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Western Animation / Special Delivery

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Special Delivery is a 1978 animated short film written and directed by Eunice Macaulay and John Weldon. It was produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

On a cold, snowbound winter day, Ralph Phelps ignores his wife Alice's nagging to clean the snow all over his front porch. This decision bites Ralph in the butt shortly thereafter, when the mailman slips on their steps, breaks his neck, and dies. Ralph, panicking over both the legal and financial difficulties he could face from having a mailman suffer a fatal fall on his porch, elects to hide the body.

It is available on the NFB's YouTube channel.



  • Black Comedy: Throughout, as the death of the mailman and the disposal of the corpse forms a story told in animation suitable for a children's cartoon, with suitably whimsical narration. Ralph remembers about how a neighbor got sued when a mailman broke his leg, then the narrator says "a broken neck was probably considered as bad as ten broken legs."
  • Cheating with the Milkman: When Alice finds the body it is revealed that she and the mailman once had an affair, and she thus assumes that his presence means he wanted to re-kindle their love.
  • Disposing of a Body: The whole plot, as first Ralph and eventually Alice have to do this.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: A doubly rare example in that it's both animated and male. Ralph has to strip the mailman nude after he realizes that he has to complete the mailman's route.
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  • Dutch Courage: Ralph has to take a swig of whiskey to steel himself before completing the mailman's route.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all that, not only does Ralph escape any consequences for the death of the mailman, he's rid of Alice when she runs away.
    "And in all the long and happy years that followed, Ralph never cleaned the walk."
  • Henpecked Husband: It isn't dwelled on, but the squawking tone of Alice's voice suggests this. So does the bit of narration which says that Ralph never did what his wife told him to.
  • Idiot Ball: In service to the Rule of Funny, almost every character except Ralph (who is just lazy) and the mailman (who is dead) has a firm grip on the idiot ball; they consistently miss completely obvious clues and/or draw ridiculously improbable conclusions from them.
    • Alice manages to dress the corpse of the mailman and wrest him out of her house, into her car, into his apartment building, and into his bed before she figures out he is dead, not passed out drunk.
    • The policemen who show up to escort the mailman to his court date only to find him dead in his bed notice that he doesn't look like the man they arrested (Ralph in the mailman's uniform), and conclude that it's because he is dead.
    • The coroner finds a man dead in his bed of a broken neck and concludes that the man did it himself by accident during a dream.
  • Imagine Spot: When Alice first sees the mailman she imagines a scene where he snuck in the house and got naked for her. When she finally realizes that he is not passed out but dead, she imagines another scene in which a jealous Ralph killed him.
  • Line Boil: Throughout the whole cartoon, which is animated in a deliberately crude style.
  • Mistaken Identity: After Ralph puts on the mailman's uniform and finishes his route, he returns to his house and notices his keys are in his own clothes and not the mailman's, so he tries to enter his house through a window and is seen by two policemen. They are suspicious that a mailman could afford such an upscale house (the mailman's own apartment is later revealed to be very shabby), and since the mailman's dead body is still in the house, he goes along with their belief that he is the mailman and is arrested for breaking and entering. This works in his favour when the letter carriers' union bails him out of jail, and on the date of "his" trial, the police go to the mailman's apartment and not Ralph's house.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: When Alice discovers that the mailman is dead, she assumes that Ralph discovered their affair when he found the mailman drunk, nude, and waiting for Alice's return in their house, and that Ralph killed him in a jealous rage and is now planning to kill her as well; she immediately flees to another province under a fake name.
  • Narrator: Tells the story. Since this was a cartoon created by the Canadian government, both English and French versions were released.
  • One-Book Author: Co-director Eunice Macaulay has worked on numerous NFB cartoons as an ink and paint supervisor, animator, producer, and writer, but this is the only film she worked on as a director.


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