Sunday, 29 April 2012

158. The Fella With the Fiddle (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 157.
Release date: March 27, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Billy Bletcher (Grandpa Mouse / Tax Collector) and Berneice Hansell (Little Mice) and Mel Blanc (Fiddling Mouse)
Animation: Cal Dalton and Ken Harris.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Grandfather tells story of a mouse who was greedy, scammed people's money pretending to be blind with children not realizing it was actually him in his prime...

This is Ken Harris' first screen credit (despite it being a Blue Ribbon issue) and Harris would become one of the studio's most profilic animators as well as one of the greatest animators of all time. So by this point we know that he is definitely animating; as Greg Duffell spoke to me about Harris claiming to have started animating back on Little Dutch Plate which is very interesting but was he already at Warners by 1935 and not on the screen-credits by 1937?

Inside the house of the residence of J.Field Mouse shows the grandfather sitting on his favourite armchair with a footstool up reading the newspaper. He appears to be looking after a group of children while their parents are out and the children mice are playing happily. Grandfather appears to want peace reading the newspaper while he leaves the children to have fun. I wonder if Friz Freleng had his own character designer in that period since the designs on the characters appear to be used often in that period?

The children appear to hear the sounds of ringing bells as they all prance around excitedly around their grandfather as he tosses a coin for the lucky person to catch while he can still read the newspaper. The children then rush out to try and fetch the coin as they scramble together to try and catch it. As they continue to fight over the coin; it then starts to come out of their hands as they turn to find that the coin then just rolls down the hole of the floorboard as they look at it with annoyance.

Grandfather Mouse then starts to stand by the children tapping his feet tutting; "So, you will be greedy. Now I'll tell you a story about a mouse who was greedy and came to a bad end". He is therefore telling the children the story of the 'Fella with the Fiddle'.

As he begins to tell the story of the fella with the fiddle who had a violin he is mimicking the violin impressions with some pretty good character animation. He then speaks about how that he had a lot of strings in his fiddle in which it amazes the children mice as they whistle with astonishment. He then starts to go into the story as the story is being shown by us the way he tells us it...

...the dream then starts to fade with a blind mouse playing the fiddle as he's singing the title song; The Fella with the Fiddle. He is standing by his stool that reads "Help the Blind" with a pot for folks to place their coins to help fund them. If you think that the mouse playing the fiddle blind is impossible; then take a look at Stevie Wonder; he can play the piano and he's blind as a bat.

The fella with the fiddle then whacks the random guy in the streets with his fiddle as he tried to take some money out of his pot. Internet Movie Database (which is very unreliable with their sources) claim that Mel Blanc did the voice of the Fiddling Mouse while it could be possible but it doesn't sound like Mel Blanc for one bit as I wouldn't imagine him being given singing parts as he was the master voice although maybe since he was just new to the cast; Friz Freleng was just trying him out to see how he goes. (My mistake: this IS Mel Blanc doing the dialogue and singing).

After a day of trying to raise money to help the blind; he then starts to walk home as it appears to be that he lives in the junkyard in that rather old looking shack. The mouse then starts to look around to see if anyone's around and then quickly opens the door. So, it appears that the mouse isn't blind as he was just faking it to just scam people's money. What a horrible character and definitely a sign of greediness but I'd go beyond that - he's a bastard.

Inside his house he is actually pretty wealthy as he can afford to have so many decent belongings in the house as it looks rather rich; and he's earnt it all by ripping off people's money. Another way of how rich he apparently is that he has his own butler who greets him, "Evening, master". What a money hacker. The mouse then starts to open the door into his dressing room and then steps out like one second later already wearing a tuxedo. Okay; but does he have a machine that can dress him in a second just like that.

The scum then starts to walk over to his bank vault as he opens the lock as well as opening several doors as it appears to be very hidden and secretive where he hides his "other" money. After opening several vault doors; he then grabs out a stocking where he keeps his money. He opens up the lock code and tons of coins then fall out on the table.

The greedy mouse then starts to play with the coins happily enjoying the feeling of being rich and doesn't feel sorry for anyone who he's scammed and only cares for himself. After hearing a loud knock on the door the greedy mouse then asks:

Fiddling Mouse: Who's there?
Tax Collector: (off-screen). It's the tax assessor.
Fiddling Mouse: Tax assessor (takes). TAX ASSESSOR?

He then starts to make a jump as he realizes that the tax assessor is hear to assess his shack and needs to hide all his opulence and luxurious belongings to make him look like a poor fellow again without having to give away any money. Maybe that bit of dialogue from the mouse was Blanc but I don't know about the singing scenes; but the dialogue is.

The fiddling mouse then starts to grab out his money back into his stocking before locking back into the vaults. Friz Freleng is showing a sign of improvement here with some speed but gradually improving. The mouse then starts to pull the blinds so that it looks as though the walls are made of wood and shabby-looking.

He changes the portraits on his windows to the calendar of "February 1898" and replaced fancy, red curtains to tatty looking ones. He continues to replace all the other rich pieces of items back to what it was. The tax assessor is still knocking loudly at the door while the scumbag mouse is still taking his time in desperation to get his house back to normal which is why he should have thought of that before he got there. After all that time of trying to get the house back to normal with the continuous knocking the fiddling mouse is now back to his disguised routine as being blind as he asks the tax assessor to "Come in".

The tax assessor then walks into the house as the "blind" mouse asks, "Good evening. Could you spare a dame for a cup of coffee". The way the tax assessor responds to that is by dropping a bit of ash from his cigar onto the blind mouse's hand which is a little harsh blind joke trying to make him believe it's a coin and not ash.

The tax assessor then asks him, "So you're a poor guy, eh?" The tax assessor has out his notepad writing down the conditions of the house but the "blind" mouse spots a coin on the table and quickly dashes to catch it before getting back to position with the fiddling mouse a little confused as to where was he but returns after a quick glimpse. The tax assessor then walks around the house, "Now let's see what you got so we can tax". Which could mean taking away an item to help collect tax money. The tax assessor then sits down on a stool thinking as he tries to find something to tax. The stool is a part of his trick floors where he hides a rich chair. The floor spins 360 degrees before being in the back place. The tax assessor asks; "What's going on around here?"

The taxman then starts to push a button with a stove popping out as he's beginning to suspect. He walks up to the "blind" mouse as he asks; "Say, what kind of a join is this anyway?" The entire room then starts to flicker with floors spinning around revealing the rich items that he owns as the taxman just turns around looking at what is happening. You can see a little bit of smear animation of the taxman turning.

After that crazy sequence with some interesting timing; the taxman then makes a dash out of the house as he starts to puff and pant from the exhaustion in there. He throws a bottle away (probably the gag is that he's clear that he isn't drunk or something) and he starts to made heavy steps pretending he's walking away to see what the greedy mouse will be up to once he has left. The taxman then starts to fiddle with the doorknob to try and see what he is up to.

The fiddling mouse continues to hide everything in his mouse after he hears the rattling from the doorknob as he starts to make a dash. The timing here is a big improvement on this cartoon as the speed of it is pretty fast and sort of inspired by Tashlin's timing in it's way.

The tax assessor then opens the door but to be astonished thinking that his mind must be playing tricks as the house seems perfectly the same as it was when he entered it before with the fiddling mouse disguising himself as a grinning blind person. The tax assessor then slams the door shouting "Good day" and exits. There is a cat that is standing by the junkyard which then starts to frighten the tax assessor as he makes a dash through the cans; as it's no animation but just still drawings in the backgrounds which is a pretty interesting technique that was used here.

Inside the house the blind mouse is still playing with his money happily as the coast is clear - well at least he's safe without the taxman around. He doesn't realize he's in peril of a cat standing behind his house peeking through the window. The cat outside then places a special type of mousetrap and places a bit of coin in it.

While fiddling with the coins enjoying his luxury time; he hears the sounds of whistles catching his attention. Instead of cheese; it is a coin placed inside the mousetrap in which it doesn't matter for him if he is in peril but just wants to grab the coin to add it to his "money collection" or something. He steps behind the mouse-hole of his house as he rubs his hands to grab out the coin, and manages to do so avoiding being trapped from the mousetraps schemes created by the cat. The timing on that was really good and this is a breakthrough for Friz Freleng's pacing.

The cat is astonished to see that the mouse has managed to grab the coin without being caught. The cat then thinks up of another trap for him as he grabs out a box of "gold crowns" to place on his tooth for the fiddling mouse to try and catch.

The cat then tries to catch his attention again with a whistle and the mouse turns to notice a piece of gold on the mouse which he knows he can't resist but take it. The mouse then makes a dash to grab out the golden tooth but the gag is that he managed to quickly grab out a real tooth from the cat by mistake. Poor cat. The cat whistles again for the mouse to try and catch the gold tooth and the mouse manages to grab it but the cat manages to close his mouth shut on time. There is banging going on from his muzzle as the mouse is just banging trying to break free as we can see him in his stomach. It's a rather dark story if you ask me but I like how there are morals to it. the story has ended the grandfather then concludes the story in his own words, "...yes sir, right into the old cat's mouth went the poor mouse". The children mice are rather worried as one of them then asks him "Did he eat him all up, Grandpa?" and the Grandfather mouse replies with a "Yes". At least that he is telling us that in words which is a good director's decision made by Friz which shows that if it was animated; it would redeem creepy and sad for an audience.

The grandfather mouse then concludes the story by finishing it saying, "He ate it all up". This is a very good twist to the story since we find out that there is a golden tooth by the grandfather's waistcoat. It turns out that he is telling the story of his youth when he was once greedy or had a lot of money and that explains why he probably still has a lot of money and trying to teach them a lesson and not go in the direction he went. The child mouse then notices he's making the ending up as he blows a sizzler with a funny raspberry effect made not believing the mouse in the story died; as it was Grandfather himself.

Overall comments: In this cartoon I'd say that Friz Freleng has directed a cartoon that's told us a pretty good story. It's all animated from the Grandfather's imagination and I like how the tale of it has morals at the end even though it's presented as a little bit dark and there are several climaxes in that short. The great twist appears at the end when we find out that he has the golden tooth in his waistcoat that suggests that he was almost eaten by the cat and probably just managed to get out. This was also a vast improvement with Friz Freleng's pacing and timing too in the scenes of the walls, items, floors, etc. flickering and the fiddling as well as the mouse trying to get his old shack back to place. The character personality of Grandfather is interesting as he's trying to teach his children not to be greedy which makes him a rather hypocrite to say since he was nothing but a money-stealing hack when he was younger (that explains the calendar dated to 1898) which shows some complex structures of this cartoon. The animation is also pretty solid in most of the scenes of the mouse in his elderly years telling the story and the smear animation. I don't want to judge conclusions, but I think that Ken Harris did some of those scenes of the taxman looking around as it shows a bit of smear animation; a trait that Harris did like to use but I'm not going to reach that conclusion; just a theory.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

157. I Only Have Eyes for You (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 156.
Release date: March 6, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Joe Twerp (Iceman), Elvia Allman (Old Maid, Katie Canary ?).
Animation: Bob Clampett and Virgil Ross.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Iceman tries to impress Katie Canary by crooning which all goes wrong at the end by bringing in imitator Professor Mockingbird.

This is another Tex Avery 'Merrie Melodies' short that he is making and by the end of the year; he'd make nothing but Merrie Melody cartoons for most of his career at Warner Bros. until directing a couple Looney Tunes in 1941.

The cartoon begins with a bird that is an iceman riding on his truck that was made from tins, iceboxes, etc. There is an off-screen chorus that then tips his hat to the audience as a greeting with the off-screen chorus describing as the "hero that is also meek". There is an old maid looking out the window to find the iceman bird riding past who tends to harass him often. She then grabs out a card that reads "Yoo Hoo" trying to get his attention which would be annoying for anyone with a mad old lady trying to get your attention. Inside the house the Old Maid is baking in the oven who "thinks about the iceman every-time she bakes". She grabs out a chocolate cake, doughnuts and also roast chicken and that explains how "the iceman hates delivering ice to her".

The song by the off-screen chorus is a little bit of fun and also the Old Maid harassing the iceman is at least a funny idea.

After a view of the Mad Old Lady; the next house is the residence of Katie Canary. Inside her house she is very interested in crooners of the time as she has pictures of Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, etc. on her wall. She is turning on the radio listening to a crooner on the radio as she is swooned.

The Iceman then stops by the Old Maid's house with the "Yoo-Hoo" card still placed on the window-sill. The Iceman opens the back part of the icebox van he owns with the snowstorm blowing straight at his face from the coldness and this would be Ace Gamer providing the snow effects animation here. The Iceman then talks to the audience about how annoying the Old Maid is; and the voice is based on comedian Roy Atwell who was well-known for his spoonerism in comedy. He walks in as he is holding onto an ice-cube but creeps in the house carefully trying to make sure that the old lady won't take any notice of him or even find him. The iceman then starts to drop the ice-cube in the icebox and then tries to exit the scene silently.

Whilst he is walking out of the door; the old lady was actually standing by the door and slams it in time so the Iceman wouldn't have to escape in time. She greets him:

Old Maid: Hello. Have a piece of cake.
Iceman: Er, no thanks. Not for me.
Old Maid: How about a pie; or a cup of coffe and a doughnut. Ham & eggs, pancakes, ice-cream soda, watermelon, biscuits, etc.

The old lady is chasing after the Iceman who has out loads of food she's made just for him as she has lost her mind with him. The iceman then tries to walk away from her to exit but the old lady just follows after him. The iceman then becomes cornered but then it turns out a fold-up bed from the door then drops on him. She peeps under the bed and remarks, "At last a man" - which is a little joke thinking he'd be playing with her under the bed. The iceman then starts to scram as he pushes the bed back to the wall and scrams. As he jumps in his track to leave; he returns sweating with a "That was close" attitude before leaving.

The iceman then parks outside the house of Katie Canary as he enters the house holding onto some flowers in his hands. He walks into the living room as he brings her a gift but she is too busy trying to sort out the radio to listen to a crooner. He struggles to pronounce "flowers" (like what Atwell would do) but Katie Canary shushes him as it appears that Bing Crosby is singing on the radio to 'Let It Be Me'.

A funny typical Avery gag pops up while the Iceman is leaning on the radio with the Bing Crosby crooner on the radio asking him, "Don't lean on the radio son, you're botherin' me!" Which Avery loved to use and it's even subtle here since you never expected that to happen. The Iceman is rather annoyed since he can't win his heart for Katie Canary as she is too interested into crooners and not icemen who have trouble with their spoonerism. The song then ends with "That's all for this programme, folks".

Katie Canary then stands up as she is rather flattered and displaying herself in a Katherine Hepburn voice and persona. She asks the Iceman to leave; "Please go away; can't you see I'm saving my heart and my love for a radio crooner. Ahh, someday, somewhere, sometime I shall marry one and we'll know we'll be so terribly happy. Rarely I do". She looks out the window in a rather touching sentiment which shows the Iceman has no chance for Katie Canary since he's a nobody. The Katharine Hepburn impression is pretty good and also a funny idea to use since she always played those type of roles and her catchphrase, "Rarely I do".

The Iceman is rather disappointed as he lowers his head shedding a tear; and the flowers also do the same as the flowers lower down with sadness. The Iceman then walks out of her house as he is disappointed and wanting a way to try and get her heart attracted to him.

The Iceman then starts to go into song singing the crooner song trying to practice his crooning on Let it Be Me but his his spoonerism problems and then ends it shouting, "Aw, let it go, let it go!" The iceman then stops as he notices a sign on the wall  which comes to him as an interest.

The sign by the branch reads; PROF. MOCKINGBIRD VENTRILOQUIST AND IMITATOR. This is good news if you were the Iceman since he needs a particular person to help him disguise himself as a real crooner singing. The Iceman then opens the private door of Professor Mockingbird as he is busy working but greets the Iceman with a impression of Jack Benny's character Schlepperman, "Hello, stranger" that shows how much of a professor of ventriloquist and imitations he is. The Iceman then walks into the office as he demands him to try out some imitations but still struggles with that word ending with, "Well - do something".

Professor Mockingbird then starts to begin his imitations of animals such as a duck quacking as well as a dog barking. He continues to make these silly animal imitations such as cockerel, as well as sounds of a car honking and a yodel. Professor Mockingbird then jumps back down as he's doing impressions of him playing the organ as though he's in church. Professor Mockingbird then starts to do an impression of an airplane with that airplane sound effects and some nice loose movement shown here. I'd think the animal impressions and sound would be enough.

The iceman then compliments Professor Mockingbird calling his impressions "swell" and asks if he can "croon" but gets his words mixed up again. Professor Mockingbird then starts to croon in a very tender voice. The iceman is impressed with his singing impressions as he comes up with a plan by dragging him out of his office.

The iceman then starts to take Professor Mockingbird to the icebox and he places him inside the icebox. The iceman's plan was that he would place the Professor in the back of the truck since he would be crooning inside and it would look like the iceman is a crooner (just miming it) in order to impress Katie Canary. Now that is a pretty neat idea for this story.

In the next scene, Katie Carroll is still swooned staring out the radio hoping for a next radio crooner to arrive at her doorstep and then hope for that does happen as she walks to her window. The animation of Katie Canary walking to the window isn't very good animation to me. The iceman is riding past her street as he parks outside her front lawn (miming) the title song I Only Have Eyes for You while we know that Professor Mockingbird is inside the back part of the ice truck singing it and I'd imagine it'll be freezing in there.
For a good clear thought of what is going on; you see Professor Mockingbird inside the truck as he's actually crooning and the iceman is just faking it trying to impress Katie Canary. What's happened to the doors of the freezer; it did fall apart during the journey? Katie Canary is all flattered as she believes that her heart with with the iceman. At least we know what's going wrong with this character is that he's somebody else when he doesn't need to be only to impress one of the many ladies that love crooners. She's still flattered as she speaks; "Ah, I knew he'd come my love and my sweet one". She then walks down the stairs still speaking; "Oh at last he'd held me arms of a crooner. It will make me sadly happy. Rarely it will".

Meanwhile inside the freezer at the back of the truck; Professor Mockingbird is still doing his duty of acting like a crooner but is shivering inside the freezer; and Katie Canary then rides on his truck but the iceman then starts to press the button for the Professor to begin his impressions while he is still freezing cold.

The climax part of the story then starts as Professor Mockingbird is freezing inside and can't keep up the crooning imitations in the cold in which as he starts to sing the title song; he'd not sing it in a clear voice which will make things rather suspicious for Katie Canary. The iceman is sitting on the icebox as he's miming the crooning impressions but manages to keep Katie Canary interested. Professor Mockingbird (inside the freezer) starts to turn blue commenting "Boy, it's bloomin' cold in here" which is rather funny suggesting that he's going to spoil the moments. I like these Avery ideas being brought up here since he's making it a struggle for the iceman to croon as Professor Mockingbird is struggling in the cold as it's done in a good comedy way.

Katie Canary then starts to inspect that something is wrong with the iceman's "singing" which doesn't even sound right at all as she hears sneezing sounds. Even the iceman is worried since that there is definitely something wrong but still tries to keep it up.

Professor Mockingbird (still singing inside) of course then starts to sneeze very violently sneezing the back part of the truck in which his identity is revealed. This is a huge 'double take' for the iceman as well as a 'double take' for Katie Canary. As she screams rather afraid but looks at the iceman rather astonished at him for keeping the poor professor inside the freezing ice-cube. The iceman is rather ashamed of his actions as we know that her heart is lost with his and would definitely go for Professor Mockingbird since he's a real crooner as well as being a master of ventriloquists and imitations.

In the next title card; we see "So" and it's even said in an Ed Wynn impression. Professor Mockingbird is seen inside Katie Canary's house as she is trying to warm him up with a boiling kettle placed by his feet. A group of guys then start to move an electric refrigerator to the house as Katie Canary then starts to hug the professor as they've already begun a relationship while the "hero of this picture" has lost. So in the next title card reads "And our hero" which tells us of his whereabouts. He is seen living with the mad old lady bird and she is bringing out pies for him to eat as well as other foods on the table. As she is about to kiss him; he screams but puts on "blind glasses" to disguise himself as blind which would be a little inappropriate but it's still funny. They then kiss each other and the iceman then comments that the bright side is that "she can cook". They then share their kisses again.

Overall comments: This is a pretty fun Tex Avery cartoon as he got some good ideas for this one-shot cartoon. I guess that maybe working on a bunch of Porky Pig cartoons would become a bit too much and I appear to notice he has fresh ideas when he's making one-shot cartoons. Internet Movie Database credits the Katie Canary to Sara Berner although it seems a little improbable to me since the voice is so similar to Allman's voice on Red Riding Hood in Little Red Walking Hood which would be released later on in 1937. The caricature spoofs at least are amusing as the iceman is a spoof to comedian Roy Atwell who even played Doc in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (also released later in 1937) as Doc is an example of spoonerism. The Katharine Hepburn persona on Katie Canary is at least worth the amusement. I like the character personalities shown here on the iceman as he's pretty much a nobody and his spoonerism is a problem and the use of crooning in this cartoon is well-used by Avery since it seemed to have already been such a craze in this period as it inspired guys like Freleng and even Tex to make these cartoons.

Friday, 27 April 2012

156. Picador Porky (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 155.
Release date: February 27, 1937.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig), Billy Bletcher (Bull) and Mel Blanc (Drunken Hobo).
Animation: Charles "Chuck" Jones and Sid Sutherland.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky, who was a hobo then becomes a matador in order to win $1'000 and only to find out he is fighting a real bull after his plan goes awry.

This is what was apparently Mel Blanc's first cartoon he ever voiced (even though we hear his whoop sounds in 'Porky the Wrestler' from Porky) but this is basically the first cartoon in which he GOT A PART; and not just making sounds from a character already voiced by somebody else.

Our cartoon begins with a title card which reads us the name of the village, La Rosita, Mexico; and about their bull-fights as though this is writing coming from a guide book on the village. I'm still going to write the notes down for my sake.

Slumbering peacefully'neath the warm caresses  of the noonday sun, lies the sleepy little village of La Rosita.
It presents a scene of serene quietude and beauty as its inhabitants enjoy their mid-day siesta preceding the annual Bull-fight.
The solitude os briken only by the occasional strains of soft guitar.

We get to hear some sweet Spanish music in the background to demonstrate the beauty and peacefulness of what the description of La Rosita which is a rather good melody to choose...

...for a gag which shows in the next scene of the very violent village of La Rosita that isn't even peaceful at all - maybe not so violent even though you can hear the gun-shots. Avery has done it again; he's basically spoofing on a guidance of a town and faking it all up.

Inside the village are a group of Mexican bands that like to play Spanish music with their maracas, etc. There are a few gags on the "shaking" Mexican gags such as a local wiping with a towel from a bath. A gag then pops up with a boy inside a pot (carried by a woman) shouting "Swing it Mamma, swing it". I wonder if that is Tommy Bond voicing the kid in the pot. A bartender in the counter then shakes with a mixer to join in the musical spirit as well as the Mexican girl dancing. The Mexican girl dancing and shaking with a cloth was reused as far as I recall but I forgotten the short. So as I've mentioned the town is very spiritual and lively which would be a good place for Mexican music.

Porky Pig is played as a hobo here as well as two other bums following him. They look at the village to find a lot of residents dancing and having a lot of fun. There is a neat point-of-view shot looking at the folks having fun but then move slowly to a free with a bullfighting notice.

The notice on the poster reads; TO-DAY BULL FIGHT - 1000 PESOS to the WINNER! Porky Pig and the two hobos that he was with start to crowd together as Porky whispers a plan to them. Remember that "pesos" is a Spanish currency. In the next scene; we find that Porky Pig steps out of a costume shop with the other two hobos as they're dressed in a bull costume. The hobos even pop out of the bull costume to reassure the audience, "It's us". There is some neat animation of the crowd entering the stadium as it then starts to crowd the entire stadium with a brief montage shot of the crowd entering.

Porky and the "bull" then enter the stadium entrance with an interesting characteristic walk on the bull. Porky then starts to slowly creep up by the cart where the real bull is but behind bars. The real bull is rather nasty looking but then starts to notice the bull walking past with love-hearts popping out of him. Oh, so the costume is actually a cow then - well THAT was convenient. The bull then takes an interest in the costume.

Porky Pig then starts to move the bull cart out of the scene until he returns it to find that the bull has already been tossed out. The "cow" costume is then thrown into the cart as Porky exits the scene. I imagine the bull costume scene had to be difficult to animate since I notice some eye-blinks on the costume (unless they were the hobos' eyes) as there is a fly flying around the scene. A hobo's hand then stretches from it's tail to try and grab the fly out of the way. The "hand/tail" then squashes the hand and flicks the fly out of the scene.

Meanwhile a hobo inside the costume then spots a bottle of moonshine inside the cage (although it makes me think why would a bottle of moonshine end up in a bull cage in the first place)? The hobo starts to take a guzzle of the moonshine but ends up coughing not liking the taste of moonshine - and this is Mel Blanc doing the voices here.

The hobo then starts to pass the bottle to the other hobo who is at the back end of the bull. The hobo then starts to spin around numerous times easily affected by alcohol as he starts to feel rather weary from the hiccuping sounds.

The hiccuping sounds would've been done by Mel Blanc too since it's similar to the hiccup effects - and in case I'm going off-topic he did the hiccuping effects on Gideon in the Cat in Pinocchio. The hiccuping scenes of the bull costume then becomes a little exaggerated with broad movement.

The movement becomes broad that what Avery has done with his comic timing is that he makes the bull move around the cage a number of times and moves all over the place in which he ends up sliding out of the cage bars. Meanwhile outside at the arena there is a trumpeter who gives the call the bull to begin the race as there are a number of gates being opened by which is a small gag that shows there are too many doors. Porky Pig then starts to jump out on what looks like a small mouse-hole and boy; is PORKY REALLY that small?! Porky then starts to cheer with the audience as they cheer on the matador which is Porky Pig as a "matador in disguise". Porky then grabs out his red cape and sword as he walks down the arena with the crowd cheering.

Meanwhile a bull-keeper then walks into the garage to find that the bull is out of it's cage including the bull costumed one. The bull-keeper then shouts "Ze bull is gone" but then finds an easy solution to the problem to replace it with another cage where the bull is the replacement for the bull-fight - and of course the hobos inside the cow-costume have managed to escape by sliding through the bars.

Porky is still waving to his "fans" as they wouldn't know who the matador is. The guards then release the doors as there is an angry bull that then charges at the scene. Porky starts to spin around as the bull just runs past him leaving Porky in that tornado speed-line effect. After Porky spins around in that effect he starts to sweat as the bull is standing close to him still steaming as Porky stutters, "Take is easy, boy. That was too close". Porky Pig is therefore to continue with his matador skills with the bull.

Porky Pig starts to bring out his red cape as he starts to slide it out of the way from a charging bull but the gag is part of the "impossible things" since the bull ends up running inside the cape. Porky's tricks which is of course impossible but makes the cartoon a bit more interesting is when Porky starts to shake the cape slightly as the bull falls out and thuds on the ground which makes the audience applaud.

Porky bows to the audience for the fine abilities that he has been able to do and then he starts to whistle for a "caddy" in which a caddy enters the scenes and brings out a golf bag but inside the bag is just full of plungers. Porky Pig then starts to grab out some plungers off the bag and places them on the bull but in different areas.

The bull then starts to wriggle off the other plungers off his body successfully but is down to one last plunger which is stuck on his back. The bull then starts to try and pull the plunger off him but the plunger ends up caught on his nose as the audience just laugh at him with humiliation.  The wooden part then falls off which struggles the bull even more as his mouth ends up looking rather floppy.

This is a good example of character animation with a character actually thinking; and it's the same concept that was used in the Disney cartoon Playful Pluto which Pluto and the flypaper sequence. I imagine that this would've been done by a strong character animator in Avery's unit working on that short - although it could be one of them; even on that scene with that crying bull. The bull then starts to fix his mouth properly in the right shape as the bullfight will not be over - yet.

Meanwhile there is a gate that opens with these hobos that were inside the bull costume but they're very drunk with that really tall drunk that looks a little like Stan Laurel - I think this is still Blanc doing the voices although I'm not sure. It's pretty good solid animation of the drunken hobo drunk and even going to the camera in perspective. It's interesting that the drunk was done in full animation with the other hobo playing the guitar is just cycled animation. The drunks are singing La Cucaracha.

Porky is still waving the red flag with the steaming bull but the drunks are still singing their song. Porky Pig is still playing the bullfight - and the WHOLE POINT of that bullfight segment was that Porky Pig was actually masquerading himself as a professional matador thinking the bull was the costume with the hobos inside it but he double-checks to see and it turns out that inside the mouth is a real bull that Porky didn't believe since the beginning.

There is a little chase sequence and you can even see some airbrush effects going on Porky trying to run away from the real bull. There is a time-keeper keeping track of the time but then blows from a party popper with a mallet hitting the gong as it is half-time.

The bull then suddenly freezes as it's the end of the game and poor Porky has "frozen stiff". Two Mexican guards then start to pick up Porky from the ground with the ground attached to his feet which is kinda funny. Porky is then given a drink of water to help refreshen himself as he is guzzling the drink with his throat before placing it in a funnel spitting it out. A bull does the same guzzling down the drink as you can hear it through Treg Brown's guzzling effects. The bullfight then starts to speak to his parents which I'm sure is a dated reference but I don't know what it's from, "Hello mamma, hello father; great fight we're having today - wish you were here". After a short break, the time-keeper then blows from the party popper again but the mallet just hits him on the head.

The bull then gets off the funnel using it as a telephone as he starts to chase after Porky who makes an instant take from the bull charging after him.

Porky Pig then manages to find safety in the "Safety Zone". The bull then starts to wait patiently as the bull can't catch Porky in the "safety zone" which is a funny gag by Avery that shows it's like a game of "tag/it" and you're in the zone where no-one can touch you. The bull then releases the safety zone by holding it which frightens Porky as he dashes out of the screen. I believe that scene was animated by Bob Clampett since Devon Baxter spoke to me of an e-mail by Mark Kausler of examples of certain scenes in early Avery cartoons (like the fan-dance in 'Miss Glory') which happens to have been by animator Bob Clampett; since this scene is similar to the other Porky Pig scenes; this could also have been a Clampett scene. The bull still continues to chase after Porky Pig who is making a fun for his life. The two hobos realize that Porky's in trouble as one of whom whispers in each other's ears for a plan.

The hobos then start to put on the costume as they hide behind the piece of wood so the bull can't be seen. The "cow" costume shouts "yoo-hoo" trying to flatter the real bull in which the bull starts to walk off flattered.

As the bull is still walking on rather flattered; the two hobos then start to beat him behind the box as there is some off-screen beating going on but it is presented in a really comical form. You see letters pop out reading "BANG" or "CRASH"; which was a common straight for 1920's cartoons; and yet Avery is using it in this cartoon for comical purposes. After the fighting has finished the costume bull won the fight with the real bull - unless they're drunken act gave them a boost of confidence for them to beat the bull with strength - even though it was their plan.

The bull costume then starts to walk down the arena proudly as though they're part of the act as though they should've been with Porky Pig since the very beginning. The hobos in the costume then start to play dead lying straight to the ground with a "truce" flag flying out of their tails.

The crowd then start to cheer on Porky Pig as they believe that he managed to kill the bull and win the fight. The real bull then starts to wake up as it was only unconscious for a short while. This is mega bad news. The judge of the fight then starts to give Porky the 1000 pesos prize. Hang on a minute; isn't the bag supposed to be a "pesos" sign and not an American dollar sign? The bull costume playing dead then opens his eyes but dashes out of the way noticing that the bull is still awake and after Porky. Porky is still waving his hat as he turns to find out the bull is still awake steaming as he dashes out but runs back to give the bull the bag of cash before dashing out of the scene.

Overall comments: This cartoon should've been called something like 'Matador Porky' since Porky isn't even a picador in this short since he's not riding a horse in the fight nor is there even a horse featured in this cartoon. This cartoon went on for quite a bit of time but at least we got to see some solid character animation such as the bull and the plunger scene which was a good example of good character animation. Although I noticed that the cartoon appeared to have a couple of goofs such as why was Porky Pig incredibly tiny while entering the mousehole; and what would a bottle of moonshine be doing in the cage. I hate to say this but I didn't find this Avery carton particularly special in my opinion; although that cartoon had a few moments and what else? The title card segment at the beginning was at least used for amusement and at least that is what's original of what Tex included. It's good to see that voice actor legend Mel Blanc has made a role which is why this cartoon is pretty important in it's ways as Mel Blanc got to do a voice of a character for the first time without just making "sounds". Overall; I have to admit that I wasn't particularly too keen on it - even though it may be Avery but I want to be entitled. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Art Babbitt at Warners...

After the famous Disney strike of 1941; there were a group of animators of course that went over to Warner Bros. such as Cornett Wood, Bill Melendez, Basil Davidovich and even very briefly Howard Swift. A famous Disney animator of the time who was the leader of the strike even went over to Warner Bros. but only stayed there for roughly a few weeks - and yes; this is Art Babbitt.

Of course; Art Babbitt was an animator at Disney throughout the 1930s and was known for the creator of Goofy, Gepetto in Pinocchio, and the drunken mouse in Country Cousin. Art Babbitt was fired from Disney in 1941 for his union activities when animation unions were restricted back then, and became a leader of the strike and held a grudge on Disney and the studio for many, many years (almost the remainder of his life).

After Babbitt left Disney in 1941; he would've briefly went over to Warner Bros. a little while later around 1942 and was sent to work for Bob Clampett. Bob Clampett was probably the wildest director the Schlesinger Studios had by that point and Babbitt was brought to his unit. Despite working there for at least only a month; he managed to contribute quite a fair bit of animation. His most notable animation he did was on The Wise Quacking Duck where he animated the striptease sequence and 'Wise Quacking Duck' is probably the craziest Daffy Duck cartoon ever.

He also did some scenes in Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs a parody to Disney's 'Snow White' but with a black cast; which is ironic since Babbitt worked on both productions. The only shot that I know of Babbitt did is Coal Black eating the poisoned apple but I'm not sure about the other scenes. He also did some animation on Tin Pan Alley Cats which is a pretty fun cartoon but mediocre and cheap - but I won't go into details since I haven't reviewed them yet.

Judging by the way that he animated the strip-tease animation; he also did some animation of Mr. Meek in the beginning as he worryingly tells the audience, "Oh, I hate to do this folks but Sweetiepuss says if I don't cook a duck for dinner, she'll cook my goose". I don't think the walk-cycle of Mr. Meeks is Babbitt but it's likely to be McKimson. Babbitt also did a brief scene of Daffy placing his head under his neck.

Art Babbitt got a fair share although I personally find 'Wise Quacking Duck' rather interesting in trying to discover animation I.Ds since Phil Monroe recieved screen-credit for that cartoon but most of us have no idea on what he worked on since his style isn't really visible for this cartoon but he may have done a fair bit though. The only styles that appear to be certain in this short is Art Babbitt, Bob McKimson and Rod Scribner even though Scribner did little animation; although Virgil Ross likely did some scenes.

There is an interesting Mike Barrier interview with Art Babbitt where he briefly talks about his stay at Warners; and I hope Michael Barrier doesn't mind me posting this:

BARRIER: Another cartoon that I've heard you used some live action as reference for, or used in some way, was when you were at Warner Bros. briefly, in the Clampett unit, and animated the fan dance with Daffy Duck [in The Wise Quacking Duck, released in 1943].
BABBITT: I was there for only a month, and that's a little story in itself. Dave Hilberman got this job for me, and I didn't want the job, because I knew I was going to win my case against Disney. Whatever I earned elsewhere would be deducted from the final settlement, so I wanted as little deducted as possible. When the guy who handled the payroll there at Warners wanted to know how much I wanted, I said, "Minimum." He said, "You know you can get more." I said, "No, I just want minimum." The next week he called me in again and said, "You can get more." I said, "I don't want more, I just want minimum."
BARRIER: Was that Henry Binder?
BABBITT: I think so. I did this duck—God, I don't have any live action for that. I mean, where the hell am I going to get live action for a duck doing a strip tease?
BARRIER: But you could have had live action of a real strip teaser.
BABBITT: But I didn't.
BARRIER: Obviously not to copy it, but just as a reference—
BABBITT: No! I never even looked at any
 It's interesting about how he wanted a small salary when at Warners when knew he would win a lot of money against Disney; when Walt finally had no choice but to briefly bring him back in 1946 but was very, very harsh on him, and warned all colleagues that anyone who spoke to Babbitt or seen near him would get fired.

In the striptease sequence; which is Babbitt's notable sequence he got at Warner Bros. as it was really the only major sequence he got; he shows some nice subtle acting of when Daffy Duck strips although Babbitt denies on using live-action on it; and I wouldn't doubt his words since it makes me think would Schlesinger even pay money for live-action in a cartoon as he never wanted to go over-budgets and the budgets weren't as ambitious as Disney would be.

Although Babbitt often denies about using footage in interviews and mentioned about not rotoscoping any scenes of the Wicked Queen in Snow White.

Art Babbitt draws Mr. Meek different from the other animators as he gives him a larger forehead than the other animators and also draws Daffy's bill different from the other animators. There is good timing on when Daffy bends Meek's middle finger to whack him on the face and when he exits. The sequence is the type of assignment to be given to Art Babbitt as it's fluid movement and to what he would use at Disney; but at least he gives some cartoony looks to it. Looking later on in the cartoon; I think Babbitt did the shot of Mr. Meek placing Daffy inside the stove before turning it on which is Scribner's scenes.

During Babbitt's tenure at Warner's; Clampett had an entire top-notch quality bunch in his cartoons: Bob McKimson, Virgil Ross, Rod Scribner and Art Babbitt - that MUST have been a priviledge as he had one of the best animators at the studio; while Chuck Jones had Ken Harris and Ben Washam; and Friz Freleng had Gerry Chinniquy, Phil Monroe and later; Virgil Ross. Greg Duffell spoke to me, who knew Art Babbitt well back in the 1970s when working for Richard Williams in London, spoke to Babbitt about his brief stay at Warners and mentioned that Art Babbitt wasn't too happy being over at Warners saying all the animators did crude stuff, or drew crude and only had respect for Bob McKimson by acknowledging him as an animator. He also drew with a ruler to measure the limbs, according to Greg.

 That's all for now; but I want to try and go into animation analysis on 'The Wise Quacking Duck' soon since it's tempting and to try and find out the animators scenes.