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A 1942 Merrie Melodies short subject directed by Chuck Jones, "The Dover Boys At Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" (or just "The Dover Boys" for short) is an animated parody of a series of early 20th Century juvenile fiction novels called "the Rover Boys". This was also Chuck's first attempt at making a cartoon that was actually funny -- unlike the cloying cuteness and Disney-like nature of his Sniffles the Mouse cartoons. It was also an early experiment with stylized, Limited Animation, as well as motion blurring, but because of this, it almost got Chuck fired -- he just barely managed to avoid the pink slip from his boss.
This cartoon was voted No. 49 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list, and has also made it onto The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes list. The short has also fallen into the public domain and can be legally viewed online (as you can see on this very page).
The Dover Boys were also used in an Animaniacs Slappy Squirrel Short, acting as musical narrators to Daniel Boone.
WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware. If you have a problem with that, just watch the cartoon first. It's only 9 minutes long, and it's right here on this very page.
- Action Girl: Rescue? Dora don't need no rescue!
- A subversion. Even though she effortlessly hurls Dan Backslide across the room when he tries to advance on her, she continues calling for Tom, Dick, and Larry to save her. And then she absconds with the Running Gag guy after the Dover Boys knock each other out, subverting their Big Damn Heroes moment.
- The Alcoholic:
Dan: "THEY DRIVE ME TO DRINK!" (Cue rapid shot-taking)
- Alcohol Hic: Dan, shortly after downing a dozen or so shots.
- Bad Guy Bar: "...a certain public house, a tavern of unsavory repute..."
- Bad Guys Play Pool: Dan Backslide, at said tavern of unsavory repute.
- Brick Joke: The old man in an old fashioned bathing suit who keeps popping up out of nowhere in the short to the tune of "While Strolling Through the Park One Day" goes off with Dora in the end.
- Cross Counter: A three-way one, delivered by each of the Dover Boys simultaneously to the other two Dover Boys.
- Damsel Fight-and-Flight Response: Spoofed, as it's the distressed damsel who seriously beats up the villain while calling for help. This is distressed?
- Damsel in Distress: Lampooned mercilessly. Even as she repeatedly Offhand Backhands her captor, she continues to bang on the door calling for help. A door that's visibly locked from the side she's on. She needs help, all right.
- Dastardly Whiplash: Dan Backslide, coward-bully-cad-and-thief.
- Either or Title
- Expy: The Dover Boys are, of course, parody expies of Edward Stratemeyer's "Rover Boys," Dick, Tom, and Sam (and their schoolfellows, Larry, Fred, and Frank). "Dan Backslide" represents the villain of the books, Dan Baxter.
- The Fettered: Parodied.
"Forced to pass a certain public house, a tavern of unsavory repute, our young friends meet the distressing situation with their usual uncompromising moral fortitude."
- Of course, this doesn't stop them from exploiting the fact that no one would ever think to look for them in the Bad Guy Bar in a game of Hide-and-Seek.
- Foreshadowing: When Dan kidnaps Dora as she's grasping a tree while counting for Hide-and-Seek, she rips the tree out of the ground without losing a beat or realizing she's being taken. As we later find, she's strong enough to tie Dan in a knot.
- Even earlier, at the tavern, Dan places a picture of Dora in front of a poster showing a muscled man. The picture, of Dora's face, covers the man's head. And we know how strong Dora really is...
- Fun with Acronyms: Pimento University. Pimento U. Good ol' P.U.
- The Gay Nineties: The setting of this short.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Dan Backslide uses a cigarette holder -- of course he must be a coward-bully-cad-and-thief.
- Great Big Book of Everything: Dan whips out his Handbook of Useful Information and consults it for a method on 'How Best to Remove Young Lady from Tree (Fig. 1).'
- Hey, It's That Voice!: The narration is done by John McLiesh, best known for narrating the Goofy "How To" Classic Disney Shorts.
- Horned Hairdo: Dan Backslide has this.
- I Fell for Hours: A subtle version occurs when Dora tosses Dan the third time he tries to subdue her in the hunting lodge. She throws him up and to the left, and there are no sound effects to indicate that he smashed through the roof. Yet from the moment she throws him, it takes him seven whole seconds to come down, and when he does, he falls straight down (again, with no sound effect to imply that he fell through the roof). The whole thing is cartoonish enough on a casual viewing, but it's when you pick the gag apart that you start to realize how amazingly absurd it is.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: The Dover Boys drive Dan Backslide to drink. To drive the point home, he then goes over to the bar and does a baker's dozen shots in the span of about four seconds (with the barkeep knocking one back in the process).
- Insistent Terminology: Dan Backslide (coward-bully-cad-and-thief).
- Ironic Echo: Dora Stanpipe on being captured by Dan Backslide.
Dora: Help Tom! Help Dick! Help Larry!
- Large Ham: Dan Backslide.
- Last-Second Word Swap: "...Dora Stanpipe! Dear, Rich DORA STANPIPE! HOW I LOVE HER ... father's money."
- Limited Animation: Or, at least, extreme stylization.
- Lovable Jock: Tom.
- Motion Blur: This short pioneered the use of the smear, in which the characters appear elongated for two or three frames as they zip from one pose to the next.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Dan Backslide announces his plan to steal a car with all the enthusiasm of someone about to steal the Statue of Liberty.
- No Indoor Voice: Dan Backslide.
- Offhand Backhand: Dora to Dan, as she continues to call for help.
- Overly Long Gag: Lampshaded.
Tom: "(confronts moose head) Unhand her, Dan Backslide! (confronts Larry) Unhand her, Dan Backslide! (confronts unconscious Dan) Unhand her, Dan Backslide! (turns to camera) Hey, we're getting in a rut!"
- Pity the Kidnapper
- Polyamory: Wait... so Dora is the fiancee of all three of the Dover Boys?
- Purple Prose: The narration wonderfully parodies the frothy, cliché-ridden prose of the Edwardian boys' novel.
- Running Gag: The old man with the bathing suit and sailor hat. He gets Dora in the end.
- Standard Female Grab Area: When Dora finishes counting to 1500 and looks up, Dan keeps her in the car by taking hold of her upper arm. She doesn't even attempt to struggle; she just remains stock still and yells for help. Keep in mind that the runabout has no walls or doors, and she is ridiculously strong.
- Standard Snippet: As might be expected from Carl Stalling -- the score is punctuated by a number of college and popular turn-of-the-century songs, (e.g., "Far Above Cayuga's Waters", "Sweet Genevieve," and "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree"). Another scene-setter, for the "tavern of ill-repute", is the 19th century Murder Ballad "Frankie and Johnny."
- Straight Edge: The Dover Boys could easily qualify as a Gay Nineties variation.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- With Catlike Tread: When Dan Backslide sees the Dover Boys hiding under his pool table, he shouts his dastardly plans at the top of his lungs. The boys, some two-and-a-half feet away, don't seem to notice:
"The Dover Boys! THEN DORA MUST BE ALONE AND UNPROTECTED!"
- And just outside, he follows up with "A runabout! I'll steal it! NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!"