Hoppity Goes to Town
(A.K.A. Mr. Bug Goes to Town, Bugville) (1941)
Directed by Dave Fleischer

Artistic & Entertainment Value: * * * *

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In an empty lot in New York City, a number of insects live in a small town of their own. There, Mr. Bumble runs a honey shop with the help of his beautiful daughter, Honey. Unfortunately, the rich and ruthless C. Bagley Beetle has fallen in love with and is determined to marry the young bee, though she loves Hoppity, a kind and happy grasshopper. With the help of his two henchman, Swat the Fly and Smack the Mosquito, the conniving beetle tries various schemes to force Honey to accept his advances. His efforts are repeatedly foiled by Hoppity, but they do, nonetheless, endanger the bugs' village, prompting its inhabitants to look for some place where they might relocate.

Dave Fleischer's Hoppity Goes to Town is a fun, appealing movie. I will not claim that it is inspired, but it is always a pleasure to watch.

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For one thing, the quality of the animation is consistently high and is sometimes pretty impressive. Most of the characters look as though they could have been lifted from a children's cartoon, but they are nicely realized. All are, of course, anthropomorphic insects, and each either reflects his personality in his features or is simply odd to see. For example, Hoppity is a jaunty grasshopper; Honey is a curvaceous, wasp waisted, and very pretty bee, and the round, scowling Beetle is angry and villainous. Fortunately, the film's backdrops are at least as nicely done as are its players. At different points, the director reveals the insects' town, which is made of various pieces of rubbish human beings have discarded, a garden alive with brilliantly colored flowers, and the city streets around these places, where rotoscoped men and women wander.

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Though the movie's story hardly displays the same imagination as do its images, it is still interesting enough to keep the viewer's attention. I actually did find myself sympathizing with the unfortunate insects, and with the decent, heroic Hoppity in particular, and hoping that they would see through the beetle's various schemes. What is more, this tale is alive with several delightful episodes. At different times, the insects work to extinguish the flames that are burning Mr. Bumble's honey shop, after a cigar rolled down a hill by Beetle crashes into it, Hoppity and Honey visit a nightclub built beneath a street drain, and all the insects climb the frame of a skyscraper that is being built, all the while trying to avoid one danger after another, like moving girders, red hot bolts, and careless workmen. The movie is a hoot.

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Hoppity Goes to Town really is a delight. It is not a classic, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still very good.

Review by Keith Allen

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