Friday, 16 March 2012

129. I'm a Big Shot Now (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 128.
Release date: April 11, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown.
Musical Score: Bernard Brown.
Animation: Jack Carr and Riley Thompson.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A gangster bird in the town of "Birdsville" tries to prove his toughness by committing a crime in a robbery with the police until revealing himself as a "softie".

 The cartoon begins with a down in the forest (or garden) that belongs to a citizen of birds. Everyone appears to be rather relaxed as they enjoy civilised life in their own town. Up in a tree on a limb there is a bird in which he has a type of reel that you use for fishing rods as he ties a worm around the wire in which the worm starts to whirl around the nest forming layers.

There is a woodpecker flying at the scene in which it starts to peck at an old tree in which a ladybug jumps out of a hole from the reactions of the woodpecker. The ladybug then grabs out a mallet in which he hammers the beak down where it's rather damaged but can no longer do any pecking which saves the ladybug's day.

There are a group of birds then walking down the street of a bank that is built in the small forest (as it appears; and it's amazing that no human has stampeded on it yet). The bank is called "Birdville Bank" - which evidently shows that the name of the town with birds is called "Birdsville".

Inside the Birdsville Bank is an accountant who is basically doing his job here as he is probably writing them a cheque that has been delivered to them. No gag here intended there as we've could've seen something gag but yet; what other gags would be appealing that's set in a bank? Some dated reference??

There is a good background pan in which it shows the birds in a clean street where everyone is well mannered and happy. But as we PAN to the right there is the filthy side of "Birdsville" where it shows a saloon that looks rather horrid as well as the dirty street and a beer costs only 5 cents there! Outside there is a rather hard-looking bird that spits and loiters on a lamppost.

However inside the saloon it appears to be rather jazzy and popular inside. It doesn't look shabby at all on the inside as it does on the outside. All of the birds enjoy dancing - sure I wouldn't even mind entering it; if it were a human bar. I thought that it was only popular because of the cheap beer prices. But there are couples that we see that actually enjoy the party.

On the bar side there are birds on the counter taking their drinks. We then continue to pan with the main character of this cartoon who is wearing a jersey, a flat cap, and cigarette in his mouth rather gangster looking. A citizen then enters the saloon greeting him in which he greets back.

The gangster bird appears to be caricatured from gangster films even with that gruff voice. The bird then starts to go into song singing I'm a Big Shot Now. He sings about how he "used to be a softie", and became a "toughie". I like that facial expression with the rolling eyes as he says "Baby, and how - I'm a little big hot now!" The gangster then sings how he can ("lick?") any police officer. We already see some character personality here that shows he is rather arrogant and full of himself. He hardly is singing the song as he is just talking but in rhythm; but I'm unsure if that was how it was sung in the song.

There is a police officer bird that is pompous and overweight. The officer is just walking outside the saloon in a typical walk as a normal officer would do - swing its baton in it's hand walking up and down.

As the officer is walking - the gangster off-screen is singing about how he hates "geemen" and officers; and how he feels that there should be little laws and more to break them. Notice how that when the policeman turns around as the gangster sings back to verse "I used to be a softie..." - when the cop bird turns; there is no inbetween here - just from pose to the back to the front all in one go; I wonder if that was one of Freleng's unsuccessful attempts for use of timing or just an error. The gangster bird then starts to finish his song.

The gangster then grabs the cop who was standing outside the saloon doors as he whacks him with off-screen violence with that Treg Brown swirling effect. The gangster bird then starts to pour the bottle of liquor into these small glasses as he starts to guzzle down shots. Some good timing there with the guzzling gestures.

The gangster then unfolds the blinds on the window as he notices the "Birdsville Bank" as the word Bank falls out and puffs - good effects there. Is THAT meant to be the first time he's ever seen the bank since it's just across the street of the saloon?

The gangster bird then shouts "Hey gang!" in which a group of birds then start to follow his influence of crime as well as a local dancing with a girl. The gangster bird with a gang behind him then step out of the saloon doors as they do a gangster walk cycle. The walk cycle is beautiful movement as they got it right. The poses of that walk shows it's got attitude. Since I'm not going to grasp on who the animator is (and of course; how CAN I be certain?) so I'm just going to leave it there).

The bird then starts to wait outside the bank flipping the coin until we here the sounds of firing guns. The gangster is just standing there as he's the leader of the group but lets his followers do all the robbery and looting.

The guns are firing which tells us that they are obviously robbing the bank and leaving with all the money they've managed to rob. They then manage to escape in a car that they've found as they dash off with it. Well - the crime has been committed as they dash off escaping from the police until they catch them.

There is a dissolve back part after they escape but fades back when we view the police station that has police vans chasing after the robbers (plus the gangster) who they found out about the crimes. I like how there are so many officers out on the hunt that they can't fit into the car instead they cling on to each other holding onto the back part of the police car. Although question is that why would they need so many officers just to go after robbers?

There is then a car chasing sequence in which the gangster leader and the followers are trying to shoot away from the officers that are chasing after them. It reminds me of something like a Bonnie and Clyde sequence. I like the gag used that shows the officers that are shooting at the robbers with a shotgun but an officer at the back holding onto the railings is still holding on as the group of officers sling back from a shotgun reaction. I like the comic timing here that probably shows Freleng's improvement in timing.

I like that gag that then shows the bullets shooting out from the exhaust pipe in which the gangster leader was using it for his gun as he popped out of the exhaust pipe. Notice that speed gag of the cars driving very fast at an angle is reused animation from Avery's first cartoon Gold Diggers of '49 - looks like Freleng found influence.

The news screams the front headlines reading Bank Bandits Escape in which it leads to a WANTED poster where the reward is $500 for the gangster leader and NOT the other members of the gang - although I guess it's because they were followed but that's no excuse.

The shot of the wanted poster then fades to the gangster holding the actual poster he has found in which he laughs as though that nobody will find him for his bank robbery crime. The bird then looks outside of his birdhouse in which he already finds a copper on the loose.

The copper is standing outside swinging his baton in which he makes a hat take as he finds the gangster up in the birdhouse. Mmm, I wonder if that was some Jack King influence; but again how would it be since all directors used hat takes for timing most of the time - like Disney have used it a lot, as well as others.

I find it weird about how the copper bird whistles in which the copper's hat appears to erect and lower at times. The gangster then starts to close the door in which he wants to hide is identity but shoots out of the window in which he misses the police officers but shoots their hats. That shows some bad luck for the gangster bird but good luck for the officers since their lives were saved - but are still in danger. They duck down under the log to hide themselves.

An officer then grabs out a machine gun but as he fires the bird just digs down the ground because of the reaction which is a pretty funny gag. I love that pose the gangster does as he's shooting them in a bored pose while flipping the coin as though he's "good at this". One of his coins get shot in which e starts to fire furiously. The officer firing while banging onto a limb spins around at a 360 degree position.

There are a group of officers that are shown as dive bombers in which they are flying up in the sky making a turn as they are going to make a dive. They start to shoot around the birdhouse but nothing is happening to the birdhouse as though the bomber missed it. The gangster is already facing problems as there are bullets shooting straight into his bird house.

There is a funny scene that pops up with a copper bird banging his chest doing a Tarzan yell; and I'm SO GLAD that it wasn't the annoying Tarzan yell that we heard in the Buddy cartoons like (Buddy of the Apes). The bird then swings from a rope and tries to shoot straight at the birdhouse but swings back.

A police van then approaches the birdhouse behind it and shoots at the top. The bullets then form a hole around the gangster in which he falls down; and is finally captured.
While he is finally captured by the police; they beat him continuously with their batons as they drive off.

The final scene of the cartoon then focuses on the gangster bird behind bars in which he then sings about how he believes he's no longer a toughie.

Gangster bird: I used to be a toughie. But now I'm just a softie. I can take it - BABY and HOW - 'Cos I'm just a jailbird now.

Now that is a good lineup here that shows how arrogant he was at the beginning but at the end it's revealed as shame.

 Overall comments: I believe that this was Friz Freleng's cartoon of improvement with the humour here. The timing is slow but at least the same, repeated formula isn't repeated but I like the character development here with the gruff voice that has personality. The timing is showing some improvement in terms of comic wise. I think what's showing real improvement is the gags where it mostly involves the shotguns which were pretty good ones. The animation is shown as an improvement such as the gang walk-cycle that is being shown which did amaze me. 1936 is showing some great improvement here; Bernard Brown composed a great musical piece but he will be leaving the studio soon but the next person to arrive who is a much better music composing cartoonist - Carl Stalling will be here soon!


  1. NOrman Spencer would hang on between Bernard Bronw's last and Carl Stlalin;gs first.

    It may be Lionel Stander as the gangster bird.Steve in the USA

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.