Saturday, 14 December 2013

311. Shop, Look and Listen (1940)

featuring Blabbermouse.
Warner cartoon no. 310.
Release date: December 21, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Blabbermouse/Mohicans/Whistler's Mother), Bill Thompson (Conductor).
Story: Dave Monahan.
Animation: Cal Dalton.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: The conductor and Blabbermouse return again, where a tour is performed at an empty department store.

Being the second (and last) cartoon to feature Blabbermouse, this is also quite possibly the final WB cartoon to use the formula for blabbermouth annoying characters, which had been a concept used by Tex, Bob Clampett and Ben Hardaway previously...another case where the Warner humour are a step ahead, showing how the directors and writers have developed better humour strategies.

Judging by the title card which features 'featuring Blabbermouse'--was the character was really intended to be a newly established character for the Warner shorts? Well, it isn't certain for sure but it was more or less likely just a temporary creation, as the character doesn't hold any merit than Porky or Bugs, or even Sniffles.

It still feels a little bit peculiar that the character would be followed up from the previous short Little Blabbermouse, which isn't a spectacular cartoon itself in which the cartoon is given a sequel. Perhaps it was a hit during the time it was released in theatres? Yowp, can you back this up with any surviving reviews from Film Daily?

It's also quite satisfying to see how the short marks the end of those annoying characters who talk continuously, which showed little purpose, and how they were apparently meant to be appealing and funny.

The short itself, is without doubt a follow up to Blabbermouse' debut short which was released earlier this year. Comparing this short to Little Blabbermouse, I'll say that Blabbermouse was superior. This cartoon is just a almost recycled plot from the short itself, except with 'Blabbermouse' it at least showed some sort of synopsis or summit, whereas with the cartoon it doesn't.

It's merely just another spot-gag short which takes place in a department store, whereas previously beforehand it took part in a chemist. A part of me wonders whether any planned future Blabbermouse shorts would have been based on different stores for each short, such as a restaurant, or a  bookstore.

The whole perspective of the Blabbermouse shorts are very 1930s-oriented, with gags not being fresh, and lame deliveries and construction. The ending itself for the sequel short, ends with the same scenario and delivery from Little Blabbermouse, too. Blabbermouse, who doesn't even center the whole cartoon himself, just continuously asks infuriating questions to annoy the conductor, that he eventually snaps and gives Blabbermouse his destiny. His fate is, during the modern inventions sequence, he gets pulled off the cart, and ends up wrapped in a Xmas present, with a stamp slammed to his mouth reading 'Do Not Open 'Till Xmas'. The delivery is at least more charming and delivered better than the previous short, considering the short was released around Christmas time. Also, notice how the finishing dialogue for Blabbermouse is almost similar to the preceding short, where he threatens the conductor to summon his father, being a police officer.

Anyway, some parts I thought worth to analyse, and that would be the opening sequence itself. The short's opening is rather lengthy, and to me it goes on a lot longer than necessary. It features the exterior of the department store building, the working hours for the days, including a Sunday gag, as well as a pan of the interior of the store at night, before we meet the conductor by the cashier. The opening sequence opens with the department store's neon lights flashing, with the department store called 'J.T. Gimlet'; a unfunny parody of the now defunct store 'Gimbels'. The opening time sequence has a particular lame gag lineup where the days of the week read the times the department store is open: '9 to 6' even on a Sunday, if it is open.

The opening sequence I guess was added longer to add some extra time, and I guess to at least try and create some suspense and wonder, even though there isn't much to be curious about.

The cartoon sequences which focus on the picture frame department shows some good gag developments as well as delivery. A great example can be the Whistler's Mother portrait. The portrait is seen as how the public know the ending, of an elderly lady sitting at her chair.

She then comes to life, whistling to She'll Be Comin' Around The Mountains. At first, you would expect the gag to have had a very weak outcome, or something you would expect out a Tex Avery spot-gag, but thanks to Freleng...the gag then develops further, with some decent comic timing.

The mother then remarks, 'You ought to hear my son, he's a whistler, too'. The mother then impersonates his son, as she stomps her foot and claps broadly. The timing, as well as the extra setup works out with satisfaction, with a touch of Freleng's subtle genius.

Another amusing though subtle visual delivery appears following on where we view an infamous sculpture known as The Thinker. The Thinker is indeed, thinking and pondering to himself, with some of Blanc's distinctive murmurs. As he thinks, it turns out the Thinker is reading his Tax Income Report from 1939, or is it 1940? I guess that was a clean-up error, as indicated on paper, as well as the layout shot. Freleng even pays homage to one of Tex's gags that he uses for his spot-gags...though not one of his more charming gags. The Hunter painting indicates the dog is pointing at a direction with a eager face and is dragging the hunter to the direction. It turns out the direction is pointed at the Lonesome Pine, which shows even Freleng has gone as far as to make a dog-innuendo gag.

Not to mention, there are also going to be some poor gags which fall flat through the sequence, as well as how it was developed. Earlier on during the tour of the department store, the conductor points out the various types of shoes that are in stock. The camera pans through the conductor's point of view of what's on stock. First, you get the suede, pumps, slippers, and then mules. Two different coloured mules then pop out of the box where they bray, and the whole output was just incredibly weak, and amateurish. It just sticks out like a sore thumb, you'd expect a 'mule' gag to somehow appear, and having them bray continuously shows no surprise or effort in developing this gag.

Another sequence, which shows a tad bit of weakness, but it more or less was reused from the Freleng short: Sweet Sioux; is the Last of the Mohicans painting. The gag itself is a little tame and unoriginal, but Freleng's comic timing had improved to better taste three years previously, that the smack is a tad more funnier.

Moving on to the modern inventions sequences, the mechanical robots call for some technical assignments for the animator. One of the highlights for the mechanical sequences are a group of machines seated at a table playing cards. This also calls for an amusing gag setup, as well as Friz's own comic timing.

The mechanical robots playing poker, are portrayed as very human, that they even would cheat in a game.

Due to the cheat, one of the mechanical robots shoots the robot, which is a hilarious setup; in terms of delivery and Friz's timing. It portrays very well as a close up, as well as unexpected tension that goes into the sequence.

Another great little sequence which is great to watch visually would be the modern invention sequence where the booths are seen wrapping up Christmas presents. This is a great advantage for Treg Brown who has created some very groundbreaking sound effects for the wrapping sequence, that they show a very technical and comical charm to it. You can hear the sound with better and more memorable cartoons like Baby Bottleneck, during the 'Powerhouse' sequence. So, towards the end of the cartoon, the machines come to better use where they grab hold of Blabbermouse, and wrap him around as a Xmas present, as well as placing the stamp on his mouth so he'd stubble to speak, and that's the last we ever see of Blabbermouse.

To conclude the review, Shop, Look and Listen is still just a mere lame followup to Little Blabbermouse, and it's as smile as that. Though both cartoons have the same construction and theme, though you'd probably ask how could I compare both cartoons? Well, Little Blabbermouse stood out to me for two great sequences, which included the song sequences which combined some great popular songs with the items, as well as a chase sequence with the cat, whereas with this cartoon there is no climax or much thought put together. You could hardly call the mechanicals to be the climax of the film, except they only come to good use when they shut the character's yap. Still, it's a good cartoon to an extend, as it would involve the end of Blabbermouse, and not having to endure annoying, unappealing chatterbox characters.

Well, this now marks the end of reviewing the year 1940: which HAS taken an awful long time to get through, and eventually...I have made it. Overall: this has been a groundbreaking year for the studio: meaning the birth of Bugs Bunny, as well as the return of Friz Freleng. The humour has improved a great deal, the timing is getting faster and the gags funnier, and we'll see what 1941 has to offer when the blog next reviews it...


  1. I suspect if a title card said "featuring," it was intended as a series.
    The Film Daily (23 Dec. 1940) rated it "so-so." "Idea was used in an earlier Leon Schlesinger cartoon and this one was not as funny as the original." Boxoffice: "The complementing gags were generally amusing though in somewhat awkward taste."
    The blabbing aspect was transferred to Sniffles in future cartoons.

    1. Jones would first give it to Batty, the can't-shut-up co-star with Sniffles in "The Brave Little Bat" before shifting the bit over to the title character (in what was one of the first Jones-Maltese collaborations and probably the funniest of all the WB shorts with that personality trait included).

      It seemed as though what showed up on film was annoying for the most part, but the gags must have played well in the storyboard presentation, so they kept passing the idea from one unit to another (Avery to Haman-Ising to Freleng to Jones) to see if someone could finally make the personality trait animate funny. Friz finally gave in to the audiences' actual sentiments over a decade later, when they used the overly-talky gag with Bugs only so Rocky could stick a gun in his face and tell him to "Shut up shutting up!"

    2. Oh of course!! I should have known it passed to Sniffles (i.e. "The Unbearable Bear"), except the only difference is...a different voice actress provides it!

    3. Just to correct one sleep-deprived typo -- should be Hardaway-Dalton in my first post, with Porky's sidekick in "It's an Ill Wind". And I also forgot they let Clampett take a shot at making the character work as well with the annoying duck in "Porky's Hotel" that followed a short time later.

    4. Well, I don't know about much of Dalton's involvement in co-directing with Hardaway, but these are pretty much Hardaway's ideas, due to his poor sense.

      Come to think of it, all the WB directors used that particular personality: B. Hardaway, Tex, Jones, and Friz himself.

    5. Tashlin was the only one of the main directors not to take a whack at it (he did use some fast-talking gags on occassion, as with Agnes berating her father in "Nasty Quacks", but it was a stand-alone gag situation and not a character who talked all the time and couldn't shut up).

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  2. At the time this cartoon was made, March 15th was the tax filing deadline; it was not changed to the current April 15th until the 1950s. The "1939" reference would be for a filer's 1939 income tax, which would have been due March 15, 1940 (about nine months before this cartoon was released). This suggests, perhaps, that the entire cartoon may have been produced earlier, and delayed in release, or even that this was a gag that slipped from the earlier short and was used later in the sequel.

  3. And of course, the name Blabbermouse would be the occasional offscreen/merchandise name for Blabber, young private eye mouse with his cat superior supreme, Snooper, in the mid-segment at Quick Draw at Hanna-Barbera from 1959-1963, created & written by none other than Mike Maltese.

    Above all, let's not (or as Snooper and Archie the Bartender from the radio comedy show hit, Duffy's Tavern, spoofed in Sniffle's and (signoff)Porky in the Drum's farewell, 1945's "Hush My Mouse", would put it, leave us, not forget the whole parody source of the blabbering character----Fibber McGee's radio "Sis/Teeny" played by Marion "Molly McGee" Jordan. Sara Berner played Sniffles later. I betttttcha!:)Steve

    BTW Friz's "She Was an Acrobat's Daughter" in 1937 was I think an early use of this, and FmcG and Molly was already on the air beginning in 1935.
    PS Congratulations on finishing 1940 and over ten years in just a few years, an enviable task for some of us.Excellent blog.:)