Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Teachers Are People - June 27, 1952

Despite its now uncomfortable parade of guns, grenades and schoolhouse explosions, the Goofy cartoon Teachers Are People remains one of the studio’s funnier endeavors and yet another hilarious take on post-war America sensibilities.

Released on June 27, 1952, this animated homage to the teaching profession took the interesting twist of placing Goofy’s Mr. Geef persona into a role that was at the time nearly completely dominated by the fairer sex. And much like his other Geef vehicles, the Goof plays the role with the usual disconnected innocence that is in stark contrast to the antics of the young pupils in his charge.

Allen Reed, who would go on to voice Fred Flintstone for Hanna Barbera, provided the irony-laced narration that was a standard feature of many of the Goofy shorts. All of the usual schoolhouse conventions are present: pigtails dipped in inkwells, apples for teacher, paper airplanes and overbearing parents. But the short’s humor is better found in its irreverent depictions of some of the less than innocent realities of childhood. The mayhem of the classroom and the apparent joys of truancy are not ignored, while homage is also played to cheating on exams and the limited attention spans of even our best and brightest. The cartoon’s most funny and likely perceptive observation is that sex education is more often learned in the schoolyard than in the classroom. Not necessarily the kind of gag one would expect to find in a 1950s era Disney production, but it’s an excellent example of how the Goofy shorts often pushed the envelope in ways more typically associated with the efforts of Warner Brothers and MGM.

This is no more apparent than in the scene where George, the resident class clown empties his pockets of everything from a slingshot and firecrackers to the slightly more lethal hand grenade and revolver. Potentially offensive in our current era of increased school violence, the scene manages to maintain its overall tone of absurdity enough to diffuse any real strong cries of protest. But even then it’s hard to completely exorcise from mind recent headlines and news reports when the schoolhouse literally explodes into ruin, and the cartoon concludes with George at the blackboard repeatedly scribing I will not bomb the school again. It’s a funny moment, but sadly, due to our all-too-recent history, a somewhat disquieting one as well.

Teachers Are People can be found on the Disney Treasures Complete Goofy DVD set.

Images © Walt Disney Company