Monday, 19 August 2013

296. Ghost Wanted (1940)

Warner cartoon no. 295.
Release date: August 10, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Tex Avery (Laughing Ghost).
Story: Dave Monahan.
Animation: Bob McKimson.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A junior little ghost finds an advertisement to scare ghosts out of a haunted house, but fails so, when a larger, screwy ghost proves to scare him first.

To readers reading about the cartoon; here is a slight synopsis; before we can break down into the rest of the analysis for the cartoon.

A young boy ghost, aspires to become a spooky ghost; as it is already evident from a book he is reading in how to become a spooky ghost, by reading the illustrations as a guide. After practicing some ghost poses to scare people; he comes across an ad where he spots a job to haunt a house over at 1313 Dracula Drive, and experience isn't the ad's requirements.

After changing into his own blue ghost uniform to get a better revealing look, he makes his way to the haunted mansion, which is located at the highest point of an isolated mountain. Where, before to his knowledge, it is occupied by a beefy ghost; who knows of another intruder and intends to trick it.

The tricks then follow through into several long sequences; particularly when the ghost encounters the beefy, invisible ghost smoking cigarettes, which begin to taunt him, scaring scared of his own kind.

It also follows through with a 'boo' sequence, which scares the little ghost, and it follows straight into a climax with the firecrackers. The beefy ghost attempts to scare him with an explosive firecracker; but it backfires; when a mysterious match erupts the mass amount of firecrackers in his pant flaps which then results into a frantic sequence around the haunted house, scaring the little ghost back home.

Chuck Jones, according to Milt Gray, had written to an animation union newsletter in the late 1970s; where he bashed towards Paramount Studios, claiming he had created the infamous Famous Studios character: Casper the Friendly Ghost, with the source being this cartoon. Of course, this was the time when Chuck's ego had been growing, creating his own interpretation of Warner's history, his love for Mark Twain, and he uses his ego to attempt to be an animation dictator.

Evidently, Chuck's ego kicked in with that nonsense; and using the source of this cartoon itself proves how inaccurate it is for a variety of reasons:

First, Casper was created by Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo the 1939 book The Friendly Ghost which predates this cartoon, and second; the character resembles little to nothing of the Casper character. Thirdly, Chuck had nothing to do with the creation of the character, and of course, never worked for Famous Studios, located over at the East Coast.

Sure, the ghost character Chuck created in this cartoon may resemble the cutesy and conceptual feel of Casper; but all in all, the ghost character is really just another knock-off of Chuck's Disney-ish characters encountering perilous events. Chuck Jones presents this ghost as a silent character, much like any of Chuck's characters he was making in this particular in this era; and quite possibly throughout his career considering a majority of his characters were mimed...which definitely supports the dis-integrity of Chuck's claim.

Chuck's approach towards the character designs for the ghost aren't particularly very appealing if you compare Casper; particularly in terms of facial proportions. To give the character a slightly more dapper designed; other than just a spirited, ghostly body; he adds a pants flap his rear end; as well a short part of curly hair on his head.

Casper also has two different colours for his ghostly flesh; where it is shown the 'blue' outfit would be considered a more believable look. As for the pants flap; Chuck Jones also gives the idea the ghost is merely just invisible, as how many would view a ghost; and the body and proportions are all just from a suit.

Story construction for Ghost Wanted is very basic and constructed in a Disney-formula style. It ends particularly like a Disney short, where a character would run away afraid. To a small extent, it carries out similar patterns from a previous cartoon about ghosts, Lonesome Ghostswhich was produced from the Disney studios. In the Disney cartoon, going by contrasts: 

Mickey's trio are ghost exterminators, and are given a phoney prank call from a gang of ghosts who plan to trick the trio with paranormal activities. 

In this cartoon, the boy ghost aspires to be a spooky ghost, as evident from the book he is reading, as well as applying for an advertisement to haunt a particular ghost, but finds it is already occupied by a older, bigger ghost who is willing to prank practical jokes on a meek, little ghost; but just lacking comical gags in contrast to LonesomeI believe the whole concept would've been either coincidental, or having subtle inspiration, due to Chuck following the path to Disney formula. With the ghosts from Disney being just a group of pests, the ghost here presents a very beefy ghost; which is used for comical purposes; particularly when Tex Avery is the attributed voice of the ghosts, and the effective laughter which is evident.

Chuck Jones already shows some slight progress and experiment in trying in some of the typical humour in the Warner cartoons here. The ghost, is presented as a buffoon type-persona, beefy, and completely jolly; which you could consider to be a Tex Avery influence. Avery's contribution as the voice for the big ghost certainly is one factor, as his infectious laughter makes him appear very foolish; even though the ghost isn't near as funny as the Father Bear from The Bear's Tale. He typically bursts out with laughter with particular lines which as a Tex punch to it, 'That's a killer!'.

The dynamite segment towards the end of the cartoon, is another fine example of Chuck's very slow try for some comic timing, even though it turns out as a little sluggish, and the speed isn't particularly too convincing. After the dynamite goes off, the big ghost goes off like a comet; where the ghost's frantic run turns into a glow; which occurs throughout the chase sequence.

The GIF posted to the right shows a rather amusingly staged scene of the chase occurring through the house, which creates a charming effect.

Chuck's demanding quality in terms of layout, art direction as well as animation stands out rather noticeably throughout the cartoon. The layout artist creates a very convincing layout towards the beginning where the little ghost approaches to the castle which is on top of a mountain, which gives the staging a lot more drama, and a darker atmosphere in colour.

Parts of it have some live-action influence particularly with the ghost walking up towards the mountain, towards the house. He also communicates through visuals of the action to create an alarming tone to the cartoon; particular when the invisible ghost puffs the words 'Boo' which was formed from cigarette smoke, as well as a telegram which was used as a gag purpose. The background artist (possibly Paul Julian), throughout the short, gives the haunted house a particularly very dark and disturbing atmosphere inside where it would imply haunted houses are frightening and dark, which can, in some aspects, give the rest of a cartoon a particularly cold look in colour, despite the action.

On the animation side, Chuck plans out a particularly very challenging assignment for one of his animators, where the main ghost; appearing invisible with the leftovers of his hat as well as the cigarette and smoke...which was cleverly well as adding personality to the laughing ghost as he asks the ghost, 'Okay, bud, scare me. Let's see the scare!' and pours out laughing.

Chuck's posing is noticeable on a couple of scenes, particularly when Casper looks blankly at the dynamite in front of him towards the end of the cartoon, and Chuck's timing is very solid as the ghost slowly creeps away from the dynamite stick and zips out of the scene. Chuck also gives away some subtle poses in the takes of the young ghost during the scare sequence from the big ghost, where he exaggerates the posing, by widening the eyes, and creating more shock on the ghost which feels particularly human.

Watching the cartoon as well as looking at the animation, Chuck's cartoon style alters in this cartoon, compared to the other cartoons he worked on prior that. He gives the characters in this short a particularly looser feel in his drawing, particularly with the signature mouths, as well as the eyes which are noticeable in Chuck's style of the cartoons he directed in that decade. It's particularly noticeable on the big ghost, who certainly has a very Jones-esque design.

Being a Jones cartoon from the standpoint he preferred to make; you know of very little references which appear in his cartoons; though subtle ones appear in the newspaper ads from a Saturday Evening Ghost paper which is a pretty obvious giveaway of the popular American magazine, Saturday Evening Post, which is a little cutesy pun.

'1313 Dracula Drive' is the chosen name for the haunted house; where '1313' would create superstition, as well as an alliterated street by adding Dracula's name to make the cartoon's theme appear as dramatic, though in a harmless effect. Not particularly amusing at all, though the little bits of information where a little intriguing, and rather typical for cartoons.

To reach to a conclusion, Ghost Wanted is a fitting combination of what Chuck was typically creating in the cutesy, style as well as a potential touch for comedy. Of course, the comic timing isn't particularly established very well in this cartoon, whereas it could have worked funnier, but this is still particularly early days for Chuck. Tex Avery as the ghost is a particularly fitting touch, and particularly a unique turn towards Chuck's career. The firecrackers were a particular highlight of the cartoon, where Chuck's comic timing was particularly charming, though the sense of speed isn't yet as believable...also slightly a little edgy for Chuck where he uses a small touch of cartoon violence, which wasn't particularly viral in the early 40s or 30s cartoons.

The humour not yet being establish would still be attributed to Chuck's slow timing, which still has not been mastered. It is still easily recognised as a Disney-ish Jones short, considering it centres on a particular little ghost who aims to scare ghosts, but gets out-spooked by a larger ghost, and rushes down. It is very basic, though the potential humour is a good bracer for what is yet to come. It's also worth noting this is the last animation credit for Bob McKimson for the Jones unit, though this evidently doesn't affect Chuck a great deal, considering he had Ken Harris as a top animator, and knew how to get the best out of his animators.


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  2. Carl Stalling's score is WONDERFUL!