Saturday, 18 October 2014
356. Aloha Hooey (1942)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.