Friday, 31 May 2013
277. Busy Bakers (1940)
Release date: February 10, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Eldery Elf/Cross-Eyed Elf).
Story: Jack Miller.
Animation: Richard Bickenbach.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A baker is already near bankrupt and is facing closure, although with the help of elves, the bakery is back to business.
Last cartoon which was directed by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton, prior Freleng's return in April 1939, who took over their unit, and the pair given demotions: Cal Dalton returning to animation, and Ben Hardaway given the Head of Story Department position, although didn't hold that position for very long.
Meanwhile inside the bakery; the main baker: The baker, Swenson is pacing around the shop. He appears to take out a measurement for the barrels, where the camera trucks in to already indicate to the audience, through communication it's empty.
He walks over towards the cashier to check for any profits the bakery has made. To make it appear gag-wise; a tin of canned tomatoes indicate his 'profits' aren't shown as real money (i.e. bottle cap, button, etc), which is a dark for a gag, since Melancholy Mood is the music cue. Meanwhile; a elderly blind man walks into a store, where the baker believes he has a customer. He asks for any dimes to spare; although the baker could only offer him a doughnut. After almost a whole minute of just drama with no gags, we get a rather odd blessing from the blind man, as he leaves.
Jack Miller, probably directed from Hardaway/Dalton is engaged with some rhyming couplets, that feel Disney-ish. An example is shown where the main elf warns: 'The store is empty, he hasn't a crust / we must work fast, or he'll go bust!'.
All the other elves then scamper out of their beds to get changes as they are to head over towards Swenson's Bakery. One of the elderly elves then looks over towards a sleepy Swenson where he is lying on his desk, which means the coast is clear.
As Swenson is asleep and they enter inside the bakery shop; the elderly elf reminds the others: 'Must work fast before he wakes / and fill his store with pies and cakes!'. The elves then begin with the bakery, and as if the cartoon could get any worse--the elves start to sing the song The Happy, Slappy Little Baker Man. The chorus singers are terribly irritating to listen to, its insufferable, and painfully unentertaining.
Not too sure who is providing much of the voices of the other elves, although it sounds like much of them were sped up, especially the Colonna elf; whose voice impersonation just sounds off-key. The elderly elf is also seen a shot where he puts all the ingredients together to help bake the recipe.
After the sequence, it's all just gag-after-gag; where you will find virtually no surprises coming up whatsoever, and it all just runs down together. A Harpo Marx-type elf runs into the scene, dropping the cake; and flips the other side. To add to a really corny gag, he pins a sign on top reading 'Upside down cake'. The gag itself has no charm, and just unfocused.
Obvious to the fact he has pulled out an enormous, rounded pumpkin; it takes him a while to know the pumpkin isn't flat or squished to be prepared for a pumpkin pie. To solve the problem, he grabs a mallet where the pumpkin splats and also splatters on his clothes and face.
Whilst it could work as a gag, the comic timing for that part is just flat. More baking scenes appear where there is a baker making some doughnuts and uses a pumper to pump up the flattened doughnuts, and another elf just sprays chocolate icing over the doughnuts. Seriously, these gag sequences are just extremely weak. In fact, even 8 years olds have a better understanding on how a good gag work, and would even criticise such poor pacing in this cartoon.
The next sequence does so happens to be one of those slow-paced pointless gags where a character comes in a sticky situation, and attempt to figure out how to solve the problem, but still come to failure. This results where a cross-eyed baker is rolling the dough with his rolling pin..the rolling pin ends up stuck on the dough.
The rolling pin is very sticky, and he attempts to pull it out physically, although the weight is trapped inside the dough that it is too strong to pull off. However, this does work except he falls off the table with the rolling pin clashing on top of his head.
It gets extremely even more pointless where the baker just attempts to whack the dole; and yet the dough retaliates. For such a crappy cartoon, this sort of exaggeration just doesn't work in that environment. The dough then forms into a hand and prods the baker in the eye, and then they battle one another on top of the table. Virtually humourless, and also known as padding in that cartoon.
After just an entire string of gags, that I couldn't take any longer, Swenson finally wakes up from the rumpus, thank God, as he walks over to investigate the activity occurring in his kitchen. The elves discover he has approached the kitchen and then rush out of the scene.
Swenson is completely baffled from all the activity occurring his kitchen, but moments later, a doorbell rings where the entire village see all different kinds of bakery in display which persuades to purchase the food.
In a conversative looking crowd shot, the whole crowd are waving their money in the shop, desperate to purchase some of the bakes. Hardaway and Dalton, whose never been very daring in their film techniques, use the following shots as a montage success for Swenson; which is relevant at best for the sequence, despite the atrocity the directors have already given us.
Just as the elderly man walks out of the bakery store, closes the door and then walks away. Swenson then steps out of his own store, where he shouts out towards the elderly man: "Hey, mister! I forgot to tell you there's a five-cent deposit on the pie tin!".
Love the fact that he is trying to use his hand for the 'five-cents' gesture, when in the cartoon world: he only has four fingers. Doesn't see work out too well when it comes to personality animation. The pie is then tossed straight towards his face, where he finishes with the closing line "That's gratitude for ya!", as the cartoon ends.
As already mentioned, Dalton was still working in the same unit, but as a animator; and according to the 'Exposure Sheet' issue 5--it was a position he already loved...whilst Ben Hardaway took the demotion pretty hardly, at least according to Martha Sigall. He was, however, given the position as Head of the Story department, where he would work on a few shorts, before his departure in January 1940 for Lantz. Nevertheless, it was evidently all for the greater good. With Freleng's return to the Studio, the cartoons released from the previous year finally pick up the pace again, and the Studio desperately needed Friz Freleng back to help reform the WB cartoons, in terms of comic timing, as well as humour...which Freleng does.