Monday, 27 August 2012

200. Now That Summer Is Gone (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 199.
Release date: May 14, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Junior / Gambler) and Billy Bletcher (Father).
Story: Fred Neiman.
Animation: Bob McKimson.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Summer is gone and squirrel goes on rambling addiction.

Here I have managed to review 200 cartoons out of the challenge that would be roughly 20% of the entire series reviewed and even completed one-fifth. A year ago - I probably thought that I would never surpass the reviews of the Bosko or Buddy cartoons but I really have come quite far. What I didn't realise until a while ago was that the blog already had a year's anniversary about a month ago and I'm still kicking.

Funny enough since the cartoon is called 'Now That Summer is Gone' - Summer is coming to an end soon and it feels like the right time to post this review here.

The cartoon begins as we find that there is a beautiful scenario setting where we find a waterfall that is flowing down a river. The leafs moving down is quite a nice effect but I have to give a lot of credit to the background painter of that scene for the choice of beautiful colours to present Autumn with the leaves falling.

The song I believe is also the title of the same cartoon. Notice how that during the PAN as the leaves are just flowing nicely - the music and the leave movement then start to change. The animation of the leaves then starts to move in a type of razzle-dazzle movement as the music then changes what sounds like some sort of Samba. That type of gag would've been typical in those 1930s cartoons - even coming from Warner Bros. I imagine that the effects animation there done by AC Gamer would've been a challenge to calculate the PANS while still animating it on paper as well as so many leaves at the scene. I've happened to draw so many leaves on paper but it must've been hard to turn out like 30 feet of effects animation a week. After the effects animation with the Autumn leaves covering up the entire scene - we then move over to the woodlands as we find there are a lot of squirrels and we see the certain activities that they are doing. As there are an off-screen chorus that sing the squirrel's activities we find them collecting nuts for the winter season. We then find one of the squirrel's picking acorns off a tree but does that by shaking the tree violently. The gag then ends up resulting from the tree coming to life and whacks the squirrel from attacking it. Although Tash said before he was influenced by Harman-Ising's cartoons - I see an influence there. I notice in that scene it's the same Freleng animator that likes to smear around but I still don't' know about that animator.

One of the squirrels is standing on a limb of a tree also collecting some acorns to survive through the winter. The gag-type that is shown here focuses on the squirrel as he unscrews the acorns as though it looks like unscrewing a lightbulb and he places them inside a basket. The same squirrel shaking the tree still wakes up by grabbing his own branches and shakes the squirrel.

Afterwards we then pan to a squirrel during the song as we find he walks over to a tree where it also has a slot machine. The gag is that he places a coin but as he gets the same results from the slot a pile of acorns then fly down at the scene and land on him which shows he can survive the winter with that. Another gag in relating on catching more acorn then focuses on a pinball fashion style.  The rock that the squirrels then use to push but release it in which the rock starts to whack at these trees which results with acorns flying out of the sky and landing to the ground. Another gag then relates to a squirrel to appears to be using a machine where it uses a towel to shake the tree to get the acorns falling to the ground as we truck back to find the squirrel who is standing by the tree and winks to the audience for his trick.

These are just gags that are being shown here of collecting acorns presumably made up by the gagmen while the off-chorus singing of Now That Summer is Gone is played but who's going to be listening to that type of music when they're interested in the gags? One of the squirrels then place their own sacks full of acorns where they are taken into boxes so as (I guess) they are used to be examined as they fall into the three different boxes of different height like "small", "medium" or "large".

 One of the squirrels then starts to stamp the acorns in which each acorn being stamped appears to show a Kosher sign which is a dietary regulation in the Jewish language - so I imagine this is a Jewish reference there?? All of the other squirrels then start to walk down to a tree but there is a sign that reads "First Nutional Bank" which is spoofing the name like a national name but just for a sake of a pun. The music then finishes off from the off-screen chorus after they finish the title song of the cartoon 'Now That Summer is Gone'. The animation cycle of the squirrels walking down to the tree is a rather solid cycle.

After the song sequence has finished - the camera then irises out in which there is an adult squirrel with grey fur who walks down to the front lawn of his home. His home is of course a tree but with windows as he walks to the front part where he has his own gates. He walks down the gate in which he turns his head arounds looking around. He then takes his specs off his eye as he blows at his glasses to polish them.

As he polishes his own specs - it appears to be that he has no lens on the glasses so what would be the point of him wearing them with no lens unless that is supposed to be the gag of this part. If that so is the case of the gag since I don't think it's presented very well. After cleaning up his own glasses with his cleaning cloth. After cleaning up his own glasses he then starts to call for his own son as he shouts out "Junior, Junior!". Is it me or is there somehow a  rather weird animated effect look on his fur as it appears to spike up unless that is just a part of the poor assistant work. We then starts to PAN down towards as we find that Junior is in fact hiding behind a red Autmn bush. A hand of his pops out in which he is shaking a dice as he is gambling with other squirrels as it appears. He then shouts out begging for luck "Come on, you seven!" and of course wants a seven so he can win some luck on the game as he has to win acorns. He then continues to shake the dice for luck "Oh, dice, don't fail me now".

Of course - as he is shaking the dice with his hands with some other friends he's gambling with his other peers to take all of the other acorns as he doesn't appear to have any of his own. I like the idea of gambling for acorns since it's similar to money but acorns are worth a lot to squirrels. He then continues to boast these typical lines when wanting luck "Papa, needs a new pair of shoes".

After he rolls the dice there is a VERY decent animated effect that we see in perspective as it involves the dice being unrolled by Junior as the dice move in a larger scale which must've been difficult to animate. Even the heads then start to move in perspective as they look over the dice to see the results. It turns out that the dice in fact has turned into a seven in which he has won the game. It results the other players to walk off angry as they just give up to participate and leave Junior on his own. The male squirrel then sings to the others "You boys must be trenched (?) in the head!" He appears to be singing the substitute lyrics to the title song 'Now That Summer is Gone'. As he gathers and collects all of the nuts to himself - his father then arrives at the spot tapping his feet (though we only see the lower half of his body). As he sings - the father then gives Junior a slap in the face very angry at his gambling activities. Junior rolls out of the way in which he lands into a tree as acorns fall on him. He then comments on his activities "So, gambling again, eh?" All the other squirrels (as we pan on the right) then laugh at Junior for being slapped and comment through the song that it's not the way for him to collect acorns in winter. Junior then drums his fingers to the ground not amused.

The following montage shots then feature the squirrels preparing their own harvest as they are collecting their acorns. It's practically the same animated scenes that we saw earlier on in the cartoon but Tashlin has used it as these montage shots which gives it a very interesting animation effect. I wonder if Tashlin really was the first director to use the montage shot effects as he claimed in the interview.

At the end of the montage effect we fade out but fade in as we find that the squirrels then are seen carrying big sacks of nuts with them. As they are carrying past with them sacks of acorns - they then walk past a tree. They are not seen from that tree as it turns out that they are caught by Junior for his gambling activities again. It turns out that Junior has won the gambling game again in which it causes the three squirrels to walk out as they lost the gambling game and leave with absolutely nothing. After Junior has won the gambling game again - he is caught once more by his father who is tapping his foot waiting for his attention. Junior then makes a take as he realises that he has been caught in which Junior then slaps himself the same way his father would slap him. After Junior then slaps himself he then rolls over and hits the tree rather dazed until the scene then fades out.

In the next shot after the incident with the gambling again - the father then reports to Junior on some orders he has to do. He then asks Junior: 'Get some nuts from the bank and get back before the snow falls. And remember, no gambling'. That was a nice reflective effect from the pond which would've been also difficult for the animator too.

After that shot with the warning of no gambling from his father - he then walks over to the 'First Nutional Bank' as he is to collect acorns for the winter. The squirrel then starts to walk out of the national bank as he already is carrying with him a bag of nuts to collect home which is orders from his father. A really cool animation effect is shown in that one particular scene when you watch it as the squirrel is walking down the path but the scales of him being animated then gets much larger as he walks in perspective again until we find that we only see his two feet walking. That was a very good Tashlin effect and I do wonder how the exposure sheets looked like since I imagine his exposure sheets must've been very precise and detailed. As we find that only his legs are seen there is a gambler seen in the distance who tempts Junior, 'Indulge in a little game of chance, sonny?' Junior then dashes over to him as he couldn't resist - the timing there from only his feet to his full self (in a long-shot) must've been difficult to stage as well but the scene and how it was staged is just incredible.

After Junior then zips along to the gambler who is seen in a moustache, bowler hat and cigar - Junior responds with an "Okay". The squirrel then starts to place his own nuts across the trunk of the chopped down tree as he is ready to gamble completely forgetting about the nuts he's supposed to return home to his father and his cautious warning on 'No gambling!'

The gambler then starts to gamble as the first dice he rolls he wins a seven in which he comments to Junior - 'You lose, sonny'. This would be the first time since Junior could possibly get beaten as he is facing a champ. In these next montage shots - the camera angles and staging shows some serious work that is being done by Frank Tashlin as the way he's organised the shot of the gambler's hands throwing the cards or even the way he then tosses the cards and a pack of cards pop up one at a time in the screen. It makes it very appealing to look at and a very good montage effect. As we find through the montage - Junior keeps on losing more nuts from playing as the gambler ends up winning more acorns. There is a gambling board that circulates which makes it a excellent effect that shows the game still continues onwards. I'm not too sure but from what I'm looking at it looks as though the board that is spinning was a real life one that was placed into an animated shot.

After many attempts from Junior as he kept on gambling until he had finally ran out of nuts. In that long-shot view the gambler responds to that, 'What no more nuts? Tut-tut. Well, better luck next time'. As he then walks off laughing. I wouldn't call the gambler a villain I mean - he completely showed Junior by losing him. Junior so far in this cartoon has been a bit of a dick by just gambling squirrel's money away and what he got was what he deserved.

The snow then starts to fall as he is supposedly meant to return home with his father but where he will also catch hell from him. He continues to walk on through the snow where it is snowing rather heavily. What I like about that effect is that it is a background effect where it appears to change from the autumn effect to it and even a very snowy effect to it as the ground then starts to change as its covered in snow. During that winter sequence - Junior then starts to walk through a terrible storm as he struggles to walk through the blizzard and even on the way home, too. As his struggle to walk back to his home continues - there is a quick PAN as it features the father squirrel is sitting down by the fire reading the newspaper waiting for his son to return home and rather enjoying himself as it appears.

Inside the house we still see the father squirrel sit down by an open fire. The fire effects animation in the background is pretty cool - in my opinion. Junior then finally makes it into the home after walking through that terrible blizzard. He slams the door and walks down the steps shivering. He then starts to act pantomiming as though something has happened.

Junior: Oh, they got me.
Father: Who got ya?
Junior: A gang of bandits. They robbed the nuts. They jumped me. Oh, I put up a terrific struggle and beat them all. When 50 more jumped me.

While is still lying about what has happened the father then starts to put on his disguise outfit as it turns out to be the exact same disguise outfit that he had worn when Junior had lost the gambling and it turns out that he has been conned by his own father. He then starts to lean closer towards him in the outfit asking, "How many?" and Junior replies "50 of them". He continues to try and lie at his story in which he realises that he is in trouble as he shouts "Uh-oh". The father tells him off for gambling again - he then grabs Junior by his tail as he is prepared to give him a spanikng. "I'll give you ten lashes you won't forget". After hearing that he responds, "Look, I'll flip you, Pop. Double or nothing, huh?" and that appears to be another gambling reference there but he then gets spanked with a paddle as his screaming and shouting even continue over the 'That's all Folks' credits.

Overall comments: Frank Tashlin in this cartoon has obviously been experimenting with a lot of perspective animation as well as montage shots as it appears to be the main focus of his film techniques in this cartoon. It must've been a difficult challenge for the animators to have worked with Tashlin and probably would've found it unusual of him for what he wanted on the screen but it really stands out really well from the other Warner directors which makes his cartoons look great. The animation of that overall cartoon looked really great as the character designs (of course heavily focused by Tashlin) but the animation even going in perspective looked amazing as it would consist of animators for him like Ken Harris, Bob McKimson or Robert Bentley since he now had a team of solid animators which is what he wanted in the past as he said in his own interview.

Also, as well as focusing on many techniques - I believe that around this period when producing 'Merrie Melodies' cartoons that he was also trying to bring back some of the story lines that would've been reused from the Harman-Ising days as he would have song numbers as well as the type of story lines heard as he said he was influenced by those guys and it's shown here in this cartoon and the 1938 Merrie Melodies he made - evidently. What really interests me is that I wish we could know a bit more about Fred Neiman who was only at Warners for a short time around that period but mostly associated with Tashlin but Mike Barrier only speaks a bit about him in the commentary of the cartoon.

5 comments:

  1. The line was "...TETCHED in the head". It's a variant of "touched" and means being somewhat mentally unbalanced or demented.

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  2. "What really interests me is that I wish we could know a bit more about Fred Neiman who was only at Warners for a short time around that period but mostly associated with Tashlin but Mike Barrier only speaks a bit about him in the commentary of the cartoon."

    And from the looks of IMDB, this was the only cartoon he's credited to write on as well. Reminded of another blog out there posing the same questiont o another writer from the period who was credited for a single cartoon and nothing more.

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  3. The shot of the gambling squirrel coming out of the acorn bank that ends with a simulated deep-focuse shot of the hustler through his legs is one of my favorite Tashlin techniques at Warners. He did the same sort of technique in LITTLE PANCHO VANILLA where three little Mexican girls throw down flowers for Pancho during the bullfight. The camera follows up on the flowers then down to Pancho in which he sees the bull behind him in a simulated deep focus behind his legs.

    Tashlin wrote to Fred Neimann while he was at Disney's in December of 1939. At that time, he was contributing to the story of MR. DUCK STEPS OUT (when the working title was DONALD'S DATE).

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