Friday, 4 January 2013
238. Chicken Jitters (1939)
Warner cartoon no. 237.
Release date: April 1, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Shouting Chick) and Danny Webb (Fox).
Animation: Robert Cannon and Vive Risto.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited)
Synopsis: Porky runs a poultry farm. A fox approaches and captures a helpless duckling which means the ducks go to war.
It always feels as though to me that Porky's occupation in many cartoons was as a poultry farmer - or even just a farmer. You can see it for yourself in cartoons like Porky's Poultry Plant, Golden Yeggs or even in Swooner Crooner - for as a regular farmer in Often an Oprhan. I suppose a lot of cartoons could be made for Porky to play that role.
So, the cartoon starts off as we see a sign that identifies the farm as Porky's own poultry farm. You can hear the cue to Stalling's opening of the popular song Monday Morning. A slow pan follows and we fade in to find a rooster sitting on the fence snoring and waiting until sunlight. The rooster then wakes up and grabs out his binoculars - and the sun shoots up.
The rooster clears his throat and what we believe is about to be the cockerel sound but instead the rooster shouts out, 'WAKE UP, FELLAS!' - which was a little of an amusing gag there. The pan then moves over to the henhouses where the chickens wake up - and there appears to be a dance reference which appears to be a dated dance move as they jive out of their henhouses - which is just a little weird.
I wonder if the names of the henhouses are references - I can spot the 'Jones' Family - whether it was a reference to Chuck Jones, Fred Jones, there were at least a few 'Jones' at the Studio I can suspect. The two I already mentioned, Cel washer Charles Jones, or even Chuck's brother - Richard Kent Jones who was over at his unit in '39. But we know the 'Mother Carey's Chicks' is referencing to John Carey. But anyhow - they're mostly references of the staff members.
Afterwards - we pan to a barn where we find that Porky Pig is inside the barn where he appears to be using a special microscope or sort to examine the eggs inside - I suppose. Porky then grabs out an egg where he looks inside the eggs to see if the chicks will hatch up anytime sooner. He hold one egg - no result.
The next egg, there is a chick inside that pulls a face and he pulls down the blinds showing no interest. The gag is rather funny and also cute for a chick to stick its tongue to the audience and it displays the fact of chicks not ready or wanting to be born. That gag was rather reused but more exaggerated in Tashlin's Booby Hatched.
Meanwhile at the poultry farm - we find a normal chicken strolling around the poultry plant mindings its own business until a chicken walks past and discovers some fresh corn lying on the ground. He stops and gazes at the corn and plans to eat it. He then walks over to grab the corn, but then somehow the corn appears to form into a pipe. It feels like a rather useless gag of how it was developed - so it wasn't funny.
A mother duck then walks down to the pond followed by her little ducklings who follow her - and there appears to be another duck who is an outcast that is still unhatched. I wouldn't consider that a gag - as I would just call that 'cute'.
The duck and ducklings appear to jump one by one as they walk over to the direction of the pond - as indicated on the sign above. The unhatched duckling - however takes a different route and the egg, believing its going the right direction then is about to jump and dives but lands into a tree. The egg cracks and then it reveals a new duck born. The duck starts off and then laughs, and looks at the audience and remarks, "People" which is a breaking the forth wall gag. He grabs out a camera and giggles in a rather cutesy form.
Meanwhile there are a couple of chicks that are running around as they are chasing a couple of worms that are on the loose. Porky notices the chicks are rather unhappy as the worms have dived back into the soil. Porky comes up with a solution - a recycled solution from Tashlin's Porky's Poultry Plant.
Porky grabs out a funnel as he pretends he's a snake charmer. The chicks walk over slowly and then swallow the worms. The whole animation is a complete reuse - the chicks, worms - the whole scene. Except Porky was just redrawn in that scene to make Porky look a little more Clampett like, since that scene obviously came from a Tashlin cartoon and the designs were much different by comparison. That scene definitely shows one of the reasons of why Clampett appeared to reuse more frequently than other WB directors (even though everybody reuses animation).
The worm responds by whacking him with a mallet. The duck's reaction to that is his mouth then appears to vibrate from the effect to the "Sold American" reference. That is certainly always a funny laugh - and even when the worm barks out 'Sold to an American!'.
In the next scene - we noticed a mother hen is holding onto her box of eggs and he rocks it like a baby by humming it in the theme of Rock a-Bye Baby. The eggs then hatch and it turns out that the chicks have inherited their mother's singing. They copy practically the same movement she has done which is rather funny. However - I do find the voices are very childish and obnoxious.
While the chicks are dancing and singing - we hear an off-screen voice remarking, "Well, now isn't that cute?" We then PAN forward as we notice the voice is coming from a fox sitting outside a fence. Gee, is that Clampett trying to give the scene a dramatic tone? Its an oddball for him to do that, but let's find out.
The fox comments, "so young...and tender". He stares at them as if they are food - and even his eye pupils form into a roast dinner. The fox ends up licking his chops with delight. He walks back as he comments on the looks on the chicks, 'Yum..yum...yum!' and walks back planning on eating it.
The fox - somehow, finds his way into the poultry farm - and one chick is already a target. As the shadow of the fox is seen off-screen - great effects animation set-up there. The chick then shivers from that coldness - which is a little odd. The chick looks up and then shouts out in his loud and alarming voice, 'THE FOX!' which is all exaggerated. Now that is certainly some nice exaggeration there by Clampett and Mel Blanc. A group of chicks and a duck then hide in a circle. The mother grabs out her other chicks with the duckling being the target.
The duckling (caught by the fox) then starts to whine for help. Meanwhile out in the pond, the mother duck and HER ducklings are out swimming. The mother duck hears the sounds of the duckling calling for help.
To be really sure her children are safe - she counts the number of ducks with her and then counts of how much she should have. She goes into a frantic take and then starts to use her bill to make a trumpet call to capture the fox. The ducks then set themselves up as airplanes as they fly up ready to start a war. The fox then stands up as he points his pistol towards the chickens and Porky, asking to stand back - pretending to be some gangster. The ducks have already got him surrounded so the fox dashes. He accidentally bumps into a tree and the line of ducks then fly down to peck him on the head.
The mannequin then drops and the fox is trapped inside the mannequin and the little duckling kicks him. The birds then drop a TNT firework - Porky knows what is being dropped and he picks up the duckling and runs out of the area. Move perspective move on the animation where Porky just skids and ducks to cover himself from the explosion.
The fox looks up and notices the TNT that is about to land on him. While attempting to escape from the dropping bomb and to escape - its too late. The bomb explodes - and the result is...the mannequin drops. So, as it drops the fox has already been blown up - save for his fur. The final gag is the fox fur turns into a coat and there is a little label sticking there with the price - which is a very dark gag.
This cartoon featured very few of Clampett's own charms but I will give credit for the great wacky gag which is the 'Sold American' reference. The gag where the little chick reacts and shouts out with the loud voice 'the fox!' was certainly a convincing moment - with exaggeration and tension. The action of the cartoon in the fighting sequences were roughly only a minute of footage which is rather poor story construction as it isn't enough to carry the cartoon through and its just overall a very poor paced cartoon. The 'snake charmer' reused part was probably an excuse to pad the cartoon's length as it would've ran even shorter without that.