Apr 16, 2015

Review: The Practical Pig (1939)

The Practical Pig is the fourth and final film in the Disney Three Little Pigs animated short film series that all began in 1933. Sadly, it is the second last film that Disney released under the Silly Symphonies umbrella, with The Ugly Duckling being released less than two months later. Mainly used as a way for Disney to experiment, they still managed to walk away with an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film seven times in a ten year period. Only MGM's Tom and Jerry posed a significant threat to this run which is pretty impressive.

_______________________________________________________________________________

At a Glance


Genre: animation, comedy, short
Directed by: Dick Rickard
Produced by: Walt Disney
Written by: Larry Clemmons
Music by: Frank Churchill, Paul J. Smith
Running time: 8 minutes
Production company: Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Billy Bletcher, Pinto Colvig, Dorothy Compton, Mary Moder

_______________________________________________________________________________III

Synopsis


Practical Pig (voice: Pinto Colvig) is hard at work on a new contraption to combat the Big Bad Wolf (voice: Billy Bletcher), this time being a lie detector. Seeing him work so hard, Fifer (voice: Dorothy Compton) and Fiddler Pig (voice: Mary Moder) can't help but laugh their heads off. They decide to go relax and take a swim in the pond. Despite Practical's stern warning about the Big Bad Wolf being around, they go anyway. 

Review


Fifer and Fiddler are just as dumb as they usually are. Without Practical Pig around, they'd have been turned into a pork roast long ago. That wouldn't make for much of a movie now would it though? Not a light, kid-friendly Disney movie anyway. Fifer and Fiddler don't deserve Practical's help, but even after all these movies it's still fun to watch the duo dig themselves into a hole.

It's maybe not quite as fun this time though. I suppose it's that the folks at Disney were running out of ideas to keep the series fresh and fell into the trap of including what seems to be more slapstick than ever before. Slapstick was always part of the series, but it seems to be much more of a crutch this time. Even the fact that the behinds of Fifer and Fiddler are emphasized like never before seems a bit cheap to me. 

When I started watching it, I was beginning to think that The Practical Pig would be the end of references to World War II and Adolf Hitler. It certainly seemed that way at first anyway. What I'll say is that the Big Bad Wolf no longer seems to be a stand-in for Hitler, but his interrogation by lie detector definitely seems to indicate some sort of WWII reference. Although the scene in question is lighthearted, it's torture of an enemy pure and simple. All in good fun though right?

Besides reusing "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" like the past two sequels, there's no original song in The Practical Pig like there was in Three Little Wolves for example. That really just makes me think that the film was a last ditch effort in getting a little extra revenue out of Silly Symphonies without putting too much work in. While the Big Bad Wolf is as funny as ever, I would've preferred to see a bit of a detour from the Three Little Pigs formula.

In the end, The Practical Pig shows that Disney shorts can still be funny even when not firing on all cylinders. It's a watered-down retread that still finds laughs now and again which makes it a success in my books. While I would have preferred to see some of the more subtle attempts at humour from past movies, you can't really go wrong with The Practical Pig or any Disney short for that matter.

Rating


6.5/10

Related Reviews: 


Three Little Pigs (1933)
The Big Bad Wolf (1934)
Three Little Wolves (1936)