Sunday, 28 July 2013

292. Porky's Baseball Broadcast (1940)

Warner cartoon no. 291.
Release date: July 6, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig/Clueless Attendee/Trapped Player).
Story: Ben Hardaway.
Animation: Cal Dalton.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky is a commentator of a baseball game; where he commentates on particular actions.

With the newspaper front headlines; the big news is about a particular baseball game which is seen as national news...Giants pitch Carl Bubble. I believe that 'Carl Bubbles' is a little reference to a baseball catcher Bubbles Hargrave. Over at the press box, the crowd are cheering for the upcoming baseball game.

Past the press box, Porky Pig is in the commentary box where he delivers the news: 'Good afternoon, ladies and gentle--(stutters), folks. This is Porky Pig bringing you a play-by-play description of the decisive game of World Series being played at the  Yankum Stadium'.

Well, without any doubt towards baseball fans or Americans; this is a deliberate, corny pun (probably contributed by Bugs Hardaway) of Yankee Stadium. Just as the big game is about to warm up; Porky mentions metaphorically, 'Tickets are selling like hot cakes'. Hardaway, as it appears, takes the metaphor into a gag where a chef uses a fish slice to give tickets to those attending the match, and pours cream which form into baseball tickets. A very off-the-wall gag, which is very Avery-esque humour.

Whilst Porky comments on the atmosphere of the stadium, he continues: 'The scalpers are having a big day'. In terms of a baseball game, we associate scalper as a person who resells tickets for people. The gag is exaggerated to an Indian who is chasing a few attendees outside the stadium.

Rather politically incorrect in today's standard; but one of the few puns in the short that is mildly amusing. Meanwhile; a particular stubby dog-like person is walking around the stadium seating part looking for a seat; and even uses his ticket to find which row and seat to sit on.

He keeps on walking down the stairs trying to find the row he is sitting on; he keeps looking for the wrong row as he proceeds to keep on walking. He turns towards a row as he asks, 'Pardon me, please'. He walks through the row as he barges through the crowd sitting down, blocking the view. Just as he reaches an empty seat which was for him, he believes its the wrong row and continues to move out of the row annoying the crowd sitting on the row.

Just as the game is about to start; Porky commentates on the giant pitcher to be pitching in the match named Carl Bubble (as mentioned earlier in a newspaper article); which I do believe to be a parody name as Bubble Hargrave.

Pitching for the New York Giants, he is indeed portrayed as a huge giant, as he tosses the ball to the backstopped who even gets a reaction to the ball tossed to his glove. His huge size and proportion would've been an amusing result for an audience of its time.

The next part, Porky commentates on the doubleheader for the opposing team to be a Larry O'Leary from Walla Walla. Hardaway already makes the most of his time with these ridiculous and corny puns where the doubleheader, in fact has two heads. One head speaks to the other, 'You pitch the high runs', whilst the other agrees to pitch on the low runs; which of course would be a very complicating result.

Moments before the big game begins; the umpire walks in; although presented rather amusingly considering he is blind and has a watchdog walking through the stadium. The game is about to begin; the mayor, in honour, is picked up by two assistants as he tosses the baseball in the stadium. The caricature of the mayor is Fiorello LeGuardia; who was a well-loved mayor of New York back then.

More cartoony puns coming on from Hardaway as the 'batboy' flies into the scene with bat-wings handing over a bat to the first batter. At that point, 'the game is on!' in Porky's words. Just then, a turtle backstop watches the first ball about to be pitched.

The pitcher; holding onto the ball, stands in the arena of the pitch but his clothes then sink, and picks them back up. Some great personality animation there where he picks up his sunken clothes, which has a lot of weight. After the nice little personality touch; the pitcher throws the first ball to the batter.

The next sequence; the turtle catcher then persuades for the ball to catch so the first batter would be out. The animation is mainly reused from Boulevardier of the Bronx; a Freleng effort from four years earlier...except the voice of the turtle is only slightly altered.

The first ball is missed by the batter, but hits the turtle in the stomach, not catching it. The turtle walking up, saying 'That's the stuff, etc!' is new animation. The gag then repeats the second time round. The next batter, a dachshund, then takes a strike where Porky commentates the dachshund has made a home run from his view.

The dachshund walks over towards the first body; letting its body stretch from one base to the other. Also reused from Boulevardier of the Bronx.

Instead, he goes through the entire pitch with his entire body stretching through. Although a reused gag; its decent to see some of Stalling's step notes played in the underscore. Porky also makes another comment about the pitcher; 'They got the pitcher in the hole already'. A huge hole, already created from the effect shows the pitcher stepping out feeling rather weary. A little lightly amusing although there is already so much puns being contributed here. Meanwhile, as the game goes on; the same overweight attendee is still looking for a seat to watch the baseball game. Stalling creates a little appealing cue which is used as the theme of the attendee.

The next gag which features a Babe Ruth caricature (also with animation taken from 'Bronx'; some of it) then makes a swing at the bat and hits the ball. The ball screams as it soars through the arena of the stadium. The screaming part is just so like the Warners humour, which helps lighten up the short from its many flaws. The Babe Ruth pig runs around through the pitch and manages to make it home safely.

Back towards the pitcher; who is seen having a problem from his clothes that sink; picks them up once more, with the same animation reuse. He aims the ball to the batter; but the batter strikes back where it causes the batter to duck from the ball striking almost through him. Porky comments on the action, and spots the troubled pitcher; 'Looks like the pitcher is blowing up'.

We'd probably believe the pitcher blowing up, meaning his temper, but literally does blow up. Friz's timing is very useful for this particularly when animated, but just the pacing. He punches it at the funniest moment possible; and the pitcher is completely unseen after the blow-up that his gloves fall into the exact spot he stood at.

After a successful round for the Giants; the Red Sox team takes over as Carl Bubble is the pitcher for the Giants. He then throws, a baseball technique, known as the slow ball. Freleng makes use of the timing where the ball travels very slowly, in this cartoony gag. The pitcher for the opposing team then attempts to hit the ball twice but misses, the third time he hits the ball.

Just as the the player runs around the bases, through Porky's commentary; he comments that he is blocked through the second and third base, 'and he's trapped'. Yes, he's trapped from a rattrap which is laid between the 2nd and 3rd base.

Just then, the player who has his foot trapped from the mousetrap; then start to perform a dramatic panic attack. 'I'm trapped' he exclaims with horror! He then shrieks several times, 'This is hor-r-r-r--ri-b-b-ble!'. Mel, as usual, puts on the great over-dramatic performances that he was great at, and his delivery evidently steals the performance of this supposedly wacky baseball game..even if the game had such light and thin amusing moments.

The following shots then follow through a series of montage scenes from previous, recycled animation that appeared earlier in the short. The montages quickly span throughout what the rest of the time is; and from the looks of it (with the reused animation) it all occurs on 'autopilot' mode.

Just as the game then goes into its final round, Porky Pig commentates on the actions occurring. Meanwhile over at the stadium box, the overweight attendee then appears once more where he has finally found his spot in the row; even though he's made it at the very last minute.

He looks at the seat, and finds he the spot he is sitting at: but unfortunately, his seat is the very unlikely position. He finds he is sitting right in front of a bar just as the finale part of the game finishes off. The crowd then cheer as the Giants win the game. Later that night, the same attendee is still sitting in the exact same position. He is the only person left in the stadium sitting there and twiddling his thumbs. Moments later, he then goes into a hysterical mode as he crashes and breaks everything; due to not getting a chance of watching the match. A rather, amusingly satirical occurring gag throughout the cartoon, but also you can't help but feel sympathy for him.

Overall comments: Like how Clampett had treated Porky in those years; Friz Freleng also does the same for this cartoon. Instead of giving Porky the main star as a leading baseball player for this stadium; he is given a much more unimportant role where he is a commentator. This also strongly; suggests on how Porky was just not an enthusiastic character for the audience in directing a Porky Pig cartoon. Since Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton lost their positions as directors with Friz's return, he is also assigned to direct a fair share of Porky Pig cartoons, as it is already very evident in You Ought to Be in Pictures where you can see Friz gives Porky the spotlight to carry the cartoon, unlike Clampett. Here, Friz appears to have followed the routine Porky was given, where he has a limited amount of screen time, and hardly lit a candle throughout the entire cartoon. Without Porky, you could say this would be considered another Tex Avery spot-gag on baseball, but completely billed with silly and bizarre puns from Bugs Hardaway.

The short itself is very thin in terms of comedy. Sure, there is comedy in the cartoon, but a lot of it is very poor and is lacking effort. As said, it is riddled with completely ridiculous and corny puns which certainly do not carry the cartoon; and get groan-worthy. The recurring gag for the attendee trying to find his seat was a little fresh idea, and it came down to a witty conclusion, where he misses the entire game and tears up the stadium. Friz's comic timing is evident in some parts; particularly with the pitcher, as well as the explosion gag. All in all, it feels a sort of a 'cheater' short where a considerable amount of recycled animation is repeated; which was used cleverly considering Friz's earlier short which was on baseball..so the reuse wasn't too terrible, except it is noticeably behind the time period of 1940; when animation had already advanced in four years, even for Warners.

3 comments:

  1. Carl Hubble, Giants pitcher.

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  2. The real Yankee Stadium did have "obstructed seat" tickets -- they may not have been directly behind the support column as with Friz's ticket-buyer, but they definitely obscured views until the stadium was renovated in the 1970s.

    "Blowing up" in this case is just slang for the pitcher being unable to get anyone out (they could have also done a gag where Porky said the pitcher was 'falling apart' and cut to him breaking into various pieces, but that's more of an Avery-MGM style gag). The best thing about this short is aside from borrowing from Friz's cartoon of four years earlier, it preps some of the gags for 1946's "Baseball Bugs" one of the all-time great sports cartoons.

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  3. Actually..it's "Supervision: Isadore Freleng" :D.

    The montage at the end owes to Frank Tashlin by ALL means...not to mention the debt that Friz Freleng owed to HIMSELF for the 1936 cartoon (as already mentioned) "Boulevardier from the Bronx."

    Steve

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