior's specific traits. The relationship between characters in "Mice and Men" style has almost completely vanished. The voices were changed too. Most significantly, Irv Spence's excellent and very funny character design was scraped in favor of a new design by Louie Schmitt that depicts George and Junior as relatively bland and generic cartoon bears.
Tex Avery's best cartoons are brilliantly structured and constructed, but "Half-Pint Pygmy" plays almost as an abstract collection of random crazy gags that barely have a connection with each other. There's an odd and somewhat detached feeling about it that I don't have when watching any other Avery's MGM cartoon. However, there are many positive things to recommend about "Half-Pint Pygmy". The animation is top notch, with some especially nice and clear examples of anticipation (if there's interest, I'll post a more complete series of screenshots for some of these scenes). Also, many of the gags are very inventive, unusual and bizarre. In a way, this might be one of the ultimate chase cartoons.
Due to heavy racial stereotypes, this cartoon has been banned from TV for the last few decades, and it was also omitted from French Tex Avery DVD box set (together with "Uncle Tom's Cabana").
Here's a selection of screenshots, taken from "The Compleat Tex Avery" laserdisc box set:
Does this fugitive from Wackyland look familiar to you? Yup, that's the bartender from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".
And that's the end of George & Junior. They joined Screwy Squirrell in cartoon Heaven (or Hell). A moment of silence, please... :)
Finally, here's a whole cartoon in the best quality version that can be currently seen on the net (at Spike.com website):