Next to edible pizza, Italian beef "sangwitches," and Pekin House egg rolls (made with baby shrimp, morsels of barbecued pork, and peanut butter to bind them), squirrels are what I most miss about Chicago. Apart from a sprinkling of them on the Sixth Avenue side of Balboa Park, I never see what my father called "rats in raccoon coats" roaming our gutters or dancing across high tension wires. The only squirrels on display in San Diego are those elected to office.
National Wildlife Federation and Open Road Films, producers of The Nut Job, America's #1 (only?) family film, are joining forces to spread the word about National Squirrel Appreciation Day.
Much as I enjoy Surly's pursuance in The Nut Job, he's far from my top movie marmot. Ditto for Rocket J. Squirrel, most American's choice for favorite animated rodent. Next time you revisit Rocky, Bullwinkle, and the gang in Frostbite Falls, MN, turn the picture off for a minute or two and just concentrate on the dialogue. I love the characters and vocalizations, but let's face facts: as far as exploring the limits of animation goes, R&B is radio with pictures.
Unleashed from the bountiful imagination of squash-and-stretch guru Tex Avery, even Screwy's "father" couldn't stand the buck-toothed little bastard. In his youth, animation historian Joe Adamson would send Avery fan letters with sketches of the bushy-tailed varmint drawn on the back of the envelope. When the two finally met, Adamson asked if Avery recalled receiving any letters with Screwy's likeness on their containers. He remembered the letters and what he did with them: any correspondence that referenced Screwy Squirrel was promptly deposited in the nearest trash receptacle.
Screwy is the most unlikable, unsympathetic, and aggressively antisocial character in all cartoon creation. No wonder I worship at the altar of his nuts. Screwy has the distinction of being the only cartoon creation to suffer from constant post-nasal drip. Apparently the only object Screwy couldn't summon with the wave of a hand was a handkerchief.
After only five shorts produced between 1944-46 (Screwball Squirrel, Happy-Go-Nutty, Big-Heel Watha, The Screwy Truant, and Lonesome Lenny), Screwy's pelt was put in permanent cold storage.
Picking a favorite Screwy Squirrel cartoon is more difficult than selecting a favorite finger, but I'm inclined to go with The Screwy Truant to honor National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Screwy escapes from a mental institution with padded (and padlocked) cells only to spend seven minutes picking on (and apart) a clueless bloodhound. Here is one squirrel who can teach Norman Bates a few things about knife-handling technique.
Happy NSAD, and by all means enjoy the mean-spiritedness!
PS: Would someone please light a fire under the asses of Warner Home Video execs and get the remaining Tex Avery shorts released on Blu-ray as of yesterday. Thank you!