Friday, 23 November 2012

216. Porky in Wackyland (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 215.
Release date: September 24, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky / Dodo / Various Characters), Billy Bletcher (Roaring Goon), Ted Pierce (mysterious voices) and Dave Webber.
Animation: Norm McCabe and Izzy Ellis.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky travels over to the darkest Africa (in Wackyland) in search for the last existing Dodo - but he encounters strange and surrealistic creatures upon his discovery.

1949 remake - 'Dough for the Do Do'
This is evidently one of Bob Clampett's most memorable cartoons and even one of the most memorable of the entire WB set. Evidently Bob Clampett was inspired of the surrealistic and bizarre style of Salvador Dali which was the evident style of this cartoon as you can see so in this cartoon. This is probably the first Warner Bros. cartoons where imagination and reality is already beyond. This cartoon was inducted in 2000 in the animation field of 'National Film Registry' and is one of the few Warner Bros. cartoons to ever enter that.

Of course the cartoon was ever so popular that Clampett made a remade version five years later with 'Tin Pan Alley Cats' and Friz himself did a remake with the exact same storyline: 'Dough for the Do-Do'. Also to note that this is the last Clampett cartoon to not have Chuck Jones animating on the cartoon (the last being 'Porky and Daffy' but was uncredited). It's safe to assume that without Jones' involvement in the cartoon - Clampett got complete control which probably explains one of the earlier signs of his wackiness and unique style to the cartoon.

(You probably realize that I'm going through a different style of the posting of this blog - which I am trying out).

We begin as we find a newspaper dog rushes into the Porky in Wackyland credits barking out the latest and most important news: "Extra, read all about it, etc." It's rather neat having a character jump straight through the credits as it evidently stands out more than the names on the credits and you could say that it is deliberately used to gain attention. The newspaper boy then flies a newspaper towards the screen where we read the main article.

From an animated shot of the newspaper transformed to a background layout of the front page of The Globe - we read that Porky Pig is on a expedition in search of the last known do-do to have existed. The front headline reads: PORKY HUNTS RARE DO-DO BIRD WORTH $4000'000'000'000!! That little gag in the column of the newspaper reading: "P.S. 000'000'000," is of course very humorous and also an exaggeration as if Porky got that reward he would end up being the richest man alive and of course nobody could invest THAT large amount of money - so it's very funny. From what I've calculated - that is an investment of 4000 quadrillion dollars.

After the newspaper announcement which is the main focus of our story - we cut to Porky who is on his small plane beginning his expedition. I like how even the size of the plane matches Porky himself. After flying in perspective - Porky greets his own theatre audience explaining that he is on the hunt of the missing dodo - and even brings out a picture to prove it.

That design of the dodo used in this cartoon is incredibly unique and wonderful. It clearly does look like Clampett following Dali's ideas and even drawing out a cartoony version of a 'dodo'. We hear Porky's stutter as he has troubles with pronouncing the word 'photo' and instead says 'picture'. Porky flies from North America across the Atlantic and then travels to Africa. That design for the world certainly looks odd from outer-space but at least it's very artsy. From a plane shot view we view Porky's plane arriving at the Africa area. Clampett, himself, uses some plays around with the areas of Africa such as 'Dark Africa' and his plane flies fast a much darker shaded area called 'Darker Africa' and then to 'Darkest Africa'. Records of a 'dark Africa' is unknown but it has been referred to as a 'dark continent' probably because of dark natives residing there. Near the 'Darkest Africa' area lives an unknown area which Porky has to land - at least in this cartoon world Porky knows the location of the unknown part of Africa.

Porky then lands in a empty area in the unknown part of Africa. What makes the plane landing even broader is Clampett has the plane actually skid like how a person's feet would skid. After the skid - Porky approaches an area where it is none other than 'Wackyland'. A close up sign of 'Wackyland' reads the population is '100 nuts and a squirrel' which is Clampett playing around with words that the 'nuts' are the insane creatures of Wackyland. The motto reads: 'It can happen here'.

That dark voice that reads out the motto for Wackyland certainly shows a rather creepy side to the story and it certainly keeps me intrigued to watch the cartoon. After Porky reads the sign he steps back into his plane where he and the plane tip-toe through Wackyland in search for the Dodo.

Porky Pig then encounters the very first bizarre creature of the forest when there is a rustling on the canopy in the background. It turns out to be a muscular creature that doesn't appear to resemble any animals other than the feet resemble a bird's. After a scene which we think turns out to be a threat to Porky - it turns out the creature doesn't harm Porky and turns into some homosexual pose as it appears and then trots out of the scene acting all nutty. It's evidently a very bizarre scene - but of course; it's still rather charming because of the childish and wacky atmosphere it gives us.

Porky, out of curiosity - continues to go through Wackyland in search for the Dodo. With the 'William Tell' tune played in the background - we see Porky watches the sun rising up from the hill in the distance. It turns out that the sun was being carried by a couple of wacky creatures that are standing onto each other - one-by-one.

Porky looks at the craziness - and even points towards the audience where the silliness is coming from - although the character animation for that isn't very strong and there doesn't appear to be a strong expression on Porky's face. However - the hat-take on Porky is rather splendid pacing as Porky has clearly got his attention to the unusual surroundings. This background clearly shows some Salvador Dali - and Clampett records in an interview that he designed the backgrounds himself. The music to 'William Tell' - still playing in the sequence turns out to be a wacky creature residing in a flower using his long hooter as a flute to the music. It makes it very absurd and - the wackier the cartoon will go. The crazier it goes is when the Wackyland creature quits playing the flute and turns more upbeat by playing the drums and jazz music - which would evidently be referencing popular music of that period.

During a camera pan from the drum player - we the view a lot of the unusual sightings of Wackyland and the 'nuts' that reside there. A lot is said and shown on how to describe 'Wackyland' in that one pan with the various doodle characters walking past doing their own wacky business.

They look like these were doodles for Clampett's ideas for Wackyland creatures - and anybody's own doodles except they're being used for a 1930s animated cartoon and Clampett is getting paid to doodle. I believe this also extend's the cartoon's important for its odd and funny character designs - as well as doodles. During that pan - we stop where we find a nutty rabbit on an unattached swing which definitely is an oddball. During the pan - we pan to a cauldron where it is staff references to the Studio. The pot reads: "Treg's a Foo" - referencing sound editor Treg Brown. Then a weird creature pops out and shouts, "Hello, Bobo" which is referencing to animator Bobo Cannon who animated on the cartoon. Everything of the background during this very long pan shows the surrealistic and even the fun the background and layout artists get to use. It's a sense of freedom Clampett gave in his cartoons when Leon ordered his own directors make what they believe - and I think Clampett really followed Leon there. There is even an amusing part at the end where we see a prisoner behind bars (although even the bars are unattached) and scream for freedom where a weird cop creature arrives at the spot and whacks him with a baton before exiting at the scene. Everything of that scene is rather bizarre - the voice, the animation, the layouts, and even the timing. Were backgrounds perhaps done by Richard Thomas??

Porky wonders through Wackyland as an Al Jolson duck pops in at the scene shouting 'Mammy' in his famous 'Mammy' act which was a popular reference at the time as Jolson was popular. Loud horns are heard as Porky hides behind a tree - but it turns out to be a horn creature walking past the area touching his own horn. Porky end up being caught up in a cat-and-dog situation where he is surrounded by the fight. That scurry animation there is really fluid and amazing.

After the fight it turns out that it appears to be a conjoined cat and dog with the same body. Mmm, I wonder if that ever inspired the show 'CatDog' to be created? Porky ends up being scurried into the fight which causes him to bump into a tree - why not have the tree act rather weird with some surreal movement? We then cut to some very appealing animation of the drumming creature finishing off and as he clashes - the whole flower and himself shakes which is just crazy animation.

A sequence with characters that have heads resembling the 'Three Stooges' appear to even get vaudeville into Wackyland. That I find that stands out is before we know there are three heads in a body - they are hiding behind an igloo and we can just question why would an igloo reside in 'Africa' - but of course, this is Wackyland.

The Three Stooges are evidently talking gibberish as they poke each other in the eyes which is their comedy trademark. They then gibber in front of the audience. Of course - we would be baffled; but a messenger creature arrives quick in time and translate gibberish language to English: 'He said his mama was scared by a pawnbroker's sign' in Mel Blanc's hilarious distinctive falsetto voice. Even that English translated sentence doesn't make sense but hey - its funny. I love the fact that he just has wheels - that is just cool. Looks like it is Treg Brown having fun with his sound effects when the Three Stooges creatures poke and prod each other with their characteristic trademarks.

The next sequence which is animation by Bobe Cannon where Porky is searching for information about the dodo's whereabouts. He walks a sign worn by a googly-eyed creature who just likes to roll his  pupils non-stop. Porky reads the sign as he starts to burst with excitement blurting out questions about the Dodo's whereabouts.

The weird creature with the sign responds to Porky with a huge amount of direction signs as he shouts "That way!" which is just an oddball but I can see Clampett's wackiness going on as Porky is in a land with no logic or intelligence - but I feel it makes the cartoon a masterpiece that way. The weird creature then closes the sign with a doorway that leads to the Dodo (that is underground). Porky enters to find the Dodo which leads him to fall below Wackyland. As Porky falls down - he then lands from a spout - which turns from liquid to Porky himself. That is just incredible animation, imagination and timing which is incredibly clever.

Porky is then caught attention to a mysterious voice heard in the background where the doors even have letters of what the mysterious voice is reading out: "Introducing in person..." after a couple of doors slide past - a castle with light lettering reads 'The DoDo' attached to a castle. The bridge then drops where the dodo finally makes his entrance by crossing the moat on a jet-ski. That is a really cool design of the Dodo - as I have said. The Dodo parks his own boat where he rips an anchor but of course it sinks which proves the Dodo is nuts and retarded and that's the joy of the cartoon.

Porky and the Dodo then make their first dialogue together in this memorable scene. Of course; Porky has just found the "last" of the Dodos, and it's his chance to finally catch him.

Porky Pig: Are you really the last of the Dodos?
Dodo: Yes, I'm the last of the Dodos!

That way the Dodo just stretches his neck as his face goes straight towards' Porky is rather cool and I can see a looseness to the animation. The Dodo then goes into a crazy motion where he appears to chant 'dodo' over and over as it sounds something of a tongue twister. That little dance and where he jumps on top of Porky's head feels like something of a Daffy Duck routine. In the climax of the sequence as Porky gets rather dazed from all the jumping - the Dodo zips out and then back (behind Porky) making a police siren. So then it follows on with a chase sequence where the Dodo hides behind bizarre shaped trees acting like Daffy Duck excitedly. That little tree scene where Porky runs but falls was rather neat timing as well as the Dodo acting jumpy.

We then follow on with a magic sequence as the Dodo starts off with "Hocus pocus". He begins his magic trick by forming a pencil from his finger tips. He uses the pencil to illustrate a door. After the drawing - he goes into a wild take and instead of opening the door - he opens up the bottom part which looks all rubbery and he just scrams through.

That is just some very funny animation there where he the door is inanimate but it is treated in a very rubbery form. Clampett used that trademark a lot - even in his later cartoons where he liked to move curvy movements for guns, telescopes, etc. Porky runs into a door and crashes - classic. Porky struggles to open the door and to twist the doorknob to open. Meanwhile - the Dodo is hiding by the window sill. The really weird part is that there is no house, no wall to even hold a door or a window sill - it's all invisible and it just stays there as the purpose is that Wackyland has no logic. Porky notices the Dodo by the windowsill as he runs over to climb up but he is too slow. Good timing choice as the Dodo is evidently a much faster character, while fat Porky is much slower as a runner. As Porky climbs the windowsill - the Dodo turns up and kicks his booty through the window and the Dodo runs towards the door.

As nuts as it could go - the Dodo then uses the back part of the door as an elevator but Porky is too late to catch the Dodo. What I consider to probably be the most exaggerated part of the cartoon is they even have an animate Warner Bros. shield zoom straight in towards Porky where the Dodo rips it open with a slingshot and hitting Porky with a rock.

The WB shield just definitely pushed the limits as we all came to know the logo very well but to even use that in Wackyland is just...nuts. It's hard for me to analyse but I think perhaps it was added to add Warner Bros. credit to the Looney Tunes.  The Warner Bros. shield zips away as Porky's chase sequence continues with the dodo. The Dodo stops in midair as Porky bumps into him but the Dodo continues his wacky chase. As the Dodo reaches his wild take - he opens up the scenery (another wacky moment as we thought it was the backgrounds). The Dodo reaches an edge but adds in a bricked-wall to block Porky from chasing him. The brick wall is definitely out of nowhere. Porky crashes into the wall with bricks flying out and it then causes him to cry and whimper afterwards. Wouldn't it have been funnier if Clampett or Treg Brown to have included baby cry sounds to make it more wacky?
After a while - the Dodo walks through Wackyland acting normal and minding his own business. That characteristic walk is rather broad of the logo. We then hear the sounds of a disguised Porky Pig dressed as a newspaper man shouting out the headlines of the news. He shouts out "Porky Pig catches dodo!" which catches the Dodo's attention as it is total bogus. The Dodo falls for the trick as he shouts "Where's that, where's that? Where, where??"

Porky then responds, "Now!" which was a part of the trick to catch the Dodo and he finally has caught "the last of the Dodos" and he would be the richest man on Earth for that. Porky jumps with glee as he prances "Oh boy, I've really caught the last of the Dodos". The Dodo responds to that, "Yes, I'm really the last of the Dodos - aren't I boys?". A group of dodos arrive at the scene which frightens Porky and shout "Yeah! Woooo!!". What a funny conclusion to the cartoon as it turns out there really were more Dodos  and the jokes on Porky.

Overall comments: This is definitely Bob Clampett's masterpiece of the 'Porky Pig' era he was making - hands down. As well as one of the greater cartoons of the WB catalogue in the 1930s. Bob Clampett really has gone out there and shown off his talent and abilities he could pull off in a seven minute cartoon. His designs there are really simple-looking and they're evidently just doodles that anybody can pull off - but that's what really makes the cartoon watchable. It shows that anything can be done with animation and Bob certainly knew about 'no rules' in animation. Most animated cartoons of the 1930s followed rules - with many studios following the Disney formula where it was all about story, character personalities, etc. but good ol'Bob will have none of it in this cartoon. Even though some of his earlier cartoons with Chuck Jones working with him feel like they have a pattern of Disney-esque sequences (like a character involved with a problem - which involves character animation) was heavily used back then - but in this cartoon it really feels like Bob Clampett has shown what he can really do - and even more beyond what Tex could do around that era.

A good way that I would describe that cartoon is it feels like Bob Clampett was working around on a wackier version of Lewis Carroll characters and even the concept of 'Alice in Wonderland'. You can clearly see it there - Porky after the Dodo -- Alice chasing after the White Rabbit. Even the strange creatures of the cartoons appears to be showing Clampett trying to top Lewis Carroll but he was really influenced by Salvador Dali. Clampett gave his unit the sense of freedom to let his animators choose what they believe - and it could be he asked his colleagues to create the most surrealistic and kooky backgrounds to even be seen in a cartoon. Clampett was only roughly 24 or 25 when he made this cartoon and he pretty much had a clear mind with what he was doing and he certainly knew how to handle Porky in this cartoon. It's a shame the work later on deteoriated around 1939 when he got bored of making Porky Pig cartoons.


  1. Nice review. Definitely a Bob Clampett classic. It clearly had none of Chuck's fingerprints on this short.

  2. The expression "The Dark Continent" does not refer to Africa's inhabitants nor the abscence of light, but because much of the terrain was unexplored and mysterious.

    The gag with the Three Stooges monster is that their pose with their heads hanging down (as seen in your accompanying frame grab) resembles a pawnbroker symbol-three spheres suspended from a bar-that used to hang outside pawn shops.

    1. Seven years after this cartoon was made, Columbia actually had a Stooges short, "Three Loan Wolves" that opens up with Moe, Larry and Curly's heads on a pawnbroker's sign (albeit not in the same positions Clampett had them in for his cartoon).

  3. When this cartoon was sold by Warners along with its other B&W Looney Tunes for TV use in the 1950s, the WB shield gag was cut out of the syndication prints for the same reason the Warners opening title logo was obliterated. Also, one of the few positives to come out of the 1967 Warner Bros-Seven Arts merger is that "Porky In Wackyland" was never sent to Korea for hand-coloring, because Seven Arts had acquired the B&W shorts a few years earlier, and with "Dough for the Do-Do" already in color and in the studio's vault, this ended up as one of the handful of Porky's not sent overseas for one of those gawdawful colorization jobs.

  4. Great review of a great cartoon!!