A Day at the Zoo

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A Day at the Zoo
Merrie Melodies series
A Day At The Zoo
Directed by Tex Avery
Produced by Leon Schlesinger
Story by Melvin Millar
Narrated by Robert C. Bruce
Animation by Rollin Hamilton
Studio Leon Schlesinger Studios
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Running time 7 min.
Country  United States
Language English

A Day at the Zoo is a 1939 Warner Bros. animated cartoon in the Merrie Melodies series. It was directed by Tex Avery, with musical direction by Carl Stalling. It was written by Melvin Millar. No voice credits are given. Mel Blanc provides most of the incidental voices. The narrator is Robert C. Bruce.

Plot summary[edit]

This is one of the cartoons that Warner would occasionally produce featuring few or none of its stable of characters. It contains a series of gags, usually based on outrageous stereotypes and plays on words, and topical references, as a narrator (Robert C. Bruce) describes the action. This one is about a "tour" of a zoo (the "Kalama Zoo") where the animals have nonsensical names, display anthropomorphic behavior, illustrate punnish gags, or any combination thereof:

  • Some animals are seen in their "natural settings": a wolf at someone's door; "a pack of camels" smoking cigarettes (underscored by "The Campbells Are Coming"; a North American Greyhound; "two bucks and five scents" (two deer and five skunks); and "two friendly Elks" (conventioneers named "Bill" greeting each other).
  • The monkey house includes monkeys tossing peanuts to zoo patrons; a baboon and a man who look alike and who end up trading places; and a Capuchin yelling at the top of its lungs, to a lady who tries to feed him some peanuts in defiance of the "Do Not Feed the Animals" sign: "Hey, sister, can'cha read?"
  • A ground-hog [sic], along with its shadow in a separate cage, both pacing in sync.
  • A skunk cage is a "scenter of interest" (second time for that joke) with the observers keeping a safe distance; the skunk is seen reading How to Win Friends and Influence People.
  • A giraffe is being fed to the tune of the bugle "Mess Call"; the food chunks roll down its throat and into its stomach with the sound effects of junk crashing loudly.
  • White rabbits are seen "multiplying" - operating adding machines (a stock joke for the Warner cartoons)
  • The bird house includes a "wise old owl", who seems reluctant to accept the label; a parrot who talks like a street tough and wants a beer instead of a cracker; and an "Alcatraz jail-bird", with a voice like Edward G. Robinson claims innocence, "I didn't do it, I tell ya!" In the cage next door, the "stool pigeon", in a somewhat effeminate voice, retorts, "Oh, he did so do it; I saw him with my very own eyes; so there!'
  • A mother ostrich on her nest, clucking like a chicken, stumbles and breaks her large egg, which contains a dozen chicken eggs, and the narrator comments, "Well! A jackpot!"
  • A newly arrived elephant is missing its proboscis, and after calling the express office on the phone, he tells the audience: "Ya know, those guys have had my twunk fow a week!"
  • Some winged pink elephants are seen "left over from that last New Year's Eve party!"
  • A pair of panthers are pacing in their cage, saying, "bread and butter", every time they pass a post.
  • A retired lion tamer named J. Wellington Buttonhook, who used to put his head in a lion's mouth as part of his circus act, puts down the paper he's reading and is seen to be headless. This character was the inspiration of Shadrack the Great in Columbia's horror film 13 Ghosts.
  • A Rocky Mountain wildcat is seen jumping around and acting crazy. The narrator asks, "What made you wild?", and in a very topical joke, the cat responds, "They called my name out at Bank Night and I wasn't there!", and resumes his crazy antics.
  • A running gag features Egghead teasing a ferocious lion, with the narrator repeatedly warning him to stop. Egghead slinks away, invoking Lou Costello's catch phrase, "I'm a baaad boy!", but keeps returning. Finally, the lion is seen alone, and the narrator comments that Egghead has learned his lesson. The lion slowly shakes his head, smiles and opens his mouth. The eyes of Egghead appear from within the lion's stomach, and Egghead's voice echoes forth, "I'm a baaad boy!" Iris-out.

This final scene would be alluded to a decade later in Hare Do, in which Elmer Fudd (which evolved from Egghead) is swallowed up by a lion as part of the closing gag. This cartoon was one of Egghead's final appearances, along with 1939's Believe It or Else, a parody of Ripley's Believe It or Not!.

Cast[edit]

  • Tex Avery as Other Elk named Bill (voice) (uncredited)
  • Mel Blanc as Egghead / Elk named Bill / Monkey / Parrot / Stool Pigeon / Mother Ostrich / Joe *Jumbo / Wildcat (voice) (uncredited)
  • Robert C. Bruce as the Narrator (voice) (uncredited)

Edited versions[edit]

  • When this cartoon aired on Cartoon Network, the brief shot of camels smoking cigarettes was cut (though the "Polly want a short beer" scene was not edited).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]