Mr. Bug Goes to Town
|Mr. Bug Goes to Town
(a.k.a. "Hoppity Goes to Town")
Mr. Bug Goes to Town original one-sheet poster.
|Directed by||Dave Fleischer
|Produced by||Max Fleischer|
|Written by||Dave Fleischer
|Music by||Leigh Harline
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Mr. Bug Goes to Town, also known as Hoppity Goes to Town and Bugville, is an animated feature produced by Fleischer Studios and released to theaters by Paramount Pictures on December 5, 1941. It was originally meant to be an adaptation of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the Bee, but the Fleischers were unable to get the rights to the book, and the studio came up with its own story inspired by The Life of the Bee instead. The film was produced by Max Fleischer and directed by Dave Fleischer. The animation was directed by Willard Bowsky, Shamus Culhane, H.C. Ellison, Thomas Johnson, Graham Place, Stanley Quackenbush, David Tendlar and Myron Waldman.
The plot describes the return of Hoppity the Grasshopper, after a period spent away, to an American city. He finds that all is not as he left it, and his good insect friends (who live in the "lowlands" just outside the garden which belongs to a songwriter and his wife) are now under threat from the 'human ones', who are trampling through the broken down fence which prefaces the property, using it as a shortcut.
Insect houses are being flattened by their feet, and are also often burned by cast away cigar butts and matches. Old Mr Bumble and his beautiful daughter Honey (Hoppity's childhood sweetheart) are in grave danger of losing their Honey Shop to this threat.
To compound their problems, devious insect "property magnate" C. Bagley Beetle has romantic designs on Honey Bee himself, and hopes, with the help of his henchmen Swat the Fly and Smack the Mosquito, to force Bumble to give him her hand in marriage.
Mr. Bug Goes to Town was beset by problems early on. To produce their first animated feature, Gulliver's Travels, the Fleischers had moved their studio from New York City to Miami, Florida, and expanded their staff, at great expense. Immediately after Gulliver was completed and released, the studio began development on a second feature, eventually going into production on Mr. Bug. The studio was already deeply in debt from the expense of "Mr. Bug" and the expensive costs of the Superman shorts which were in production around the same time. The Fleischers were forced to sell their studio to Paramount mid-way through production on Mr. Bug, on May 24, 1941. Paramount kept the Fleischers in production, but they were required to deliver signed letters of resignation to Paramount, to be used at the studio's discretion, as the brothers were growing apart.
The voices for the characters were mostly provided by people working at Fleischer Studios during that period. Jack Mercer, who was the voice of Swat the Fly and Mr. Bumble, was a story man at the studio and more known as the voice of Popeye the Sailor. Tedd Pierce, a story man who came from Leon Schlesinger Productions to work for Fleischer, was the nasty C. Bagley Beetle. Carl Meyer, the voice of Smack the Mosquito, was also a story man and animator. Meyer and Jack Mercer would go on to collaborate on many cartoon stories for Popeye and a host of other cartoons for Paramount's animation department. Small time actor Stan Freed gave an "aw-schucks" quality to Hoppity's voice, while Pauline Loth lent her beautiful voice to Honey. Gwen Williams and Kenny Gardner portrayed the humans whose garden the bugs inhabit. Rounding out the voice cast were Pinto Colvig as Jeepers Creepers the apocalyptic snail, and Margie Hines as Mrs. Ladybug and Buzz the Beescout.
Mr. Bug was originally going to be released in November 1941, but since the Fleischers' rival, Walt Disney Productions, had its film Dumbo released weeks earlier in October and was already a success, Paramount changed the date to December. Having the misfortune of opening two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Bug was a financial disaster, despite earning generally positive reviews, and led to the ousting of Max and Dave Fleischer from the studio they had established in 1919. Paramount reorganized the company as Famous Studios. Max and Dave had not spoken to each other since early in 1940 due to personal and professional disputes. Apart from this, before Mr. Bug 's release, Walter Lantz, Paul Terry and Leon Schlesinger were considering producing animated feature films, but after responding to the disappointing results of this film and the initial failures of Walt Disney's other own two films Pinocchio and Fantasia, the projects were later eventually canceled.
Paramount later re-released Mr. Bug as Hoppity Goes to Town; the original title is a parody of the title of the 1936 film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The film cost $713,511 to make, and had only made $241,000 back by 1946, the year it was withdrawn from circulation. The film had failed at the box office. Under the reissue title, Hoppity has had multiple re-releases on home video (with inferior image quality) throughout the 1970s to its recent DVD release by Legend Films, in which the studio re-titled the film again to Bugville. The film has now become a cult favorite with a younger generation of animators and animation buffs.
The film was acquired in the 1950's, by National Telefilm Associates (which became Republic). The film (as Hoppity Goes to Town) was officially released by Republic Pictures on VHS and laserdisc in May 1989. While NTA failed to renew copyrights to many of the films they acquired, Mr. Bug Goes to Town was one of the only few films that did get its copyright renewed. Despite the fact that the film is still copyrighted (by Republic successor Melange Pictures, managed by parent company Viacom, which also owns Paramount Pictures), public domain companies have released the film on VHS and DVD.
In Japan, the movie was released on December 19, 2009 as part of Studio Ghibli's Ghibli Museum Library. A DVD was released on April 2010 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment in Japan, and it has been reported to be a restoration of an NTA re-release print. Recently, Mr. Bug, along with many other Fleischer-produced cartoons (including the Fleischers' previous film, Gulliver's Travels), was restored from the original three-strip negatives by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Though a few art-house theaters have recently screened the restoration which features the original titles, there are currently no plans to release it on DVD or Blu-ray.
On October 21, 2012, the Turner Classic Movies channel debuted the film, transferred from an original 35mm Technicolor release print owned by the Museum of Modern Art Department of Film, for the first time on television in a special hosted by Robert Osborne and Jerry Beck dedicated to rare animated films, including Gulliver's Travels, Lotte Reiniger's The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the UPA cartoons and the silent cartoons of 1907 to 1932 of the New York Studios.
- Released as Bugville, Region 1 DVD, 2008: AllMovies.com website. Retrieved on February 15, 2008.
- Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons. New York: Oxford University Press. Pgs. 292-293. ISBN 0-19-516729-5.
- Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons. New York: Oxford University Press. Pgs. 303-305. ISBN 0-19-516729-5.
- Dispute between the Fleischers: from an article at the Washington Post website.
- Cartoon Brew: Disney releases Mr. Bug in Japan