The Dover Boys
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|"The Dover Boys at Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall"|
|Merrie Melodies series|
|Directed by||Charles M. Jones|
|Produced by||Leon Schlesinger|
|Story by||Tedd Pierce|
|Voices by||(All uncredited)
The Sportsmen Quartet
|Music by||Carl W. Stalling|
|Animation by||Robert Cannon|
|Layouts by||John McGrew|
|Backgrounds by||Gene Fleury|
|Studio||Leon Schlesinger Productions|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
|Release date(s)||September 19, 1942 (USA)|
|Running time||9 min. (one reel)|
"The Dover Boys at Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" (also known as simply The Dover Boys) is a 1942 Merrie Melodies cartoon produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions and directed by Chuck Jones. It was released by Warner Bros. on September 19, 1942. The cartoon is a parody of the Rover Boys, a popular juvenile fiction book series of the early 20th century. Jones would later remark that The Dover Boys was the first cartoon of his he found to be funny. In 1994, the cartoon was voted #49 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.
The cartoon is one of a handful from WB to enter the public domain, due to United Artists - which had bought Associated Artists Productions (whose library was later absorbed into WB's own television unit) - not renewing the copyright.
The three Dover Boys, Tom, Dick, and Larry (a play on both the Rover Boys' names Tom, Sam, and Dick, and the generic reference "Tom, Dick, and Harry"), who attend Pimento University ("good old P.U."), are introduced. "A gay outing at the park has been planned by the merry trio, and they are off to fetch 'their' fiancée, dainty Dora Standpipe (a play on the name of the eldest Rover's fiancée Dora Stanhope), at Miss Cheddar's Female Academy, close by." (The occurrences of the names Pimento, Cheddar, and Roquefort are another play on words, reflecting the Rover Boys' old school of Colby Hall.)
The Boys are called upon to rescue Dora when she is kidnapped by the nefarious stock villain Dan Backslide (a play on the name of the Rover Boys series villain Dan Baxter). "The former sneak of Roquefort Hall, coward, bully, cad, and thief, and arch-enemy of the Dover Boys," his feelings for Dora are summed up in his comment, "How I love her! … (father's money!)" Backslide then steals a conveniently placed, unoccupied runabout (after loudly declaring his intention to do so), which he uses to kidnap an oblivious Dora while she and the Dover Boys are playing hide-and-seek, spiriting her away to a remote mountain lodge. But Backslide soon discovers that, despite appearances, Dora is anything but dainty; she proceeds to administer a sound thrashing to the villain, all the while acting the damsel in distress—crying for help and pounding on the door (with the locks on her side) and on Backslide—until he is himself crying out for help from Tom, Dick, and Larry.
When the Dover Boys finally arrive, they lay a few punches on the by-now barely conscious Backslide before managing to knock each other out in unison as Backslide collapses to the floor safely beneath their swinging fists. Dora is then escorted away by an odd grey-bearded man in a nineteenth century bathing suit and sailor's cap who was a running gag throughout the cartoon, appearing periodically to interrupt the story by shuffling across the screen to the tune of Ed Haley's "While Strolling Through the Park One Day." He and Dora proceed to shuffle off into the sunset as the cartoon concludes with the familiar iris-out.
From time to time throughout the cartoon, the Boys lapse into various renditions of their alma mater, sung to the tune of George Cooper and Henry Tucker's "Sweet Genevieve": "Pimento U, Oh sweet P.U., your fragrant odor fills the air" etc.
The Dover Boys is notable for being one of the earliest Warner Bros. cartoons to utilize limited animation in some of its scenes, though pressure from Warner Bros. curtailed much further use of the technique. In addition, the short is among the earliest Schlesinger/Warner Bros. cartoons to utilize "smear" animation, where characters move with sudden bursts of speed depicted with only a frame or two of a smeared image between two extreme poses. Jones would go on to use similar animation techniques in later cartoons he directed starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Stylized animation would later be made famous by the artists at startup animation studio UPA, for which Jones moonlighted to direct the political film Hell-Bent for Election in 1944.
According to Jones, Schlesinger and the Warner Bros. studio executives were less than pleased when they screened The Dover Boys, and went through the process of attempting to fire him, despite the fact that the studio wanted him to abandon his Disney-like animation (this cartoon might have been seen as going too far to do so). A replacement for Jones could not be easily found, so he was kept aboard.
Although voice credits from Warner Bros. cartoons are not easy to find beyond Mel Blanc, it is assumed that John McLeish voiced the part of the narrator (he performed a similar role as the stately, unctuous narrator on several Goofy shorts for the Disney studio). The voice of Tom Dover was performed by long-time Termite Terrace writer Tedd Pierce, who also provided the story. Vocal harmonies were provided by The Sportsmen Quartet, from Jack Benny's radio program. Dora was voiced by Bea Benaderet. Dan Backslide (Mel Blanc) was a caricature of Jones' animator Ken Harris. McLeish also narrated the cartoon The Rocky Road to Ruin, adding to the similarity between it and The Dover Boys on top of similar character design and what was then called the "modern" visual style of cartoons, which evolved into the UPA style.
The characters Tom, Dick, and Larry would later make cameo appearances on the 1990s Fox and WB network series Animaniacs, alongside Slappy Squirrel in "Frontier Slappy," while singing discrediting lyrics about Daniel Boone (voiced by Jim Cummings), the Warners in "Magic Time", and in Wakko's Wish. A short clip of this cartoon is featured in the opening credits of "Less Than Hero", an episode of another Fox TV show, Futurama. They also appeared cheering in the stands late in the mixed animation/live-action movie Space Jam. A segment of the cartoon is featured briefly in an episode of Agent Carter where it is used as part of a subliminal messaging tool of the Black Widow program.
- Maltin, Leonard. Of Mice And Magic: A History Of American Animated Cartoons (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Plume. p. 427. ISBN 0-452-25993-2.
- Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-betweens - A Life in Animation (PBS 2000)
- Beck, Jerry (editor) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons. Atlanta: Turner Publishing. Pg. 182.
- Barrier, Michael. "Interviews: John McGrew". Retrieved 2010-01-29.
- Canemaker, John (March 1980). "Chuck Jones". Cartoonists PROfiles (45): 14–19. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
- Adam Abraham (2012). When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 38—40.