A list of movies and TV show episodes featuring baskets? Sure! Why not? Some of the earliest films on record feature baskets, such as Edison’s Native Women Coaling a Ship at St. Thomas, D.W.I. (1903). This particular list is from instances of basket depictions between 1906 and 1944, so it does not include classic moments such as The Silence of the Lambs or Basket Case. However, it does include a very early film, classic fairytales, and a certain number of Stooges!
A Desperate Crime (1906)
Known primarily for sci-fi fantasy films, Georges Méliès proved he could also depict realistic violence in his 1906 silent film, A Desperate Crime (part of the film is presumed lost, but some interesting scenes survived). The film is about a band of criminals who terrorize a farmer and his family. However, when the authorities show up, it is they who might begin pleading for their lives.
The bandits are brutal. Sure, they are not depicting cutting and dismembering anyone, but they do engage in torture and set a farmhouse on fire, killing the man and daughter (fate spared the young wife, who apparently managed to free herself). Though the bandits attempt to flee, the police track them down and a fight breaks out.
In the confusion, the bandits lose their leader, and we see him in a dungeon to await his fate. The bandits tried to get a sizable amount of loot, and most seem to have escaped. However, the leader gets decapitated by the guillotine, with his head landing in a bucket and his body placed in a large carrying basket. Brutal stuff, and another instance of Georges Méliès being an innovator in early cinema.
Directed by Dave Fleischer, “Fishing” features Dave’s brother, Max, interacting with his own cartoon character, The Inkwell Clown. Not wanting to leave the Clown alone as Max goes on a fishing trip, he animates a fishing hole for the Clown as well. The Clown is initially distracted by his cartoonish adventure but gets overwhelmed by the sea life he encounters. He ultimately escapes the cartoon world and visits Max on his island, pranking him by messing with the fishermen’s basket and even their boat!
“Fishing” is a cute animated short, and The Inkwell Clown is a likable little scamp. This is a lighthearted tale, so there’s no sheer madness here. It could be enjoyed by a little kid, but adults might be able to watch and enjoy it, too. Still, for those ultra-squeamish people out there, there is a surprise drug reference at one point (yes, even this cute little cartoon might be too much for some prudes in existence!).
The Wandering Toy (1928)
Produced by Lyman H. Howe Films Company, this short film looks at a child’s toy that catches a ride on a helium balloon, and it basically goes on a world tour. We see it in Sweden, Morocco, Mexico, and Japan, among other places. However, perhaps the strangest moment is when it arrives in India and witnesses a magic trick involving a basket (one can find this short on Youtube, by the way).
By today’s standards, it’s likely some would find problems with how these cultures are depicted, and one critique is simply that the toy’s journey is not in any logical sequence. It’s also not quite as educational as it was perhaps trying to be. However, The Wandering Toy might be worthwhile if you wish to examine some differences between traditional and modern animation styles. Plus, in its day, this might have actually been seen as promotional of multi-culturalism. Lyman H. Howe was apparently innovative in one key respect: He is said to be the first person to use a phonograph for sound effects in his films.
Three Little Pigs (1933)
Produced by Disney and directed by Burt Gillett, this classic cartoon is based on the legendary fable. The Big Bad Wolf (Billy Bletcher) plays several roles throughout the story and he is eventually found out each time he’s in disguise. At one point, the Wolf even hides in a basket pretending to be a perfectly innocent little sheep!
Thankfully, the Pigs see through his B.S. and know why he did it; He wants them for supper, and not merely as guests. Villains come and go, but it seems The Big Bad Wolf is somewhat overlooked these days. Though crafty, the Pigs are always able to elude him, and it increasingly could drive him bananas. The ultimate moral is that practicality goes hand in hand with one’s survival and welfare. Also, sometimes you can’t believe what you see. An innocent-looking person could end up being a villain. It’s a good reminder for kids and parents alike.
The Merry Kittens (1935)
Produced by Van Beuren Studios and directed by Shamus Culhane and Burt Gillett, The Merry Kittens is a perfectly enjoyable little cartoon about a trio of kittens tormenting a household dog. That’s it. There really is no catch, and the critics on IMDb seem to take this animated short a bit too seriously, as it has a scant 4.8/10 rating!
So, really, you may want to watch this cartoon, then head over to the IMDb page to see how critics can mislead people about the quality. Yes, these are not the nicest, most likable kittens, personality-wise. Being a cartoon starring three mischievous felines, it’s obvious that the humor is that, despite being so cute and cuddly, these kittens have a bit of a dark side. However, we shouldn’t take them too seriously, as they are cartoons (no real dogs were harmed in the making of this cartoon)! At one point they end up brawling in a laundry basket, but the kittens get the best of the unnamed dog (poor thing!).
All these mischievous deeds were done with the simple intention of taking a simple story and bringing it to life. Now, just as in the storybooks, some of the tricks are foiled and others succeed, and the dog and cats learn a lesson. They all seem to recognize the folly in their roughhousing to the end, which in itself is a reminder that, at least sometimes, we can learn to live and forget if we’re all exposed as fools. Still, you’ll see other critiques of the production, animation style, etc., but there’s really no reason one couldn’t let their children see it. If you have kids and you could read them this story, the little buggers might say “Read this to us again!”
Mutts to You (1938)
Directed by Charley Chase, Mutts to You features The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard) as a team of dog cleaners with all sorts of wacky contraptions for cleaning and grooming canines. That in itself could be an amusing story, but there is an added conflict when a married couple, the Mannings (Bess Flowers and Lane Chandler), accidentally lose track of their baby and it ends up under the Stooges’ care. Believing it to be abandoned, The Stooges have the best intentions for the child. However, because their landlord does not allow babies or pets in their apartment, they end up having to hide the kid. At one point, they hide the baby in a basket.
On top of that, the Stooges become pursued by a cop named O’Halloran (Bud Jamison), who believes them to be nothing but rotten kidnappers. As one might expect, things don’t go entirely tragically wrong (though, at one point, Moe is disguised as a Chinese laundry owner, which certainly would not sit well with everyone). The story hinges on the idea of what wackiness can unfold when this trio brings the baby home.
All sorts of questions might emerge from the viewer: Will they make the baby laugh or cry? What if the baby needs a diaper? Would you want a Stooge to pick up your baby? Could one of the dog-cleaning devices malfunction and result in peeled-off skin (if this morphed into a graphic horror movie)? The Stooges, who are apparently all bachelors, never call for any girlfriends or wives, but they do learn about the couple who lost their child. It’s all one big misunderstanding, nyuk nyuk nyuk!
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
In Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz, young Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) is approached by the grouchy Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton), who is seeking to have Dorothy’s dog Toto destroyed for biting her. Dorothy resists this order and incites other residents of the town to disobey the order as well, leading to its revocation through a massive regional uprising, during which Miss Gulch is burned at the stake as an accused witch.
Just kidding! The Wizard of Oz does get intense, but most of the intensity is relegated to the magical land of Oz. Instead, we see Toto escaping from Miss Gulch’s basket, scampering away secretly as she rides away on her bicycle. In the meantime, a perfect storm is brewing and Dorothy, with an active imagination, inevitably gets swept into The Land of Oz where the farmhands she knew become the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), and the Tin Man (Jack Haley), and Gulch becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.
Much of the story is about Dorothy feeling dismissed, and also about how little Toto may have been provoked by Miss Gulch’s hostility (which dogs can sense and, in some cases, defend themselves against). Dorothy’s life is inadvertently sent into a tailspin, and there are even some hidden dangers on her farm, she now realizes (even the farm’s livestock end up posing a threat to her, in one scene where symbolism often seems to be overlooked).
The Wizard of Oz is a little bit about Dorothy realizing the real world isn’t just a fun place. The farmhands may be nice, but they are mostly just there to do their jobs. Home is probably as good as she’ll have it. Sure, this movie takes place in Kansas, but aspects of the initial story could be a description of many little hometowns. That’s one of the reasons this movie has an appeal, right?
Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)
They decide not to carry on with the old story in Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood. There’s a classic twist on the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf (Frank Graham/Kent Rogers), and Grandmother’s house. This time, Red Hot Riding Hood (Sara Berner/Connie Russell) is a nightclub Queen who uses her basket as a mere prop. The nightclub is “Grandma’s House,” and Grandma (Elvia Allman) is just as big of a horndog for the Wolf as the Wolf is for Red Hot.
The tale ends happily, and the wolf has made the right choice…by shooting himself for looking at another woman again?!! Yes, this is one of those old-school cartoons where gun violence wasn’t a problem, where animated characters could sexually harass each other, and rarely did any of them take “No” for an answer. Shame, Mr. Avery! Shame! But, alas, those were the dark times, and there was probably some Cinderella variant on this adult-themed cartoon, too.
Anyway, this was a highly influential cartoon, and no single character really tries to steal the show here. Sure, maybe the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” is a more interesting and certainly darker narrative, but the opening of this cartoon is correct that, even by this point, that story was potentially a tired trope. Avery must have also been a pioneer in self-aware fairytale stories, too, because this sure qualifies as one of those.
A Wolf’s Tale (1944)
Directed by J. Conrad “Connie” Rasinski for Paul Terry’s “Terrytoons,” this appears to be that production company’s answer to Red Hot Riding Hood. But the obvious question is: Does A Wolf’s Tale rival it at all? Many out there would say “No,” but if you seriously want to do a deep dive into animated takes on the Little Red Riding Hood story, you’ll probably find worse versions than this.
In fact, it doesn’t come across as some blatant rip-off of Tex Avery’s cartoon, and there is a fun twist where the Wolf (Tom Morrison) has an extended brawl with Grandma (Jo Miller). Little Red Riding Hood (Miller) largely even sits this one out, though she does swim seductively in the water at one point (that’s as perverted as this one gets, making this one probably more suitable for kids, if you are concerned about that).
Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944)
Like the other two Red Riding Hood spoof animation directors on this list, I. Freleng opted not to be a “nice boy” with this story. However, this time around, Little Red Riding Hood (Bea Benaderet) is by no means some foxy babe, but an obnoxious, annoying distraction to both Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) and the Wolf (Billy Bletcher) who wants him for dinner. Though Red has a ball while singing, dancing, and swinging around her basket (from which Bugs initially emerges), she proves to be even worse for Bugs Bunny than the literal predator out to do him in!
But don’t worry if you assume things get out of hand here. For the most part, none of the dreadful things you imagine will happen actually do. Much of the time Bugs is merely pranking the Wolf, while they both start to realize the Red Riding Hood relationship is not going so well. This is not an ordinary take on the classic tale, but what do you expect when you have a date with Bugs Bunny? Little Red Riding Rabbit is still a fun take on the old story.
Know of any movies or TV shows with prominent basket-related scenes? Let us know in the comments!