Susie The Little Blue Coupe, was a Disney cartoon short released in 1952. Like many Disney cartoon shorts it was written by Bill Peet and narrated by Sterling Holloway. Our protagonist is a beautiful shiny blue car named Susie. A lot of personified cars, like Brum or Benny the Cab from Who Framed Roger Rabbit for example, have their headlights as their eyes, indeed some cars in this short have that design.
Susie, however, has a windshield for eyes. She has a bonnet for a mouth, which gives her a big smile. Some of the other cars in the short share this design, but she has some unique features. Her eyes are larger than most of the other cars. She has long eyelashes, and a roof which looks a bit like blonde hair. Her basic design, including the large eye size, inspired the design for the 2006 Pixar film Cars.
Susie is a beautiful coupe, and a rich man falls instantly “in love” with her. She has a cheerful disposition and though she struggles keeping up with the traffic at first, and doesn’t quite fit in with the snooty limousines and bigger, more threatening cars, she’s quite happy and has a warm, cosy garage to go to sleep at night. However, as time goes on her mileage increases, her engine gets worn out, she gets older and her owner decides to trade her in for a newer model. Susie is then among second hand cars until she gets bought by a cigar-smoking guy, who uses her to get to back streets and sleazy bars and she is literally “left out in the cold” in winter. Eventually on one dark night a terrified Susie is stolen, and after a police car chase, she crashes and is taken to the scrap yard. When all seems lost, a young man spots Susie and buys her, takes her to his garage and remodels her into a hotrod, giving her a new beginning.
This cartoon is quite low on laughs, but that’s not to say it isn’t engaging. It’s more telling a life story. Most of the jokes are about car metaphors, indeed the whole premise of the cartoon is personifying a car. It’s a good thing we don’t live in a world where cars are sentient, really. Cartoons and Disney in particular are well known for giving inanimate objects a face and a personality, and this cartoon does a good job of making you care about Susie as a “person”, as odd as it might sound. With Susie’s story it can remind you of how humans sometimes treat other people badly, and with that it’s a very sad story, which luckily in Susie’s case, has a happy ending.
She has a likeable personality anyway. She’s very cheerful, and even if she finds things hard at first she makes the best of it. Then things get worse and worse for her, she gets mistreated, until finally fate is kind to her and gets a second chance.
There are some nice ideas in the animation. It shows the car world to be quite a scary place. Most of the vehicles on the road have faces, but they look angry, intimidating, and much bigger than Susie. Some of them have bumpers which look a bit like gritted teeth. In the second hand car unit the windshield “eyes” are closed so they look tired and worn out, and one of cars has a broken bumper which looks like he has crooked teeth.The scrap yard looks very like a graveyard, with old car parts scattered around looking like crosses and tombstones. It reminds of a cartoon, which sadly I can’t remember, I think it might have been Rocco’s Modern Life, which had a car crash and the car was taken away by The Grim Tow-Truck, to the gates of a scrap yard that resembled the pearly gates of heaven.
Susie The Little Blue Coupe is a very nice cartoon. It has a legacy these days as being the inspiration for design in Cars, but it’s worth checking out as a cartoon in its own right too.