Wednesday, 15 February 2017

411. Scrap Happy Daffy (1943)

Warner cartoon no. 410.
Release date: August 21, 1943.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Hitler / Lincoln), Dorothy Lloyd (Whistle). Thanks to Keith Scott.
Story: Don Christensen.
Animation: Art Davis.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy Duck confronts a billy goat, whom was sent by the Nazis to demolish his scrap pile.

Although the cartoon is showered with propaganda tendencies - the premise operates like a standard Warner Bros. cartoon. Daffy Duck is devoting his time collecting scraps for the war effort; but Hitler attempts to thwart his plans by sending a billy goat to destroy his scrap pile.

For a concept relatively straightforward, Frank Tashlin never shies away from his innovative direction and artistic abilities. Like Porky Pig's Feat, he attempts to give the cartoon a cinematic scope, without losing the entertainment value - a feat he excels at.

The opening sequence is a prime example of Tashlin's attempt to combine entertainment and patriotism fluidly. Daffy's purpose is to encourage audiences in cooperating with the war effort. By doing so, he sings the popular wartime song We're in to Win, and lists out numerous items to be used as scraps.

The sequence is largely informative; and Tashlin compensates this by adding visualised gags - like having Daffy climb the scrap pile, like a mountain. Frank ic bathing suit; acknowledged by Daffy's wolf-whistle.

To enlighten wartime audiences, the Warner staff don't hesitate to ridicule their enemies. Tashlin inserts a visual pun of Daffy's mirror reflections morphing into the Axis leaders: Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo; as they each yell "Freedom's foe" with their stereotyped accents--causing the mirror to shatter.

Tashlin also applies a hilarious cross dissolve effect to mock Hitler; that is perfectly clarified visually. Once, Daffy finishes his song, he remarks bitterly: "Well, how d'you like that? Schicklgruber?"--the name being a reference to Hitler's father's original surname. The camera pans to the rear end of a mule facing sideways. The scenes changes through a match dissolves to Adolf Hitler reading a newspaper.


Frank Tashlin's cinematic style is perhaps best highlighted during the montage sequence of Hitler and his comrades ordering the destruction of Daffy Duck's scrap pile. The scene begins with Hitler reacting offensively to Daffy's witty headline on the scrap pile, reading: "Mussolini in scrap heap - now let's junk Hitler!".


Hitler rants in the German tongue, which is comically translated as "Non aryan duck". Hitler's anger goes so far, he ends up shredding his carpet like an animal! And so, he orders for the scrap pile to be destroyed.

"Destroy that scrap pile!"
This follows into an elaborate montage sequence, of Hitler's officers forwarding the orders: "Destroy that scrap pile!". Tashlin's innovative use of dynamics fits wonderfully. He applies silhouette and closeups of officer's hands; which enhances the suspense. The choices of composition are almost on par with master filmmakers, like Alfred Hitchcock or Leni Riefenstahl.

A standout example of Tashlin's use of dynamics is evident in a shot of the submarine captain. He commands the same order, "Destroy that scrap pile", but the camera pans right across the officer as he points with his finger, to indicate a command. It's a remarkably complex layout; but the animator's use of mechanics produce great results.

Asides from his cinematic techniques; Tashlin's cartoons had strong art direction a lot of the time. The layouts of the cartoon, possibly by Dave Hilberman, follow a graphic, avant-garde approach which the animation industry wouldn't fully endorse until the formation of UPA. Tashlin, and Chuck Jones are notable exceptions in this era. The scrap pile is an innovative design that suggests a constructed look to it.

The background work is very experimental and somewhat underestimated in this cartoon. A lot of the backgrounds are painted in rough form without the use of normal linework, but was applied afterwards. A similar technique wouldn't become popularised until the 1961 Disney feature, One Hundred and One Dalmatians - under the art direction of Ken Anderson and colour stylist Walt Peregoy.

Other creative uses of colour is evident in the sequence of Daffy Duck unknowingly staring at his own reflection in the dark. He mistakes his own eyes for the billy goat, and he holds up a bayonet as defence. He orders: "Put your hands up. You criminals are all alike. I can see it in your eyes. Just a stupid ignoramus. A numbskull. A nitwit. A nincom--"; Daffy strikes a match to realise he's talking to his own mirror reflection, resulting in a late delivery of "--poop".

Once the submarine fires a torpedo directed towards the scrap pile; the weapon opens to reveal a billy goat contained inside. The sequence showcases Tashlin's comic timing wonderfully; such as the action of the goat goose-stepping.

Treg Brown's sound effects are put to great use; like when the goat eats up the scrap pile, in the action of a typewriter. Once the goat swallows a handful of junk, his stomach struggles to fully digest, and he begins to hiccup; which Brown utilises with an effective rumble sound.

Other indications of Tashlin's timing skills is seen during the mallet scene. Daffy has hidden himself inside a pair of glasses, that is portrayed so subtly in animation. The glasses were formed in the shape of Daffy, which the goat ruins by tossing them away.

Daffy's hands arise as he strikes the goat's horns with his mallet. Sheepishly grinning, the goat retaliates by shaking his head vigorously; whilst Daffy is still attached to the mallet. An interesting cross-dissolve effect fits in, where multiple uses of Daffy Duck are used to emphasise his struggle with the goat.

A trait of Frank Tashlin that's most revealing during his 1940s stint at Schlesinger's, was his ability to push poses to the extreme. The effect is applied during the fast-cutting scenes of the billy goat charging towards Daffy Duck. The timing and animation (by Art Davis?) adds a lot of character personality. The speed of the billy goat suggests a disciplined, intimidating mammal; whilst the goat's comical and clumsy skid suggests otherwise.

This is soon followed with a sequence of Daffy Duck, disguising himself as Tojo by wearing glasses and wearing the stereotyped grin: "You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, would ya?"

Another creative piece of animation that works as a visual gag, is the scene of Daffy's neck peeking out from by the fence. His head pokes out from underneath his combat helmet, as he remarks: "Saboteurs, I betcha!". Only a gag like that could read in animated form.

While the cartoons were plagued with wartime references naturally, elements of cultural references are still blended in. Perhaps this was used to balance out the propaganda. In one sequence, Daffy Duck encounters the hiccuping goat, and attempts to help him.

In an attempt to help, Daffy produces a remedy by placing a sodium pull in a glass of water; quoting "Listen to it fizz" - a direct reference to the Alka-Seltzer advertisement popular of the time. After the goat consumes the drink, his hiccups get more violent each time - leading to Daffy's discovery that the goat serves the Nazis - as indicated from his swastika ornament.

At a moment of defeat from the billy goat; Daffy has an epiphany. He encounters the spirits of his former descendants; who are dressed as American pioneers and historical figures like Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.

Admittedly, it's one of the weakest elements of the cartoon. The cartoon changes in tone and style, from the short's usual brisk pace, to an ending that's over-patriotic.

The descendants encourage Daffy by singing in the style of Yankee Doodle, about determination. Then they all sing in unison, "Americans don't give up!". The line work on the descendants are creative in style, but the sequence itself is rather forced and cliched in patriotism. The majority of the short set a brisk pace style of Daffy Duck's antics with a Nazi goat, with entertaining sequences - but the patriotic scenes of Daffy's descendants feels out of place.

The heavy of patriotism escalates only further once Daffy has an epiphany. He leaps up in the sky, and forms a superhero guise parodying Superman - "Super American". By today's standards, the sequence can be open to interpretation.

One viewer might believe the persona displays a sense of arrogance of the nation - as the scenes emphasise America's power and strength. This is especially evident in the scene of Daffy fighting off the naval officers onboard a Nazi ship; by punching the firing bullets away.

However, it could be seen as a satire on American propaganda; by overcompensating the nation's pride. Preferably, I'd like to see it as satirical. The satire is even more revealing as the scene of Super American cross-dissolves back into reality; with Daffy Duck wrestling with a pipe. Daffy Duck recovers himself after being wrenched by water, gasping: "It was all a dream". But, a camera pans up towards the scrap pile; where a Nazi submarine sits atop. The Nazis yell in unison, "Next time you dream, include us out!". It's a wonderful piece of witty writing that is either open to interpretation or plain wacky.

Scrap Happy Daffy feels more like a patriotic, propaganda cartoon and not so focused in mocking the Axis powers, as evident in cartoons like Daffy - the Commando or Herr Meets Hare. Frank Tashlin at times, uses propaganda cleverly in the short. The opening sequence of Daffy's propaganda song balances comical humour neatly, and the 'Super American' climax is a clever piece of satire on America over-compensating their power through propaganda. The sequence with Daffy Duck communicating with his spirited ancestors, however, is a bit forceful. It feels out of place compared to the satirical propaganda scenes. One could argue it was deliberately written in that patriotic style to build up the hilariously flamboyant Super-American scenes. Tashlin's expert use of applying cinematic techniques,  innovative layouts and the distinctive Warner Bros. humour more than makes up for the little flaws here.

Rating: 3/5.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

SNAFU: Spies (1943)

Director: Chuck Jones.
Release date: August 1943.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Snafu / Various voices).
Music: Carl Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).

Synopsis: Private Snafu has a secret, and is determined to secure it. However, his loose tongue become an advantage for spies hiding at every corner.

Whilst Private Snafu is the epitome of little common sense within the army - Spies is the definitive representation of "loose lips sink ships".

The potency of spies was an integral lesson during the Second World War, especially through propaganda. British cartoonist Cyril Bird (known as "Fougasse" by pen name), satirised the concept in a series of propaganda posters called, Careless Talk Cost Lives. Many posters featured Nazi henchman or spies eavesdropping at highly improbable places of each locale.

Whether or not Theodore Geisel or the Warner Bros. staff were familiar of the posters is unclear, but through sheer creativity; their concepts of improbable hiding places are excelled.

The short's premise is centred on Snafu receiving a military secret. We never see him being informed of the secret, as the exposition indicates he's already being informed; in order to keep the continuity and pacing at a brisker pace. Snafu is firm about keeping the information privately, but his incompetence and ignorance always gets in the way.


Geisel visualises the spying concepts hilariously and inventively that sets the comedy up wonderfully. Snafu impulsively talks about his military secret, underestimating the various objects surrounding him - like an unattended pram or a horse dummy.

In unison, several spies arise from their hiding locations, declaring: "The soldier's got a secret, and I bet we find it out!". Unaware a spy is hiding inside a phone box, he informs his "mother": "Hello Ma, I've got a secret, I can only drop a tip / Don't breathe a word to no-one, but I'm going on a trip."

So, as Snafu reaches a newspaper stand, he informs the owner he's travelling by ship - much to the interest of eavesdroppers caricatured as Benito Mussolini, Herman Goring, and Emperor Hirohito. Chuck Jones applies a very subtle effect of showing the trio's faces as front covers of the magazine. Once they lower the papers, they're facial features vanish from the print.

Ted Geisel's use of rhyming scheme, and Chuck's visualised gags are utilised together well. In Snafu's opening dialogue: "I just learnt a secret. It's a honey. It's a pip! / But the enemy is listening, so I'll never let it slip / 'Cos when I learn a secret, boy, I zipper up my lip", Snafu literally zips his mouth shut; making the gag visually appealing towards army recruiters.


Other innovative forms of visualisation appears in a diagram of Snafu's brain locked with "a padlock and chain". It creates a stunning visual metaphor that blends with Snafu's determination.

The gag comes to greater effect in a latter sequence of Snafu getting intoxicated at a bar. The spirits pouring inside Snafu's body begins to evaporate, causing the vapour to steam towards Snafu's brain. The vapour circulates the padlock and chain to dismantle. Not only is the scene inventive for visual storytelling, but it's an accurate portrayal on how manipulative alcohol can be to one's mind. The suspense is built appropriately towards Raymond Scott's infamous Powerhouse, with Chuck's timing coordinated with great care.

Once Snafu's consumption of alcohol has taken its toll; he drunkenly approaches an attractive woman, full of lust. As noted before, the sexual qualities of women is a key theme to the Snafu series. Although the blonde's portrayal as a sex tool to distract Snafu might be considered derogatory today - it still builds up the suspense fittingly.

Snafu accidentally reveals the location of his trip as he lusts, "I hope I meet some babes in Africa, s'cute as you are!". Typing on a miniature typewriter underneath the table; the blonde spy hands the note to a messenger dove once disguised as a glamorous feature on her hat.

After some time, Snafu drunkenly enjoys an erotic night with the blonde spy, but once again reveals new crucial information: "But I've gotta get a move on, I sail at half past four!" The camera trucks in on the spy's breasts; with a dissolve that reveals hidden radio speakers.

As derogatory and yet creative the gag is; the short emphasises the dangers of strangers resourcefully - especially with babes. Bobe Cannon's work in the latter sequence requires a great deal of analysis - and yet he pulls it off effortlessly. He wonderfully captures the subtleties of an undercover spy with limited movement - whereas Snafu is animated more loose in his drunken, staggering position.

Once the word reaches Hitler - the order is carried out to sink Snafu's liner. Composition and scope is used to its great advantage in the sequence of Snafu discovering the German submarines. The use of long shots of the submarines cornering the ship, or forming into a swastika creates excellent dynamics.

Alerted of the enemy, Snafu bellows: "Full speed ahead!" - but the ship whisks away with extreme force, to the point of Snafu falling into the middle of the ocean. Surrounded, the submarines fire torpedoes at Snafu.

This results in an elaborate layout of the ocean forming into a sinkhole; which is where Snafu falls. Johnny Burton's camera department apply a remarkably complex effect as the sinkhole vertically pans down to the fires of hell. Annoyed, Snafu wonders: "Now who in hell do you suppose it was that let my secret out." Then, the devil personified as Hitler appears, saying "What was that I heard you say my little sauerkraut?" The scene presents a good case of how the Snafu cartoons were beyond the control of the Production Code. Geisel takes liberties of this, like the use of "hell" as a pun; which compared to a Warner Bros. cartoon like Draftee Daffy, it could only be almost uttered.

Spies is represented as an excellent hyperbole and morale to the dangers of spying and eavesdroppers. Whilst it's all played up for comical effect with the spies' discreetness being improbable - the premise never fails to portray the consequences. The eavesdropping gags are used so inventively and believably to the point the viewer is persuaded by danger lurking at every corner. Geisel's writing on the short is sublime; from Snafu's antics right down to the memorable rhyming dialogue. The short makes it clear Snafu intends to be discreet on his secret, where his mistakes only make him human.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

410. Porky Pig's Feat (1943)

Warner cartoon no. 409.
Release date: July 17, 1943.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Daffy Duck / Hotel Manager / Bugs Bunny).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky and Daffy attempts to escape from paying a huge hotel bill is thwarted by the hotel manager.

Frank "Tish Tash" Tashlin
In September 1942, not only had the Schlesinger studio finally achieved an identity for their innovative style of humour in their cartoons; but it also marked the return of another influential force at the Schlesinger studio. Arguably one of the greatest and most diverse cartoon directors, Frank Tashlin returns to the studio for the third time, as a story director - after a four year stint at Disney and Columbia's Screen Gems.

Frank Tashlin, as witnessed previously in this blog during his first tenure as director, was best known for his cinematic style to animated cartoons. Not only had he achieved sharper timing within the studio; but gave his cartoons a streamline design. Tashlin, like Chuck Jones, loved to experiment and did so to his full extent. His experiments would pay off, as he still maintained the spirit and energy that the studio's reputation prided with.

Not long afterwards, Frank Tashlin would return to his former directing position by succeeding Norm McCabe's black-and-white unit. Since his last directorial effort at Warners in 1938; the Warner Bros. animation studio had enhanced significantly in style and pace. Since his return, Frank Tashlin shows no struggles of adapting to the change, although felt he lost a lot of seniority by then, as recollected in Michael Barrier's interview: "I had to come up from the cellar again". In the wake of his four-and-a-half year absence, his first released short Porky Pig's Feat provides an excellent comeback for the director.

If there was a layout artist with the ability to meet with the complex demands of Tashlin's directing; Dave Hilberman is the right candidate. Layout is relied upon heavily throughout the cartoon, and Hilberman's pivotal work on the short is sublime. Like Tashlin, Hilberman was an innovator; and his avant-garde approach to layout and designs create a fitting match for the maestro.

Melvin "Tubby" Millar's narrative is kept simple and to the point: Porky and Daffy attempt to avoid payment on a huge bill, and pull off various escape attempts from a tenacious hotel manager, who stops at nothing, to ensure their bill is paid. Millar splits the narrative structure.

The first half of the short is all exposition, as seen in the opening scenes. After Porky observes an unfair hotel bill (for which he and Daffy are charged for every luxury including breathing and goodwill), the following scene dissolves to Daffy Duck gambling away during a game of craps in the elevator.

The sequence is beautiful not only in direction, but in suspense and atmosphere. Tashlin utilises his cinematic techniques in making the craps game ambiguous - only Daffy's silhouetted hand and cry for luck inform the audience of the situation. Once Daffy rolls the dice, an unseen croupier (impersonating Eddie Anderson) shouts, "Uh-oh. Snake eyes. Too bad! You is a dead duck, duck!". The elevator door slides open revealing a dejected Daffy walking away in sombre, after blowing his entire money on gambling; meaning there's no other alternative to paying the bill. Daffy's pose is beautifully staged in capturing the melancholy mood, and Carl Stalling's use of Blues in the Night underplayed fits the locale effectively.

An interrogation so intense, in a
few frames, Daffy's mouth appears
monstrous.
Offended by the manager's sceptical response concerning Daffy Duck, he busts in on his face, glaring and dominating him threateningly. Another marvellous Tashlin trait was his ability to pose characters in exaggerated positions, and enforce the poses far longer than the other directors would anticipate. This is largely showcased in the scene as described. Daffy presses the manager's face the point his face sinks inside; in unparalleled Art Davis animation.

He interrogates him in an unforgettable speech written by Tubby Millar: "Insulting my integrity, eh, fatso? Insinuating I'd flee this flea-bitten dump, eh, fatso?" Intimating I'd abscond with your financial remunerations, eh fatso?". Once he's finished, Daffy slides his head away from the manager's squished face. Amused by the outcome, he remarks: "Hey, look! A Dick Tracy character. Pruneface!". It's a remarkable piece of staging that indicates Tashlin's fearlessness as a director - by attempting what other directors wouldn't try, and all for a marvellous effect. After exchanging some violent outbursts from each other; Porky and Daffy begin their greatest escape plan had they succeeded.

While Frank Tashlin relied heavily on filmmaking techniques in his approach to cartoon directing; a lot of his camera work was used for comedic purposes. After Daffy's little altercation with the hotel manager; he prepares to slap Daffy with his glove. A close-up of Daffy Duck ready to anticipate his slap; and then camera pans over to Porky. As the slap is interpreted by Porky's reaction, the camera pans back to Daffy Duck, revealing a severe sting on his face from the glove. It works effectively in depicting cartoon violence in a satirical way, and to some extent, it pokes fun at the Production Code's restrictions on violence portrayed in film.

Not only does Tashlin pay homage to the use of mise en scene for filmmaking; he also pulls off complex camera techniques only effectively in cartoons. While Schlesinger stalwarts like Friz Freleng and Tex Avery were masters in fulfilling difficult camera actions successfully; Tashlin takes the feat beyond.

A striking example occurs in Daffy and Porky's first attempt in escaping from the elevator. The camera trucks in to the elevator clock sliding, and then damaged on impact. The elevator door arises to find Porky and Daffy backing away from a menacing hotel manager (with flypaper still attached to his face from earlier), and end up back where they originally started. And so, the angry manager protests: "And you don't get out until you pay up!"

It's a remarkably complex piece of work, requiring the effort of Hilberman's layouts and Johnny Burton's department. The staging and planning is incredibly inventive and outlandish in depicting a failed attempt of escaping down an elevator. On a plus note, the grimace expressions on the manager (as well as Porky and Daffy's awkward poses) are priceless and intimidating.

Animation by Cal Dalton.
Tashlin's filmmaking approach is incredibly diverse in the cartoon; not just in camera techniques or timing, but also in composition and scale. For the hotel manager; Tashlin exploits the character's size to make him appear larger than normal. It's utilised effectively in the opening scene; where he daunts Porky about the bill, "You will, of course, pay the bill now before you leave, no?".


The camera pans down to an intimidated Porky who bluffs, "My partner Daffy Duck will be right back. He's out cashing a check!". The size of the manager works effectively to carry out an intimidating appearance.

Frank Tashlin's love for cinematic camera angles doesn't go missed in this cartoon. For the sequence where Porky and Daffy attempt to slide down the hotel building from a rope made from bed sheets; he uses the camera angles for timing purposes.

Tashlin uses low-angle shots of Porky Pig at the ground, stuttering and yelling, "Hurry up, Daffy, don't dilly-dally! Time's a wastin'!". Little does Porky realise as he's standing on top of a drain cover; that the manager is hiding underneath the sewer, and planting matchsticks underneath Porky's feet to give him the ol' hotfoot.

The depiction of only featuring the manager's hands enhances the suspense of the action further; and it's paid off as Porky zips upwards, as he reacts to the hotfoot. Also, Tashlin still remains true to the spirit of the Warners humour; as Daffy lustfully whistles at an open hotel window, implying he's staring at an attractive woman undressing. The next shot reveals, however, an illustration of a female model in a magazine.

Perhaps the most memorable technique Tashlin employed in this short is the elaborate seqeunce of the hotel manager falling down the staircase. In the sequence, Porky and Daffy lock themselves in their hotel room, and the manager tries to break down the door. And so, Porky and Daffy pull down the rug; causing the manager to crash and bump down the spiral staircase.

The camera pans down to reveal the complex layout work; seen as a simulated tilt shot. Hilberman's genius layout technique emphasises the infinite journey the manager has to endure, along with Mel Blanc's delivery on the yells. In the following scenes; extreme close-ups of Porky and Daffy's eyes watch the manager stumbling down the stairs. The manager's bumps are reflections from their pupils. Speaking of reflections, Tashlin uses it in the short sporadically; particularly in the shot of Daffy Duck's reflection seen through the hotel manager's monocle, as he's about to give Daffy "the field of honour."

Frank Tashlin also experiments and makes effective use of his timing skills. For fast-paced scenes like Porky's reaction to the hot-pot; he uses streaks and fast cutting (which he used primarily on earlier efforts like Porky in the North Woods and Porky's Romance) to depict the action. To create impact and weight in animation action; Tashlin's timing works effectively for scenes like Daffy yanking the flypaper off the manager's face - portrayed with a controlled and yet exaggerated use of squash and stretch.

While the pacing is quintessential of Tashlin's work, he also uses elements of subtlety that portrays humorous situations beautifully; particularly evident in the sequence ready for discussion. Once Porky and Daffy's plan of causing the manager to stumble down the stairs has supposedly worked; a recovered manager zips up the stairs in a flash; causing the pair to lock themselves in their rooms once more and pull off the stunt once more.

However, the manager has learnt from his mistakes and deceives Porky and Daffy into thinking he's fallen by imitating the agonising yells outside their door. The pair step outside to listen out for the yells; without realising he's right beside them. His yells turn calmer, causing Porky to double-take and crack Daffy's neck forward. The cracking action is a beautiful, subtle piece of timing - excelled from Phil Monroe's character animation and Treg Brown's virtuoso sound effects.

To create definitive cartoon timing and comedy; Carl Stalling is the reliable candidate in enhancing the effect. Infamous for his usage of Raymond Scott's Powerhouse, Stalling takes advantage of the frantic, episodic music by turning it into an innovative cue for wild cartoony action - like the hotel manager frantically ramming at the door in frustration.

While Scott's piece has been heard previously for the climatic sequence in the Snafu short, Gripes, this is the first usage of the piece in a Warner Bros. cartoon - as well as the start of a great legacy.

As far as gags and humour goes; Tashlin was not much different compared to Bob Clampett or Tex Avery, as the standard Termite Terrace humour remained intact in his shorts. A gag popularised by Tex Avery is borrowed in this short; but used in an unpredictable, spontaneous fashion. The hotel manager crashes into a hotel door; flattening door. Once he's recovered; he opens the door, but finds another door. He continuously opens an endless number of doors, until he finds one with a sign attached, reading: "Monotonous, isn't it?"

After one final attempt of escaping the crutches of the hotel manager; Porky and Daffy swing across the rope to another building; only to be cornered once again by the manager. The manager wins the battle and imprisons the pair in a hotel room for evading their bill.

Months past, Porky and Daffy are still imprisoned and full of despair. Bugs hopelessly stutters, "Gosh, if Bugs Bunny were only here". The following sequence is fitting reference to the character; as Porky and Daffy represent the majority of people who admire his mischievous antics - and the pair reminisce a scene from a non-existent cartoon. Porky's fourth wall crack, "I saw him in a Leon Schlesinger cartoon once" must've been an amusing reaction from Schlesinger's viewing of the short.

Feeling hopeful and optimistic of escaping the macabre hotel room, Daffy advances towards the telephone box to call Bugs Bunny. For the first time in Warner Bros. cartoon filmography; Daffy Duck converses with Bugs Bunny. Not as an enemy as how he's been immortalised and marketed today; but as an ally.

"What's up, duck?" Animation by
Izzy Ellis.
Daffy explains the predicament of his and Porky's situation, and consults Bugs on the phone on some pointers of escaping. Bugs suggested all the stunts they attempted earlier in the cartoon: like the elevator, throwing the manager down the stairs, using the sheets to swing across on the rope.

A sample of the abrupt "jump cut"
technique, popularised in Goddard's
Breathless (1959).
For Daffy's phone call to Bugs; Tashlin establishes a technique that was almost unheard of in Hollywood filmmaking. Tashlin uses jump cuts to bring the camera closer and closer to Daffy's face. It's used ironically to create dynamics and suspense in an otherwise casual phone call.

Animation by Phil Monroe.
The" jump cut" technique wasn't used extensively until Jean-Luc Goddard's French New Wave film Breathless (1959) (a sample of the technique can be viewed here). From a film history perspective; it's fascinating to see how ahead of his time Frank Tashlin was, and the liberties he took during Hollywood's studio system era.

And so, Daffy comes to the point in the phone call: "We've tried all those ways". Then, a door to the next room opens up to reveal Bugs Bunny (in his only black-and-white appearance in a Warner cartoon), also in the same situation as Porky and Daffy, with shackles attached to his legs. He munches on a carrot and remarks, "Ehh, don't work, do they?". It's a hilarious piece of tragedy that exemplifies the hopelessness of escaping a hotel bill, and from the hotel manager.

Although Frank Tashlin would go on to produce a handful more funny, memorable cartoons at the studio, Porky Pig's Feat is perhaps, his cartoon masterpiece and one of my all-time favourite Warner Bros. shorts. Tashlin adjusts to the changes of the studio's style of filmmaking from his departure in 1938 effortlessly, and invests a lot of his talent and abilities into one cartoon flawlessly. Tashlin's cinematic, avant-garde approach to cartoon directing gives the cartoon's action more excitement and fulfilment for the viewer. Humour-wise, Tashlin keeps true to the spirit of the Warner style, as well as understanding characterisation. While Frank Tashlin's 1930s cartoons were mostly hit-and-miss, perhaps due to the material he was given, there's no denying he's returned an improved director. Although one might argue the techniques might've been overused in the cartoon, most importantly - Tashlin never loses sight of the narrative and the importance of keeping the audience motivated; a huge "feat" indeed!

Rating: 5/5.