Friday, 21 December 2012

229. Dog Gone Modern (1939)

Warner cartoon no. 228.
Release date: January 14, 1939.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Modern Home Voices).
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Two Curious Dogs enter a modern house with curiosity as they end up with dilemmas: the big dog is caught trapped by a dishwater while a puppy is being spotted by a mechanical robot.

Chuck Jones' 2nd cartoon that he has made, and the first of his new characters he has created is the Two Curious Dogs. Just think about when Chuck came as a director; he had already broken the rules of the 'Merrie Melodies'. Originally, the 'Merrie Melodies' were only set to be a series of one-shot characters. Tex Avery already broken that rule with Daffy Duck, and also Egghead.

Here Chuck does so himself as he creates a series of characters such as the Two Curious Dogs there, probably his most notorious Disney-esque creation: Sniffles, also another creation Inki. He also appeared to have done a short series with Elmer Fudd in 1940 and early '41 but a really unfunny one. The cartoon would be remade (by Jones) eight years later with House Hunting Mice which is an improved, and funnier version but starring Hubie & Bertie.

The cartoon begins as we find the outlook of a modernised house. The sign on of the house reads as followed: Model Home Open for Inspection - Visitors Welcome Come In. Meanwhile, the two curious dogs walk into the scene noticing the rather modernised and weird looking house. They decide upon entering the futuristic house.

The two curious dogs walk through the path as they are about to approach an automatic door. Just as the big dog walks through a beam - as he touches it; the automatic door opens. It seems a little dated but clever to add some beams to show you're entering an automatic door.

We find that the big dog is rather curious as he growls at the door that opens automatically believing that the door is having some interaction towards him - such as a trick. The brown dog continues to bark at the door until he realises what the cause of the door is. The brown dog then reads the sign and realises he has to touch the beam to enter the automatic door. He barks at the puppy and gestures that it is safe to enter the house. The puppy walks into the scene but after spotting the beam appear above him - he turns frightened and enters the room barging the large dog.

After entering the mouse - the puppy then pants slightly before he turns around and spots something off-screen. This causes him to smear around as he barks out of the scene and yelps, and I suspect that it was a Ken Harris scene with the smears (as I discovered those smears were his trademark in the early Freleng cartoons). He dashes out and accidentally bumps at the larger dog.

The big dog jumps up after his fall as he growls at whoever hit him by accident but he realises it was only his puppy companion. He 'shushes' him for quietness and then finally the two dogs hear the
sounds coming from the speakers of the wall of a robotic voice.

The robotic voice announces in a futuristic voice: Welcome -- welcome to the model home. Please feel free to try any of the modern conveniences. Created for your benefit. Thank you. The announcer finishes his announcement - and back in 1939; that certainly would've been quite creative (even if it was used before) - and Chuck is already showing off his knowledge on his predictions of a futuristic home.

The dogs then agree to explore around the house so they could explore; and the puppy then steps out of the bin and walks over to the big dog as they notice a sign on the wall which contains an automatic sweeper. The puppy makes an attempt to push the button and manages. We find that the machine sets itself up where a cigar  pops out with a cable attached to it and an automatic lighter to light up the cigar. As the cigar tips some of the ash into the floor - an alarm on a door alerts of the dirt where a mechanical cleaner sweeps at the scene to clean up the mess which scares the curious dogs.

The curious dogs then walk out of the scene after the mechanical robot has left to his own door. The puppy is hiding under the tall dog, and then walks over to an 'automatic control' for the push-up chairs. As he is about to push the button - the writing changes to: I wouldn't touch that, chum! which is a little amusing.

Meanwhile the tall dog walks into the laundry room and turns on the electric dish water; and dishwashers were only brand new in the 1930s - so just think about an electric one where the humans wouldn't have to use their hands to clean the dishes.

As the machine is turned on - the dishes then start to clean themselves up through mechanical hands - that also hold soap chips to the dishes. Notice that the music cue for this scene is the same as one in the cigar sequence; and Stalling is using the theme to At Your Service, Madame. Some rather solid effects animation there. Meanwhile, the puppy is still standing near the automatic control. Out of curiosity; he presses the button as the letters then change to: Okay buddy, you asked for it! which is slightly amusing. The board then folds out (supposedly a fold-up side table) and the dog yelps out at the scene as he crashes into the utility room and bumps the tall dog into the electric dishwasher.

The tall dog then ends up being picked up by the mechanical hands in from the electric dishwasher and he ends up being washed up by the machine. The soap suds are then covered on top of him, and is even being washed in the inside of his ears in these cutesy gags. I've noticed that through the mechanical sequences; Stalling is using At Your Service, Madame over and over...but we will need to keep watching and listening.

Afterwards - the puppy then starts to break out into fits of laughter which were provided by Mel Blanc. As he laughs to himself, he then pushes a button by accident as there appear to be hooks that stretch down and carry the curious dog upwards which cause him to yelp in agony.

As he is being dragged up - he is mistaken to be a shirt as he ends up being caught by the hooks and it appears that he is going through what looks like a modernised washing mangle - remember, that mangles were still in use during the '30s; so hence the reference there. He ends up completely folded just like a shirt folder (and yet still in the theme of 'At Your Service Madame').

After being placed by the laundry chute; the dog jumps out (with legs still trapped) and yelps for help. As the tall dog is about to step out of the sink - he ends up knocking the tall dog back into the sink where he continues to get the cleaning. Looks like in this cartoon the tall dog is always the victim of more trouble stirring.

The curious dog continues to run until he jumps up on the armchairs and then ends up caught inside a vase where it breaks. After it smashes - he is finally released. The mechanical sweeper already detects smashed pieces that have hit the floor and arrives at the spot to clean up the mess. He even picks up the dog to clean up the mess under him before moving along. The mechanical robots are some very good and smooth animation where it has a strong use of three-dimension in the animation. The mechanical robot already finds its own hiding spot by placing the dirt under the rug before moving along.

The dog walks out of the scene to explore more of the modernised house. During the exploration; (which is only a few steps he took) he notices a dog bone dispenser. First, he sniffs to detect what it is. Curious as to what the button does; and I'm sure this gives the impression of the curiosity of children. The dog pushes the button and a bone slides out.

A definite Jones pose through his character layouts is where the dog looks towards the audience with a giddy look as he notices the bone. The mechanical robot quickly swishes straight to the scene where he sweeps up the broom with his own dustpan before driving off.

Believing that his own bone was stolen; the dog chases after the robot for his bone to return. As he chases after the robot; the tall dog (once again) attempts to step out but only to be knocked back in by the puppy which is a little funny and cutesy a gag. The puppy chases the robot until the robot slams the door on the puppy and he slams straight in - that certainly moved rather slowly. The dog then starts to pick himself up and bangs at the door in an attempt for the robot to open the door and return the bone. The robot instead uses his broom to whack the dog out of the scene.

The dog is rolled out and ends up hitting one of the legs of a grand piano. After the whack - mechanical hands form out as the hands then starts to play the piano to the song The Little Old Fashioned Music Box. The dog ends up barking towards the piano - and then there appears to be a flute that steps out and the dog is forced to play the piano by the mechanical hands. The mechanical hands playing the piano is very well animated.

That whole cartoon flows by as slow as a snail, since there are so many realistic and slow scenes where they find curious objects that almost causes peril. More instruments are forced at the scene which gives the dog a rather bad fright.

The dog ends up being caught in the scene as he is frightened by the trumpets playing in front of the dog; and he ends up moving from left-to-right and even caught on one of the trumpets which is good movement. Then there are a 'jack-in-a-box' group that sing the song The Little Old Fashioned Music Box. The dog ends up being attacked by more instruments as he is caught by the strings from the double-bass where he struggled to untangle himself. He even ends up trapped by tom-toms, as well as a saxophone. After that sequence which goes on for roughly a minute long (it feels too long); he then flies out of the piano by the tuba.

After being flown out of the way he ends up crashing a vase by accident which the pieces all break. He scats out of the way to avoid the mechanical robot - and the mechanical robot arrives at the spot and cleans up the mess. Just as the tall dog has been exhausted from all the extra-cleaning up from the washing. He then ends up being whacked out of the way again back to the dishwasher. Okay, but did Chuck really know when enough WAS enough? I mean, this has happened to him like four or five times - give it a break!

Just as he is running away from the mechanical robot as he is searching for his bone (still) and it had already taken him about two minutes to continue searching his bone before some *padding* was added like the piano sequence. The dog then manages to find the bone in the closet and reaches over to collect it.

The mechanical robot looks over to find the bone is missing. He looks behind to see if the bone is there but doesn't suspect anything (smears again - I still suspect that is Harris, with a solid use of movement). The dog then whacks him on the head with the bone to try and escape quickly but only to find the dog gets a little weaker as he walks back slowly as the mechanical robot is about to approach to him more. During the chase sequence where he runs up the stairs - I have to say that is probably some of the worst timing/pacing of a run there as it looks like the mechanical robot and the dog is being forced from the wind. I will say though I find that the magic carpet scene rather cool with the camera techniques being experimented.

As the dog has finally stepped out again - he if found that he is almost about to be tossed back into the laundry - so he runs away from the puppy and the incoming magic carpet. They both then ride on the magic carpet as they are escaping from the mechanical cleaner. The carpet (and before I ask - HOW COME that carpet can fly when there was simply no logical explanation??)

As they end up flying down the chute - they land in two separate bins. The mechanical cleaner wheels outside to look out for the two dogs - as the robot continues to look; the dog grabs out a mallet and whacks the robot on the head. This causes the robot to act rather dramatic, as he staggers before dying.

Meanwhile, the puppy then grabs out the bone as he points towards it - pointing he has managed to grab the bone successfully. However, the taller dog then snatches the bone and closes the bin lid and gets ownership of the bone as justice for having being dumped at least five times in the dishwasher.

Overall comments: All in all, this has been a very frustrating entry for my latest review. Already being Chuck Jones' second cartoon - this is certainly a much lower result than The Night Watchman (a cartoon which I thought had its own merits). Chuck Jones has already introduced his own set of characters which are the two curious dogs as they both appear to have the personality of dogs you would expect from a Disney production. Chuck's SECOND cartoon already bores the resemblances of the Disney cartoons, and its about as slow-paced as a Disney cartoon. Like the Disney cartoons, the 1930s appear to have a lot of padding in the scenes - and here there is certainly a good use of padding in the cartoon (but it does run at a normal cartoon length - my viewing was at 7 minutes and 24 seconds). The cartoon lacks a story itself - other then the only climax being the bone sequence (which even occurred during the middle of the cartoon and didn't appear in the cartoon again until the end. It's also not even a funny cartoon; as those two curious dogs really grind my gears - everything about them,  personalities, slow-syrrupy movement and all. The horror of having to review more of those 'toons. Chuck Jones really had a formula in his Disney-esque stories that he repeated where it often involved characters who enter a place, event, etc. and appear to have many dilemmas through the cartoon with padding included.

With that aside; I have to say that the animation there is certainly very fascinating - like the mechanical robots is certainly very good movement as it has a three-dimensional feel to the movement and all the robotic movement was absolutely great. Nevertheless, Chuck's sense of timing is painfully slow - like the chase scenes that the pacing of the cartoon is as slow as molasses in January. Overall - that cartoon is really such a bore - with no gags, slow pacing and much of the sequences like the tall dog being tossed back into the dishwasher certainly slowed the cartoon down as the puppy was caught up with even more pointless antics. However, it's also the first cartoon where Chuck Jones expresses his stories through body contact and visualisation - a technique that he would master much later by his Road Runner cartoons, or the Claude Cat and Frisky Puppy series - as well as one-shots like Much Ado About Nutting, etc. The only gags which I thought were mildly amusing were the boards that automatically changed to words like 'I wouldn't touch that, chum!' at the beginning. I should also point out - don't any of you think that Stalling overused the song At Your Service, Madame? a bit too much? Of course - Chuck would reuse his story here for a Hubie & Bertie cartoon, but a real improvement.


  1. How did you know the theme Stalling was At Your Service Madame? Is it listed anywhere or did you know the song before you saw the cartoon?

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