Sunday, 8 January 2012

86. The Miller's Daughter (1934)

Warner cartoon no. 85.
Release date: September 8, 1934.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown.
Animation: Rollin Hamilton and Charles M. "Chuck" Jones.
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.

This is Chuck Jones' first ever animation credit as an animator, by 1938 he would later become a director, and soon would become one of the greatest animation directors of all time.

Our cartoon begins with these two ceramic figurines that are standing on a table, we then ZOOM back and see a view of the lounge in the room. There is a canary bird who is sitting in it's bird cage chirping happily. After some peaceful music, we see a bit of edgy music when the cat enters the scene (good set-up) and the cat plans to eat the poor canary. The cat jumps at the arm of the armchair; then leaps to the cage but falls off and lands on the table destroying the female figurine and knocking the lamp over to the side. Clumsy cat.

The housemaid enters the scene and is rather annoyed with the mess the cat's made. She places the lamp back into position and then picks up the pieces of the female figurine with her apron and takes it upstairs. The shepherd figurine who is still alive then weeps, probably thinking "There goes my gal". The housemaid then walks up to the attic and dumps the broken pieces of the female figurine into a box and then walks downstairs. Well, at least the design of the housemaid is appropriate while in other cartoons such as Disney's Three Orphan Kittens and the Tom and Jerry cartoons; it's stereotyped - but it makes the cartoons more interesting while the housemaid looks very bland.

 The shepherd figurine must've heard that noise from upstairs and then starts to slide down the lamp, but the sheep is still on the table not knowing how to get out. The sheep "bahs" with tinidness but the boy then brings out a cushion for a "happy landing" - not quite a happy landing. The figurine and the sheep then walk to the staircase but they hide by the wall since the housemaid walks down the stairs to do her other jobs. They both hop upstairs and finally they reach the dark, scary, boring attic.

The young lad then walks around trying to find his gal (or shall we say that he's a shepherd figurine why not say she's a shepherdess). The male figurine then hears the noises of the shepherdess calling for him, and he notices to find her in broken pieces, "Look, I'm all broken up" she says. Of course, he's standing right next to "glue" he remarks "That's alright, I'll fix it!" He then starts to glue the pieces back but there's a lamb in a picture portrait with the sheep figurine walking into the scene baaing at it but jumps at the portrait but rips it. Now that I think is a gag that works - finally something worth looking at by Friz Freleng so far.

Finally all the pieces of the broken shepherdess figurine is all fixed and she is able to walk again. The male figurine forgets another piece (which means there's a huge hole in her behind) and he glues the last piece. They both dance around together dancing and prancing happily. There is then a spider at the attic (Girl scream: AHHHHHH!) that plays the piano with it's legs but is still attached to a web. There are then these type of "See No/Speak No/Hear No Evil monkey figurines but they're caricatures of the Three Stooges, and they go off singing the title song, The Miller's Daughter.

Another gag that we see is which rather weird but it works well I guess is that there are these pair of old shows with their tongues saying and making rather annoying sounds - and their tongues are actual human tongues which is part of the gag. The Three Stooges as monkey figurines then go back into a song, but they interrupt briefly by punching one another. Then they go back into song.

We then see this lamp that's up in the attic that shows these silhouetted figures dancing, but one of the figured "clay man" turns on the light and we see them dancing as skeletons and they go around the lamp which moves. After the shepherd and shepherdess figurine applaud after their song. We see these type of kettles that start to dance to a Latin-American tune (IMDB confirms it as Cuban Carabet), and the shepherdess dances to the music by shaking her booty with a cloth, as they enjoy a bit of dancing. The shepherd figurine then jumps to a box with a room full of clocks. He starts to conduct the clocks which plays the Blue Danube tune by Johann Strauss II. The cuckoo clock then joins in to the music, too.

Michael Barrier wrote in his book Hollywood Cartoons that this cartoons resembled one of the Disney cartoons with its animation and rotoscoping. In a way, he is actually quite right since this cartoon has got some pretty stunning animation in there so far which was done carefully - most particularly the object animation. The attic sequence really has only got rich looking animation.

We then see a picture frame of a couple there are almost in silhouette and they have a dance (there is a tree near them in that frame). They have a type of waltz dance, and the dance part goes on for a while - but it is actually very well animated, but it is of course - rotoscoped. You might think that it was filmed in live-action and placed in silhouette (similar to what was in Two Silhouettes in Make Mine Music). There already has been some great animation, but I've always heard about Chuck Jones being a great draftsman - I wonder if he was involved anywhere in the skilled animation. Since the Schlesinger budgets back then only cost 7K, and yet they probably couldn't afford that much for that part to be rotoscoped by hiring live-action actors - unless this dance was probably burrowed from a Warner Bros. film. The girl then claps at the shepherd figurine.

There is then a type of lion figurine that is huge, and the lamb looks at it curiously. The sheep figurine then looks at it and shouts "Hey big boy", the lion roars fiercely at the sheep in which he goes in a surprised take and runs off. Instead of the usual "villain chases girlfriend" sequence that we always have - instead it shows a lion figurine chasing after the sheep figurine, since the shorts back then always had to have a climax. I really like that look of the lion in the first shot we see him, he moves very realistically and you can feel it. I love the shines on that lion as it makes it a lot more realistic. The boy and the girl figurine then scream to see their sheep being chased by that grizzly lion, and they are trying to help him out.

The poor sheep then climbs over a pipe and as he reaches out of the pipe he is covered in soot. He reaches a cornered part of the attic and cannot do anything to stop that lion, as the lion has more power. The boy and girl figurine then walk into the scene - the boy uses a cupid model and borrows it's bow & arrow. The boy shoots at the lion's bottom in which it jumps and roars. The sheep runs out of the scene, as do the boy and girl ceramics. They then run out of the attic, but the boy closes the door in which the ceramic lion crashes the door but breaks into pieces - which works so perfectly and really well done.

The boy, the girl and the sheep slide down the railings, and they fly back onto their table but knocks down the lamp on the floor that breaks. The figurines then notice the housemaid entering the scene and both go back into their positions. The housemaid enters the scene to find out what has happened. The cat walks into the scene minding it's own business, but gets framed for knocking down that vase. Now that isn't so fair to set it up - the cat didn't do nothing and us audience can't do anything about it to stop the maid. The ceramic figurines then look out the window where the housemaid is still chasing after the cat, trying to whack it with a broom - and that's all folks.

Friz Freleng was put in charge to direct all of the Merrie Melodies throughout 1934, all of 1935 and most of  1936. It was his job to only direct them as the others would be off directing the Looney Tunes. I must say that this is probably Friz's good picture that he's directed so far while the earlier ones he's worked on were pretty awful. True, there's still blandness in the animation but parts of the animation in the attic sequence looks so realistic and rich. The animation is not a close resemblance to the Disney cartoons, as their quality was higher - but this short has probably got highest animation quality since the Harman-Ising era. Of course, it was mostly rotoscoped but it makes the cartoon look better viewing. The cartoon was more coherent than the other pictures, and let's hope that Friz Freleng will make a turning point - or unless that was just his picture of luck - at that time.


  1. Well, it's probably the only one Buddy cartoon that I can watch without wishing of ending.

    P.S. IMDB says that Nelson Demorest worked as inbetweener on this cartoon. And, as I understand, he worked on all Buddy cartoons at that time.

  2. Oh, sorry for mistake - it's about "Buddy the Detective"...

  3. I'll publish your comments onto the "Buddy the Detective" review.