Saturday, 13 December 2014
365. Daffy's Southern Exposure (1942)
Release date: May 2, 1942.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Norm McCabe.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Wolf).
Story: Don Christensen.
Animation: Vive Risto.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy Duck refuses to fly south for the winter, which leads him to refuge into a winter shack, trapped by a wolf and a weasel.
McCabe's interpretation of the character is wonderful. It's perfectly interpreted from the cartoon's opening, and he successfully carries that throughout the cartoon.In this cartoon, he establishes the fact that Daffy's a duck and not just an actor in a duck suit. His established scenario is in a lake, living like a duck. Daffy doesn't see the reason to travel south for the winter:
"Confidentially folks, I ain't going south for this winter. I'm gonna stick around and check up on this winter business!". The charm to Daffy's taste of lust is icing on the cake, as he reveals the front headline of the newspaper labelled "Snow Carnival" with one of the prime features being the 'Snow Queen'. He sees the advantages of remaining south by inheriting the lake on his own, while the other ducks have migrated south for the winter. This leads to Daffy doing a comedic dance around the lake.
He does maintain gags which would be used from any director, partly in the scene where the group of ducks contradict Daffy's remark about saying south as they quote, "You'll be sorr-ee!"; referencing the game show: Take It or Leave It.
His own style of humour is evident during a blizzard sequence, where he satirises narrative titles which used to be displayed in old live-action movies, mainly in scenic shots. In this short, the title card begins with what audiences would expect: "Thru wind and snow / at thirty below / we find our hero" with each verse written in rhyme. The camera pans back and forth several times, until a narrative appears: "Gosh, we can't find our hero!". This is a greatly executed gag that shows McCabe can create timeless humour in his cartoons.
Just as Daffy is about to take a dive, the scenery of the mountains and lake flicks quickly with the sky turning to darkness, and everything turning into ice; leaving Daffy to crash on top of the lake.
This isn't easy to achieve, and McCabe could be very daring at pulling off aspects of timing like this, and he meets the goal well. During the blizzard sequence, we find that Daffy Duck is stranded in the blizzard unable to be seen.
McCabe relies on a lot of snow effects animation for the shot; so the gag is that Daffy can be unseen, but only heard, facing starvation. He cries out in the blizzard: "I'm starving. Nourishment!", "Oh sustenance! Oh sustenance!". At that point, Daffy breaks the forth wall by having his head break through the storm directing the audience: "What'ya laughing at? I'm really hungry!". This is a funny crack from Daffy, considering that Daffy's sudden appearance and remark is unpredictable. The opaque snow effects adds to the gag to a tee.
The scent then leads him towards a shack where the villains of the short are introduced: a weasel and a fox. Storyman Don Christensen relies on exposition for the two characters, who are fed up of being consumed of only baked beans.
The pan shot of the interior shack is great for creating domestic problems the characters are facing: the house is stored almost entirely of beans. The wolf complains about the consistency of beans being eaten every breakfast, lunch and supper. His alley, the weasel is portrayed as a silent character. Then he begins to crave for a "roast duck". The wolf begins to reminisce with desire: "Oh, for that fowl taste that my mouth wants". At that moment, they hear Daffy's knock on the door and lead him inside the mouth to create a diversion.
The sequence only gets better during the spoof of The Latin Quarter number. The wolf masquerades himself as a maid and pretends to provide some food for Daffy. Unlike many cartoons of that era which featured pointless song numbers for commercialisation, this sequence is all parody, and it's brilliantly executed by McCabe's timing and wit.
This was where the Warner directors actually got it right, by parodying the lyrics of a popular song so it can blend in with the cartoon's activity. McCabe also establishes that he shows skills in creating musical number sequences, and the scene is almost on par with Friz Freleng's great musical sequences.
The wolf's singing and picking up the cans is perfectly synchronised in humour, that it becomes a gag itself. It's also wonderfully executed during the scene where he is cutting the cans into slices, but he does it in sync to the melody. The weasel and the wolf also have to maintain their plan to boil Daffy while singing their song; which isn't easy to achieve in musical sequences: as there's a lot of activity going on.
Midway a chase scene, Daffy breaks the action as he addresses to the wolf: "Just a minute, bub, just a minute!". At that point Daffy socks the wolf's chin and zips out whooping. This is He disposes of the wolf as he pulls the lead from a log, which leads the wolf to slip off the other side, and to fall a long height.
For a director who has a reputation of producing dated, wartime material: this cartoon clearly contradicts his reputation for he was perfectly capable of producing original cartoons in a cartoon world. McCabe is not afraid to explore anything ambitious for animated cartoons, such as a style of comedic timing which is hard to pull off. For a director who is very underrated, he definitely had style. Norm McCabe nailed Daffy Duck's personality to a tee. As a character he is a lot more refined than his previous appearances. This short was made at just the right time, as the writers were producing much more funnier cartoons with energy and character, and this cartoon happens to be an example of what started the trend.