HOPPITY GOES TO TOWN, 1941
Starring: Stan Freed, Pauline Loth, Tedd Pierce and Jack Mercer
From the creators of Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor and the first short cartoon series of Superman comes “Hoppity Goes to Town”. Hoppity the grasshopper comes back to the ‘lowlands’ only to discover that things aren’t as rosy for the bugs as they used to be.
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After Fleischer studios had released their animated version of “Gulliver’s Travels” to great success they began work on another animation which they hoped would be just as successful; “Mr. Bug Goes to Town”. Unfortunately for Fleischer Studios what was released as “Hoppity Goes to Town” was a commercial failure, mainly due to it finally being released on December 9th 1941, two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
The film is probably one of the first films which deals with humans encroaching on and doing damage to nature. Possibly the first environmentally conscious film. The story is about a town of anthropomorphic bugs that live in a small garden area which is supposed to be fenced off from the city. However the fence has fallen down and so humans walk through the garden and trample the bugs’ town, which they call ‘lowland’.
Hoppity (Stan Freed) returns to the lowlands and is greeted by everyone there especially Mr. Bumble (Jack Mercer) and his daughter, Honey (Pauline Loth), whom Hoppity falls instantly in love with. Compounding the problems of their entire town being trampled is C. Bagley Beetle (Tedd Pierce) who wants to marry Honey himself and will stop at nothing to do it. Time and again Beetle and his cronies defeat Hoppity’s attempts at saving the entire lowlands and the bugs that live there.
The animation is pretty good considering that this film was released just two months after Disney’s “Dumbo” film. This is also something which added to the problems that plague the production of this film. Originally ‘Hoppity’ was meant to be released in November of 1941 but Paramount, who owned Fleischer Studios, pushed back the release date thinking that they couldn’t compete with a Disney animation. Personally this is something I really hate, when studios push back a release date of a film in order to capitalise on profits. Just be brave and release the film, in this case it would have been way more successful than it was.
The musical score is typical for cartoon features of the 1940’s. Quite often the music dictates the characters movements and even scene changes. There are several times where Hoppity or some of the other characters walk in time to the music or indeed run and jump to the tunes.
The plot is pretty basic by our 21st century standards but at the time there were few other films, and next to no feature length cartoons that dealt with the problems of city expansion in regards to the native wild life. Indeed I am sure many people didn’t even really care.
This is a charming children’s classic which if you can find I recommend. As far as I am aware this is one of the few Fleischer animations which hasn’t gone out of copyright and into the public domain. However by some lucky administrative cock-up many of those public domain companies which produce those low quality Video tapes and nowadays DVDs have still been able to release “Hoppity Goes to Town”.
If you have kids or you just like old timey animation then go down to your nearest Bargain store or library and rent/buy “Hoppity/Mr. Bug Goes to Town”. If nothing else it’ll keep the kids entertained for a while.