Tex Avery, Dick Lundy, Michael Lah
It would be two years after Droopy’s debut (Dumb-Hounded) until he would appear again—in two westerns, The Shooting of Dan McGoo and Wild and Woolfy. From his very first scene, Droopy was always lagging behind, yet always one step ahead of his early nemesis, The Wolf. Avery’s fourth Droopy outing, Northwest Hounded Police (a sequel to Dumb-Hounded), is another featuring the witty Droopy as he pursues The Wolf after a second prison escape.
Between 1949’s Señor Droopy (where Droopy is first referred to by name) and 1951’s Droopy’s Double Trouble, the slow-pawed, quick-minded hound’s range included portraying a bullfighter, an heir to a family fortune (Wags to Riches, which marked Spike/Butch the bulldog’s first appearance), a foxhunter (where Droopy politely asked his “prey” to surrender), a casual athlete (The Chump Champ, in which our hero is in top form, both physical and comedic), a circus hopeful, a pup-scout, and a butler (the introduction of his twin brother Drippy is classic).
Following Double Trouble, Avery was on hiatus from the MGM animation studio. During this time, Dick Lundy (creator of Donald Duck) directed his only Droopy short, Caballero Droopy. Avery’s absence looms over the short, as Lundy stoops to tactics and animation not generally traveled in the land of Droopy.
Avery returned the following year for 1953’s The Three Little Pups, a clever take on the Three Little Pigs tale featuring an updated version of The Wolf. Drag-A-Long Droopy and Homesteader Droopy (with out of place narration) followed the western approach of Avery’s earlier works. One of the more groundbreaking Avery shorts was 1954’s Dixieland Droopy, a hip story that featured a modern approach to animation and cigarette-smoking fleas. It would be Avery’s next-to-last Droopy short as the sole director, and one of his final works at MGM. His assistant, Michael Lah, would serve as co-director on Deputy Droopy and take over the final six Droopy shorts after the Cinemascope-shot Millionaire Droopy, a remake of Wags to Riches.
Lah kept up with the times, assuring that Cinemascope would be featured in the remaining six Droopy shorts (most of which are mediocre at best), including the Academy Award nominated One Droopy Knight (1957). This was a feat that Avery never accomplished, at least not with his beloved hound. But the Oscar nomination (the award went to the Sylvester & Tweety short Birds Anonymous) means little in the long run of the Droopy saga. The stories, animation, and appeal of Droopy had faded without Tex Avery.
It isn’t the catchy one-liners (which Bugs Bunny essentially relied on) that make Droopy so appealing to audiences, though his monotonous delivery marks “You know what? I’m happy” as a staple in animated catchphrases. It’s his mild-mannered approach to being a “hero,” as he labeled himself in 1943 that is so endearing…and the genius gags certainly don’t hurt.
We should thank Tex Avery and Bill Thompson (producer Fred Quimby shouldn't go unmentioned, either) for this. Without these two men, Droopy would be less than a memory. Following a break from showbiz, Droopy appeared in a series of television shorts, this time voiced by both Frank Welker (Scooby Doo) and producer Lou Scheimer. In 1988, Droopy had a memorable cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit as an elevator operator. The lovable hound has made his way into the 21st century, courtesy of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, using Droopy’s trademark vocals to mock Senator Joe Lieberman.
Though he gets little work today, Droopy is implanted in our minds. He may not have the fanbase of a Bugs Bunny, but he’s got just as much wit, charm, creativity, and overall appeal to place him in the ranks.
Doggone Gags (5:03): This is a short collection of Droopy’s “best” gags, at least according to those putting together the disc. Worth a look, but only after viewing the original shorts.
There are also Trailers for upcoming DVD releases, including a strange looking cartoon called Wait Till Your Father Gets Home and Popeye the Sailor (1933-1938), Vol. 1.