Thursday, 5 July 2012
173. Porky's Railroad (1937)
Release date: August 7, 1937.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig) and Billy Bletcher (Silver Fish engineer).
Animation: Joe D'Igalo and Robert Bentley.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky Pig is in threat of a streamlined train which is planning to take over him.
While the steam train rides into the camera with perspective animation; the title card reads in modern writing: The 30th Century Limited the Railroad's Crack Train. The music played at the opening of this cartoon is called California, Here I Come which is a popular Stalling cue when you hear trains or travelling. You can hear the lengthy version in 'Porky the Wrestler' which is heard two-minutes in the cartoon non-stop. There are some pretty interesting Tashlin timing here as well as camera angles that shows how modern the steam train looks describing it as "30th century" and picturing the speed of it.
Porky Pig is then about to ride on top of a hill called 'Piper's Peak' which is shown in Porky's point of view chosen by one of Frank Tashlin's interesting camera techniques even including the shot of what is supposed to be the train going up the hill and instead; it's the camera moving up the hill. Porky is ascending up a hill but is moving up there very slowly. The funny part that is that the train is moving so slowly that a snail moving up the hill is even going at a faster pace which is funny pacing and gag. As the train continues to try and move up the hill; the train then suddenly halts and doesn't make anymore movement.
Everytime when Porky's steamtrain - called Toots starts sneezing; it makes slight movements up the hill. The timing of the steamtrain sneezing starts to get faster as it starts to reach to the top of the hill and then lowers down the hill. Then it comes back with some point of view shows of the steamtrain descending down the hill and then moving forward as the background shows us there's no hill ahead which is why I love those obscure camera angles that Frank Tashlin was experimenting with as he was more of a live-action man. The steamtrain then enters through a tunnel but finds that it's out about two seconds later; and sorry Tash but the pacing of that was a little too quick.
Meanwhile as Porky is still driving his train; we find that the '515' train is steaming straight past as it's much more updated than Porky's train. The animated shot of the train steaming past is reused animation of earlier on in the cartoon. Porky Pig notices that the incoming 515 train is coming straight ahead moving incredibly fast. Porky Pig notices that he is in trouble with the incoming, fast locomotive as Porky then starts to make a move on the other side of the railroad so he will be dodge. However there is already one caboose that isn't part of the tracks where Porky is and is likely to get crushed by the incoming train. Porky Pig then starts to pull the last caboose in on the last second just as the incoming train drives past. Now that animated scene would've been just difficult to animate in terms of timing and movement.
The concept of this gag of a cow chewing on the railroad has been seen in early Disney cartoons like 'Plane Crazy' or the very Harman-Isings and Tashlin pulls it off here; but it's not the exact same sequence; but just built up differently in this cartoon. Porky Pig then steps out of the railroad and tries to speak to the cow to move although stutters: "Excu..., excu..., Pardon me Mrs. Cow, will you kindly get off the track?" The cow moves her head very slowly making no posture or even an answer to Porky's request but instead just gives a stubborn feeling of not moving. Porky then starts to get more assertive towards the cow, "Come on, come on, get going! Time's a wastin'!" The cow still stays still in which Porky starts to try and push her off but the cow then starts to move along. Huh? Considering that Porky calls her Mrs. Cow - where's her udder?
Meanwhile as Porky would be about to get going on the track; a bull walks into the scene. The bull looks very cartoonie; but very tough and bold. I like the nose pierce and appears to have a missing tooth inside his mouth. The bull walks at the end of the railroad but Porky notices that the bull's tail is sticking out of the railroad refusing to walk any further. Porky Pig steps out of his steamtrain and tugs at the bull's tail, "So you won't walk, eh? I'll show you, you four-legged piece of hamburger". Mmm, is it me or does the line "So you won't walk, eh?" sound like a bit of dialogue that a Billy Bletcher character would've voiced. The bull then starts to turn aggressive towards Porky as Porky is making the bull angrier. Porky makes a take from the angry bull and dashes back inside the steamtrain. The steamtrain then dashes away very quickly through those curvy tracks until only you find a speck of dust. The timing of that is done very well and I imagine this was difficult for the animator; likely to be AC Gamer.
Porky Pig then stops the train at a local station as a telegram is delivered to Porky through a type of washing line and Porky grabs out the telegram and reads the message: ENGINEER PORKY PIG, ROLL UP YOUR TRACKS AND GO HOME - THE STREAMLINE TRAIN IS HERE TO STAY - I. FULLER CINDERS P.S. PLEASE RETURN SPIKES. I'm not too sure what the "Spikes" reference is meant to mean but the telegram shows that Porky's career as an engineer is in jeopardy as a streamlined train is about to take over Porky Pig. I love that eye shot of how the words "streamline train" is highlighted which is bad news for Porky Pig.
I love how that in early Porky Pig cartoons that Porky definitely shows personality in his stutter; he tries hard to say complicating words or speaking foreign as he did now but stutters and just thinks of a simpler word on the spot; I appear to notice that an awful lot in these early 1930s cartoons. The "parting is such sweet sorrow" line used in this cartoon is rather funny to use it considering that Porky has used that steamtrain for such a long time.
Mr Silver Fish then points at his old steamtrain rather rudely, "Say, what is that? A perculator on a roller skate?" Mr Silver Fish then starts to laugh at "Toots" the steamline which starts to flatten like a burst balloon. Porky then starts to break the forth wall speaking to his audience:
Porky Pig: I bet my Tootsie can beat his old Silver Fish.
(Mr. Silver Fish picks up Porky) Mr Silver Fish: Oh yeah? It's a bet. We'll have a race and see.
Mr. Silver Fish prods and pokes Porky's eyes just to bully him for him as an inferior. Evidently the villain of the cartoon is voiced by Billy Bletcher who is popular all over the studios.
I like the timing here by Tashlin and that Porky's train is tied into a knot after a speck of dust. At least it wasn't so challenging for an animator to have to draw it. The Silver Fish then starts to zoom past winning the race; and drives through the wood pile. The wood pile then starts to fly out of the way revealing what appears to look like a Negro boy or a monkey; and I can't really tell the difference but it's likely to be stereotyped as a Negro. The steam train is already zooming by so fast that whilst going through a tunnel; the tunnel ends up going inside out - with the comic timing of that great. As the race continues; the streamlined train then stops at a bridge to cross a river as a tugboat is sailing past. There is a Mae West fish that pops up from under the water that comments, "Oh boy, what a man". I imagine that was a funny at the time because it's an impression of Mae West but I just find it really random, though. The steamtrain then starts to cross the bridge once it's formed.
Afterwards Porky turns to find that there is a sailor on a lifeboat rowing singing Don't Give Up the Ship which is a rather funny gag. The name of the ship the sailor works for is called S.S. Leon which is of course; a reference to Leon Schlesinger. Leon even used to own a boat at the time and would even take his crew aboard his boat for events sometimes. There is also a lifebelt on top of the front part of Porky's train "Toots". I'm not so sure on who the voice of the singing sailor in this part could be. Meanwhile as Porky's train is still steaming past still competing to win; the bull from earlier on in the cartoon is on top of the top and spots Porky's train. The bull speaks in an angry voice, "He can't get away with a thing like that, I'll show him". There is a thought bubble that pops up near the bull remembering about what had happened which was Porky tugging at the bull's tail.
We iris in to find that Porky Pig has taken over the "Silver Fish" train although the last shot makes me wonder since when was the deal made of Porky winning the streamlined train? The camera then pans to where we find that Porky's old steamtrain "Toots" is wrecked and ready for disposal with the sign reading, "Headin' for the Last Roundhouse". Now I thought that Porky loved that engineer and yet he gets rid of it to take over the Silver Fish which I thought he said "I bet my Tootsie can beat his old Silver Fish". Now that is a rather lame way to end the cartoon in my opinion.
I find however that cartoon is oddly paced in some ways. I notice how that the first 3 minutes of this cartoon doesn't appear to go anywhere as it focuses on Porky's old fashioned steamtrain; then trying to get rid of a cow and bull. It then focuses on the race which feels like it could go on longer but it only lasts roughly 2 minutes. The story in my opinion isn't too great because I find that it waffles through this cartoon but the direction by Tashlin is very good. I just find it confusing as to how did Porky managed to untangle the knot on his train during the race and that the ending feels a bit cold as to Porky decides to take over the streamlined which I thought he didn't want at the beginning.