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Western Animation / Sly Fox And Birdie

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The animal stereotype tables have turned in order to teach kids railroad safety...
Sly Fox and Birdie is an animated railway safety video aimed at kids, produced in 1992 by the Union Pacific Railroad and Operation Lifesaver. It stars a Cloud Cuckoolander fox that often finds himself in danger involving trains, and his avian friend Birdie that often has to tell him how dangerous what Sly's doing is. A new version was produced in 2006 using Adobe Flash animation.

The 1992 original provides examples of:

  • Animal Stereotypes: Inverted with the lead characters; Sly Fox is dumb and Birdie is smart.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end, Birdie points out to Sly Fox that the audience watching has learned everything that Sly had in the video.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Averted with Sly Fox, who's a major Cloud Cuckoolander. Birdie lampshades this...
    "This fox is not too foxy."
  • Deranged Animation: Happens with Sly Fox from time to time; most notable is when he is putting stuff on the tracks and says "When the old train comes roarin' by, it'll squash 'em to pieces!" crazed spirals appear in his eyes.
  • The Ditz: Again, Sly Fox. Near the end when discussing railroad crossings, Sly even deliberately stops his car on the railroad tracks and lets the oncoming train smash it.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Birdie is basically like this when Sly Fox tells her how he's putting stuff on the tracks so a train can run over them.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Sly Fox's car explodes when the train hits it at the railroad crossing. Of course, Sly Fox got out in time (when they were discussing what to do if your vehicle stalls on a crossing.)
  • Furry Reminder: Birdie lives in a nest, can fly, and likes to eat worms.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Of a sort. Near the end of the video, Sly becomes more well-aware of the dangers involving trains. He even answers a question Birdie gives him correctly involving railroad crossings, and Birdie lampshades it...
    "I thought you were going to say something like, it (the flashing crossing signal) means 'Hurry and get across,' or 'slow down' or something."
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Even though Sly Fox and Birdie are Funny Animals, some humans are still present, including children on a school playground Birdie flies over, a female train engineer, and a man driving by in his automobile when Sly Fox mentions that people in cars often get into train-related accidents.
  • Medium Awareness: After Sly Fox gets run over by the train when failing to get out of a railroad tunnel in time, he's still alive but scratched up quite a bit and he says "If I weren't a cartoon character, I'd be dead as a doornail."
  • Never Say "Die": Being a railway safety video aimed at kids, it's averted, especially with how Birdie frequently says Sly Fox could get "hurt or killed." Also averted with Sly Fox's Medium Awareness quote above.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sly Fox has a few moments of this when realizing he's in danger relating to trains. Birdie also gives this look when noticing a train is coming as Sly Fox is cycling in a railroad tunnel.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: How Birdie often reacts to Sly Fox doing something dangerous involving trains again after setting him straight on one thing about them. She even says "Not again" when seeing Sly Fox ride his bicycle into a railroad tunnel just after teaching him how railroad bridges are not safe to walk on.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: Again, since it's a railway safety video, this happens quite a bit. Almost any time tracks are present (and Sly Fox is doing something dangerous relating to them in some way), a freight train will almost always show up.
  • Recycled Animation: Quite a bit of animation gets reused, most notably a close-up shot of Birdie saying something while giving a Declarative Finger.
  • Steam Never Dies: Being a railway safety video from The '90s aimed at kids, it's averted; all trains depicted are modern freight trains with diesel locomotives.
  • Stock Animal Diet: At one point in the video, Sly Fox manages to get rid of Birdie for a while by recommending she go find a worm to eat for breakfast.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Anyone who's familiar with the TV movie Atomic Train will recognize the diesel train horn sound effect used throughout the video. note 
    • Likewise with the crashing sound effect when Sly Fox on his bicycle is run over by a train, and again when his car is hit by a train at the railroad crossing; that crash sound is used heavily in the I Love Toy Trains videos. note 
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sly Fox. He wises up by the end, though.

The 2006 version provides examples of:

  • Adobe Flash: The video is animated this way.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Birdie has a few of these moments.
  • Imagine Spot: Sly Fox has one of the consequences that could happen if he does something dangerous involving trains or tracks, contrasting with them happening to him for real in the 1992 version.
  • Lazy Artist: Perhaps one of the more limited and low-budget uses of Flash animation. A particularly noticeable example is when Sly Fox walks down a hill, his usual walk cycle is used but moving diagonally downward.
  • Lighter and Softer: This version is much tamer than the 1992 original; it uses the Never Say "Die" trope, and all the examples of what would happen to Sly Fox if he did something dangerous involving trains or tracks are just done as Imagine Spots. Consequently, it wouldn't get the point across as well with how dangerous trains and railroad tracks can be.
    • Another example is how the 1992 original compares small objects on the tracks being shot out from under the train wheels to bullets being fired, while the 2006 version compares it to being like a rocket. Sly even has an Imagine Spot of the lucky penny he placed on the track flying a rocket towards him and blowing him up.
  • Never Say "Die": This time it's unusually played straight.
  • Steam Never Dies: Although fairly modern-looking diesel trains are shown during Sly's Imagine Spots (albeit using very old Stock Sound Effects of early diesels with single-note "honker" horns), the "Stay Off, Stay Away and Stay Alive" rap does show some steam trains (all of which sound more like Lionel toy trains.)
  • Stock Animal Diet: This time it's averted with Birdie; she gets disgusted by the expression "the early bird gets the worm," and says she'd rather have a stack of waffles over a worm.
  • Stock Sound Effects: This video mostly uses cartoonish sound effects from Hanna-Barbera, greatly contrasting with the realistic sound effects in the 1992 version.
  • Talking with Signs: During Sly Fox's Imagine Spot of being trapped on a railroad bridge with a speeding train approaching, he holds up an "Uh oh" sign ala Wile E. Coyote before the train hits him.
  • Totally Radical: The "Stay Off, Stay Away and Stay Alive" rap number.
  • Two Decades Behind: The "Stay Off, Stay Away and Stay Alive" rap number clearly sounds like something that would come out of The '90s, even though the video was made in 2006.


Video Example(s):


Sly Fox and Birdie

"If I weren't a cartoon character, I'd be dead as a doornail!"

How well does it match the trope?

4.85 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / TooDumbToLive

Media sources: