Wednesday, 10 December 2014
364. Dog Tired (1942)
Release date: April 25, 1942.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Love Birds).
Animation: Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: The curious pups, once again fighting over a bone, where they end up chasing each other into a city zoo. Once again, they experience more dangerous encounters.
The short begins much like any other cartoon with the dogs: seeking for a bone or running away from trouble. This time they're digging for a bone; and they've dug quite a hole. They listen out for a motorcyclist who rides into the scene, with the dogs narrowly avoiding the vehicle.
This is some pretty edgy, sharp work coming from Chuck Jones--who has the motorcyclist ride in perspective, and the timing of the big dog dodging the vehicle is very slick. A very surprising turn for Chuck, which goes to show that he has already achieved his abilities but he uses it with boring characters. The big dog leaps high up across a wall which leads him trapped inside the city zoo.
The small puppy is seen observing the features of the zoo, and watches the lovebird sanctuary. Up there is a pair of lovebirds, with the male bird embracing the female in the cliched romance style from movies of that generation.
The male lovebird expresses his lust for her by stroking her head, with cheesy dialogue along the lines of: "I love your eyes, your wings, your feathers and your beautiful little claws. I'm madly, deliriously, insanely in love with you." Once the male lovebird notices he's being watched he turns towards the pup irritated: "Ok bub, break it up".
The pup still watches with interest, leading to the lovebird to scream: "Scram, stupid!". As a sequence individually, it's an amusing piece of satire and Mel Blanc's take on the screaming lovebird is the icing on the cake. It most likely got laughs from the audience, and it sure stands out compared to the rest of the cartoon. In the cartoon however, I'm afraid it doesn't fit into the cartoon's setting. Of course, it already has a weak concept: the two curious dogs encounter strange animals in a city zoo. This scene would've worked better in a satirical cartoon, like in one of Tex Avery's travelogue parodies. You've got to give Chuck at least credit for trying to explore the exploring Warner Bros. humour, except it doesn't blend in the cartoon too well.
Ken Harris certainly played a performance in animating a very complex and mechanical scene of the kangaroo hopping around the zoo with the dog stuck inside his pouch. The path of the zoo is laid out at different angles, and this requires the kangaroo to hop in different perspectives and size, judging from distance. Ken Harris was always given the most challenging scenes to animate, and he always did it well.
Not only is he animating a kangaroo hopping from different sizes, but he's also animating the dog dangling inside the pouch. The kangaroo skids to a halt as he pursues to smell some flowers. The big dog quietly escapes from the patch as he uses his tiptoes to avoid the kangaroo.
The big dog then copies the kangaroo's bounces as he begins to hop like one (also animated by Harris). The hopping is fun to watch, although the sequence feels more like an animation experimental scene rather than a sequence itself. There are some gags along the way that goes with it such as the dog hopping his way inside the tunnel, and the tunnel gets narrower until he bumps his head several times. Overall, it feels a little less of a gag sequence, why does the big dog hop like a kangaroo? Anyhow, at least it benefits with some inventive animation by Ken Harris.
Chuck doesn't tend to focus on one sequence and let it drag for a minute or two. Instead he adds more sequences for the characters. Instead of having the puppy chase the turtle to carry on half the cartoon, the puppy encounters several different animals on the way, and surprisingly well-paced. Though, this will be observed later on in the review.
The big dog almost had an encounter with grizzly lions caught in their cages, after an attempt to get his bone back. Their ferocious roars were intimidating enough to scare the dog up the pine tree. He hopelessly barks at the lions until they become quieter and meeker. I suppose Chuck tries to add to the charm by adding a curiosu monkey into the scene, even though the monkey and the dog barely communicate.
The sequence drags a bit when the dog slides down the pine tree and gets jabbed by the porcupine. More barking continues. It's not a minor complaint, though it would've worked better if Chuck finished the sequence with the dog zooming up the pine tree.
The puppy faces another dilemma by trying to retrieve his bone which passed onto several animals. First an ostrich, then a turtle; and then a sleeping hippopotamus. The dog rushes inside the hippo's gut before being cautioned. We are displayed with an unseen gag which is reliant on Treg Brown to provide sound, in making the gag work. Treg meets the challenge well, in which the dog takes by rushing outside the hippo's mouth quickly before the hippo closes his jaws.
Another recurring gag which doesn't have a conclusion is a stork who always meets collision whenever the dogs run past the standing stork. The stork has trouble keeping his legs adjust, and it doesn't help when he is knocked over by one of the dogs.
In one of the scenes of the big dog hopping like a kangaroo, he encounters the stork and the stork reacts to the dog's hopping. This leads to ruining the stork's image, and once more adjusting himself to the right position. It doesn't have a conclusion, and it's only used to help carry laughs in the short. Sometimes the scenes of the stork is amusing, but other than that; it doesn't have much purpose.
This cartoon is a lot more evenly-paced than any of the other cartoons starring the dogs. Most of the scenes don't tend to drag on for too long, and some of the gags created for the cartoon are more coherent than what Chuck attempted to do before. For some the highlight of the cartoon might be the lovebird scene, but for me it's the kangaroo hopping. This is partly because Chuck was always so daring to experiment with animation, and to pull a scene which is difficult shows what Chuck Jones and his crew were able to pull off, and how he could get the best out of his artists. As the cartoon marks the last time he produces a cartoon in a Disney style, he would move on to greater things; and by making the household of Warner Bros. animation a great name.