Monday, September 19, 2011


Red Hot Riding Hood - The most popular videos are a click away

Red Hot Riding Hood
Tex Avery, USA, 1943, approx. 7 mins.

Red Hot Riding Hood is a cartoon that begins as a staid retelling of Little Red Riding Hood before becoming a completely insane version of the same story. The wolf is a lecherous would-be playboy, Red is a nightclub dancer, and Red's grandmother spends most of the short trying to jump the wolf's bones. The wolf successfully fights off Red's grandmother but never gets Red. At the end of the film he swears off dames and then, when Red shows up at the nightclub, he commits suicide by shooting himself in the head with two guns.

This short has aged as well as anything could hope to; the animation is still sharp and the jokes still hit. Episodes of Saturday Night Live feel sluggish and boring, but a cartoon from the early 1940s can make me laugh. This is because Tex Avery invented his own language and logic based on the foundations set by his cartoonist peers.

I've read arguments that cartoons follow dream logic, and that may be true for some cartoons, but this one doesn't subscribe to dream logic. In dreams, characters are faced with strange circumstances, but they generally accept those circumstances as their new reality (somebody tells you people only eat tires and you ask where the closest tire is). In Red Hot Riding Hood, the wolf is faced with strange circumstances, but he fights against them. He knows that he's living in a world where 40% of the doors lead to steep drop-offs, 40% lead to brick walls and 20% lead to new rooms, and he hates it. On top of this, the world mocks him. He opens a door and slams into a brick wall adorned with an "Imagine that NO DOOR!" sign. He falls from a skyscraper's penthouse and the building calls him a "sucker."

I love Looney Tunes shorts, but you generally walk in knowing exactly what you're going to get. It isn't surprising when Sylvester gets screwed over by Tweety. Even when Daffy is at his most unhinged, his world has rules. The rules of Red Hot Riding Hood change on the fly, with the only constant being how the wolf reacts to those changes. As a result, when you watch this short, you can't really predict what's coming, and that makes every second fun. In the end, this isn't even a riff on Little Red Riding Hood. It's just a very good time and an exercise in breaking and reforming the rules every thirty seconds.


Alex said...

I wonder how kids reacted to horny grandma?

haley schattner said...

I like this short and I think it modernizes the story. The story has always been a discussion of female/male relationships and female purity, but the wolf has always been taken as an animal. In this, the wolf takes on more manly attributes and therefore, becomes a different character--a character portraying a character portraying a character.