Saturday, 31 March 2012

139. Porky the Rain-Maker (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 138.
Release date: August 1, 1936.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig/Porky's Father), Ted Pierce (Narrator) and Earle Hodgins (Inventor).
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Cecil Surry and Sid Sutherland.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky and his father are farmers where there's a drought; Porky purchases a box of weather pills to help his farm produce more rain; until animals ruin it.

The first WB cartoon that I know of to use narrations in a cartoon; and probably the first cartoon to have an off-screen narrator in cartoons; according to Frank Tashlin in Mike Barrier's interview when Tex Avery said he invented narration in cartoons. Avery has redesigned Porky in this cartoon making him look much smaller, rounder and chubbier while before that (and what Jack King used) Porky was what Michael Barrier described as a "Roscoe Arbuckle" type pig that is too large to be adorable.

Our cartoon begins with an off-screen narrator showing us a view of the farm as it is scorching because of a heatwave. The narrator announces that rain is the only hope for the farmers. Water would seem very unlikely since no rain is happening and that it is probably a heatwave season where the farmers suffer.

As we pan to a tree; we see some pretty good animation of the tree's leaves rotting which is causing a drought on the farm. The narrator then shouts "Uh-oh! Looks like they'll be no shade (singing) under the old apple tree". Of course this is spoofed from the popular song 'In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree'. A plum hanging from a stem also rots until it turns very "prunish"looking and wrinkly. All of the crops that are in the field then rot and die because of lack of water. Looks like the farmers need water desperately. Even a watermelon is having problems; but look at the animation INSIDE the watermelon that shows us the water inside is boiling; really great animation and also a good gag but interesting theory. The next gag shows egg plant melting until they crack with yolks formed since the sun has cooked them - now that is typical of Avery to put in.

Porky Pig and his father are standing by the fence watching the crops die with Porky's Poppa worry; "Worry, worry, worry". Porky Pig is of-course a child character in this short and has a father; and would sometimes alter into an adult; this would finally stop around 1938 when Frank Tashlin still did that; and in 1937 when Porky became a cuter, young adult that we all know of.

A group of farm animals then start to make noises as they exit the barn with signs. The first chicken leading the march is holding a picket sign reading "No Feed, No Eggs" and the second chicken is holding a sign reading "Ditto!". Another typical gag of Avery to put in. A mule then walks past with a sign stuck to his back reading "No Feed No Work" which shows that the gag represents the mule being stubborn ("stubborn as a mule" remember the simile?). A cow is wearing a barrel reading "Closed Shop". The last part with the cow I don't understand the gag exactly or if it is meant to be a gag.

Porky's father then brings out his purse and it has a sock at the end of it? Ha! "Here my son, take my last dollar and buy those animals something to eat". He brings out a dollar coin in which Porky has to go and buy it. That voice of Porky's father is Joe Dougherty's regular voice (I think) and Avery seemed to have liked it; but Dougherty sucks and I kind of think that stutterers who can't control themselves shouldn't be acting.

Porky Pig is about to walk to the general store to buy some animals food but gets interrupted by a presenter who is on stage giving a speech about his latest invention his rain pills. This makes Porky eager as he walks up to the man on stage.

"Do you need rain? Are your gardens down?", etc. the inventor then brings out the box of rain pills shouting that "these will help ya" where it will make it rain "where and when you want it to". The inventor then announces that "only today" he will sell the rain pills for one dollar which is very lucky for Porky since he's got one dollar.

The inventor also announces that he is giving away free pills that contain other weather forecasts such as ice, thunder, snow, cyclone, wind, earthquake, sun, lightning and rain is already on there. Porky is leaning on the platform of the stage in which he is very interested as it's just happened as a matter of fact. The inventor gets out his stick shouting "Don't lean on the platform son, you're bothering me". As Porky stops leaving and continues to listen to the inventor's smashing ideas.

The inventor then starts to hand out umbrellas for the locals that are volunteering for the inventor to demonstrate that the rain pills work. Everyone has their umbrellas out in which the inventor grabs out a rain pill. He sucks the rain pill inside a tube in his mouth and blows it out as he reaches it to the sky.

Ureka! It's raining from the clouds which is a definite miracle for Porky. This is live-action rain that Tex Avery used which I think was a process used to film rain in a studio room and transfer it onto film; other studios have used that rain process a lot but the most notable studio to use that process often is Disney. The inventor announces that the experiment demonstration has worked as Porky is holding an umbrella feeling the rain with his hand stuttering, "Oh boy real life rain" with some rain drops dropping at his hand.

The inventor shouts "Alright; who's gonna be the first to buy these rain pills". Porky brings out his one dollar coin out to the inventor as he's the first customer to buy the box of rain pills. This is a lucky day for Porky as this will save his farm, his father and marketing.

Back at the farm with the heatwave where Porky's father is walking up and down murmuring "Worry, worry, worry..." Porky Pig then arrives as his father is happy to see he brought back something but not what his father wanted which is the weather pills. He shouts and stutters, "Pills?! I thought I told ya to get (food?) not pills!". Porky's dad then tosses the box of weather pills out of the way as they scatter all over the place.

While a hen is still holding a picket sign that reads "No Feed - No Eggs!" in which the hen notices one of the pills that drops on the floor. The hen obviously doesn't know what the pill is but eats it thinking it's food - but doesn't realise what she ate was a 'Lightning Pill'.

A few seconds after eating the pill; the hen then starts to turn into lightning as it reacts from swallowing the pill as we see superb timing and spectacular lightning effects shown. The hen starts to run away but still strikes and reacts with lightning covering the hen. Meanwhile a horse is walking along and eats a pill from the ground as it turns out to be a fog pill. The donkey continues to walk with fog around his body. Meanwhile it looks like as though the fog has dissolved so much that there appears to be the same horse trotting up in the air and has a microphone (now where did THAT come from - inc. the horse on air?) in which he reports the conditions just like a air pilot "Altitude: 10'000 feet, No visibility. Ceiling: 0". Okay; but I don't know if that's meant to be a funny gag since he's showing the horse is 10'000 feet up in the air but there is no ceiling which must mean he's on ground - this is doing me head in! This is one of Avery's gags where it doesn't have to make sense as it's meant to be funny since it's impossible?

A goose then approaches the scene finding two pills on the ground a thunder pill and a wind pill. Oh boy; if the goose is going to swallow them both then how will it all mix together? Oh, I see - the goose opens his mouth with thunder sounds but the goose rumbles until the goose starts to blow wind out of his mouth. If it was made today where shows would have toilet humour - then the wind would come out of it's behind making it an ill-mannered act. ;-)

The goose then lands on a pot; oh boy - if only if strong wind went out of the goose's behind then it would set free. Porky Pig then tries tells his father, "These pills can make real rain, Pa" as his father was strumming his fingers uninterested. His father then turns surprised from Porky's words as he turns to him "Well then why didn't you say so - where is it?" Porky's father then climbs under the fence to try and find the rain pill.

Porky Pig is also on the hunt for one of the rain pills but tries to pick up a cyclone pill to find out if it was a rain pill or not. A hen dashes into the scene and takes the cyclone pill. I swear that Tex Avery was one of the first directors to use the timing technique of a character dashing into the scene on the last second just before a character is about to do something.

After swallowing the pill; the chicken goes up in the air spinning around numerous times but very, very fast to get the felling of a cyclone speed. It continues to spin like a cyclone with all of the feathers flying out until the hen has no feathers left which means its naked. Only one part of her tail is left on the end of her tail but the tail spins itself off like a cyclone which is a funny gag showing that it's still effective even on one feather. The hen turns to the audience saying "Well, would you imagine that?" this is probably a reference that I couldn't find in a Google engine search but that time is something what all the classic Looney Tunes would say for a character when surprised like in (You Were Never Duckier "I do have the darnest dreams", etc.) so this short must be the first.

Porky then runs up to take another pill away but the hen grabs it with her beak as it turns out to be an earthquake pill. The hen swallows it down her throat  in which the hen walks off. After a few seconds of the hen being normal; the hen starts to shaken up badly with random poses for the earthquake pill to set up.

The chicken then grabs onto the tree to try and halt the eruption but the erupting still continues as the tree rumbles too. Porky and his father are kneeling on the ground looking out for the earthquake pills as they are still looking for the rain pill but Porky has FINALLY found it as it was lying on the floor since no animal has got it.

The goose from earlier on in the cartoon is still shaking after the mixture of thunder and wind pills. The goose starts to build wind out of its mouth again until it crashes to Porky who is just picking up the rain pill. Bad luck Porky.

The goose then swallows the rain pill in which Porky stands up shaking the goose's neck to get the pill out shouting "Get out you varmint!" - Varmint; ah? This would be what Yosemite Sam would call Bugs later on in the cartoons made by Friz in the 40's/50s. Porky grabs the goose's beak to check inside to see what is in there but tosses it out of the way as he gives up on checking. Now that the goose has swallowed three pills; the goose shakes like thunder, and spits out the pill from the gushing wind inside his mouth. The pill shoots straight to the sky in which the trick becomes a success - rain was fallen from the grey clouds. Now a miracle happens on the farm.

This becomes a happy time for Porky Pig, his father and of course the animals. Porky is lifting his arms out feeling the rain which shows the pills he has were successful - after the animals have been screwing up with the "other" pills and of course for Porky's father who tossed the box away redeeming it as useless.

All of the plants and crops that we saw at the beginning of the cartoon that were rotting suddenly grow back again looking fresh and good as new. I wonder if the animation of the crops growing back was reversed since it's another trait of Avery - but most notably in action scenes.

A hen then runs into her hen-house where she starts to hatch more eggs - and she is able to hatch so many that it already looks like a small mountain. Gee; I wonder if this also inspired Frank Tashlin in his cartoon 'Swooner Crooner' which I've related to the cartoon to the Bingo Crosby caricatured shorts Friz made that I reviewed recently.

All of the animals including Porky's father and Porky cheer for the rain. Porky's father lifts his hat out to measure how many raindrops there are but places his hat back on where water drips on his head. They then sigh to the loveliness of the name and they are ready to break the cartoon.

This is a funny example of a breaking the forth wall type but with no dialogue but instead the animals start to react to the pills they have earlier and the only way it would stop if it digested. There is an iris out at the end of the cartoon (which should've happened before the animals reacted - as part of director's orders) with the goose stuck on the black screen, bangs at it to get back onto film in which he's dragged in from the film before the actual cartoon irises out properly when the 'That's all Folks' credits pop up.

Overall comments: Porky is of course different through design as he plays a child but this was a pretty good cartoon to watch as it didn't matter to me what age Porky varied. This cartoon gave the writers such imaginary and let them explore their minds to come up with creative new ideas. The idea for the rain pills invention would be a bestseller for farmers in particular if their crops are dying but truth to be told - WHO ELSE would want to buy a rain pill? Nobody likes rain if not needed. The other pills that the inventor invented is kind of crazy since who would want to use an earthquake pill or lightning pill; some mentally unstable person who wants to cause damage in town I guess. The only pills that I think everyone would want is the "sun" pill so it would be sunny in Winter and the snow pill - only would appeal to young people; not people who have to go to work. The animation timing was some improvement as it gave the characters some weight like the animals after swallowing the pills. Overall; a a good idea for a cartoon but those rain pills are a crazy idea to be on sale; only a miracle to Porky's farm.

Friday, 30 March 2012

138. I Love to Singa (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 137.
Release date: July 18, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Tommy Bond (Owl Jolson speaking), Billy Bletcher (Father Owl/Bird singing 'Laugh Clown Laugh'),  Martha Wentworth (Mother Owl), Lou Fulton (Stuttering Bird), Bernice Hansen (Fat Bird). Ted Pierce (Jack Bunny) and Jackie Morrow (Owl Jolson singing). (Wow! What a cast)
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Charles "Chuck" Jones and Virgil Ross.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: An owl family that only like classical music reject their crooner son, Owl Jolson who loves to swing; until his family change their minds once he's discovered doing auditions on radio.

"I love to singa; about the moon-a, and the June-a and the spring-a". Here is a review that I'm sure many fans would appreciate and this is probably one of the greatest Warner Bros. cartoons of all time. The song is probably the best used for the 'Merrie Melodies' in this period and Tex Avery certainly made a great one.

Once upon a time in the deep woods there lives a tree where the an owl couple live. There are butterflies flickering around the oak tree they live in. The music heard in the background is 'A Great Big Bunch of You'. The owner of  the oak tree is "Professor Fritz Owl" who is the Teacher of "Voice, Piano & Violin" as it's shown on the sign at the top that is carved like a violin. BUT, what Professor Fritz Owl doesn't teach and probably his most hatred ban is jazz; as the sign reads in huge red letters  

I really like that setup with the camera showing us that "jazz" is probably going to be the main part of this cartoon since the owl couple don't teach jazz at all; and the red letters tell us that it's strictly banned and only stick to classical music, ballet or opera since jazz back then is probably like the hip-hop of its time for parents which means their personalities would be cold. This is a pretty long background scene and I do like that huge close-up zooming onto the "No Jazz" sign. As the camera then starts to slide down to the doorknob of where Professor Fritz. Owl lives; we view inside the doorknob to see what is happening; and look at hat lovely perspective shot of the doorknob that is animated to see what is going on inside.

Professor Fritz. Owl is walking up and down nervously inside the living room worrying while his wife is sitting on a nest laying eggs to see if those eggs would be hatching anytime soon. Professor Owl then starts to walk up to the mother wondering if the eggs are hatching but she pulls her skirt up to check but shakes her head "no" showing they're not ready. Some pretty good character animation presented here.

Professor Owl then starts to walk up and down again with the camera angle only focusing on his feet. It appears to be a while later the same position of the carpet he's working on is already worn out since we can see the wood, which is a funny gag with only backgrounds needed to change - a trait of Avery. The husband owl walks up to his wife to check if any luck has happened. The wife looks under her skirt and nods her head since it tells us that the egg hatching is a success.

The wife owl has laid 4 eggs that are ready to hatch. Professor Fritz Owl brings out a conducting stick in which he uses it to test if the eggs will be useful for his home and to teach his children how to play music and sing in it's classical music form.

Professor Fritz Owl then starts to tap on the eggs with his conducting stick in which the first three bells make church bell chimes in which he loves the sound of. He taps on the last egg which turns out to be a sound of some cymbal clash; the parents go into shock as they listen to the sound of it again which is the sound they dislike. This tells us that one of the baby owls would be the odd one out.

The first baby owl is hatched wearing a tuxedo in which it sings opera to the song called 'Chi mi frena in tal momento' written by a composer called Donizetti back in the 19th century. Professor Fritz Owl comments; 'What a fine voice. A Caruso", this is a reference to famous Italian tenor singer from 19th and early 20th century called Enrico Caruso. The second baby owl is also wearing a suit playing the violin to the tune, 'Traumerei' written by Robert Schumann. 'What sweet music; a Fritz Kreisler' comments the father; Kreisler was a well known violinist back in the 20th century. The third baby owl hatches also wearing a tuxedo plays the flute to the Mendelssohn's Spring Song; and the father owl comments; "A lovely melody; a Mendelssohn"; and we all know who Mendelssohn is.

The background pans for the nest sequence with the animation is amazing and the whole animation is about a minute long; Avery liked to use that for his short those pans.

The forth egg to be hatched is something that completely thunderstruck the parents as the baby owl is dressed up in a more modern 1930's fashion; and not a smart suit for classical music. Instead the owl shouts out "Hello, stranger!" the owl then starts to go into a jazz popular song of the title song 'I Love to Singa'.

The owl then starts to go into song singing; I love to sing-a, about the moon-a, and the June-a and the Spring-a. I love to sing-a, about a sky, or blue-a, or tea for two-a-- The singing is interrupted by Professor Owl's comments which turns negative "A jazz singer! A crooner. Stop! Stop! Stop!!" Professor Owl almost rips off his hair in which the mother faints over listening to jazz music since they can't  take the sound of it. Brilliant character personalities here. The father tries to wake up the mother waving his hand suggesting; "Listen Mama, if he must sing; we will teach him to sing the way we want him to".

This definitely would've gotten a laugh since since the first three baby owls showed serious singing and instrument playing; while Owl Jolson (the name is an obvious reference to entertainer Al Jolson) is more lively and cheerful with his performances which is complete opposite personalities to his parents. I imagine that this scene required strong character animation in it too in order to make the gag funny. I wish I knew who animated that scene since it was probably hard to do; but since Chuck Jones got screen credit and one of the more ambitious animators - could it be him? I'm not going to go anymore since it could've been anyone. The parents' reactions are pretty funny since it went from positive comments to almost thunderstruck as though it's a huge disaster. This entire sequence there is so subtle that it's sort of hard to analyse but it's a very good sequence where it went from serious, classical music to jazzy, lively music in which the parents have an opposition to.

So; as the title card says itself - Owl Jolson is seen inside the piano room with the mother playing the piano and the young girl is singing off-key to 'Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes' and this would be Tommy Bond doing the off-key singing while a different performer is doing the singing jazzy songs. Keith Scott has identified the voice actor for the singing jazzy Owl Jolson as Jackie Morrow.

Owl Jolson is certainly not enjoying himself singing the song which is very boring and not what he can sing. Every time Mama Owl turns the page for the next part of the song; Owl Jolson sings 'I Love to Singa' without Ma noticing as he only has some few seconds to sing it. It's pretty weak character animation but we know what is happening; as it's still enjoyable watching Owl Jolson sing with a great facial expressions of the young owl looking very disgusted. Owl Jolson continues to sing 'I Love to Singa' briefly every time Mama turns the page around; and gets caught during Professor Owl's account. The take of the Professor listening to jazz again is so funny and even his personality is so funny as he's as shock as though someone has committed a crime.

Professor Fritz Owl then grabs Owl Jolson with his hands shouting:

Professor Owl: Enough is too much; out of my house you hotcha. You crooner! You falsetto! You jazz singer! (Slams door; opens it again) Phooey.

That was a pretty funny scene that's typical Avery with the Owl shouting at the door with rage as his face turns red of anger but opens the door calmly shouting "Phooey" but still has the red face. Owl Jolson turns to the audience saying "That's my pop!" as he walks down the woods not caring about his parents as he sings 'I Love to Singa' again. Papa storms out of the door fuming as Mama looks out of the window unhappy of Owl Jolson tossed out of the house weeping; "Papa, I think you were a bit too hasty". A bit? More like very hasty.

Owl Jolson walks down the path in the woods as he is whistling to the famous tune before going into song again - 'I love to sing-a; about a sky or blue-a; or a tea for two-a...

Meanwhile back at home Mama is on the phone to the police asking about her missing child. Why didn't she just run after her child and not beat her husband for tossing their child out of the house abandoning him. The Mama describes to one of the officers about what Owl Jolson looks like; "Yeah, Mr. Officer - just a little fellow with big eyes and a little red coat". This cartoon so far has proved to be very fun to me as this is just fun from the very start; and definitely one of Avery's best.

Owl Jolson continues to walk down the path whistling to his favourite song that he sings throughout the cartoon until he stops to see what amazes him; a tree that is a radio station called "G-O-N-G". He joins in a huge queue in the auditions which a type of talent contest. I love that scene with the reject section that shows the rejected contestants slide out of the tree and to the count; it's good comic timing and the sound effects. Owl Jolson joins the queue.

Inside the radio station shows a line of birds queueing and the judge of his "amateur hour" is called Jack Bunny (a reference to comedian Jack Benny). The Jack Bunny judge seems to be such a stickler for talent that he rejects everyone who is close to it. A bird plays the saxophone to "Nola" but gets rejected as Jack Bunny hits the gong with the mallet and pulls down the rope leaving with a trap door. A bird with an accordion plays "Turkey in the Straw" but is also rejected as we zoom in to the trap door with the accordion finishing. A bird with a deep voice then sings his version of 'Laugh, Clown, Laugh' but is also rejected. The next part shows a fat bird voiced by Bernice Hansen singing 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles' but gets rejected but her fat body is jammed on the trap door but gets whacked down by a mallet - a funny Avery gag.

Meanwhile back at home Mama and Papa are sitting in the lounge with Papa walking up and down worried about his son for the first time. Mama is weeping on the armchair listening to the radio on what's happening.

Police officer: Calling all cars. Calling all cars. Report to your stations for further instructions. That is all.
Mama: I wonder if they've found my little boy.
Police officer: No we didn't, lady.

Definitely an Avery gag/line that he would use for these type of gags since it really makes no sense but it's so appealing and funny in its context that it would count as a great gag since it shows Avery is having a lot of fun making these cartoons. I like the take when the Mama and Papa look at each other as though "Did that radio just speak to us?!".

Back at the radio station; a stuttering bird (voiced by Lou Fulton; not Dougherty - let's not get mixed up here) is reciting the poetry of "Simple Simon" but struggles while stuttering it but gives up "Aw, shucks" before hitting the gong and falling down the trap door himself.

A telegraph boy then hands a secretary bird a telegram who announces via radio, "We just received another telegram. Station G-O-N-G. Stop. Your program is coming in great. Stop. Think it's fine. Stop. Like to hear your amateurs. Stop..." we pan towards Owl Jolson who is standing on stage as Jack Bunny watches them but we pan back where she reads the telegram becomes a type of subtle pun where every time she reads the letters at the end of a short sentence saying "Stop"; she tells the telegraph boy to "STOP" in his attempt to seduce her until she pushes him out of the way. In telegrams they would read out "Stops" for end of sentences; and that's the gag being presented here. Here is the rest of the quote after the PAN back from Owl Jolson and Jack Bunny; "They're all very funny. Stop. Keep up the good work. Stop! Good luck. Stop! The Gang. STOP!" then smacks the telegraph boy.

Jack Bunny asks Owl Jolson; "What's your name, son?" The young owl pulls out the card as it shows us his name "Owl Jolson" - the Al Jolson parody name. Owl Jolson then starts to go into song singing the whole song of 'I Love to Singa'. The finale of this cartoon begins and this is probably my favourite of this entire cartoon.

The song is brilliant and a brilliant choice made by Avery who turned it into a great cartoon. I love the animation of Jack Bunny about to smack the gong until he realises that he likes Owl Jolson's singing and turns into a grin. Meanwhile back at home, Mama hears Owl Jolson on radio singing immediately recognising him since he sings the song regularly shouts out "Come Papa, come children it's him at the radio station!" Mama grabs Pa with the three little owls that they accepted when hatched. I love how they rush out of the door with the baby owls dangling. Cute.

Owl Jolson continues to sing the great song until Jack Bunny picks up the First Prize trophy and waves his hands enjoying the song. You'll have noticed the animation error when the trophy is placed behind the mallet but the next scene the mallet is placed in front without any movement. The owl family then run inside the radio station looking at Owl Jolson inside the studio recording session singing.

Owl Jolson continues to sing his favourite song until he looks out the window and almost flies out of his skin to find his parents. Knowing about how strict his parents are with music; he  thinks that he is doing singing lessons with Mama as he starts to switch song to 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' singing horribly that puts off Jack Bunny as he places the trophy on the floor. The family notice that Jack Bunny is about to reject Owl Jolson and for the child's benefit; they rush inside the studio stopping from Jack Bunny banging the gong.

Professor Owl then runs in shouting "Stop! Stop! Stop! Enough is too much"; Papa then encourages his son Owl Jolson to finish off the rest of the song he was singing to help change Jack Bunny's mind as he sings a part of it; giving Owl Jolson the idea - "Go and sing-a; about your moon-a and your June-a. What a swinger! Go on and swing-a". Papa has immediately changed his mind as he seems to like jazz now. He then goes back into song with the owl family dancing behind him. Jack Bunny is glad to see he's back on tract as he grabs out the trophy.

Jack Bunny walks up to Owl Jolson as he hands him the First Prize trophy to him; and walks off satisfied. The cartoon finishes with Owl Jolson singing off the last verse of the song with the family doing the dance routines backwards. They all finish altogether singing "We loves to sing". We iris out; but only the trophy is left on the black screen; Owl Jolson opens up the iris to fetch his trophy.

Overall comments: This is an even more improvement to Avery's 'Page Miss Glory' and this is probably the greatest Merrie Melody cartoon of the 1930's - my favourite Merry Melody of that decade.  This is the first Warner Bros. cartoon that I (chronologically reviewing) has made me smile while watching from beginning to end. It was just a charming cartoon; and this is probably the first Warner Bros. cartoon to have such appealing character personalities. I love the concept of how two, cold parents want their children to sing and perform the classical way but not Owl Jolson who was born to swing. The animation was very appealing with strong character animation from animators like Chuck Jones and Virgil Ross who both got screen credits. The gags are pretty amusing even though I think the appeal of the cartoon was sort of the theme. I guess that Owl Jolson could've sung a different song that is jazz in the cartoon but the song 'I Love to Singa' is an important key song for this short so it makes sense. The parents (particularly the father) was probably too harsh on Owl Jolson earlier on and takes jazz too seriously but I'm glad he changed his name. I guess there's a moral in the cartoon; "Respect people's talent/passion even if it won't appeal to you".

I think what's important is that Avery and his crew enjoyed what they were making and got to do what they like with this short as it showed the more they enjoyed and had fun with them it would appeal to an audience; while for Friz Freleng with his Merry Melodies he doesn't seem to enjoy making them or even changing anything. This cartoon sort of displays the real world in a way; since it shows a father abandoning his child by kicking him out of the house, and even a judge with cigars tell us that. The sexual harassment gag was amusing to look at even though it's probably dated. The greatest Warner Bros. made so far from this standpoint - no question. Even one of Tex Avery's greatest cartoons, as well as one of the greatest Warner Bros. cartoons of all time. Back then when the 'Merrie Melodies' were just a series to promote new songs coming out; Friz Freleng had to do a lot of it and most of them flawed; but Tex Avery certainly made it work! This is what we should've seen a long time ago in the Harman-Isings or 1934-1935 Merrie Melodies - Avery and the writers found a way to make an appealing story, with great characters combined with the song that is sung throughout the entire cartoon since that song is the theme of the cartoon. I liked the long pan of the nest sequence very much which appealed to me. The story I think was well written and planned and it's a shame the writer is unknown (probably Avery or Tubby Millar). Well; what can I say? This is a big breakthrough for Warner Bros. cartoon and definitely the best cartoon of 1936.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

137. Porky's Pet (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 136.
Release date: July 11, 1936.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Jack King.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig).
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Cal Dalton and Sandy Walker.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky Pig and his pet ostrich, Lulu try to board a train but Porky plans on hiding Lulu in the train as birds are now allowed to board as passengers.

The first Porky cartoon to have "Porky" to have his name in the titles and it pretty much tells us that Porky is the permanent star character of the "Looney Tunes" for roughly five or six years when Bugs Bunny became the true star of the Looney Tunes that we all know of today.

The cartoon starts off with a goat-looking postman who is riding on his bike on the way to Porky's house. The goat then accidentally bumps his bike on the road on a part that looks like it needs reconstruction. The goat mail clerk cycling is probably a cycle but the bump scene is full animation but I wonder if it went back to cycle after that.

The goat postman cycling then makes a turning point by the house that Porky Pig lives in. The goat then makes a bump on the bike leaving him hitting the pavement before walking to the porch of Porky's house. The goat postman does a little merry dance before ringing the doorbell. That goat certainly needs to be aware of safety and considering that he hasn't got a helmet and could've cracked his head.

Porky Pig then walks up to his door in which the goat's hand reaches inside the door shouting "Telegram". Porky signs a cheque to the goat postman and the postman then leaves Porky's house.

Porky unfolds the envelope and reads what's inside. The telegram reads (as you can already see for yourself in the screen grab I've displayed) - Mr. Porky Pig - Can Use you and Lulu [Porky's pet ostrich] in my New Show $75 Week. Stop. Come New York at Once. J. Botts, Producer. Well the last part of the telegram certainly didn't seem like proper English other than a rushed letter. It's appeared to be that Porky and his pet ostrich Lulu are going to be stars for a new show (Broadway or roadshow? I dunno). Porky screams in delight "Whhooppee!" which means that Jack King definitely got influence from 'Gold Diggers of '49' in which Porky shouted it now. Hang on a minute; here is a quote from my "Gold Diggers" review I wrote:
Porky (again) shouts his annoying "Whoopee!" sound in which is the only carton we'll hear it (as far as I know)
Wow! What WAS I thinking when I wrote that down; although it's likely that I had forgotten about 'Porky's Pet' - well most of it that I couldn't remember the "Whoopies" by Porky but only in 'Gold Diggers of '49' since it's most famous of that use. Apologies for that error. I bet you'll be thinking - To err is unacceptable; to forgive is bullshit! ;-)

Porky then runs up the stairs to his bedroom where his pet ostrich Lulu with it's head inside a cage. Porky tells her the news, "Look Lulu, look" as he stutters it of course. Lulu is satisfied with the letter he received. I can't understand what Lulu the ostrich is saying but it appears to be some catchphrase that some dated actor/comedian around that time. Porky informs to Lulu that they're "gonna be big shots".

Lulu the ostrich then starts to rock the rocking chair in which Porky opens the cage to pull Lulu's head out and ties the rope around her neck. "Let's go" orders Porky as they run out of the house trying to catch a train. Porky runs down the stairs with Lulu sliding down the banister of the stairs but gets jabbed in the crotch from the knob of the stairs. The ostrich acts all kooky until it jumps off the stairs as the pair dash out of the house for the nearest train but the door slams on Lulu. Lulu squawks to get out of the house as Porky takes him out. Somehow; that ostrich reminds me of a prototype of Daffy Duck; they're both birds except they have huge differences; ducks can fly, ostriches are flightless; ducks are small and ostriches are huge; and the MOST important part is DAFFY IS A FRIGGIN DUCK! Although it's highly improbable that his was a prototype of Daffy since Avery is the creator but the ostrich has the kookiness of it but that's it.

Porky and Lulu arrive at the platform of the train station as the nearby train is coming by in which Porky and Lulu are trying to wave at the train to grab attention but fail. The incoming steam train has a lot of speed lines which is similar to 'Gold Diggers' when Beans'  car goes fast after pouring it with moonshine.

The train then streams past the train station in which the entire train station including Porky and Lulu spin around with these twisted speedlines. Porky who is feeling very weary then shouts "Stop!" in which he spins around carefully. Lulu the ostrich has her head dunked onto the hole on the wood - as the gag shows that ostriches do dunk their heads in the sand but instead it's on a plank of wood. Another train then arrives in which it makes a very bumpy stop.

Porky and Lulu then step inside the train as they try to buy to enter the train. The conductor on the train shouts "You can't bring no birds on this train" in which he tosses out Lulu the ostrich and Porky himself. The voice of the conductor is unknown but also heard in 'Country Mouse'  and 'A Cartoonist's Nightmare' but he voice however is unknown.

Porky thinks of a Plan B when whispering to Lulu in the ear of her going by the tracks while he boards the train in order to try and get her in without any of the crew members of the train noticing. Okay but that ostrich squawking is just annoying to me. Porky boards the train in which Lulu the ostrich follows
I do like that animation that shows the train tracks moving that has careful drawings; AC Gamer wouldn't have been at Warners already by then since he was the Studio's effects artist

?Lulu is then standing on the side of the tracks waiting for Porky to grab Lulu in the neck for her to arrive on the train. Porky already has his hand out in which he manages to grab Lulu in the neck on time. The animation of the neck stretching shows some pretty good, loose animation. The woman looks outside of her window probably rather terrified at an ostrich approaching the train but I wouldn't blame her - I hate ostriches.

Lulu the ostrich then starts to make squawking sounds which annoys Porky since all the passengers will find out about an ostrich (well they already knew from outside the window) but anyway the conductor of the train then. Porky Pig then insists on hiding Lulu the ostrich under the seat in which Porky is sitting on.

Porky starts to stutter to Lulu "Quick Lulu, before they see us"; as Porky is still pushing Lulu's behind under the seat until Lulu's neck and head pops out at the end of the cushion which I guess is meant to be a gag; but there's not enough weight in the animation to make the gag funny. This whole Porky pushing Lulu's behind with the head popping up is repeated a couple of times and the only way it's made funny is by Treg Brown's marvellous sounds of course. As Porky hears the bell; he sits down stuffing the ostrich's behind through the chair to try and not to make the conductor notice until Porky jumps out after being bitten by an ostrich. Boy if that was me doing that to the ostrich and being bitten I'd probably die of horror as I have a phobia over ostriches but not cartoon ones.

As Lulu's head is stuffed back down the cushion again; the ostrich then starts to peek under the seats being rather nosey and all. Lulu the ostrich then eats a hairpiece from a sleeping passenger of the train as she guzzles it down her throat with that funny guzzling sound effect. I do not know why but for some reason the close-up of the ostrich's face seems to have been drawn in a realistic form that is shown here.

Meanwhile we see what looks like a resemblance or Ham or Ex that is playing with a remote control toy plane. Lulu the ostrich is eager in looking at the look of the plane.

The ostrich's neck then starts to move while it's looking at the plane after it forms into a twist in the neck since the ostrich is spinning it's head around and around. Lulu the ostrich then starts to swallow the plane inside her neck in which starts to cause some type of crazy scene in which Lulu's neck starts to spin around until it flips around hitting the wall with some pretty loose stuff.

Lulu the ostrich then starts to walk around nosily again until he finds an accordion lying on a chair. Lulu then walks around with her neck going up and down with the accordion sounds heard. This wakes up the sleeping passengers on the train as they look at what Lulu is doing.

The ticket collector then walks into the coach asking for tickets as Porky is frightened to see him since it's the same person who picked the ostrich out. Porky now has to try and find a way to hide Lulu again instead of hiding her under the seat again. Porky grabs out a spare guitar case in which he stuffs Lulu inside. He manages to make Lulu swallow the accordion down her neck. Porky closes the case but Lulu's feathers are sticking out in which Porky grabs out a pair of scissors to cut them.

The ticket collector then walks up shouting "Tickets please, tickets please". The guitar case with Lulu inside there then starts to move squawking as the legs pops out and almost runs over the ticket collector while he was sitting on top of the guitar case. The ticket collector (probably conductor) then grabs Lulu by the neck and tosses her out of the window and does the same for Porky.

Porky and Lulu are already tossed out of the train but then they find a trolley car for them to go on and catch up with the train. They can't go anywhere since there is a cow mooing but Porky holds onto it's tail in which the ride for the cow to catch with the train arrives. The ticket collector is standing outside looking rather stunned to find that Porky and Lulu have already catch up with them with the running cow. I do wonder what Porky is exactly doing with the hand position since he's doing the peace time but backwards; it's like as though he's swearing.

Overall comments: It feels to me as though Jack King created a new pet character for Porky probably help boost his star position for the Looney Tunes in which the ostrich is kind of a screwball but it's pretty clear that the audience didn't care for the character as she was only used in this short and 'Porky's Moving Day'. Jack King probably only showed some improvement in his cartoon in terms of speed and such; but his humor hasn't been adapted very much although at least shows some improvement of gags; I guess. The animation wasn't very snappy at times but at least we got the knack to see some loose movement of the ostrich. There really isn't a whole lot to comment about in this cartoon at all since it's pretty much a lack luster but I think this cartoon tells us the point that Porky is the new star to the 'Looney Tunes' after it took him about a year for that to happen. Question is; I wouldn't understand why Porky Pig would want to have a pet ostrich.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

136. When I Yoo Hoo (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 135.
Release date: June 27, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown.
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Bob McKimson and Sandy Walker.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: In order to end the feud of the Weavers and the Matthews ordered by the sheriff; a tournament between a rooster fight is held and the loser gets out of the county.

Our cartoon begins with a sign on a house that tells us we're in the town of Hickory Holler and the population is 42 Weavers and 41 Matthews; which altogether is 83 people. I wonder what happened to the 42nd Matthew if there was one? I imagine this is meant to be a spoof of the "Hatfield-McCoy" fued that happened back in West Virginia-Kentucky in the 19th century. The countryside where they live is sure lovely.

We then go to a shot of these hillbilly animals that are enjoying hanging around at a shack playing music. The title card tells us it's "The Weavers". As we pan to the left side; we see the "Matthews" in which the citizens are sleeping in their beds with  two dog snoring and rolling the duvet up and down because of them snoring. Everyone is basically asleep; and there's a pig that snores in which the feathers of a chicken's behind almost fall us - best I remember that gag was reused from "Buddy and Towser".

Back to the Weavers as we know they're the spiritual family in the town in which they like to dance. A yodeling dog is going into song singing the title song When I Yoo Hoo. The yodeler continues to spit to the floor while singing the song.

A cow (who I imagine is the yodeler's wife) steps out to the front porch of the shack as she performs us a dance. The dance scene is really nothing to be amazed at and I guess because yokels aren't amazing; even they're singing. I imagine when the song is being song; the folks playing the instruments is cycle animation; as well as the chickens pecking the ground but the yokel yodeling is probably full animation which interests me on how it would work on paper.

One of the banjo players continue to play until the sounds of a bomb explosion is heard coming from the Matthews. The banjo player warns the Weavers; "Hey the Matthews are up". The gun firing continues as they run inside the shack while they are continuing fighting. This is the parody of the feud that is shown here.

Inside the shack belonging to the Matthews is a dog leader who is shooting with his gun by using his toes; to keep it at a skilled position. Every time the gun outside the window fires; the gun seems to turn all sloppy but as it's taken back inside it's straight again. A Pig Matthew wearing a Davy Crockett hat then shoots with his gun but flies back and hits his bed in which the bed folds back to the wall before landing back down in which the Pig bounces. Wow that pig knows some maneuvers (not).

Back inside the Weaver shack the bog Weaver wearing the Davy Crockett hat are shooting from inside by the window in which a bullet hits a Davy Crockett hat. The very weird part is that the hat jumps out of his head and yelps in pain scattering like a dog. I guess that is meant to be a gag but how does it make sense? The dog grabs out a cub as he whacks the Davy Crockett hat to place it back on his head.

Meanwhile while the fighting continues there is a driver on the road on one of the early motorcars in which when he trips on the road; the engine flies out but lands back on the same position. I imagine that the dog driver must know about the feuds between the Weavers and Matthews and probably a governor considering that he grabs out a paper and hammer to display something.

The governor dog then starts to hammer the notice sign to the paper for the Weavers and Matthews to see and then drives back. The notice reads; "NOTICE For the Peace of the Valley the Weavers and Matthews are hereby notified to settle their Fued by a Rooster Fight to be held at Higgin's Barn - Loser Will Leave the County". As it turns out it was written by the sheriff in which he wants the feud to end so they can separate valleys.

A Matthew pig grabs out the truce flag to show no mercy reads the notice sign on the tree in which he runs off knowing the news to tell the Matthews.  A Weaver dog is also holding the truce flag as he reads the notice sign on the tree and runs off to tell the Weavers, "Get out those roosters; we're going to beat them Weavers"; okay but is THIS meant to be a Weaver or a Matthew since he was from the right; this confuses me?!

The Weavers and Mathews then enter Higgin's Barn with their guns just in case of a feud. They all cheer inside of the arena of the roosters in the boxing center. The referee then orders everyone to be quiet as he will be announcing, "Tonight you'll see the valley of peace for Hickory Holler". He points to his right is a rooster defending the Weavers. The Weavers cheer on the rooster they were given.

The referee points to his right the rooster that will be fighting for the Matthews team in which the Matthews both cheer. Now the roosters fighting should be easy to identify if you seen at it.

The referee also announces that after the fight will be the end of the feud of the Matthews and the Weavers. He then declares the rooster fight to begin. The cages of the roosters then open as they both charge to each other. As they come close to each other they glare at each other face to face as they move their necks still in position.

Their necks are then tall in which they both walk around in circles looking at each other in which their necks get tied up like a rope. This is only the bodies of the rooster being animated while the faces are just still for a couple of seconds - this is a good idea to use but I imagine that it's a very difficult animation process to do. The heads then unswirl as they both hit the ground.

The roosters then jump back up again as they both start fighting with each other jumping with William Tell Overture heard in the background. The voices of the Matthews and Weavers are heard in the background as though they're arguing nothing is happening.

The Matthews rooster then kicks the Weaver rooster which almost flies off with the feathered part of the neck almost flying off. The Weaver rooster then fights back with its feet kicking the Matthews rooster's head. The Matthews rooster then repeats the same maneuver. It then gets to the point where they're both fighting at the same time.

As the fighting of the roosters continue; the bell then bangs in which they go back into positions before fighting again. I quite like the way of how they are fighting and not touching the ground which does entertain me in a way.

As the two roosters stop fighting the Matthews rooster then starts to stomp his feet in rage clucking and complaining. The Weavers rooster then kicks the Matthews' rooster's neck up in which his neck stretches. The Weavers rooster then jumps on top of his head in which he jumps down for the neck to lower back into it's normal size.

The Matthews rooster is completely weary in which the Weavers won that round. The Matthews rooster reaches the end of the canvas when he notices a Matthew holding onto a bucket of moonshine. The rooster takes a jig from the bottle in which it comes very energetic and mad. The Matthews rooster will be able to fight with such movement.

The Matthews rooster then walks up to the Weaver rooster jumping the rooster in the stomach with feathers flying out until the feathers lye back into his skin. This maneuver is repeated a few times (My gosh; I do keep on repeating that word - I guess it's the appropriate word to use for this cartoon since it involves movement and fighting). This is a happy round for the Matthews in which they are cheering on for the rooster as the Weavers are being defeated.

The Weaver now keeps on swinging back and forth on the rails of the canvas but does whack the rooster on the head which shows some type of physical comeback.

They lie both lie on top of the ground unconscious until the referee enters the arena pitch trying to decide who is the winner. The winner as chosen by the referee is the Matthews chicken which means the Weavers have to get out of town. The Weavers boo at the referee in which a Weaver grabs out his shotgun to try and shoot the referee but only got his hat.

The referee is also turning indecisive since he can't make his mind up and instead chooses the Weaver rooster as the winner but the Matthews get the same reaction from the Weavers. Fearing that he'll get shot again; he shouts "It's a draw" that shows that they both win.

This turns into a fight into the arena as they all start to beat up the referee. This is pretty funny character animation of the referee who can't make his mind and I'd say; pretty meek behaviour to have. The animation of the citizens fighting is just clumsy to look at; it looks bad; couldn't someone not tackle out a fighting action scene like that? The two roosters that were on the sides of the Matthews and the Weavers each are then sitting on the seats cheering on the fight on who's going to win. You'd think that at the end the feud will be settled when the joke is that nothing changes.

Overall comments: Friz Freleng has chosen an interesting idea to make as a short that was a disguised caricature of the Hatfield-McCoy feud and this short wasn't bad; but it wasn't until about 10 years later when Disney made a short based on the feud "The Martins and the Coys" where it was really funny or even going to 14 years later when the animator on that short; Bob McKimson made another funny cartoon spoofed of the feud 'Hillbilly Hare'. There weren't too many gags focusing on the feud really but the fun parts are probably the rooster fight. I enjoy watching the parts such as when the roosters are fighting on mid-air. There really isn't much for me to comment on the short except that it had a funny ending when we thought the feud would end but it's still as strong as ever; with the roosters only being the fans cheering on their sides (Weavers) and (Matthews). This short definitely didn't focus on the routines Friz Freleng always did such as a singing and dancing routine, a chase sequence that has to have a villain in it; or the girl. This definitely had its own story with the fight of the roosters, and only the song was played at the beginning.