Sunday, 2 June 2013
278. Elmer's Candid Camera (1940)
Release date: March 3, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) and Mel Blanc (Proto-Bugs Bunny).
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Bob McKimson.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Elmer Fudd takes on a new hobby of photographing wild animals; however, in a attempt to photograph a wacky rabbit: Elmer's attempts backfire.
Before anymore useless debates about which was the first 'Elmer' cartoon: I still strongly believe this is the first official appearance of Elmer Fudd. Hell, it has Arthur Q. Bryan's voice for Elmer, for God's sake. Arthur, at the time, was very popular on the Grouch Club with Phil Kramer, on KFWB. Chuck thought that he was the perfect voice for Elmer, whose redesigned after the 'Egghead/Elmer' concepts prior that which Tex Avery heavily worked on.
Friz Freleng, that same year, who use the cartoon's character design for Confederate Honey and The Hardship of Miles Standish; before his Dopey-ish design appeared in A Wild Hare. In fact, Elmer has been redesigned rather frequently, hasn't he? They couldn't agree on a appropriate design for him until at least 1942: when the 'fat Elmer' design, created by Tex Avery, himself...was used in a few cartoons, though it proved to be unpopular.
You could also say this is the last short to use the proto-Bugs Bunny design, unless you want to count Patient Porky to be the last. Chuck Jones is using the Charlie Thorson design for the Hardaway-rabbit, one last time, before Bob Givens and Bob McKimson, themselves would give Bugs the standard design in A Wild Hare - his first official appearance. But this short is definitely the first where Elmer is manipulated or screwed by a rabbit.
In a extreme close-up shot; he exclaims: 'Gowwy, that sounds simple enough!'. Elmer walks over towards the his box where he contains his requirement for animal photography. He walks over his checklists and lists them out: 'Twipod, film, camewa, butterfwy net, etc.'.
The opening sequence is a good example in introducing the character: as the 1940 audience are already aware that Warner Bros. have based Elmer heavily on Arthur Q. Bryan, the voice and all..since he was such a hit in radio. However, his redesign (Bob Givens or Charlie Thorson, anyone?)..already shows the crew are a little indecisive in their approach towards the character's design. The crew had already been working around the concept of 'Elmer' since 1937...with Danny Webb and Mel Blanc voicing the characters; and it's obvious his personality is already established by this cartoon, as they already found their star.
Elmer stops, and in a point-of-view shot: he spots 'wabbit twacks'...as well as mentioning so, and could go on to be one of his famous quotes. He follows the rabbit tracks, where he finds the trail, as the proto-Bugs is seen asleep in the field. Elmer walks over and prepares the camera stand.
Fo any fan, whose completely unaware of the chronology of the Warner cartoons; Elmer is portrayed as a civilised human being, where he aims to take photograph of animals in the forest, instead of hunting animals, which is his most standard personality.
I suppose it was Chuck's nature, of the time, to use Elmer as a harmless human being, and this short is still early days, so he hasn't been completely reformed. As the rabbit is asleep, and Elmer's camera is all ready: in another shot from the camera's view; Elmer moves the rabbit at different angles so he could fine the most established shot to picture. The camera shot is amusing in a subtle way, considering how the rabbit is too big to fit into the image capture.
Elmer resumes with his photography, and this time from the camera lens: the rabbit's behind is being pointed at towards him.
At what is intended to be a little crude in terms of humour, Elmer takes, although his reaction was a little slow. The rabbit then walks towards Elmer, in a attempt to fool him. He walks towards Elmer, starting off a conversation: 'What'ya doing, taking pictures?'.
Elmer nods, not knowing be is being spoken of. The character animation of Elmer nodding is a little weak of the covers, where it doesn't show any proper signal to an audience watching this, even if it was difficult to animate. 'Nice hobby. Mind if I watch?'. Elmer shakes his head, covered from the cover. The rabbit asks what picture he's taking a picture of, and then Elmer pulls the cover to reply: 'A wabbit'. He responds: 'What rabbit?'; and Elmer points slowly before realising: 'That little gwey wabbit over there!'. Knowing the sequence, it's the first short where Chuck already has a shot of the rabbit with a tamed personality, and outsmarting his antagonists casually: apart from acting screwy constantly, like Daffy Duck, which was how Bugs Hardaway interpreted him.
After what appeared to be an uncomfortable situation for Elmer, the acting in the next scenes are a little spotty, but we communicate with Elmer much more clearly where he turns his attention on a cutesy, realistic looking squirrel, holding a chestnut.
Elmer brings his camera which has been grounded to the field, off and carries it closer towards the defenceless squirrel which he resumes his hobby, and gives up on the rabbit. Too difficult to even debate with Elmer's personality on these scenes, I meant his personality being established because of the Arthur Q. Bryan resemblance, although here, he is just a gentlemen who isn't even a threat to the rabbit.
The rabbit walks over towards the scene where he is chewing his apple. He finishes off much of the apple, and menacingly targets it straight at poor Elmer's face.
Elmer makes an eye-take and ducks under the pile of apples, and the apple splats; missing his face. Judging the eye-take; Chuck was already tamed those down apart from those extreme ones he used in Prest-O Change-O or Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur. After ducking under the pile of apples, it turns out his bad luck arrives when one apple, left hanging onto the tree lands and drops on top of his head. Elmer then shows a disgruntled look on his face.
In a close-up shot the rabbit goes on: 'I know a rabbit who wouldn't mind posing for ya. That is if you are at all interested'. Afterwards, Elmer finds the rabbit and is growling towards him, and is at the pinnacle of snapping.
Acting rather cool, the rabbit goes on: 'Of course, if you don't like rabbits, you don't like rabbits' and walks off. Just as Elmer was about to grab the rabbit, he pauses and regains self-control when he watches the rabbit leave. He looks around, and then grabs a butterfly net, and in vengeance: plans to trap the rabbit. Mmm, this probably explains why Elmer turned down animal photography, and turned to hunting. All solid acting work from the likes of Mel Blanc on the rabbit (even if the voice is annoying); though the rabbit manages to keep calm, and already has the ability to cause Elmer to nearly snap.
In the sequence which shows some great character animation of the rabbit's acting on nearly going insane. The comic timing is rather tamed down, although some of the facial expressions of the rabbit, first noticing he is trapped, is classic. 'What's this? What's this?!' wails the rabbit: 'I'm trapped!'.
The rabbit continues to put on the performance, from going almost completely berserk, to dying. He coughs in agony, and croaks: 'Come here! Come here! I can't breathe!'. The rabbit continues to put on the performance shouting out: 'Hold yourself, hold yourself! Easy!'. At that point, Elmer's vengeance face already turns to pity. After the rabbit plays dead, Elmer breaks down, and that part of his personality already kicks in where he bawls over the rabbit's dead body. 'I didn't mean to hurt the poor wittle grey wabbit!'.
At that point, a great sequence pours in where Elmer has snapped. His eyes widen, and ends up chantings: 'Rabbits, rabbits! I'm going mad! Rabbits! I'm going crazy! '..and then breaks out of the nest. For a slow-paced Chuck Jones cartoon, this is rather off-model and loose for his cartoons.
After breaking out of the net, he rushes off towards his camera as well his book and stampedes on top of them, damaging them. He continues shouting out: 'Wildlife! Rabbits!' and then, in a extremely off-model looking Elmer, he rushes out of the damaged equipment and then dives into a river. Though the single dreaming look rather off and crude, whoever animated that, showed a great understanding of Elmer reflected into a twisted state of mind.
The rabbit pulls him out of the river, where Elmer is standing up, recovering from his outburst. The rabbit asks: 'Now how are ya?'. Elmer responds: 'I'm feel pretty good?'. After a few assurances, the rabbit continues: 'Are you positive?', 'Absolutely sure?'.
As Elmer passively responds he feels better: the rabbit only asks just to kick him back into the river again, where he performs the obnoxious laugh Hardaway came up with, that pre-dates Woody Woodpecker. Instead of just snapping enough, Elmer just shows an irritated look on his face, sitting in the river as the 'How to Photograph Wild Life' book is tossed on top of his head.
Some of Bugs' quirks towards his antagonists are rather evident in this cartoon, particularly where he fakes his own death...however, Bugs is just presented as a rather sadistic character: who bullies Elmer which he doesn't deserve, whereas Bugs would only be menacing whenever he felt threatened amongst his antagonists. Whilst being the same design used from Hare-Um, or the same character: Chuck has completely tamed down as he shows his experimentation of the character. Blanc's voice for the character also toned down where it sounds rather relaxed. My thoughts: it works well as we finally get to see the rapid development going on with the rabbit character, before he would change into Bugs. With that asides, the cartoon was also another attempt for Chuck to try about comedy, except his rather sluggish pacing and timing.