Saturday, 1 September 2012

203. Porky the Fireman (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 202.
Release date: June 4, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Robert Bentley.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky and his fireman team try to stop the fire at a boarding house.

The cartoon begins as we find that the fire station called Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 seen in a exterior shot. The fire alarm is ringing which means that there is a duty for the firemen to do. We we truck back a bit further - we find that a fireman opens the door but the gag is that the fireman ends up crashing through the walls of the fire station.

As the fire engine is riding straight ahead - we find a point-of-view show of the front part of the engine moving which would've been Tashlin's own idea to feature that. The fire engine then makes a complete stop as we discover that there are these cats crossing the road - which makes the situation and the stopping appear rather amusing before the fire engine continues. Boy, making that fire engine stop in that bit of staging on the camera would've been a very difficult part to animate. As soon as they arrive closer and closer - we fade into an boarding house that is set on fire. There are flames flaming out from the windows with smoke coming out. There are even flames that then start to form the words 'HELP' which makes it as a whole a cartoony effect. Since I know A.C. Gamer was with Tashlin - and even in the credits - he would've done those scenes. As soon as the fire engine makes a complete stop - the truck then starts to fly out of the scene with their fireman. The timing there is very funny. Notice in the background that it the sign featured reads: Opera House To-nite LOONEY TUNES. Which is an in-joke relating to the series. After the engine flies out - the firemen (including Porky) then place it back and walk on to do their duty.

The fireman then start to go over to the punch clock to report that they're on duty. The sign that reads "F.D." would stand for 'fire department'. The first couple of fireman dash at the scene where they place their card in the slot and punch the clock to show they're at work. Porky Pig then approaches the scene - also being a fireman as he also punches the clock. Porky runs back to catch a hosepipe in which suddenly the punch clock then starts to make a noise (with the arms and legs moving backwards). Porky grabs his hat and jackpot falls out - which is the gag.

After placing his hat back onto his head - he makes his way over to the apartment grabbing onto the hose. In the long-shot view - there are fireman firing with their hoses at the burning boarding house. The funny part is that the flames then start to form into words again reading 'THANKS BOYS'. Even the flame then starts to form into hands and they clench onto each other's hand and cheering with it - it makes the gag rather amusing and appealing. Porky is standing outside the boarding house as he is still holding onto a hose pipe. Porky is calling somebody in the background to turn on the hosepipe as the hosepipe is attached to a fire hydrant.

The guy who is standing by the fire hydrant is another fireman but is a dog that puffs a pipe. Porky is asking for the dog fireman to turn it on. The dog that puffs his pipe then starts to walks over to turn on the pipes. What I find that makes the fireman's characteristics very funny is that he follows the exact directions of the hosepipe since's  its scattered to the ground and even takes his time walking. That type of gag was seen before in Porky's Building and it's sort of the same character but it's used again but it feels funnier since he just follows the hosepipe.

The musical song that is played in the background  during the dogs slow walk is called Boulevardier from the Bronx which is his theme and that cue chosen by Carl Stalling is very witty and funny and it goes by really well with the character who just walks around really well - it's a perfect view for walking scenes - particularly in the Thin Man scenes like in Speaking of the Weather or Have You Got Any Castles?. The way that the slow dog even walks through those hosepipes must've been difficult to animate since he had to move upwards in perspective and also that it pans through so some good mathematics would've been used when animating this scene.

The dog then walks over to Porky as he asks:

Slow dog: What did you say?
Porky: I said, 'TURN ON THE WATER!
Slow dog: Oh.

The way that Porky even flied with rage made it rather funny since the slow dog is just wasting time. He then walks back down through the hosepipes - doing it the long way and also the annoying way. A boring scene to animate, perhaps but it makes the joke and the situation funnier. After walking through - the slow dog then turns on the fire hydrant in which a huge mass of water then starts to follow through the pipe as it's even massive. After travelling through the hosepipe - Porky is about to discover that after what we thought was just a huge amount of water coming up - only barely a drop just make out of the hosepipe and that is just hilarious. Porky then starts to run over to catch a bucket of water as he is desperate for it - after the hosepipe wasted a lot of his duty. He runs over in which he then scares the other dogs that are hanging out in their favourite spot - the fire hydrant. After Porky uses a spanner to unscrew the fire hydrant for the use of water as a emergency. Porky runs over to one of the boarding house windows to let the fire out but the funny part features an inanimate fire creature that stands up and grabs the bucket of water away from Porky and then splashes him. He hands the bucket of water back to Porky before he vanishes.

A sign at the front of the boarding house reads: Mrs. Twerp's Theatrical Boarding House. It's amusing that she even has a surname called 'Twerp' which makes her stand out like a sucker. As we pan at the top - we find some screaming from a large lady who screams, 'Save me, put me down! Hurry, etc." The suitcase that she is holding identifies her as 'Mabel the Fat Lady'.

The slow dog then hears the sounds of her screaming in which she walks over - but then cuts directly back her since we didn't want to waste more time of him walking all the way through the hosepipes again. She continues to scream until the slow dog pops over from the ladder and asks, "What did you say?" - her comments then go into a rage since surely he must've heard from her screams, she responds; 'I said get me down out here. Put me on the street. Put me ON the street!' The slow dog thens starts to toss the fat lady off the boarding house as she wished. After the fall - we wait a couple of seconds the dog is just standing there waiting for her fall. After the fall - the camera then starts to shake sideways after the crash. Admittedly I don't find that camera shake to be very convincing or even as effective as Frank Tashlin could've done - but when I compare to how maybe if Clampett made it - he would make the crash feel like an earthquake and Tashlin would as well in years later. But I guess this was the 1930s but the camera shake feels like a 1960s effect.

Meanwhile on one of the higher floors of the apartment building - there is an elderly man in his pyjamas up there as he is screaming, 'Help, help! Save me, save me!' Porky arrives at the spot in which he then starts to climb on top of the ladder after he hears the screams of an elderly an calling for help. The ladder is a very odd but funny design as it features a ladder that reaches its end - and even traffic lights. Porky then stops in which the slow dog walks back down (with his own theme heard in the background) until Porky can then climb up the ladder again.

As he does so - the old man continues to cry for help as he is trapped from the fire. Old King Cole is played in the background once Porky is inside the old man's room preparing to save the old man. The old man stops him from saving him as he shouts, 'Don't worry about me, go save grandpa!' The weird part was that the old man appears to have his own grandfather who'd probably be a tombstone by this point. The old man then jumps out of the window as he is still fit to jump back down. As he dives down the boarding house - he lets his own bears then float like a parachute which makes the gag of it particularly amusing and the comic part of it to be pretty cool.

The hosepipe then starts to squirt water to the flames that appear in each window - and even the flame has facial features which results him in being the villain of the cartoon. Each hit the flame makes when trying to squirt the flame off - the flame ends up in another window and just pulling silly faces.

The amusing part in this silly sequence features - the hoses going from window to window but it's all going curved which is a pretty cartoony concept but silly, too - in a fun way. The conclusion to that gag then features the flame being extinguished from the hose without realising.

Afterwards, Porky then runs over to a fire hydrant as he is in desperate need to fill up more water. The result of the gag is when he almost loses his way of finding the hydrant - he ends up being tied up by the hose before he is unleashed in that twisted speed line effect. Pretty cleverly animated from that point. Porky places the hosepipe on the valve as he opens it up but it turns out that water is spraying on the other end. He then replaces the hosepipe to another valve but discovers that as he turns it on with his spanner - water, again squirts out at both ends. He then tries with both ends and the funny part shows that water sprays at the top as Porky results in a take. A moment of character animation is featured as Porky thinks logically on how he would open up the fire hydrant and wondering what the cause is. After he opens it - it turns out that there is a hand holding onto a squirt gun and squirts Porky which is rather amusing since Porky is now a sucker to that effect. Afterwards; we then PAN along to where we find a manhole as the slow dog walks out carrying a squirt gun.

Meanwhile back at the top of the boarding house windows - there is a bearded lady standing there also carrying her suitcase. The suitcase identifies her as LUCY the Bearded Lady. She then ends up calling for help. Porky is on a ladder which is attached to a fire truck as he warns the bearded lady that she will be saved. After Porky then calls the fireman to extend the ladder - he ends up rolling it too fast which results in Porky then starting to go through building to building and that  the ladder even starts to curve around and ditches Porky after he falls off but at the other side of the hotel.

We then discover that even inside the boarding house there are aerobic people there as they plan to dive down there. As they dive down; they already land into their position as they are also forming aerobics. The last few aerobic guys then land as the music to Shave and a Haircut is played with the banner held by one of them that reads The Flying Leroys. The timing of them even landing as well as escaping makes it funny to me since they're performing a circus act. Meanwhile there appears to be a businessman who is screaming at the top of his voice but then he dives down. As he continues to dive down - he then ends up flying down some smoke in which after being covered by the smoke - he then forms into a blackface in which he is caricatured as Stephin Fetchit - who sure seemed to have appeal with stereotypes.

Porky then arrives at the scene in which he is carrying a bucker of water to which he is trying to extinguish the flames away. He continues to try and then save the objects inside the boarding house that has flames on them but he then finds a way to place the flames from inside the bucket and chucks them inside a fishbowl. After chucking it inside a fishbowl - the fish also turn into a blackface as well.

As the fireman are still trying to get the fire out in this climax sequence - the wall of one of the apartment buildings then collapse but the window stands land on the exact same position as they did they don't suffer from any injuries in that fall but it still makes the gag work. In the next following montage shots - we discover that the large woman is still on top of the same building (What, again??? - or is that somehow ANOTHER large woman?) They are all reuses of the same people in the montage shots and we even find the EXACT same aerobics people. Okay, but this is a situation where re-using animation in montage really, really fails. I mean - what on earth happened? Did they somehow escape but then somehow got their way back into the building? How very incoherent.

After the montage sequence - the boarding house is completely burnt to the ground after that result. Gee, did that REALLY take them a long time to get the fire out? What a crap job. Afterwards - the flame that was the overall villain of the cartoon then starts to peak if any of the fireman are gone (so he could start more flames) in which an entire group of firemen then have their hoses on them and squirt water at the flame. The final part then features the flame getting back at them - though this is just terribly stupid. The flame grabs out a hosepipe and gets back at the firemen in which they all vanish like bullets - and how exactly did that happen?? The flame then starts to bang his chest like Tarzan and he yells like Tarzan before the cartoon ends there.

Overall comments: The fact that the cartoon overall really has no plot and it's just a string of gags performed by the fireman - it does result the cartoon landing in a minimum amount of time. The slow dog scenes I thought were particularly amusing since he just takes his time and is the main result of comedy here. There isn't too much Tashlin techniques featured here although the opening with the fire engine steaming past is definitely a trait of his in those early cartoons. Nevertheless, the cartoon had some funny moments like the Slow Dog scenes which featured "wit" with the music that went along with it and even the comic timing on how long he takes just walking alone the hosepipe. I suppose that concept or pantomime of the gag was reused from 'Porky's Building' 

The fact hat the old man even still had his grandfather went as far as extreme but though amusing in the same way since he would still feel "young at heart". Even visual gags appear to be the main use of gags like the flames forming words like 'HELP' or 'THANKS BOYS' is typically what Avery would've used before in his cartoons so I see some influence there. The aerobics sequence was a rather nice touch as the timing of that was very well done. The montage shots were an epic fail in my opinion because of being re-used animation - wouldn't the audience member just question that by thinking "I thought they already landed to the ground". The camera shaking effect of the large lady falling off the boarding house looks like Frank Tashlin is trying to experiment with a camera shaky effect - but a attempt. Some of the fire gags of the hose trying to squirt the water is sort of Disney-ish gags like seen in Elmer Elephant


  1. The opening, as in "Porky's Baseball Broadcast"(aka "Friz Freleng's big return to Warners") and at the montage, is "Stand up and SIng a song of good cheer", from "Hollywood Hotel", as used in "Porkyu's Five and Ten", and later "Porky and Daffy" at the end, and one of the standard baseball themes in WB cartoon, besides "Boulevardier from the Bronx" (the funny little doggie's thing. You know, a dog makes sense as a fireman, but only if it's a Dalmation.:)). The cats are supposed to be a typical cartoony take on the old Cat followed by kittens scenes, as the lead cat has a kitten in ITSELF mouth, but no other KITTENS are following. And good use of the "Ain't She Sweet"-sounding "Old King Cole" in the old man scene in the apartment room.Steve J.Carras.

  2. According to Dave Mackey, the hand-colored version of this cartoon not only removed the blackface gag, but also the Flying Leroys gag.