Saturday, 25 October 2014

360. Crazy Cruise (1942)

Warner cartoon no. 359.
Release date: March 14, 1942.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Bob Clampett, Tex Avery (uncredited).
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Robert C. Bruce (Narrator), Mel Blanc (Various voices / Bugs Bunny).
Story: Michael Maltese.
Animation: Rod Scribner.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: This travelogue parody takes us to a crazy journey from a cruise liner.

This is another cartoon which is missing a supervision credit, even though it's another short that Tex started, and supposedly finished by Clampett. Though both director's style clash in the short, this marks the end of Tex Avery's official tenure at Warners. The man who helped revolutionise the wit and humour into these cartoons, a very venturesome director.

Since his departure from the studio; this proved to not be a heavy loss for the Schlesinger Studio. Everyone else learnt from Tex, and managed to produce some brilliant input that is on par with Tex's work, and it only gets better from then on. Tex's last official Warners cartoon ends with another typical spot-gag cartoon, set in a cruise liner; complete with recycled formulas, and the liner takes the viewer to random scenic locations of the world; which sounds in perspective unfocused even as a travelogue parody. At first, you see the cruise liner in the Caribbean, then you see the liner across the Alps, the Sahara Desert, etc. This parody sure lives up to the cartoon's title.

I suppose the unfocused of where the cruise liner heads to sequence to sequence is satirised brilliantly in the navigational map sequence occurring around the beginning of the cartoon. Mike Maltese writes and plans a great sequence which not only creates great satire, but a great challenge to animate timing-wise. The ship, seen docked from the coast of Florida, sets sail to Havanna, Cuba.

The ship stops to the "world's famous Sloppy Joe's" bar which is based on the Florida bar, famous for regular customers like Ernest Hemingway. As portrayed on the map, its clear everyone (inc. the captain) went to the bar before embarking back on the ship.

The next part features the uncoordinated paths the cruise liner follows emphasising that the sea crew are drunk, such as sailing in swirls (before stopping with the cruise liner hiccuping). This is a beautifully executed and exaggerated gag that shows great dynamics in the crazy route they are travelling. Not to mention this would have required a lot of careful attention for an effects animator in handling the scene, as not only does it need to be laid out and planned precisely; but not to mention comical timing-wise. Stalling adds to the comedic touch as he plays How Dry I Am while the cruise drunkenly sails.

For aspects that feature a lot of Tex Avery's humour; it's scattered throughout the cartoon. Not to mention, it also looks like a Avery production, judging by the rich backgrounds created by Johnny Johnsen, as well as the use of tight, realistic drawing in some scenes that Tex strictly required from his unit.

The sequence in the Egyptian desert is a striking example of continuous humour elements that you'd expect in Tex Avery's cartoons. After a camera pan of the outback in the desert, the scene takes the viewer to the Sphinx. The stone rendition of the Trylon and Perisphere, (displayed in the 1939 New York World's Fair) is wonderfully referenced and parodied in that shot.

As the narrator describes it, the Sphinx has been standing for many centuries: "Year in, year out", as well as standing there "motionless, silent, quiet". The Sphinx kills the narrator's commentary by speaking: "Monotonous, isn't it?". This is a regular gag punchline which works well in that sequence, contradicting the narrator's commentary to a tee.

Other aspects of Tex's own humour appears in the camouflage sequence. As reported by the narrator, due to "unconditioned world conditions" (supposedly referencing World War II), all ships were to be camouflaged. The ship sailing past is S.S. Yehoodi, a direct reference to Jerry Colonna. The gag itself showing the camouflage, though   corny in perspective, but as a layout it looks painstaking to make the gag as realistic as it could go.

As for scenes that show some Clampett influence in humour and timing; it's possible some of the sequences could've been his own work. Scenes which come to mind is the opening sequence in the short. The short begins at a Southern plantation in Louisiana, and the narrator reports on the financial difficulties that tobacco farms earn because of the tobacco bug. In a close up scene, the tobacco bug is revealed; eating a tobacco leaf.

Whether it was Tex or Clampett who worked on both the scene, its uncertain; though the cutout hand holding the microphone has a unique and blessing touch to it. The microphone is described to be "super-sensitive" that viewers would be able to listen to the bugs for the first time.

Of course, the gag is that the bug responds by satirising the fast-speech patter of the tobacco auctioneer from the Lucky Strike cigarette commercials heard in Your Hit Parade.) Another great scene which appears to share some of the wackiness and spirit in animation is evident in the insect-eating plant sequence.

The 'victim', being a bumblebee, flies at the scene, and ends up caught in the trap from the plant. The bee flies over the plant causing it to spit out shouting "OUCH!" in agony. Such sharp delivery on voice as well as timing.

Other scenes which show some great aspects of delivery and gag punchline are also evident in some scenes. A scene that sticks to my mind fondly, with an unpredictable punchline would be during the oil field scene. In this scene, the narrator looks at the ground rumbling, and remarks with amazement: "Oh, here comes a gusher for them now".

Just as the ground rumbles, one would expect the oil to strike immensely, but the irony of the gag is that it doesn't. Instead only a small drop of oil falls out from the field, landing on a spittoon. This was a great gag which can pleasantly surprise you.

Another scene with a pleasant sendoff would occur during the Alps sequence, featuring the mountain goat. The narrator explains of how the goat enjoy the dangers of leaping peak-to-peak in the alps. During the leap scene, Stalling adds to the right touches: matching the timing precisely by playing London Bridge is Falling Down in the underscore. And then, the goat falls to the ground after leaping all the peaks. Nevertheless, the goat continues to leap in rhythm to the rhyme until at the last note, the goat falls off the cliff by continuous leaping. Another great scene which is entertaining gag-wise, as well as becoming a n advantage for Stalling to make the sequence work.

As for gags that I think don't hold up too well, it would be the some scenes centring on animals. Another scene featured in the Alps, is the group of St. Bernard dog who carry spirit drinks in aid of those who are lying unconscious in the snow. The leader of the pack is seen carrying a keg of scotch, next in line is another St. Bernard carrying a keg of soda. As for the puppy St. Bernard, he carries a small keg of 'Bromo'. Bromo, of course, is medicine which is mostly used for indigestion and heartburn.  I don't personally understand the perspective or purpose of that gag? Was the gag supposedly that each St Bernard in line are seen carrying small pieces of aid, going from strongest (spirits) to weakest (indigestion pills).

In the Africa sequence, another corny gag features a line of animals; which at first are seen lining up with alertness and patience. As it turns out, the camera pans to the right revealing a mother zebra aiding its child by a 'water hole'. As you know, its a rancid pun on 'water holes' which are popular for animals to bathe in the wild lands of Africa.

The next to last sequence in the film, is another satirical scene in creating suspense killers. The narrator gives some commentary to add depth and tension to the scene; a territory which is dominated by "ferocious giant cannibals". The territory is known as the "Brawla-Brawla Soo-it Region". For those who don't know, this is a parody name taken from the lyrics of then popular song: The Hut-Sut Song.

The next scene features a pair of famous, experienced hunters who are caricatures of Friz Freleng and Ted Perice, follow the pgymy into the deep canopy of the dangerous territory. As the narrator says, "They plan to capture a couple of these giants alive!".

After a clattering off-screen sound, the pygmy rushes out gibbering in his native language. In a close-up scene animated by Bob McKimson, he continues to speak in that gibberish tone; until he converts to English, "Look, they got them! They got them!". "They" is revealed in the next shot that the two giants have indeed caught hold of the hunters, but they are compressed between the giant's fingers, resembling rollup cigarettes, leading to the humorous "King Size" lineup from one of the giants.

The final sequence is almost certainly Clampett's own sequence. Note how the gag is the same conception seen from a previous Clampett spot-gag cartoon: Africa Squeaks. Instead of deers looking cute and helpless, we get a group of cute bunnies scampering around looking harmless and lacking self-defence.

At the height of World War II, it seemed the right way to stereotype the Japanese by caricaturing them as a vulture, a metaphor on the enemy. Just as the vulture dive-bombs towards the bunnies, they immediately respond by hiding behind some weeds, and reveal some aircraft artily they use to fire at the vulture.

Note however that during the gag, you will find one rabbit facing its back away from the camera, whilst the other two are facing front as they play. It's a difficult challenge to animate, in not revealing the rabbit's face before the gag can be revealed. Much of that sequence was given to Rod Scribner, who met the challenge greatly. And so, the bunny who was hiding behind this time was Bugs Bunny, seen wearing his Civil Defence helmet. He has the last line, "Eh, thumbs up, doc! Thumbs up!". Just at the iris-out, Bugs' ears form to a "V for Victory" sign, whilst the underscore heard is We Did It Before (And We Can Do It Again). Thus, this ends the cartoon on a patriotic note.

While it's a shame that the blog will no longer be reviewing shorts directed by Tex Avery, it is without doubt for the greater good. As a cartoon, this wasn't much of a great sendoff to a brilliant legacy Tex brought to Warner Bros., though this was unintentionally the last Warner short he worked on. Not to mention, Tex gets a fresh start, a better start once he hops over to MGM Studios, making himself an even bigger name. As a spot-gag cartoon, this was average at best. It had some charming, innovative moments like the navigation map sequence, which to say the least was original. Bugs Bunny's little cameo at the end was also a pleasant surprise to end the cartoon, for his popularity was only growing rapidly in the beginning of his career. In all, it was an average short; which doesn't have too many exciting moments but for the sequences I've given good comments about, I'd suggest you'd take a look.

Rating: 2.5/5.


  1. Eric O. Costello25 October 2014 at 19:36

    A few notes: (1) R.A. "Speed" Riggs was the auctioneer whose voice was used in the Lucky Strike commercials for many years; (2) the oil field is likely a reference to Romania, which at the time of this cartoon was the principal supplier of petroleum to the German armed forces; (3) Bromo-Selzer is a common hangover remedy, hence why it would follow the booze

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.