The film tells the story of Archy and Mehitabel after the former, a New York City poet, commits suicide only to come back as a cockroach.
As he learns how to write poetry by hopping on typewriter keys, he grows used to his new life and becomes infatuated with Mehitabel, a singing alley cat. Mehitabel, however, isn't interested in Archy that way and instead prefers to chase and be chased by thuggish tomcat Big Bill. But Archy won't give up and makes it his mission to redeem Mehitabel of her wild ways and maybe win her love in the process...
The movie was made by Fine Arts Films and did poorly at the box office, with critical reception also being mixed. These days it's barely remembered, though did manage to get a DVD release.
Shinbone Alley provides examples of the following tropes:
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: Archy, Mehitabel and Big Bill all wore at least one accessory.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Both Archy and Mehitabel. Archy is much cuter than his original appearance and Mehitabel is much sexier.
- Aerith and Bob: Archy and Mehitabel.
- Alcohol Hic: Archy when he gets drunk to forget about Mehitabel.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Mehitabel lusts after the roguish Big Bill.
- all lowercase letters: Like he did in the archy and mehitabel stories, Archy types all his poetry like this.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The animals of Shinbone Alley come in all colors.
- Animated Musical
- Art Shift: Archy's speech calling for an insect revolution is drawn in the style of George Herriman's original illustrations.
- Big Applesauce: Where the movie takes place.
- Bittersweet Ending: Archy accepts Mehitabel's decision to return to Shinbone Alley but it's probably not going to turn out well for either of them in the end. Then there was her kittens...
- Black Comedy: Archy's attempts to commit suicide (again) are played for laughs.
- Bungled Suicide: Archy tries to commit suicide by jumping off a building but he's too light and the wind carries him back to his window. Next, he tries to spray himself with pesticide but the cloud just floats up and away.
- Butt-Monkey: Poor Archy doesn't get a break, not in this life or his previous one. Highlights include Bill's constant bullying and even Mehitabel turning on him from time to time.
- Cats Are Mean: Big Bill and his gang. Played with in regards to Mehitabel. Archy fails in his quest to redeem her but in the end decides he wasn't meant to anyway since that's just her nature and he shouldn't try to change it.
- Crapsack World: The wrong side of the tracks of New York are not kind to the animals that live there. There's rarely enough food and in the winter they freeze.
- Creepy Cockroach: Archy is reincarnated as a roach after his suicide. The creepy part is subverted though, he's still a Nice Guy.
- Disappeared Dad: Big Bill runs out on Mehitabel after she gives birth to his litter.
- Driven to Suicide: Happens to Archy twice!
- Drowning My Sorrows: Archy goes out and gets drunk after Mehitabel kicks him out of her new house and explains they can't see each other again now she has a respectable "job" as a house cat.
- Everything's Cuter with Kittens: Big Bill and Mehitabel produce a litter halfway through the film.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Mehitabel has blonde fur and all the tomcats (and one cockroach) want her.
- Gone Horribly Right: Archy wants Mehitabel to become more respectable. She does, then decides they can't see each other any more because of their new class difference.
- Hard Truth Aesop: Some people just plain can't be saved from their self-destructive ways.
- Hate Sink: Tyrone T. Tattersall, the theatre master who promises Mehitabel he'll make her a star only to use and humiliate her. He has no redeeming qualities and we're meant to hate him.
- Have a Gay Old Time: One of the songs: "Queer Little Insect".
- Huge Girl, Tiny Guy: Mehitabel and Archy since he's a cockroach and she's a cat.
- Interspecies Romance: Archy is in love with Mehitabel, but she only sees him as a friend.
- Jerkass: Big Bill takes every opportunity to bully and belittle Archy and abandons Mehitabel when she gives birth to his litter.
- Limited Animation: Didn't have much of a budget and it shows. There's a lot of repetition and characters tended to move only as much as they had to.
- Love Redeems: Subverted. Archy never can get Mehitabel to fall for him and his love alone fails to redeem her like he wanted. In the end he decides it's better to just let her be herself.
- Mama Bear: When her kittens are born, Mehitabel tells Archy she'd do anything to protect them. It doesn't last.
- Nice Guy: Archy. No matter how badly Mehitabel treats him, he still sticks by her. He even gives up on an insect revolution that he started just so he can run to her side when he hears she's had kittens.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: If Archy hadn't pushed Mehitabel into becoming a house cat, she might have raised her kittens instead of abandoning them. Sure, they wouldn't have had a good life in Shinbone Alley but at least they would have lived with their mother.
- No Antagonist: The main "enemy" of the movie is the Crapsack World of Shinbone Alley itself rather than one character.
- Parental Abandonment: Of the tragic variety. Mehitabel dumps her young kittens in a trash can and leaves them to die.
- Peek-a-Bangs: Mehitabel had them of the fur variety.
- Reincarnation: Both Archy and Mehitabel had human souls. He was a vers libre poet and she was once Cleopatra, although the latter is relegated to a caption in her photo album that could be taken metaphorically.
- Shout-Out: The sequence drawn in George Herriman's style features a shot of Archy throwing a brick at a person.
- Stout Strength: Big Bill is big in gut and muscles.
- Talking Animal: Cats, insects and other animals.
- Uptown Girl: When Mehitabel becomes a house cat thanks to Archy's encouragement, it seems to be headed this way. Then gets painfully subverted when Mehitabel tells Archy she can no longer associate with him since he's too far down the social ladder.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Mehitabel's kittens are nowhere to be seen when she returns to Shinbone Alley.