Wednesday, 1 August 2012

180. Rover's Rival (1937)

Title card courtesy of Dave Mackey.
Warner cartoon no. 181.
Release date: October 9, 1937.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig).
Animation: Chuck Jones. (Bobe Cannon, Bill Hammer, Jerry Hatchcock, John Carey and Lu Guarnier uncredited).
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky tries to teach tricks to his old dog Rover; but his dog already has a rival who is younger and fitter.

This is the first cartoon to feature the new theme to the Looney Tunes which would become it's permanent theme - The Merry-Go-Round-Broke Down in which it's also the first cartoon to which the ending credits feature Porky on the drum stuttering 'That's all folks'. On YouTube, Larry Tremblay has done a animator breakdown on the cartoon which was very good considering these 1930s cartoons are a toughie to identify animators. If you're interested; then watch here. I'm not going to list every single scene of what the animator did as it's shown in the video but I'll give a mention on some of the scenes.

The cartoon begins as we find that Porky Pig is seated down on his chair reading a book called New Tricks to Teach Your Dog by Clawed Mealty. Is this a author reference anybody? Porky is rather eager when he reads about the new tricks, "Oh boy; here is a honey of tricks to teach my (stutters the word 'dog' pooch)'. He reads what  interests him which he chooses to teach his dog. The opening shot of Porky reading the book is credited to John Carey who would've been a junior at the time and a wacky animator for Clampett.

Porky Pig then puts down his book on his armchair in which he dashes out of the house rather quickly as he grabs out a frisbee. He shouts when dashing out, "Oh baby, I can hardly wait". Porky Pig then dashes outside from his porch to his own garden as he runs to his dog's kennel and we know now that the name of Porky's dog is called Rover - very typical for a dog to be called that. Porky is standing outside Rover's kennel as he tries to call for his attention; in which he clicks his fingers, holding onto the frisbee and calls for his name to come out the kennel.

As Porky continues to call out for his name kennel; we find out that Rover is in fact a very old dog who looks like he has dog arthritis and even with a very weird-shaped back on him. He walks very slowly and his front paws are very crooked. Very nice sound effects on the shaking and crooked legs to help add the effect of his age. That scene where Rover steps out of the kennel is in fact Chuck Jones' animation and it's very solid with the timing of the legs and movement as well; very solid.

Porky then starts to give Rover some exercises to do; in which he asks Rover at first to "sit up". Rover then starts to try and sit up but because of his slanted back he slowly manages to sit up but his back makes horrible creaking sounds and it's very funny. Porky Pig then asks Rover to "turn over" as Rover quickly holds out his ear and asks Porky to repeat that with an "eh?" Rover doesn't manage to turn over but instead turns around when Porky is trying to demonstrate him. Meanwhile there is a little pup walking down in the garden (So, did that pup come of nowhere?) and watches the tricks that Rover is trying to perform. It looks like from the distance Rover is playing dead in which the little pup points to Rover like a sucker, then the pup walks over.

Of course it turns out that Porky is in fact trying to get Rover to lie on his back and stretch his arms and play dead. The little pup then walks over to the scene to see what is going on as Rover is doing his best to keep still. Rover is also a lightweight in which the little pup blows lightly on Rover so he tips to the side. Rover is on the side still breathing but gets back into position. The little pup blows lightly on him again as he tips to the side. That little sequence is attributed to the great animator Bobe Cannon who was animating for Clampett in this era.

In the next sequence; Porky is asking for Rover to jump over the hoop where he asks Rover, "Jump through the pup". Without Porky noticing, the little pup jumps over the hoop on what looks like he could be jumping over a type of wallpaper; but it's torn once the little pup jumps over it. Porky Pig then throws the hoop away to find it is torn as he is annoyed, "Aw shucks" but at that moment Rover is just about to jump over the hoop but instead makes a mistake and crashes into a pan dangling on the shed. Now that comic timing is very funny and very well-paced; such genius of Clampett. We now go to learn that the little pup is a menace to Rover but is also a much younger and fitter dog.

Rover is knocked out and is rather dazed after hitting the pan in which he looks rather funny looking. There is a pretend cuckoo-clock but done in 50% shades that is supposed to come out of his forehead and it cuckoos. The little pup walks over to poor, old Rover barking but then going into dialogue; "You old antique!", the little pup brags that he can't beat the dog and insists that Rover should just as well give up.

Porky then starts to hand out a rubber ball in which he encourages Rover to do a trick. He asks, "Here Rover, catch the ball". Hang on a minute; if he's reading a book about new tricks for dogs; then the tricks that Porky is performing for the dog are the most common tricks for the dog; how can they knew. Unless the book he's reading must've been first published at a time when somebody invented dog tricks. Rover then wakes up and he tells off the little puppy calling him a "young whippersnapper" in which he asks him to watch for what he can do. Rover then runs over to Porky in which Porky throws the ball high in the air. The pup then picks up the pumpkin and tosses it towards Rover but instead the pumpkin lands on his mouth instead of the ball. That little sequence with the pumpkin was also Bobe Cannon's animation.

The little pup then has already grabbed out of the rubber ball in which Porky threw. There is some nice loose animation of the little pup done by John Carey where he is practicing some type of aerobic movements as he bounces the all and does imitations of a seal. The little pup throws away the ball and walks up to Rover.

Pup: Don't ya understand? You're finished, through, washed up!
Rover: (tearful) You mean to say. I'm one of them dogs...used to was his?

The little pup then starts to mimic poor Rover who has an old-grandpa's voice and the little pup puts on his old voice and even an old looking face. Porky is watching what is going on he tells of the puppy; "Hey told mimic Rover, he's sensitive". The puppy is also a bully towards Porky as he completely mimics him with body posture, size and even stutter, "Gee, I'm sorry to hear that...yeeargh!" Porky is then looking through the book in which he finds something that makes him happy for what Rover could be able to do with his abilities, "Here Rover; here's one you can do!"

Rover then hears of what Porky is interested in and he runs over to Porky gleefully. Porky then instructs him on what his next trick will be, "So, all you have to do is go get the stick and bring it back". It's DEFINITELY one of the old tricks in the book; no new trick. Porky throws away the stick in which Rover runs off-screen to catch it. The pup is already deliberately teasing his speed as he is leaning on Porky counting on how long it takes him to catch a stick.

As Rover runs, the pup is counting up the numbers on how long he takes. As Rover is about to go near the stick; the puppy is actually giving Rover a head start; as as the puppy has finished counting he dashes off-screen to catch the stick before Rover makes it. As Rover is just about to catch the stick; he turns around to check is nobody is about but as he lowers his neck to catch the stick the little pup then dashes through and catches the stick before Rover even bites it with his own teeth. The puppy then skids as he has made it; and as Rover was just about to bite it he accidentally ate some soil which he spits out of his mouth. After the puppy has returned it; Porky then asks "Now this this time it's Rover's turn to get it".

Porky throws the stick once again out of the scene so that Rover runs out of the scene as well to catch the stick. This time Rover is given a chance to catch the stick; Rover manages to bite the stick but as he believes he's caught it - his own false teeth is attached to the stick and he walks off without even holding onto the stick. Now it shows the dog is old enough for false teeth. Rover  has now returned to Porky not realising that he's not got the stick. The puppy runs up to catch it.

The puppy then arrives at the spot with the walking stick and also wearing Rover's false teeth which makes the pose funny. This point Porky then throws the stick away whilst Rover places his false teeth back on. Rover then runs back to fetch the stick but the puppy tries to run over and catch it but Porky quickly grabs him to make sure that Rover still catches it. Why couldn't the puppy just bite Porky off; he'll be able to let the puppy go easily. The stick then starts to go far into a construction site which Rover goes into; and there is a caution sign reading, DANGER WE'RE GONNA BLAST. Rover believes that he has found the stick but it turns out to be a dynamite stick. He then says to the dynamite believing it's a stick, "So there you are, you little Scallawag". Of course that is a Civil War term to describe a White southerner who supported the Republicans.

Rover then runs back towards Porky in which Porky briefly mistakens the dynamite stick as the same stick that Rover has returned. Porky then congratulates and pets Rover on the head for a fine job, "Good ol' Rover. That's a doggy". Porky then tries to convince the pup that he has returned the stick; but Porky was supposed to say, "Rover the stick". As Porky stutters the word "stick" he looks at it and discovers it's dynamite and shouts out the word; which is a rather funny take.

Porky leaps as he scrambles about trying to find an area to throw away the walking stick. He throws the dynamite stick away; but the little puppy doesn't understand dynamite and dashes off to return it. Rover then suddenly reacts upon hearing the word as he shouts "Dynamite!" Rover then starts to scramble back into the house. Rover runs back into the house as he sits on the armchair flicking through the pages of a dictionary for the word "dynamite". The close-up shot of Rover flicking through the dictionary was also Chuck Jones' animation.

Porky then scratches to head to see what Rover is doing but the little pup then returns with the dynamite in which Porky becomes afraid and he throws it away but the pup still runs back after it. The music heard in the sequence played where Porky throws the dynamite away is called Nagasaki another popular Stalling cue. The sequence where Porky tries to throw away the dynamite away still continues; and even the pup turns in more dynamites just being a nuisance towards Porky.

That sequence was also animated by Chuck Jones; and I believe those distinctive swish effects must've been a trademark of his when animating. Porky then starts to take out more dynamites out of the pup in which they're all attached to one another; oh dear. Afterwards then Porky and the pup continue to pass back the dynamite in many funny ways; as the pup appears to be juggling back the dynamites over to Porky; and then Porky ends up carrying them all. A funny part then pops up as the pup asks Porky, "Pardon me but do you have a match please?" Porky hands over the match, and the pup replies "Thanks" very stupid of Porky but looney, too. The pup then lights all the match. While all that activity is still going on; Rover is inside the  house still trying to find out the definition of the word "dynamite" in the dictionary.

Meanwhile back to Porky; Porky lets go of the entire dynamite in which he climbs on top of a tree rather afraid. Porky stays on top of a tree rather afraid and full of sweat. The pup is also being a nuisance and knowing that the dynamite will blow up Porky. The pup was hiding in a bird's nest in which he pops out with more but Porky races down the tree with fright. After sliding down the tree; the

Rover then reads through the definition in which it means explosion and Rover exclaims with horror, "EXPLOSION??" The close up was also by Jones who drew very beautifully. The frantic seen of Rover running out the house was by Jerry Hatchcock who was a wild animator and later spent his career at Disney and Hanna-Barbera. As Porky is trapped by the dynamite sticks; he prays to the Lord as he is about to die but then Rover arrives on the spot and collects all of the dynamite to protect his owner Porky. As Rover runs off slowly carrying the dynamite in his mouth; the puppy then runs back as he holds Rover and carries him away since he is a light-weight.

The puppy then arrives back to Porky with Rover with the dynamite; but then Porky finds the dynamite and tosses it away as well as his false teeth. The pup runs to collect the dynamite and returns it wearing Rover's false teeth which is another charming gag. Rover and the pup then start to have a tug of war over the dynamite in which Rover asks the pup, "Do you want to be blown to smithereens?" Afterwards; the pup then lets go of his false teeth; and Rover finds he's carrying the dynamite.

Rover dashes out of the way in which he lets go of the false teeth; that is attached to a branch of a tree. As he dashes off; the wind the blows fast that the branch falls down and traps the puppy's tail from Rover's false teeth. Porky then walks over to then scene to see what the commotion is about. Rover then believes he's going to get killed; and shakes Porky's hand as a farewell shake before dashing off. Porky watches what happens off-screen and there is a very thunderous shake which is a dynamite explosion. I imagine that maybe Smoky Garner created that camera effect. Porky and the pup fall to the ground and dash off to find Rover. A funny sign then plops to the ground out of nowhere that reads in big letters WE'VE BLASTED!

Porky Pig and the puppy then run over to Rover as they find that he is lying down flat and covered with soil (although if you take a look it looks like as though Rover's body has been split in half as well as his legs). Afterwards; the puppy then starts to harbour some guilt in which he begs for Rover not to die but to still live claiming that he never meant anything at all.

The puppy then continues; "Why of course an old man can learn new tricks". The puppy then concludes that Rover is in fact the best stick catcher there ever was. Upon hearing the compliment, Rover immediately wakes up flattered with the comment and asks, "Do you mean it?"

and of course; a new closing. T-t-t-that's all folks.
Overall comments: I find that personally when I watch this cartoon; it's probably the first cartoon to feature the notorious and finalised design on Porky; as it features his famous jacket and bow tie. However it would take a few years until everyone else would be used to the design Clampett gave but I feel that is the first cartoon to feature the finalised-looking Porky. I feel that this was the ultimate Clampett/Porky cartoon of the time; he made some very fine Porky cartoons of the 1930s and this cartoon I find are one of his stronger cartoons he made in that period. With help from the Larry Tremblay breakdown; I think that Chuck Jones' animation before he became a director is amazing and he was such a good draftsman.

The cartoon had some very funny gags featured but there are a few oddballs such as the title of the book Porky was reading where it featured new tricks; and the tricks Porky tried to show Rover are just some of the most basic tricks ever that any dog could do. The little puppy had a very good, menacing personality although what annoys me a little is that I don't think his justice was very fair at all. He was a jerk; and he tried to blow up Porky; and all what happened was in the end when he tried to beg for Rover being alive and went as far to say that he is one of the finest dogs which would wake up Rover being, "Do you mean it" - okay, he got the puppy there but he should've been punished fair. I feel that in this cartoon Clampett knows how to make funny gags and even an appealing story with great characters. Ol' Rover even has some appeal with the old man voice. The old man voice sounds distinctive; is it the same voice actor who played the watchman in A Cartoonist's Nightmare. As I said; I liked Porky's design here as it is his most distinctive.

1 comment:

  1. Nice analysis on Porky here. It feels like Clampett already started kicking into action even when he started directing. I feel that when Clampett directed Porky around 1940 his cartoons weren't good. I guess he was bored of that character. A shame :(