Friday, 9 December 2011

67. Buddy's Day Out (1933)

[REVISED VERSION: May 2nd, 2017].

Warner cartoon no. 66.
Release date: September 9, 1933.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Tom Palmer.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown.
Animation: Bill Mason.
Musical Score: Norman Spencer, Bernard Brown.
Sound: Bernard Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Our new hero, Buddy takes his girlfriend Cookie for an outing; along with his younger brother Elmer and pet dog, Happy. Little does he realise trouble is ahead.


Courtesy of Tralfaz.
Throughout the first part of 1933; Leon Schlesinger was in turmoil. His creative team of artists under the leadership of Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising walked out on Leon's contract in the hopes of producing more ambitious cartoons. They hoped to work with budgets larger than what Warner Bros. were willing to provide - attributed by the studio's shaky financial grounds in the early thirties.

Rubber-hosed Bobby Bumps?
Harman-Ising took Bosko with them, leaving Leon Schlesinger with only the titles. Determined to fulfil his contract, Schlesinger set up his own studio on the Warners lot at Sunset Boulevard. Searching for artists to produce new cartoons; Leon raided talent from other studios - namely Disney, and some of Harman-Ising's people.

By June 10, 1933, it was announced on Film Daily that Schlesinger had completed his staff, and had conceived a new character: Buddy - a blander replacement of Bosko, who bears a Boy Scout persona. Although his staff might've far from perfect - Schlesinger's own formation of a cartoon studio was probably his greatest achievement in hindsight. Although it got off to a slow start, its immortal legacy was unthinkable in the eyes of Leon.

Here is the Film Daily advertisement as announced on that date:

Hollywood—Leon Schlesinger has completed his staff and started production of the "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons for Vitaphone's 1933-34 program. Thomas A. Palmer is production managers; J. Patton King, head animator; Norman Spencer, head of music department; Bernard Brown, sound department; Earl Hurd, chief of layouts. Forty animators are at work. Schlesinger has obtained copyright on the characters "Buddy," "Cookie," "Elmer," and "Happy," the dog, for "Looney Tunes." Mythical characters will be used in "Merrie Melodies." 


Caricature of Tom Palmer at Disney
by Jack King, c.1931.
Both Tom Palmer and Jack King were undoubtedly the most experienced animators Schlesinger raided from Disney. Other Disney artists Schlesinger hired like Bill Mason or Paul Fennell were only junior animators at the studio, working under Ben Sharpsteen's supervision. Despite the experience, both animators weren't as highly reputable in comparison to Norm Ferguson or Les Clark.

Today, Palmer is remembered and universally criticised for his lack of creativity and humour on his only two directed cartoons at Schlesinger. The quality of both shorts were in severe condition that extensive changes were called for in order for Warner Bros. to finally accept it. No doubt, the extra reworks cost the cartoons extra dollars - a bad deal in the eyes of Leon Schlesinger; and a possible attribution to Palmer's firing.

Buddy, introduced by Tom Palmer, was already established in the same vein of a Mickey Mouse persona. Like Mickey, Buddy had a recognisably human girlfriend, Cookie - whom, in her earlier appearances bore a resemblance to a flapper girl. However, according to Bob Clampett, it was Earl Duvall who created the character.

Again, like Mickey, Buddy was to have a pet companion, a dog named Happy, whom appears to have been replaced with another dog in later Buddy shorts. But unlike Mickey, Buddy had a baby brother, named Elmer - in his one time appearance only.

All the characters are introduced individually in the opening scenes with their names and identities printed on them. These scenes pay homage to movie trailers (and occasionally opening credits) of that time era, that featured individual shots of stars featured. While the effect worked to establish the scenario of the picture - here, the opening is riddled with awkward character animation, like Buddy looking at his audience weirdly.

For the most part; Buddy's Day Out suffers from extremely thin gags spread across the cartoon. Most of the gags were poorly conceived due to incoherency and amateurishness. The opening scenes of Cookie bathing Elmer, but spanking him back to the tub to stop him from leaning over to grab a sponge is an example of weak imagination. Perhaps Tex Avery didn't arrive soon enough.

One of the more illogical, preposterous gags occurs later in the cartoon's climax. Elmer and Happy had carjacked Buddy's vehicle as they ride through rail tracks - unaware of a locomotive heading straight towards their path.

What should be a satisfying resolution; it's implausibly resolved by Buddy and Cookie, who use a ladder to route the train off its tracks and through a shack. And in the following shot, the train is somehow routed back to the rail tracks.

Preposterous gags suitable for animated cartoons? Without question, as long as it's reasonably executed - which the short fails to do. Not only is the train gag sluggishly pulled off - but it's a lazy, unsatisfying closure to a locomotive climax.

A lot of the cartoon's gags remain unfunny and inconsistent in tone. The only gag featured in the short that feels justified, is featured in a scene of Buddy's vehicle animatedly shaking off water in the mannerisms of a dog. Gags like those are in the spirit of surreal animated gags, popularised by many animation studios in the early thirties. It's a pity the cartoon didn't wind down that path.

Although incoherency played a huge part in weak gag development, some of them is also hampered by weak characterisation - which is showcased with Buddy. The introduction scenes of "our hero", Buddy already establishes the character with such blandness and mediocrity.

He is portrayed with a "boy scout" persona, which greatly limits audience appeal for Buddy. Gag-wise, he is very constraint. In one sequence, Buddy calls out to his girlfriend across the neighbourhood and shouts, "I'll be right over, Cookie."

He starts the engine of his vehicle, but begins to malfunction. Buddy's car drives backwards; crashing into his neighbours' yards. His car is accompanied with a quarrelling cat and dog, but once the vehicle crashes through a greenhouse - it's garnished with flowers as it stops by Cookie's front porch.

Elaborate gags like this could potentially have entertainment value, but it depends largely on how strong characterisation is. Since Buddy has little personality; the gag comes across as generic and forced, in a desperate attempt to make Buddy seem charming with the accidental decorum of flowers.

It appears Tom Palmer wasn't confident on building a personality for "our hero" Buddy. For his cartoon debut, he is in the foreground a lot of the time - especially in the picnic sequence. In that scene, the audience experience an awkward romantic moment between Buddy and Cookie on the hammock.

Buddy asks, "Woojie, woojie, woojie?" to Cookie - in which she declines, by responding: "No, woojie woojie woojie" nonsensically. Judging by the context of the Pre-Code era - I'm curious whether it's an implied innuendo.

Character designs are reminiscent
to some of Disney's early
Silly Symphonies - namely
BUGS IN LOVE (1932).
The scene cuts to a series of individual shots of courting bugs and bullfrogs, repeating Buddy's cringeworthy "woojie" dialogue. None of the individual shots are taken advantage of by gags - which is virtually absent. The shot of the bullfrog couple comes close to one (the scene itself feels premature Clampett-esque), but it has no payoff or coherency. The female frog denies his request for "woojies" by simply slapping him off a log, and beating him with a cattail.

The shot of the critters feel too sidetracked compared to the rest of the cartoon and there's no reason to include it - as it's just a pointless piece of filler. It indicates Palmer's lack of creativity and imagination for sequences centred around his cast of characters. Was Buddy's "woojie" dialogue so funny, that an encore of critters repeating it was called for? Bernard Brown recalled Palmer at story meetings in Michael Barrier's interview, where Palmer said, "And now we do a funny piece of business", without explaining what the gag was. The sequence is a prime example of that.

Although a lack of screen time for Buddy might be beneficial; it must be supported with stronger entertainment values - especially amongst side characters. Even in blander Mickey Mouse cartoons featuring Donald or Pluto, their sequences work standalone.

One sequence in this cartoon is devoted to Happy and Elmer. The concept of a dog and a baby playing off each other could show some merits - but here, the action is very generic and underwhelming.

Although the behaviour of both characters craving for food is believable enough - it's another showcase of not featuring any cartoonish gags. Elmer, at one point tosses a cake that completely covers Happy's head. Happy runs around, barking wildly across a field.

The action is dull, predictable, and the 'gag' doesn't escalate to make the animation more compelling. It only pays off when Elmer's bumps into a small stump, causing the cake to fly and land on Elmer's head - setting him up for mischievous, messy behaviour.

One of the most jarring elements of Buddy's Day Out; are the cartoon sound effects by Bernard Brown. The most misplaced use of it are featured in anticipation gags. In one scene, Cookie is drying Elmer with a bath towel. She lightly tosses him in the air, as Elmer lands safely on the towel - with a bell ring sound applied to it.


The sound is used several times in this short, but for that scene it ruins not only a forced bit of delivery - but also the illusion of cartoon fantasy. Another poor sound effect applied is heard in a scene of Elmer pestering Buddy on their way to the picnic. Elmer strikes Buddy's head with his bottle - with a sound similar to rocks being smashed.

As mentioned, the cartoon sound effects are very weak. Brown isn't creative with sound ideas to enhance the atmosphere of an animated world. I express no disrespect to Bernard Brown by all means, considering the fact he's contributed sound to numerous live-action films, as well as Oscar nominations to his name - (Brown would win an Academy Award for Best Sound in 1939 for When Tomorrow Comes).

Whether poor direction or working under a very tight schedule was a factor in this short; I'm not sure. Brown specialised in many different areas of sound, so cartoon shorts were only a small portion to his schedule. As Bob Clampett recalled in Barrier's interview, he could "just ooze in any hole that needed filling." He might not have been innovative with cartoon sounds, like Treg Brown; but for the most part, his sound work was competent and in style throughout the later Buddy cartoons.

After Cookie criticises' Elmer's mischievous behaviour at the picnic, he dejectedly walks to Buddy's vehicle - but knowingly starts the car's engine by stomping on the pedal. Soon, this follows into a climatic sequence of Elmer carelessly riding the vehicle - with Buddy and Cookie pursuing him.

The sequence is pretty unremarkable, as far as direction and staging is concerned. None of the action is embellished with any fast cutting or creative dynamics to create the illusion of danger - which remains absent.

A scene featuring a layout of the vehicle driving along a curved road is kept very straightforward and basic - without making the action more daring and spontaneous for a supposedly frantic scenario.

Gags are supported throughout the action sequence; but they're very standard and somewhat predictable (like Elmer and Happy crashing through a haystack, but come out sporting a beard made of straw).

Seeing animation pioneer Earl Hurd's name on the Film Daily ad is something of a surprise. I'm not sure how long he stayed at Schlesinger's, or if he stayed long enough to work on this cartoon. Either way, the layout work remains generic and unambitious as far as dynamics go. Very occasionally are the layouts creative in visual style - like the three-quarter down shot of Buddy and Cookie looking down at the rail tracks (whilst riding a pram, complete with a rotary washing line spinning like a helicopter - !!). The ending goes quite simply: Buddy and Cookie implausibly change the route of the train - resulting a happy reunion with the characters.

After revisiting the cartoon, I'd almost forgotten how difficult reviewing poor animated shorts are - especially to avoid saying "that's not funny" repeatedly. It's clear that some of the artists at the newly formed Schlesinger studio were starting to get their feet wet - and how much there was to learn and discover. Today, Buddy's Day Out remains a mess that's below the standards of most animated cartoons produced during that era. At Disney, Tom Palmer was a competent animator - but as a director he doesn't have a strong point of view. Gags are very vague in their interpretation - a problem attributed by Palmer's indecisiveness. Sometimes, the cartoon shows striking resemblance to an Ub Iwerks cartoon - like the usage of spark lines. Otherwise, Palmer hasn't developed a coherent or interesting style for his shorts. How much of the cartoon was actually reworked remains a mystery, but it's clear it didn't do justice to an overall unfunny short. Apart from the cartoon's significance it holds in Warners' history, there really isn't much to recommend in this cartoon.

Rating: 0/5.

11 comments:

  1. Sadly, Leon's studio had a bad start.Even next cartoon had bad reviews too from WB film studio!

    Characters is awful, i guess that a lot of newbies animated this one(because a lot of old-timers joined new Harman-Ising studio, but some of them back later).

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  2. Well, Leon raided a bunch of guys from other studios to work on his cartoons, and it turned out that some of them created crap like Buddy's Day Out and he ended up firing a bunch of people.

    Personally, I think that "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" is WORSE.

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  3. Umm...yes, Leon hire an animators from various sides - guys like Tom Palmer, Earl Duval, Paul Fenell and Jack King from high-budgeted West Coast Disney studio and Frank Tashlin with Frank Tipper from low-budgeted East Coast Van Bueren studio, plus a bunch of guys from Ub Iwerks studio, like Ben Hardaway and Jack Miller...

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  4. I heard that Bill Mason used to work at Disney at that time (according to Hollywood Cartoons), but also hired Don Williams from Universal Studios.

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  5. You have my sympathies trying to watch this thing. It's truly pointless. Why didn't the train run over all of them and put us out of our misery?
    That's not Bernice Hansen as Cookie. She voiced Cookie later in the series.
    The most interesting thing was a Tom Palmer inside joke by the background guy.
    Did Jones say he worked on this cartoon?
    By the way, you misspelled "asthma" in the start of the post.

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  6. Did someone like Elvia Allman do the voice as Cookie - this may be really wrong and random, but the voice sounds similar enough to be by her, right? :/

    I completely support your side that the train should have ran over all of them, therefore I wouldn't have to go bat-shit insane any longer.

    I didn't spot the Tom Palmer name in the background, and very interesting that you've spot that - since Friz Freleng used that a lot in the late 1940's and 50's.

    I've corrected the spelling error for "asthma".

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  7. "Buzzy, Buzzy, Buzzy", sounds like a Billy De Wolfe impression, only he wouldn't become prominent until the late 30s-40s .

    THe fonts and the fact that BOTH Norm Spencer and Bernard Brown were composers [maybe one started out but was as sickened as were many others by this shbort and handed the baton to someone else.]

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  8. ANd this was released on Mickey Mouse's 5th anniversary :rolleyes:

    Steve C.

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  9. Steve C. (aka Pokey) I don't know if that theory was correct, but Tom Palmer's cartoons had both musicians credited, with only one animator in the credit. I guess that back then, only four people had to be credited, such as "Director", "Animators" and "Music Directors", and later "Story guy". It seemed that Palmer's cartoons would only credit one guy, but when he left it was just two animators, and one musician. In 1937, it was later done by one person from each department (director, story, animation, music).

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  10. I can't argue with the bad animation, the blandness of the characters or the weirdness of the story. Still, this short fascinates me because the drawing style of that brief period at the end of 1933 is different from the Bosko shorts of 1930-33 and even the 1934-35 Warners shorts. It reminds me that I'm similarly fascinated with the 1967 Beatles' songs in between Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour (e.g. Baby You're a Rich Man, All Together Now) which are also supposed to be inferior. Maybe I'm fascinated with them because their style doesn't resemble the other songs The Beatles released that year.

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  11. So was Tom Palmer simply too far ahead of his time, or just a talentless hack? As he didn't really have much of a career by which to judge, being canned as a supervisor after two lousy pictures, it's hard to say. After all, Fred Avery did his fair share of gags about naked butts and celebrity caricatures. Did Palmer just not possess Tex's magic? Perhaps tighter timing on his gags or a better crew of artists would have helped?

    Palmer's career in cartoons ends quite abruptly-- a writer on a couple dozen pictures, uncredited as artist on a good three dozen, and directing twenty or so shorts no one's ever even heard of for a fourth-rate studio that folded after less than a decade. Did he croak young or something? Palmer's last credit is art director for the sumptuously-animated GULLIVER'S TRAVELS film in 1939.

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