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Western Animation: Chilly Willy

Chilly Willy is a cartoon character created by the Walter Lantz Studio. He is a penguin whose original motivation consisted of a desire to find warmth, unable to stand the cold. He had a precursor in Pablo, the Cold-Blooded Penguin, a character with identical motivation. Pablo starred in a segment of The Three Caballeros (1944) but was a one-shot character. Animation buffs Giannalberto Bendazzi and Don Markstein dismissed Chilly as a mere Clone of Pablo, but it is unclear whether Lantz was familiar with the earlier character. The idea of a penguin protagonist was reportedly suggested to him by mystery writer Stuart Palmer (1905-1968).

Chilly debuted in the animated short Chilly Willy (1953), directed by Paul J. Smith. In said cartoon, Chilly tries to sneak onboard a polar schooner to get access to its stove. The ship's mascot, a Saint Bernard dog, has been specifically instructed to let nobody aboard. Their conflicting interests result in some comedic episodes until Chilly gets the dog drunk. The short ends with the former mascot thrown into the brig and Chilly assigned as his replacement. While adequately funny, the short was not particularly successful.

The following year, Lantz assigned another director to the character: Tex Avery, who was asked to make the character work. Avery felt that the problem was Chilly being overly cute; a "little fuzzy wuzzy penguin" was not inherently funny. He resolved to have Chilly's opponents being the funny ones. Avery directed only two Chilly shorts: I'm Cold (1954) and The Legend of Rockabye Point (1955). The former had Chilly attempting to steal a fur coat from an Alaska fur factory. He has to face the watchdog, Smedley, in his first appearance. Smedley has a Southern drawl, and a deadpan style of delivering lines. The latter short had Chilly and a polar bear compete in stealing fish from aboard a fishing ship. The bear constantly has to face the teeth of an aggressive bulldog who falls asleep whenever he hears lullabies. Both shorts were considerably funnier than their predecessor.

"Rockabye Point" was the most successful film of the series, because the script-writer was Michael Maltese. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Animated Short Film, though it lost to "Speedy Gonzales" (1955), a Merrie Melodies entry starring Speedy Gonzales and Sylvester the Cat. Lantz had reasons to continue the series. Avery was replaced by Alex Lovy, who continued the series in an Avery-like format for most of the 1950s. When Lovy left the Lantz studio, Chilly was handled by other directors, such as Jack Hannah and Sid Marcus, before eventually coming full circle and having Paul J. Smith take over as the sole director in 1967. The series ended with its 50th cartoon short in 1972, but only because the studio itself shut down its operations.

Chilly was revived in episodes of "The New Woody Woodpecker Show" (1999-2002) but did not return to prominence. The character was an also-ran in the comic book medium. He headlined nine issues from Dell Comics between 1956 and 1962, otherwise only receiving stories in the back pages of magazines featuring Woody Woodpecker as their main star.

     Theatrical Cartoon Filmography 

1953

  • Chilly Willy, directed by Paul J. Smith.

1954

1955

  • The Legend of Rockabye Point, directed by Tex Avery.
  • Hot and Cold Penguin, directed by Alex Lovy.

1956

  • Room and Wrath, directed by Alex Lovy.
  • Hold That Rock, directed by Alex Lovy.
  • Operation Cold Feet, directed by Alex Lovy.

1957

  • The Big Snooze, directed by Alex Lovy.
  • Swiss Miss-Fit, directed by Alex Lovy.

1958

  • Polar Pest, directed by Alex Lovy.
  • A Chilly Reception, directed by Alex Lovy.
  • Little Televillain, directed by Alex Lovy.

1959

  • Robinson Gruesome, directed by Alex Lovy.
  • Yukon Have It, directed by Alex Lovy.

1960

  • Fish Hooked, directed by Paul J. Smith.

1961

  • Mackerel Moocher, directed by Jack Hannah.
  • Clash and Carry, directed by Jack Hannah.
  • St. Moritz Blitz, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Tricky Trout, directed by Jack Hannah.

1962

  • Fish and Chips, directed by Jack Hannah.

1963

  • Salmon Loafer, directed by Sid Marcus.
  • Pesky Pelican, directed by Sid Marcus.

1964

  • Deep-Freeze Squeeze, directed by Sid Marcus.
  • Lighthouse-Keeping Blues, directed by Sid Marcus.
  • Ski-Napper, directed by Sid Marcus.

1965

  • Fractured Friendship, directed by Sid Marcus.
  • Half Baked Alaska, directed by Sid Marcus.
  • Pesty Guest, directed by Sid Marcus.

1966

  • Snow Place Like Home, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • South Pole Pals, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Polar Fright, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Teeny Weeny Meany, directed by Sid Marcus.

1967

  • Operation Shanghai, directed by Sid Marcus.
  • Vicious Viking, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Hot Time on Ice, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Chilly And The Woodchopper, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Chilly Chums, directed by Paul J. Smith.

1968

  • Under Sea Dogs, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Highway Hecklers, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Chiller Dillers, directed by Paul J. Smith.

1969

  • Project Reject, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Chilly and the Looney Gooney, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Sleepy Time Bear, directed by Paul J. Smith.

1970

  • Gooney's Goofy Landings, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Chilly's Ice Folly, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Chilly's Cold War, directed by Paul J. Smith.

1971

  • A Gooney is Born, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Airlift A La Carte, directed by Paul J. Smith.
  • Chilly's Hide-A-Way, directed by Paul J. Smith.

1972

  • The Rude Intruder, directed by Paul J. Smith.

Tropes Related to the Original Theatrical Cartoons:

  • Angry Guard Dog: Mostly averted. Smedley is essentially a guard dog in most of his roles. He is rarely actually angry, mostly calm and determined.
  • Bad Boss: Smedley tends to have a different boss in each episode. But they all have common points in being verbally abusive to him, several were physically abusive, and Colonel Pot Shot seemed eager to shoot at his employee. A common joke of the series is that Smedley is trying to rationalize and excuse their behavior.
  • Beary Funny: Maxie the Polar Bear is cute and funny, rather than a large predator.
  • Captain Obvious: Smedley tended to do this a lot. His first appearance has him react to Chilly's theft of a fox fur right in front of him with "I think that was a fur thief" and to Chilly's repeated attempts to steal his tail with "He's got my tail" and "He's got my tail again".
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: For obvious reasons.
  • Freeze Sneeze: Happens to Willy in his first appearance, and presumbably several of the subsequent ones.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "I'm Cold", chilly lives in a village called "Colder'nell"
  • Great White Hunter: Colonel Pot Shot. He has a vast collection of stuffed animals, each a trophy from a previous hunting expedition.
  • Growling Gut: Featured prominently in Deep-Freeze Squeeze, and experienced by both Chilly willy and Smedley Dog. As an indication that the characters are starving.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Colonel Pot Shot. With the name of the trope specifically mentioned in his description.
  • Ironic Fear: Toyed with. Chilly hates the cold, and is always in fear of freezing to death. He is a penguin.
  • Long Runners: The theatrical short series lasted for 19 years. Not bad, though nowhere near the 32-years of constant appearances for Woody Woodpecker.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Chilly is a penguin in Alaska.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The bulldog from The Legend of Rockabye Point. Also Smedley when yawning in I'm Cold.
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast: The plot of "The Legend of Rock-a-bye Point" concerns a polar bear trying to get fish from a fishing boat, getting the Angry Guard Dog off his back by putting him to sleep with a lullaby, while Chilly sabotages him at every turn.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: Chilly's opponent from The Legend of Rockabye Point is a polar bear. Later shorts introduced Chilli's best friend, Maxie the Polar Bear.
  • Stock Animal Diet: When Chilly is after food instead of warmth, the food tends to be fish.
  • The Golden Age of Animation
  • The Dark Age of Animation
  • The Voiceless: Chilly has a voice in his original appearance, but he is completely silent in the two shorts by Tex Avery. In subsequent shorts, Chilly would either have regular conversations or stay silent for the duration.

Woody WoodpeckerThe Golden Age of AnimationDestination Moon
Speedy GonzalesThe FiftiesGumby
CheersLong RunnersClaymore
Chilly BeachWestern AnimationChina, IL

alternative title(s): Chilly Willy
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