Friday, 19 April 2013

271. The Curious Puppy (1939)

Warner cartoon no. 270.
Release date: December 30, 1939.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
No cast.
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Two curious dogs go inside an amusement night late at night after it is closed, and encounter a strange experience inside.

Last WB cartoon released from 1939; as well as the entire 1930s decade....which means I've completely finished reviewing the 1930s cartoons and will now be moving onto the 1940s...where WB will see a bigger and brighter light.

The scenario takes place late at night, at an amusement park, which is close for the season...the winter season. An abandoned and homeless dog walks past the gates of the closed amusement park. The city at night looks really quiet and crowdless (depending what time at night it takes place).

The puppy walks back and looks at the closed amusement park, with curiosity, hence the title of the cartoon. The puppy then crawls under the bars of the gate. The puppy manages to walk inside the gate and looks at the amusement park, startled and interested.

At first, his mind  is trickened as we believe he is barking at a cat off-screen. It turns out that this 'cat' comes from a cardboard design from a building called 'Black Cat Cafe'. Chuck uses a strong sense of silhouette, which shows some mood of how quiet and isolated it is at night.

The dog climbs on top of the building in an attempt to chase after the 'cat'. Turns out that the dog is on top of a powerhouse. Yay, Raymond Scott. He climbs back down, and accidentally turns on the switch of the powerhouse. The cause...the entire amusement park beams with lights as it would appear in warmer seasons at night. We hear Johann Strauss' infamous Blue Danube in the background which is a fine choice for the music cue as it gives a good range of joy and brightness which Strauss' musical score gives.

The curious puppy is seen hiding inside a dustbin after the take from the powerhouse being turned on. The puppy steps out of the dustbin, and we pan towards a kennel which reads 'Watch dog'. With no humans sighted at the amusement park: we find the sleepy watchdog stepping out of his kennel, awakened and disturbed. Some great personality animation of the dog stretching himself to keep awake.

Meanwhile, the curious puppy is seen at a 'Giant Swing' display watching the giant swing move sideways. In a close-up shot, the puppy watches the giant swing with his pupils, which swing sideways. A rather Disney-esque animated shot, which isn't particularly special, but its cute.

As the curious puppy is watching the giant swing; the camera pans to the watchdog who makes a turning point and watches the curious puppy who has trespassed inside the amusement park and turned on all the lights and displays into motion. The watchdog growls at the puppy. The curious puppy follows inside a typical display in amusement parks: the 'House of Mirrors', and the watchdog follows on.

The watchdog rushes inside the House of Mirrors, looking out for for the curious puppy. Chuck also attempts to make his animation look rich with the floor animation animated in perspective. Despite how it's described outside: 'amazing, baffling, etc.'. Unfortunately here, it's nothing spectacular.

The 'House of Mirrors' sequence turns into a lengthy, syrupy-paced sequence where the watchdog ends up watching his own reflection in the mirror. Evidently, the dog has never seen a mirror in his own life; he can't help but look at his own reflection.

Just like what you'd expect in a Disney cartoon featuring Pluto, except twice as slow as the pacing of Pluto and Pluto would probably not look at a mirror with such curiosity. As the watchdog continues to walk around in the House of Mirrors; a particular reflection (not a mirror).

The curious puppy on the other side copying the exact same motion in this sequence. Be prepared, folks, for a Disney-esque that Pluto would laugh at. With some pretty pointless Pluto thinking animation; the dog sticks his head out a few times, and then copy their movements with really goofy facial features which really lacks form with Chuck's conservative drawing style of this period. Afterwards; the dog watches the puppy use his own movement (without the watchdog moving). Knowing, he is caught--the puppy then rushes outside the Houses of Mirrors and the watchdog still chases after him.

After the sequence at the Houses of Mirrors, it appears to be that the curious puppy is climbing some sort of novelty staircase. The watchdog also climbs the stairs, but due to his weight, and the lack of weight on those stairs-it collapses. The puppy also slides down, next to the watchdog.

There's a great close-up by McKimson, and character poses, no doubt, by Jones--where the watchdog glares at the puppy. The puppy smiles sheepishly and timidly but dashes out of the scene. The watchdog runs inside a photograph shop where you can pose in front of dummy cardboard figures.

The puppy is seen posing as a beautiful woman holding an umbrella. Unfunny, although Chuck intended it to be cute. The watchdog walks around, but finds the puppy standing up on top of the figure. He jumps towards him, and the puppy flies out of the window. The force of the puppy being thrown out of the water, isn't very believable and lacks gravity. The puppy ends up dumped inside an automatic popcorn machine.

The puppy's head pops out of popcorn lying inside the machine. The puppy makes a sniff of the popcorn. There is a very expressive and charming which is definitely a Chuck Jones pose. The puppy smiles with glee as there is food inside the machine. This clearly indicates, how Chuck may have been ahead of his other rivalling directors, but just wasn't as good a cartoon director before he found that route.

Though this is a slow-paced sequence; the animation and facial expressions on the puppy are priceless. The timing on the puppy slowly chewing up the popcorn is very solid, as it gives a great feel of fear. After gulping a large amount of popcorn in his mouth.

The puppy attempts to dig his way out of the popcorn machine. The watchdog, turns curious of the popcorn machine. He finds an on-and-off switch button on the machine. He then switches it to 'on'. There is a technically-well animated scene where the machinery picks up the puppy inside the popcorn machine and places him inside a popcorn bag. A machinery is carrying a saltshaker and shakes salt at the puppy's behind. The other hand then shakes the bag so the salt can mix. Then the hand then butters the popcorn and the bag exits the machinery.

The dog then carries off the popcorn bag with him as he plans on kicking the puppy out of the amusement park. However, the bag then rips open and the puppy wonders off. The dog hears the puppy bark off-screen at a stall with novelty kittens set out in display. The puppy then makes sure if the puppy is in the bag by even ripping the whole bag open and through his head.

Knowing he is gone, he pulls the bag out of his head and runs towards the puppy. The puppy turns and watches the watchdog chasing after him. The chase then leads to inside a really tall sculpture.

The puppy looks down, and has a fear of heights, as it turns out he is about to slide down a very steep slide. The watchdog bumps into the puppy and they both slide down the slide and land into a pool.

The watchdog slides under the water, and ends up swimming out of the lake with the puppy. The puppy is seen sitting on top of the watchdog's back as the watchdog steps out of the pool, exhausted from the slide (great personality animation, once again). The puppy then slides down the watchdog's spine. They both look at one another, and then the puppy makes a rush out of the scene away from the watchdog.

The watchdog runs, and makes another turning point, but ends up being tricked by the puppy again. He comes across a box where there are toy puppies. However, it turns out by complete coincidence, that the toy puppies on display just happen to look just as identically as the curious puppy.

The watchdog, knowing he is being tricked, then barks at the puppy to see if the curious puppy whinces or makes any movement. After the watchdog growls, nothing happens.

So, he ends up jumping on top of the box with toy puppies for sale and it all breaks. The curious puppy watches the watchdog, in which the watchdog jumps on top of him and there is a cloud of puff that covers up the violence. As the violence is happening, the curious puppy makes a bark off-screen. The watchdog listens to the puppy and we pan to find the curious puppy is already outside the gates. Then the watchdog's anger starts to rise and burn. At the peak of his anger, he just breaks down sobbing. Why? I guess because he really wants to beat the crap out of that pup.

Overall comments: Another of the very 'many' cartoons where Chuck was just seeking out for some Disney-esque sequences as well as having the entire cartoon performed through pantomime. For the umpteenth time, Chuck Jones was a complete master of animated pantomime. Look at his Road Runner cartoons, Frisky Puppy shorts or even his Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog cartoons for Warner Bros. Just to clarify this is still early days for Chuck, he obviously had the thought of animated cartoons performed silently from the very beginning, but still needed much more practice at the concept. Despite his earliest attempts, the Two Curious Dogs--are a pain to watch. The fact that the sequences just run on longer than they should be, and that the cartoon has no gags. More or less, the curious dogs were just Chuck's take on 'Pluto' except he'd just add two of them and make them twice as slow as Pluto. I'll admit I quite like the fact that literally not one person has noticed the bright lights of an amusement park or even approached to it, since compared to the dark city (where everyone would be asleep); it wouldn't be hard to notice. I will say that Chuck Jones' facial expressions on this cartoon are a great example as to much potential he had as a cartoon director, although his expressions were only the tip of the iceberg into being a exceptional director. Throughout the cartoon score: Carl Stalling uses Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone? which would be a typical Stalling cue, but it works cleverly since the watchdog is on the hunt for the puppy.

On a side note, the entire 1930s library have now been reviewed and watched in chronological order. From watching the very first cartoons in 1930...and all the way to the last cartoons of 1939. You could say they're pretty bad and mediocre cartoons. But in-between those years: the WB cartoons have years of progressive improvement. All the pre-1935 are almost unworthy to watch. For me, the Harman-Ising era are only worth watching for me prior 1932...the 1930-31 shorts. Almost every cartoon they made afterwards (I find) is just about as bland and as terrible as the 'Buddy' era where the cartoons were incredibly below-standard, due to less creativity freedom they had, with the popular songs that had to be sung in the cartoons.

It's hard to imagine how the WB cartoons started off as mere ripoffs to the early Silly Symhponies or the early Mickey Mouse cartoons by Disney, and yet by 1939: they already had a special style of humour to themself. There is no doubt, Tex Avery definitely helped reform the humour and appeal which the Warner cartoon would eventually had, but the popular song system really still stayed on with some of the cartoon directors, and in some aspects, has never died away. You can even see in some 40s and 50s cartoons, but just in the wacky, hilarious Warner style. The end of the 30s have already brought to us memorable characters like Porky; who has dominated that decade. He had a great streak from 1937 to the end of 1938; though he is seen as 'tired' by the directors by the end of the 1930s. Moving on to the 1940s, better changes are made at everything: the directors, Tex's departure in 1941, as well the entire humour and timing which everyone has come to admire. After 44 cartoons of almost-painful reviews of the 1939 cartoons, I now am relieved to see the great side of the 1940s.

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