Ever since the stop-motion animated sequences of billiard balls jumping off the table and re-racking themselves in the 1915 short film Pool Sharks, billiards and animation have been recurrent bedfellows. From the traditional animation of the Tom & Jerry episode “Cue Ball Cat” in 1950 to the anime of Death Billiards in 2013, billiards and animation have supported one another in their pursuit of motion. After all, without movement, there is neither billiards nor animation.
So, it’s a not a surprise that the highly popular Czech stop-motion animated television series, Pat & Mat includes a memorable and award-winning episode “Billiard” (or “Kulečník” in Czech). Created by Lubomír Beneš and Vladmír Jiránek in 1976, Pat & Mat features two handymen who encounter self-made problems and then hatch Rube Goldbergian solutions that then spiral into more problems. Throughout a 7-9 minute episode, the two handymen never get discouraged and often their imaginative solutions are far more interesting than the original problem.
In the case of the 1994 episode “Billiard” (shown in its entirety below), the predicament begins when one of the legs on Pat and Mat’s new billiards table falls off. Unable to reconnect it, they attempt to level the table with books under one corner. When it’s still uneven, they proceed to elevate all sides with books, then elevate themselves with a crate, which then has the unintended effect of causing them to puncture holes in the ceiling, break the television, lose a ball down the toilet, and even explode a ball in the fireplace (apparently verifying the old urban legend about flammable cue balls). Unfazed by the self-imposed destruction to both their new table and their house, the episode culminates with them cheerily using the one remaining billiard ball to play a crude form of bowling outdoors.
Aside from an immensely humorous way to spend 8 minutes (note: the show was initially conceived for adults), the “Billiard” episode also provides a great lesson in billiards education. In July, I guest wrote an article for About.com entitled “A Billiards Education in Movies.” The article’s main premise is that people could learn a lot about alternate forms of billiards, as opposed to the common pocket billiards games (e.g., 8-ball, 9-ball, straight pool) from watching specific billiards movies and TV episodes (e.g., the Italian carom billiards game goriziani from the movie The Pool Hustlers).
In “Billiard,” Pat and Mat purchase a pocketless table that includes only 4 balls (2 white, 1 red, and 1 blue). As it turns out, they are preparing to play destíkový carambol, which is Czech for “tenfold carom,” a variation of the carom billiards game four-ball. According to Wikipedia, in four-ball, “each player is assigned one of the white balls as his own cue ball. A point is scored when a shooter caroms on any two other balls. Two points are scored when the player caroms on each of the three other balls.” But in the Czech version, “a hit off all three balls, however, scores 10 points, one point shot and 10 points shot is doubled by hitting a cushion before hitting any of the other balls for a total of 2 or 20 points in one shot.”
So, the next time you consider disapproving of a cartoon, just remember…there might be a billiards education waiting for you.