Sunday, 5 August 2012

183. Little Red Walking Hood (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 182.
Release date: November 6, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Egghead), Ted Pierce (The Wolf) and Elvia Allman (Red Walking Hood/Granny).
Story: Cal Howard.
Animation: Irven Spence.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Avery's take on a 'Little Red Riding Hood' parody.

This is another parody that Avery has made (Uncle Tom's Bungalow probably was his first) and this time Avery is makes a parody of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood; and that is probably the most parodied fairy tale in any animated cartoon. Avery would use that fairy tale again 6 years later which is a lot more funnier, and edgier than this cartoon and it would become Red Hot Riding Hood.

The title card is supposedly a book cover for the film, but I reckon it was a cel that was turned over whilst filmed to make it look more realistic. The first page is of course artwork from one of the background artists who just had to paint the words in.

It reads in its typical fairy tale opening; 'Once upon a time...' the Mean Old Wolf in this story however in the opening book tells us that he is at a nearby pool hall; and that tells the audience that this story is of course modernised to make a fairy tale parody appeal to the audience's culture of the time. The music played in the background in the opening of the book is, Have You Got Any Castles, Baby? which of course would be a cartoon that Frank Tashlin less than a year later after this cartoon's release.

The cartoon then starts to begin into action as we find that the wolf in this picture is in fact inside a pool hall playing a pinball machine. The wolf then starts to pull some type of chord to get the ball moving; this was back in the days before pinball machines had flippers in them and that's why it would be dated. Of course the wolf looks like an idiot where he moves the machine in which he is cheating by moving it to get the highest points. The wolf in this fairy tale is modernised and dresses like a  typical gentleman of the time with a bowler hat and dandy outfits.

We find the animation of the actual pinball inside the machine in which it's about to land on the hole that scores the wolf 2'500'000 points. However as the ball is hitting the bumpers; but is about to land on that mark; the ball then ends up bias and lands on the 'OUT' hole. The wolf then starts to get incredibly frustrated as he is about to whack the pinball machine with frustration; but halts when he stares out the window for Little Red Walking Hood in this story; although if that's supposed to be the character's name then there is one problem. Why has she got blonde hair and not red as it is meant to be the name; might as well be called 'Little Blonde Walking Hood'. The wolf then catches an interest on Walking Hood as she walks down the city streets. The music played when the wolf is in the pinball is called Old King Cole and of course that was sung in the cartoon Have You Got Any Castles?

The wolf then pops his head out of the pool hall in which he gives her a wolf-whistle as he catches an interest towards her. The wolf then drives inside his yellow car. Little "Red" Walking Hood then walks down the street as she is carrying her basket with her to visit her grandmother. The wolf then drives over to her as he beeps the horn rather interested in her. Walking Hood then walks on with her chin up not interested. The animator on that is the exact same animator of the wolf in the pinball machine (the wolf looks identical to that scene) but I don't know who it is.

The wolf then starts to pull the knob on the "automatic wink" for his car. It turns by the wolf pulling the knob in the car in which the template at the back of his car reading "0-7743" then start to turn upside down as it forms the word; 'Hello' - hey hyphen on the template suddenly disappeared. The indicator at the back of the car then winks to Little Red Walking Hood. Despite the hyphen leaving; it's a pretty clever gag to show. The wolf then stops the car and stops Walking Hood from walking as he tries to hook her up, 'Hello pretty girl, going my way, Babe?' and I also question if 'Babe' was really a common name to call pretty girls in that time; even though I still hear it in use. What I almost forgot to mention was that notice the backgrounds of this actual cartoon; it was all color-pencilled; I'm unsure who the background artist is.

In this cartoon Red Walking Hood is in fact a caricature of Katherine Hepburn and is portrayed as her with that very breathy voice. Red Walking Hood then replies to the wolf but impersonating Hepburn; "Really, in this modern age of flaming youth a girl has to put up with such embarrassing situations. (Then breaks the forth wall) Rarely, we do, don't we, girls?" Of course; she's speaking about how embarrassing she finds men who try to flirt with her; 'Two-thirds of you girls out there have gone through just what I'm going through now. You know how it is don't you girls'.

That scene with Red breaking the forth wall and impersonating Hepburn is obviously Irv Spence animation. I find that he draws a much more appealing looking Red than the other animators do. The previous scene of Red (and even how the wolf was drawn) was animated by some conservative animator. Little Red Walking Hood then starts to walk away rejecting the wolf by taking no interest. The wolf then drives towards her again where he parks by the traffic lights. He raises his hat to try and get attention but he fails badly. Suddenly the traffic light then changes to stop; and the STOP sign from the lights then hits the wolf on the head. We then find that Egghead is walking into the scene he does his characteristic walk and whistles in rhythm; this is very typical of Avery as he loved to halt action with a walking by character and as they leave; the action continues. The scene with Egghead crossing the road was by Irv Spence; who appears to animate a lot of those scenes in the short. This was around the time where Avery started to use the character; Egghead more into his cartoons and this is his how he normally looks in the other cartoons of the era when Avery used him as his character.

After Egghead crosses the road; we return to the same animator animating the traffic light scenes. The 'Go' sign then whacks the wolf on the face which has some funny timing. The wolf is rather dazed but he drives on rather angrily after the annoying interruption of Egghead who ruined his moment.

The wolf therefore drives down the street as Little Red Walking Hood is also driving down. The wolf then starts to try and flatter by describing her looks; 'Gee, but you're swell, and, baby, your marvellous. And when I say swell, I mean you're lovely as well. You know what I mean?' As Red continues walking taking no interest towards the wolf; we find that her shoulder turns to ice briefly; as it's a visual type gag telling us she's giving the Wolf a cold shoulder. The wolf tries his best to flatter Red with compliments that is just hopeless. I do like that "cold shoulder" gag. I think that was also a Spence scene but I'm not too sure; it's not off-model enough. The wolf still keeps going on as it feels like he's saying a whole paragraph of him trying to flatter her. Of course; I would think the main reason why she wouldn't go for him since well; it's a wolf. Yes; I know it's only a cartoon where wolfs are humans and this is just cartoon acting but - who'd ever go out with an animal?

I should of course; bring up that the voice of the Wolf done by Ted Pierce pretty much gets me thinking that the Wolf might be a resemblance to Pierce's personality since I know Ted is a womaniser; and probably did try to chat up women whilst driving. The wolf still continues onwards by explaining; 'Why a babe like you gets  a break like me' probably calling himself a player.

'On the level, babe, your swell' continues the wolf and up to that point the wolf then smacks his head on a U.S. mailbox in which he feels rather chirpy (probably look me a very long time to realise where they play birds chirping as a sound effect when characters hit their heads). Red Walking Hood has already had enough of his flattery compliments and they don't mean anything to her. She continues on; 'Oh please go away. Really, you can't tempt me with your soft words and sweet music. Ha, ha. Now I must be on my way to my grandmother's and I'm perfectly capable of travelling alone. Now scram, Romeo, scram.' Hey, I think that is a awesome comeback to reject anyone who is persuading to go out with you or sharing their feelings; 'Scram, Romeo, scram!' I like it. Of course this would deject the wolf as he's now done for with her; in which he can't stand a chance. The song played when the Wolf is trying to flatter Red Walking Hood is in fact called; Gee, Your Swell which perfectly makes sense on why Stalling use it; probably was looking for songs to relate to the sequence.

The wolf then snaps his fingers over rejection which annoys him. Egghead then enters the action of the story in which he pops up from a mailbox with a picket sign reading with an arrow pointing; SHORT CUT TO GRANDMA'S 1/2 MILE. The wolf realises that he knows the plan as he drives along to grandmother's house rather happy about the idea. I like how his car is incredibly long that it even bends or slides as it makes a turning point.

The wolf is still driving along to reach to Grandma's house; he is enjoying the ride with 'Old King Cole' being played in the background again which appears to be a favourite Stalling cue throughout this cartoon; and 'Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?'. Watching the backgrounds of the forest as the wolf walks on...this is not coloured pencils; it's a painted background of the woods. The wolf then makes a take as he finds that Egghead is in fact hitchhiking in which he is the stalker of this cartoon which I find rather funny; and Avery loved to use that. The wolf then starts to drive furiously away from Egghead as he drives through and we find those undeveloped airbrush speed line effects of the wolf's yellow car. After the wolf then drives away; he arrived over at Grandma's house after making it and driving away from Egghead. The funny part is that after the wolf has parked his spot in Grandma's house; notice how that Egghead has in fact made it at the back of the car but is snoozing on it; that is very funny to show that he's going to be interrupting the cartoon all through - something that Avery has shown and doesn't have to have it explained to an audience.

The wolf then walks over to the porch of Grandma's house and knocks on the door. After making a few knocks on that door; he then knocks rhythmically to Shave and a Haircut and it's probably the most notorious theme when it comes to knocking; even my friends use it.

The wolf then starts to do an impersonation of the character Elmer Blurt and it's a reference to the popular U.S. radio show - of the time; The Al Pearce Show), "I hope the old grandma's home. I hope, I hope, I hope". The grandma then answers the knock; 'Who's there?' the wolf then clears his throat in which he tries to make a sound of a girl's voice; 'It's me, Little Red Riding Habit'. Of course; this is suggesting as though the voice he's mimicking on has a riding habit. The grandma then opens the door to check who it is but then goes into a panic when she discover's it's a wolf by her door. She slams the small window on the door as she shouts, 'Wolf! Stay away from my door' - as Kausler said in the commentary; and come to think of it - it does sound like lyrics from a popular song. The wolf then tries to open up the locked door but he struggles to do so; and that scene also switches to Irv Spence. Egghead arrives at the scene interrupting the action of the wolf trying to break open the door. As Egghead gets luck; he just opens the door without any struggle and enters the home with no problem at all. The wolf then starts to groan furiously as he finds that he is getting all the bad luck and frustration as others don't and believes Egghead is ruining his luck.

The wolf then starts to nudge at the door to break it open but then manages so but it results where he can't control his speed and ends up crashing door to door and goes through room-to-room. Also what Tex liked to do in cartoons. I have to say look at the backgrounds of the room-crashing sequence; they look like the colour-pencil shading are half done. However; it is a pretty long background PAN making it one long background and maybe the background artist didn't have time to make it look perfect and pretty.

The grandma then opens the door in the kitchen in which it leaves the wolf to fall into the backyard. The wolf then starts to fall back into the yard; and he crashes into a tree. The funny part of that gag was that the wolf's bowler hat appears to be strong that almost his entire body gets trapped inside the bowler hat but his feet are left dangling about. Now that is a very funny gag that would be very typical and wacky of Avery. I love the timing on how his body get sucks into the bowler and his feet are running about on the ground; that is very funny. The wolf then whacks his bowler hat onto the tree again in which his body then starts to pop back up to normal. Mark Kausler credits this scene to Irv Spence; but however I'd have to disagree that being a Spence scene. Of course the dangling about parts do look a bit like him but other than that there's no indication. It's the drawing that's different; the wolf's posing here is a shift away from Spence's work and the timing isn't flexible enough to be his scenes. The wolf walks back to the door in which he manages to open the back door by pulling the doorknob; in which it is a electric pinball reference. The glass shades of the door then form into different random colours that makes it a pinball reference. Now that's a funny gag on how he entered; which is very colourful and creative.

The wolf then enters the house again in which he then starts a chase sequence with grandma and him around the kitchen. It appears that the grandma is in fact whooping around like Hugh Hebert unless that's supposed to be a reference of him. The phone rings; in which it interrupts the action of what is happening. The grandma then pauses the action by crossing her fingers; 'Ah-ha. King's X'. That is rather funny as they're acting like children playing 'it'.

Grandma then starts to answer the phone; and as it turns out she is ordering her groceries. The wolf then snaps his fingers rather annoyed that he has to wait. Grandma then answers the phone in which she then starts to order her shopping list. Before she does that; she breaks the forth wall to the audience by asking them, 'Will you people pardon me just a minute?'. She continues her orders: 'One dozen eggs--' she then interrupts her orders as she asks the audience; 'it's the grocer, folks'. Avery loved those type of gags and it makes me think it's bringing the fairy tale to life, with comedy. She continues to order her groceries on what food she needs; and I don't need to list what she wants as I know you all have the gist of what she's doing. The wolf is so frustrated that she's taking so long with ordering what she wants that the wolf shouts; 'Aw come on, Grandma!' and the way he shouts it is very funny.

After Grandma has then finished her phone call with her shopping order; she stands on top of a chair in which she starts to make excited whooping audiences exclaiming; 'Here we go again!' and this is also very typical Avery as he loved that catchphrase for whenever a bit of action is about to return. They then continue to run about in that rubbery chase.

Grandma then runs down the hallway into the closet. The wolf then runs over to the closet door and as he opens it; he finds that Egghead is in there walking out of the closet; again with the usual characteristic walk and the characteristic whistle they he does; which makes it even funnier as it's basically almost the climax of the whole cartoon. That scene was also done by Irv Spence. The wolf is inside the closet looking out for Grandma. He looks under her nightgown but the grandma's hand then pops out and slaps the wolf in the face causing his face to spin. The wolf is rather puzzled; so then he starts to look under the sleeves but the grandma then presses his nose. The wolf then starts to hear the sounds of knocking. We the voices coming from outside in which Little Red Walking Hood has already arrived at the spot after the long journey of walking over there. The wolf and grandma then start to make a surprise take; in which the wolf quickly and desperately shouts; 'Gee, Grandma, it's Red.  Give me the stuff. Come on, give me the stuff'.

The grandma then starts to hand over the uniform to the wolf in which he quickly grabs them and dashes over to the bed already disguised as the grandma; and of course it's the notorious part of the fairy tale as we run back to the plot. The wolf then starts to put on the voice as Grandma in which she starts asks Red Walking Hood to come in. Red Walking Hood then enters the scene as she is surprised to find that grandma is looking rather different.

Red: But Grandmother, what large optics you have.
Wolf: All the better to see you with, my dear.
Red: And Grandmother, what a large schnozzle you have.
Wolf: I can't hear very good; come a little closer.

Red Walking Hood then continues to say; 'But, Grandma' but she then breaks the forth wall admitting the whole talk is children; 'Rather childish and silly, don't you think?' and of course with that line she'd be speaking to an older audience member watching it; and she continues to be surprised noticing the differences to the disguised "grandmother", 'What enormous teeth you possess?'.

The wolf then makes a complete surprise to Red in which he jumps out of the bed with his supposed witty comment; 'Yeah well, with all the better to eat you with. Ha-ha'.

We notice a slight change in the background walls; but wait until you look at the VERY NEXT shot (screen grabbed on your right) and look at how the backgrounds actually change. I find that cut absolutely terrible. Yes; it was a goof made by the background artists but it really feels painful to look at. Although the background change looks nicer than the particularly unfinished looking one.No offence but I don't particularly like the way how Avery handled the scenes out from a particularly mild animator (before) to a very wacky Avery; I mean I wonder if it was really that noticeable for an audience watching this cartoon; even with the background changing colour which really doesn't look right.  So anyway; Red is cornered by the wolf and the wolf is attempting to grab her and eat her. Red then starts to try and break free but struggles to do so. Red then interrupts the fun in which she shouts out; 'Silly way to make a living, don't you think. Ha-ha'. The fight then continues; and of course that style is Irv Spence and he animates from that point up to the very end of the cartoon. As much as I like Irv Spence as an animator; but I admit I don't particularly like the drawings and animation of Red fighting the wolf; as it really doesn't feel try attractive looking but at least it's very loose; and that's the good part of it.

Of course; the wolf and Red Walking Hood are actors in this cartoon; and then the Wolf interrupts the action as he shouts; 'Hey Red, just a minute. Let's wait until these people here are seated; then we could go on with this thing'. We noticed a rotoscoped piece of what shows silhouetted audience members sitting down on their seats watching the cartoon.

Avery LOVED using silhouetted people to sit down in the audience and has used that a lot for his cartoons, and it's a very original concept. I wonder if the guy sitting down (at the end) could be Ted Pierce; apparently according to Of Mice and Magic he actually used to act as an audience member in these cartoons. After the audience members have seated; the wolf then continues; the wolf and Red Walking Hood then continue to fight as the script has supposedly told them to do. Avery, I think, is an expert at making the audience know that the animated characters are really only portrayed as actors. Egghead then walks into the scene for the last time in which the wold has finally had the last straw and then starts to shout up for Egghead who is just a walking-by character who appears to stalk the wolf. 'Hey bud. Just a minute, bud. Now who the heck are you, anyway?' Egghead then replies with his goofy voice; 'Who me?' Egghead then finally opens up his guitar case and it turns out that there was a mallet in there the whole time; Egghead then whams the wolf on the read proclaiming; 'I'm the hero of this picture!' The cartoon then irises out; but iris in quickly to find Egghead kisses Red Walking Hood as she appears to enjoy it; and of course Egghead wins the girl at the end.

Overall comments: As I proclaim that this is probably the first WB cartoon to parody a fairy-tale all through; I find that the first attempt to do that was actually pretty good. Many fairy tales have been parodied into great animated cartoons; but I feel that Avery would go and make greater parodies; especially at MGM. I think that this cartoon has met some new material from Avery in this cartoon that he would go on and use in this next cartoons; so I consider this to be his breakthrough. The fact that there are silhouetted audience members (rotoscoped into the cartoon) appear in this Avery cartoon for the first time is his breakthrough as it was his trademark for a while in these cartoons. Even more Avery trademarks that appears is the on-and-off interruptions of Egghead walking into the scene; and I think Avery was experimenting with this cartoon on how to make appropriate and funny interrupting in this cartoon when in action; to make it appeal to the audience. Irv Spence's animation in this cartoon as usual was very fun to watch and the other animators as well; but I've definitely noticed some of the animator styles but I'm not sure who they are. 

However I like the character personalities; like the wolf because he strikes to me as a character who just suffers from bad luck (like losing the pinball machine), or even crashing into those many doors and that Egghead managed to open a door but he couldn't. He's the most developed character in this cartoon. I don't find the Red Walking Hood character to be particularly interesting in my opinion because I find her a bore character who's just impersonating Katherine Hepburn to try and make an audience smile; that's it. Although I thought the grandmother was particularly funny since she was all goofy; and even did the wolf a favor by allowing the wolf to disguise as her. As I always thought that Avery was trying to make the background artist's job fun and not a bore; I feel that he is trying to do some experimenting here as he attempted it here by using color pencils to give the quality look of the cartoon a more interesting look at it and see how it turns out. I think that it sticks out well when the backgrounds are colored in with precise detail; but the backgrounds where it looks unfinished don't look very pleasing and it causes very bad goofs in cuts. I like how that Stalling has focused on 'Old King Cole' and 'Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?' as the main music cues for his cartoon and that he would later use them again for the Tashlin cartoon a year later. Asides from that; I find that the overall cartoon is worth the entertainment; the voices were fine (and at least no annoying voice by Berneice Hansell had to be involved here); and Ted Pierce does a good wolf voice.

6 comments:

  1. “Who'd ever go out with an animal?”

    Well, at the Fleischers, Betty Boop had Bimbo, who was a dog, BUT she was a dog first, but when she was developed as a human girl with hoop earrings, she still went with Bimbo, until the Hayes Code deemed it as bestiality, thereby having the Fleischers get rid of Bimbo.

    “Wolf, stay ‘way from my door!” is indeed a reference to a song: “"River, Stay 'Way From My Door" by Mort Dixon and Harry Woods, which was a no. 1 hit for Kate Smith (with Guy Lombardo) in 1932.

    The two silhouettes in the audience are indeed Tex Avery and Tedd Pierce.

    I also love that quick look to the audience the wolf does when Grandma stands up on the chair after she hangs up the phone.

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  2. The breakthrough here was the creation of the "comic villain" -- before this, even if the bad guy had a bit of comedy in them, there was still a sense of dramatic menace. Like Bluto in the Popeye series, they were supposed to be seen at least in some small way as a threat. Avery completely throws that out here, to where even when the wolf is supposed to be dramatically attacking Red, we get the villain stopping the action until the people in the audience sit down.

    The discovery that you could have a bad guy in your cartoon and play them completely for laughs and not lose the audience's interest was the key to Warners' future anti-heroes, whether it was Elmer, Sylvester, Wile E. or others. You could not only parody Disney, but you didn't have to play by Disney's rules of how to build a cartoon to make it successful.

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  4. The maintaine, Steve Hartley, mentined in the "Lyin' Mouse" post that "we know that "Little Red Walking Hood", would be the first with orange/yellow cirlces..I always saw it in a Blue Ribbon release,complete with 1940s end titles, but what with all this restoring going on, it's no surpr\e that the orange-yellow circles shown above have been revealed. Even the original titles.Rally...and Yes, Mel Blanc is still the one heard as Egghead, till Danny Webb, aka Wave Weber, who also did the character later. It's the "
    Elmer" version," btw, which alternated between thsi and the original earlier take that debuted in the year's "Egghead Rides Again". By the tuime of "Feud that was" he'd be named Elmer..(1938).Steve

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  5. Pierce is doing a fine job emulating Ted Lewis with his sing-speak to Red.

    Remember her name is Red Riding Hood. It's the riding hood that's called red, not the hair. The riding hood is red in this cartoon.

    I don't know when Johnny Johnsen arrived at Warners. Art Loomer was the chief background guy, and Elmer Plummer and Griff Jay were also at Warners in the later '30s. Johnsen and Jay were old newspaper illustrators; Jay worked in Kansas City.

    Virgil Ross and Sid Sutherland, I suspect, would have worked on this one as well. Cecil Surry went to MGM when Quimby opened the new studio but he might still have been in Tex's unit when this was made.

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  6. This cartoon did not feature the wide-eyed, toupeed,Joe Penner-sounding Egghead who only appeared in Egghead Rides Again, Daffy Duck and Egghead, A Lad in Baghdad, and Count Me Out. This was actually the first appearance of bald, squinty-eyed Elmer, who usually wore a green suit with a high collar. Both Egghead and Elmer had big red noses. In the 1970s, the original "Elmer" and Egghead got blurred together, which is why people think that Egghead was in more cartoons than he actually was.

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