''Cellbound'' facts to leave you spellbound
Wherein a twenty year sentence ends in a six minute cartoon
Cellbound is a 1955 short by MGM Studios directed by Tex Avery and Michael Lah. Butch, our hero here, is free from his role as a recurring antagonist in the Droopy cartoons. Instead, in just six short minutes, the character has his own entire prison break arc. It's a real Pawshank Redemption.
Maybe it's your favorite toon, or maybe this is the first time you've heard of it. Either way, we hope you'll find these facts illuminating. Here are some details and context to help you get the most enjoyment out of viewing Cellbound!
1. Aspect Ratio
The first notable fact regarding Cellbound: it is the final MGM cartoon of the 1950s not filmed in CinemaScope. Cellbound is filmed and presented in standard Academy 1.37:1, while later cartoons created with Cinemascope would be almost twice as wide, as they were shown in 2.55:1.
2. Tex gets the axe
Cellbound is among Tex Avery's final cartoons with MGM before the studio fired him on March 1st, 1953. Avery is given "Directed By" credit along with unit animator Michael Lah, who he also co-directed with on Deputy Droopy.
3. Fred Quimby
Avery wasn't the only one to reach the end of the line with Cellbound. This toon also marked the end of producer Fred Quimby's career, as it and Good Will to Men (a remake of the earlier short Peace on Earth) are the final two MGM productions he is credited with. His retirement cleared the way for William Hanna and Joseph Barbera to take over the studio.
4. Sing Song Prison
Viewers paying close attention will pick up on the name of the jailhouse in which Butch is serving his sentence. "Sing Song Prison" is, of course, a parody of Sing Sing Prison, located 30 miles north of New York City.
5. Butch vs Spike
By the way, there's a lot to get confused about regarding our main character here. His name is Butch, but it used to be Spike. Originally, Spike was an antagonist in the Droopy cartoons. However, his name was later changed to avoid mixups with Spike from the Tom and Jerry Cartoon. So, by the time of this short, the Irish bulldog is called "Butch."
6. Whole lotta dirt
Butch, who counts his scoopfuls out loud, displaces six trillion, five hundred billion, four million, three hundred eighty-five thousand, six hundred thirty-two teaspoons of dirt. Some calculations put this at about thirty-two million, thirty-eight thousand, six hundred sixty-five tons of soil!
7. Secret message?
On the side of trains, it used to be common to see chalk or other markings written in a secret migrant worker code. Here, although two such inscriptions are wiped away, a third, typically marking "Keep Quiet," is written on the red car.
8. Tongue gag
By 1955, a cartoon character's tongue rolling out of his head like a red carpet was nothing new. But this gag, here, is employed by its originator: Tex Avery had, famously, directed Red Hot Riding Hood a decade prior. That short featured the iconic wolf whose eyes pop out of his head as he howls for the titular Red Hot Riding Hood.