Friends, it has been nearly two months since we’ve last had a Toon In offering, for this week I thought I would shine the spotlight on 1931’s Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!. A Merrie Melodies theatrical short, it was originally released on September 5 of 1931, one of three classic animated cartoons to feature the character of Foxy. In addition Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! was the second Merrie Melodies short to be produced, following the August 2nd cartoon entitled Lady, Play Your Mandolin!. While Foxy would make his final Merrie Melodies appearance just 28 days later with One More Time – the character is remembered for being one of the more recognizable clones of Mickey Mouse. In fact in an article on Don Markstein’s Toonpedia, the late and great comic and cartoon historian stated:
“Never in animation, before or since, has a character looked more like Mickey Mouse. Smooth out the tiny points that supposedly turned his big, round ears into fox ears, shave the bushiness off of his tail, and they were ringers. Do the same to his girlfriend (unnamed at the time), and she looked exactly like Minnie [Mouse]. They also acted like Mickey and Minnie did at the time. Despite this lack of originality, Foxy was the first character to originate at Warner (as opposed to being brought in from outside, like Bosko).”
The esteemed Markstein is totally on point with his statement, although perhaps it is understandable as animators Isadore “Friz” Freleng as well as Max Mawell, né Carman Maxwell both worked with Walt Disney. The duo along with Rudolf Ising and Hugh Harman would leave Disney and help head up the animation studio for Warner Bros. – in fact Ising was not only a co-producer and the director for Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! but provided the voice of Foxy as well.
A couple of interesting bits of trivia to close out this article – this 1931 theatrical short is quite similar to Trolley Troubles from 1927, the first cartoon to feature Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and directed by Walt Disney. I also learned that when the hippo is speaking to Foxy, the unintelligible mumbling is actually someone saying “Susie heard one of those Atlantic bells! Whataya think?” in reverse!