Monday, September 6, 2010

Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow (1973)

The Blue Racer is something of a guilty pleasure for me. It was a series produced by DePatie-Freleng that was theatrically released from 1972 to '74, long after television became the dominant medium for cartoons. In fact, after Walter Lantz shut down in 1972 DFE became the only major studio making theatrical cartoons.

While they made late in the theatrical era (really, it was pretty much over by then) Blue Racer never had much TV airtime in the States, although its a different story with international broadcasts. This may stem from the fact that early shorts featured the snake chasing after the Japanese Beetle, whose face is a rather politically-incorrect Japanese caricature seen in many World War II cartoons.

Halfway through the series the Beetle was dropped from the films. Later cartoons had the Racer in situations like trying to win back his girlfriend, encountering a pair of leprechauns, and adopting a baby dragon. In two cartoons they tried to get the snake back to his roots by having him chase a bee instead.

Despite being a minor part of the studio's history David H. DePatie once said in an interview that The Blue Racer was one of his favorites, alongside the Pink Panther, The Ant and the Aardvark, and the Tijuana Toads.

This is one of those later cartoons, where the Racer encounters a bear who talks like W.C. Fields. Fields (1880-1946) was caricatured in cartoons even into the sixties, with the likes of Merlin the Magic Mouse from Warner Bros. and Stanley the Sorcerer from Paramount's Honey Halfwitch. In addition, Larsen E. Pettifogger still appears in comic strip Wizard of Id.

6 comments:

Roberto Severino said...

Nice cartoon, despite for the cheesy W.C. Fields impression. I hadn't heard of The Blue Racer before. Interesting how DePatie-Freleng was still making theatrical cartoons even as late as the early 1970s, when everyone else stopped making them.

I see a lot of talented names here, like Ken Muse, Sid Marcus, and unbelievably Owen Fitzgerald. It's great that Fitzgerald still had some decent animation jobs at this point, despite working on the dreaded Scooby-Doo series.

Brubaker said...

DePatie-Freleng cartoons was being released to theaters as late as 1980, when the last of the Pink Panther cartoons was finally burned off.

Yeah, DFE had alot of animation veterans working at the studio, mostly from Warner Bros. (since WB shutting down their animation dept. led to the creation of the DFE studio in the first place)

Anonymous said...

The Blue Racer was one of my favourite cartoons when I was a child. Do you possibly know which studio now owns the rights for this cartoon? Is it The Walt Disney Company? I'd like to use the Japanese beetle character for one of my projects, but I'm not sure if it is allowed.
thx

Brubaker said...

"Blue Racer" is owned by MGM (after they bought out United Artists), which itself is owned by Sony, I believe.

Chris Sobieniak said...

DePatie-Freleng cartoons was being released to theaters as late as 1980, when the last of the Pink Panther cartoons was finally burned off.

Kinda wonder if I saw any of those myself back then (I would've been 2-3 years old then).

"Blue Racer" is owned by MGM (after they bought out United Artists), which itself is owned by Sony, I believe.

Sony partially owns MGM. Here's the run-down...
Sony Corporation of America
Comcast
Providence Equity Partners
TPG Capital, L.P.
DLJ Merchant Banking Partners
Quadrangle Group

Anonymous said...

Meh, I May Not Be Crazy about Blue Racer, But I Must Say, This One Is A Million Times Better than Little Boa Peep, Not Only is it Better Animated, But It Has The Off-Beat DFE vibe that we are supposed to expect from Watching A Cartoon Like this, Rather than The Ugly Inbred Filmation Filth from That Other Blue racer cartoon. And Say, Which Scene did Ken Muse animate, can someone help me - Asim.