Sunday, 9 December 2012

221. You're an Education (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 220.
Release date: 
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Lone Ranger) and Billy Bletcher (Singing Tibetan, Thief of Bagdad).
Story: Dave Monahan.
Animation: A.C. Gamer
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis Typical 1930s story of holiday magazine characters coming to life engaged in musical songs.

This is the final cartoon directed by Frank Tashlin in his second stint at the Schlesinger Studio who left after bickering with Leon's chief-assistant Henry Binder. He went straight to Disney after leaving in March 1938.

Chuck Jones would take over his unit, and I do wonder whether Chuck had to finish off the remaining cartoons that were directed by Tashlin even though there is no record of that. As the cartoon hasn't been properly copyrighted - the credits are missing - and worse: Blue Ribboned. (Update: Sorry, my mistake - the copyright catalog credits story to Monahan and animation to Gamer). Although, what's more is that this version is missing some of what was in the theatrical version - where originally there were 45 seconds of screen footage in total eliminated in the cartoon - according to the Frank Tashlin book written by Roger Garcia. So, knowing what scenes were cut (and the rough amount of seconds deleted) perhaps there could be a surviving copy left?

The cartoon begins as we find a live-action shot of a globe winning as the focus of the cartoon is travel magazines - so the shot of the globe was a rather nice effect but I imagine there was already some cut footage. We find an exterior shot a travel agent shop as the rain is hitting down rather hard - and all I can say is that the rain looks rather unrealistic.

The off-screen chorus are singing the song in the background "Let the Rest of the World Go By" - then the chorus go into song as they sing the popular song of the time "Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?" The pan on the magazine we view a castle in the front cover of a magazine that reads: "Visit Alsace Lorraine" which is rather ironic to turn up there since the 'Alsace Lorraine' was a territory in France established by the German Empire in 1871 but was disestablished in 1918 after Germany's defeat in the First World War and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

So, it appears that Tashlin is pacing through certain magazines that would then mix with the music cues or songs that would go with the various magazines arranged by Franklyn and Stalling. We begin with a travel magazine of Hawaii as the music plays 'Aloha Oe'.

Then we fade into a travel magazine to Oxford, England where there appears to be some Oxford University students in a canoe rowing on the River Thames - the music cue is 'We're Working Our Way Through College' - as Oxford is famous for those reasons.

Following on we see some silhouette animation of 'The Miller's Daughter' as we view a magazine of 'Vienna' with the 'Blue Danube' sung by various artists. The fast pacing continues on - as we find some of the reused animation of some thistles dancing in a Scottish magazine as well as a silhouetted African tribe using the tom-tom to chant music in the 'Africa' magazine. The tom-tom has lettering that reads "Flat-Foot Flooji" which is a reference of a jazz song released the same year of the cartoon's release: Flat-Foot Floogie. More magazines pace through in this montage as we find a leprechaun dancing in an Ireland magazine; señor rites dancing to 'Curchaurcha' in a Mexico magazine. More magazines as we view a 'Paris' magazine of the Eiffel Tower - but a gag at the end where an oil field stands. More follows on as an 'England' magazine shows the Queen's guards marching down to 'I Love a Parade' - being British myself - I thought I ought to include that screenshot.

The montage scenes of the various types of magazines hardly appear to show any gags being displayed whatsoever - other than figures in magazines and the music cues of popular songs to go along with it. May have been popular at the time - but it's not much of anything these days. Even the gag where there are Russians pulling a rope in theme of 'The Song of the Volga Boatmen' (kind of what the song is about - peasants in the Volga River).

Then the Russians jump out to perform the Trepak. If I must say, how are these gags anyway when it is Russian tradition? Another scene that appeared to be cut or shortened is seen in the Holland magazine where it is reused animation of 'Little Dutch Plate' as there is a weird cut at the fade-out to the next sequence.

After that long montage sequence (probably was even longer) the audience finally applaud at the montage scene - and that montage appears to be similar animation to what has been before except animated differently.

We find a 'Cuba' magazine as there appears to be some weird pun that associates a Cuban playing a tuba - just because it rhymes? Anyway he plays the rhythm to 'When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba' and his face turns pinker from the energy. More gag follows with a snake charmer playing an instrument. More gags that relate to puns such as a American baby and an Asian baby rattling - as well as a black person stepping up 'The Steppes of Russia' which I don't particularly get. All these puns are so bad that they even included a 'Bombay' sign where there are bombs in a bay that explode. So, there are a group of rather obese black women for some reason as they dance out of the magazines singing (in lyrics) to 'When Yuba Plays the Rumba on on the Tuba'. In fact, it is a medley that is being sung as they also sing 'The Lady in Red' with the American and Oriental baby engaged in rattling music. The rattles that they shake was a rather nice idea to choose for backup music.

So after that sequence - we once again find a terrible cut where there is a shot with a Fish indian as we fade-out to a Lawrence Tibbett caricature who sings his version of the song in the 'Tibet' article. These edits are absolutely abysmal. When you see a fade-out - you expect a new sequence to start but singing the exact same song really is awful. I really wonder why they edited those out as there are obvious edits scattered in the cartoon.

The 'Rocky Mountains' magazine with the mountains rocking rather amused me. There appears to be a recurring gag through the cartoon as the tuba player continues to play until his red race turns purple and then blue until he puffs out from playing (and the tuba has a tongue sticking out) which is rather cool.

Another sequence, another song - two Hungarian kids (puns used as the kids are 'hungry' hence the country name 'Hungary') are now inside a magazine as they smell the scent of food that was baked. This time the title song is being song but with substitute lyrics and the cover song is 'Food's an Education'. The Hungarian kids grab some grub from a chef in a 'Cook Islands' magazine - mmm, that pun I do not mind, it works.

More puns follow on where it is rather cleverly done (which relates to work). They walk past 'Twin Forks' magazine, then they add some helpings such as the 'Turkey' magazine and also sandwiches from the 'Sandwich Islands' magazine. As they continue example such as he grabs out some chilli sauce from a 'Chilli' magazine (could've been spelt 'Chile') and then grabs from oysters in an 'Oyster Bay' magazine. The 'Java' magazine I thought was a very good one - as it associates with coffee. They find their picnic spot and one of the Hungarian kids grabs out a cape from the 'Cape of Good Hope' magazine so they can continue to eat their meal. It turns out that the back up singers were the obese women who were singing the 'You're an Education' parody.

Meanwhile - the cartoon appears to finally have a climax lurking on as a villainous figure steps out of the 'Bagdad' magazine and keeps on trying to hush an audience member to prevent from snitching (Mmm, could've been a gag where they shouted 'he's here' or something). He grabs out a ladder but falls as he attempts to slide down.

A Tashlin technique that is worth looking at is the pan (as we truck in from where the villain stands and then a view of the magazines back - truck back and villain is standing in different location). He grabs out a key and he aims for a magazine where he plans on stealing a diamond called the 'Kimberly Diamond Mine' which is in South Africa. As the creep sneaks out of the way - he accidentally steps on a rubber duck that quacks and wakes up a wailing baby in a 'Wales' magazine. Mmm, I wonder what a baby would have to associate with wales - even though the only connection is the pun - the wailing baby and the country.

After the baby wails - a woman in 'Central America' magazine picks up the phone and ends up dialling the numbers for 'Radio City'. So even 'Radio City' ends up dialling 'Calling all countries' on the lookout for the Bagdad creep. Other magazines like the Hawaiian girls in the 'Hawaii' magazine then make out the Tarzan call in that most unappealing and obnoxious Tarzan sound - EVER!! Gee, I thought in other cartoons that sound was replaced with a better one!

The English guards then make their way out for the hunt to go after the Bagdad thief as well as northwest bounty hunters.

Meanwhile a detective from Scotland Yard is on the lookout and uses his binoculars for the search. As he searches he finally finds the thief hiding by a magazine and then dashes after him. Then a chase sequence follows as the thief manages to escape successfully in a car - and the detective ends up driving into another car from a 'Egyptian Sudan' magazine.

As the chase sequence goes on - Tashlin appears to be engaged with experimenting on speed line effects (but without airbrush effects). As the Leaning Tower of Pisa from an Italy magazine collapses - and the car ends up crashing to the collapsed tower where the thief is prodded in the eye by guards.

So - the thief manages to end up getting caught by a rope after attempting to hide in the myst of London in magazine. He failed as the windmill from a Dutch magazine managed to successfully clear out the myst where he was caught on rope. He ends up bumping along as he is dragged through. After being bumped - it turns out he was caught by the Lone Ranger.

As the Lone Ranger rides away - the villain taps on his shoulder asking:

Thief: Who are you?
Lone: Ranger: I am the Lone Stranger.
Thief: Well, you're not alone now, big boy.

He rides along with the Lone Ranger as they both shout 'Hi ho silver' as they ride out of the scene and the cartoon fades out at that spot.

Overall comments: This is just another one of Frank Tashlin's musical cartoons where he is using the 'Harman-Ising' influence. Nothing really special that I could say of the cartoon - other then the writer is clearly engaged with puns for the travel magazines in order to makes the gags work - but I find that in these 'magazines coming to life' cartoons - it only makes puns and gags seem rather dated, dry and corny. It feels rather unlikely that Chuck Jones finished off the cartoon as this cartoon was pretty much complete by the time he left as a lot of the scenes are controlled by Tashlin's distinctive drawing style - even though there were a little bit of reused animation but anybody can reuse it in any cartoon - as he was probably over-budget for the cartoon. It would definitely be rather interesting to see what the remaining footage of the cartoon would look like as it's been a mystery since the cartoon's theatrical release - and we aren't sure whether an original print exist or is sitting in the UCLA...

Now that Frank Tash is out of the Schlesinger - he wouldn't return again until 1942 working at first as a story man before directing again and remained there until 1944 (although last credit for 'Hare Remover' - 1946). My overall view of Frank Tashlin in his second time at Warners (and first time as a director) is has definitely been a very interesting ride. He was only 23 when he started directing on Porky cartoons and was only in his 20s when making the cartoons and yet was a very talented director with very visual and film techniques that he experimented on. When I look at his work from his first years compared to his latter years. This era (1936-38) shows that he was much more concerned with developing camera effects and stunning film techniques that showed his ambition as a live-action director. There was rather less of that when he returned in '42 as that time he appeared to be more interested in his own sense of cartoon timing and also background designs. He was probably the most advanced cartoon director of the Warners directors out of Freleng, Avery and Clampett here - but he wasn't the funniest out of Avery or Clampett since he was making his own films which weren't very good in terms of storytelling but had amazing film skills which sums it up. He would be a really funny director with timing when he would return as he already adapted to the Warner Bros. humour by that point...

3 comments:

  1. Story is by Dave Monahan and animation is by A.C. Gamer. That according to the not-so-trustworthy Wikipedia.

    I wish there were others to confirm this, but because there are so many Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies out there that fall into the public domain, WB always fails to renew the copyrights of most of their Blue Ribbon-ized Merrie Melodies.

    ~Ben

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  2. Story is by Dave Monahan and animation is by A.C. Gamer. That according to the trustworthy U.S Government Copyright Catalogue for motion pictures, 1912-1939.

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  3. Watch the scenes with fade outs in this cartoon in super slow motion & u will notice the cuts

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