The Academy Awards for 1940 was the first time that Best Animated Short didn’t go to Walt Disney. it was also the first time Disney didn’t get any nominations in that category. Instead, the Academy nominated “A Wild Hare,” which is generally considered the first ever appearance of Bugs Bunny. It’s also, naturally, the first time Elmer Fudd tells us to keep our voices down because he’s hunting rabbits, and it’s the first time Bugs says “What’s up, doc?”

Also nominated that year: “Puss Gets the Boot,” the first ever Tom and Jerry cartoon. Neither Tom nor Jerry gets their official name in this first outing, and they both look a bit different from how you know them, but it’s still their debut all right. 

Neither of those two won the Oscar. Instead, the award went to an MGM short called “The Milky Way.” No, “The Milky Way” was not some grand artistic experiment, the sort of complex tale that puts to shame the idea that animated films are all about anthropomorphic animals. It’s a cartoon about anthropomorphic cats, who’d be right at home at Disney or Warner Bros. but just happened to be their own thing.  

The short starts with the opening of the “Three Little Kittens” nursery rhyme, where three kittens are sent to bed without supper. Hungry, one kitten decides to jump out the window and kill itself, but it catches sight of the milky way above and thinks about all the milk that must be up there. The kittens grab some balloons and head into space. 

It turns out to be a dream sequence (“it was all a dream” was a really popular way to ground adventures around this time), but for a while, they reach the milky way, and they feast. They squeeze a bunch of nipples and drink evaporated milk, milkweed, and even milk of magnesia. 

And then they get all get stomach upsets. We’re not a hundred percent sure, but it looks like one of them starts blasting through the air from the power of his own flatulence. Yeah, every time the topic of cats drinking milk comes up, we at Cracked point out that cats are lactose intolerant, but this is the first time we’ve seen an Oscar-winning film show the consequences of that. 

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