Wednesday, 21 March 2012

132. I'd Love to Take Orders from You (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 131.
Release date: May 16, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown.
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Words and Music: Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
Animation: Bob Clampett and Cecil Surry.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A scarecrow family who live out in the fields when Junior aspires of becoming a big scarecrow.

Tex Avery directs another "Merrie Melody" this time and it's pretty clear that Tex Avery is being versatile with both series as he is directing the black-and-white Porkies also also having his share with the Merrie Melodies along with Friz.

Our cartoon begins with a crops field in which a crow is flying across the field and about to lye around where a scarecrow is standing. The animation of the scarecrow flying is good animation. There is a scarecrow in which it lands in the fields but a crow approaches the scene trying to pick up some of the corn. The scarecrow then starts to scare the crow away in which the crow leaves frightened. I do like that facial expression of the scarecrow scaring the crow away as it is pretty expressive.

The scarecrow then starts to yawn after having a busy day in which he gets his watch (which is a egg timer in which the sand reaches to "quit" time). The scarecrow then starts click his back so he can walk back home as he takes his lunchbox with him.

The scarecrow then starts to walk back home in which he is holding his lunchbox home. I do like that characteristic walk that the scarecrow is doing. Avery used a lot of characteristic walks for his characters which were always unique and interesting.

We then PAN to the house where the scarecrow lives as well as his family. I like that shot of the scarecrow walking down the hill to the house; like staging there. The Junior scarecrow then looks out of the window as he finds his father returning home from work. He's already noticed Junior by the window and is expected to get a fright as he then starts to play along with his son. A rather fatherly act. The father then pantomimes being scared as his son puts on a scarecrow impression as part of his practice. The father picks up his child in which he asks "Did I scare ya, daddy?"

The father scarecrow then walks into the house in which he replies, "Yessir, you sure scared me that time", in which is just an encouragement to help give his child potential of becoming a scarecrow. The mother scarecrow then kisses the father with a greeting with the child on their hands.

Ma Scarecrow: Hello Pa, did you have a busy day?
Pa Scarecrow: Yes I did Ma, scared 10 crows away.
Ma Scarecrow: Now while I go cook your supper; give this little copper-ruppa (?). He wants to play scarecrow Pa. He's anything I ever saw.

Okay; but I wasn't sure about what the mother scarecrow said about her child (either that or I don't know what mothers would call their children well in those times). Junior slides down Pa's leg in which he drags his trousers begging to play "Scarecrow" with him.

The scarecrow then start to go into song (but mostly talk in rhythm) as the father scarecrow takes Junior to the "Scare Chart" section pinned on their wall.

Pa Scarecrow: I'll be the teacher.
Ma Scarecrow: (in kitchen) I'll cook the stew.
Junior: Well come on then, I'll take orders from you!

The father then points to the chart of the first pose in which he demonstrates "Now here's the first pose". Junior then copies the actions from the chart; "I'll try it too, because I'd like to take orders from you". The father scarecrow then points with his pointing stick to the second pose, "Here's one to try that will make crows fly - I use it everyday". Junior replies by singing, "When a crow flies down it'll take this frown; it'll scare any crow away". The father points to the first pose "Now you try this one". Junior does the actions, "That's what I'll do because I'd like to take orders from you" - which is the theme of the song.

The song then finishes in which the father scarecrow grabs out a spoon attached to a pot in which they're going to play a different game.

Pa Scarecrow: Now son, I'll be the manager and I'll give you the dong. That is, if you get any of them wrong.
Junior: Let's go through them all, and I'll try to do well. But remember Pa, take it easy on the bell.

Junior then starts to do a pose in which Pa gives him the bell since he did it wrong. He gets a couple more bells for doing them wrong again. It gets to the point that when Pa keeps on whacking the pot where Junior keeps on doing several poses which was pretty good of what Avery was doing as there is no in betweens for the different poses; but poses for one scene which works well; but not as fast or as exaggerated as Avery would plan on using it in his later cartoons with faster and sharper timing. Ma Scarecrow then claps at the game they are playing.

Pa Scarecrow is already exhausted as he moves his hand to stop the playing. "Alright, alright - that's enough for now because I gotta get fed. C'mon Ma - you gotta put him to bed". Bedtime; when it's already like still sunlight outside? It is summertime over where they live with a higher latitude (or is it longitude)?

Ma then hold Junior in her arms as she is placing him to his bedroom to go to bed. There is a subtle scene that we see outside the house where the blinds are drawn in which Ma takes Junior's clothes off and puts on his pajamas but it's in silhouette; which works well for this cartoon since the kids will be watching this cartoon s well. The mother then starts to roll up the duvet for her son and kisses him goodnight as she walks out of his bedroom to close the door "Sleep tight, Junior" as she turns off the lights as it's dark.

Junior then starts to get out of bed in which he starts to pray to God that he wants to be a scarecrow. The first words we hear are gibberish that he's mumbling but then says, "I've been good to my daddy, and been good to my Mama. And please; no foolin' make like a big scarecrow just like my Daddy". Junior then jumps back into bed but then steps out again ending his prey "Ahem" until he snoozes.

The title card then dissolves to "NEXT MORNING" in which the morning begins. Junior wakes up the rooster gives out a morning call. He quickly gets changed as he leaves his bedroom.

As Junior sneaks out of his bedroom as he is in the living room. His parents are still fast asleep in which they are snoring loudly that there door gets the reaction blowing parts. Junior manages to sneak past the door without anyone noticing.

Junior then starts to step out of the house in which it is his big day in which he is to chase crows. Junior walks out in his own characteristic walk which I think is better animated than the father scarecrow's one. Junior walks out trying to be scary by scaring a rooster away with his pose as the rooster jumps off the fence and leaves. I like that modest walk he does where he walks as though he's got courage and confident in scaring the other animals.

Junior then walks down the path in which he encounters a squirrel with a tiny hammer trying to hammer a nut; since it's a hard nut. Junior then starts to put on a scary scarecrow expression on the squirrel in which the squirrel runs off to a tree. The gag is that the squirrel opens the elevator door in which takes it to the top of the tree where it continues to try and crack open the nut.

It appears to be that Junior is practicing with scaring small, helpless animals until he gets to the crows. Junior then does the next post to a bunny rabbit with a good expressive look in which the rabbit runs off frightened in which it drops it's carrot and jumps in and out of multiple rabbit hole areas.

Junior then arrives at the cornfields in which his father works at as he stands on that position raising his arms to get into position for the crows to fly around. A giant crow then lands on the scene in which it unzips the layers of the corn not taking any notice on the small, helpless scarecrow standing still.

Junior then tries to stand near the crow to scare it away but the crow turns around rather bothered by him. He keeps on trying this but the crow keeps on turning away uninterested and bothered. Until the crow has finally had enough; the crow throws the corn away. The crow wipes his mouth in which he does an even bigger scarier pose in which the scarecrow opens his eyes but jumps with such a fright with a 360 hat take. Did Avery get influenced by Jack King in all sorts? Junior tries to run away from the crow in which he ends up running on the same positon where he is digging the dirt as it becomes even more useless.

Junior then starts to run around the cropfields in which the crow follows but trims most of the crops off in which they land already piled up neatly. That gag was as old as the Harman-Ising era in WB but I imagine that Avery liked it as well. The chase sequence has begun and Junior keeps on trying to scare the crow away but fails every time.

I like that point of view shot that shows the crow's claws trying to catch Junior scarecrow as they do have sharp claws. I like how that when the Junior scarecrow is running; it's a cycle but as he turns to pull faces it's full animation; I do wonder how those scenes worked on?

Junior scarecrow continues to try and make more faces but then tries one more time until the funniest take of the cartoon turns up in which the crow turns frightened. He almost jumps out of his skin but his whole feathers turn white with a fright until it flies off. Up until that point; this is probably the wildest take that Avery did here (and I MEAN - up to that point when it was in production). It would be interesting to know who did the animation on that but after all; how am I supposed to know?

As we have thought that Junior scared the crow away successfully; it turns out to have been Pa Scarecrow who managed to chase the crow away. The whole point of this cartoon was for the audience to have sympathy for the Junior scarecrow to become a big scarecrow but if this was something like a Disney Silly Symphony then (as I'm repeating their trademark) his dream would come true. But here; it shows how that Junior is still unable to chase scarecrows away as he's too young which I feel is the most right way to be.

Junior still thinks that he has chased the scarecrow away as he marches on trying to scare it off completely away. As he's happy the crow has flown off; he walks off but get bumps by Pa's knee. He turns his head around in which he sees that it is Pa. He starts to hesitate with embarrassment with "Oh, hello daddy" probably expecting a telling off.

Pa then starts to take Junior home who wasn't angry but concerned, "Your mother's been on you everywhere - we better get home". We see that Pa is walking home with his characteristic walk with Junior looks at the audience and then back.

The title card then fades to reading "THAT NIGHT" in which Pa Scarecrow is sitting down on his armchair with a footstool reading the newspaper. He is listening to Junior telling Ma a story about how he believes he scared the crow - but we all it was Pa that did that. Junior continues to tell the story to Ma while she is sitting down kitting. "No sir, I wasn't a bit afraid of that ol'crow Ma. I was stood there like this and pretty soon down came a great, great, great big crow and just then I did my nest".

A silhouetted crow then flies into the scene in which Junior demonstrates the pose he performed but turns frightened at the silhouetted crow in which he screams into Ma's arms "Oh Mamma, mamma, mamma!". We PAN to the fireplace in which we see Pa Scarecrow with his fingers by the fireplace using it to pretend there was a crow about. Junior was tricked by this that shows he's afraid of the crow and Ma knew Pa scared it away. Pa laughs at the trick he used with fingers as the cartoon ends.

Overall comments: In some ways; this cartoon  feels like as though Friz Freleng had some involvement (only on some scenes) but the cartoon is still Avery all over. There are gags there and about; in which his timing is shown. The cartoon didn't have too many gags in there overall but animation expressions was an improvement here in which this is probably the first short to show true animation expressions like the poses Junior performs as well as that take the crow performed. I don't think a cartoon earlier than that was topped before. The squirrel going through the elevator door on the tree is typical of Avery to do. I think the musical score in this cartoon has been the overall improvement as it has a catchy theme to it; such as the title song - and it's very cheerful and I have to give that praise to Norman Spencer for doing a satisfying job. I think this cartoon focused on a charming story here and the characters are appealing in this short. I don't think from that point a WB cartoon had that much dialogue before throughout the cartoon; unlike the other cartoons from earlier where there would be brief talking there and then.


  1. Definitely the most Frelengesque of Avery's initial Merrie Melodies. The most interesting thing about it is that Bob Clampett's home movies of the early Termite Terrace were done while this cartoon was in production, so you can watch Avery do live-action poses of the scarecrow's 'takes' as captured in early 1936.