Saturday, 26 January 2013

243. Kristopher Kolumbus, Jr. (1939)

starring PORKY PIG as Kristopher Kolumbus

Warner cartoon no. 242.
Release date: May 13, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Sea Serpents / Native American Greeter).
Animation: Norm McCabe and Izzy Ellis.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky portrays as American discoverer Christopher Columbus where he is at a journey to a world endorsed by the Queen of Spain.

With the cartoon already features Porky Pig playing at Kristopher Kolumbus Jr. (parody of famous explorer who discovered America - Christopher Columbus). Clampett already featured Porky playing as Mr. Moto in Porky's Movie Mystery so here he's using him as a role for a different character - I guess Clampett was bored of Porky and tried to spice him up a little.

As already indicated in the title cards - Porky is playing ANOTHER character (well more like figure) who is Christopher Columbus (but spelt with 'Ks' - I guess satiric misspelling is fun). The song in the background, I believe, is Let That Be a Lesson to You which can be heard in Katnip Kollege.

The narrator speaks out and takes the story back to 1492 - where astronomers used to believe the world was 'flat as a pancake'. The layout of the Earth looking flat provides a nice illustration to what astronomers theorised of the Earth before it was proved wrong - even when the background artist excludes the 'New World' off.

The narrator moves to the Queen of Spain's palace where Porky is portrayed as Kristopher Kolumbus Jr. (for some reason) where he proposes to prove to Queen Isabella the world is not flat.

He shows an example (all performed through pantomime). Porky demonstrates by grabbing out a baseball and he tosses it briskly into the horizon. After it is tossed - he waits and the ball arrives back and he catches it! The music cue for the sequence is Boccherini's Minuetto. He then jumps with joy for catching it. It turns out the baseball already has stamps covered over it to show its been through parts of the United States, and China. The Queen is impressed by Porky's demonstrations that she hands over a box of jewels to him as a gift to finance his expedition - which was what happened in history. Porky thanks the Queen try trying to stutter 'her Majesty' but instead stutters out 'thanks Queenie'.

The next sequence features Porky's expedition about to begin as he set with his supposedly 'brave crew' where his crew end up wobbling their feet and clattering their teeth with finger. Porky tries to stick firm with them, 'Why fellas, you ain't scared to go are you? What are you - men or mice?'

The crew then transform into mice and admit they're whimps and they scram out of the boat refusing to go on the expedition. The transform scene is just bizarre and creepy. Afterwards - Porky pulls the rope so the sail could stick out but it turns out the sail is a girl's blouse which is a typical Clampett joke.

The narrator responds 'listen to the crowd roar'. There is hardly anybody at the pier who is watching his departure - which is a little amusing. The ship then departs to set sail for the 'New World' as the ship leaves there are signs that read 'No Parking after 5 P.M.' which was used for humorous purposes. The animation of the ship sailing looks too small compared to how the signs have been drawn on a large scale basis. The ship makes a skid through the buoy and then makes the journey to America - but...I thought Columbus originally was looking for a passage to India.

As the ship sailed at night - the narrator explains about how Kristopher Kolumbus Jr. was excellent at navigating that he used his telescope to follow the stars which of course was documented in history. As Porky uses his telescope to follow the stars - he spots one star (in a POV shot) where an arrow points to America to make the journey more obvious which is a rather corny gag.

Porky then addresses to the audience with a  cheesy one-liner: 'Gee, I could sure mess up a lot of History books by turning back now, couldn't I folks?' and he chuckles to himself. There is a great scene that follows on where the narrator continues '40 days and 40 nights passed...'.

There is a good use of timing by Clampett where the sky turns to daylight and then flickers out - it works in a process where it flickers on and off like a lightbulb which is a cool effect. The amusing part is the pacing scene only goes up to 39 days and nights where the narrator reminds the behind-the-scenes crew to fix the error - and then it changes to 40 days. An amusing and silly gag which is clearly an inspiration of a Tex Avery gag - which is just a spoof of a technical error in a animated cartoon.

The next sequence fades to where Porky is reading a map as he is about to enter a Sea Serpent territory. Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave can be heard briefly in the background. The narrator narrates the part about sea serpents lurking in the area. Porky scoffs that there is no such thing as a sea serpent. It turns out there is one next to him.

I'm going to suspect that the scene there might be Bobe Cannon because the lip-synch doesn't match to the dialogue. The voice of the sea serpent is rather funny. Porky then responds, 'No - you're not a pollywog. You're a--' Porky then makes a take as he spots the sea serpent.

He pulls his foot out of the plank and he climbs to the top of the crow's nest. The sea serpent with the funny voice then shows off with his muscles. However an even larger and tougher sea serpent comes out and shouts 'Oh yeah!' who is seen as very muscly and fierce that the little sea serpent swims out of the scene frightened with the bigger sea serpent following. Porky's ship is no longer in danger afterwards.

After days and delays of travelling through the seas - Porky has finally approached land which bounces up in the horizon. Porky jumps up with excitement as he spots it with a telescope. The animation of the land jumping up is rather cool. As he has approached the shores of the 'New World' we find an Indian statue at the coast (resemblance to Statue of Liberty) and we pan to the left where a sign reads: try our DANDRUFF CURE - where it shows some puns such as a 'scalp' treatment.

The pan then moves forward as the narrator mentions about the native indians greeted Porky as he was the first explorer of America (in this cartoon). We find the Indians greet Porky as they are riding on a riverboat to with a banner that pays fees to watch a 'white men' which is just an odd gag. There is even a weird sequence in the pan where the Indians appear to be grinning towards the 'white men'.

I don't quite get the entire gag, but even as a whole its not funny. After the indians greet Kolumbus - the official greeter arrives in a speedboat through the sea and arrives and boards in Porky's ship. Porky greets the Chief with a 'How' as well as the hand gesture.

The official greeter greets Porky through the dated radio catchphrase, 'How DO you do?' which is a reference to Bert Jordan's Mad Russian character. I like the set up as he raises his hand for the greeting but goes through a dated radio catchphrase. Must've got some laughs in the theatres. The next scene then features Porky riding through the river where he is greeted by the Indian tribes during his visit - which has been documented in his visits to the 'New World' - but I guess Clampett is having fun with exaggerations by adding confetti over his ship.

After the visit in America - Porky then sets sail back to Spain where he brings back a few of the Indian tribes to show to Queen Isabella of what he has discovered. Trying to get my knowledge right - Columbus never brought back tribes to Spain - but I haven't studied the topic in History lessons so I wouldn't know too much.

As he has departed back to Spain successfully, the narrator jokes again that the crowd give him a huge welcome when there is such a small crowd watching. The narrator then begins to act rather personal where it is discovered that the Indians have arrived and to perform the ceremony to Queen Isabella.

Some nice touches on the voice acting of the narrator - even though I don't know who the narrator is of the cartoon. The tribal dance then begins with an Indian drummer - and then some Injuns that are performing the dance. This is one of Clampett's reuse schemes where he reuses animation of the Indian performing a rain dance from Sweet Sioux which was released two years earlier.

Afterwards - Clampett completely changes atmosphere in terms of music style and even animation. The indians then perform the 'jitterbug' which was padded as a reference to how popular the dance was of the 1930s - mainly for a gag. The jitterbug dance then continues with the indians dancing; and also featuring Porky on top of a table dancing with an Indian. The Queen watches the dance and orders for everyone to stop the dance. As she orders for them to stop: the entire group then freeze. The queen walks over and then orders for everyone to go. Prior that Porky shakes worrying she is unimpressed but instead she joins in with the jitterbug dance with Porky as the cartoon ends.

Overall comments: This was just another Clampett cartoon where it is a hit and miss, but I'd consider it a miss for the most part. While I suppose making a parody of the Christopher Columbus stories would certainly make a great cartoon - I felt the way that it has been handled was rather dull. The gags in the cartoon were rather cheap and mostly unhappy - and only a few that I'd consider funny. The narration of the cartoon became rather monotonous through the whole cartoon - even though we don't know who the narrator is (Keith Scott or anyone that might know?). Much of the cartoon itself isn't very exciting at all as through the cartoon there is hardly any action that would grab your attention. Probably the only part of the cartoon which was worth were the sea serpents where Mel Blanc performs a funny job on those voices, even it it does sound a little degrading. Some of where Avery clearly showed inspiration (like the 40 days and night scene) which I felt Clampett channeled quite well. Since Clampett is using Porky for play roles in recent cartoons - at least his voice hasn't been changed unlike when he was portrayed at Mr. Moto. Overall, not much thoughts to say of the cartoon - but its a rather boring and forgettable cartoon - in my opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Avery would shoot "Captain Clampett" around the world -- nation ID stickers attached to his butt -- a year later in "Circus Today", and Foster would get more milage out of the Columbus-and-the-baseball gag over a decade later in "Hare We Go".