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Cartoon History Lesson #21: Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Looney Tunes are the masters when it comes to creating iconic animated sex symbols. Bugs Bunny will forever be the first drag queen children will come across unless they are lucky enough to have one as a father (a drag queen, not a rabbit).

As Fall slams the green mountains I’m reminded of swirling colorful leaves, red wine with dinner, and long cloaks in an array of hues. It also reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons that I was introduced to one day by my grandmother, Ruth, when I was home sick from school and feeling miserable. This cartoon was my introduction to “the wolf whistle” and the power of a curvy redhead. *RAWR!*

According to Wikipedia.com

Red Hot Riding Hood is an animated cartoon short subject, directed by Tex Avery and released on May 8, 1943 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In 1994 it was voted #7 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. It is one of Avery’s most popular cartoons, inspiring several of his own “sequel” shorts as well as influencing other cartoons and feature films for years afterward.

Plot

The story begins with the standard version of Little Red Riding Hood (with the wolf from Dumb-Hounded, the cartoon which saw the debut of Avery’s Droopy) until the characters suddenly rebel at this done-to-death staging and demand a fresh approach.

The annoyed narrator accedes to their demands and starts the story again in a dramatically different arrangement. Now the story is set in a contemporary urban setting, where Red is a cute and talented performer. The Wolf, who is following her, goes to a night club where Red performs. Red performs onstage (a rendition of the 1941 classic hit song “Daddy” by Bobby Troup) and the wolf goes absolutely insane over her. The wolf brings her to his table and tries to woo her but she wants nothing to do with him. Red escapes the Wolf, saying she’s going to her Grandma’s house, but when the Wolf arrives Red is nowhere to be found.

Grandma is an oversexed man-chaser who falls head over heels for the Wolf. Upon seeing him she whistles and says, “At last a wolf! Yahoo!” The Wolf tries to escape but Grandma blocks the exit and asks him, “What’s your hurry, hairy?” She locks the door, drops the key down the front of her evening gown, and poses provocatively for him. Soon after Grandma puts on a bright red shade of lipstick and tries to kiss the Wolf several times during his stay. He tries to escape, but the lovelorn granny chases after him. Every door the Wolf opens Grandma is there waiting with puckered lips. He finally makes his escape by jumping out a window, severely injuring himself in the process. As this is a Tex Avery cartoon he immediately recovers, and makes his way back to the nightclub. There, the Wolf says, “I’m fed up! I’m through with women. Why I’ll kill myself, before I’d even look at another babe.” Immediately after this, Red takes the stage and begins another performance. He pulls out two guns and commits suicide, but his ghost rises from his dead body and howls and whistles at her like he did earlier.

Censorship

The most famous element is the musical scene where Red performs and “Wolfie”, as she calls him, reacts in highly lustful wild takes. Those reactions were considered so energetic that the censors at the time demanded cuts in this scene and others.

The film’s original conclusion had Grandma marrying the wolf at a shotgun wedding (with a caricature of Tex Avery as the Justice of the Peace who marries them), and having the unhappy couple and their half-human half-wolf children attend Red’s show. This ending, deleted for reasons of implied bestiality and how it made light of marriage (something that was considered taboo back in the days of the Hays Office Code), was replaced with one (that, ironically, has also been edited, but only on television)….

Prints with the original ending (where the Wolf is forced to marry the lusty Grandma) and the Wolf’s racier reactions to Red are rumored to have been shown to military audiences overseas during World War II, though it is not known if this print still exists.

Homages

  • The gag where Grandma rushes to kiss Wolf, misses and leaves a giant lipstick imprint on the wall was also used in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon A Fine Feathered Frenzy when Gorgeous Gal tried to kiss Woody. She also shows up behind every door Woody opens ready to make out with him. Unlike Grandma, Gorgeous Gal does manage to kiss Woody several times during the film however. Gorgeous Gal marries Woody Woodpecker as well.
  • The scene where Grandma chases The Wolf was the inspiration for the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Lena Hyena chases Eddie Valiant. The wolf was also going to appear in the film (in one of the early drafts in the film’s script the wolf was supposed to be seen in the Ink and Paint Club during Jessica’s performance.) another draft of the script had him seen being kicked out with a bra on his face before Eddie went into the club, but these were dropped out later on.
  • The famous scene of The Wolf reacting lustfully in the club was directly referenced in The Mask where Stanley Ipkiss goes to the Coco Bongo club as the Mask. Seated at a similar table, he reacts to his first sight of Cameron Diaz‘s torch-singer character Tina Carlyle by mimicking many of the same cartoonish “wild takes” (achieved through the use of CGI), and his head even morphs into that of a cartoon wolf when he wolf-whistles and howls before bashing himself on the head with a mallet.There is also an early scene where The Mask’s wimpy alter ego, Stanley Ipkiss (played by Jim Carrey) pops in a cartoon video, which shows this cartoon (on the part where the Wolf is lustfully reacting to Red singing “Daddy”) and is yelled at by his landlady, Mrs. Peenman, after laughing at it.
  • Both Jessica Rabbit (of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Tina Carlyle (of The Mask) look and act like Red Hot Riding Hood from this cartoon, and they are both nightclub performers.
  • The infamous scene where Wolf acts exaggeratedly lustful is briefly featured in the PJTV “Ten in Two” episode “Goodbye Liberal Feminism” by Sonja Schmidt where she, in a satirical manner, compares it to how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded regarding one of his female colleagues.
  • The scene is parodied in an episode of The Simpsons where Dr. Hibbert claims Marge could develop “Tex Avery syndrome”. He then shows the Simpsons a video clip with a wolf reacting with wild eye takes to a nurse similar to Red Hot Riding Hood.
  • In the ending cut-scene of Earthworm Jim, Jim reacts to the sight of Princess Whats-Her-Name by re-enacting Wolfie’s lustfulness.

AND NOW I PRESENT TO YOU…(ignore the subtitles.)

 

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