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Western Animation / The Dover Boys

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A 1942 Merrie Melodies short subject directed by Chuck Jones, "The Dover Boys at Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" (just "The Dover Boys" for short) is an animated parody of a series of early 20th Century juvenile fiction novels called The Rover Boys.

This was Chuck's first attempt at making a cartoon that would later be reflective of his (and by extension, the studio's) trademark style – unlike the cloying cuteness and Disney-like nature of his Sniffles the Mouse cartoons. It was also an early experiment with stylized Limited Animation, as well as motion blurring. It almost got Chuck fired for its unorthodox nature – he just barely managed to avoid the pink slip from his boss.

The short has fallen into the public domain and can be viewed here. Columbia Cartoons even made their own knockoff of it, in 1943's "The Rocky Road To Ruin."


The Dover Boys were also used in an Animaniacs Slappy Squirrel Short (acting as musical narrators to Daniel Boone), in Wakko's Wish, and made a cameo as crowd members in Space Jam. A remake, featuring ninety-plus animators each animating a few seconds of the short, was released in 2018.

Unmarked spoilers abound. If you have a problem with that, just watch the cartoon first. It's only 9 minutes long.


Confound those tropes! Oh, how I hate them!

  • Action Girl: Dora Standpipe manhandles "coward-bully-cad-and-thief" Dan Backslide multiple times when he tries making advances towards her, though she still wants the Dover Boys to rescue her.
  • The Alcoholic:
    Dan: "THEY DRIVE ME TO DRINK!" (Cue rapid shot-taking)
  • Alcohol Hic: Dan, shortly after downing fifteen shots in four seconds.
  • All for Nothing: Dora is the sole reason Dan and the Dover Boys have conflict. In the aftermath when all four of them are knocked unconscious, Dora leaves the scene being courted by somebody else.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Dan Backslide is green!
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: At a certain public house, "a tavern of unsavory repute".
  • Big Bad: Subverted with Dan Backslide, who is supposed to be the picture's antagonist, but is too comically inept to be a real threat.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Tom is tall and athletic-looking (and he's the one who gives Dan Backslide the worst beating when the boys finally catch up to him), Dick is slim and weedy, and Larry is rotund and shorter than the other two.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Tom, Dick, and Larry respectively.
  • Brick Joke: The old man in an Old-Timey Bathing Suit who keeps popping up out of nowhere in the short to the tune of "While Strolling Through the Park One Day" goes off with Dora in the end.
  • Creepy High-Pitched Voice: Dan Backslide speaks - or rather, shouts - with a very shrill voice.
  • Cross Counter: A three-way one, delivered by each of the Dover Boys simultaneously to the other two Dover Boys. They were all aiming for Backslide, who did not mean to dodge them.
  • Damsel Fight-and-Flight Response: Spoofed, as it's the distressed damsel who seriously beats up the villain while calling for help. This is distressed?
  • Damsel out of Distress: Played with in that, even though Dora effortlessly hurls Dan Backslide across the room when he tries to advance on her, she continues calling for Tom, Dick, and Larry to save her. And then she absconds with the Running Gag guy after the Dover Boys knock each other out, subverting their Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Darkhorse Victory: At the end of the short, the old man in the Old-Timey Bathing Suit manages to hook up with Dora, despite previously appearing as nothing more but a strange Running Gag.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Dan Backslide, coward-bully-cad-and-thief.
  • Deconstructive Parody: For its time, this was the nature of the parody of the Rover Boys books. Today, it's more well known for its "Weird Al" Effect.
  • Don't Explain the Joke:
    Narrator: "Pimento University. Pimento U. Good ol' P. U."
    {barbershop quartet singing} Pimento U, oh, sweet P.U.
    Thy fragrant odor scents the air
    A pox on Yale; poo-poo, Perdue
    Pimento U, my college fair
  • Either/Or Title: "The Dover Boys at Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall".note 
  • Embarrassing Initials: Pimento University. Pimento U. Good ol' P.U.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Save for his very first line, Dan Backslide is always screaming and it's hilarious.
  • Expy:
    • The Dover Boys (Tom, Dick, and Larry) are, of course, expies of Edward Stratemeyer's "Rover Boys" Dick, Tom, and Sam (and their schoolfellows Larry, Fred, and Frank).note 
    • Dan Backslide is this to the villain of the books, Dan Baxter.
    • Dora Standpipe is based on Dora Stanhope from the books.
  • Foreshadowing: At the tavern, Dan places a picture of Dora in front of a poster showing a muscled man; the picture, of Dora's face, covers the man's head. When Dan kidnaps Dora as she's grasping a tree while counting for Hide-and-Seek, she rips the tree out of the ground without losing a beat or realizing she's being taken. As we later find, she's strong enough to tie Dan in a knot.
  • The Gay '90s: The setting of this short.note 
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: To an impressive degree for the time. Two immediate examples spring to mind.
    • First, while we never hear anything about their parents, look at the Boys themselves. Even allowing for recessive genetics, they're all college age and look nothing alike, implying either that one or more were adopted, or their mother Really Gets Around.
    • Also, their names are a pretty clever Stealth Pun. Say them out loud. Tom Dover… Larry Dover…
    • And Dora was their fiancee - apparently the censors weren't entirely clear on the topic of polyamory.
  • Gold Digger: Dan Backslide, who really loves Dora Standpipe……'s father's money.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Dan Backslide uses a cigarette holder – of course he must be a coward-bully-cad-and-thief.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The Handbook of Useful Information which informs Dan Backslide "How Best to Remove Young Lady from Tree (Fig. 1)".
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Subverted. By the time the Dover Boys confront Dan Backslide, he's already been beaten senseless by Dora to the point that he doesn't even say anything.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • "A gay outing at the park has been planned by the merry trio."
    • Where else in modern times will you hear the term 'Runabout' outside of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?
  • Horned Hairdo: Dan Backslide has this.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: As Dora pounds on the door and cries for help, Dan starts slinking up behind her with a creepy look on his face, no doubt with impure intentions. He keeps doing this even after she starts casually hurling him across the room, looking less menacing every time.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The Dover Boys drive Dan Backslide to drink. To drive the point home, he then goes over to the bar and downs a baker's-dozen worth of shots in the span of about four seconds (with the barkeep knocking one back in the process).
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Dan Backslide gets casually beaten up by Dora while she's screaming for help, to the point that he starts calling for help. Then the Boys beat him up again without stopping to see whether he's actually doing anything threatening.
  • Insistent Terminology: Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief).
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Dora Standpipe on being captured by Dan Backslide.
      Dora: Help, Tom! Help, Dick! Help, Larry!
    • Dan Backslide after being kicked, knocked, and tossed senseless by Dora Standpipe several times.
      Dan Backslide: HELP, TOM! HELP, DICK! HELP, LARRY!
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Tom has a massive chin.
  • Large Ham: Dan Backslide. Which is to be expected, given Mel Blanc is voicing him.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: "And Larry, the youngest of the three jer— ah, um, brothers."
  • Leitmotif: Every time the old man in the swimsuit appears and walks across the screen, a instrumental version of "Fountain in the Park" (better known as "While Strolling through the Park One Day") plays.
  • Limited Animation: Or at least extreme stylization.
    • As mentioned in the introduction, this short was one of the first to use the "smear" technique now nearly ubiquitous throughout Western animation (including many of Chuck's own later works).
  • Lovable Jock: Tom.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: EVERYBODY.
  • May–December Romance: In the end, Dora leaves with the old man in the swimsuit.
  • Meaningful Name: Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief)
  • Motion Blur: This short pioneered the use of the smear, in which the characters appear elongated for two or three frames as they zip from one pose to the next. John Kricfalusi has an analysis on this and the poses, and explains how the cartoon influenced his style.
  • Mugging the Monster: If Dan Backslide had realized just how strong Dora was, he might have picked a different girl.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Dan Backslide announces his plan to steal a runabout with all the enthusiasm of someone about to steal the Statue of Liberty.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Dora's arms are about as thick as the frame of Tom's bicycle and yet she hurls Dan Backslide across the room like he's made of matchsticks.
  • No Indoor Voice: Dan Backslide.
  • Noodle Incident: "Dick, a serious lad of eighteen summers plus a winter in Florida, as related in The Dover Boys in the Everglades..."
  • Offhand Backhand: Dora to Dan, as she continues to call for help.
  • Offscreen Crash: The first two times Dora throws Dan offscreen, the camera stays on Dora (still pounding the door) long enough for Dan's crashing to stop, and then pans over the aftermath.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: By the time the boys got to the shack, Dan Backslide is beaten black and blue by Dora.
  • Polyamory: Hang on… so Dora is the fiancée of all three of the Dover Boys?
  • Purple Prose: The narration parodies what some see as the frothy, cliché-ridden (apparently even for the time) prose of the Edwardian boys' novel.
  • Rule of Three: "Unhand her, Dan Backslide!!" The repetition is lampshaded with "Hey, we're getting in a rut!"
    • And Dan gets thrown across the room three times (on-screen) by Dora.
  • Running Gag: The old man with the bathing suit and sailor hat. He gets Dora in the end.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: How Dan gets Dora (once she's removed from the tree) to go with him to the runabout.
  • Standard Snippet: As would be expected from Carl Stalling.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief) after his first two lines.
    • "Telegram for the Dover Boys! Messrs Tom, Dick, and Larry, care of Wayward Tavern, Upper Bottleneck, New York. Sirs, Quote: HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLP! unquote. Signed, Dora. Thirty-five cents collect."
  • Talking Is a Free Action:
    • Dora and the Dover Boys pass the outside of the tavern of unsavory repute, wherein Dan Backslide notices them and rants. Once he's finished, the Dover Boys and their mutual fiancée are exactly where we left them, apparently having paused outside for a full minute.
    • An even more ridiculous occurrence happens when Backslide kidnaps Dora in his stolen runabout. When Dora calls out to each Dover Boy for help, he doesn't just stop the car during; he pulls it back half a block.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Dora. Even as she repeatedly Offhand Backhands her captor, she continues to bang on the door calling for help. A door that's visibly locked from the side she's on and is much thinner than the tree she uprooted earlier. She needs help, all right.
    • Dan's strong enough to not only carry Dora, but the tree she was holding onto. It wasn't until he was driving off that he noticed Dora was still holding onto the tree. Dora's not the only one that needs help.
    • Let's face it, everyone with the exception of the swimsuit hobo is a few crayons short of a whole box.
  • Two-Faced Aside: "...Dora Standpipe! Dear, Rich DORA STANDPIPE! HOW I LOVE HER… *aside glance* father's money."
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: Said (eventually) to a villain who is laying battered and semi-conscious on the floor.
  • Un-Paused: As Dan Backslide curses out the Dover Boys, he is interrupted by the swimsuit guy passing by, getting only up to "Con-". After the man leaves, Dan finishes with "-found them!"
  • With Catlike Tread: Dan Backslide's idea of stealth includes screaming his intentions at the top of his lungs.
    • When Dan Backslide sees the Dover Boys hiding under his pool table, he shouts his dastardly plans at the top of his lungs. The boys, some two-and-a-half feet away, don't seem to notice.
    • And just outside, he follows up with "A runabout! I'LL STEAL IT! NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!"

"Now is the time to say 'goodbye'. Goodbye."