Saturday, 20 October 2012

208. Porky's Spring Planting (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 207.
Release date: July 16, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Dog).
Story: George Manuell.
Animation: Joe D'Igalo.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky grows crops in his garden until its infested by chickens.

The cartoon begins as we find that Porky Pig is in fact ploughing in his own farm and there is some arcing in that bit of animation which moves really well. I how that the camera is just staying still and how that he ploughs upwards and downwards he ends up larger in size. That sequence with the tree trunk moving sideways was a rather little funny bit of entertainment and even when the tree trunk then steps back. That is a rather appealing Tashlin technique shown of Porky ploughing and he appears to be experimenting with that technique around that era - particularly in cartoons like Now That Summer is Gone or Cracked Ice.

Porky Pig is still ploughing on the fields to create some crops and he is then moving with some interesting perspective animation. He stutters as he continues to plough, 'All ya gotta do is plough...then throw in some seeds...and (stutters) add a little water..and a swell garden grows'. Porky then breaks into a Elmer Blurt characteristic phrase "I hope, I hope, I hope" and even intimidates the voice. Okay but the Elmer Blurt voice really doesn't sound so good when Porky intimidates him - probably because it just doesn't sound natural for a stuttering, appealing character. Porky continues to plough and even when there is a haystack pile. He ploughs up through to the haystack where there are steps being cut as he steps up and slides down which is also an appealing technical gag.

Porky Pig still ploughs through his garden in that perspective shot as he then starts sweat from the hard-, labour work that he is doing. Porky appears to have a button on top of his own hat which he then pushes the button and it produces some windscreens from his hat that wipe the sweat off his eyes. That is a rather fun Tashlin technical gag where he would just have to use his wind-screens to do the job as he ploughs. Tashlin was good with technical gags.

Meanwhile his own dog named Streamline is sleeping in his kennel and he is snoozing and snoring. As he snores - his ears appear to blow upwards like a party blower and as he snores out they fly out flat which is very typical in these 1930s gags. As Porky continues to plough (and in perspective animation) he then finds that under the ground is Streamline's bone that was dug under there. Porky then discovers the bone as he picks it up and throws it over to Streamline. He calls him to wake him up as he then tosses the bone over to him. The bone then lands on top of Streamline's head as it creates a lump on top of his head. So after the lump, Streamline then uses his own ear to feel the lump as it forms into a hand which is just...weird. He cries and sniffles just briefly for a moment before he goes after the bone.

Streamline picks up the bone as he walks through the garden happily with the bone attached to his mouth. The dog is walking over to spot and we believe that he's just going to dig his bone in a hiding spot so none of the other dogs know. That is sort of true, but instead he digs up a lock vault as he unwinds the passcode and he opens up the vault. He already has different categoric bones like T-bone, beef bones, marrow bones, and chicken bones. He puts his own bone in the beef section.

After closing the vault he then thinks to himself as a voice comes from his mind: None of this share the wealth business for me - performed in one of Mel Blanc's gruff voices which he liked doing. I'm not sure exactly what he means but I suppose its a dated catchphrase from a radio show - but still I find it random, and it must be dated since I don't get it. Any takers?? Porky then continues on with his gardening as he then starts to unroll the grass just like unrolling a carpet. He then grabs out some flower seeds from a bag simply labelled that. After grabbing hold of the seeds he then tosses it over the soil and he walks over to the rolled-up grass. He pushed the rug over as the grass is now back to its normal look. Well, if it were back in the 1930s then rolling up the grass like a rug would be considered a clever gag but since its been pretty overused it makes the cartoon gag a little out of date by comparison.

Porky then walks over as he is grabbing onto a toilet plunger. He is using the toilet plunger to stomp them on to the grass as flowers then get formed from the flower seeds. While I see what the gag is supposed to be and I guess we've never seen that before but wouldn't you need to WATER the plants with a water can before you GROW the flowers?? Unless that gag was used since its trying to show that the plunger is being sucked up that it transforms into flowers (from the seeds).

A flower then starts to form to life as Porky then hands the flower over a small shower for the flower to rinse (or I guess to live). Wait a minute, flowers need water to help grow - they can't be created by a plunger and then grow before being rinsed!! Anyway the flower then starts to come to life and even takes one of her petals off as she rinses herself in the shower. Okay, when Tashlin says he was influenced by Harman-Ising - that petal gag is DEFINITELY a Harman-Ising influence. She then screams when she notices that Porky is staring at her washing (assuming that she must be 'naked'?) and she then grabs out some shower curtains to chose them while she washes. That little sequence with the flower was just bizarre and its already bringing me back to the old Harman-Ising days.

Porky then calls for his dog, Streamline to come over who is seen asleep inside his kennel. He then wakes up as he is rather grumpy; he thinks in his head; 'I'll be able to sleep all day when I get my social security'. I think that means when you get a social security at aged 16 (at least it is in the UK) and probably meaning he'll be able to sleep once he's that age - and 16 is an old age for a dog. I believe that is the joke but correct me if I am wrong.

Meanwhile Porky is busy sorting out his farming as he is placing some seeds inside a sack which is  a job for Streamline. Streamline then walks past the shed as he walks over to do the job for Porky Pig. Porky places the bag of seeds on top of Streamline's head. Streamline then walks over to the soil as he uses his own tale to drill a hole to place the seeds inside one at a time. I like the tail forms into a type of screw which is rather neat. I also like how the seed just rolls down the dog's back and into the hole - some really neat timing on that. Porky is tossing some seeds from categoric seed bags as he is going to grow some crops in his garden. Porky's dog, Streamline still digs a hole to grow the seed with his own tail.

Porky Pig is still throwing the seeds to the soil as he is going to throw them. What he does is he grabs the seeds into a mixer. He mixes the needs like mixing a smoothie as he then tosses them out in a row. He then pushes the soil forward so the seeds can stay under there. He then grabs a sign as it now reads: Combination Seeds which shows that there is a variety of seeds in that row (and notice each row in the background at least show a row of carrot seeds, pea seeds, etc.).

During a slow camera pan through the garden - much, much's discovered that Streamline has already dug so many tiny holes through the garden--even overdoing it. There are holes through the gate and even through the bark of the trees as we continue the pan. Even the water machine that he is sitting on has holes in it - it sure is an exaggeration but its a rather funny gag in the backgrounds but it must've taken ages of a layout artist to do all that which must've made the task to be rather tedious. It also reminds me of those gags that are featured in the backgrounds that was really a trademark that appears to have started off with Tex Avery (and he appears to use backgrounds a lot for gags in his spot-gag cartoons) and here Tashlin uses it here - but I wouldn't say its an influence since all directors would have gags in the scenery. I like how that Streamline just cools his tail from the exhaustion of digging holes and its a fun harmless gag. Porky then tries to call Streamline over to him (although when stuttering his name, he calls him 'Bognose') he tells him the job is over as they walk away completing the job. Streamline slides away still sitting on the bucket of water.

After Streamline slides past the fence; we find a peephole where there is an eye of a chicken. It turns out to be a chicken spy who is clucking continuously and making notes of what is featured in the garden. He clucks in a chicken voice listing the vegetables inside the garden (already grown - and we never saw it grow). 'Peas, potatoes, corn beans, etc.' That chicken voice is a rather good chicken voice voiced by I don't know. There is a POV shot by Tashlin of the chicken scanning through the vegetables in the garden.

The chicken comments: 'My my, just look at the delightful garden. Such variety'. The chicken then finishes writing notes as he then attached the pad of paper to a pencil as he sticks it into a tree, and it turns out to be a menu for the chickens that are going to infest the area. The menu reads the following:

MENU Specials Today -- Fruit Cocktails: Shake It Down Yourself & Save Lettuce & Gravel Salad. -Entree- Corn Beef & Cabbage - Side Order of Worms...5 cents EXTRA! 

Afterwards; many more poultries then discover the menu as the plan is to raid Porky's garden to take their vegetables. It appears that there is a hall monitor outside the fence as the line of chickens are given a tray each so they can invade Porky's garden.

The chickens are given their share as they have a tray to carry and there are enough vegetables for them to steal. As the chickens are stealing all the goods in the crops (and Porky and his dog haven;t yet discovered) the leader chicken then claps his hands with effort as he walks slowly back to his desk where he is waiting for more chickens to register to enter the garden. As he walks to the exit gate; the chickens exiting (already with foods) then arrive back with a ticket as the chicken then hole-punches it which would make it a little amusing little gag I guess.

A chicken then runs at the scene in perspective holding onto a tray where he finds some corn on the cob for him to take since chickens like corn. As he is trying to grab some corn out of the crops - he struggles and he ends up tugging at it. As he keeps on tugging at the corn - it produces a funny little sound effect which is famous before the Treg Brown sound effects (done by a trombone). He then grabs out a cork opener as he ends up opening up the corn in the cob. Most of these scenes now remind me of the lame gags that Avery used in Porky's Garden done by Tex a earlier earlier. Well it is a little charming when we find the chicken who is just cheating the corn on the cob like a typewriter as it moves from right to left and he just pushes it back to beginning eating another layer of corn - okay, I haven't seen that before and the typewriter part makes it rather amusing. A chicken then grabs some carrots which the chicken is going to feast. After tugging the carrot; the chicken eats it and weirdly enough the chicken then takes the layer part off and its revealed that the carrot already has fishbones in them. Okay, but that's just an awful gag - since how can carrots already have bones in them when they're not living things. If that is the gag then its terrible!

One of the chickens then finds some peas in a pod and he then grabs out an opener as he peels the pod open as peas land into his mouth. He peels like like opening a can of sardines. That gag was also reused from Avery's Porky's Garden. Meanwhile Porky is at his porch sweeping and he hears the sounds of eating. He turns around to check and much to his surprise his crops are infested with chickens. I like that crazy 'take' Porky makes as its rather exaggerated.

The chickens are at another part of the crops as they are in a line cutting the crops like grass from a lawn mower. Porky then scares the chickens out of the way from trespassing in his garden and the amusing part is that they scat backwards and the crops that they had eaten then get back to its usual size. It must've been difficult to stage and interesting for Tashlin to use that idea but I find it rather amusing since how could they get that out while in digestion. Porky chases them away with a broom and some Tashlin pacing is used in these fast shots of the chicken scatting away from Porky's broom with some interesting camera angles. One part that really amuses me is the chicken chewing the corn on the cob like a typewriter scats out of the way (as Porky runs through done by arc animation) and after dust spreads at the scene - the corn of the cob is still standing and chewing like a typewriter - its a rather wacky gag there.

Porky and the chicken then go into speed as Porky is chasing the chicken out of the garden and there is some good quick pacing there. The chicken manages to escape and Porky ends up crashing into the fence before noticing. He becomes slightly weary before he gets back up. Porky looks up as he notices a chicken at the top chewing on some corn. Porky is disturbed of Porky as he then grabs his brush and tries to whack the chicken with the brush. The chicken tuts at Porky to show he failed to catch him - I presume.

The first time Porky tries to whack the chicken - he misses and another chicken arrives at the spot also tutting him. More more attempts he tries to hit a chicken - more chickens arrive at the top of the fence as they continue to tut at Porky. Afterwards as there is a whole group of chickens at the top of the fence - they then grab the broom off Porky and they whack him with it as they have managed to outwit Porky. In the next sequence - we find that Porky then starts to build his own scarecrow to try and scare off chickens - but yet, they're supposed to scare away crows, not chickens. He comments, 'There! Why didn't I think of this before?! This oughta scare those pesky chickens away!' He then places an overcoat on as he walks away. How is that supposed to scare them away without a mask on there?

A chicken has his eye looking through the fence to check if the coast is clear. The chicken leader then arrives at the spot feeling the overcoat of the scarecrow and obviously not scared of it - who would be? The chicken then comments, 'Mmm. Nice material'. He then takes the overcoat out and he wears it himself. He places a cigar out as he is holding one in his mouth. The silly sailor hat on the broom's top is taken off by the chicken and he wears it on his head.

He just stands there and he strikes a match and lights a cigar. I don't see how that sequence is supposed to be funny - I really don't find it funny. Porky is still annoyed of the chicken and he even suggests to Streamline to find a way to chase the chickens away. Porky stutters:

Porky Pig: Why don't you do something to keep those chickens outta here. Are you a watchdog or aren't ya?'
Streamline: (thoughts) Sure, I'm a watchdog. I'm full of ticks (ticking sounds).
Porky Pig: Go on, chase 'em out of the garden!

The ticking sound gag was a little bit amusing. Porky then forces his dog to run over and chase the chicken near the scarecrow out of the way. As he scampers on - there is some violence occurring as its censored by clouds and dust covering the scenery as well as sockets. Streamline is then taken out as he is tossed to the ground by the chicken leader who has outwitted Porky and the dog once again.

In this final sequence - we find that Porky is still trying to chase his chickens out of his garden and is trying to get even with them. That facial expression on his face where he's really trying to get them to leave is really believable and funny. He then stutters, 'Let's you and me get together. You leave my garden alone and I'll plant a separate garden just for you and grow anything you want'. The chickens look together as they like the suggestion that he has made. Wow, Porky is really going to go through the trouble and waste his time just to plant a separate garden for the pesky gardens - well he couldn't win against win which makes him foolish.

Porky then starts to hand out some bags of seeds that grow vegetables. The first he hands out is a bag of carrots. 'Do you like carrots?' he asks the chickens. The chickens then look together as they cluck together evidently meaning that group don't like carrots. He then hands out a bag of asparagus and he asks, 'Do you like asparagus?' the chickens then cluck together in dislike and rather indecisive of their decisions. He then hands out a bag of spinach and the chickens then cluck the exact same reason and decision. Then he grabs out a bag of their favourite - corn and asks 'Do you like corn?' when its pretty obvious. They then shout together 'OH YEAH' a reference to the Oswald character in the 'Ken Murray' show which must've been a huge hit back then since it was referenced many times already in the 1938 Warner cartoons.

Overall comments: Admittedly I couldn't really think much of this Tashlin cartoon as it really wasn't a cartoon that was particularly special to me. There were a few Tashlin techniques like at the beginning where he appears to focus heavily on perspective animation of Porky ploughing which I thought was pretty important and it looked quite food. There were also some speed effects which he had experimented on in his earlier cartoons but not so much here. He was already making 'Merrie Melodies' cartoons at the time and most of those cartoons were Harman-Ising influence. I believe that there is some Harman-Ising influence in this Porky cartoon - at least the shot with the petals and some of Avery influences like the chickens eating the crops.

Some of Tashlin's timing here was rather neat and I like the rough timing of Porky using the plunger to plunge the seeds to make the flowers grow. However, I have mixed feelings for much of the gags - I think its a little bit too much for me to say the gags were funny - they were charming but they just reminded me much of any other 1930s cartoons and Warners were already more advanced with gags and story already in this period in the Avery cartoons. The gags were either re-used or either just some unfunny 1930s ones that just seem last season when I compare it to the other 1938 WB cartoons from this era. Just my two cents but I believe that Frank was just making his own type of films. At least the design of Porky still looks better in Tash's Porky cartoons in this year when a year earlier he looked much beefier looking. In fact some of the story in this cartoon or at least parts of it reminds me of 'Porky's Garden' even though I wouldn't consider it a remake.


  1. The original Social Security Act was enforced in 1935. It tried to limit what were seen as dangers in the modern American life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children, so this was still a hot topic was a fairly new thing for America in 1938, which explains Streamline’s line of dialogue, which actually COULD be about old age, but I am not certain.

  2. The "Share the Wealth" comment referred to the program championed by Louisiana Sen. Huey Long, who had been elected to the Senate after serving as his state's governor on a platform of demanding even more widespread government assistance programs for the public in the early years of the Great Depression and in the first years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. Long was assassinated in 1935, but his program, along with FDR's Social Security system, remained hot political issues three years later when this cartoon was made.

    So like the radio shows of the time, the political gags here are both topical and lost on the majority of viewers today (also, judging by his comments, Streamline is one of those 'swing voter' dogs, supportive of the new government assistance program, yet against confiscation/taxation of his own personal property. He could have been an "undecided" questioner at last Tuesday's presidential debate ;) ).

    As for the non-political obscure references, Streamline's ear/head scratch gag is supposed to be an imitation of Stan Laurel's routine where he'd scratch his head and wimper after some suprise physical injury/abuse.