Sunday, 14 July 2013

285. Porky's Poor Fish (1940)

Warner cartoon no. 284.
Release date: April 27, 1940.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig/"Lunch" whistle/Cat/Seahorse).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Dave Hoffman.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Whilst Porky is away from his fish store during lunch; the cat attempts to raid a helpless fish inside his store; and then an attack takes place.

The opening music cue for the opening titles as well as the whistling mouse is The Girl With the Pigtails in Her Hair which was written by Sam Chaplin. After the opening titles; the title cards then turn over towards a 'foreword' card which reads as you can see in a screenshot to the left.

Of course; the Twenty Thousand Leaks Under the Ceiling is just a horrible pun for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. More of a incoherent gag to my eyes. Although I guess it was included considering how there are fishes associated with the short; but they're living in a fish store, not the sea.

Over towards the cartoon with its location at a backyard; a mouse is seen in a skip cycle whistling in tune towards the song heard in the opening titles.

Watching the skip cycle of the mouse skipping in tune; the cycle is very unappealing animation-wise. It has no personality, the movement is very bland, and it also lacks weight. It also feels rather unlike Clampett to have intended to use the skip cycle for the mouse which is not at all daring on Clampett's levels. Whilst the mouse skips; the cat also copies his movement in an attempt to eat up the mouse. Just as the cat then makes a warm-up and runs after the cat: the mouse casually skips through the mousehole of a fence causing the cat to crash off-screen; where he has landed in a pile of broken glass and china. A very serviceable sequence for Clampett; which isn't so amusing itself other than watching the cat fail, although definitely low on his standards.

Afterwards; a title card then fades into a description in a scene-setting style: Meanwhile -- The Shoppe Around the Corner. Of course, Clampett used 'shoppe' as an archaic term for 'shop' to add more flavour to the text, as well having Porky's shop spelt with the archaic version.

Trucking in on the store: a goldfish is seen for sale with a 3 for $1.00, and of course; there's only one goldfish inside. Inside the shop; the backgrounds display what Porky has inside his store; until we even truck in closer to Porky.

Porky, in close-up then introduces his store in song: "I am Porky the Pig, and I have here all kinds of fishes and I know, you would like one of them to have around in your home". The song he's singing is Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be? which of course is sung by substitute lyrics. Watching Porky's introduction of this short just shows how Porky has got considerably weaker and blander in Clampett's direction. He has to sing a really bad song with such horrible lyrics; as well as a horrid dance.

A fish trio are inside a fishbowl where the label under the fishbowl reads: Three Lil' Fishes (In an Itty Bitty Bowl) it is a reference to the popular song of the cartoon's release known as Three Little Fishies (In an Itty Bitty Pool), where music & lyrics were written by Saxie Dowell, and it was also popularly well-known for being sung by Kay Kyser in 1939.

The camera then pans towards some electric eels where both identical, but each are labelled different names: 'A.C.' and 'D.C.'. The next gags in the song sequence; feel like they're weak gags that could have been taken from unused ideas for Tex's spot-gag cartoon Fresh Fish.

Even though this is just what I suspect; I can't assume, since it most likely wasn't the case. Anyways; different types of species are seen in Porky's store such as a perch balancing on a swing; of course its used as a pun since a 'perch' is a special manoeuvre for balancing.

Another bad pun features a 'Holey Mackerel' whose covered in holes. Then another poor gag shows a 'Fillet of Sole' where we find the sole part of the shoe a part of the fish's body. They go into a tap dance routine and the song continues. The camera then pans towards a curtain which opens where we see what looks like a group of legs coming from cancan dancers. The curtain opens further which turns out to be a octopus; hence its many legs. Animation of the octopus was reused from an earlier Clampett effort: Porky's Five and Ten. My thoughts of the song sequence itself was extremely weak; and already kills the cartoon to the quality it already has become of.

After the song sequence has concludes; a whistle from outside then yells: "LUNCH!". Porky hears the call where he then makes a take with joy. He quotes: "Lunchtime! Boy, when it comes to eating, I'm a regular little pig!". He then walks out as his hat then bobs up and down as he whistle in tune towards You, You Darlin'. He steps out and places a 'Out to Lunch' sign as he leaves his store.

What have they done towards you, Porky? He's presented as a lot more blander than ever, and is so capable of being a hilarious character, but ends up being the victim of all this straight, everyman characters and humorously chuckles at his painfully unfunny one-liners.

When Porky's away; the cat will play. The cat walks past the fish store; where he spots a goldfish inside a fishbowl; and stares at it through the window with astonishment. The observe each other's eyes up and down; and I'll take for granted its camera staging is rather effective; as its print-screened. The cat then almost bursts with joy; though in control. He then opens the door to the fish store where he replaces the 'Out to Lunch' sign to 'IN to Lunch'.

Inside Porky's fish store; the black cat then unfolds his "skin" which is disguised as a sleeve. Well, you see this everywhere in cartoons, which would be considered normal in that world. The cat then digs his arm inside a fish tank where he is on a lookout to eat some of the fish.

It turns out, inside the fish tank is an oyster living inside the tank; and the oyster notices the cat's hand attempting to grab him. The oyster quickly hides inside his shell and then zips through towards his 'oyster bed'..which is also used as a pun purpose.

The cat continues to move his arm through the fish tank, hoping to watch a fish. One fish, however inside the tank becomes a victim as the cat catches it.

In what is seen as a typical formula for the 1930s cartoon; it is brought back for this climatic sequence as the cat licks his chops and the other fish species spot the poor fish in peril. The electric eels then spot the fish in danger, and the cat's raid of the store that they form themselves into a neon lettering style, where the neon gag reads: 'The cat' and they spark themselves to gain wide attention. I'll also take that as a creative gag here.

The seahorse; seen from another distance of the store spots the message from the electric eels and then frantically rides around the tank warning the other fish of the cat's location. Of course, a light influence of Paul Revere's midnight ride; the seahorse is ridden by another fish who shouts out "To arms!". The silhouette and the art direction lighting is a very pleasing effect.

As the seahorse makes the news; a group of tuna fishes then make a stop due to traffic lights; before they can resume. Meanwhile a tuna, labelled as 'chicken of the sea', clucks and then jumps up where her eggs are ready to hatch.

Also a gag taken from Fresh Fish, except it results in the same gag which Clampett overused throughout his B/W tenure as a director. The eggs then begin to unhatch where turns into a group of baby tuna soldiers marching through the tank. Just as the seahorse continues to make the alarm; a 'flying fish' then takes off like an airplane and straight out of the fish tank. Watching the cat about to eat the goldfish, did it really take the cat that long to just lick his chops with admiration before eating it? A hammerhead shark; where the gag shows his head is shaped of a hammer then whacks the cat on the head. The cat's head then vibrates as a result.

Just as the cat backs up from the incoming flying fish; the electric eels then give the best of the cat as they grab hold of his tail and electrocute him. In this great shot; you can watch the impressiveness of the cycle, here, of the cat being electrocuted. Rather simple, but also effective; and close enough to resemble Clampett's energy.

The poor fish; whose seen last on the cat's hand then ends up set loose; and the flying fish then fly down diatonically and directly to retrieve the fish to safety. The cat then ends up set free by the eels and eventually ends into a fish tank which contains a mussel.

The mussel (get ready for the most obvious pun) develops Popeye muscles and then socks the cat out of the fish tank; where he ends up flying out of the fish store just as Porky returns from his lunch break. Just as Porky opens the door; the cat then zooms straight out where he results in a uncomfortable landing.

Porky then feels the breeze from the speed of the cat being tossed out. Once again, he is the victim of horrible one-liners and comments, 'What a draught'. The black cat's 'happy landing' ends up on top of a puddle, where he is wet and disappointed of his failure to catch fish. He turns and spots the same whistling mouse from earlier in the cartoon and turns back towards the mouse, instead. Just as the cat growls at the mouse in a supposedly terrifying manner, the mouse growls back but outgrows the cat which shows he's mightier than the cat. The cat then cries like a coward just as the mouse whistles normally out of the scene.

Overall comments: To begin with; Porky Pig's appearance throughout the cartoon is certainly a lot more limited in contrast towards his other appearances, where he also had little screen time. He only makes his appearance briefly in the song sequence; when he exits for lunch as well as his return. In his brief appearance of screen time; his great moments are completely lacking in this short. Like Buddy, Porky just got a lot blander when Clampett got tired of using Porky consistently. Perhaps comparing Porky towards Buddy in this short is a little brash; considering how even his stutter and (perhaps the ridiculous one-liners) have more personality than what Buddy or Bosko has ever had. The pacing and construction of the short in general is also rather poorly organised. The first half of the short is rather slow-paced, padded, and just runs down together--particularly with the song sequence.

The song sequence was definitely not the highlight of the short; whereas it shows how Clampett was less ambitious in this era; and only strived to use popular music in an attempt to add appeal. The second half just rapidly moves into a climatic sequence; and its construction is just as identical towards what a early 30s cartoon would turn out. Watching the short; admittedly there are only moments which are at least worthy; mostly animated wise particularly the shot where the cat and the fish stare at each other eye-to-eye; and the silhouetted action of the seahorse riding through the fish tank. The mouse, was also particularly padded into the sequence as he was only seen the beginning and closing scenes; and the skip cycle..I'll admit is one of the most unappealing cycles I've seen of Clampett. In other words, the short is rather outdated; even for 1940.


  1. Hello, thank you for digging this up. I've been trying to track this down for a long time. The dancing octopus would make a challenging Halloween costume.
    Ken R.

  2. "The Shoppe Around the Corner" is a reference to MGM's concurrently released film of the same name [January 1940].

  3. Stalling's score is incredible! He really began to hit his stride here......

  4. Carl Stalling was really hitting his stride by this period, as this was one of his best scores of 1940. Using "The Girl With the Pigtails in Her Hair" and "You, You Darlin'" was brilliant!!!!