Kiko the Kangaroo: On The Scent; and, what the heck some Georges Melies too

To continue poking the depths of Terrytoons and their not-necessarily-forgotten characters, here’s a curious 1936 entry starring Kiko the Kangaroo, On The Scent. Unfortunately the only video I can find of it is this experiment in converting a projected film to YouTube, so it’s only got the sound of the projector rattling as its audio (I admit that sound gives me a warm nostalgic feel), and I’m pretty sure the film is being run at about half the correct speed, which is just crushing to the pacing. Be sympathetic; you too might someday be a kangaroo taunted by skunks on a blimp gliding to the North Pole.

Still, it’s the only cartoon I’m aware of that’s explicitly set (at the opening) in Lakehurst, New Jersey. This seems like a weirdly specifically unnecessary detail until you remember (or learn) that Lakehurst was where the United States Navy set up its main facilities for handling airships in that roughly fifteen years between deciding that airships were an interesting idea worth exploring and concluding that the problem with airships is they keep crashing in huge, hugely public catastrophes. Doing a blimp cartoon and starting it in Lakehurst would be much like doing a space cartoon and starting the action in Cape Canaveral.

I feel the need to point out that an airship expedition to the North Pole was seriously considered in the 1920s and 1930s. I would imagine that talk of that partly inspired the cartoon, but I don’t know that. The Navy’s airship expedition never got particularly close to being launched, which is probably for the best; I can’t imagine the project not ending in tragedy.

The plot puts me in mind of Georges Méliès’s 1912 The Conquest of the Pole, his last important film before his film studio’s bankruptcy. That’s not so short a film — it’s about a half-hour long — but it’s got much of the charm of going on a fantastic voyage as A Voyage To The Moon combined with a mass of incidental extra parties and nationalist and political jokes current to a century ago. On The Scent is a lesser cartoon, sure, but it does feature the title card “Those cats made a lobster out of me!”, which is just where you expect a cartoon about a kangaroo taking an airship out of Lakehurst to go. Enjoy!

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

8 thoughts on “Kiko the Kangaroo: On The Scent; and, what the heck some Georges Melies too”

  1. I love how you can hear the load film running in the background. And those planes look so rickety back then I’d be afraid to go up in those things.


    1. I’m not sure whether the cartoon was originally silent — the production year is kind of late for that, but Terrytoons was slow to adopt sound because Paul Terry didn’t want to spend the money to upgrade it — but the sound of the film projector is maybe more wonderful than the actual soundtrack or a recreated musical track would have been.

      It’s really amazing to think how basic the airplanes back then were, and how little of their design had been proven out by experimentation and testing. I’m not sure the ones in the Méliès cartoon were worse than what actually flew.


  2. I have to admit that after one minute, I muted the sound on that 1st one, and the action was too slow. I didn’t finish it. The 2nd film was much better. I liked the music, and I loved the toy cars 15 minutes into it.


  3. Oh, the Roo-manity!
    Lakehurst NJ is the kangaroo and skunk capital of NJ,Three times a year, pet skunk owners bring their little stinkers to the Lakehurst Skunk Hop, where volunteer professional kangaroos allow the skunks to ride in their pouches around town doing shopping and other errands at local merchants. It’s quite a sight and does much to increase skunk and kangaroo awareness.A few people complained when the event was moved to the Met Life stadium a few years ago for insurance reasons. A roo and skunk made the cover of Weird NJ last week. They were just sitting in an Impala.Impressive for a being of the kangaroo’s generous proportions, but the local cheetahs were clearly unimpressed when they expressed the typical cheetah ‘been there done that’ attitude.


    1. This is a magnificent comment and I love all the bits of my weird obsessions you’ve pulled together for it and am just sorry that only people who’re reading comments around here as they’re posted are getting to appreciate it fully. But thank you.

      Lakehurst by the way is just down the county road from the Popcorn Park Zoo, a pleasant, low-key rescue zoo that I don’t think has any skunks just this moment but has had kangaroos in. Also had a raccoon who’d got his head stuck in a peanut butter jar, and whom they went on to name Peanut, which is either sweet or compounding the insult.


      1. Thank you very much for your kind words. If nothing else this inspired me to work on a one-off of a cheetah girl wearing a t-shirt saying “Been there, done that 3x faster”(Hopefully not a joke I’m stealing from Fred Perry without realizing it.)


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