Saturday, 14 April 2012

151. Porky in the North Woods (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 150.
Release date: December 19, 1936.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Berneice Hansell (Betty Beaver), Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig) and Billy Bletcher (Jean-Baptise).
Animation: Volney White and Norman McCabe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky is a game refuge up in the North Woods who keeps it restricted for animal safety. This becomes a problem as he's hassled by a poacher.

This is the final year of 1936 with reviewing as I will be moving on to 1937. This is also Norm McCabe's first screen credit in this cartoon and would later be Clampett's head animator from (1938-1941) as well as a director from 1941-1943 and he certainly did direct some good cartoons.

After we got a PAN through the forest during the screen credits we then pan to a sign that reads "Porky's Game Refuge". The rest of the signs then read under Porky Pig's rules, "No Trespassing", "No Shooting", "No Trapping", "No Fishing", "No Fires" until the last signs read with serious straightforward orders, "No!", "No!", "No!", etc. etc. Porky then nails the last sign that reads "A Thousand Times NO". Porky appears to be very strict with the territories as he owns the Northern part of it and wants peace for the woodland animals as this short takes place in the northern part of Canada. All of the animals then cheer on Porky for the good job and effort he's placed.

The next moment after the animals cheer; we see a figure off-screen who is laughing evilly as he doesn't listen to the rules ordered by Porky Pig who is a game refuge of the northern woods.The villain laughing evilly is Jean-Baptize. The name is a parody of explorer Jean Baptise Charbonneau who was also known to be a fur trapper. The first thing what Jean Baptise does is shoot with his shotgun deliberately disobeying the rules of "No Shooting" as he goes; "No shooting, eh?". He shoots the signs. Jean Baptise then sets up a trap off-screen where the sign clearly reads "No Trapping"; but he brings out a bear trap, "No trapping"; he laughs. Baptise then starts to fish in a "No Fishing" sign just for the fun of it; poor fish as it's caught on a fishing rod. The villain continues to laugh at these rules breaking them by dropping a log of fire just by the "No fire" sign as he's a big brute who doesn't follow any rules.

I like how that Frank Tashlin uses the villain at the beginning where we don't see his figure at all but only the objects thrown into the scene that shows he's disobeying the rules; as it would be very unique to animate and a bit of a challenge for the animators as they've got to give those objects weight when it's being thrown to the ground. I love the fire effects animation on the last scene. Would that be AC Gamer's animation by then? I think he was already there at the studio.

In the next scene after the dark, horrible mysterious Jean-Baptise is breaking the rules, and also setting traps; there are two beavers out in the woods playing. They are jumping on each tail as though they're playing leap frog with their tails as catapults.

The beavers then come across something that amazes  them after they're jumping around excitedly. There is an apple attached to a hope hanging onto a branch of a tree. The two  beavers then approach to the tree with curiosity. Hope that curiously *didn't* kill the cat. The two beavers then start to approach to the apple on the tree excited as they sleigh on each other's tails.

One of the beavers then starts to scram into the scene to grab the apple not knowing it's a booby trap. One beaver is thrown out of the scene until the beaver enters the scene again as both of them are trying to fight over the apple tied up.

The beavers fight for the apple by slapping each other in the hands each time one of them attempts to grab the apple. After they have finished using their hands; they then use their tails to smack each other. While they're still smacking each other; one of their tales then starts to spin around in a tornado effect that is done in a Tex Avery style. The beaver then starts to make a trap for the apple on the tree until...

...the beaver is caught on the bear trap buried in snow as she screams for help. His name is Benny Beaver, by the way. Benny Beaver then starts to go into screams from the pain on her tail. His screams about how his tail hurts, of course. His shouts, "Help! My tail! Let go of my tail!" He starts banging with his fists for her tail to get off the bear trap and tells the other beaver to "go get Porky". He exclaims, "Go get Porky. Go get Porky. Don't stand there like a dumbo! Get Porky. Hurry!"

The beaver is pushed by Benny Beaver as the other beaver is on the run trying to find Porky as there are little frames in each scene it dashes off which is a good use of Tashlin's timing. The beaver then realises something until he turns back all the way back and while Benny Beaver is caught on the bear trap; the other beaver catches the apple off the rope and eats it. THEN returns to Porky. Meanwhile Porky is busy hammering signs again until the beaver runs up to him, "Oh Porky, Porky, Porky, Porky! Benny's caught in a trap. A very big trap! Oh, hurry, hurry, hurry! Get him out! Get him out! He's trapped himself frightening. Oh, hurry, hurry, hurry!" The beaver is spinning around Porky in panic while Porky is watching the beaver just run around and around until the beaver drags his hand in circles.

Benny Beaver is almost breaking down in tears weeping, "Oh woe is me, Oh woe is me!" Porky then runs into the scene with the other beaver.

Benny Beaver: Oh Porky, I'm so glad you came.
Porky Pig: Hold still, Benny. I'll get you out.
Benny Beaver: Be careful, Porky. Be careful.
Animal: (off-screen). Help! Help!
Porky Pig: Another one.

Porky Pig has already opened up the bear trap to free Benny Beaver but unfortunately his tail is just very crooked and ruined with zig-zag looks on it. Benny Beaver cries, "Look at my poor tail. I hope it won't be a permanent wave". A permanent hair is a type of bonds in your hair but it appears to have it look rather curly. Porky then starts to free other animals that are caught in bear traps such as a rabbit with it's poor ears, Porky also unleashes a poor otter out from the bear trap with it's body ruined. Bless those animals. Porky encounters another animal but goes "Uh-oh" as he places a peg on top of his nose as he pulls out a skunk in a bear trap; which I guess makes the gag rather "cute".

In the next scene we start to see a little bit more of the villain (Jean Baptise) who broke the rules earlier on in the cartoon. We get to see more of him but this time it's only in silhouette which is a very good effect that Tashlin has used to demonstrate the mood.

Jean Baptise remarks on the bear trap that isn't buried, "So, they robbed my traps, eh? What do you think of that?" The Jean Baptise villain then goes on with very dark comments that he's willing to do to Porky, "I will kill him. They can't do this to Jean Baptise" as he appears to be a French type villain as it's a French name. Jean Baptise then goes on vowing about what he will do to Porky, "When I catch him. I will tear him limb from tree. You wait and see". Hah; a pun intended since a "limb" is a tree and that we'd expect him to say "I'll tear him limb from limb". Some good layout on this sequence as it makes the sequence slightly dramatic as well as the lines he comes out with about how he's committing to kill Porky just for "robbing his traps" when the rules were restricted.

The next sequence we then encounter a "First Aid Station" that is run by Porky's Game Refuge. All of the animals are lining up outside the hut waiting to be sorted out by Porky who is helping out the animals.

I love that pan on how the animals are lining up waiting for their surgery and as we quickly  PAN the animals exiting the First aid station they walk out rather satisfied with their new tails all fixed and refreshed. It turns out that Porky is in the medical room as he is placing a towel on the beaver's tail as he irons it to make it flat and good as new again. That is a pretty good idea since it would smooth it out again; and good idea to use a towel for ironing, though. That small scene of Porky ironing the beaver's tail is animation by Norm McCabe as Mark Kausler said so in the DVD Commentary. He seems to draw Porky much more beefier but draws cute animals though.

The silhouetted figure known as Jean Baptise then walks down the First Aid Station looking out for Porky and the next thing - WHAM. Porky will be killed. Jean Baptise finds the station where Porky is located at, "So there he is! Now, I will give him the works". All of the animals then start to make a "take" and scram out of the scene fearing of Jean Baptise.

The figure then walks in until we finally get to know what he looks like. He doesn't seem to be very frightening to a local member of an audience. It's basically the face of a bulldog with a type of pointy moustache that most of the villains have. Porky is still busy inside the station ironing and flattening the tail of a fox. Jean Baptise then places his fingers on the table but Porky doesn't realise who he is doing that to until he irons his fingers. Ouch; that definitely would hurt - but not for Jean Baptise as the gag is that he's too tough to feel the pain of iron. Porky then turns around to see Jean Baptise as a quick scared glimpse as to what he's doing in the station?

The bulldog then starts to walk around the table still trying to catch Porky as Porky walks into the other part of the table. It starts off slowly until there is nothing but the dashes of speed lines across the table until we cut back to the nasty Jean Baptise bulldog grabbing hold of Porky.

Porky shouts "Hey, let me go" as Jean Baptise places a hot iron on  Porky's tail; and that's way too harsh. That hurts. That scene there of Porky and Jean Baptise on the table is Volney White animation. As Porky's tail is flat; it is pinned on top of the table in which Jean Baptise uses it as some sort of punching bag. Jean Baptise then punches him out of the way in which Porky is steaming on a kettle. I believe this is also White's animation, too.

Jean Baptise then grabs out a whip and a tennis racket as he whips Porky with the end part of the whip tied to Porky's tail. He brings Porky over and starts to whack him continuously with the racket. The timing of Jean Baptise hitting Porky with the racket is pretty good animation. The sound effects were were invented in his cartoon by Treg Brown of course; as it's another Warner trait with sound effects.

Jean Baptise then starts to run back to whack Porky with the racket again and running forward like like being in the tennis racket. The timing of Jean Baptise whacking Porky feels a little too quick for me by Tashlin but at least he was trying at the age of 23. A beaver approaches the cabin to see what is happening (all of the animals are watching Porky being beaten) but the beaver is horrified by the looks as he dashes off. According to Kausler, Volney White animates the entire sequence in with Jean Baptise and Porky in the cabin as well as the tennis scenes.

The beaver starts to make the run as the beaver running back to tell the other animals of the news is all reuse animation and backgrounds but it all works well here since it's appropriate for speedy scenes like that.

The beaver then grabs hold of a moose's neck in which the moose bellows making an alarm call. A rather funny moose sound, don't you think? All of the bears are on the loose to get Jean Baptise back. The skunks charge after him and the perspective shot is pretty decent. The turtles are on the match drumming on their shell which are caricatures of George Arliss (as I've already mentioned in my CooCoo Nut Grove review) and it appears he has the knack of being caricatured as a tortoise. Well; to tell you the truth - he looks a little like one. More beavers are on the loose joining the north woods animal tribes to capture Jean Baptise. The animation of the animals moving are pretty good with the movement; even though it may not be 'Bambi'.

In the next sequence; Jean Baptise has finished beating up Porky as he dusts his hands as the job is done. He slams the door by noticing the animals approaching. A stag then crashes the door with it's antelopes as they start to attack him with Jean Baptise exclaiming. The beavers are using a see-saw as a slingshot for the cubs to join the attack.

As Jean Baptise exits the hut wearing ski shoes, the beavers are let loose attacking Jean Baptise with a club. Doesn't the timing seem a little rushed here? As soon as Jean leaves the cabin? A group of George Arliss turtles then join into the rampage as they attack Jean Baptise with clubs as well. A group of deer's use their antelopes as slingshots for the logs to shoot straight at him. The logs then hit Jean Baptise and notice how his false teeth fall out but we never get the chance to see them placed back into his teeth. I love the shots of how the skunks throw snowballs straight towards Jean Baptise with the snow dust effects.

While Jean Baptise is still being beaten by animals; a group of beavers then slide down to two narrow trees that are close to each other. They grab out a rope for both to hold on one end of the two trees for the villain to trip over. Jean Baptise then trips over the rope and quotes from Joe Penner "You nasty man" that is rather funny to me - the way it's being said. Jean Baptise then starts to spin around (with his skiis spinning) like a helicopter and I love how rough those speedlines are. Jean Baptise then has his body dug right into the snow with his feet stuck. All of the animals then cheer as Porky Pig is now safe. The other animals then turn their attention on the two beavers using Jean Baptise's skiis as a seesaw which is a sweet gag to end the short.

Overall comments: I love how Tashlin experimented with the villain (Jean Baptise) in this cartoon as he made him rather mysterious towards the beginning and we already get to see him in the middle of the short and the end of it as well. The animation is pretty solid animation - most particularly the effects animation which I believe were by AC Gamer who would've already have been at the studios by that point being their effects animator. Treg Brown got to experiment with the sound effects here making it rather inventive; as well as Carl Stalling's music of course. I like how Tashlin has used a good use of speed for the beaver running through different backgrounds very quickly; and reused them twice as it appears to be rather suitable in its terms.

That is the year 1936 completed with reviewing and I have to say that with some reviews - I've certainly enjoyed it. I think that 1936 was a rather slow start to me and it was very interesting as well. Beans was still the star of the Looney Tunes and yet by the end of the year Porky Pig is already the studio's star. Jack King was already there, but left when Frank Tashlin replaced him. The cartoons got better by the end of the year; although my personal favourite of this year is definitely 'I Love to Singa'. We will be moving on to 1937 where there will be improvements too. The main factor about 1937 is that Mel Blanc joins the Studio being the main voice actor as he's a HUGE contribution to the 'Looney Tunes'  as we just hear the knack of Joe Dougherty or Berniece Hansell who haven't really got settling or appealing voices. Bob Clampett becomes a director and gives Porky appeal. Also, the first appearance of Daffy Duck.


  1. Hollywood had a long tradition of telling "Canadian" stories which usually featured an evil French-Canadian trapper (usually one who was mixed race, known as Metis in Canada but called half-breeds in the US). The name Jean-Baptiste is about as French-Canadian as they could get. Since at least part of my ancestry is French-Canadian, and probably Metis (though I've never done the genealogy) you can imagine how this makes me feel.

    By the way, the "racket" that Jean-Baptiste is hitting Porky with isn't a racket but rather a snowshoe. The shape and the mesh in the frame distributes the weight of the wearer more broadly so that the person doesn't sink into the snow as deep as they would if they were just wearing shoes.

  2. Well, I want to say that MY favorite cartoons of 1936 is...
    "Page Miss Glory" - it was really the groundbreaking cartoon for the whole studio.
    "I Love To Singa" - very good cartoon too, but I think it's a little bit overrated.
    "Milk And Money" - I think that in terms of storytelling it's best cartoon of the year. Story is simple, but I like how director presented it.
    "The Coo-Coo Nut Grove". I just love T. Hee's caricatures and Zack Schwartz's layouts.
    Avery was the best director of the year, no doubt, but I think that Fred was under Freleng's influence when he worked on "I'd Love To Take Orders From You" and "Don't Look Now". Freleng himself was still very mediocore, but he showed some improvement with "At Your Service Madame" and "The Coo-Coo Nut Grove". Jack King is kinda boring for me in this year while Tashlin's direction is very good.

    P.S. When I talked about labels for producers, I mean BLOG labels...

  3. I agree that Avery's take on "I'd Love to Take Orders From You" was very Freleng like; but "Don't Look Now" is definitely Avery's fingerprints all over as it contains some adult humour in it.

  4. Yea... I watched "Don't Look Now" several years ago, and forgot about plot - need to judging by the screenshots.

    P.S. What about producers?

  5. I'm not going to make producer's labels because I think we all know what era they were producing cartoons. Besides; they hardly did any work on the cartoons so I don't see why I need to put them up.

  6. Mark Kausler mentions that Tashlin referred to himself as the "poor man's UFA," referencing Universum Film AG from Germany. They produced such classics as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu and Metropolis from the 1920s. Using elongated shadows to evoke a threatening mood much like this cartoon [and the famous shadow up the balcony scene from Nosferatu], no doubt Tashlin was influenced by those German Expressionist films.