Airdate: May 15, 1999
"Banjo Frenzy" is the very first Happy Tree Friends short, under the working title The Happy Tree Friends Bonanza.
A blue dinosaur is entertaining a trio of small woodland animals (squirrel, rabbit, beaver) by playing his banjo. The banjo suddenly breaks, causing the critters to laugh at him. Offended by this, he begins to slaughter the critters with his banjo. The squirrel gets decapitated and her head lands in the fire pit, the rabbit gets cut in half vertically, and the beaver is also decapitated. However, the beaver's head is still aware and bites down on the dino's leg, causing him to scream in pain.
"The Happy Tree Friends Bonanza in: Banjo Frenzy" contains the following:
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: The squirrel is the only one with this. Proto-Cuddles does not even have his signature slippers.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Unlike the regular series' Only Six Faces, each of the three mammals has a unique design that can be easily distinguished aside from just color and tacked-on animal features (the squirrel has large ears and eyes; the rabbit has large feet as expected from his species and the smallest buckteeth; the beaver has smaller ears than the squirrel, eyes closer to each other, and a more angular body shape to go with his differently-designed legs and feet).
- Cruel and Unusual Death:
- The squirrel gets decapitated. Her head ends up burning in the fire pit.
- The rabbit gets cut in half vertically.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Giggles was a blue chipmunk and had a tail, Lumpy was a dinosaur who murdered everyone at the slightest provocation, and Cuddles and Toothy looked different too. Also being decapitated didnt mean instant death like it does in regular episodes.
- Establishing Series Moment: For the whole Happy Tree Friends series. A seemingly innocent colorful Gang of Critters in the world of Sugar Bowl also in pastel coloring... only for bloody deaths to occur.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: The rabbit's death.
- Instrument of Murder: The dino uses his banjo to kill.
- Laughing Mad: The dino laughs maniacally as he butchers the poor mammals.
- Mood Whiplash: The moment the dino feels offended by the woodland animals laughing at him, new viewers will get a taste of the shock humor that is considered normal for Happy Tree Friends.
- Off with His Head!: Two of the mammals lose their heads from the dino's rampage. Only one still somehow manages to strike back.
- Shout-Out: The banjo tune played by the dino is the "Dueling Banjos" tune from the film Deliverance.
- Stripped to the Bone: The squirrel's head instantly burns to her skull when it lands in the fire pit.
- Who Needs Their Whole Body?: Near the end of the episode, the beaver, who somehow survived decapitation, literally makes the dino's actions come back to bite him in the leg.