Saturday, 18 October 2014

356. Aloha Hooey (1942)

Warner cartoon no. 355.
Release date: January 31, 1942.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery/Bob Clampett (uncredited).
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Sammy Seagull), Pinto Colvig (Cecil Crow), Sara Berner (Hawaiian bird).
Story: Michael Maltese.
Animation: Virgil Ross.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Sammy Seagull shows a shipmate, Cecil Crow, in how to attract a dame, as they take an eye on a Hawaiian bird dancer.

By the time the cartoon had reached theatres, it was already established by the Studio that Clampett had took over Tex Avery's unit after his departure, but its surely plausible that during the short's production; this was indeed one of the shorts that was started by Tex, but finished by Clampett. In fact, it's a little harder to distinguish whose style is dominant in the cartoon, but as the short's credits don't give any answers--I'd like to say that this feels more like a Tex Avery cartoon, to be on the safe side.

Why I say so? Not only does the cartoon feature gags very much in Tex's style, but from an animation point (backgrounds, character designs and all); it looks like a Tex Avery short. Reflecting on other aspects such as timing: its hard to identify or finger point whose scene is which. At that point, both Tex Avery and Bob Clampett were already pressing their feet hard on the accelerator, as Tex's last few shorts had slicker pacing and more out-of-the-norm gags, whereas Clampett was just starting to break out from his bad working habits from producing mundane Porky Pig shorts. To say whose the dominant director of the short, in my opinion, is inconclusive.

The opening shot is a prime example of how two characters should be introduced to one another, especially when written for an animated short. Michael Maltese demonstrates the character's personalities from not only their own genus, but from their geography.

Cecil Crow is already established as a Mid-Western dim-witted crow "from Iowa", whereas Sammy Seagull was created as a sailor, and it seems fitting to fit both personalities from different cultural aspects; creating good exposition.

Admittedly, I'm not a fan of the alliterated names Maltese or whoever conceived, as it's just generic names anybody could create for a character: it lacks juice or appeal. In fact, in the dialogue for the introduction scene, Maltese writes in alliteration a few times, mainly heard in Sammy's intro: "the sailor the sailor from Singapore to the South Seas". The short, too, marks the return of voice actor Pinto Colvig, who for a few years left Hollywood to work for Fleischer over at Florida, and his distinctive voice is put to good use as he voices the Crow.

The whole opening is written simply to not only introduce the characters, but to also set the cartoon's ambition to carry the plot.
Both have arrived from distant places but to a tropical island. Cecil's excuse was he was "tired of farmin'", and opted to seek after some "Hula-hula dancers" looking like Dorothy Lamour, who at the time was a popular actress for her Hula figure, most notable for starring in the original Road to... comedies. And so, the Seagull agrees to help out with Seagull in finding a dame for him. Out with his telescope from under the sheet of a lifeboat, they spot just the right bird: which is the Hawaiian bird dancer, who is designed to resemble Lamour.

Following that, the two birds depart the ship to the tropical island where they are greeted by the Lamour bird. The rest of the cartoon, however, is mainly the seagull and the crow motivating themselves in an attempt to win the girl's affection. The scenes with Sammy Seagull, though, aren't fulfilling at all, and the scenes lack much creativity as well as gags that Tex or even Clampett didn't offer.

Sammy is pulling tricks towards the Hawaiian dancer in a way to impress her, such as Sammy flying in the sky like an airplane. I suppose, the gag is that he is flying in the style of the plane, and creates a love heart in the shape of a cloud form.

I suppose, to a minority it might be amusing, but from the reviewer's perspective, I expected a bigger send-off, it just seems too tame a gag for Tex or Clampett's taste. The other gag which Sammy uses to impress the dancer is a gag in the same category, for the seagull does another gag acting as a dive-bomber; and that's literally all the gag is to it.

Comparing the gags of the Crow's attempt to woo the Lamour bird, the gags are better anticipated and show a fresh comparison between the crow and the seagull's personalities. The Crow character is already portrayed as a dim-wit, whereas the seagull is already the ideal everyman. A problem with that personality is its difficult to execute broad, vaudeville gags to a wonder-boy character, especially when doing it right.

Characters like Cecil Crow, on the other hand are much easier to conceive broader gags. In his attempt to charm the Lamour bird, he attempts to copy the actions of Sammy Seagull, but finds that he loses his speed limit and falls directly under the sea.

The underwater sequence is a great showcase for character animation by Rod Scribner, who captures the dimwitted persona very well into the character. The crow is still puffing his cigar underwater, and not having any sudden realisation that he's underwater.

What's a gag without the crow striking a flame through his matchstick whilst underwater? Only Tex (or Clampett) could have made such a gag look so subtle. Until, the crow remarks: "Gosh, I didn't know you could light this underwater..UNDERWATER?". Cecil's double-take was also greatly caricatured with Rod, who hits the accents right. The second gag in his third attempt to impress the dancer, is another great showcase of comedic timing, hitting it right on the beam. In a attempt to copy the Seagull's actions as a dive-bomber; he starts off with an average lift-off, but just then he ends up jerking consistently, and spazzes up like an engine going out of hand. These are both great scenes which blends in well to the character's instincts.

After a series of gags from a competition between the Seagull and the Crow, the competition breaks off into a dilemma for Cecil Crow. After an avoidance from the shark, Cecil quietly inhabits himself inside a turtle shell, hiding out of fear. Discovering quickly that another turtle resides in that shell, they both start fighting inside the shell, causing a racket. The part where supposedly the crow is raising his fist inside the shell to slam the turtle really shows power and monument weight in animation, that you feel the pain. Note how the turtle greatly resembles, Cecil Turtle, who had appeared earlier in the Bugs Bunny short, Tortoise Beas Hare. To make this even more coincidental, both the characters in the scenes were supposedly called "Cecil" (even though the turtle is unnamed in the short).

Areas which appear to show some of Tex Avery's humour is evident in some of the scenes, as well as scenes that I've already covered. In the first attempt of attracting the girl's attention, the first goal was to retrieve a clamshell successfully.

The seagull did the task effortlessly. For Cecil Crow on the other hand, the goal backfired. As soon as the crow opens the clamshell, we find a protesting clam inside the shell yelling incoherently before squirting water into the crow's face.

The sort of juvenile humour feels like it was executed the way Tex would have done it, though in some respects Clampett was certainly more juvenile than Tex. Another gag, appearing in the short's climax, is almost certainly Tex's own where we get an introductions scene of the cartoon's villain: a vicious gorilla. His jersey clearly labels him as "The Villain", but just to get cocky, the back of his jersey reads: "As if you didn't know" which is a decent tongue-in cheek gag which Tex adored.

Not to mention; you get the idea that the pacing is still building up; much like how Tex Avery and Clampett were building up their pace both in that same period; that its once again hard to distinguish whose timing is which. I'm going to suggest this might have been Tex Avery's work, for he did experiment a lot with rapid pacing, especially extensive use of dry-brushing effects.

The scene of the crow narrowly escaping the shark's jaws just features a beautifully rapidly paced scene, as well as a beautifully executed gag that it works on its own. Just as fires out the scene like a missile, all of his feathers fall out of the scene, making the gag feel more believable and convincing.

The second scene which features some beautiful timing and staging would be the starfish scene. Once again, the scene requires some beautiful and appealing dry brush work which makes the animation look very inventive, but also convincing in force. In a close-up shot, Cecil Crow struggles to pull the starfish from the top of his head, and then leading to a fight between the Cecil and the starfish, but as you'd expect: the starfish defeats him validly.

This leads to a mini fight scene, where the violence occurs behind a shrub, but the violence can still be visualised through the crashing motion that it gives. After a series of failures of impressing the girl, Cecil Crow finally defeats the villain of the short and wins the girl's affections. I guess the irony of the scene was that the crow failed to complete such simpler tasks, but had the knack to fight the vicious gorilla. And so, the new couple embrace one another and kiss. The final scene, though, ends in a very wimpy sense. Sammy Seagull bids them farewell as the sun sets. In the final scene, Cecil Crow and his new mate both wave back goodbye as they fly away from the tropical island, and followed by new offspring. It's a pretty weak way to end the short, for it lacks satire and taste: especially from a director like Tex, who would always satirise an ending to make it a suitable payoff. Here, it ends at a Disney-ish

Over who the dominant director of the cartoon was, its still debatable, but like I said, I'm more willing to say its a Tex Avery short. In all, this short was pretty weak in terms of satire. Though alliterated names are fun, here it just seems to lack creativity, but that's not all: some of the gags created themselves lack creativity. In all fairness, the character development in the short was paid off well, and believable enough in that sense. Cecil Crow at least saved the short from its uninspiring moments. I suppose the fact that the short was supposedly worked on by different directors, and yet the outcome didn't really meet to good results? Who knows. It wasn't a terrible short, but it felt so uninspiring, and especially reviewing the short was very uninspiring; as apart from the faster pacing delivered in the cartoon's action scenes; the rest of the cartoon is overall, mundane.

Rating: 2.5/5.


  1. This cartoon will always stick out in my mind as the inspiration for one of John Kricfalusi's most obnoxious posts ever.

    Yes, we all know how every single other director is inferior to Clampett, and this cartoon isn't as good as EATIN' ON THE CUFF. But don't use it to bag on Tex' directorial skills. Look at the outstanding cartoons he'll do at MGM. Stuff like BLITZ WOLF compares favorably to Clampett's work.

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    2. It kind of goes in tandem with Keith Scott's commentary on "Farm Frolics" on the Golden Collection, which basically boiled down to "This cartoon sucks -- Avery must have done it". When Clampett moved to doing color cartoons, he followed the lead of the other directors of early 1941, who were slowing down their pacing to focus on personality animation, which is why Chuck Jones could remake "Porky's Pooch" almost point-for-point seven years later. He never could have done that (or would have wanted to do it) with one of Bob's cartoons from two years earlier or two years later, but the slower-paced efforts of the period that were done without any of Avery's crew involved (including "Frolics") are dismissed as not possibly have come from the Clampett Unit.

  2. This is a very personality-driven cartoon, at a time when Warners was in the final stages of really honing it's personality animation -- an effort that began in 1939 and took about three years to complete. Part of that involved stepping away from random gags that didn't spring out of who the characters were, which meant the cartoons of this period tended to be much better animated than what came 2-3 years before, but in many cases, sparser in gags (and that definitely includes Clampett's cartoons of this time frame, excluding the ones he inherited from Avery). In a way, the late 1941-early '42 cartoons are almost like a final exam for the staff paid for by Jack Warner, to see if they have gotten Disney personality animation down well enough to where they can start adding back the really crazy gags the studio began using in the 1937-38 release season.

    Working with Avery's crew, Bob's unit was the first to start speeding things back up later on in '42, and the other units followed, while Avery immediately began pacing things faster over at MGM, but in many cases with less regard for the stronger narrative that Warners cartoons of the time were focusing on (which could be due to the fact that Metro had a stronger stable of animators, and Warners had a stronger stable of writers). But if would have been interesting to see if Tex would have followed the same path as Clampett if he had stayed at the Schlesinger studio.