Have been increasingly unsure what to make of "The Beary Family" cartoons as an overall series, whether to stand by my initial statement of for Walter Lantz Studios' final series it not being as bad as anticipated or judging from the awfulness of the worst cartoons to take it back. Sorry if this sounds confusing.
Due to that there are some decent or watchable "Beary Family" cartoons, especially 'Fowled-Up Birthday' and 'Mother's Little Helper' (both directed by Jack Hannah, who generally is a much stronger animation director than Paul J. Smith and his cartoons much better). However, there are also a fair share of horrible ones, as seen especially with as far as previous cartoons go 'Charlie's Mother-in-Law'. There are certainly far worse "Beary Family" cartoons than 'A Fish Story', sadly that's hardly an endorsement because it's still pretty lacklustre and indicative of how low Lantz studios had fallen by this point.
Saving graces are only a few but they are there. One is the music, which is energetic and lushly orchestrated, succeeding in single-handedly giving the little energy the cartoon has. Really like the theme music. The other is Paul Frees' voice work, much more subtle here and he shows his ability to create a likable character with good comic timing, despite his lacking material and less than inspired situations there's something about Charlie that makes him easy to like and relate to. A few decent lines and a few mildly amusing visual gags, such as the suitably wacky expressions of the human character when he screams at Charlie at one point, also make 'A Fish Story' watchable.
Find Bessie annoying, her treatment of Charlie making her very difficult to like her and Grace Stafford voicing her deserved better, but she is not as mean-spirited here which is a good thing (not enough to like her better).
Like many 60s-onward Lantz-studio cartoons, the animation is not good, a problem in even the best cartoons in the series. Time and budget constraints shows in a lot of the animation, which is very rushed looking in the drawing and detail wise it's on the simplistic and careless side with colours that lack vibrancy and a fair share of goofs. The story is not much of one at all and what there is is sloppily timed and without anything surprising or imaginative, predictability is non-stop (it is so obvious from as early on as the title and seeing other "Beary Family" cartoons that the situation is made a hash of), much more could have been done with the fish characters and the human character is both poorly drawn and generally not particularly funny or interesting apart from that one bit, the scene too takes a bit too long as well.
Junior has wildly varied in characterisation in the "Beary Family" cartoons, sometimes he's endearing and well-meaning, sometimes he's an annoying half-wit and not much else and sometimes he is pointless. He falls in the third category here. 'A Fish Story' has its moments, but too much of it is lacklustre and struggles to reach amusing let alone funny.
Much of 'A Fish Story' is far too noisy, clumsily and lazily timed and chaotic, irritating for the sake of it, and are memorable for their lack of taste than their wit. Hannah's efforts had none of those faults when it came to the humour.
All in all, better than a lot of the cartoons in the series but lacking in a lot of areas. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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