Sunday, 25 May 2014

331. Porky's Prize Pony (1941)

Warner cartoon no. 330.
Release date: June 21, 1941.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig).
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Ken Harris.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A horse attempts to become Porky's steeplechase, and goes so once Porky's horse becomes too drunk to race.

Compared to many of Chuck's cartoons which are mostly 'mood swings' lacking narrative or dialogue, Chuck appears to be trying to create a straightforward story in this short. Unlike Joe Glow the Firefly which was just absolute visualised nonsense, this short appears to at least have a purpose, at least for the clumsy steed who attempts to become Porky's racer.

The short starts with a horse who has been kicked out of the "Elite Stables", and upon discovering Porky's stable, he aspires to become his steeplechase.

In order to get from one point to another, Chuck still hasn't the ability to get to that point yet, so midway through the cartoon follows a series of several, failed attempts from the horse which results in a number of padding and consistency in terms of timing. He attempts to prove of his physical capabilities in which Porky a majority of the time, just ignores; and the horse's clumsiness proves his uselessness.

Porky is rather underplayed in this short, as he usually is. He is underplayed to the extent where he is given little to no dialogue whatsoever. He only speaks/sings during his introduction, where he sings We're in the Money whilst he is his noble steed a shine, for the county fair race.

He also appears to show at least some personality or action where he mocks the horses' poor attempts of being an eligible steeplechase for the county fair. Throughout the short, he does appear in small scenes here and there, where he is just a passing by character during one of the clumsy horse's chances.

Though, his role doesn't appear until the short's climax during the race. Despite more appearance, Porky's appearance is very passive in terms of action or dialogue. His actions in the latter part of the short are as equivalent towards a fly in the wall during a meeting conference. He is given very little to do other than being the jockey, and this thus shows how underplayed Porky could go to.

The horse's encounter to Porky in his theatrical greeting is rather a pleasant highlight to watch in some aspects. His use of pantomime is well communicated, through the use of signs: a common trademark for Chuck Jones.

The use of the signs are certainly believable and well character-animated in those scenes. The timing of the horses' poses where he attempts to prove he is of "excellent condition" are rather sharp and focused.

The drawing is solid, and so the scene is successful in those aspects. However, what really kills that scene is what follows afterwards. The tail of the horse is not adjusted to the posing from the horse's pose. The tail moves at an inappropriate angle where it is not in keeping with the sharp proportions the horse is attempting to make.

The first attempt was rather comical and subtle from Chuck's perspective. What then "kills" the scene, is the horse then attempting to adjust his style several times, taking up roughly half a minute of screen time. Chuck's obnoxious pacing is still evident, in which he just can't let a scene play, or just get from shot to shot, by having useless padding.

Possibly the worst sequence in the short with really eyesore pacing would be the horse attempting to struggle loose from a bucket. This is one of many of Jones' attempt of going Disnified, where he would require the characters to think like Pluto, and do Pluto stuff.

Watching the horse's hoof being caught in the bucket, and then following with all four legs being caught is quite pain some to watch, not just because of the pacing, but also because of how believable the animation use.

The squash and stretch, the posing is really top-notch, and thus this really does make the viewer feel the annoyance of being trapped. Despite being well-animated, the pacing still needed to get on the road.

One could ask what the sequence had much to do in terms of the short's story: the answer is very little, although this did pay off by the moving the story forward, and thus ending the horse's failed attempts of impressing Porky. The horse crashes towards the stable, where the interior part shows a bottle of horse liniment tipping from the shelf, coming from the reaction of the crash. The liquid falls, thus causing Porky's racehorse to drink from the bucket. However, oblivious to the horse is that the bottle has a very high alcoholic beverage rate of 125% which shows only cartoon characters could survive a physically impossible rate.

One animated gag that could have worked a lot better in terms of pacing and speed, would be the horses' attempt to prove he is eligible for racing is his attempt at high jumps. From how Chuck visioned it, the horses' first jump and into mid-air looks rather promising for the horse: only to find he crashes inside a house. The off-screen crashes and circumstances occurring in the house is rather effective and comical in how it has been achieved, and Chuck certainly pulls it off well.

The horse then exits the house where the gag results in the horse being bizarrely dressed like an old hermit, sitting in his rocking chair. No objection to the bizarre gag, as its amusing in itself, but it could have worked better in terms of its pacing, as the camera movement felt a tad too slow. This is only a minor complaint, on a rather minor gag but Chuck was still learning on improving his timing.

In other words, Chuck's coming certainly does appear to be kicked up a notch a couple of times in the short. He expresses certain wackiness where he is gradually trying to catch up with the other Warner directors, who are also attempting to turn out faster shorts.

Two striking examples are when the horse is dressed as a hermit, he rushes off-screen leaving only the long piece of underwear visible in mid-air, and still riding like a horse. This was rather wacky for Chuck in that time era, and it's definitely full of charm.

The second, shows Chuck giving the horse a characteristic, funny run cycle. Notice the gallop he is making, where Chuck expresses his clumsiness towards the horse where the back part of his legs are not in sync towards the front part of the gallop. It's the sort of characteristic walk that Tex Avery could have used, and this is surely evident that Chuck was desperately attempting to escape from the style of shorts he's making, but isn't yet ready to do so.

Having discovered that Porky's horserace has passed out from the alcohol he drank, Porky faces a brief dilemma. The race is at the procedures of starting, and he desperately needs to find a horse for racing. The clumsy horse, realising his advantage, then proceeds to race to the tracks, taking Porky with him.

As for the horserace sequence, I must admit I quite enjoy Chuck's use of pacing in this racehorse, as it felt as though it was in good taste and it captured the speed and franticness of a horserace rather well.

Chuck creates an effective race where Porky and his horse race through a bush, in which results a steam-locomotve gag, emphasising the speed they are racing at. A rather cute gag, and this also shows Disney influence from the Donald Duck short The Hockey Champ, a short which also had rather rapid pacing. Despite the horse's clumsiness and lack of skills in the race, such as breaking through stumps and landing underwater at a pool, his great speed and cheating goes unnoticed in the crowds, and thus Porky and his horse win the race. A great success for Porky, but the horse discovers his hoofs are caught in the trophy, a rather cute recurring gag from previously.

For a Chuck Jones short where he relies on pantomime, I would consider this short as least passable to a low level. The short itself had a straightforward story and appeared to at least go from one point to another, even if Chuck's sense of timing was still slow and in bad shape. Chuck and his animators definitely have the clumsy horse an identity and took advantage of that rather well, in which it was paid off successfully. The pacing of the short, however was still slow and aggravating to watch, and Porky's role was too underplayed, either using or losing him for the short. This short, once again, shows elements of Chuck's potential which is still not fully recognised or successfully achieved.

Rating: 2/5.


  1. All four of Chuck's B&W Porky shorts are basically pantomime efforts, with Porky given the barest minimum of dialogue seemingly just to give Mel a little vocal exercise -- Jones still doesn't want to get away from his Disney-like aspiration with a character whose most well-known trait is his stutter. It isn't until we get to Chuck's first color Looney Tune and his first pairing while Michael Maltese that somebody finally comes up with some lines and actions to get Jones excited about using the character to his best extent.

  2. Alas, poor Jones! His skills will come but one or two years later.