In the Center Ring (Part 25)

This week, we’ll cover most (if not all) of the circus offerings of Ed Graham Productions and Filmation, plus an entry from Lee Mendelson-Bill Melendez. Supporting cast members from the rare “Linus the Lion-Hearted” series will be featured, along with Archie, Tom and Jerry, and Snoopy.

The Flying Dog (11/27/65) – Loveable Truly (spokes-character for Post Alpha Bits), was a “Post”man who delivered “letters” in his commercials. His demeanor and voice appears to be influenced by Jim Nabors’ persona as Gomer Pyle. He had replaced a more abrasive postman character portrayed by Jack E. Leonard, in something of a reaction move by Ed Graham to please the sponsor, and make the mailman as sweet as the cereal. However, when he became a part of the character lineup on “Linus the Lion-Hearted”, he may have seemed difficult to write for as an entirely non-aggressive character, and there is also the possibility that viewers were categorizing him as too effeminate. Thus, in the last season of the show, Lovable underwent considerable personality change, transforming his voice to somewhat deeper tone, and definitely making him more heroic and reactive to villainy – even capable of throwing a punch!

Throughout the series, Lovable, unlike most postmen, had a way with befriending dogs (in most episodes, usually a white mutt named Lawrence). This nearly always put him in confrontation with one Richard Harry Nearly, a slender, slick ex-silent movie actor, now frequently employed as dog catcher, always out to fill his quota of catches. Once n a while, Nearly would change employment – slightly. Today, we find him in charge as ringmaster of the Nearly Brothers’ Circus (through there is no sign of another Nearly Brother). Lovable, without explanation, has befriended a new dog named Birdie – a dog who wears a pilot’s cap and goggles, and flies with his ears and a prop-spinning tail. As Nearly’s circus wagon passes, Birdie rises above the crowd on the street, flying to get a better view. Nearly spots him, and snags him by the ankles with his ringmaster’s whip, stuffing the canine inside his truck to use as a new attraction at the next show. Lovable misses the capture, and does not notice where Birdie disappeared, until a new circus poster on a wall alerts him of Birdie’s booking for the evening performance. That gets Lovable’s dander up, and he goes into rescue mode. In the big top, Nearly cracks the whip behind Birdie to get him to fly, but keeps the dog tethered to the ground by a rope around the dog’s ankles. However, the rope snaps, as Lovable appears with a scissor. Birdie grabs Loveable by the collar and hoists him into the sky. Nearly follows on a hydraulic lift platform. He snatches away the dog from above Lovable, allowing the postman to fall. A safety net breaks the fall, and bounces Lovable back up to the platform, where he takes a sock at Nearly, knocking him off the platform and freeing Birdie from his grip. Lovable charitably realizes that, as much as he and the dog both hate Nearly, they can’t let him fall to his doom, so Birdie zooms down, positioning a small water pail under Nearly, allowing the villain to land head-first into it. Nearly produces an axe, and begins chopping at the extended pole holding up Lovable’s platform. (Strange that his axe can chop metal as easily as if it were wood.) The platform topples, but Lovable is thrown onto a high wire, and maintains his balance thereon, receiving the applause of the crowd. Nearly appears at one end of the wire, cutting it. Lovable grabs the wire on the way down, using it as a Tarzan vine, and swings to another platform, where he is met by the affectionate licks of Birdie. Nearly reaches across the arena with a dogcatcher’s net on an extra-long pole, snatching away Birdie again. Lovable leaps off his platform onto a loop ramp below with both ends raised (looking more like a curly-q noodle), and is shot back upwards to Nearly, again knocking him from the platform, and grabbing away Nearly’s net. Nearly falls, takes a bounce off the safety net, and lands inside a cannon positioned by Lovable. Lovable fires, shooting Nearly through the tent roof, then into a fall straight back down, where Lovable and Birdie position a rolling cage with a hatch in the roof. Nearly falls in, and the hatch is locked shut. A chief postman who has been watching in the audience (with a voice twice as effeminate as Lovable’s ever was in the past) says he saw the whole thing, and that Lovable will get another medal for this. Lovable thanks him, buy says what he and Birdie really care about is seeing Nearly behind bars. From within the cage, Nearly coldly remarks, “I AM behind bars, or are you too dull-witted to notice?”

Minor honorable mention goes to Lovable’s Carnival Cars (10/23/65) another film that confuses carnivals and circuses. The slender plot has Nearly today playing the role of a common hoodlum at a carnival, grabbing the cash from the ticket-taker’s booth. Lovable and Lawrence pursue, in a semi-slow motion chase that takes place on carnival bumper cars (ignoring the fact that the average bumper car has no gasoline engine, bit takes its power from a pole extension and a wire electrified mesh in the ceiling above, similar to the principle of older urban electric trolleys). At one point, Nearly drives through a circus tent, picking up an elephant for a passenger. He rolls into another tent where a human cannon ball is performing (cannon oddly misspelled with only two “N”s). The bumper car rolls into the cannon base, throwing off the elephant and firing the cannon at the same time, so that both performer and pachyderm land simultaneously in the safety net. The film also includes typical carnival sequences in a shooting gallery, a baseball-pitch booth, and on the tracks of a roller coaster, before Nearly turns into a House of Horrors, and is too scared by the exhibit to continue, surrendering into the arms of Lovable. Lovable and Lawrence receive free passes for life, which they plan to use every day this week, right after they get their letters delivered.

“Rory Raccoon (Hometown Hero)” was a less-frequently seen recurring character of the Linus show, spokes-character for Post “Sugar-Sparkled Flakes”. In many ways, Rory’s down-home voice sounds much like Lovable Truly in a deeper register. He is most-often seen battling C. Claudius Crow (voiced by Jesse White) over possession of a crop of corn stalks in Rory’s hometown farm. Some of these episodes can bear a distant resemblance to Columbia Fox and Crow cartoons, generally setting up the best situations of the series. But there were deviations, as the writers attempted to provide plots for the character. One recurring (and often aggravating) sidelight was the introduction of Rory’s cousin Zeke, a veteran circus performer “Racclown”, with an abrasive personality and absolutely irritating snorting laugh. The series would go so far as to feature Zeke in at least three starring episodes of his own, with Rory only present for incidental narration purposes, not even dealing with circus life. We’ll spotlight here the two scripts in which Rory and/or Claudius played some active part, which stayed within the confines of the big top.

In Circus Stars (10/24/64), Rory introduces Claudius to Zeke. Both he and Claudius lack the circus’s $2.50 admission price, but count on Zeke to let them enter on free passes, with Rory cautioning Claudius to be on his best behavior. Zeke, however, is a chronic practical joker, beginning with showing Claudius one of his circus posters, depicting Zeke with a flower in the lapel of his clown suit – behind which Zeke has attached a water hose, to give Claudius a good spraying when he bends close to view the picture. Rory convinces the two to make up by shaking hands, but Zeke slips Claudios an electric hand buzzer. Zeke releases his grip on Claudius with a flip, sending Claudius headfirst into a water bucket, then remarks that Claudius looks “a little pail.” Claudius flings the bucket at Zeke’s head, but it bounces off of Zeke’s rubber clown nose, landing on the head of Rory. Zeke enters the big top on a unicycle, and angry Claudius follows, looking for a fight. Zeke is already in the center ring, beginning his performance by lifting his clown hat to let a bird fly out, then converting the ball on the end of the hat into an opening umbrella, which works in reverse by dousing the clown with water from underneath like a shower bath. Claudius approaches an elephant, and stands on the upper end of a teeter-totter to reach the belt cinched around the elephant’s belly to hold on its circus trappings. “If they think that’s funny…”, Claudius mutters, as he pulls the elephant’s belt tight, causing the inflated beast to jet out a spray of water from its trunk, blasting Zeke with the same force as his first joke on Claudius. Claudius rolls with laughter upon the teeter-totter, until Zeke approaches with a large mallet, and launches Claudius off the board with a blow fit for addressing a high-striker. Claudius sails in an arc into a cannon, and Zeke fires it, shooting Claudius up to the high wire. Claudius is blinded by the spotlights from below, and has no idea where he is. Rory calls to him from the arena floor, and Claudius’s eyes finally focus on the three rings far below. He swoons and faints, falling like a stone off the wire. Rory races for a mobile safety net, wheeling it into place under Claudius. The tall net platform winds up positioned directly over Zeke, who is busy taking bows. Claudius impacts the net, with Zeke directly below, causing the two characters to conk head together. Zeke is knocked backwards, colliding headfirst with a tent pole and snapping it, causing the tent to collapse. From under the folds of canvas, our three characters appear, with Zeke complaining as to why this incident was necessary. “You’re a crow. You could have flown down. No reason for you to fall down like that.” “Yes, there was”, replies Claudius. “I wanted to see if I could put on an act good enough to bring down the house.”

Rory’s Circus Act (11/14/64) has Rory back at the circus, visiting this time without the company of Claudius. Zeke is in performance again, pulling the old theatrical gag of sawing at a tree limb while perched on it, only to have the trunk fall away and the tree limb left suspended with him in mid-air/ The audience loves it, and Zeke slowly descends to the arena floor, riding the branch like a descending elevator, to take his bow. Rory wishes he could also be a circus performer, commenting “What a soft life.” “It’s not as soft as it looks”, Zeke corrects him, pointing out that most circus folk work pretty hard. Rory still wants a chance, stating, “I can jump through a hoop,” He spots a man carrying a round object, and, believing it to be a hoop, charges at it, leaping into the air. He hits it with a metallic clang, discovering it to be a manhole cover being carried by a sewer plumber. Zeke breaks up in his snorting laughter, remarking, “I told ‘ya it wasn’t as soft as it looks.” Rory next surmises that raccoons are smarter than seals, believing he can learn to juggle objects on his nose. He borrows a ball for practice off the snout of a seal. But the seal doesn’t appreciate Rory moving in on his routine, and soon is balancing and spinning Rory on his nose, then whacks Rory across the circus grounds with a slap from his tail. Rory plops through a tent roof, ricochets off a high wire back out through the roof, and lands with a thump at the base of the tent. Just as Rory is beginning to think joining the show will be much harder than he thought, he sights an open flame inside another tent. Believing it to be a budding fire, Rory sets out to prove his usefulness to the show by playing the hero. Rory runs for a water pail, but in heading back toward the blaze, passes an elephant, who sucks away the contents of the bucket before Rory has time to notice. Discovering an empty pail, Rory looks for an alternative source of H2O. A high-diver is about to perform his feat of daring – a dive into a shallow dishpan of water. Rory grabs away the pan just before the diver hits, allowing him to smash into the bare ground. Rory then tosses the water onto the fire, extinguishing it – only to discover the flames were from the barbecue basin of a fire eater, with Rory’s efforts drowning out his entire performance. The diver and fire eater are furious at having their acts ruined, and the seal joins them in complaint for Rory’s previous efforts to intrude upon his gig. Rory desperately tries to hide as the scene fades out. A short time passes, and we fade in on a conversation between Zeke and a strong man. The strong man asks if Rory is still trying to get into the circus. Zeke replies that actually, now he’s trying to get out. Inside the big top, Rory is caught between the efforts of his three pursuers. In a repeating cycle, Rory is batted around like a ping pong ball by the seal’s tail, zooms over the fiery breath of the fire eater upon his own tail, causing Rory to rocket into the air, where he ricochets off the bottom of the high wire to be propelled back down to the seal again. The act is a hit, and while the pursuers take bows for it, Rory, outside the tent, is simply happy that he has made the grade as part of a star act. He only wonders what he will do tomorrow for an encore.

Sometimes, writing can become a slog when the materal to write about takes a dip in quality. This constantly makes dealing with the works of Filmation something of a battle. So many of their projects seem so budget-cut and half-hearted in presentation, that the lackluster mood becomes contageous. I’ll thus try to spare myself some of the agony by glossing over some of their offerings below in very brief form, and leave you to be the judge of whether the cartoons’ content deserves any further discussion.

“The Archie Show” gives us, simply, The Circus (10/5/68). Archie, Reggie, and Jughead show up at the circus grounds, looking for part-time jobs. Archie and Jughead are only seeking any kind of work that’ll provide minimal pay, but Reggie has eyes on becoming a performer, getting into the big time and the big bucks, when he sees a sign reading “Circus Acts Wanted.” Archie insists that it takes years of practice to develop an act, but Reggie boastfully takes the devil-may-care attitude of how hard could it be – since he believes all circus acts are fakes. Reg leads the gang to a costume tent for wardrobe. Jughead is instantly attracted by a lion-tamer outfit – but where to get a lion? A fake lion suit provides the answer, which is thrown over Jughead’s pooch Hot Dog. Reggie tosses Archie a suit of trapeze tights, while dressing himself in another. He tells Archie all they have to do is the same moves they do in gym class, and they’ll be fine.

Without further ado as to how they are hired, we fade to the evening performance. Archie and Reggie are on first. Halfway up the ladder to the trapeze platform, Reggie begins to realize how high off the ground they are, and starts to get cold feet. Archie reminds him that this was his idea, and tells him just to not look down. Meanwhile, Jughead, on next, has somehow lost track of where Hot Dog is, and makes the entirely-predictable mistake of dragging a real lion from his cage, telling the beast to save the ferocious stuff until they are in the center ring. The trapeze act hits a snag when Reggie freezes up, clinging to a pole high above the arena, telling Archie to go on while he just watches. Jughead starts his act anyway, with the usual consequence of spotting the poorly-costumed Hot Dog on the sidelines, just as Jughead is putting his head into the lion’s mouth. Grabbing up Hot Dog from under the suit, Jughead flees while the lion gives chase. The two attempt to avoid the lion’s attention by posing as seals balancing balls on their noses, but the ruse works only momentarily, Hot Dog commenting that you can only fool some of the lions some of the time. Above, Archie notices Jughead in trouble, and swings out on the trapeze in hopes of being some help. His efforts are thwarted by Reggie, who shouts, “Don’t leave me”, and clings to the toes of Archie’s tights. He gets a grip only on the suit material instead of Archie’s anatomy, and the suit begins to stretch to elongated proportions as Archie swings, lowering Reggie closer and closer to the ground. Jughead thinks Reggie is comng to their rescue, but Hot Dog comments “With his eyes shut?” Jughead and Hot Dog are scooped up on Reggie’s legs, leaving Reggie in total surprise as to how they got there. But the weight of all three is getting heavy for Archie, and the load needs to be lightened.

Suddenly, the situation seems improved, as Hot Dog seems to have made the sacrifice by jumping, landing safely in a net. (Confidentially. Hot Dog admits to the audience that he wasn’t the hero – he only slipped.) Reggie and Jughead also soon fall, landing atop a couple of horses (animated in ridiculously-slow motion), heading for hoops of fire. The boys leap from ther mounts, into a parade of elephants, to be tossed away by the elephants’ trunks. They are launched back up to Archie, causing him to also fall. In an impossibly-timed bit, Hot Dog has time before they reach the ground to throw a lasso around the lion’s neck, drag him away, then position a tank of water under the boys. The boys safely splash in, bit quickly leap out again, as the same lion we just saw dragged out is by some miracle inside the water tank. Now the lion appears everywhere, including inside a miniature clown house and clown car. Archie and Jughead race for the confines of a barred lion enclosure, shutting the gate to lock the lion out. But where is Reggie? Hiding inside the cannon, of course. The lion pulls the firing pin, and launches Reggie across the arena, landing headfirst in and getting tangled up in a net. Archie asks him if he is ready to accept just a part-time job. Reggie lets out a frustrated grumble, which Hot Dog translates: “That’s coward talk, meaning ‘Yes’.” The boys wind ip becoming, as Reggie puts it, “a human car-wash for elephants”. Hot Dog leads away one of the fully-cleaned pachyderms, remarking, “He ought to be happy we don’t have to wax these beauties.” (Viewer be warned – this script reads better than it is presented.)

We are missing from the internet the only episode of the studio’s efforts on “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse/Heckle and Jeckle” to focus on circus life, a Mighty piece entitled “Big Top Cat”. Perhaps it is merciful. All that we know of it seems to be a bref clip tossed into a later “cheater” episode, which has Oil Can Harry trying to pressure circus owner Pearl into paying into a protection racket. She gives them the bounce with the assist of a gorilla, who compresses Harry into his own brief case. Anyone with time on their hands may see fit to add the remainder of the plot in a comment to this column.

Things get really off-mark when Filmation produced the Tom and Jerry Comedy Show for CBS. While a select handful of episodes seemed to try to achieve pale impersonations of Hanna-Barbera originals, most were poorly-timed and miserably drawn, and often with scriprs that simply didn’t work. Three circus episodes are included in the series. Possibly the most inspired by the old days is When the Rooster Crows (10/4/80). A circus features an unusual act – the world’s loudest crowing rooster. The bird-brained performer appears to be an attempt to revive an old character of Tex Avery, from the Butch the Bulldog short, “Cock-a-Doodle Dog”. The loudmouth crower is trained to let out with a blast every time a light is shone upon him – otherwise, he just stands there blankly. Of course, his crate falls off a passing circus truck in the night, releasing the bird into Tom and Jerry’s yard. Jerry creeps past a sleeping Tom, carrying a flashlight to investigate. He flashes the light into the bird’s eyes, and the bird instantly starts to crow. Jerry grabs and clamps closed the bird’s beak so as not to wake Tom, then takes the bird in through the darkened living room, stuffing the dopey bird (who doesn’t even have the brains to lower his own head) forcibly into Jerry’s mouse hole. Jerry gets the idea to play tricks on Tom when he discovers the effect of the flashlight on the bird, and gives Tom several rude awakenings. When Tom snatches away the flashlight, Jerry substitutes with the light from inside the kitchen refrigerator door. Finally, retrieving the flashlight again, Jerry sets the rooster up at a home hi-fi system with built-in microphone to sing along, turning the amplifying volume to full blast. The result sends shock waves around the world, and shudders through the planet. But it also alerts the circus truck as to the whereabouts of their rooster, and the film abruptly ends with the circus guards retrieving their star act, and Tom and Jerry left to simply resume their usual chasing. The script had some promise, but suffers once again from mediocre execution, and a flat ending without a final punch line.

Under the Big Top (10/18/80) brings the usual T&J chase to the circus. Jerry first ducks for cover in a gorilla’s cage, then in a tent full of elephants, where he gives the pachyderms the raspberry, causing them to stampede and trample Tom. A run though a wardrobe tent has Tom tumble into a clown costume, and get mistaken for a performer. The ringmaster directs him to dive off a platform, into a dry sponge to which one drop of water is added. Tom starts to enjoy the audience applause, and improvises a juggling act. Jerry becomes frustrated at Tom’s unexpected audience appeal, and louses up the juggling by jumping with a barbell held above him onto a teeter-totter, launching a heavy metal weight off the other end of the board. The weight lands on Tom’s foot, dragging him into the ground inside a crater, the balls bouncing off of Tom’s head. More teeter-totter antics eventually launch Tom into a lion enclosure, straight into one of their open mouths. Tom pries himself out, and is mistaken by the tamer for one of the performing cats. Tom balances atop a large ball, but is surprised when all the other lions pile on top of him in “dog pile” fashion. Jerry upsets the apple cart by tapping a finger upon the precariously balanced ball, toppling the lions and Tom. Much more chasing occurs, with many twice – even three-times-repeated shots. Continuity be damned, as a seal appears to toss Tom and a lion in opposite directions, yet they somehow wind up in the mouth of the very same cannon, as Jerry lights the fuse. The two felines engage in endless bouncing after one another off a safety net, while Jerry takes bows in a ringmaster’s outfit for the fade out.

The Great Mousini (11/29/80) is a script that seems poorly thought-out and fails to deliver. Impresario P.T. Barnone reminisces about his discovery years ago in a back-street alley of the world’s greatest escape artist – The Great Mousini, the mouse whom no trap could hold. Of course, Mousini is Jerry, spotted by Barnone from his circus truck. While there may have been the grain of an idea here, the writers fail to come up with anything in Tom and Jerry’s opening chase that even resembles an escape-artist act, leaving the viewer to question why Barnone would see raw talent in Jerry in the first place. Nevertheless, Barnone signs Jerry up, and also (without on-screen depiction of how) obtains Tom’s services too as stooge to set up traps for Jerry. A stage presentation has Jerry duplicating Houdini’s old escape from a sealed milk can – except that Tom has not only filled the can with actual milk, bit tossed in a live shark to swim about. When the curtain closes and reopens, Jerry stands free, while Tom is somehow roped into the can (but with no on-screen visible consequences of what happened about the shark within). After a successful tour, Barnone schedules a television special to put the act into the big time. But Barnone, in narration, relates that something was gnawing at his star performers, that he didn’t find out about until it was too late. Since neither Jerry nor Tom talk in this series, it is left entirely unclear how Barnone ever became privy to the thoughts of these characters at all, making the script entirely implausible. Jerry misses the zing of the old chase with Tom, and Tom, apparently knowing his traps never work, has become lethargic, and seems to have no natural instinct left for the old chase. Somehow, the two conspire to put an end to their show-biz career. At the television special. Jerry is tied and manacled on a small platform at the top of a vertically-placed giant mousetrap as large as a wall, with Tom poised to release the spring-bar of the trap below with a hit from a giant mallet. But Tom refuses to budge, feigning sleep before the camera. The audience starts booing, and Barnone yells threats from the wings in frustration. Jerry breaks out of his bonds prematurely without the trap being sprung, and hurls a tomato in Tom’s face – not part of the conspiracy script – awakening Tom’s old anger. Tom clambers up the side of the trap, unbalancing it, and causing it to topple through the back wall of the TV studio, on camera, making the broadcast a disaster. Barnstorm closes his narration, surmising that the pair have probably disappeared back into obscurity, where they are somewhere “doing their thing” in the old chase – which is precisely what the camera shows us, for the fade out.

A reader has indicated that some episode of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” also featured a circus theme, and was generally considered to be one of the worst installments of the series. Having never had the stomach to follow this series in depth myself, I have not sought out this episode, and will take the blogger’s word for it. Should anyone care to elaborate upon its title and content, you’re welcome.

We’ll end on a brighter note with a Peanuts special from Lee Mendelson-Bill Melendez productions, “Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown” (10/24/80), which in reality has very little to do with Charlie Brown, instead a starring vehicle for Snoopy (with no sign of Woodstock). Snoopy is awakened by the music of a calliope. A circus train is unloading at a station nearby, and Snoopy follows the music to observe the goings on. A box car door opens, as some of the largest animals exit down a wooden ramp. Snoopy takes a good jostling upon the ramp as one of the mammoth elephants descends, causing Snoopy to seek a safer viewing perch upon the ladder rungs on the side of the car. Somehow, he gets hooked from his perch by the long neck of a giraffe, and has to slide down the creature’s back to regain a footing on terra firma. As he shakes off the dizziness, a new sight sends his head spinning. A little girl leads off the train a trio of French poodles, and a fluffy female among them gives Snoopy a smile. Snoopy swallows hard, then impulsively is drawn to follow, hearts in his eyes, and seeming to walk upon air. The poodles disappear inside the main tent, and as Snoopy peers in, he finds himself under the gaze of the little girl, who gives him the once-over, then pulls Snoopy inside, to Snoopy’s utter surprise.

The Peanuts gang are given the day off from school to see the circus. Peppermint Patty ruins Charlie Brown’s appetite, spoiling his free cotton candy by combining two great tastes that don’t taste great together, sprinkling it liberally with popcorn. As the kids sit in the grandstand, the ringmaster announces the appearance of “Miss Polly and her poodles”. The liitle girl marches in, followed by her three poodles, and a new addition, Snoopy, wearing a large ribbon tied to his head. One line of dialogue seems out-of-character, or perhaps situations had changed in the strip by this time, as Peppermint Patty remarks, “Isn’t that your dog, Chuck?” It used to be a running gag in the early years of the specials that Peppermint Patty was the only one who never realized that Snoopy was a dog, referring to hm as “that funny-looking kid with the big nose.” Snoopy blushes from embarrassment before the crowd, but is ordered by the girl to pull a wagon in circles around the arena, while the other three performing pooches hop onto it. The girl next orders Snoopy to perform a flip like the other dogs, but all that Snoopy can manage is to fall onto his back. Finally, all the pups perform a handstand, then leap through a hoop. Snoopy clumsily manages the handstand, but gets hung up in the leap, drooping across the hoop rim on his belly. His antics receive a good round of laughter from the crowd as comic relief, and the members of Charlie Brown’s group are impressed that Snoopy has made a good career move. “He doesn’t need a career”, shouts a frustrated Charlie Brown. “His career is being my dog!”

Charlie wonders if Snoopy will come home for dinner, but when time comes for Snoopy’s supper dish, the doghouse is empty. Back at the circus grounds, Polly has decided to keep Snoopy in the act, but puts him through intensive training, finally teaching him with difficulty how to flip. A slurp kiss from the female poodle is the final inspiration Snoopy needs, and, reverting again to walking-on-air mode, Snoopy is able to float through his flips with ease. A call from the Colonel who owns the show approves the addition of the beagle to the act, but insists that he needs a showy name. Snoopy is re-Christened “Hugo the Great” – emphasis on being great when he performs again before the Colonel. Charlie Brown meanwhile has run back to the circus grounds in search of Snoopy. The tent is being folded down, and the animals are being loaded into train cars and circus wagons. Charlie spots the poodles and the still love-struck Snoopy entering one of the wagons. After several calls by Charlie to him, Snoopy awakes from his haze long enough to notice that Charlie is calling him, but all thought of return to his master is disrupted when a set of steel bars is dropped down to block the wagon door. Charlie watches in distress as Snoopy gazes at him through the rear bars of the departing wagon, as Charlie remarks, “Good Grief! He’s been dognapped.”

Charlie muses with Linus about the loss of Snoopy, and whether he’ll ever come home. Charlie feels he s owed some loyalty for providing Snoopy with his room and board for all these years. Linus is not surprised that Snoopy has been drawn by the romance and glamour of show biz, uttering the profound take-away line, “There’s more to life than a plastic supper dish.” Lucy adds a final note to the whole affair, assuming that Snoopy will never come back, and boarding up the entrance to Snoopy’s doghouse, adding a sign declaring the property condemned. Snoopy’s life, meanwhile, gets pretty complicated. At night, he shares bedding quarters on the train in a box car with several other species of the menagerie. He shivers from the cold, but fails to find rest when he snuggles into the warm fur of a comfortable – lion? A high camel’s back seems a possible substitute for his usual perch upon the pinnacle of his dog house, but proves awkward, as Snoopy keeps sliding off the top of the camel’s humps into the slope of the valley centered between them. The only flat surface Snoopy can find to rest upon is the cabinet of a magic act, from which he somehow plops through the box lid, his head sticking out one end of the box as if ready to be sawed in half, with a matching pair of fake feet popping out the other end. By day, the training continues, as Polly teaches Snoopy to ride a unicycle, then perform a trapeze act as catcher for the female poodle. Snoopy becomes more and more confident – and the girl poodle more and more proud of him and affectionate. Snoopy makes entrances in the ring wearing three capes around him. Turning his back to the audience, he removes the caoes one by one, which each bear bright gold lettering on the back reading “Hugo” “The” “Great”. The Colonel’s calls are more and more satisfied with the performance, but finally propose somehing that is Snoopy’s limit. With “Hugo” and the female poodle becoming a visible romantic “item”, the Colonel thinks the act should be more colorful and color-coordinated. White with black spots seems totally wrong, so the Colonel suggests dyeing “Hugo” and the girl a matching shade of – pink! Polly prepares a large vat of food color, and dumps Snoopy in. The embarrassed beagle has had enough, and before Polly can do the same to the girl poodle, Snoopy comes to her defense, snarling at Polly, and backing her into the vat herself. Snoopy leaves her there in her vibrant new shade, racing away with the girl poodle for freedom. A half-mile away, Snoopy and the poodle wait at a bus stop, for a bus heading for Snoopy’s home. But the poodle hesitates, looking back over her shoulder at the circus tents far away, and missing the life she was used to. Snoopy can see from the look in her eyes that there is something wrong here, and that he can’t ask the poodle to leave her career, as the red hearts emitting from Snoopy’s thoughts crack into broken pieces. Snoopy releases his hold on the poodle’s paw, and waves her a slow goodbye as the bus doors open behind him. The poodle gives Snoopy a farewell kiss, then departs happily back to the show. With a weary heart, Snoopy boards the bus, and heads home. Snoopy arrives in the middle of the night, awakening Charlie Brown but giving him no greeting, or even acknowledgement of hs presence. Instead, Snoopy showers off the pink food color, fixes a large sandwich for himself from the fridge, drowns away a last fond thought of his lost love by burying his nose ravenously in the food, then puts on a nightcap and proceeds to the doghouse. He is outraged by Lucy’s boards and “Condemned” sign, and angrily tears them off the premises, then enters the doghouse, to climb up to his usual perch on the roof. But he brings with him a new addition to his home furnishings, installing and folding out from the doghouse entrance a bright neon sign, which flashes as he settles down to sleep, reading in large letters, “Hugo the Great”.

Next time, I hope to move into some of the animation resurgence of the “80’s-;90’s.