Play Safe 1936

Paramount Pictures

Hey, how about a Max Fleischer Color Classic (Cartoon) to start things off for March…filmed in Technicolor, no less?! I found a copy on YouTube (see below) in remarkably good condition to review.

It’s basically a railroad safety film for kiddies back in the day with everyone from the narrator to anthropomorphic model trains to the gauges in the locomotive cab yelling at the boy to, “PLAY SAFE”… mostly to no avail.

In a bit of serendipity, I found this cartoon short whilst looking for the movie Play Safe 1927 (starring Monty Banks) as suggested by John Davies. I couldn’t find a decent version of that 1927 flick online, but found a great copy of what I review here. Enjoy.

Our short feature opens as a little boy (we’ll call him “Phil”), is reading in the backyard whilst straddling his electric train set, as his faithful dog (we’ll call him “Boots”) sleeps nearby. “The Ballad of Casey Jones” is playing in the background.

Phil’s house is right next to a double track main line featuring lower quadrant semaphores. The details in this frame alone are outstanding — fenced yard, back porch, train set complete with tunnel and water tower. How about that magnificent tree behind Boots?

With engineer’s cap at a jaunty angle, Phil reads a train book astride his layout. He reaches over and fires up the model train, then makes like a tunnel as it trundles by.

Like most small boys of the era, Phil dreams of operating a steam locomotive and, of course, blowing the whistle. Hearing an approaching train, he sneaks by Boots to watch, but his canine companion is keeping an eye on him.

Fascinated, Phil watches the short train pull past, slowing as it stops at a signal. Boots is definitely concerned that his master is getting way too close to the right-of-way.

Finally, Boots hauls him back to the safety of the backyard as Phil cusses up a storm in protest.

Train geek stuff: Our freight train consists of a 2-10-0 steamer, tan outside-braced box car, brown tank car, olive green outside-braced box car.

Little sneak that he is, Phil attaches the dog leash to Boots and makes his escape trackside. Good grief, now Phil is between the gauge near the wheelset and climbing the car’s roof ladder!

Phil makes it to the top of the box car as the train starts off. After a few bumps, he flies off the roof bonking his head against the rail. In reality he’d be dead, but this being a cartoon, Phil wakes up in dreamland.

Ready for a psychedelic train sequence?

It’s like living inside a model railroad. Phil walks through an urban jungle of bridges and grotesque-looking model steam engines. Finally, a blue, streamlined locomotive catches his eye.

He’s enthralled with all the gauges and piping. Phil begins to operate all the controls. The 4-6-2 begins to move forward.

As Phil doesn’t know what he’s doing, the locomotive becomes annoyed with him, loudly hollering, “PLAY SAFE!”. Even the gauges come alive, which freaks him out.

To make matters worse, the controls (brake, throttle, etc.) begin to DISAPPEAR. The train is running wild!

Out of control, the engine speeds along through a hellish landscape including what I call the “Jason Voorhees hockey mask tunnel”. Things are so out of whack, Phil briefly considers joining the birds (great cab detail of the runaway 4-6-2).

Uh-oh. Cornfield Meet coming up. Red Train (also a streamlined 4-6-2) vs. Blue Train. Both whistle at the other to clear the line, but neither will give way.

Red and Blue snake through a satanic underground finally meeting up nose to nose.

Back to animated reality, Phil is slowly coming to. Boots struggles with his leash as another train is coming.

It’s a beautiful 3/4 view of a black 4-6-2 steam engine #4561 flying green “section following” flags. #4561 is pulling 3 outside-braced box cars, tan, red & green.

More powerful than a locomotive! The frantic canine finally gets loose and outruns the speeding 4-6-2, then attempts to flag the train with a conveniently-placed can of red paint.

Boots is neatly scooped up by the cowcatcher and snatches Phil out of harm’s way in one fell swoop. Hooray!

Dog drool is heap big medicine, finally bringing Phil back to consciousness. Awww….

If you’d like to watch it yourself, the link is here:

That is, if it’s still on YouTube…

Here’s what IMDb has to say (not much) about Play Safe 1936:

If you have ANY information about this movie you’d like to share, please contact me at:, or leave a comment.  Thanks and enjoy the blog!



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