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The Night Watchman (1938) Online

The Night Watchman (1938) Online
Original Title :
The Night Watchman
Genre :
Movie / Animation / Short / Comedy / Family / Music
Year :
Directror :
Chuck Jones
Cast :
Mel Blanc,Margaret Hill-Talbot,The Sportsmen Quartet
Writer :
Tedd Pierce
Type :
Time :
Rating :
The Night Watchman (1938) Online

A little cat must take his sick father's place as night watchman, but is bullied by a tough mouse and his gang, leaving the rest of the mice free to eat all the food and stage a musical floor show.
Uncredited cast:
Mel Blanc Mel Blanc - Tough Mice (voice) (uncredited)
Margaret Hill-Talbot Margaret Hill-Talbot - Tommy Cat (voice) (uncredited)
The Sportsmen Quartet The Sportsmen Quartet - Vocalists (voice) (uncredited)

Directorial debut of Chuck Jones.

On the kitchen shelf is a box of "Moon Sweet Prunes". This is a pun on Sunsweet Prunes, a brand still sold today.

On the kitchen shelf is a box of "Spaghet". This is a stereotyped Italian immigrant dialect pronunciation of "spaghetti" that was common in American "ethnic" comedy routines during much of the 20th Century.

User reviews



"Thos. Cat," the night watchman, is too sick to go to work so he gives his cap and flashlight to his little son.

Soon, the mice (they look more like rats) see the little guy, find out he's subbing for his dad, and then go to work devouring all the food in the building's kitchen. How they eat the food, from bananas to olives to pretzels to watermelons, etc., is very funny.

The mice even start cooking some steaks and the little tabby tells them, "Hey, fellas, please don't eat all the food. I'm supposed to protect this place." They tell him to scram, put on a quick floor show and then punch him out.

The little mouse's guardian angel gives him a pep talk and things begin to change.

Not bad: a cute little cartoon.


This is a very cute cartoon, but not an especially interesting short on its own merits. The chief point of interest here is as the very first cartoon which Chuck Jones directed. As I will mention some details, there will be mild spoilers:

The basic premise of this short is that the regular night watchman, a full-grown cat, is sick and can't make his rounds and so the task falls to his young son. To say that the mice are less than concerned about the new night watchman would be an understatement. They're bigger, meaner and tougher than the little cat and bully him mercilessly.

This turn of events means that they have pretty much got free run of the kitchen for most of the short. There are a few cute food-related sight gags, but the short is a bit flatter and less energetic than you would expect, though, to be fair, if you look at it without comparing it to later work by Jones, it comes off looking a good deal better.

The ending is all rather predictable, though fun to watch for the most part. This isn't a bad short, it just pales in comparison to the work which would come later, though it does make clear that Jones was interested in the cute and sentimental from the beginning. This was probably the genesis of the Sniffles shorts done a bit later.

This short is available on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 4 and is worth a look. The Collection, as with the previous three volumes, is most highly recommended.


Night Watchman, The (1938)

*** (out of 4)

A cat is too sick to go to work as a night watchman so he hands over his cap and flashlight to his young son. Once the son is on the scene a gang of mice start to take over so the kitten must find a way to build up some courage. This is a pleasant early short from Jones (his first in fact) who shows a real flare for the material here. The animation really stands out with the wonderful and vivid colors. Everything from the young cat's uniform to various food products really jump off the screen. Another major plus is the story, which is certainly cute and rewarding. There are many good scenes in the movie but my favorite has to be the sequence where the mice start to take over by eating everything in the house. The way the mice eat provide many laughs.


'The Night Watchman' was the debut directional effort by that great master of animation, Chuck Jones. Typical of Jones's serviceable but rather dull Disney pastiches that characterised his early work, 'The Night Watchman' is an unbearably gooey little offering with a constant lack of energy that is sorely required to bolster the wafer thin plot. A young cat (a clear prototype for Jones's cloying early character Sniffles) takes over the post of night watchman when his father is too ill to carry out the job. Immediately, he falls foul of some tough guy rats who push him around and take advantage of the absence of any real threat to gorge themselves with food and have a big night out in the kitchen. Of course, the cat finally turns the tables when his conscience buoys him up for a big final showdown. Betraying none of the talent he would become famous for (and, let's be fair, this was his first film), Jones lays out the story in a straightforward, no-frills manner. The characters are all severely lacking in charisma, particularly the so-wet-you-almost-don't-feel-sorry-for-him cat, the animation is lumbering and predictable, the musical number is flat and the story doesn't build naturally, instead resorting to a tacked on and completely unsatisfying finale in which the cat does a too-sudden about face and metes out a workmanlike beating to each individual rat, a production line revenge that is less than thrilling to watch. Of course, Warner Bros. was still finding its feet as an animation studio and 'The Night Watchman' is not significantly worse than many of the lesser cartoons of the time but, other than its historical importance as Jones's debut, there's really nothing here that I'd recommend to the casual cartoon fan.


"The Night Watchman" is a very good Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Chuck Jones. A friendly little cat is hired by his ailing dad as the night watchman guarding the abundant kitchen against a treacherous gang of mice.

Since I am a jazz musician, my absolute favorite sequence from this short is the floor show, in which a trio of mice sing a swinging version of "In the Shade of the Apple Tree", accompanied by a big band of mice playing kitchen utensils as instruments.

One final point: As much as I like "The Night Watchman", I am so glad I did not see it as a kid, because I would have identified with the poor little cat and wept with him after he took all that physical abuse from the mice.


It's hard to believe that Chuck Jones, known for irreverent masterpieces like "Duck Amuck" and "What's Opera, Doc?", started out with something as simple as "The Night Watchman". It portrays a kitten having to take over his ill father's job as a security guard (it's not identified where this cartoon takes place), only to have a bevy of tough mice bully him and chow down on all the food. Until the kitten's guardian angel enters the fray.

We should be able to forgive Chuck if this one seems weak compared to his most famous work; after all, everyone had to start somewhere. So if nothing else, this one's worth watching as a historical reference.
Slowly writer

Slowly writer

Director: CHARLES M. JONES. Story: Tedd Pierce. Animation: Ken Harris. Music director: Carl W. Stalling. Color by Technicolor. Producer: Leon Schlesinger.

A Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon.

Songs include "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" and "Yankee Doodle".

Copyright 19 November 1938 by The Vitaphone Corp. U.S. release: 19 November 1938. 7 minutes.

COMMENT: Thomas, the night watchman cat is sick, so assigns his little nephew to guard the household kitchen against a tough band of food-marauding mice.

Although originally intimidated, the little nephew wins the day.

A mildly entertaining entry, but the idea would seem to hold more promise than what is actually developed on the screen, namely fairly familiar fisticuffs, that are not particularly imaginative.


. . . is the REAL story of this animated "Merrie Melodies" short from Warner Bros., titled THE NIGHT WATCHMAN. Instead of investing in a "no-kill" ultrasonic deterrent device easy to plug into a kitchen electrical socket, the wealthy homeowners in this tale have squandered their fortune on multi-generations of cats for a failed attempt to cope with their catastrophic rodent problem. Their regular fat cat "Thomas" has allowed dozens of rats to thrive in a well-stocked kitchen. Then he gets sick (or maybe he just is malingering to squeeze in another of his cat naps). Pops cat sends his kitten son to watch the rats feast. After they've devoured everything in sight and grown too fat to move, the suddenly feisty junior feline throws out a few love taps here and there. This probably will endure as Junior's "greatest success," as his owners buy him thousands of dollars worth of gourmet cat food, pricey cat toys, etc., plus shell out big bucks to the vet to have him neutered and then "humanely" Euthanized after 15 or 20 years of sleeping on the job.


The Night Watchman is definitely notable and worth the watch for it being Chuck Jones' debut. It is not bad, far from it, but is not one of Jones' best by a long shot. There is definitely the sense that Jones was still finding his own feet. The animation is colourful and vivid. The music is wonderfully jazzy and characterful. The floor show is very exciting, with catchy music and very nicely choreographed. The funniest moment is the scene where you see the way the mice eat, very inventive and very funny. And the voice acting is great. The Night Watchman does suffer generally though from a lack of energy, which makes the rather dully thin story even more lacking. The ending is also rather tacked on as already mentioned, and the funny moments come only in spades rather than the laugh-a-minute quality that Jones was wholly capable of. While there definitely some cute moments, some parts of the cartoon come across as too cutesy that it's almost rather cloying, and the characters while also sweet are not very compelling enough to carry the story. In conclusion, The Night Watchman is interesting. But it is also a disappointment. Luckily after a shaky but worthwhile enough start with this Chuck Jones went on to much better things, the best of his work are masterpieces or close to that. 5/10 Bethany Cox
Wild Python

Wild Python

This is a cute but undistinguished Chuck Jones cartoon (his first) and it falls far short of being truly funny. Another drawback is that the kitten is no match for Figaro in Disney's "Pinocchio," lacking the charm and humor of that kitten in the way it's animated.

The whole situation is predictable from the start. The kitten's father is ill, so he has to hand over the job of night watchman to the kitty. Naturally, the mice take full advantage of the situation, which gets completely out of hand until the kitten's guardian angel (halo and all) gives him a serious pep talk which turns the kitten into a tiger who puts an end to all the boorish behavior of the mice.

Unpretentious, but not a lot of fun. The style is too crude for the film to have the cuddly charm it aims for. In other words, it's a wobbly start for Chuck Jones.