Western Animation / The Dover Boys


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, in Wakko's Wish, and made a cameo as crowd members in Space Jam.

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

Confound those tropes! Oh, how I hate them!

  • Expy: The Dover Boys are, of course, expies of Edward Stratemeyer's "Rover Boys," Dick, Tom, and Sam (and their schoolfellows, Larry, Fred, and Frank). "Dan Backslide" is this to the villain of the books, Dan Baxter.
  • Foreshadowing: At the tavern, Dan places a picture of Dora in front of a poster showing a muscled man; the picture, of Dora's face, covers the man's head. 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 '90s: The setting of this short.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: To an impressive degree for the time. Two immediate examples spring to mind. First, while we never hear anything about their parents, look at the Boys themselves. Even allowing for recessive genetics, they're all college age and look nothing alike, implying either that one or more were adopted, or their mother Really Gets Around. Also, their names are a pretty clever Stealth Pun. Say them out loud. Tom Dover... Larry Dover...
  • 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: Subverted. By the time the Dover Boys confront Dan Backslide, he's already been beaten senseless by Dora to the point that he doesn't even say anything.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • "A gay outing at the park has been planned by the merry trio".
  • Horned Hairdo: Dan Backslide has this.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: As Dora pounds on the door and cries for help, Dan starts slinking up behind her with a creepy look on his face, no doubt with impure intentions. He keeps doing this even after she keeps beating him up, looking less menacing every time.
  • 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).
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Dan Backslide gets casually beaten up by Dora while she's screaming for help, to the point that he starts calling for help. Then the Boys beat him up again without stopping to see whether he's actually doing anything threatening.
  • Insistent Terminology: Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief).
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Dora Standpipe on being captured by Dan Backslide.
    Dora: Help, Tom! Help, Dick! Help, Larry!
    • Dan Backslide after being kicked, knocked, and tossed senseless by Dora Standpipe several times.
      Dan Backslide: HELP, TOM! HELP, DICK! HELP, LARRY!
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Tom has a massive chin.
  • Large Ham: Dan Backslide. Which is to be expected, given Mel Blanc is voicing him.
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    • "...Dora Standpipe! Dear, Rich DORA STANDPIPE! HOW I LOVE HER ... *aside glance* father's money."
    • Also "And Larry, the youngest of the three jer— ah, um, brothers."
  • Limited Animation: Or, at least, extreme stylization.
  • Lovable Jock: Tom.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: EVERYBODY. Dan kidnaps and attempts to take advantage of a woman who can rip an oak tree clean out of the ground. Dora pounds on the door screaming for help instead of UNLOCKING it or, you know, breaking one of the windows, all while obliviously KICKING DAN'S GREEN ASS BLACK-AND-BLUE. And the Dover Boys? The first thing they do when they reach the lodge is plow through the door that Dora was right behind, potentially killing her depending on their levels of strength. No wonder she ditches them all for the swimsuit hobo.
  • May–December Romance: In the end, Dora leaves with the old man in the swimsuit.
  • 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 runabout 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..."
  • 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: Wait... so Dora is the fiancee of all three of the Dover Boys?
  • Purple Prose: The narration wonderfully parodies the frothy, cliché-ridden prose of the Edwardian boys' novel.
  • Role Called: Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief)
  • Rule of Three: "Unhand her, Dan Backslide!!" The repetition is lampshaded with "Hey, we're getting in a rut!"
  • 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.
  • 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 unsavory repute", is the 19th century Murder Ballad "Frankie and Johnny". The William Tell Overture is heard in the climax as well.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Dora and the Dover Boys pass the outside of the tavern of unsavory 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 and is much thinner than the tree she uprooted earlier. She needs help, all right.
    • Dan's strong enough to not only carry Dora, but the tree she was holding onto. It wasn't until he was driving off that he noticed Dora was still holding onto the tree. Dora's not the only one that needs help.
    • Let's face it, everyone with the exception of the swimsuit hobo is a few crayons short of a whole box.
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: Said (eventually) to a villain who is laying battered and semi-conscious on the floor.
  • Un-Paused: As Dan Backslide lets out a cry of "Confound it!", he is interrupted by the swimsuit guy passing by, getting only up to "Con-". After the man leaves, Dan finishes with "-found it!"
  • 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:
    • 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."