Here's another reason to give the final batch of Warner Bros. shorts, the Bill Hendricks-produced 1967-69 era, another look. Walter Lantz veteran Alex Lovy, perhaps better known among Looney Tunes fans for his horrendous Daffy Duck/Speedy Gonzales efforts, was actually pretty productive during his brief stint at Warners. Besides the ever-present Robert McKimson, Lovy was the only credited director this late in the game, and managed to be creative and funny despite miniscule budgets. Rather than drag any more of the beloved classic characters other than Daffy and Speedy through the low-budget mud, Lovy opted to try new ideas and characters that fit the more limited style, ultimately creating Cool Cat, Colonel Rimfire, Merlin the Magic Mouse, Second Banana, anf a slew of one-shot characters like Chimp and Zee and a couple of bumbling World War I fighter pilots. While Cool Cat was more of an attempt to cash in on 60's culture and the Pink Panther, Merlin was completely original. A travelling magician with a W.C. Fields-esque voice, (originally performed by Daws Butler and later by Larry Storch) was aided by his sidekick, Second Banana, and always found himself in sticky situations with some joker who stood between him and his latest travel destination.
In this particular cartoon, "Hocus Pocus Powwow", Merlin and Second Banana are thrown off a train in the middle of the desert for misplacing their tickets. They run into "Lo, the Poor Indian", a goofy Native American who looks like something from a Hanna-Barbera TV show, and thanks to veteran gag writer Cal Howard, the resulting battle of half-wits is surprisingly funny. "Lo" was memorable enough that Warner Bros. actually licensed him for merchandise, and he turned up as part of a series of LT-themed brass bells in the 1980's. Unfortunately, the cartoon is now deemed to politically incorrect for television and has never been released on video in any form. It turned up once as part of an unscheduled late-night marathon of "un-PC" cartoons on Cartoon Network over 6 years ago, (ironically, the same marathon featured the pilot for Adult Swim.)
Enjoy "Hocus Pocus Powwow", directed by Alex Lovy, written by Cal Howard and scored by Bill Lava (and for once Lava delivers a good score!)