Friday, May 11, 2018

Ceiling Hero: Stale Material Gets a More Sophisticated Treatment

Release date: 8/24/1940 (according to BCDb)
DVD-Blu-Ray Availability: 

You may view the complete version of this cartoon HERE.


After the creative and cinematic triumph of A Wild Hare, Avery might have felt exhausted, and relied on a familiar fallback--the spot-gag cartoon. We see this pattern throughout his latter career at Leon Schlesinger's studio: masterpiece/dud/masterpiece/dud.

Despite Avery's growing confidence and finesse as a movie-maker, he had a hard time with winning streaks. Some of this was borne of his self-challenge to try new things, take risks and better what he'd done before. How the spot-gag format inspired him is a mystery. It was a familiar port to rest while he charged himself up for his next superior effort.

Ceiling Hero offers nothing new in terms of content. The gags are mostly cornball, with two shining moments of inspiration. Despite its lack of yocks, the cartoon impresses with its forthright, composed and cool-handed air. We are closer to the style that Avery will use in his best M-G-M pictures. Gone is the gawkiness of 1937/8; the show-off who practically mashes his gags in the audience's face. Avery still had a bit of that in his system, and it shows up in a few of his early M-G-M shorts. Ceiling Hero looks ahead to the spot-gag cartoons Avery will do at the end of the decade. House of Tomorrow, Car of Tomorrow and TV of Tomorrow peddle deliberately stale gags with a poker face, with a few innovative and genuinely successful vignettes here and there.