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Western Animation / The Family That Dwelt Apart

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The Family That Dwelt Apart is a 1973 short film directed by Yvon Malette, produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

A family of seven, the Pruitts, settle a remote island in "Barnetuck Bay". They life a quiet life on the island, fishing, digging for clams, and generally never bothering anyone. One winter they get isolated when the bay freezes over, trapping the Pruitt family on the island, but they have enough food and get along just fine. Unfortunately, the folks on the mainland figure out that the Pruitts are marooned on their island. Even more unfortunately, the folks on the mainland get the idea that one of the Pruitts is suffering from appendicitis.

Based on a short story by E. B. White (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little), who also narrated the short.


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Tropes:

  • Black Comedy: This bleak story, in which almost an entire family is wiped out by misguided government attempts to help, is presented as wry and droll comedy with effects reminiscent of 1930s Disney shorts.
  • Downer Ending: Charles Pruitt comes back from his unnecessary appendectomy to find his whole family dead, one from eating dried apricots (which the family didn't like much) too soon after another unnecessary appendectomy, the rest from accidentally drinking carbolic acid left behind by the surgeon in a radio broadcasters' shack.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: When Charles returns from the appendectomy operation, he learns that his brother Chester died from eating dried apricots too soon after his own appendectomy, and the family moved into the shed the radio broadcasters had been using, and they died from drinking carbolic acid, which they mistook for grain alcohol.
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  • The Film of the Book: An E.B. White short story from 1937. Available here. The whole story is read in its entirety by White over the action in the cartoon.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The narration from the story says that when the Pruitts had nothing better to do in the winter, they "played crokinole". Crokinole is a real game, but the narration shows Ma and Pa Pruitt in bed having sex.
  • Last of His Kind: Charles ends up being the lone survivor of the Pruitts.
  • Lighthouse Point: The message that the Pruitt family is trapped on the island and needs rescue is sent from a lighthouse.
  • Narrator: E.B. White himself, reading his own short story, in its entirety.
  • Poor Man's Porn: As the narration relates that the only thing the Pruitts ever went to the mainland for was the mail, one of the younger Pruitts is looking at the Sears catalogue. Mainly, the brassiere section.
  • Shout-Out: The bit about the Army flying to the unnecessary rescue of the Pruitts shows Army planes trying to kill King Kong before they are diverted to the Pruitt island.
  • Snowed-In: The Pruitts get stuck on their island when the bay freezes over. They are doing fine, but unfortunately for them the authorities on the mainland find out that they are Snowed-In.
  • Starting a New Life: After Charles, the Pruitt's lone survivor learns of his family's death, he gives them a decent burial, pays his last respects and then moves to the mainland.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land: After Charles returns home from the appendectomy, he finds out that the family died from eating dried apricots after an operation, and drinking carbolic acid which they mistook for their home-brewed whiskey. Charles pays his last respects before he leaves Barnetuck Bay for the mainland.
  • Unwanted Rescue: The Pruitts were doing just fine on their little island, before the Army showed up and ruined everything, due to a neighbor starting a chain of gossip, which eventually reached the authorities.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: When Charles returns from the appendectomy operation and finds that the rest of his family has died, he leaves Barnetuck Bay for the mainland after paying his last respects to his deceased family members.
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