Friday, 11 May 2012

162. Ain't We Got Fun (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 161.
Release date: May 1, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Cat, Old Man, Elevator Mouse) and Billy Bletcher (Mouse in Checkered Cap).
Animation: Charles "Chuck" Jones and Bob Clampett.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A group of mice raid the kitchen while the cat's asleep.

The cartoon begins at nighttime as it's already snowing heavily around the town with some nice piano music probably arranged by Milt Franklyn. A very relaxed and contented cat is snoozing in an armchair. As we PAN along the living room; we find that an old man is dressed in his nightgown and wearing a fez looking forward to sit down on his armchair, "there's nothing but a good ol' easy chair by the fire side".

The old man who is annoyed of the black cat sleeping on his armchair then whacks the poor cat with a rolled up newspaper to make the cat leave. The poor black cat has to sleep on the rug where it isn't so comfortable and even further away from the fireplace - boy, that must be REALLY annoying. The cat then starts to wake his head up but the old man whacks a book on the cat's head before going off to snooze. From the looks of it, the old man is horrible to his cat as he beats it and doesn't let the cat feel comfortable.

Meanwhile there is a mouse that looks out from a mouse-hole to see if the coast is clear to leave. The mouse tip-toes performing a risky task to check if the cat has fallen asleep with the mouse shaking his hand to test. The good news (for the mice) is the cat is still snoozing and the mouse goes off to write a note. The mouse writes in cursive handwriting - "The cat's asleep".

The message is being folded into an airplane model as the message then flies down to the mouse-hole as the mice hear the news of the cat sleeping which means party time for the mice. It's a good example of the phrase; "When the cat's away, the mice will play" - except the cat is asleep. All of the other mice then start to dash out of their homes quickly to greet with the other mouse who then "shushes" them to be quiet since any sound could wake up the cat. The mouse leader then starts to lead the other mice to follow him in tiptoes.

The mice then start to tiptoe very carefully with those strong shadow effects of their movement to demonstrate atmosphere in this scene. The mice then take as they hear the sounds of a cuckoo clock that "cuckoos". The cuckoo realizes the sounds they're making and brings out a clock to demonstrate the time. I like that gag since even the cuckoo is doing some help.

As the mice are about to walk past the sleeping gag; they make a really quick dash away from the cat leaving a breezy effect on the cat with it's furs waving. The cat then wakes up feeling the shivers; the sounds of the cold voice effect is pretty funny in some ways - at least in a Warner cartoon for the first time. The cat assumes that it was wind from an open window in which he stands up to close the window. Now that was a cunning gag since the window was left all-along and there is no blizzard as the cat never expected any mice. I have to say that the animation effects of the mice running away quickly with the furs waving has got some good weight into it.

All of the other mice then start to make a run as they are going to catch the elevator. Interesting to find what mice have done without the presence of the cat or even the old man knowing. The elevator mouse then shouts "Going up!" The elevator mouse then starts to open up different floors that would reveal cheese as other mice run for the cheese. The next floor reveals bread and pies, while the next floor reveals a turkey.

I'm not too sure on what that gag is with that old lady mouse asking but I thought I heard the word "cat" being mentioned as the elevator mouse makes a scared take which I'm assuming it probably means something. In the next sequence; there are a group of mice that are eating a lot of the food as we get to see a lot of food-eating gags being presented here. We first see a mouse that is eating chunks of loaf of bread and because of their small bodies; after only eating a small part the mouse becomes very fat and walks with a bouncing belly.

The next scene then focuses on a pool scene with a mice organizing a group of peas and arranging them to make it triangular leaving one pea as the cue ball. The mice's mouses on the end parts of the bread are the pockets to carry the peas and swallow them (another eating gag). The cue-ball is the last ball to enter as all the other object peas are swallowed.

Meanwhile there is a gangster mouse (voiced by Billy Bletchet) who asks a rather timid-looking mouse, "and if the cat comes. Give us a whistle like this". He then starts to whistle rhythmically which is the call. Another mouse finds a group of mouse-traps set up probably by the old-man who appears to be aware of mice in the kitchen all the time. The mouse has his chance to run up and grab all of the cheese without being snapped from the traps. The mouse successfully manages to complete that task. A mouse then starts to use it's tail as a cork screw to unscrew the cork out of the bottle. The funny gag is that after putting in an awful lot of effort of trying to open the cork; the mouse flies off but lands inside another bottle opposite the champagne bottle and ends up trapped.

A mouse then starts to grab out some salami and only eats the meat part of it but leaves out the skin. The funny part is that after leaving only the skin; the mouse ends up being caught inside the skin and can't escape. Is it me or does most of the eating gags appear to inspire Chuck Jones later on when directing his own cartoon The Night Watchman which came out a year later?

After the mouse then starts to eat a cracker from a box; the cat is disturbed from the noise being heard and wakes up. The cat begins to suspect and creeps up to find out. The mouse eating the crackers (the reason for why the cat woke up) then makes a scared take as the cat enters the scene but the mouse tries his best to whistle but struggles after eating a box of crackers. After the mouse tries to put in a lot of effort into whistling for the gangster to rid the cat; the mouse's face starts to turn red until the mouse gets all puffed out after all the energy. I do wonder if that scene was considered "magical" to any of the WB staff and praised whoever animated it at the time as to the praise Rod Scribner may get for his work for 'Coal Black', and so forth. But I wouldn't try to make a deal out of it.

A group of mice that are cutting the slices of a roast turkey then scream, "The cat" as they dash out of the scene with an incoming cat. The cat tries to catch the mice but ends up caught inside the turkey with it's arms and legs caught on the turkey parts.

The cat is chasing after the mice while still inside the turkey costume which can be worth for some amusement since the cat's arms and legs are a part of the turkey's arms and legs and the running cycle is even in fact pretty good. The cat chases after the mice but then hits his head in the mouse hole. Ahh, this is 1930s cartoons where comic timing hadn't been quite developed and no-one but probably Bill Hanna could perfect timing on a cat having his muzzle caught inside a mousehole. Notice in the next shot of the mouse hole door from previous shot is missing in the next shot. Background error. All of the mice start to run back into the mouse hole stuffing foods into the cat's arms (still wearing the turkey costume) to make sure the cat gets the blame from stealing food.

The cat then starts to meow with the old man sleeping on his armchair wakes up from the cat's calling and walks over to the cat. The old man then walks over to find the cat carrying the food wearing a turkey suit not realizing the mice set him up. The old man accuses the cat for "stealing his food". He goes on "I caught you red-handed. Then this is the last straw". The old man then grabs the cat by the back holding onto it.

The old man then starts to kick the cat out of the house telling him off to not return before closing the door. After closing the door; the old man then starts to stick his tongue making a very silly, childish sound to the poor cat. The cat then replies with the same action. The old man walks back onto his armchair as he is sitting back reading his newspaper as well as criticizing the cat. The messenger mouse is writing another message reading "The cat's gone". All of the mice receive the message fast as they tremble on the mouse running out of the mouse hole again.


In the next sequence focuses on a band with mice playing the instruments to the popular song of the 30s (as well as the title song of the cartoon) - Ain't We Got Fun. There are a group of mice singers (one of them being female) as they sing the song themselves. That song has been used in Warner cartoons quite a couple of times as it's another popular choice by Stalling.

The singing there on the singers - in my opinion feel very unrealistic. There is a singer in there and yet we can't hear any female singers in the background to make it more interesting. In one of the lyrics section we get to see more feeding of a mouse feeding jelly to the mice's bellies. I have to say despite some flaws in that scene I love the animation movement of the mice singing the song as you see some perspective looks on the animation as they walk up and down as it creates a shadow-y effect. I wonder if that small sequence would also inspire Jones in Night Watchman as they sing In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree. The actual band singers singing in this cartoon appear to be familiar with voices (also heard in 'Watchman') but I don't know who it is.

The old man starts to wake up after hearing banging sounds that are going on in the kitchen and as he wakes up (isn't it marvellous watching him crooked every time he gets out of his chair?) he walks into the kitchen. As the old man enters the kitchen himself he finds himself attacked by the mice that constantly throw food at him. A group of mice throw eggs at him, bananas, broccoli, etc. you name it.

The old man tries to find himself out of this incident as he opens the door trying to be kind to his cat trying to catch his attention to enter the house, "Here kitty, kitty. Here nice kitty. I thought it was you hitting me out of the house at home. I didn't know it was those pesky old mice". The old man tries to ask the black cat to enter the house to get rid of the mice remarking "I was only foolin'" even talking about beating the cat and all but the black cat is still reluctant standing cold in the snow.

A mouse then whispers to a group of mice, "The old cat's not coming back". The mice then start to go into a pantomime shouting "You are a fraidy cat" theme as well as making these silly noises trying to insult the black cat. The black cat turns around rather insulted from the mice and stars to make a dash inside the house chasing after the mice.

Meanwhile the mouse who appears to be on guard watching the cat entering then blows from a whistle. A fat mouse steps out a cheese hole and shouts in a low voice "The cat!" and dashes out. A tiny girl shouts in a very high, squeaky voice "The cat" and dashes off which is a very funny voice effect. All of the other group of mice start to shout "The cat" as they're afraid of trouble being brought to them. The cat continues to chase after the group of mice until they run inside their mouse-hole safely and it appears the black cat has to do some waiting.

The black cat waits outside the mouse-hole for the mice to step out. The cat therefore thinks up of a wise plan (breaking the forth wall this time, folks). The black cat pretends as though he's walking of losing interest of the mice. All of the mice then start to step outside of the outdoor basement petrified.

After the mice have fled (and the black cat appears to know about that too). The black cat sits on the old man's easy, comfortable armchair and snoozes by the warm fire - just like earlier on in the cartoon. The old man stands up after being tripped by the cat who was chasing after the mice. The old man walks down looking forward to sit on his armchair; "There's nothing like sitting on my easy chair by the fire side". The ending is supposed to be a parody of what happened at the beginning as during the cartoon it mostly focused on the mice raiding the kitchens.

The old man is about to whack the black cat on the armchair for sitting on his comfortable chair before finding it in his heart that the cat has saved his home and chased the mice away. For once the old man lets the black cat to sit on his chair letting the old man be the dog; at least it's rather unusual but sweet at the same time. There is some pretty solid animation of the old man sitting down on the rug trying to find a comfortable position like a cat would do which I assume was a challenge for the animator since this is being animated in a human form and much of the old-man animation was very good animation. The old man then comments at the end, "I ain't such a mean old man after all, aren't I?" The cat accepts it as rubbish by tossing a book on top of his head - just as what the old-man did to him.

Overall comments: In my opinion this cartoon feels like as though the timing and gags are similar to what Friz Freleng might work on. It's definitely a Tex Avery cartoon as it's a different style to drawing in this cartoon than Freleng and also there are a few Avery gags in there that may be traits but much of this cartoon feels different to his style. I have to admit I didn't find this cartoon very surprising or fun to watch as Tex would use often in his cartoons; as well as his earlier cartoons. The animation was splendid and the character personality of the old-man was pretty well developed (with a funny gag to end the cartoon). I found much of it dull which focuses on eating gags of mice eating that even Avery could probably make even funnier by that point. The timing in my opinion feels a little slow but maybe Tex was experimenting. After all; back then during Tex's first Merrie Melodies - songs were forced to being used which is probably the first of his cartoons may not be so great (excluding I Love to Singa which is excellent). There could've been some very funny gags included of the cat and the mouse but we get to see the chance of that. Maybe Tex was short on ideas for this cartoon and just went ahead making this cartoon.

2 comments:

  1. The old lady mouse asked the elevator operator, "Could you tell me where to find the mousetraps, please?"-hence the operator's startled expression.

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