Willie Whopper

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Willie Whopper is an animated cartoon character created by American animator Ub Iwerks. The Whopper series was the second from the Iwerks studio to be produced by Pat Powers and distributed through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It lasted only two years; from 1933 to 1934.

History[edit]

Willie is a young lad who tells of his many outlandish adventures, which are then depicted on-screen. His fantastic accounts are in fact, outright lies, or "whoppers". His stories are usually preceded by his memorable catchphrase, "Say, did I ever tell ya this one?"

The character's first-produced film was The Air Race (1933), in which Willie tells of how he entered in and won the 1933 National Air Race—even receiving a kiss from Amelia Earhart in the end. The short reflects Iwerks' own fascination with aviation. One scene even involves a plane crashing into a "Fireworks" stand which, afterwards is reduced in spelling to "I WERKS" (the animator Ub Iwerks' last name).

The Air Race was initially left unreleased because distributor MGM rejected it, asking for a revision to explain more about why Willie entered the race. In the largely reanimated revision—Spite Flight (1933)—the story shows Willie interested in the race's cash prize because it will help him pay off his girlfriend's mom's mortgage. The new footage also turns Willie's racing rival into the girlfriend's landlord.

Animator Grim Natwick initially designed Willie for The Air Race and the subsequent Play Ball, the character's first theatrical release. He was, at first, tall and lanky, much like a boy version of the earlier Flip the Frog. Iwerks wasn't completely satisfied with this design and decided to make the character more "cartoonlike". So, by the series' fourth entry, Stratos-Fear, Willie became roly-poly and more endearing to audiences. Critics too especially went for this new change. Before 1933 was over, Willie also appeared in his first Cinecolor endeavor, Davy Jones' Locker.

1934 was the final production year for the Whopper series. However, some of Willie's best emerged from this particular year. One interesting 1934 entry is The Good Scout, an outrageous short in which boy scout Willie manages to help a beautiful girl who has been kidnapped by a big brute in downtown New York City. The bulk of the film's soundtrack is composed of a jazzy Jelly Roll Morton 78-rpm record and its backgrounds are breathtaking. The short also features a Bosko look-alike, possibly a joke on the parts of Harman-Ising animators Bob Stokes and Norm Blackburn. The final entry in the series was Viva Willie released on September 20, 1934. Other Iwerks staffers on the series included Al Eugster, Norm Blackburn, Berny Wolf and Shamus Culhane (who referred to Willie as a "boy Baron von Münchhausen").

After MGM dropped Iwerks, they hired Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising to produce a cartoon series called Happy Harmonies directly for the studio. Harman and Ising had just left Warner Brothers, where they had been producing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Leon Schlesinger.

Filmography[edit]

1933[edit]

Film Original release date DVD / Blu-ray
The Air Race n/a Cartoons That Time Forgot (DVD)
Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Play Ball September 16, 1933 Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Spite Flight October 14, 1933 Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Stratos-Fear November 11, 1933 Cartoons That Time Forgot (DVD)
Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Davy Jones' Locker 1 December 9, 1933 Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)

1 Filmed in Cinecolor

1934[edit]

Film Original release date DVD / Blu-ray
Hell's Fire 1 January 6, 1934 Cartoons That Time Forgot (DVD)
Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Robin Hood, Jr. February 3, 1934 Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Insultin' the Sultan April 14, 1934 Cartoons That Time Forgot (DVD)
Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Reducing Creme May 19, 1934 Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Rasslin' Round June 1, 1934 Cartoons That Time Forgot (DVD)
Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Cave Man July 6, 1934 Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Jungle Jitters July 24, 1934 Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
The Good Scout September 1, 1934 Cartoons That Time Forgot (DVD)
Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)
Viva Willie September 20, 1934 Cartoons That Time Forgot (DVD)
Ub Iwerks' Willie Whopper (Blu-ray)

1 Filmed in Cinecolor

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Leslie Iwerks and John Kenworthy, The Hand Behind the Mouse (Disney Editions, 2001) and documentary of the same name (DVD, 1999)
  • Leonard Maltin, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons (Penguin Books, 1987)
  • Jeff Lenburg, The Great Cartoon Directors (Da Capo Press, 1993)