Friday, 15 February 2013

246. Polar Pals (1939)

starring PORKY.
Warner cartoon no. 245.
Release date: June 3, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Robert Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Drunk Seal) and Billy Bletcher (I. Killem).
Story: Warren Foster.
Animation: John Carey.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky Pig lives in the North Pole living a happy life with polar bears - that is until his polar bear friends are in peril by a fur trapper.

Alliterated title which is often populars for animated cartoons as well as other uses. Clampett, of course, was still making cartoons without story men whilst he had Ernest Gee and Warren Foster writing cartoons for him--but here Foster writes the cartoon.

The cartoon starts off with a space view of the planet Earth. The details and descriptions of the Earth look as though the background artist got them off a globe. Richard Thomas doing the backgrounds there? There's a sign sticking out that reads 'North Pole' where the top part of the Earth is completely covered with snow. We view an exterior shot of an igloo where Porky's residence is. The 'Keep off the grass' sign is very corny.

Inside the igloo we find Porky (unseen) asleep in his comfortable bed with his duvet covered with supposedly flattened-out bear skins. At his bedside is his own alarm clock which has an inanimate face that uses his hands to warm himself. The clock pulls out his Davy Crockett hat out of the way as the alarm rings.

Definitely 1930s-esque cartoon clocks where they all have faces as well as arms which moves the top cat like a bell. A polar bear then pops out (golly, that was creepy - when I thought it was a real bear rug) wakes up and smashes the clock. Then all of the bears jump out of their beds which were supposedly bear rugs. 

They all step out of Porky's bed; and of course - this is a Clampett gag to probably explain no animals are harmed in the cartoon, or have been in the production. A gentle gag, to put it that way.

However, there is a baby polar bear left lying beside Porky in his bed, and I have to say the mattress Porky is sleeping on looks absolutely freezing, but a load of polar bears on top of you could have squashed him albeit being warm and cozy!! Porky wakes up feeling shivered and shouts with the polar bears out of bed: "Hey come back! You left a little bear behind!" The polar bear wakes up and scurries out of the bed, and Porky does the same as well.

Porky wakes up as he walks over for his morning shower singing Sinkin' in the Bathtub. Blanc's singing vocals for Porky singing hasn't been sped up here which is just a director's error which would explain why Porky's singing sounds so off and unappealing--they sure didn't know how to make his singing sound right as a black-and-white character.

After Porky strips naked for his shower; he turns on the tap and the water sprays out but immediately turns into icicles because of the freezing climate. Blimey, the amount of times the shower's turned to icicles just makes Porky feel very unhygienic.

At least when Porky is naked - its definitely subtle and innocent, as its just the body of a pig. Porky dries himself and then walks over to jump into his eskimo suit. Porky jumps out of his igloo where he has a whole neighbourhood of polar bears, penguins and seals. Everybody wakes up to see Porky who is seen as a respected inhabitant in the area. The vocal groups then start to sing - but one of the lyrics sing the location is Iceland - whereas 'Iceland' is NOT in the North Pole as the backgrounds have indicated to us. The vocal group sing Let's Rub Noses.

During the off-screen vocal sequence of the songs we appear to focus on the social life of the polar bears. I'll admit I don't like Clampett's sense of vocal groups singing popular songs -- not as if he's bad at it - but it just is out of his league since he was more ambitious, and some of it don't relate to his wacky gags. But THIS song is such an earworm!

Wee see a Clampett wild moment where the two polar bears rub their noses with affection but the polar bear turns aroused and shouts out 'WOW!' - which is pure Clampett humour, and it is certainly charming.

As the couples rub their noses; Porky has his moment as he dances rather sillily to the song with his reflection on the ice-wall and the reflection is rather cleverly animated as it changes various sizes. A walrus is seen ice-skating along the ice - and as we all see coming; smacks into an ice wall.

A whale arrives at the spot and opens his huge mouth with a fish inside playing the xylophone with his teeth which is probably one of the most common used gags ever, we've seen it all before - like on Steamboat Willie and such. Then cut to Porky still dancing, and doing the jitterbug and then rubs his nose on the ice wall. The last gag seen in the song sequence features a penguin and walrus rub noses but the penguin's beak bursts the walrus' nose like a  balloon which is shocking, exaggerated and funny at the same time.

After we get to see happiness, love and peace over at the Arctic Circle - danger lurks through the scene as an iceberg breaks in half with a ship sailing past. The name of the fur trapper is I. Killem - which is just one of those corny and funny names Clampett or anybody could create. He grabs out his binoculars on the lookout for polar bears.

The staging for the eyes looking left-to-right on the binoculars is rather cleverly done as it clearly shows how ominously I. Killem's faces. He then laughs with the Billy Bletcher evil laugh. Being a fur trapper - it pretty much predates Cruella seville, huh?

He spots a group of seals in a POV shot where they are dancing, but their jitterbug dance fades to what his perspective of them are, fur coats on mannequin stands. Afterwards he chuckles evilly. The binoculars setup is always a rather nice display for a point-of-view shot. After the sequence - Porky continues to dance - and oddly enough; his reflection changes to Eddie G. Robinson for some reason. Afterwards, he finishes dancing with an 'ice-bestos' sign falling down his his audience applauding. Afterwards - I. Killem fires a cannon as the asbestos sign, which falls to pieces on Porky.

A seal then looks at the cannons firing from the ship and immediately turns white with fear with the colours fading from white to black which is a rich effect. The seal dashes out as the cannons continue to fire. All of the other creatures rush out with a seal and baby one jumping into an ice-pond for hiding.

Porky does the same as he rushes out over to his igloo. I. Killem fires with a machine gun targeting a penguin (but keeps missing). There is a crazy and funny gag with the reflection being caught and collapses to the ground and ends up dying.

The penguin ends up jerking frantically and even clucking like a chicken not knowing what to do. The penguin insists on him running and ends up doing so. Meanwhile a seal is in a bar relaxing with some booze, but is evidently drunk. The bullets continue to fire all over the bar aiming for the seal but keeps on missing. The seal laughs and hiccups, 'You never even touched me'. He takes another swig but there is alcohol pouring out of his stomach which indicates there were bullets that got his stomach. Tex Avery even used a similar gag for that in Blitz Wolf over at MGM.

A group of frantic penguins run away but encounter the ship with the cannon that fires a cannonball straight towards them. After the cannonball fires - it aims straight towards them and they end up being striked like bowling pins. Another gag that was obviously coming, as penguins notoriously look like bowling pins.

A really dark gag appears with a group of arctic hunters attempting to shoot the fur trapper but a cannon lies on them where they turn skinned, which is a very dark gag. Porky runs out of the igloo and spots the bullets are shooting straight towards him by the fur trapper knowing Porky could stop him.

Porky fires with his own shotgun with the end spitting like a folk spitting tobacco from its mouth. The gun spits out bullets and the fur trapper hides in his base for protection.

However, as the bullets keep on shooting - the hill he is hiding by, keep being hit by bullets and eventually turns into a mallet where I. Killem is struck by one. There is a very funny vibrating effect on I. Killem's face when he walks over rather dazed. Some of the funny and appealing animation there reminds me of the early Clampett days with Chuck Jones animating for him. After being attacked - the fur trapper makes a typical early Clampett trademark with the characters legs about to run but with the legs sticking out of their trousers.

Afterwards - Porky fires with his shotgun at I. Killem's ship which ends up sinking underwater. Leaving the fur trapper trapped - he then finds a 'kayak' and oars which he manages to escape successfully. He sails away on the kayak where he laughs at Porky believing he is too smart. However, the supposed 'kayak' turns out to be a whale's blowhole where he is found to be trapped.

The whale shoots the fur trapper out of his own blowhole that he is blown out of the way into the horizon. Porky jumps up and down with excitement but the ice ground then collapses with Porky falling, and two small penguins pick Porky up but frozen inside one side ice cube and the cartoon fades out.

Overall comments: The cartoon's running time runs a little too short as it clocks in at 6 minutes and 13 seconds in the viewed version; whilst most of the cartoons made in 1939-1940 at Warners were much longer (often clocking in at 8-9 minutes of an average cartoon). It was probably better off as a short cartoon as the cartoon didn't stand strong enough to make a solid cartoon. I admit it feels like the really funny gags that we used to see in the 1937-38 Clampett cartoons feels as though they have been restored in a 1939 cartoon but just not enough gags in this cartoon. Some definite Clampett gags he contributed would be the polar bear being turned on which even looks rather energetic as an early Clampett cartoon. Some of the fighting gags as well as some of the wacky animation also feel the energy that Clampett still had when 1939 was the era where the quality of his work really deteoriated in terms of timing, and even the quality of his films.

It's also one of the earlier uses where Clampett uses an off-screen chorus for his cartoons in the love sequence - which as I have already commented; do not feel the right match for his own cartoons, as he was more ambitious than that - turns out he did make cartoons with off-screen songs being played. Porky doesn't play too much of a role in this cartoon as he pretty much is just the straight, bland person as to how Clampett saw him..his dancing scenes are just so silly its not really that entertaining to watch, but a lot of the characters lack charm and personality here - except the only causes they get are gags. I'll admit I did like the villain as he was very menacing and threatening; and at least Clampett's way of toning down drama is rather fun and appropriate since some of the firing gags stick out to me as rather dark.

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