Willie collapses in the snow. He is found just in time by a rabbit, who summons help from the others. The following season, Willie takes a barrow full of fruit to the bank for deposit. He turns to the camera to tell his audience of children: ‘You too could save for the rainy day by putting all your savings in the School Bank.’
While the film is of great interest as early Australian animation, it’s also fascinating for its collection of animal characters – a seemingly arbitrary mix of Australian native and non-Indigenous creatures. Willie’s contemporaries like Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Woody Woodpecker and Tom and Jerry, as anarchic as their behaviour was, remained quite true to their animal characteristics. The depiction of Australian native animals as cartoon characters was more problematic. The animal behaviour of native fauna was less well known and understood. Outside Indigenous culture, the animals carried little or no mythological baggage. Like that of many works of Australian children’s literature at the time, the film’s representation of Australian animals now seems quite bizarre. Children today, arguably more knowledgeable and protective of Australian native animals than their predecessors, would probably not be as accepting of a koala named Benny Bear, or Hoppy Kangaroo who speaks with a male voice in an American accent, and has a button-up pouch complete with bottle-fed joey.