Saturday, 8 December 2012

220. Porky in Egypt (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 219.
Release date: November 5, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky / 'Da Voices' / Various Egyptians) and Dave Weber (Humpty Bumpty).
Story: Ernest Gee.
Animation: Norman McCabe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky ends up missing a tour guide of the desert and sets himself out to the desert as he suffers from hallucination.


According to Mike Barrier in his 'Hollywood Cartoons book - after Clampett was promoted to a director; Ray Katz (management of the Clampett unit) hired Clampett's old high-school friend Ernest Gee to help come out with gags as his stories appear on a few cartoons around 1939 - as well.

So the cartoon begins as we find a citizen in one of the towers who appears to be singing Egyptian music out of his window as I guess it shows they're waking up. There are some Egyptians sitting down in the street as one of them wakes up and yawns.

Then the action and Clampett pace finally gets going as he has a pair of dice with him as the group start gambling. I like how Clampett experiments with his attempt of slow animation and then suddenly gets the pace going. While it was a good attempt, I feel he needed a strong animator for that assignment - perhaps he could've brought back Chuck Jones? Hmm. He squirms, "Baby needs a new pair of shoes. Don't fail me now!" which is a rathe typical line for when you gamble. That voice by Blanc there - I find, is rather degrading to listen to.

Meanwhile - an Egyptian woman walks out of the scene as she has her mouth covered with a veil and walks balancing a water pot on her. Even though the walk is likely rotoscoped - there is a crowd off-screen (presumably the audience) whistle at the look. The woman removes her veil and we real a hideous face as she shouts, "Hello boys" as she chuckles rather spastically - with jerky movement.

The movement is rather clumsy - but we know that it would be a difficult assignment to animate back then. So we pan through as we find there is an Egyptian sitting on a bed of spikes. What we can see is clearly exaggerated and cartoony is he has a sword through his abdomen and yet - and has survived that fatal trick. He swallows a club of fire into his mouth. Just after a few seconds - he ends up screaming on fire as those magicians have finally felt pain for the first time and that's rather funny and cartoony of Clampett.

I love the wacky animation of the Egyptian which is very loose. I love how he grabs out a water cooler to try and cool his mouth and extinguish the flames. Meanwhile there is an Egyptian caller who yells out to tourists to see an attraction of "mummy stars" and even yells "And we're pulling right out" in English.

So, a crowd of tourists then rush through to see the attraction. Some rather interesting designs on the tourists that look very simplistic. They all hop along inside the camel as the camel appears to have too many lumps which is Clampett being imaginative as usual. Also rather cute and funny is the scene where the camel also pulls a trailer that is reserved for the skunks - which is typical to see in cartoons, too where they are portrayed as outcasts. I love how Clampett jokes with Egyptian tourism compared to how Americans would display it - like using a bus for tourists but instead in Egypt they use a camel.

Meanwhile Porky arrives at the scene but is found too late as the camel riding tourists has already left. As he sees the camel leaving - he ends up having to ride a slower camel. So as they ride through the desert - as the slow camel he uses starts to sweat. He shouts for the name of the camel: Humpty Bumpty (pun for 'Humpty Dumpty') and shouts for him to "swing it!". Weird, because I thought camels can survive in a desert for days but not that camel as it does appear.


As he rides through the desert - the first signs of hallucination (perhaps) appears as the sun starts to set anger and 'burns up' extending the heat even further as he then starts to breathe fire as the temperature is only increasing. Porky ends up sweating as he stutters: "Gosh, it's roasting" where there is some nice frying effects of the sand steaming up. Another really cool use of effects animation where the sun beams the light on palm trees as they set fire and burn to crisp - and the lake ends up evaporating.

The lack of water in the desert causes the camel to start collapsing in the desert as the rhythm of the 'Death March'. Porky walks over to the back of the camel in an attempt to push his rear end to keep the camel walking through the steamy desert. As the back part of the camel's legs manage to keep on standing - Porky sweats terribly - but the legs loose balance and they land straight on Porky.


Some cool animation appears as the camel tilts upwards after sitting on Porky. There is some cool vibration effects as the beam of the sun forms into a fist and ends up socking the camel. No - the hallucination really does begin there as the camel ends up becoming rather weary and dehydrated. The cool camera effect then begins as the background location dissolves. Whilst the dissolving continues - the camel ends up hearing random voices in his head which appear to be sung in Egyptian language - and it definitely is presented as rather creepy. Then all of the voices end up using the camel's name: Humpty Bumpty. They mention his name numerous names which starts to frighten the camel. This causes the camel with his scared takes (even as the backgrounds continue to rotate and dissolve) which is a cool dissolve as full animation takes place. The camel jerks at hearing the voices as he starts to get afraid. The camel ends up freaking out and shouts "STOP!"

The camel ends up losing his mind as he ends up acting rather dramatic: "The voices, they got me". This is definitely over-the-top humour which is funny. I love how he just stretches up and shouts "It's a desert MADNESS!" The camel also ends up acting rather weird towards Porky as though he is dying which is part of the joke and he also ends up crying.


Afterwards - there appears to be a line of camels which appear to be what the camel is probably visualising - or a part of his hallucination. This is pure exaggeration in terms of acting and also animation (see the eyes widening) as he shouts "The camels are coming!" Mmm, Oscar winning performance anyone? As if something could get any gayer or even stranger - the camel ends up playing the bagpipes - which just came out of nowhere - and also performs the Highland fling before performing the bagpipes again.

As the camel runs away in the desert (suffering from the hallucination) - Porky sweats and orders for Humpty Bumpty to return to him. In a point of view shot - we find that the camel is seem bathing in a swimming pool and laughing like Hugh Herbert. Porky goes into a solid hat-take as he runs over to the pool - as he runs over to jump into the pool. However - the pool dissolves to sand and after diving he lands into the sand. Great, so now Porky is suffering from hallucination.


Causing the camel to act so strange - he ends up kissing Porky on the lips and oddly enough appears to act rather excited over the kiss. This is Clampett and story man Ernest Gee having with gags and hallucination piling up together.

So as the horse acts excited - he even zooms in closer as he reveals a brief facial feature of Bert Lehr chuckling like him - and that was also very amusing to me, and he remarks; "Camels is the craziest peoples" which is a spoof of Lehr's famous line "Monkeys are the craziest peoples". It's also been a longtime gag reference in the cartoons, too. The horse ends up rather acting kooky as he shouts out the Lone Ranger's notorious quote: "Hi-ho, Silver - away!" which is also a popular reference as it still is today. The horse ends up crashing into a tree which causes the horse to regain his consciousness again. So, after getting back to himself; the horse remarks: "Gee, I guess the heat got me. I'm okay, now". Porky is already by his side and is rather relieved that he is okay (and even Porky appears to be okay, as well). The camel then ends up hearing anonymous voices again - and ends up acting batty again.

As the voices come back again (and they're set in a rather creepy form). The camel ends up picking up Porky runs off (even though hitting a palm tree by accident). The voices still keep shouting "Come back" which even creeps me out. I wonder how the children reacted to that when the cartoon first came out.


As the camel and Porky dash out of the scene - they then arrive back into the Egyptian village again where the camel locks up the doors so he wouldn't hallucinate anymore or hear the sounds of the voices. "Safe at least" he sweats. Porky then agrees at the statement, but as the camel starts to turn sane again - Porky just ends up acting rather cuckoo as he grabs out a pirate's hat and goes into these goofy manoeuvres that Daffy Duck would've turned out.

Overall comments: This cartoon gives Clampett a clear mind and also inspiration as he has set out ideas for a cartoon where Porky is in a desert and his camel suffers from hallucination. However, when I watch the whole cartoon - it feels like Porky is only playing a minor role in the cartoon whilst as the camel plays a much more extended part than Porky as he is given short sequences usually to himself - even though Porky is there but only "beside him" most of the time. The hallucination scenes were rather staged out wonderfully in this cartoon - particularly where I believe the sun shows some proof of it - like the beam having some personality (by turning into a fist) and we know the sun has a lot of personality as the sun is Porky and the camel's enemy in the cartoon. The camel is probably the highlight of the cartoon - and to be honest - some of the exaggerated and over-dramatic acting of him reminds me of what Mike Maltese tagged along some years later when he wrote 'Often an Orphan'.

Also - Clampett and his animators definitely show some exaggeration of the animation - since it's possible true that exaggerated, fluid and vigorous animation was demanded in order to make the camel hallucination scenes actually work - and it managed to go along well. In 'Hollywood Cartoons' according to John Carey - Clampett would sometimes animate the whole scene to get the action accurate - and it could be possible he did that as the action was meticulously followed by Clampett's timing. The camel and the exaggerated scenes really do have a lot of weight in them as well as power with drawing (notice the screenshot with the camel smacked to the pine tree which really looks as though its painful). Also - the animation at the beginning was rather experimental with the exaggeration - notice the scene with the Egyptian woman who looks rotoscoped and an attempt on realistic movement but afterwards we real a cartoony, ugly hag which was needed as necessary. The gag works itself even though the rotoscoping may not have been done so well - but it did the job.

4 comments:

  1. Probably the best hallucinated animated sequence is the "Pink Elephants" sequence in 'Dumbo' - hands down..

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  2. The hallucination of the camel with the bagpipe is playing "The Campbell's are coming", as a nice play on words. At the end, Porky's 'pirate' hat is actually Napoleon's Marshal hat, a symbol for insanity (for anyone who believed they were Napoleon must be nuts).

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  3. Actually it was Lew Lehr, not Burt Lehr, who used the line "monkeys is the cwaziest peoples."

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