Brothers Max and Dave Fleischer, the pioneering animators behind Betty Boop and Popeye, made their first leap into feature cartoons with 1939’s Gulliver’s Travels. When that movie’s Lilliputian adventures proved to be a modest success, the Fleischer Brothers decided to go even smaller. The result was Mr. Bug Goes to Town, a musical comedy set in the tiny world of neighborhood insects.
Hidden among the dirt and grass of a vacant New York City lot, the miniature town of Bugville is home to a grasshopper named Hoppity, his girlfriend Honey Bee and the unscrupulous C. Bagley Beetle. Bagley’s eyes have long been on Honey’s lovely exoskeleton, and through a dastardly scheme he is forcing her to become his wife.
As if Hoppity’s fortunes weren’t bad enough, human developers are planning to build a skyscraper on Bugville’s lot, threatening the town’s very existence. Bugville’s only hope is that good humans Dick and Mary, struggling Broadway songwriters, can earn the money to buy the lot and build a home, leaving enough open space for Bugville to thrive.
For his own typically selfish reasons, Bagley wants the construction to proceed, and he dispatches his comically inept sidekicks Swat the fly and Smack the mosquito to make sure Dick and May’s bid fails. Only Hoppity can save the town and win the girl.
The unfortunately-timed release of Mr. Bug Goes to Town fell on the same week that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Partly as a result of those circumstances, the film failed, and the Fleischers abandoned feature animation for a more successful series of Superman short cartoons through the 1940’s. The movie itself was later re-released under the title Hoppity Goes to Town.