Monday, 13 February 2012

109. The Country Mouse (1935)

Warner cartoon no. 108.
Release date: July 13, 1935.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown.
Animation: Don Williams and Jack Carr.
Musical Score: Bernard Brown.

This is the earliest Warner Bros. cartoon to feature a Blue Ribbon release and yes; there is no credits but I used Dave Mackey's that features the credits that we think were - and Internet Movie Database says so in there.

We begin with a country mouse who is training or dreams of being a boxer. He is using a punching bag for practice and he already has a group of people that the mouse seems to be the influence. The country mouse then starts to boast on how that he would try to knock down anyone in the county fair fight. Even one of the kids plays the harmonica that goes with the music on the background La Cucaracha. Everyone all slaps at his speech and his practicing in which he gets the praise. Well; he doesn't deserve praise since he looks extremely weedy.

Meanwhile the country boy's mother is sitting outside on her porch in her rocking chair knitting and also puffing her pipe. She spits out tobacco and aims at a pan standing on a porch from a hook. Now she looks like one tough woman for her age. Meanwhile the country mouse then starts to show off his muscles; and my - I guess he isn't so weedy then. All his fans then admire him and he walks along with a strong pose that he is putting on. All of the kids copy his position. 

The mouse then walks into a farm where there is a scarecrow standing. The country mouse then starts to practice by trying to hit the scarecrow. He practices by doing some punching techniques and hitting air. Then he hits the scarecrow but the scarecrow whacks him on the head. Meanwhile the mother who is knitting then calls for his son "Elmer! Elmer!". OH, so his name is Elmer then; well how come I didn't know the first place? Oh well. The mother then nags Elmer by telling him to get on with the chores. Elmer replies, "Okay; Granny - I'll be finished with you in a jiffy". Wait?!? That's his grandma?! I thought that was his mother - since he's pretty old and I thought the mother was old?! Oh, darn it! Well that left parts of this cartoon unexplained.

The country mouse (Elmer) then starts to begin by doing his chores in which it appears to be is that he is some type of lumberjack where he is taking down trees. Well he's not using an axe or a sharp equipment to pull them down. Instead he is using his own muscles to do it to get the tree down. As the tree is down, the country mouse then notices an axe on the tree. Why? He could've used the axe to cut down the tree. What? Is he trying to show off his strength again. Now THAT'S modest of him. Elmer is then starting to cut off thin layers off the tree and of course; it's pathetic and is obviously afraid being hurt. Now that is a type of strength I'd not associate with that mouse.

The grandmother then walks into the scene and calls Elmer a "wussy" and she is right. She then walks in to show her how to take down a real tree. He punches parts of the tree trunk off in which they all fly off. Now that is one tough granny - in a cartoon. The grandmother then punches the bark of the tree in which it all turns into clothes pegs. The grandmother then spits tobacco onto a bit of wood and walks out of the scene. Now that showed him. Elmer then pulls out of his pocket in which he wants to show to granny. It's sort of hard to know what the title is of the book considering there's no close-up or background image of it!

The country mouse (Elmer) then proposes to the grandmother that he is going to be a fighter at the country fair; and I guess that's probably what the book is about? Why did he need the book? Elmer then does some demonstrations of his "fighting skills" by hitting the air again. The grandmother doesn't even care and doubts that Elmer would even win since he's pretty weak. She grabs his ear and walks him to the porch of the house. The grandmother then slams the door; and probably the end of Elmer's career in boxing.

The next scene we view letters that reads "That night" as though it's telling us the story. Elmer, the country mouse, is all dressed in in smart uniform and has his suitcase with him. Oh he is planning to run away of course. Brilliant idea. Elmer hears the sound of train tracks but then starts to run up the path and not to be seen afterwards. The next shot we see the host of the boxing night and announces who will be fighting in the race. He announces it will be "15 round for the Championship of the World". Wow, Elmer got in THAT quickly? Elmer's nickname is "Hickville Threat", the crowd cheer for Elmer. The announcer then shouts "and in this corner - Sam!". Sam is a rather mean looking bulldog who looks tougher than Elmer.

The nickname that the bulldog has is called The Run-Some Bulldog. The bell then rings in which the fight between Elmer (Hickville Threat) and Sam (The Run-Song Bulldog) is about to begin. The fight starts off in a pretty funny way. They're all walking and threatening in funny positions, but they fight like sissies - mostly because of Elmer. As they start to repeat the position again; they fight like sissies again but Elmer gets knocked out that time - with the audience laughing. Yep, he's definitely weak. Come on; that's not what to do at boxing; the way to do it is if a punch is coming directly at him - you duck and sway your head sideways.

The country mouse then starts to approach the bulldog and tries to bang him in the chest but then gets beaten up rapidly until he is being punched a number of times. I can see this cartoon is another reason on why Friz is making better cartoons since the punching scenes all go well with the timing of the music something that Friz was really good at.

I like the punching gags that are being presented in this short so far; as Elmer is proven not to be even stronger than the bulldog. The bulldog then punches Elmer in the air and he lands on a stool and is knocked out. A pig runs into the scene to fan Elmer to try and wake up. Elmer then wakes up and wants to try to pick a fight on the bulldog. The pig punches Elmer unconscious as he wants to fan him to try and calm him down.

Meanwhile back at home the grandmother is listening to the radio in which there is a boxing match going on where Elmer is involved. The grandmother is walking around the house steaming as she is puffing her pipe very roughly. She is walking in circles; and notice that the black cat is moving her stool back for her to sit down. The grandmother has finally had enough of hearing the fight going on in the radio; so she turns off the radio. She storms out of the house to go out and get Elmer back home. She cycles all the way to the County fair.

Back at the arena; Elmer is still useless at the boxing match since his brain doesn't seem to function well anymore and that he can't find ways to defend himself anymore. All of the crowd are cheering on the bulldog who is winning the game by a mile. The next gag shows up that is just wonderful; but it wouldn't work by force but the timing is excellent when the bulldog missed his shot at punching Elmer but punches the rails in which the ENTIRE canvas spins. The speed is just great to look at.

The grandmother is therefore cycling along to the arena and is close to seeing Elmer being beaten. The bulldog is therefore enjoying boxing Elmer as he is putting in little effort as Elmer is suffering. The bulldog then does a whole spin in punching Elmer and the tornado speed-lines are fun to look at. Looks like the Friz cartoons are just getting better. The grandmother enters the scene and lands on the canvas. The grandmother punches the bulldog in one punch but the bulldog hits each side of the canvas until he's unconscious. The grandmother wins the game only with one punch and is crowned Queen of the match - I guess. The mother then notices Elmer with black eyes; she stops her celebration and sits down on a stool. She spanks Elmer constantly as he fidgets - and that's all folks.

Since I noticed the humor in Freleng's cartoons have started to slightly improve; I've noticed the speed in his cartoons are improving and it shows in this cartoon. Would this be Friz's lucky months on that studio or is this real improvement? The highlight of this cartoon was of course the boxing as there was some good gags; and a good use of timing and speed. The staging was all done well; and we got to see one of Friz's examples of his timing on music. I like how that the kids all think Elmer the country mouse was pretty tough but considering that the grandmother was tougher than him - which would mean it's an embarrassment for Elmer. I think it shows that Tex Avery WASN'T the only guy who improved the Looney Tunes - he certainly gave the humor and gags which inspired the people at the studio - but the *other* directors had their share.

1 comment:

  1. The credits come from the U.S. Government Copyright Catalogue.