Apr 11, 2015

Review: Three Little Wolves (1936)

You thought Disney was done with short films that were metaphors for brewing tensions in pre-World War II Europe and positioned the Big Bad Wolf as a substitute for Adolf Hitler? They hadn't even started yet. Burt Gillett was gone as director, but in stepped David Hand who was another veteran of Disney cartoons. While you might think that Three Little Wolves might suffer from a downgrade in quality as a third film in a series, you'd be wrong about that just like I was.


At a Glance

Genre: animation, comedy, short
Directed by: David Hand
Produced by: Walt Disney
Written by: William Cottrell, Joe Grant, Bob Kuwahara
Music by: Frank Churchill
Running time: 9 minutes
Production company: Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by: United Artists
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

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



The Big Bad Wolf (voice: Billy Bletcher) is teaching his mischievous three sons about the different cuts of pork before they set out to try and catch some pig. Meanwhile, Fifer (voice: Dorothy Compton) and Fiddler Pig (voice: Mary Moder) make a game out of blowing the horn specifically set out to call for help in the event that the Big Bad Wolf shows up. Practical Pig (voice: Pinto Colvig) isn't impressed and warns them that he won't fall for their tricks again. He doesn't. 


Three Little Wolves finds Disney once again referencing several different fairy tales in what is quite the satisfying package. It's pretty clear that Aesop's The Boy Who Cried Wolf is there as Fifer and Fiddler take on the role of the titular boy. There's also a reference to Little Bo Peep as the Big Bad Wolf uses the character as his disguise of the film after previously dressing up as Goldilocks and an outrageously racist take on a Fuller brush salesman in the previous films.

But don't think for a second that Disney throws his penchant for turning the Big Bad Wolf into some kind of Hitler proxy out the window. That connection couldn't be more obvious as he carries a heavy German accent while singing about "pegsen feet" and "curly cues" in his pig meat lesson. It's just so wrong, but so funny at the same time. The song is quite amusing if far from politically correct. It was just a different time folks. 

It's surprising though just how much more inspired Three Little Wolves feels in comparison to The Big Bad Wolf. It doesn't quite reach the classic status of Three Little Pigs, but it's really not that far off. Slapstick humour is satisfying and the visual gags are also quite rich. The song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" makes an appearance, but it isn't leaned on too heavily which is nice. Quite simply, Three Little Wolves finds its own voice. 

Will Fifer and Fiddler Pig ever learn their lesson? I guess we'll find out in the final sequel to Three Little Pigs, The Practical Pig. With this third film. it would appear that director David Hand was able to breathe new life into this series because Three Little Wolves is a rare example of a sequel that improves on the previous sequel that came before it. Even 79 years later, TLW is still funny and that's no small accomplishment.



Related Reviews:


Three Little Pigs (1933)
The Big Bad Wolf (1934)
The Practical Pig (1939) 

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