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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 smearing. 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 reanimating each individual shot in their own style, 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.


  • Action Girl: Dora Standpipe manhandles, throws and beats Dan Backslide multiple times when he tries making advances towards her, enough so that he's barely able to stand when help arrives, though she still wants the Dover Boys to rescue her. By that point, Dan wants the Dover Boys to rescue him.
  • 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 are in 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, despite everyone else having normal skin colors.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: Dan Backslide is introduced playing pool in "a tavern of unsavory repute".
  • Berserk Button: It seems the mere presence of the Dover Boys is enough to set Dan Backslide off, as he launches into an angry tirade after he senses them pass by the bar he's in.
  • 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 Man on Campus: The Dover Boys are the most popular students at P.U.
  • 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 didn't actually mean to dodge them.
  • Damsel Fight-and-Flight Response: Dora beats Dan Backslide to a pulp while banging on the door and calling for the Dover Boys to save her. Before long, both of them are begging to be saved from each other. It's also worth noting that the door she's banging on is locked from the inside.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Played with in that, even though Dora effortlessly hurls Dan Backslide across the room and pummels him within an inch of his life 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.
  • Declarative Finger: Used frequently by Dan Backslide, and when Tom confronts him.
  • Deconstructive Parody: For its time, this was the nature of the parody of the Rover Boys books.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The Dover Boys are the heroes, but the short focuses more on Dan Backslide and his attempt to kidnap Dora Stanpipe.
  • Delayed Reaction: Dan Backslide doesn't realize he's taken both Dora and the tree she's clutching until he's loaded her into the runabout and driven a couple dozen feet.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Dan Backslide's first scene establishes him as the villainous turn-of-the-century Dastardly Whiplash by having him smoke like a chimney and down a dozen shots in less than a minute, showing how absurd his vices are even by the standards of the '40s.
  • Devilish Hair Horns: Dan Backslide, coward-bully-cad-and-thief, has his hair styled into two wicked horns, just in case you couldn't tell he's the bad guy.
  • The Dividual: The Dover Boys move in unison, speak in unison, act exactly the same, and all three of them are fiancés to the same woman.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Dora Standpipe beats up the bad guy, Dan Backslide, on her own, yet she doesn't seem to realize it and keeps calling the Dover Boys for help. Alternatively, she simply wants to be saved and is just holding the villain off until the Dover boys can do so.
  • 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, Purdue
    Pimento U, my college fair
  • Edible Theme Naming: Pimento University, Roquefort Hall, and Miss Cheddar's Female Academy are all named after types of cheese.
  • 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.
  • Epic Fail: The Dover Boys knock themselves out trying to beat up an already limp and unconscious man who can't even stand up. In fact, they knock themselves out precisely because he can't stand up!
  • 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). Their names are also a pun on the phrase "every Tom, Dick, and Harry", as a way to indicate that they're all interchangeable and unremarkable.
    • Dan Backslide is this to the villain of the books, Dan Baxter.
    • Dora Standpipe is based on Dora Stanhope from the books.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Dora's eyes remain closed for most of the short, which gives her an oddly serene look even while she screams for the boys to save her (or while she's kicking Dan Backslide's ass).
  • 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. The original Rover Boys book was published in 1899.
  • 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)".
  • Green and Mean: Dan Backslide has a greenish complexion.
  • 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? (The runabout was an early car body style, popular around the turn of the 20th century. By 1942, they were long obsolete and presumably associated with the 1890s nostalgia that the short is parodying.)
  • 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.
  • Informed Attribute: The narration describes Tom, Dick, and Larry as at least somewhat different from each other (Tom is the party animal, Dick is the serious one, and Larry is the youngest), but in the actual cartoon, they have basically no appreciable differences aside from Tom tending to speak for the group. They speak more lines in unison than they do apart. Mind, this is intentional; much of the Dover Boys's jokes are dedicated to them being blandly heroic archetypes with nothing going on upstairs.
  • Insistent Terminology: Dan Backslide, coward-bully-cad-and-thief.
  • Instant Costume Change: When stealing the runabout, Dan Backslide first takes a string-tied package out from its trunk. He holds the package up and drops it onto his own head, instantly dressing him in an old-timey driving outfit — including a huge overcoat, hat, scarf, gloves and goggles — and placing a wrench in his hand.
  • 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.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator's prose is whimsically theatrical, he has a tendency to get caught off guard by some of the events in the story, and almost lets slip his own opinions (such as nearly calling the boys jerks near the beginning).
  • 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 is the beefiest of the Dover Boys and wears a varsity jacket, implying that he's intended to be read as a lovable jock, though the narrator does briefly describe him as a jerk.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Everybody.
  • Manchild: The entire cast. Dora and the Dover Boys' idea of a fun time consists of an intense game of hide-and-seek in the park.
  • 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.
  • MRS Degree: Dora is picked up from Mrs. Cheddar's Female Academy.
  • 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 rarely speaks below a shrill scream.
  • 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.
  • Pet the Dog: If you pay attention while Dan Backslide is throwing back drink after drink in rapid succession, you'll notice that the bartender sneaks in a drink; when he does this, Backslide smiles and gestures at the glass. This seems to indicate that he bought the bartender that drink.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: By the time the boys got to the shack, Dan Backslide is beaten black and blue by Dora, and is calling for the Dover boys to help him.
  • Polyamory: Hang on... so Dora is the fiancée of all three of the Dover Boys?
  • Public Domain Animation: The cartoon entered the public domain sometime in the 1970s, due to the copyright not being renewed in time. As such, it was a staple of unlicensed VHS cartoon compilations in the '80s.
  • Purple Prose: The narration often finds itself lost in irrelevant tangents and confusing metaphors, parodying the oft-criticized narration of the Rover Boys novels.
  • Rule of Three:
    • "Unhand her, Dan Backslide!!" The repetition is lampshaded with "Hey, we're getting in a rut!"
    • The short also comedically contrasts the fundamentally-interchangeable personalities of the Dover Boys themselves against the remaining cast's tendency to unnecessarily address a comment or demand to all three of them (e.g. "Help, Tom! Help, Dick! Help, Larry!").
    • 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, who periodically appears at random, makes everything come to a screeching halt, and hops in the air before walking offscreen to the tune of "Fountain in the Park." He gets Dora in the end.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Dora is a prim and proper lady who will effortlessly school your ass without breaking a sweat or a fingernail.
  • Sinister Schnoz: Dan Backslide has one. It's the biggest nose in the short, and the 2017 reanimation adds a new gag into the short by having Backslide play pool with it.
  • 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! Messirs 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.
  • Tandem Parasite: Tom Dover is riding a tandem bike all by himself, with Dora Standpipe leaning on the front, which is left up in the air due to Tom being huge.
  • Two-Faced Aside: "...Dora Standpipe! Dear, Rich DORA STANDPIPE! HOW I LOVE HER... (Aside Glance) father's money."
  • Un-Installment: The Narrator refers to a non-existent previous "novel," The Dover Boys in the Everglades, when introducing the trio.
  • 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!"
  • Useless Protagonist: The Dover Boys. They inadvertently reveal that Dora has been left unprotected to Dan Backslide, freeze immediately when she gets kidnapped, have to be spurred into action by a telegram, and by the time they do come to her rescue, the vile villain has already been beaten to within half an inch of his life by her. And then they end up knocking themselves out.
  • With Catlike Tread: Dan Backslide's idea of stealth:
    • He sees the Dover Boys hiding under his pool table and 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."


Unhand her, Dan Backslide!

Hey, we're getting in a rut!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / RuleOfThree

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