Saturday, 28 July 2012

177. Porky's Garden (1937)

Am no longer jet-lagged. My energy for blogging has returned...

Warner cartoon no. 176.
Release date: September 11, 1937.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig), Earle Hodgins (Reducing Pills Hustler) and George Humbert (Italian Poultry Farmer).
Animation: Sid Sutherland and Elmer Wait.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky takes part in a growth product competition but is in competition with his Italian neighbour.

After this cartoon, Tex Avery abandoned Porky Pig as he withdrew directing his cartoons and was assigned to work only work on color 'Merrie Melodies' cartoons instead; but he returned to black and whites in 1941 and directed on Porky Pig again in Porky's Preview. This is also the last cartoon to be animated by junior animator Elmer Wait who died roughly two months prior the cartoon's release date.

The cartoon begins with a background view of a village. The captions then start to pop up describing the story's time, and location like it is often seen in motion pictures. The year is taken place in 1927. The place is called Podunk Center with a population of 500 inhabitants.

You can hear the music in the backgrounds which demonstrates its' action of the period and location; but then you hear the sounds of a baby cry. There is a cross drawn across the population number, as it's named to '502' with a small caption reading below (Mrs Castle Bottom just had twins). Now that I think is just pure genius and a very clever parody of these descriptive events. It's also a very original gag and so typical Tex; because you can never be certain of a actual population since someone could've given birth or somebody has died. There is a bulletin displayed to the village reading  Podunk County Fair announces CASH PRIZE FOR LARGEST HOME GROWTH PRODUCT. 1st prize: $2,000.00 - (Tax): $1'999.00. Total: $1.00. Of course that is another tax gag that we saw previously on 'Porky's Road Race' that was released earlier this year.

As we truck back, we find that Porky is reading the bulletin as well as other folks in which he insists on competing in the gardening competition. Porky Pig then brags as he asks the locals, "I'm going to win first prize with my garden". There is an Italian local standing next to Porky as he denies Porky's word and insists that HE will win the competition instead which is going to create some competition. The Italian gardener replies, "Ah no. I'm gonna win with my chick!"

The Italian farmer then leap frogs on to of Porky pushing his head down so that he can jump. Porky then starts to zip out of the scene to race down to his garden on time as they are competing. We find that through a birds-eye view shot they rush back to their houses and into the gardens. Porky is now planting a field that is already ploughed. Porky then starts to use his own pig tail to dig small holes in the field and drops a seed inside to make his garden grow, to help grow some crops. What I've noticed while watching it is that once Porky has dumped the seed, the hole then vanishes.

The Italian farmer is already preparing for his gardening competition as he is making something to feed his chickens. He first pours some Iron Tonic into the mixing bowl. He then starts to mix "Vitamins A-C" which will be very nutritious for the chickens. The Italian farmer when he adds the ingredients comments, "I take a this" when he pours it. You can hear the music in the backgrounds to the traditional theme, "Chicken Reel" which is a very popular theme relating to chickens used by Carl Stalling often, or in any cartoon that isn't composed by him or used in Warner Bros.

The Italian farmer then places the food inside the trough for where the chickens will feast. There is an interesting gag that we find in which the Italian wants to feed them to get strong but then the chickens spit out the food as they do not like the meal they are given. After the small sequence with the farmer; we then return to Porky's garden again as he grabs out a bottle of "Quick Grow". Porky then squirts some of the quick grow up for it to grow into the crops.

Porky Pig walks over to the fields in which he is going to squirt the quick grow out. As Porky squirts the quick grow out; it then starts to feel as though there is an earthquake occurring making it a little gag causing a huge amount of crops and vegetables growing. Porky then starts to sweep his hands showing success.

Porky then walks back into the house singing though stuttering to make it appeal to the audience for the stuttering pig. The Italian farmer then looks over the fence staring at the crop fields of what Porky has produced, "I bet my chicks would like some of that" in an Italian accent". His further plan is to then start to raid the crops and ruin Porky's garden by making his chickens much bigger which is cheating. The farmer then starts to open up the plank leading a small path towards Porky's garden in which his chickens cross his garden as the Italian farmer asks the chicks, "Come on, chick'. Come and get it" as they cross to raid Porky's garden. As the chickens have crossed the garden; they then start to gobble up the food in which a series of gags of the vegetables being eaten pop up; as it's basically animated gags not possible to happen in the real world.

While the chickens raid the garden; the first chicken we see starts to find some tomatoes that is already grown in the garden planted. The chicken then starts to pull out the stem of the tomato and suck the juices out; and I'm glad I'm not doing that. Uggh; tomatoes. The chicken slurps the stem like drinking juice until the juice of the tomato is all gone.

The next chicken to start raiding the food in the crops finds some peas in a pod to eat it. The chicken then grabs one of them from a plant and starts to unroll it like unrolling a can of sardines as the peas shoot straight into the chicken's mouth one at a time like a cannonball. These gags are very typical for the 1930s cartoons but of course; it still shows some appeal to an audience as it's also quite a clever way of presenting it. After some eating gags; there is a big rooster that finds a watermelon (mmm) in which a baby chick then fights for it with the hen but then the hen flicks the baby chick out of way; not realizing how delicate those creatures can be. The baby chick is then rolled away out of the scene and starts to weep, "Why don't you pick on somebody your own size..." walking back dejectedly. The chick continues to weep trying to call the chicken a bad time and then calls her an ox; which would be the ultimate insult of the time.

The lip-synching of the chick walking away isn't very good. As the baby chick walks away rather sad; the chick then starts to find some spinach in the garden. This would be a great oppurtunity for the chick to get revenge on the rooster in which the chick eats the spinach and grows biceps. The chick then starts to turn into a resemblance of Popeye the Sailor with the big muscles and the distinctive face.

The rooster is seen again already eaten much of the watermelon. The Popeye-resemblance chick then walks over, socks the rooster and finishes off the remaining of the watermelon. This is a great, charming little sequence thought up by Tex Avery; and he was such a great gag developer and here he's building the gags for a sequence to make it funny and charming to an audience watching it. A chicken then stands up on top of the gate in which he shines the apple on its chest to make it polished. The chicken then starts to open up the apple in half as though opening up a peanut in half which would be almost impossible but could still be possible (if you had extremely strong hands). There is a little worm inside the apple eating it but the chicken then eats the worm and sweeps his hands with success.

After watching a series of individual chickens raiding the gardens - we fade out and watch that the chickens are still feasting in Porky's garden. Porky is in the house taking a break but looks out the window to check if his vegetables are find. He is shocked to discover it's being infested with hungry chickens ruining his garden. Porky then jumps with fright; in which he grabs his broom and runs out of the house.

Porky starts to try and chase the chickens away from his garden as they are clucking over the place. As Porky tries to chase his chickens away but ends up with no luck; Porky then climbs to the top of his fence staging a protest towards his neighbour about the chickens infesting his garden:

Porky Pig: Hey neighbour, tell your chickens to keep out of my garden
Italian farmer: Okay, I speak to them. Hey chick; why you going in nice man's garden.

The chickens however are still infesting on his garden as the Italian is not going to bother to take notice; and is the fraud behind all this.

After the Italian farmer uselessly and pretends to chase his chickens out; he then continues: "You see. I talk to them. But they won't listen to me one word to me". The Italian farmer uses that as an excuse as to why his chickens are raiding his garden in which Porky turns back rather bluntly. The Italian farmer then makes an apology and insists on blaming the chickens claiming he can't get them back into his garden.

After that bit of dialogue; the Italian farmer then laughs behind Porky's back and walks back to his own garden. He comments, "He's a too-bad" in which he winks to the audience as though he's commenting on the fresh vegetables that Porky can make. But not too bad". Of course an Italian that speaks bilingual but doesn't speak good English. After the talk with the Italian farmer was rather useless to Porky as he delibrately acted as though he was useless albeit a scum. Porky steps down the barrel and walks down his garden rather annoyed what what the chickens have done to his garden. Porky Pig then starts to and finds a very long stem from the ground in which he follows it's path holding onto it.

As he continues to walk on he finds a pumpkin which the stem is attached to. Porky then picks up the pumpkin and carries it towards his garden. Porky walks out the back part of his garden carrying the pumpkin. The other chickens then watch what they are seeing in which they crowd together whispering for a plan on Porky Pig. One of the chickens then count to 5; and this is parodied like it's an American football game.

Porky finds that he is being charged by the poultry team in which he is still holding the pumpkin and makes some tackles through the garden. He makes some tackles towards the chickens; but it doesn't make it a hilarious gag as each hit he makes on the chicken is exactly the same but it could've been funnier if he made individual hits. After tackling the other chickens; he is about to run back into the house but as he runs back inside he trips on the porch of the steps in which the pumpkin flies out of the scene.

There is a pretty funny run cycle that Avery has given on Porky which gives some personality; that could've been Porky's characteristic run. Avery was great with characteristics walks giving each of his characters a personality. As Porky dashes back inside the house to fetch the pumpkin, he then finally manages to grab out of it safely. After he grabs hold it, he then dashes out of the scenery. The Italian farmer then congratulates his chickens for doing a fine job in ruining Porky's garden. The Italian farmer then boats, "and now we're going to win the contest prize".

In the next shot we fade into the front part of the Podunk County Fair. You can hear that The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down in the background which would be used as the main theme for the 'Looney Tunes'. Porky then runs in with his pumpkin; and the Italian farmer walks in with his line of chickens as they have eaten a lot of the food and are rather fat. Porky has already brought in his prize which is the pumpkin to be his largest home-growth product.

We then start to PAN through the displays being shown on the County Fair and one of them includes a completely naked Cleopatra being displayed but with her private parts being covered by a snake; boy I wonder how that avoided the censors. One of the barkers is performing a display on the "Reducing pills", also voiced by Earle Hodgins. The type of idea has been recycled back from Porky the Rainmaker and Avery's brought the similar idea back.

The inventor then grabs out a pill as he begins a demonstration towards an elephant as he asks the elephant to say "Ahh", the elephant replies with a very funny Treg Brown sound effect. The elephant then starts to drink in which he forms into a tiny mouse; as it appears to look like. The shrinking scene of the elephant was some pretty decent timing as he's nothing but titchy afterwards.

The hustler then continues in which he explains about how the elephant has turned into a tincy, wincy little mouse. You hear that his voice gets a little higher demonstrating the voice in which it makes it a rather funny voice effect by Avery which also would give laugh for an audience. I imagine that the voice tone changing might have been done by Mel Blanc.

As the hustler continues to sell out his weather pills; the Italian poultry farmer then starts to walk on with his marching chickens. The bottle of reducing pills then start to drop in which his chickens start to chew on them not knowing what they even are or even going to care what is it about; but we all know that the Italian farmer is going to fail big time.

Just as Porky is about to receive the 1st prize award which means he'll win the lot of money; the Italian poultry farmer arrives at the spot with his huge chickens. The judge awarding Porky then swipes the bag away changing his mind and gives the Italian poultry farmer the money prize. At the spot the chickens then start to shrink even smaller because of the reducing pills and the chickens continue to get even smaller until they turn into eggs - hee-hee. The judge is rather shocked at the sight. As we iris in; we iris back in so that Porky grabs the bag of money from the Italian poultry farmer and iris out again.

Overall comments: Even though this is being the last Avery cartoon where he was working on the Looney Tunes (at least until 1941) I find that this cartoon along with Porky's Duck Hunt to be the best cartoons that he's directed on Porky; I admit that thinking of it now I don't particularly care too much on his other Porky cartoons. That is probably because he mostly directed Porky cartoons where Joe Dougherty provided the voice; and Dougherty isn't funny - he's irritating and probably couldn't do much on the pig with an actor who had more struggle with his stutter than Porky did.

This cartoon had some charming moments with some gags even though it was the 1930s and this may not be one of Avery's best gag moments; but the opening shot with the captions was at least worth a laugh out loud with the population changing. I like the Popeye reference that is shown on the baby chick where he changes; of course this would've been based off the Popeye cartoons made by Fleischer Studios that were a hit through the 1930s; but it was also a comic-strip before that. The Italian villain in this cartoon at least had a sneaky personality but had a better personality considering that he doesn't speak English too well; and I feel that one of Avery's recycled old ideas was suitable when Avery was gag developing the ending which he is a genius of doing. I noticed that there doesn't appear to be any Irv Spence animation; unless he wasn't supplied with footage at all; or considering that this cartoon came out slightly late after 'Porky's Duck Hunt' this cartoon would've been back-logged for a while before it was released since it was Elmer Wait's last credit and he didn't credit since 'Porky the Wrestler' so maybe there were some reasons.

4 comments:

  1. Porky's design in this cartoon also appears to be the model used starting in the next Looney Tune for the original "That's all, Folks!" drum signoff. Not sure why Avery's unit would animate it and then never use it, unless the decision to make Tex a Merrie Melodies-only director came down suddenly from Leon, but it's definitely not the design being used at the time by the Clampett/Jones or Tashlin units (Frank's Porky of the time would have probably gotten stuck in the drum before he could have gotten his arm out).

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  2. All the directors had their variations. Frank Tashlin made Porky look older; Tex Avery (earlier on) made Porky like a child with those ugly eyes but Clampett I say gave Porky's look 'Just' right.

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  3. I wonder if Elmer Wait did "I Wanna Be a Sailor" which was the Merrie Melody released one week after this short?

    ~Ben

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    1. "The Lyin' Mouse". But, directed by Tex Avery, "Little Red Walking Hood".

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