Ballad of The Sneak

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Toon Category: Shorts
watch Mr. Shmallow (toon) Lookin at a Thing in a Bag
A song and dance on the high steel

The Old-Timey equivalent of The Cheat Theme Song. Performed by DaVinci's Notebook.

Cast (in order of appearance): The Barbershop Trio, The Sneak, The Dapper Swindler, Old-Timey Bubs, Old-Timey Strong Bad, The Homestar Runner, Fat Dudley, Sickly Sam, Old-Timey Marzipan, Strong Man, The Fort Wayne Locomotive, Mr. Shmallow (on the box), The Kaiser

Places: The Cliff, The Field (Old-Timey)

Date : June 23, 2003

Running Time: 2:03

Page Title: The Ballad of The Sneak



I know a lively fellow,
who is really quite unique.
He's small and smart and yellow,
with a rodent-like physique.
He doesn't play the cello,
and he never deigns to speak.
He's The Strong Bad's Leporello,
and they just call him The Sneak!

If you've got a caper
then you know who to call.
It's The Sneak!
It's The Sneak!
Who's the Dapper Swindler
out of Tammany Hall?
It's The Sneak!

(Not the Panama Canal)

That charming little whatzit
who's The Strong Man's greatest pal?
It's The Sneak!
It's The Sneak!
Who did the Hully-Gully
on the Panama Canal?
It's The Sneak!

Who's that jaunty jackanapes
with moxie and pizzaz?
It's The Sneak! (Yes, sir!)
It's The Sneak!
Who's been drinking bootleg hooch
and listening to the jazz?
It's The Sneak!

Who captures all the flapper girls' affections?
Who made off with my Fluffy Puff confections?
He's dastardly!
He loves catastrophe!
His schemes are masterly!
Takes tea at half past three!
That sneaky sneaker's sneakin' all over town!

Who dropped The Homestar Runner
from his flying machine? (Humdinger!)
Is it The Sneak? (28 skidoo!)
It's The Sneak!
Who put a Bengal tiger
in The Kaiser's latrine? (Ach Du lieber!)
It's The Sneak! (What's the rumpus?)
You know it's The Sneak! (Take it home!)
The Sneakity Sneak all day long!


Fun Facts


  • The song alternates between one-, two-, and three-part vocal harmony. The a cappella introduction seems to comprise three voices in homophony; they are most distinct on the lines "never deigns to speak" and "they just call him the sneak." The "jaunty jackanapes" section takes a call and response format, with a soloist calling and the other two answering in polyphony; again, a total of three parts.


  • This toon features all of the main characters' Old-Timey counterparts except for The Poopsmith and Homsar.
  • The dance Sickly Sam does is the Charleston, a popular dance in the 1920s and '30s. The specific move is called "Bees Knees".
  • Mr. Shmallow makes an appearance in this cartoon on the front of a Fluffy Puff box. This box is different from the one featured in Mr. Shmallow. The container in this cartoon appears to be a tin, while the other is a cardboard box. Also, the candies in the tin appear not to be marshmallows but a candy similar to the Choco-Lumps referred to in Mr. Shmallow.
  • The Hully Gully didn't exist in 1936. It was a hit song and popular dance introduced by The Olympics in 1959.
  • A jackanapes is a whippersnapper, an upstart or a rascal.
  • This cartoon and That A Ghost both refer to illegal alcoholic beverages, which brings the Prohibition era to mind. However, the cartoons were supposedly made in 1936 or 1937, 3 or 4 years after Prohibition had been repealed, so strictly the illegality would have to be merely evading the appropriate taxes on their manufacture.
  • Old-Timey Strong Bad flies over the Cliff in what appears to be a Wright Flyer. This airplane was developed by the Wright Brothers in 1903, over thirty years before this cartoon was supposedly made.
  • "The Ballad of the Sneak" also appears on the album "Shame and Cookie Dough" by Paul and Storm, two former members of DaVinci's Notebook. The CD includes the original H* version and one with commentary.
  • The Sneak is mentioned as "yellow", giving weight to the theory he'd be that color before being "filmed" in black-and-white.
  • The orientation of the Sneak's tail has changed since his appearance in Parsnips-a-Plenty.
  • On the Old-Timey Strong Bad clock, the hour hand is pointing slightly up. If it were really showing 3:30, the hour hand would be pointing slightly down.


  • When the Sneak's head explodes, his tail disappears for some reason.
  • The monocle of the rightmost trio member switches eyes at the end of the song.

Inside References

  • The Sneak being silhouetted and going across hills may be a reference to the Old Intro 2.
  • Seeing as the Sneak is the Old-Timey parallel of The Cheat, the scene of the Sneak's head being blown back and turned black by the phonograph is most likely a reference to The Cheat's Head Exploding.
  • Ward Boss Tweed kicking the Sneak out of Tammany Hall may refer to Strong Bad's frequent kickings of present day The Cheat.
  • The whistle has an engineer's hat like Homsar's in his character page.
  • The Sneak falling off the cliff is a reference to Parsnips-a-Plenty.

Real-World References

  • "Leporello" is a reference to the Mozart opera Don Giovanni. In it, Leporello is a side-kick to the Spanish legend, Don Juan (Don Giovanni is the Italian equivalent).
  • "Tammany Hall" was a political society in New York City (19th/early 20th century), known for its corruption and power. William Tweed was a strong figure in Tammany. (see below)
Boss removes Sneak from Hall
  • A political cartoon appears briefly which features The Sneak getting booted out of a door by a foot that says "Prohibition?" The Sneak has dropped a paper that says "Hoot-Smalley Tariff" and the caption reads "Boss Tweed gives The Sneak what-for!"
    • The "Hoot-Smalley Tariff" is a spoonerized play on the "Smoot-Hawley Tariff" that was enacted during The Great Depression, widely considered to be one of the most inept pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress.
  • The scene with the Sneak and the phonograph is a parody of a well-known advertisement for the old devices which featured a little dog looking into an RCA Victor gramophone ("His master's voice", or "HMV", as it is now known).
  • Ach du lieber "Oh my dear!", is a reference to the Viennese folk song "Ach du lieber Augustin".
  • "Moxie" is the name of a soft drink popular during the early 20th century. The name became a slang term meaning liveliness and daring.
  • Bootleg Hooch (or "Moonshine") is homemade whiskey that is produced and/or sold through illegal methods.
  • Flapper girl, more commonly "flapper" was a slang term common in the 1920s which referred to young women who flaunted contempt for the restrictions of "decency" imposed on their gender by society. They lived lavishly and openly wore short skirts, used cosmetics, bobbed their hair, and could often be seen smoking or drinking in public, far from what was considered to be acceptable behavior for women in that era. Many cartoon characters from the time period, such as Betty Boop and Minnie Mouse, for example, were "flappers".
  • "28 skidoo" is a play on "23 skidoo", a bit of slang popular during the Roaring Twenties. It generally meant to leave quickly, sometimes specifically meaning to "get out while the getting's good" (very appropriate for the Sneak). Webster's Online Dictionary offers a number of possible origins for the phrase.
  • "What's the rumpus" is probably a reference to Miller's Crossing, a Prohibition-era gangster movie, in which it is used as a greeting by several characters.
  • The Sir Strong Bad watch is a reference to the old Mickey Mouse watches of the 1930s.
  • The scene with the Sneak running inside an I-beam while other characters dance on top may be a visual reference to the old Atari game Pitfall. If nothing else, several cartoons from the time period featured characters playing in the I-beams of construction sites, such as Olive Oyl when she was hypnotized by Bluto in a Popeye cartoon.
  • The poster with The Dappler Swindler has "known in the Northwest Territories as The Sneak" at the bottom. The Northwest Territories is a territory located in, well, the northwest of Canada.
  • Prohibition was established in 1919 by the passage of the 18th amendment to the Constitution. It outlawed the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. It was eventually repealed in 1933 by the passage of the 21st amendment.
  • "The Kaiser" is how German Emperor Wilhelm II was popularly referred to in the U.S. and Britain during World War I. Propaganda-laced political cartoons of the time would often exact comedic revenge on this enemy of Allied forces. The title "Kaiser", however, stopped being used in 1918, following the end of World War I and the dissolution of the German Empire.
    • The Kaiser is wearing a pickelhaube helmet, a 19th century Prussian invention, which at the time of World War One was outdated, and was relegated mostly to ceremonial garb, as befits a militaristic emperor. Note the Iron Cross on the helmet, a German military decoration of the early 19th century, re-introduced by Kaiser Wilhelm II in World War I.
  • The train whistle may be a reference to many old cartoons, in which objects such as train whistles and brooms were depicted as "alive."
  • The Fort Wayne Locomotive is a possible reference to football legend Night Train Lane. However, Lane played in the fifties and sixties, long after this cartoon would have been made.
  • The Panama Canal was established in 1914 as a way to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean without having to go around South America. It was United States territory until December 31, 1999, when it became Panamanian territory due to the Panama Canal Treaty.
  • The reference to jazz refers to the fact that jazz was considered "too wild" in those days. Jazz was popular with young adults in those days and there were many cartoons back then that depicted people comically injured by simply dancing and/or listening to jazz.

DVD Version

  • The DVD version features two hidden creators' commentaries. To access them, switch your DVD player's audio language selection while watching.

First Commentary Transcript

(Commentary by: Paul Sabourin, Mike Chapman, Matt Chapman, Storm DiCostanzo

MIKE: {sounding muffled throughout} All right, so for this commentary we're on a four-way conference call.

PAUL: {also muffled} This is Paul Sabourin and Greg DiCostanzo; we are They Might Be Giants and we wrote this song.

MIKE: {laughs} That's only partially true. They did write this song, but they're from DaVinci's Notebook!

PAUL: That's correct! We, uh, I— As I recall, we sort of stalked you guys, tracked you down in the early days of the website...

MIKE: Yeah, I gotta be honest, I was a little— the first couple times— 'cause I think you played a couple times in Atlanta and invited us to come, and we were like, "An a capella group?!"

STORM: {not muffled} {laughs}

PAUL: Yeah, that's what we always get.

MATT: I remember thinking— it was after The Cheat Theme Song had been made and I just thought that it'd be funny if, I— if there was an Old-Timey jingle version of it. Originally it was going to be the jingle for the product that was this wooden The Sneak thing that you trail— like, kids trail behind them on a rope. Back in the, like, thirties?

PAUL: Uh, Storm, you took the first whack at it, right?

STORM: Yeah.

PAUL: Your— this is your baby, more or less.

STORM: Well, it started out that way. They gave us the— initated the idea for it, and, you know, we're both big, me— me and Paul are both big fans of the Doo—wacka—doo stuff, and it kinda took on a life of its own.

MATT or MIKE: That's really big these days, the Doo—wacka—doo stuff.

PAUL: Oh yeah, it's coming back.

STORM: Oh man, the kids ...

MATT or MIKE: That's really big, I was watching the TV last night...

PAUL: Actually, I hear the minuet is going to be the next big thing. From the 1780's...

MATT or MIKE: We've got interactive minuets on this DVD.

STORM: Oh, wow.

PAUL: Uh, I love that we don't give a crap about historical continuity. You know, it's not all 1936, there's the Smoot—Hawley Tariff of, you know, 1890's or whatever.

MATT or MIKE: When you're a kid, if it's the words black and white, it's is all the same time.

PAUL: That's right.

STORM: Exactly.

PAUL: Um, oh that, by the way, that head blowing up is my second favorite piece of animation.

MATT or MIKE: {laughs} That's right. Yeah, because The Cheat's head's always blowing up, so The Sneak's head has got to blow up.

PAUL: This being my first one, of the growing mustache and the beard spilling over. Just brilliant. Hello?

STORM: Hello?

PAUL: Now I've lost The Chaps.

STORM: Ok. Uh, whatever you did before, do it again.

MIKE: Alright, Mike is here.

PAUL: Mike is here. Matt is here.

MIKE: Ooh, look. That Old-Timey version of Coach Z's name is the "Forth Wayne Locomotive".

PAUL: Is it?

STORM: {laughs}

PAUL: {garbled} You do. I love that.

MIKE: It's never been revealed yet. It's actually written into a cartoon that we haven't done yet.

MATT: We love you guys.

PAUL: We love you guys. You're wonderful, and we await our check with bated breath.

Second Commentary Transcript

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See Also

  • The visuals that occur during the film.

External Links

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