[REVISED VERSION: May 2nd, 2017].
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Tom Palmer.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
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.|
|Rubber-hosed Bobby Bumps?|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
[March 28, 2018 update - info on animator Bill Mason]: born as William Henry Mason in Manchester, England in 1910 to parents Herbert Mason and Isabella Ferber. Had two brothers, Arthur and Harold. The latter, known as Hal Mason, was also an animator at Walter Lantz in the early-to-mid 1940s, and later creating characters for commercials, such as Mr Clean. Bill begun his animation career in 1931, working as a junior animator at the Hyperion Disney studios. Soon afterwards, Bill left to work for Ted Esbaugh on independent cartoons like The Snowman and The Wizard of Oz alongside ex-Disneyite, Frank Tipper - another native of England.
Once Leon Schlesinger opened up his own studio after the Harman-Ising fiasco, Mason landed a job there during Leon's major head-hunt. Despite his only WB animation credit on this cartoon, it's unknown how long he remained on the Schlesinger payroll. Once Bill left Schlesinger's, he found employment as an animator for Walter Lantz in 1934/1935. Bill married Miriam Ellen Lewis, daughter of Disney musician Bert Lewis, on November 25, 1936. Mason remained employed at Walter Lantz, until his tragic death on July 21, 1937 of a heart ailment. His younger brother, Hal, would follow his brother's footsteps - by working for Lantz in the early 1940s, and remaining active in the animation industry until his death in 1986.
If anyone reading this has any further information on Bill Mason, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me an e-mail].