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Western Animation: The Dover Boys

"A runabout! I'LL STEAL IT! NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!"
Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief)

A 1942 Merrie Melodies short subject directed by Chuck Jones, "The Dover Boys At Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" (or just "The Dover Boys" for short) is an animated parody of a series of early 20th Century juvenile fiction novels called "the Rover Boys". This was also Chuck's first attempt at making a cartoon that was actually funny — unlike the cloying cuteness and Disney-like nature of his Sniffles the Mouse cartoons. It was also an early experiment with stylized, Limited Animation, as well as motion blurring, but because of this, it almost got Chuck fired — he just barely managed to avoid the pink slip from his boss.

The short has fallen into the public domain and can be viewed here. Columbia Cartoons even made their own knockoff of it, 1943's "The Rocky Road To Ruin".

The Dover Boys were also used in an Animaniacs Slappy Squirrel Short, acting as musical narrators to Daniel Boone.

Unmarked spoilers abound. If you have a problem with that, just watch the cartoon first. It's only 9 minutes long.

This short provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Rescue? Dora don't need no rescue!
  • The Alcoholic:
    Dan: "THEY DRIVE ME TO DRINK!" (Cue rapid shot-taking)
  • Alcohol Hic: Dan, shortly after downing a dozen or so shots.
  • All for Nothing: Dora is the sole reason Dan and the Dover Boys have conflict. In the aftermath when all four of them are knocked unconscious, Dora shows up being courted by somebody else.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Dan Backslide is blue!
  • Ambiguously Gay / Depraved Homosexual: Dan Backslide. When he celebrates the portrait of Dora Standpipe, he adds that he only loves her father's money and then proceeds to hang her portrait over the body of a muscular man.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: At a certain public house, "a tavern of ill repute".
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Tom is tall and athletic-looking (and he's the one who gives Dan Backslide the worst beating when the boys finally catch up to him), Dick is slim and weedy, and Larry is rotund and shorter than the other two.
  • Brick Joke: The old man in an Old-Timey Bathing Suit who keeps popping up out of nowhere in the short to the tune of "While Strolling Through the Park One Day" goes off with Dora in the end.
  • Cross Counter: A three-way one, delivered by each of the Dover Boys simultaneously to the other two Dover Boys.
  • Damsel Fight-and-Flight Response: Spoofed, as it's the distressed damsel who seriously beats up the villain while calling for help. This is distressed?
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Dan Backslide, coward-bully-cad-and-thief.
  • Either/Or Title
  • Expy: The Dover Boys are, of course, parody expies of Edward Stratemeyer's "Rover Boys," Dick, Tom, and Sam (and their schoolfellows, Larry, Fred, and Frank). "Dan Backslide" represents the villain of the books, Dan Baxter.
  • Foreshadowing: When Dan kidnaps Dora as she's grasping a tree while counting for Hide-and-Seek, she rips the tree out of the ground without losing a beat or realizing she's being taken. As we later find, she's strong enough to tie Dan in a knot.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Pimento University. Pimento U. Good ol' P.U.
  • The Gay Nineties: The setting of this short.
  • Gold Digger: Dan Backslide, who really loves Dora Standpipe......'s father's money.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Dan Backslide uses a cigarette holder — of course he must be a coward-bully-cad-and-thief.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The Handbook of Useful Information which informs Dan Backslide "How Best to Remove Young Lady from Tree (Fig. 1)."
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: "UNHAND HER, DAN BACKSLIDE!"
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "A gay outing at the park has been planned by the merry trio".
    • "I HATE TOM! I HATE DICK! I HATE LARRY!"
  • Horned Hairdo: Dan Backslide has this.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The Dover Boys drive Dan Backslide to drink. To drive the point home, he then goes over to the bar and does a baker's dozen shots in the span of about four seconds (with the barkeep knocking one back in the process).
  • Insistent Terminology: Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief).
  • Ironic Echo: Dora Stanpipe on being captured by Dan Backslide.
    Dora: Help, Tom! Help, Dick! Help, Larry!
    Dan Backslide after being kicked, knocked, and tossed senseless by Dora Stanpipe several times.
    Dan Backslide: HELP, TOM! HELP, DICK! HELP, LARRY!
  • Large Ham: Dan Backslide.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: "...Dora Stanpipe! Dear, Rich DORA STANPIPE! HOW I LOVE HER ... *aside glance* father's money."
    • Also "And Larry, the youngest of the three jer— ah, um, brothers."
  • Late to the Punchline: Wait... so Dora is the fiancee of all three of the Dover Boys?
  • Limited Animation: Or, at least, extreme stylization.
  • Lovable Jock: Tom
  • Motion Blur: This short pioneered the use of the smear, in which the characters appear elongated for two or three frames as they zip from one pose to the next. John Kricfalusi has an analysis on this and the poses, and explains how the cartoon influenced his style.
  • Mugging the Monster: If Dan Backslide had realized just how strong Dora was, he might have picked a different girl...
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Dan Backslide announces his plan to steal a car with all the enthusiasm of someone about to steal the Statue of Liberty.
  • No Indoor Voice: Dan Backslide.
  • Noodle Incident: "Dick, a serious lad of eighteen summers plus a winter in Florida, as related in The Dover Boys in the Everglades..."
  • Standard Snippet: As might be expected from Carl Stalling — the score is punctuated by a number of college and popular turn-of-the-century songs, (e.g., "Far Above Cayuga's Waters", "Sweet Genevieve," "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree", and of course; "While Strolling Through the Park One Day"). Another scene-setter, for the "tavern of ill-repute", is the 19th century Murder Ballad "Frankie and Johnny".
  • Offhand Backhand: Dora to Dan, as she continues to call for help.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: By the time the boys got to the shack, Dan Backslide is beaten black and blue by Dora.
  • Polyamory: As mentioned above.
  • Purple Prose: The narration wonderfully parodies the frothy, cliché-ridden prose of the Edwardian boys' novel.
  • Rule of Three: "Unhand her, Dan Backslide!!"
  • Running Gag: The old man with the bathing suit and sailor hat. He gets Dora in the end.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: How Dan gets Dora (once she's removed from the tree) to go with him to the runabout.
  • Straight Edge: The Dover Boys could easily qualify as a Gay Nineties variation.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Dora and the Dover Boys pass the outside of the tavern of ill repute, wherein Dan Backslide notices them and rants. Once he's finished, the Dover Boys and their mutual fiancée are exactly where we left them, apparently having paused outside for a full minute.
    • The same happens when Backslide kidnaps Dora in his stolen runabout. He pulls to a stop outside the tavern for seemingly no reason other than to allow Dora to call out to each Dover Boy for help, before continuing on to the hunting lodge.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Even as she repeatedly Offhand Backhands her captor, she continues to bang on the door calling for help. A door that's visibly locked from the side she's on. She needs help, all right.
  • With Catlike Tread: When Dan Backslide sees the Dover Boys hiding under his pool table, he shouts his dastardly plans at the top of his lungs. The boys, some two-and-a-half feet away, don't seem to notice:
    "The Dover Boys! THEN DORA MUST BE ALONE AND UNPROTECTED!"
    • And just outside, he follows up with "A runabout! I'll steal it! NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!"


"Now is the time to say 'goodbye.' Goodbye."
The Unicorn in the GardenThe 50 Greatest CartoonsFelix In Hollywood

alternative title(s): The Dover Boys
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