Smedley and Colonel Pot Shot's last Walter Lantz cartoon
Chilly Willy's best cartoons were perfect examples of how a potentially one-joke character and concept could end up actually being a perfect mix of the cute and the funny with a lot of colour and good comic timing to go with it.
Paul J. Smith's (as part of the Walter Lantz Studio's Chilly Willy "cartunes") first Chilly Willy cartoon, the character's debut 'Chilly Willy', was great and among the best Chilly Willy cartoons, but generally his 60s-onward output (there are also cartoons from Alex Lovy, Jack Hannah, Sid Marcus and notably, in terms of being responsible for the two best of the series, Tex Avery) has been nowhere near as good. Some are decent, but generally they're average at best. 'Chilly's Hide-a-Way' is one of his best, of the later Chilly Willy cartoons and one of Smith's best contributions to the series overall.
It is notable for being the last appearances of Smedley and Colonel Pot Shot in a Walter Lantz "cartune", and both go out on a high. Smedley is very funny and endearing, despite his oddly drawn character design (true of his later outings with Chilly). Colonel Pot Shot is a formidable and entertaining opponent, being a suitable threat and taking the laughs well. The two sparkle with Chilly.
As for Chilly, he is as ever adorable and is also a lot of fun, with his actions speaking far louder than words. Prefer him when silent, and Grace Stafford's voice is a much better fit in the cartoons that he does speak in, but he still makes an impression. He may be a nuisance to his opponents but he wins the viewer over with his cuteness and timing, am always amazed too at how quick-thinking and brutal he is here for a character so deceptively cute.
Not a perfect cartoon by all means. As one can expect from the late Chilly Willy cartoons, where budgets were smaller and deadlines tighter with a significant nose-dive in animation quality (true for a lot of Walter Lantz Studio cartoons in general from the mid-50s onward) and the quality of timing and humour more than once slipped too, the animation is scrappy. It is rushed-looking and simplicity taken too far.
Story-wise, that rarely was a special asset in a Chilly Willy cartoon and it is easy to figure out a lot of the time where 'Chilly' Hide-a-Way' was heading. Structurally, it's formulaic and some of the content is over-familiar. The voice work for Chilly is still too mismatched, Chilly just doesn't sound right when not with a sparingly used high-pitched voice and made to sound older than he looks, it's like a mouse trying to sound like a tiger or something.
However, Chilly was drawn well and the backgrounds were nice at times. Walter Greene's music is lively and rousingly, cleverly and beautifully orchestrated and fits very well. Love the opening title credits music.
In terms of timing of the gags, 'Chilly's Hide-a-Way' is sharper than most late Chilly Willy cartoons while the gags themselves are funny and have more variety than most Lantz-studio cartoons from this period (particularly when directed by Smith). The physical interaction is fun.
Have already talked about Chilly, Smedley and Colonel Pot Shot and how well they work together. Daws Butler does a characteristically solid job with the voices.
Overall, very well done late Chilly Willy cartoon and has more to it than historical interest (Smedley and Colonel Pot Shot's last Walter Lantz "cartune"). 8/10 Bethany Cox
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