Friday, April 24, 2009

The Violent Mayhem of Hockey Homicide

In our current era of too-frequent overbearing political correctness, the 1945 Goofy cartoon Hockey Homicide stands as a shining example of a creative process not held hostage by studio executives overly concerned with pleasing soccer-mom demographics. The genius of this short is rooted in its parody of the sport’s reputation for excessive violence and the subsequent frenzy that that violence inspires in the game’s spectators. Rather than ignore or disavow this darker side of competition, it embraces it and celebrates it with an irreverent and sardonic glee. In the fifty-plus years since its release, Hockey Homicide has lost neither its humor nor its relevance. It is a hyper-paced, hilarious eight minutes of unbridled mayhem that also casts a satirical eye to sports fandom’s often unquenchable thirst for blood and brawling.

The cartoon is very much in the spirit of the classic quip of “attending a boxing match only to have a hockey game break out.” Beating and pummeling are the strategies of play with occasional hockey maneuvers peppered throughout. The short’s most memorable and now classic gag is the ongoing rivalry between star players Ice Box Bertino and Fearless Ferguson. When the two begin brawling even prior to the opening faceoff, it sets off a cycle of fighting and penalty suffering that extends almost the length of the cartoon. It is highlighted by the announcer’s oft repeated “Here come Bertino and Ferguson out of the penalty box . . . and there go Bertino and Ferguson back into the penalty box.”

The frenzy of the game builds and builds until it spills into the stands and ignites the spectators. The crowd storms the ice and chaos ensues, leading to an eye-popping montage of violence that incorporates scenes not only from other Goofy sports cartoons but from the studio’s features Victory Through Air Power and Pinocchio as well.

A couple of particularly funny gags: the two rival fans featured throughout the short are seated appropriately in Section 8; and when the ice is cleaned between periods, among the debris shoveled up are cowboy boots and spurs, cups and saucers, a bottle of Heinz 57, boxing gloves, an umbrella, a hair brush, a croquet mallet and even an extended hand clutching a cigar.

Especially notable in Hockey Homicide are the references by name to Disney employees. The aforementioned Bertino and Ferguson refer to animators Al Bertino and Norm Ferguson, while referee “Clean Game” Kinney pays homage to the short’s director Jack Kinney (and possibly also to storyman Dick Kinney). When a scorecard is examined early in the short, the teams’ rosters are a veritable who’s who of the Disney Studio in 1945. It’s a great screenshot, worthy of Freeze Frame status, and it is very likely the most extensive “in-joke” ever incorporated into a piece of Disney animation.

Hockey Homicide stands as one of the best Goofy cartoons produced and also easily qualifies as one of the studio’s funniest. Goofy in name, but certainly more sophisticated in content and humor, the short takes a not-so-subtle shot-on-goal at a professional sport and the antics of its passionate fans.

3 comments: DisneyLOL said...

My favorite name on the scorecard: "Speed Peed" LOL

Chuck Munson said...

Jeff, your comments are spot on regarding this short. I have always found it to be one of my absolute favorite Goofy sports shorts *because* of the skewed (or is that skewered?) violence rather than in spite of it. Plus it is a valuable educational tool: "Yes, Pumpkin, it is very funny. And why do we never ever want to behave this way in real life? ....

FZ said...
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