Thursday, July 25, 2013

O. Ratz with Dave D. Fly in: "Rat in a Hot Tin Can"

Written and Directed by: Jerry Reynolds
Created by: Jerry Reynolds and Russ Harris
Animation by: Charlie Cooper, Andy Kuhn, Kyle Hayworth
Backgrounds Stylist: Andy Friz
Music: Jerry Reynolds
Voices: Harvey Korman, Marvin Kaplan, Nancy Dussault
Produced in Association with: Perennial Pictures Film Corporation, Indianapolis, Indiana.

So we move from a story-focused cartoon to another one, but this time, we exchange the 4th wall breaking jokes and inter-galactic setting for more character interaction and a more down-to-Earth plot and location. Add in some good use of humor, nice character animation, and absolutely wonderful voice acting, and you get a really good cartoon, and one of the best WAC shorts so far.

The premise here is our title characters trying out numerous ways to survive through a very cold winter. They try numerous ways to keep themselves warm, including trying to enter a shelter for the homeless, getting a blanket from a three-story clothesline, and trying to power up an electric heater. All of them end in failure, and our main characters have to find another place to spend the winter (much against their will).

There's actually a very nice feel to this cartoon. I've compared stuff to Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, and Jay Ward before, and if I had to do that with this short, I'll say this one is more like... DePatie-Freleng. The backgrounds seem quite inspired by Pink Panther cartoons, and it's great that despite being a winter setting, they manage to make them very colorful, with lots of details and eye candy to check out. The scene at the beginning inside O. Ratz's trash can has lots of objects that are fun to point out, including a newspaper with a rather interesting headline.

But what really shines about this short is the absolutely brilliant voice acting. Harvey Korman is great as O. Ratz, giving him a hilarious British gentleman accent, which is evident from the first moment he speaks ("My mother did not raise me to spend the winter in a garbage can"). It's a voice that fits perfectly with his character. Even better are his interactions with Dave, with a lot of the short's highlights being the conversations between the two ("Because I was born a humble rodent am I forced to wander these cruel street forever?" "Forever? Just a minute ago you said you wouldn't live through the night." "Either way, it ain't pretty."). It's also amazing how likable O. Ratz is, despite all the bad stuff that happens to him through the cartoon. He's just trying to survive, so you do sympathize with him, but his somewhat jerky attitude towards Dave also lets us laugh when something bad happens to him.

Perhaps the only thing about the short that's rather hit-or-miss is the humor. There are some really funny moments like O. Ratz getting an extension cord for his heater, but there are several scenes that end with O. Ratz getting run over by either a vehicle or a crowd of people. I guess it's supposed to be a running gag, but at the same time it feels like they forgot to add in a punchline and they just threw that joke in for lack of anything better.

All in all, O. Ratz is definitely among the best ones so far. It has a funny and likable duo for the main characters, it's well laid out and animated, and has some of the best dialogue and voice acting we've seen so far, definitely placing this short among the ones that deserve to be seen. It's too bad nothing ever came out of this short, but I guess that cements it as a really memorable one-shot.

Heh. That's actually pretty clever.

Some good animation with O. Ratz pulling the fly swatter and almost getting Dave. Also, check out the stuff he keeps around. A pizza box, newspapers, and a jar of something I prefer to think it's honey. I wonder what "GLO CUP" is, maybe one of those cups that glow in the dark? A bit desperate for a source of light.

I do like the part where O. Ratz gets his tongue stuck in the trash can's wall, followed by Dave pulling it off-screen and O. Ratz screaming. Also, check the newspaper headline "Mayor Vows to Wipeout Rats". Why would O. Ratz keep a newspaper with such a headline around?

Nice running animation on O. Ratz with the repeated feet.

More great dialogue. "Frankly I'm surprised street people are so sensitive to rodents." "Oh, shut up."

More great animation as O. Ratz climbs the drain. Also like how his plan fails by trying to jump to the roof but falling inside the drain instead.

This looks kinda painful. They could have tried adding some cracks to the brick wall, because as it is I feel disturbed imagining how O. Ratz's fingers and toes would end after this.

"'Why don't you just take the stairs to the roof?' Stupid fly, think of that before I got a brain concussion." I love how O. Ratz says the first line mocking Dave's voice, as for the rest of the line, well, you didn't think of it either, didn't you, O. Ratz?

Some nice squash-and-stretch as O. Ratz walks through the clothesline.

More great dialogue: "Your blanket seems to be frozen stiff." "Either that, or they used a cheap fabric softener."

For some reason I really like how this scene plays. It's not particularly funny, but there's a nice, warm feel to it that's really well executed. It seems O. Ratz finally will catch a break, but too bad it won't last long.

This is a great shot, as it shows the moment of defeat really well. Although they kinda overkill it with O. Ratz getting run by a car in the next shot. I think it would have worked better if they had just fade out on the screenshot above.

Some more good animation when O. Ratz trips on the heater buried in the snow. Also, this part is a great example of the colorful backgrounds despite the snowy setting.

I love the part where O. Ratz tries to pull an extension cord from a house, only to find out it's a mess of a tangled wire and he only makes things worse when trying to untangle it. The last shot above is hilarious.

And of course, Dave gives the wire a couple of gentle pulls and it gets miraculously fixed off-screen. It's absurd, but hilarious absurd.

I almost want to call this a "Getting crap past the radar" moment. There's no way any kids cartoon this day will get away with someone trying to put out an electric generated fire with a water hose. Great effects on O. Ratz getting electrocuted, too.

"Well, I hope that at least we're headed towards a warmer climate" "Don't count on it. I think I see penguins down there." Farewell, O. Ratz and Dave. Even if you didn't get a second outing, I hope you found some cozy cabin in the South Pole.


  1. Perennial Pictures Film Corporation isn't known that well around here though they've done a series of TV specials int he 80's and 90's like "A Merry Mirthworm Christmas" and a couple other projects out in a part of the country we would not associate animation as coming from. A recent piece of work (though from a decade ago) I saw of theirs was a series of educational cartoons meant to be played to pre-school children called "Crawford's Corner".