During Ambrose's travels, he runs into Dirty Bill, an animal that is
not worth description because he is so hideous looking. Despite his looks,
the two become friends...or so we thought. After Ambrose shares a story
hallucinating on how he robbed a stagecoach, one of the much shorter climaxes
of the Silly Symphonies take place. Bill pulls the Benedict Arnold out of
his hat and wants to take what he thought were jewels in Ambrose's bag.
Of course he got the unwelcomed snack instead as the kitten flew like Desmond
Howard back into the house and into the bath, where Mom was about to give
Ambrose a brush spanking.
The moral: Listen to your mother, my children! Ambrose sure learned
his lesson the hard way - his crazy antics cost him a chance to appear
in the 1935 award winning Disney classic,
Oh - and one thought on Dirty Bill: he never took a bath and he never
will? Could this be why he is so successful at robberies...all because he
stinks so bad? Where's his mom to tell him he needs a bath?
The titular kitten is a great design, reminding me somewhat of Figaro from Pinocchio. Butch, as he is called in the short, is a kitten very adept at playing cops and robbers at home. But, rather than take a bath, he wants to escape and become a real robber.
Snatching a bag of cookies, Butch takes off, but he soon runs into a real bandit, Dirty Bill, played by a bulldog. This is where the short turns into a fun look at the two characters. Butch and Dirty Bill hit it off, but we get to see a little more about who they are, as the majority of the short is the two of them sitting in the forest talking.
Dirty Bill extols the virtues of robbery as a career, and Butch joins in. Butch spins a yarn about the stagecoach he robbed that morning, which is a complete fabrication. It’s a cute touch, because the opening scene of the short is Butch holding up a toy stagecoach. Then, when he recreates the story for Dirty Bill, it’s acted out in the animation. The loot, really the cookies that Butch took, is made out to be jewels and gold.
Of course, Dirty Bill starts threatening Butch, who turns tail and runs back home, jumping into the bathtub he had run away from in the first place. It’s a great story, that has no standout animation or new and exciting components.
What makes this one somewhat interesting is the fact that the two main characters don’t perform any action, with the exception of Butch’s “flashback” to the stagecoach robbery. Instead, the story is all about the two of them talking. That’s difficult to pull off, but it is done well here.
Again, this is a step that had to be taken to get to features. If Disney were unable to hold audience interest in conversation, then they would not be able to carry a story through an entire feature. What’s interesting to watch through these Silly Symphonies is how they are taking steps to work on these things. First we saw the human figure of Persephone in
The Goddess of Spring, then the mature themes of The Golden Touch, and now how to hold interest in a simple conversation. All of it is building my anticipation for Snow White, and we’re still a long way from there.
There's some excellent characterization on display with Dirty Bill taking a shine to the kid who tries to act tough and looks up to him as a hero. The portrayal of this friendship makes it all the more scary when Dirty Bill turns nasty, as Ambrose's really does seem to have some loot. When you think about it – it seems a tricky thing to pull off. A murderer palling around with a kid who's only play acting, but it's done very well.
This short gets extra points from me for making Ambrose's tale so ridiculous it ends with him doing the Tarzan yell! One thing I wondered about this cartoon is the stage coach's crest bears the message "Body by Fisher". I've since looked it up and it's a jokey anachronistic reference to an automobile coachbuilder that I had never heard of before!
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