How many times have I seen Baseball Bugs, the 1946 Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs squares off against a baseball team called the Gas-House Gorillas? And how many times have I taken in the joke advertisements lining the walls of the baseball stadium?
So why did it take me this long to notice that one of the ads is for something called Filboid Studge? I knew the Warner Brothers animators at Termite Terrace were a smart bunch, but extra kudos are in order for the gag writer who managed to work in a nod to Saki, aka Hector Hugh Munro.
“Filboid Studge” isn’t as well known as “Sredni Vashtar” and “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger,” but it’s easily as blackheartedly amusing as either of those Saki classics. The situation is simple: a commercial artist asks for permission to marry his employer’s daughter. The employer agrees, for his company is about to go bankrupt trying to market a foul-tasting breakfast cereal called Pipenta, and he wants to get his daughter married off before the family finances collapse. To show his gratitude, the artist drafts a top to bottom rebranding of Pipenta as a health product called Filboid Studge:
No one would have eaten Filboid Studge as a pleasure, but the grim austerity of its advertisement drove housewives in shoals to the grocers’ shops to clamour for an immediate supply. In small kitchens solemn pig-tailed daughters helped depressed mothers to perform the primitive ritual of its preparation. On the breakfast-tables of cheerless parlours it was partaken of in silence. Once the womenfolk discovered that it was thoroughly unpalatable, their zeal in forcing it on their households knew no bounds. “You haven’t eaten your Filboid Studge!” would be screamed at the appetiteless clerk as he turned weariedly from the breakfast-table, and his evening meal would be prefaced by a warmed-up mess which would be explained as “your Filboid Studge that you didn’t eat this morning.” Those strange fanatics who ostentatiously mortify themselves, inwardly and outwardly, with health biscuits and health garments, battened aggressively on the new food. Earnest spectacled young men devoured it on the steps of the National Liberal Club. A bishop who did not believe in a future state preached against the poster, and a peer’s daughter died from eating too much of the compound. A further advertisement was obtained when an infantry regiment mutinied and shot its officers rather than eat the nauseous mess; fortunately, Lord Birrell of Blatherstone, who was War Minister at the moment, saved the situation by his happy epigram, that “Discipline to be effective must be optional.”
I’m not the only one with Filboid on the brain: here’s a Los Angeles animation artist’s site that boasts some eye-catching graphics.