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Saturday Matinee

Disney Cartoon #12, : "In the Bag" (July 26, 1956)
by Albert Gutierrez

Continuing the CinemaScope Special series, the number I drew out of the hat for this week is #8, "In the Bag." This short was the last to feature Humphrey the Bear and Ranger Woodlore, until "Mickey Mouse Works" brought both of them back as foils once again for Donald Duck. It also introduces the extremely catchy song, "In the Bag..

It's the end of another day at the national park, and as the tourists wave goodbye, Ranger Woodlore looks back at the mess they left behind. Despite a prominent sight telling them not to litter, there's nothing but paper and trash all over the park. Rather than clean it up himself, Woodlore arranges for the park to be a "playing field" and enlists Humphrey and the other grizzly bears to clean it up. The group is excited to be playing what Woodlore calls a game (with a game stick and game bag to boot!). Ranger Woodlore even chants a little song - the titular "In the Bag" - for them to sing, which among other things involves them bumping each other's rumpuses against each other.

However, the bears soon realize that the so-called game is just Woodlore's way of getting them to clean up the park, and so they dump their game bags and go off. Woodlore decides that since deceiving them didn't work, he'll entice them with some chicken cacciatore. As he announces it's suppertime, but before he can serve the bears, reads aloud the park rules. No one can have supper unless their area of the park is clean! The bears all hurry to push the trash from their area into one spot...and that spot belongs to Humphrey. While they're all eating some delicious chicken cacciatore, Humphrey has to clean up the great big pile left to him.

At first he puts it all into a large bag and brings it to Ranger Woodlore, but it tears on his way and he leaves a trail of papers behind him. "Who do you think you're kidding, Humphrey?" Ranger Woodlore asks him. Humphrey proceeds to retrieve all the papers, with one final one on a branch. As he picks it up, the branch snaps and he falls, papers again strewn all over. He sweeps it all up under a bush, until a rabbit pushes it all out. Humphrey then finds a pack of matches, and just as he's about to light the pile of trash, Smokey the Bear(!) stomps it out and tells Humphrey, "Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires!" before walking away. Finally, Humphrey dumps all the trash into a large hole, not realizing it's the geyser "Ole Fateful" (a play on Yellowstone's Old Faithful). It shoots all the trash out throughout the entire park, and as the cartoon ends, Humphrey must once again clean it up.

"In the Bag" isn't one of my favorites, I always hated how Ranger Woodlore and the other bears treated Humphrey, but it's got a fun little ditty that is hard to get out of your head. It's only a few lines long and the "bump bump" can always be done in more ways than just shaking your derriere. When I was on the college program, sometimes I'd hum the song to myself whilst cleaning up around my wagon, and the "bump bump" would usually be a tap with the broom or a knocking on a surface. But enough about me, back to Humphrey.

 

As mentioned earlier, "In the Bag" was the last Humphrey/Woodlore short until "Mickey Mouse Works" came along. His first short was "Hold that Pose", a 1950 Goofy short, but he would be better known as one of Donald's foils in the mid-50's, occasionally acting in his own shorts as well. Overall, Humphrey only appeared in seven shorts, and it would have been great if his series had continued. He had a slightly dim and absent personality that made him the perfect comedy character, because so much can be done when he was pitted against Donald, with Woodlore as their voice of reason. Alas, it was not meant to be.

So far, the only DVD release for this short is in "Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities", and unfortunately, it is a compromised presentation. Rather than present the entire 2.35:1 CinemaScope frame, "In the Bag" appears in a 2.05:1 aspect ratio, cropping off image at the sides. It's not as extreme as the dreaded pan-and-scan process that would cut out 2/3 of the picture, as you can see below in a screen cap of the pan-and-scan version from YouTube. Still, despite how little is lost, it's still a case of of compromising the original theatrical presentation, which I generally disapprove of. To add insult to injury, the video masters used on the DVD aren't even 16:9 enhanced, hence why you see the square-ish images in here, while last week's "Grand CanyonScope" (which was 16:9 enhanced) was in the rectangular form.

Maybe with the minor success of Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros.'s Yogi Bear film, Disney might decide that film audiences could do with another bear-in-a-national-park movie and give us the return of Humphrey and Ranger Woodlore. I doubt it would ever happen, but if it did, I really wouldn't care much for the movie. I just want Disney to use it as an opportunity to collect all the original Humphrey shorts together and release them as a tie-in DVD.

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