Friday, 4 April 2014

319. Joe Glow, the Firefly (1941)

Warner cartoon no. 318.
Release date: March 8, 1941.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Joe Glow's Yell "Good Night!").
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Philip Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A curious firefly, named Joe Glow, flies around a tent, inspecting items which turn to perilous situations.

This time Chuck Jones is assigned to a black-and-white short, though this is no similar to any of Jones' productions that he was producing. Instead of directing a Porky Pig short, he introduces a new character which perhaps could have been considered a potential Jones star, like Inki or the Two Curious Dogs.

All of Jones' characters and stories were very consistent in this very period, that a regular viewer of the Warner shorts, would be able to identity the distinction between Jones and the other Warner directors.

Chuck's formula consisted of using frequent mood pieces for his shorts. He wasn't looking for laughs, he evidently wanted to be different from the other Warner directors, though by being "different" it is executed poorly. Joe Glow is much like a character who would be equivalent to Disney one-shot characters like Abner Mouse in The Country Cousin. He is silent like much of Jones' other characters. With most of Jones' characters in situations or adventures like Joe Glow, it usually would end with a climax or even a conclusion that pays off the molasses-timing, whereas with this short--it appears to go absolutely nowhere.

The short only focuses on an annoying firefly who just flies around, and almost getting caught the entire time. Although, Joe Glow getting caught or in a perilous situation is good in terms of pacing as it shakens up the short, but having it too many just runs all together, with the sequence being monotonous. It's incredibly dull.

If the perilous situations are of any interest towards you, being too many: Joe Glow starts off inspecting the sleeping man's face; almost causing accident. Then he stands on top of the sleeping man's philtrum.

Feeling the firefly standing on his sleep, he moves his cheeks and mouth which scares Joe Glow away. He almost wakes the man up by clicking the torchlight on by mistake, and almost creates a noise by stepping onto a cracker, causing cracking noises.

Then this relates to the short's supposedly climax, though none of the sequences have a climatic feel at all. This leads to Joe Glow walking into a pepper shaker, he sneezes and causes the ketchup bottle to tip at an edge of a table. Joe Glow desires to prevent the bottle from falling, and creates a lasso from a wool set, where Stalling uses the piece March of the Fairies.

Why the firefly would wish to stop the ketchup bottle from falling is unexplained and clumsy. One would make an assumption he evidently didn't wish to make a sound, though for a firefly he could easily fly away easily, and it would create even more exciting suspense of the man, possibly awakening--though the idea is wasted with this action  scene.

If I were to declare the short is absolutely worthless to watch, I would be lying. In my opinion, all animated shorts are worth seeing: no matter how bad or good they are, and depending on what level. To me, the short is worth taking a look at at least from Jones' artistic side--which is perhaps the reason I could give to the rest of Jones' other slow-paced shorts.

These would have been layouts done by artist John McGrew who did create, bold layout designs for Jones in that era. The realism he gives to the human proportions are splendid and glamorous, that it distracts the viewer from watching the dull action by Joe Glow. Note the glowing effect in long-shots which identifies Joe Glow, which is well crated as an effect.

Another great little scene which is very fulfilling is Joe Glow entering inside the sleeping man's fist, where his lamplight glows from the outer part of his fingers. Also, Jones' attention to detail is evident, especially in the down-shot of the firefly who flies towards the human's head. The use of shadows and shades gives the sequence a rich looking piece of animation. By the way, does anybody else agree with me if the sleeping man is a subtle caricature of Benny Washam, who was possibly already animating by that point in Jones' unit?

Animation-wise, Jones was always willing to let his animators to go ambitious as well as to challenge his animators. During the torchlight sequence, the sleeping man has been beamed from the light and struggles to open his eyes, obviously very disturbed of the light. The posing, as well as the caricature is pulled off beautifully. Whoever animated it (Harris?) has managed to capture the feel of being awoken abruptly, with the disgruntled face of disturbance being the right touch.

Jones' own use of posing and expressions are rather limited in the short. The firefly is very expressionless throughout the short, and hardly has an identity. The only identity he is given is for Stalling's leitmotif of using the music cue On Wings of Songs.  The only sequence he appears to show character, is accidentally stepping on a cracker, making cracking noises. The sheepish expression is pleasing, though its the same expression Jones used with all of his previous characters, so it's nothing new. One particular pose which is not very Jones-like shows Joe Glow's eye-take of the ketchup tipping over off-screen. The posing and exaggeration is rather extreme for Jones in that period, considering how he had tight control over his animators, though there is always going to be a scene where an animator would quietly let that get through.

What appears to be not unusual at all in an early Jones short is that during its climax: a character who is generally silent would tend to have an outburst as a conclusion.

After having to endure the burden of almost disturbing the sleeping man, as well as taking perilous forces such as a pepper shaker or a ketchup bottle, Joe Glow stomps over towards the sleeping man's ear; and bellows "Good night!" in one of Blanc's infamous yelling tones, before flying out of the campsite. I suppose the ending was Jones' way of trying to give a comedic payoff from all the tiresome, monotonous situations the firefly went on, but it doesn't pay off well. I feel its the sort of conclusion that Jones has done too many times before with no elements of new ideas being used in the short at all.

My overall views on the short, it's as though I have seen this before, so many times. Jones' consistent formula is really running altogether and the use of silent characters as well as the supposedly dangerous situations for tiny, meek characters and the useless payoffs. Jones has already used these to death for a majority of his shorts, though this short appears to be lacking so much in terms of gags or ambiguity. Even for Jones' slow-paced shorts in this ear, this short has very low standards for Jones, and quite possibly one of the poorest entries of 1941 so far. The short is obviously not intended for laughs, as it is really just a mood piece, which explains the lack of gags that appear in the short, though the "Good night" shout isn't really funny at all. With all my insights, my overall thought of the short can be described in one word: boring. It just seems a very wasted and worthless short as it leads to nowhere, save the fine layout work and animation details.

Rating: 1/5.


  1. Do you know what the song they play when Joe Glow walks on the crackers is?

  2. I actually liked this short. While it wasn't big on laughs, I think the whole concept of a human's campsite from the perspective of a tiny insect was quite unique.