Also, the Cupid Bird always seemed kind of gay to me. I knew it wasn't
my imagination. The writer who submitted the article about this cartoon,
Michael Barrier, said that this Cupid Bird was portrayed as gay. The bird
is male, yet he acts very feminine. He stands in a feminine pose, with a
hand on his hip. He giggles and talks with a lisp. It's amazing that that
got in there. I was under the impression that Hollywood never portrayed
gay characters in an obvious way during this time. And to think that Disney
portrayed an obvious gay character in this cartoon. I've always wondered
about that character, and another Disney person confirmed it for me; yeah,
that bird is gay. There's a book about the gay community's relationship
to the Disney Company; Tinker Belles and Evil Queens by Sean Griffin. I'm
not trying to push any kind of agenda; I'm just throwing it out there for
When Cock Robin has been shot by a mysterious shadow, the Keystone Cop-like
police randomly arrests some bystanders: a tough-looking guy, a black bird
(blacks were easily arrested just because of their colour) and a cuckoo
who resembles Harpo Marx. They're treated very roughly, being knocked by
the cops almost all the time. And when Jenny exclaims that justice should
be done, the judge simply orders to hang all verdicts even though nobody
knows who's guilty! It's Cupid, an obvious caricature of a homosexual,
who prevents this cruel sentence. Cock Robin appears to be alive, and finally
he and Jenny Wren reunite in a hot kiss. Thus ends one of the most spectacular
cartoons of the nineteen thirties.
If you’re familiar with the story of Cock Robin, this is not a lot like that. Here, Robin is serenading his lady love, Jenny Wren, when he is suddenly struck with an arrow. He falls from the branch he is in to the ground, and the entire town turns out to see his body.
What I love about this sequence is how it plays off of the tropes of detective films of the period. I’m a sucker for old movies, and have been watching on Turner Classic Movies for old film noir or detective films. Just like in those movies, here, the police show up and “round up the usual suspects” from a nearby bar, even though they were nowhere near Cock Robin.
Not only that, you have some stereotypical characters being rounded up, like the hard edged crook with the deep voice, the drunken lout and then a third bird that is a take off on Harpo Marx. The whole thing is very well done, and leads to the courtroom drama.
Again, this is a take off of courtroom dramas and detective films of the time. Here, an owl serves as a judge, while the jury is a chorus that enumerates the sins of the witnesses, who are interrogated by a parrot. The use of the parrot’s natural strut as an intimidation tactic for the witnesses is a fantastic touch.
Eventually, Jenny Wren shows up and demands justice. Jenny’s character is an obvious homage to Mae West, and she woos the entire courtroom instantly. The characterization of Jenny and the courtroom is hilarious, and really draws you into the short.
The big twist, because there always is one in courtroom dramas or detective stories, is that Cock Robin is not dead, but was shot by Cupid’s arrow, and fell on his head. He wakes up, kisses Jenny, and all is well.
I can’t say enough about how great a job the animators did in capturing the mood of a detective story here. From the opening titles in black and white, to the music that could have been silly but is instead played super serious, everything works together. You could call it a parody, but I would say it’s an homage. There is some serious work done here to make this feel real, not silly. Kudos to all those involved for pulling it off.
A rather dark cartoon, but set in a storybook woodland world we associate with the Silly Symphonies, I can't think of another Disney cartoon like this one. A little bit smarter and slightly more satirical than usual, I agree that this cartoon is a delight.
Another change happening in the Disney cartoons is the title cards. Recently most title cards have been pretty plain – coloured lettering on a grey background - but soon they'll all be handsomely illustrated works of art that carefully set the tone for the short that follows. The mysterious black and white titles with the hanging question mark, we see here, start the trend.
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Model SheetSubmitted by eutychus