Disney animated short made in 1936. Part of the Silly Symphony series, it continued with the Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs characters that had already been used twice before (1933 and 1934). It also continued the trademark Disney Technicolor animation (from 1929 to 1932 the shorts were only black and white) and orchestral scores that made the series such a landmark of animation. As with the others, the dialogue is sung and musical instruments supply many of the "sound effects."
Again, mining fairy tales for ideas (in this case a fable), "Three Little Wolves" is a reworking of "the boy who cried wolf" story. It is arguably the most exciting and, perhaps, the most disturbing of the four shorts for reasons which should be apparent.
It opens with the Big Bad Wolfor B. B. Wolf, as it says on the mailboxin his lair (under a tree) instructing his kids on the art of eating pigs. Done (of course) as song, it is strange and done with a German accent, while he points out the "items" on a chart. So bizarre, it bears repeating (he goes first and the titular "Three Little Wolves" reply).1
"Ist das nicht dein Sausage Meat?"
"Ja, das ist dein Sausage Meat."
"Ist das nicht dein Pigsen Feet?"
"Ja, das ist dein Pigsen Feet."
"Ist das gut for Schweine Stew?"
"Ja, das is gut for Schweine Stew."
"Ist das nicht dein Curlicue?" [points to the tail]
"Ja, das ist dein Curlicue."
"Roasted pork, glass of schnapps,
Ham and eggs, pork-a-chops,
Pigsen feet, Sausage meat,
Little pigs is good to eat."
The lesson (and accent) is interrupted by the kids and their slingshots.
Upset, he threatens to "blow your ears off!" Unimpressed, they act like the pigs and dance around singing "Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" They dissolve into Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig2 doing the same thing.
The two pigs decide to play a prank on their brother, Practical. They decide to blow the Wolf Alarm horn. Upon hearing it, Practical rushes from his workmaking a large elaborate machine called the "Wolf Pacifier" ("PATENT APPLIED FOR?)with his blunderbuss and races to the tree where the horn hangs. The others laugh and dance and sing (which, besides running away or getting into danger, seem to be their only skills). Understandably furious, Practical threatens that one day they will "blow he horn and I won't come" because he'll think it is "one of your tricks." Truly the pigs who cried wolf.
Here come de wolves. As with the two previous entries ("Three Little Pigs" and "The Big Bad Wolf"), the Wolf resorts to disguises to try to get his dinner. This time he has help. Dressing up as Little Bo Peep, he sobs and pleads with the two pigs to help herhimherto find the lost sheep. Of course they are willing to help (even if it means a short curtailing of their incessant dancing and singing). This, naturally, involves looking in such time-honored ovine hiding places as under small rocks.
Then the pigs see "them." It is the three little wolves hopping around in the same not-so convincing sheepskins that Papa Wolf used in the "Three little Pigs." The "sheep" hop away with the pigs trailing behind and being led to the wolves' lair.
Now is it the hour of the wolf. After the congenitally oblivious pigs enter the lair, "Bo Peep" follows them in, slams the door, and swallows the key. Looking about ready to pounce (though still in costume), the Wolf is about to go after the pigsthen the pigs do something very odd, indeed. Acting as if "Bo Peep" is coming on to them, they act coy and blush: "Why Bo Peep...." (Huh?)
The expected chase ensues while the pigs attempt in vain to summon help by blowing the Wolf Alarm. The little wolves are in on the action, as well, one chasing a pig with a meat cleaver and the other two almost pulling apart the other in the act of fighting over who gets him. Meanwhile, Practical finally hears the call, but true to the tale, dismisses it as another "trick." The pigs are subdued and the wolves celebrate by dancing and singing their "little pigs is good to eat" song while the two are prepared for the oven.
The wolves, in their victory, parade around the room, striking plates like drums and blowing the horn. Still hoping for Practical to save the day, they try to get the alarm blast to be more urgent. Mockingly: "Oh why don't you blow it loud?" The little wolf tries with all his might, blowing until he turns blue then purple and popping the button from his pants, making them fall to his ankles (apparently something that runs in the family; see "Three Little Pigs" and what follows). No good. They call it a "sissy blow."
So father grabs the horn to show those pigs what the Wolf family is made of. He sucks wind and blows. Really blows. The bottom of the Bo Peep outfit drops to his ankles. He blows the door off its hinges and the gusts swirl around, blasting down trees and bushes and making it all the way to Practical (where he is putting the finishing touches on the enigmatic Wolf Pacifier). (One wonders why he didn't blow like this in the first placeseldom has one seen such a well done job blowing something in a cartoon....)
This time, Practical knows it's no prank. He packs up his Wolf Pacifier wagon (which is disguised as a fresh fruit and vegetable shop) and pulls it through the woods toward the Wolf lair. Once there, he disguises himself as a stereotypical Italian street vendor type, offering free samples of tomatoes to the wolves. Since the Wolf is evil, he's necessarily greedy and jumps at the opportunity for something free.
Practical throws the tomato at the Wolf, which enrages him, causing him to chase Practical into the "shop." That's when we get to see just what this Wolf Pacifier really is. It's rather like an old Rube Goldberg machinethough unlike a complicated machine to do a simple task, this complicated machine actually does quite a bit: Mr. Wolf is buzzsawn, rolling-pinned, booted, boxed, tarred and feathered, and shot out of a cannon. As he flies across the countryside, his children chase after him.
In true patriotic spirit, the pigs emerge from the lair performing an imitation of the famous painting "The Spirit of '76."3
In total, Disney made four shorts featuring the Three Little Pigs:
1The question of why the German accent is interesting. Given the year, it seems doubtful (though, perhaps, not inconceivable) that it is a reference to the Nazis. One might speculate that it is some sort of Jewish joke, but there is no way to be sure (there have been rumors and accusations of Walt Disney's alleged anti-Semitism, though I am not aware of them having been sufficiently substantiated). Also refer to "Three Little Pigs" for another Jewish stereotype that has since been removed from the "official" version of that cartoon.
2The pigs were not named in the shorts (with the exception of Practical, for the later short). However, they were given names.
3The painter, Archibald McNeal Willard (1836-1918), painted at least four versions of the piece. The first was for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. It was originally titled "Yankee Doodle."
(Source: the Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies DVD set)