Foney Fables, a Warner Brothers/Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng was released in 1942. If I’m being perfectly honest, it’s not a cartoon I rate that highly, but it is quite interesting. The animation is a little sketchy and there glitches, such as one where a baby’s leg disappears and appears again, but to be fair it was produced during World War II, and it’s that historical context which I find interesting.
Watching in the modern day, it has a sort of double layer of history to it. The cartoon is a series of jokes relating to fairy tales. While fairy tales have no real setting other than “Once Upon A Time”, they tend to be depicted as some time vaguely in Europe in the medieval era. This is the case here, and it has another layer because it was produced during the Second World War.
It contains some wartime propaganda. In an Ant and the Grasshopper sketch, when the ant tells the grasshopper he’ll starve in winter as he’s lazing about not working, the grasshopper reveals he has bought war bonds, which were a way of civilians investing into the war effort with an added benefit that they would be paid more than they spent for it in ten years time. The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg has given up laying golden eggs and instead is laying aluminium eggs to donate so they can be recycled into weapons for the war. Then there is Old Mother Hubbard, who opens one door of her cupboard to her dog to show it is empty other than cobwebs. But then the dog opens the other side to see it is filled with food. The dog angrily shouts out of the window branding Old Mother Hubbard a “food hoarder”, which was when people had secret stashes of food that was rationed during the war, and it was seen as greedy to keep so much food for yourself.
The way they show some of the fairytales is interesting too. Jack and the Beanstalk has a two headed giant (the joke being one of the heads has been sick so can’t keep up), but I’ve never heard of a version of Jack and the Beanstalk with a two headed giant other than this cartoon. There is a version of Aladdin with the character shown as a quite bit older than the character usually is, having a beard and wearing a turban. The joke in this one is the genie is on strike. There is a Big Bad Wolf who disguises himself as a sheep and finds another wolf there trying the same trick. Both wolves look very, very similar to the Disney Silly Symphonies Big Bad Wolf. Similarly, Old Mother Hubbard’s dog looks a bit like Disney’s Pluto.
It has something in common with the other cartoon I reviewed A Day At The Zoo, in that both have a running plot of someone being an annoying pest, getting warned against that by the narrator, and getting comeuppance in the end by getting eaten. In this cartoon it’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf who gets eaten by a wolf at the end. Another thing this cartoon has in common with A Day At The Zoo is that while it doesn’t have any of the famous Warner Brothers cartoon characters, signs of some of them are there. Mel Blanc provides the voices in the cartoon, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf has the same voice as Bugs Bunny, while the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg has the same voice as Daffy Duck.