Tuesday, 15 April 2014

324. Porky's Preview (1941)

Warner cartoon no. 323.
Release date: April 19, 1941.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig/Skunk); Sara Berner (Tickey lady); Cliff Nazarro (Al Jolson caricature).
Story: Dave Monahan.
Animation: Virgil Ross.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky sets up a movie preview of his own, and his film takes us into a different, amateurish, animated world.

Whilst other directors asides Clampett have begun to put in a little input in directing a few Porky Pig cartoons such as Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones; Tex Avery also joins the lot considering he hadn't make a Porky cartoon for almost four years.

Despite directing a character whose path he went a long time ago, he does without doubt uses that advantage of a character who would only need to appear on the screen in a few seconds.

Without doubt, Porky appears in the cartoon in many small ways, as the short focuses on an animated preview which Porky animated himself. From a cartoon artistic aspect, as well as in terms of satire:

Tex is taking this to a whole new level of mockery. Tex's choice for a Porky short is to create a sub-gentre. In other words, a "cartoon within a cartoon". Unlike You Ought to Be in Pictures which was a sub-genre; Tex takes it to a different level, where he is mocking the artistic side of animation. Porky's preview presentation consists of a very amateurish animation production. A lot of the animation consists of doodles and stick figurines, as well as very childish-looking backgrounds. Tex creates this different artistic side of animation, where he obviously is intending to create amateurish backgrounds and drawings to create a very effective short, as well as a very funny satire. Tex with without doubt, going at new heights and this is one experiment to make a majority of a cartoon look very incompetent but entertaining at the same time, as a lot of the animation is seen in Porky's perspective.

Starting with the cartoon's opening sequence: it stands out differently from the rest of the short. The animation and character designs are of good standard, and the backgrounds are rather detailed and apparent. It also consists of several gags which you would expect from a typical Tex Avery cartoon.

For example at the ticket booth; a skunk walks into the scene and everyone is seen covering themselves with a gas mask. The skunk makes a silly pun, claiming he has only 'one scent' to afford a ticket.

Tex even breaks the forth wall to make the joke somewhat obvious, and to give the skunk a little personality. There are also several cute jokes such as a firefly usher who walks to an audience member with a small torchlight to their seats; in rhythm to The Umbrella Man.

Then there are other gags created by Tex goes a little daring. A kangaroo usher is seen collecting people's tickets for admission; and at one point he snaps a customer's arm off and places it inside his pouch. The opening sequence is a great way to start off a short which is unlike what Tex has ever created. It is very evenly paced, and being in a completely different environment, the cartoon from that point on is completely unpredictable; which I believe is how Tex interpreted the opening, as it was a great introduction for what is yet to come.

Porky doesn't have much of an animated appearance in the short, as he only appears for a couple of seconds introducing his feature preview. He also appears in the closing shots once he's learnt his preview has bombed (save for the skunk who enjoyed the 'stinker').

Despite not much appearance; I always felt he was in a lot more of the short in many subtle ways such as the work he created behind the feature preview, as well as the consistent scribblings made in the animation, etc.

During Porky's entrance on stage, animated by Virgil Ross, he is very confident and has an artistic ego, as he remarks specifically: "I drew this cartoon all by myself but, shucks, it wasn't so hard because I'm an artist." Perhaps this was also an emphasis on how Leon Schlesinger would have his name printed on every Warner Bros. short? Though he doesn't appear for very long, he certainly is paced very evenly as the real "fun" can be seen following the preview.

As soon as the presentation begins; we then immediately follow into this very bizarre transition from a traditional animation style to supposedly eyesore, amateurish movement. This begins with a band parade of stick figurines, and follows on with pachyderms.

In some of laughter, Tex isn't really gaining for laughs or gags in this world. Most of the short pieces of animation in the short feel like animation tests from an amateur animator. Tex evidently isn't trying to gain laughs in this short, as this is really a visual experience.

There are certainly gags which appear during the preview; though they aren't very complex animated wise; as Tex would need to use some streamlined gags in order to great a very visually fulfilling piece of crude animation.

When you watch a sequence like the streamline train of an engineer tooting to California, Here I Come--it's clear Tex's animation crew can't quite escape the high quality of animation as they create subtle brush effects for the whistle tooting, and the timing is also very fluid. Also, has anybody noticed several caricatures of Henry Binder circulating around the pages several times, which was once again to emphasise the incompetence Porky has in filmmaking as several doodles are seen noticed. It was also intended as a subtle staff joke, too, but you can't help but admire that spontaneity.

Not only is Tex creating believability in this very childish piece of filmmaking, but Carl Stalling is also in on the gag, and does almost as good a job as Tex and his crew do. It is evident in so many cases, such as in the introduction sequence where the Looney Tunes theme, The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, is played very off-key and out-of-tune.

Stalling also includes a frequent use of kazoos which are in some of the underscores. The kazoo is quite possibly the least professional instrument in the entire world, and tho is greatly used to emphasise and achieve this amateurish feel.

The kazoos are mostly heard during the soldiers marching sequence, where the soldiers are marching in theme to the song: Frat.

Their march is mostly just an animation cycle of them walking, though it gets more bizarre as they begin to walk in a single file and touching each other's feet in mid-air. Treg Brown even adds in to the unprofessional feel of sound effects, as he creates a very unrealistic, intended sound effect of a small soldier being constantly kicked by their taller peers.

With a lot more enlightening sequences to be seen, you get the impression that the animators themselves can't help but create some beautifully animated scenes with good timing. An example is evident in the 'Hula' dance sequence. The Hula dancer is seen dancing the Hawaiian song Aloha Oe.

The hula dancer's animation is evident where the Hula skirt flows very smoothly in terms of timing, and it makes the motion looks a little complex, when it shouldn't be.

The last sequence which appears in the short: the September in the Rain sequence which is sung by a Al Jolson caricature, it makes sense to be parodied here considering how The Jazz Singer made Warner Bros. career. The animation and weight of the stick figurine of the character shows some good weight as well as good synchronisation. What I enjoy about the sequence, is during the rain scenes that the rain doesn't appear to touch Al Jolson as he sings; which I interpret to be a deliberate goof.

One of my favourite sequences in the short is "Porky's" trial-and-error in animating a Mexican dance dancing to La Cucaracha. During the sombrero's dance to the music, every bit of dance movement not up to Porky's satisfaction, he scribbled out the drawing from scratch and gives it another attempt. What I find very amusing about that scribble, is how pointless and amateurish it is in an attempt to correct a piece of animation, as it is pointless scribbling out a drawing when the dance had already been animated.

And so, after our September in the Rain number; the preview draws to a close. Porky asks for the audience's reception but finds that it has bombed, except for the skunk who was the only member to have liked it...

Overall, Porky's Preview is certainly ahead of its time in terms of design as well as experimenting particular levels that no other studio would date to imitate. The short as well as its originality is what sets them apart from all other studios, as only Tex would have guts to create what would appear to be a very amateurish short. The preview itself shows no purpose or plot, it is just sequence after sequence of pure nonsense--but it is very entertaining nonsense. I always liked this short for its originality, and though it may not feature too many gags for Tex's liking: the experimentation and artistic level is certainly Tex going at daring levels. The sequences, especially the dance scenes are very entertaining themselves, as it has a touch of comical genius by Tex. I believe that Tex finally managed to handle the short extremely well, even with the lack of screen appearance of Porky; which I think is what the other directors could look up to Tex Avery for. The shorts are only getting better after each cartoon, and it seems the wackiness and creativity of the Warners humour is really about to kick in..

Ratings: 4.5/5. 


  1. I think everyone ran out because the skunk got in.

  2. Look at the MPPDA logo on the bottom right-hand corner. The letters "PD" is missing from the MPPDA logo.