The Little Rascals

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"A Quiet Street"

Hal Roach created this series of short comedy films in the 1920s. During the silent years (1922–28), Roach tried such titles as Hal Roach's Rascals and The Terrible Ten, but since the first short was titled Our Gang, moviegoers started calling them the "Our Gang Comedies". The child cast changed almost annually until the series ended in 1944.

In 1949 Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which had purchased the series from Roach in 1938, sold the films back to him but retained the rights to the Our Gang name. When Roach packaged the films for television syndication in the mid-'50s, the series was retitled The Little Rascals (leading to a certain amount of Title Confusion over the years).

A revolving cast of child stars came and went throughout the course of the series. Among the better-known personalities were George "Spanky" McFarland, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Eugene "Porky" Lee, Tommy "Butch" Bond and Darla Hood.

Derivative works:

  • The earliest issues of The Dandy in the late 1930s featured a Comic Book Adaptation of Our Gang, drawn by legendary comics artist Dudley Watkins.
  • A series of clay-animated Little Rascals Color Specials, produced for television in the 1960s, presumably by Gumby creator Art Clokey.
  • A 1979 Christmas Special on NBC, whose voice cast included Matthew "Stymie" Beard and Darla Hood.
  • A Saturday morning cartoon produced in the 1980s by Hanna-Barbera for ABC, as part of a 90-minute block with Pac-Man and Richie Rich. Its voice cast included Peter Cullen, Patty Maloney, Julie McWhirter Dees, Scott Menville, Shavar Ross and B.J. Ward.
  • A 1994 feature film, directed by Penelope Spheeris and released by Universal Pictures. It won Young Artist awards for no fewer than six members of the cast. Ross Bagley, Juliette Brewer, Bug Hall, Brittany Ashton Holmes, Travis Tedford and Kevin Jamal Woods.

Tropes used in The Little Rascals include:
  • Animal Reaction Shot: Pete's specialty.
  • Bowdlerized: A lot of the shorts have had scissors taken to them to remove scenes which have negative racial overtones.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Pete the Pup
  • Bratty Half-Pint
  • The Bully: Butch, but in the shorts For the Love of Pete and The Lucky Corner, the bully was played by Sidney Kibrick, who would later play Butch's toady, Woim.
  • The Chick: Darla from the later, more well-known shorts. In the earlier films, this role was filled by Mary and then by Mary Ann.
  • Crosscast Role: The character of Buckwheat was originally Stymie's little sister, played by Matthew Beard's real-life sister Carlena. Even after male actor Billie Thomas inherited the role, Buckwheat continued to be portrayed as a girl for several shorts. This has led to no small amount of Viewer Gender Confusion over the years.
  • Free-Range Children
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Trope Namer, though NOT an actual example of the trope.
  • Heroic BSOD: Jackie at the end of Teacher's Pet.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Robert Blake as the 2nd Mickey.
  • Idiot Hair: Alfalfa's trademark.
  • Motivation on a Stick: In one short, Free Wheeling, the boys have a "taxi" powered by a mule/donkey pushing from the back and a carrot on a stick in front of it that's used to make it push.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jackie, at the end of Teacher's Pet.
  • Nice Hat: Stymie's derby (given to him by Stan Laurel), Spanky's striped beanie.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the child actors.
  • Panty Shot: A few in some early Our Gang 1940s shorts that involved music and dancing. Even Darla had a few panty shots in a few of the shorts.
  • Precocious Crush: Jackie Cooper for Miss Crabtree.
  • Prince and Pauper: Alfalfa's Double
  • Schoolmarm: Miss Crabtree.
  • Shout-Out: The 1960s singing group Spanky and Our Gang, which derived its name from lead singer Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane's facial resemblance to George "Spanky" McFarland (as well as their similar surnames).
  • Stage Mom: Spanky has one in Beginner's Luck.
  • Tomboy: Mary Ann was the closest thing to this in the series.
  • The Tonsillitis Episode: Darla has a tonsillectomy in Men in Fright, and Mickey has one in No Noise.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Among the child actors who auditioned for roles in the series, but were rejected, were Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple.
    • Hal Roach toyed with the idea of keeping the original kids and following them through their teen years, but ultimately decided that the series should focus on young children, and wound up replacing the cast every few years. However, a remnant of the idea did remain in that a teenage Joe Cobb and Farina Hoskins showed up once during the Spanky era to give the younger kids some well-intentioned, but comically bad, advice.
    • Roach also considered a series featuring Oliver Hardy as the father of Spanky; presumably to involve family hijinks.

Tropes specific to the Hanna-Barbera version

Tropes specific to the 1994 movie

Spanky: All the money in the world. No substitute of hard work and ingenuity.
Waldo: You lead a rich fantasy life.
Spanky: Thank you.
Waldo: Moron.

  • Jerkass / Spoiled Brat / The Rival: Waldo.
  • Lint Value: The gang tries to buy materials from the lumber yard to rebuild the clubhouse. They ask the guy working there about how much they can get...for a little over three or four dollars (they took up a collection). The man holds up a single hinge and asks, "Paper or plastic?"
  • Mythology Gag: The movie borrows gags and situations from the original shorts:
    • Three Smart Guys (1943): Porky and Buckwheat unknowingly reeling each other in while fishing.
    • Anniversary Trouble (1935): The gang and the "hi/high-sign".
    • Hearts are Thumps (1937): The gang spiking Alfalfa & Darla's lunch.
    • Hook and Ladder (1932): The gang as firefighters.
    • Teacher's Beau (1935): Spanky and Stymie imitating adults by sitting on each other's shoulders in order to appear taller
    • Mail and Female (1937): Porky and Buckwheat as messengers for Alfalfa's love letter
    • Rushin' Ballet (1937): Alfalfa and Spanky in drag at a ballet recital
    • Hearts are Thumps (1937): Alfalfa's "bubble song" (during the talent show)
    • Hi'-Neighbor! (1934): building the go-kart (a fire engine in the original)
    • Auto Antics (1939): the go-kart race
    • Hi'-Neighbor! (1934) and Divot Diggers (1936): knocking over pedestrians in the go-kart
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Alfalfa and Darla have one.
  • Road Sign Reversal: While on their way to the race, Porky pushed the race track arrow from right to straight ahead. Three go-karts (Alfalfa/Spanky, Waldo/Darla, and Butch/Woim) follow that direction. A guy assigned by the arrow quickly moved the check back to right as the other go-karts were coming.
  • Samus Is a Girl: A.J. Ferguson
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Waldo did this a lot, as did Uh-huh, as revealed at the end of the movie, though Uh-huh is actually a case of Brilliant but Lazy, as he explains that while he may have an extensive vocabulary, he just chooses not to use it.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Darla flattens Alfalfa's hair point and then gives him a kiss, causing his hair to spring right back up again.
  • Spiked Wheels: It happens during the go-kart race scene. The resident Spoiled Brat uses his money-fueled machine to take out Alfalfa's new MacGyvered car.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Alfalfa and Darla
  • Title Drop: "YOU LITTLE RASCALS!"
  • Took a Level in Badass: Alfalfa, when he punches Butch into the pig pen after the race, and threatens to do the same thing to Woim, who just jumps into the mud with Butch.
  • What Could Have Been: The surviving Our Gang cast making cameos or asked to be consultants in the making of the movie.
  • You Answered Your Own Question: This might be justified, because Buckwheat is 5 years old.

Buckwheat: Quick! What's the number for 911?