Monday, January 22, 2007

Charlie the Lonesome Cougar

This here story is about Good-time Charlie. The friendliest cougar in the Great Northwest timberland. The movie is also a display of Disney Studios at its animal manipulating best! Some readers may remember this film from their elementary school days when they used to show movies on a 16mm projector in the cafeteria, with the entire student body sitting on the floor.Little Charlie was orphaned shortly after he was born and forced to rely on the kindness of strangers. And that's where Jess comes in....Jess is a forester of some sort. His job is to spray paint the trees that need to be chopped down - so that folks like you and me can have houses and coffee tables and paper and stuff. He was doing just that, one day, when he heard the faint cry of a distressed kitten.....And there was Charlie. Now, Jess was a bachelor living way out in the forest far from most decent looking women. A cougar might be just the thing to keep him company!In addition to knowing all about trees, Jess also knows how to handle a kitten.You'll notice that Jess is the kind of bachelor that wears pajamas and keeps a clean house. I'm not sure what that means, but one thing is clear: Charlie found just the person he needed....After a good meal, Charlie was able to soundly sleep - maybe for the first time in his life.
Charlie and Jess became pretty good companions though, as we'll see, Charlie has a way of finding trouble.In this case, he finds the basket of fish that Jess caught.It wasn't long before Charlie had met most of the critters that lived around Jess's place. Almost all of them were too small or too unfriendly to serve as a playmate.That is, until he met this cub. Charlie had to wait until he was away from his mother....And then the hunt, er, I mean playtime was on.The method of play was simple: Charlie would pounce on the cub, mimicking a kill, while the cub would flee for his life.After they tired themselves out, they found a hollow log, crawled inside and napped.A large bear interrupted the nap and chased them both up a tree. That large bear might have shaken them down (he seemed to have it in for them), but the cub's mother came to the rescue. I assume that the filmakers used a little bit of honey or peanut butter on each bear nose get them to go after each other in a life and death fashion. As Charlie grew up, he hung out with Jess at this picturesque lumber yard. I must admit that I was a little confused as to whether this was a mill or a yard. It looks like this is where lumber was carved up for building purposes, but a later scene shows the workers sending unprocessed logs down the river.To further confuse the issue, Charlie is shown perched on a unit of finished wood....Nevermind. The film still manages to teach kids about the lumber business.The main thing here is to convey that Charlie liked to go to the lumber mill's cafe to beg for scraps from Potlatch, the cook.There was one constant obstacle Charlie had to consider before approaching the cafe....And that was Chainsaw, Potlatch's hellhound terrier.How it is that a pint-sized loud mouth terrier wouldn't crap its pants at the sight of a cougar or that a cougar wouldn't quickly dispatch with such a nuissance is beyond me. I kept expecting Charlie to have a "Lambert" moment - but alas, that moment never came. Charlie would wait for Chainsaw to go off somewhere....And then he would go begging at the door.Potlatch was pretty fond of Charlie. In fact, you could say that Potlatch cared more for Charlie than he did for the sanitation of his kitchen.What Charlie didn't know was that Chainsaw only tricked him into thinking he went off somewhere. He quickly doubled back and waited for some unsuspecting mill workers to let him in to the cafe.And then the chase was on!Potlatch: "Oh no! Chainsaw!"As we learn, Chainsaw is skilled in the art of eluding his master's grasp.Charlie had to think fast. Unfortunately, he's a cat and thinking fast and smart is not in the cards. That left one option: to run and climb hell bells around the kitchen....Charlie tried to maintain the high ground, where Potlatch couldn't reach.....then, using a mound of hamburger meat as a launching pad....Charlie managed to find the security of Jess's arms. Jess's feet, meanwhile, kicking Chainsaw away.Silly Charlie! you could have killed and eaten that pint-sized terrier with no effort at all!Now came time for Charlie to over-see the launching of the river drive....A time when 60 million feet of timber is sent 120 miles down river!One nudge at the key log from this crane....And the timber fell into the river in such a way as not to disturb a single fish.Teams of men navigated all around the drifting logs to ensure that they didn't get any center jams or wing jams.This operation often included upwards of 40 men. These men would sleep on this flotilla of shacks called the Big Wonigan which followed behind the timbers.Normally, this would be the end of the work for Jess and Charlie.But a visit from Potlatch meant.......Chainsaw was not far behind.Chainsaw chased Charlie........who came upon the floating kitchen, called the Little Wonigan - where the cook, who was new and didn't know about Charlie, was just pushing off.Charlie jump on board, through the legs of the frantic cook, who, in turn, abandoned the vessel.Charlie found the highest place he could.Jess tried to secure the Little Wonigan, but it was no use. He soon found himself on it.And Charlie fell overboard when the delicate structure of empty boxes toppled. He climbed on the first piece of floating debris he could find.Meanwhile, Jess tried to navigate down the river as best he could.He didn't have much luck, though, in catching up to Charlie.Eventually, the other lumberjacks found Jess and brought him and the Little Wonigan to safety. They agreed to get Charlie if Jess would cook their supper.The men liked Jess's cookingAnd forced him to stay and cook moreBecause, darn it, that supper was pretty good.Meanwhile, Charlie took to the river like he was a born river-cat.Although the narrator claimed that Charlie was helping out the crew, it looked like he was just getting in the way.But the men didn't seem to get annoyed. Charlie managed to get on well with everybody.Yet, he was still prone to finding trouble. While Jess was taking a nap on the floating kitchen, Charlie managed to untie the rope that secured the vessel to the bank.The fight to secure the floating kitchen that ensued left Charlie in some pretty hot water. The boss told Jess that Charlie could no longer roam around freely....So from then on, Charlie was chained to Jess's truck.But the sounds of some nearby men having a good time....meant that Good-time Charlie would not stay chained for long.Soon, Charlie was actively participating in the fun.....And he was doing pretty good until Chainsaw showed up barking loudly and disrupted Charlie's concentration.Not only did Charlie lose the contest, but the boss heard about it and exiled Charlie to stay penned up at Jess's house.Charlie got lonely penned up at the house and, when he heard another cougar, managed to escape....He and that cougarette went off frolicking for days.Playing in the snow, etc.When the cougarette left him, Charlie couldn't remember the way home. And he was getting pretty hungry. He caught a whiff of fresh milk at a nearby barnwhere some of his smaller cousins were drinking their fill....That milk looked delicious!As an aside, I'm always impressed by how a cat can maintain its dignity even while being squirted with milk. If I was squirted with milk, my dignity would be the first to leave....The sight of Charlie scared off the other cats, but the farmer was too busy milking the cow and did not notice him right off.....That afforded Charlie a few precious moments with the tasty milk fresh from the teat.But when the farmer realized he was squirting the milk at a cougar, he freaked!And ran to his house to get his shotgun.Charlie got out of there as fast as he could, almost being trampled to death by a mother pig in the process...before springing clear of the livestockand over the hill to safety....Charlie spent several weeks in the wild, learning how to hunt and survive. He made some mistakes, of course, like trying to fight a raccoon in a tree.He smartly decided not to tangle with that same raccoon in the pond.....At some point, Charlie stopped being the predator and became the prey when a man and his dogs chased Charlie to a log flume.He had no choice but to tag a ride on a log.....Which allowed the filmmakers to show more of that wonderful country.
The flume, of course, led to the same lumber mill that already gave Charlie the boot. Soon, he found himself back at Potlatch's cafe door.But since it was at night, nobody was answering the door. No worries, Charlie managed to gain his entrance through an open window. He snooped around for some vittles before inadvertantly trapping himself in this pantry.And it didn't take Charlie long to go berserk, converting the pantry into a panic chamber.As the narrator pointed out, for the first time in his life, Charlie was a dangerous cougar. Like a wild animal, he couldn't stand confined spaces. The next morning he got out and frightened just about every lumberjack at the mill...The chase went on and on....Desperate measures were employed...the cougar MUST be neutralized.
The chase led Charlie into an elevator shaft. The frightened mob of mill workeres poked at the trapped cougar with long poles. Charlie was terrified.
The mill owner was taking his aim.
And about to pull the trigger when....Jess intervened - wanting to "talk down" the crazy cougar...
Easy Charlie...easy boy!
Come now. It's Jess, here. Remember?Come on, get those ears up.Thatta boy.And Jess saved Charlie's life. Jess knew (and I think Charlie may have suspected) that Charlie was going to need a new home. So he took Charlie way out to a nature perserve and released Charlie to the wild, where he would be safe from hunters and far away from the lumber yard.Charlie welcomed the new environment, but looked back one last time at his guardian angel Jess....And Jess's new best squeeze. Yeah, Jess would be alright. And so would Charlie.


Wagstaff said...

Excellent work. Needed more screenshots, though.

Anonymous said...

That was awesome.

odienator said...

Great job! It felt like Jeffrey was reading me a bedtime story.

This reminded me of how full of shit those Disney features were. I'm sure some kids out in New Mexico got the shit clawed out of them thanks to this Disney special.

Charlie the Lonesome Cougar was all fine and good, but I want to see "Charlie Parsley, And The Lonesome Mercury Cougar." I guess that would be from Touchstone, not Disney.

Matt Zoller Seitz said...

Wow. I feel like I was on that log flume myself.