Also known as Hoppity Goes to Town and Bugville, Mr. Bug Goes to Town is the second—and last—feature length animated film made by Fleischer Studios, in 1941. It is the sixth American animated feature film created and the second not made by Disney.
The film was produced by Max Fleischer, and directed by Dave Fleischer and Shamus Culhane, the latter being uncredited. The animation directors for the film were Willard Bowsky, Culhane, H.C. Ellison, Thomas Johnson, Graham Place, Stan Quackenbush, David Tendlar and Myron Waldman.
The plot of the film is centered on Hoppity the grasshopper, who has returned to his home in New York, but discovers that his friends are in danger of losing their homes due to humans breaking down the fence that kept their homes safe from trampling feet and tossed cigars to use as a shortcut. The film is centered on this and Hoppity's romance with his childhood sweetheart, Honey Bee. Meanwhile, the villain, C. Bagley Beetle, has romantic interests in Honey himself, and hopes, with the help of his henchmen Swat the Fly and Smack the Mosquito, to force her father, Mr. Bumble, to give him her hand in marriage.
Being quickly made to pay for the overhead left over by the alleged underperformance of their previous feature, Mr. Bug is a very interesting experiment in feature film animation—the most notable part being that it was one of the first animated films to have an original story made for it, whereas almost everything else during the time had been based on some pre-existing story.
Learning from the mistakes Gulliver made trying to rip off the fairy tale atmosphere of Disney's Snow White and winding up as a cold, inferior imitation in the process, the Fleischers decided to take a more contemporary approach to this film, with its real world New York setting providing a believable, interesting backdrop for the events of the film. While there was still a treacly love story, the characters are still fairly interesting, and some generous slapstick is thrown in here and there to lighten the feeling of the film, obviously keeping one of the positive aspects of Gulliver. The film also benefits from having a much more episodic structure than Gulliver.
Unfortunately, the film had the misfortune of premiering just two days before Pearl Harbor (it was officially released on February 13, 1942)— which, combined with lack of promotion from Paramount (who had no faith in the picture), caused the film to tank at the box office. While the Fleischers were ultimately ruined by Dave Fleischer's contract-violating departure to Screen Gems cartoon outlet, this film could indirectly be considered a part of the Fleischers' downfall.
Harlan Ellison cites this film and his repeatedly thwarted attempts to see it as a small child as one of the defining moments of his entire life. It's also reportedly a favorite animated film of no less than Hayao Miyazaki.
This classic animated film provides examples of:
- Animation Bump: The whole film is pretty lavishly animated, just a few notches below what Disney was doing, but its still a vast improvement over the generally uneven animation of Gulliver's Travels. The opening shots even use model sets, very similar to the ones used in their earlier work Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor.
- Ash Face: Hoppity after attempting to put out a fire with what turns out to be gasoline.
- Astronomic Zoom: Used majestically in the opening sequence, going from a God's eye view of the Earth, the skyline of New York City, all the way down to the inches high houses of the bugs.
- Award-Bait Song: "We're the Couple in the Castle".
- Big Applesauce: The film is set in New York City.
- Big Bad Wannabe: C. Bagley Bettle is the villain of the film, and he ends up getting the upper hand over Hoppity several times, but when it comes to dealing with the threat the humans unwittingly pose, he's basically in the same boat as the other bugs, and he's more comical than truly threatening. Not to mention his two cohorts, Swat and Smack, are hapless fools who give him no shortage of trouble.
- Big, Thin, Short Trio: The film's three antagonists make up a trio like this: C. Bagley Beetle is large and corpulent, Smack the mosquito is tall and lanky, and Swat the fly is tiny even compared to the other insects.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Late in the film, the recurring snail character Mr. Creeper does this to the audience.
- Bumbling Henchmen Duo: Swat and Smack are tow dim-witted bugs working for C. Bagley Beetle.
- Butt-Monkey: Bagley, when he's alone with Swat and Smack.
- By Wall That Is Holey: Used by Bagley to survive a wheelbarrow wheel.
- Catchphrase: "Gee, weeds!" for Hoppity and "Don't forget I told you so!" for Creeper.
- Character Action Title
- Cloudcuckoolander: Swat and, to a lesser extent, Smack.
- Construction Is Awesome: The entire sequence where the skyrise is being assembled.
- Construction Zone Calamity: When the lot where Bugsville is on becomes a construction site, the bugs have to scramble for safety up the skyscraper as it is being built.
- Dastardly Whiplash: C. Bagley Beetle is a staple Simon Legree—esque villain.
- The Determinator: Hoppity.
- Digital Destruction: The "Bugville" DVD release of Mr. Bug Goes to Town was apparently a raw transfer from an old laserdisc of the film, and it shows; marred by atrocious digital compression that makes it painful to even look at, you would think you were watching a bootleg, and it's supposed to be an official release! Fortunately, there is no interlacing or DVD issues otherwise.
- Disney Acid Sequence: Hoppity's little electric light show.
- A brief part where Hoppity is outside a piano player's window.
- Disney School of Acting and Mime: Justified, as the film is still fairly deriative of Disney's influence.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Hoppity goes through a lot of misery, as does the rest of the bugs, before they finally get their happy ending.
- Four-Fingered Hands: The insects are drawn with these.
- Four Legged Insects: Everyone in the cast is portrayed with four limbs.
- Gross-Up Close-Up: An early scene of Bagley gives us one that gets a little too close to the camera for comfort, and lingers for quite a bit on screen.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Honey is willing to marry Beetle, giving up her own chance at happiness, in exchange for him allowing the town bugs to make homes on his property.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: After his unfortunate fall from grace, Hoppity is this until near the end of the movie.
- Hope Spot: After spending some time climbing up the constructed skyscraper, the bugs finally reach the top, only to find a seemingly vacant building on top—but just before everybody walks out on Hoppity in disillusionment again, one of the bee scouts discovers that there is a man-made garden right beyond the horizon on the building.
- Humans Are Bastards: Subverted; while humans are a threat to the bugs, they aren't actively malicious—just ignorant of their existence.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: Subverted for the most part, the bugs consider humans a nuisance...a very LARGE nuisance that causes property damage, but not much more. At the end, they become an unstoppable force of nature tearing everything up, and the power shovels cast shadows like great hands ripping chunks of the earth up.
- Humanlike Foot Anatomy: The insects have human-like arms and legs. Notably, Hoppity's knees bend forward, unlike a grasshopper's, though he can turn his knees back to make grasshopper-like leaps.
- Impossible Hourglass Figure: Honey's eyes are bigger than her waist.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: While looking for places to move, Hoppity and Mr. Bumble investigate a watering can, which Hoppity thinks would make a great home, sturdy, safe and dry. At that moment, the homeowner decides to start filling it with water.
- Interspecies Romance: Between Hoppity the grasshopper and Honey the bee. Mr. Beetle, a beetle, is also interested in marrying Honey.
- Iron Buttmonkeys: Swat and Smack.
- The Klutz: Hoppity is very clumsy, and a lot of his dialogue consists of stuff such as "Oh gosh".
- Mean Boss: Mr. Beetle constantly abuses Swat and Smack, hitting them in the head and calling them names.
- Mouse World: The tiny little village on an abandoned lot that the bugs live in.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Honey, who has an accentuated pair of human-like breasts bigger than her waist.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Swat's voice is ideal for whining, be it for never getting to hit anyone on the head or not getting invited to weddings or funerals since he adores them.
- Punny Name: Swat the Fly and Smack the Mosquito.
- Random Events Plot: The film has a rather episodic structure, tied together by three plot-threads; the bugs trying to find a new home, Hoppity romancing with Honey, and C. Bagley Bettle trying to get Honey's hand in marriage.
- Revealing Reflection: As Mr. Beetle goes over his Evil Plan with his hench-bugs, he polishes his top hat and sees an angry-looking Hoppity in its reflection, cluing him in that he overheard the whole thing.
- Rotoscoping: Used to animate the humans.
- Scavenged Punk: The bugs' town is built mainly out of litter, and Mr. Beetle uses a compact as a bed.
- Scenery Porn: The film features absolutely splendid background art of New York.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Bagley who as a beetle member of respectable society really goes out of his way to avoid being seen with his disreputable goons and doesn't even invite them to his wedding.
- You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses?: Swat tells Mr. Beetle that he shouldn't hit him because he's wearing glasses (he does).