140. The Dover Boys – Chuck Jones

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SUMMARY: The Dover Boys, Tom, Dick and Larry, attempt to save their fiance Dora Standpipe from the villainous Dan Backslide. But Dora can evidently take care of herself.

WHY IT’S HERE: Chuck Jones’s ‘The Dover Boys’ is out and out one of the funniest cartoons ever made. From a cracking and atypical script by Tedd Pierce which satirises the melodramatic boy’s books of the early 20th century, Jones seizes the opportunity to create something different. Much to the studio’s dismay, Jones opted to experiment with a stylised and minimal design. The characters look very different from your average Warner Bros. characters and they snap from pose to pose extremely quickly, making for an exceedingly pacey film. The Dover Boys are three students from Pimento university who pride themselves on being extremely wholesome despite sharing a fiancé between the three of them. This fiancé, Dora, is one of the most remarkable things in the whole short. Her first appearance, in which she imitates a cuckoo clock and then charges down the stairs without even moving her legs, epitomises the quirky style of ‘The Dover Boys’ and is an early indication of just how wonderfully well this unusual approach works. She is also a great example of a subversion of the damsel in distress stereotype, assuming that role while clearly indicating she can take care of herself better than any man ever could.

The cartoon, however, really belongs to the villain, the green-faced Dan Backslide. Beautifully designed and animated, he gets all the best lines, many of which are made all the funnier by one of Mel Blanc’s finest ever voice characterizations. Throw in a bizarre and disturbingly arbitrary running gag, a great narration by John McLeish and a handful of hilarious gags and peculiar animation techniques and you have one of the classic shorts in animation history. ‘The Dover Boys’ is a lesser discussed cartoon in comparison to the more well known shorts in the Chuck Jones canon (‘One Froggy Evening’, ‘What’s Opera Doc’, ‘Duck Amuck’ etc.) but for those who have seen it, it remains an unforgettable and extraordinarily important film that has a far reaching influence, not least on those wonderful cartoons made by UPA.

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