Saturday, 18 August 2012

193. What Price Porky (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 192.
Release date: February 18, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Duck / Hen) and Bob Clampett (Duck Soldier).
Animation: Chuck Jones and Bobe Cannon.
Musical Score: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown.
Synopsis: Tired of ducks stealing corn, Porky's chickens go to war with them.

This is the first Clampett cartoon where Chuck Jones isn't the only credited animator and he is also shared credit with Bobe Cannon (who hasn't had screen credit since Porky's Duck Hunt). I find the screen credits back in the black and white Clampett cartoons to be very strange since in some cartoons they have a story credit but without one; there would be two credited animators when everyone had one animator credited. Anyone could help with who controlled the screen credits back then?

The cartoon begins as we view Porky's poultry farm and in the background we listen to a nice piece of the 'William Tell Overture' in the dawn sequence - which is a popular Stalling cue that we hear when it is morning. Porky then steps out of his house in which he yawns but is holding onto a bag of corn to feed for his chickens for breakfast.

Porky then starts to grab out his bag of corn and starts to throw some bits of corn out to feed his chickens. He starts to try and get their attention, 'Here chick, chick, etc.' Chickens then start to exit their own hut as they are after the corn. Porky continues to call the other chickens by their names, 'Come on Priscella, Violet, etc.'. As some of the chickens in which he shouts, 'Aw, come and get it'. The chickens then start to peck to the ground as they are after some fine corn for breakfast. As these chickens are pecking on each side (of each other) the music traditional theme for chickens Chicken Reel is played in the background. Porky then starts to grab out some food out of the bag which is dessert, 'And for dessert: corn on the cob'. It's rather amusing since they had minimum for breakfast but they get something huge for dessert as it's supposedly the opposite but it's the whole point of the gag. As the chickens were about to go over and take the corn on the cob to eat; a group of ducks then zip day and steal the corn very quickly. We then pan to the farm in which we find that there are several ducks sitting by the pond chewing on some corn. One of the ducks that even salts their corn is particularly funny.

Porky then walks over to the edge of the ponds to where the ducks are sitting by chewing on their corn. Porky Pig walks over them and asks to return the corn, 'Hey Mr. Ducks, please don't steal my hen's corn. They'll get awful hungry'. We then quickly pan towards the ducks chewing on the corn.

Porky still tries to convince the ducks to try and at least return the corn over to them and to be 'good duckies' as Porky says it. We then find in one of the fields where the ducks are standing is that one duck is carrying a bayonet and the other is sitting on a small table chewing on some corn. Porky is still trying to convince them (and it turns out that these ducks that he is speaking to) are also like military officers which is pretty cool. The duck on the table is like the colonel as he plucks one of the duck's feathers out to write a letter. A pretty cool gag since he can use the duck's feather just for writing the letter. Porky then continues to go on about the fact that if his chickens don't get any corn or food to eat and if they don't get fed then the lack of eggs that would be made. The duck then finishes writing a letter towards Porky; he then wraps it around like a paper plane and then it flies over towards Porky and jabs him in the nose. Porky then picks up the note as he is read what the ducks have written.

The letter from the ducks then read: Fowl ones - Let's talk TURKEY You're too COCKY! We think you EGGS are CHICKEN Why don't you quit CACKLING and fight - you dumb CLUCKS! Signed Gen. Quack DUCKTATOR. Okay but the letter just contains these silly puns and the letter contains that they want a war - all because of a corn in a cob? One of the hens then starts to cluck with rage as he shouts, 'Clucks are we?' and then starts to immediately want to go to fight with the ducks in which the other chickens agree. The animation there is pretty solid, might be one of Jones' scenes. I'm not sure.

It then turns out that the chickens are in fact in World War I, and I guess that it would've been Clampett's idea to write a looney story that would be like that. As the chicken plays on his trumpet the theme to 'Reveille' all the other chickens then start to run as they are in service fighting. We then find a sequence where there is a hatch of eggs that are drumming (to the theme of the traditional army song 'You're In the Army Now') in which the eggs are completely hatched and there are a line of chicks walking down a line where they are marching down. I believe that the chick scene of them marching has been reused again in other cartoons but I can't remember which.

There is also a chicken at the scene that is carrying a bag of corn to feed in which he lets it flow to the ground and more hens start to follow as they chew on it but also form the grounds so that they can form trenches. The little chicks then step down the new-formed trenches in which they then start to pop out with their guns. On the opposite side with the enemy; we find the commander duck is in fact giving the salute and all the other duck armies are marching them with oath and giving them the salute. I guess that might have been an early Nazi salute reference.

In the chicken trenches there is a black duck that quickly dashes into the scene and places a sign there that reads, 'No hens land' which is of course a parody of a land called 'No Man's land'. Porky is standing on top of the trenches as though he has no idea as to what is going on but the chickens are in control now. In the following scenes we then find that (I guess this is laid out as in a pond) where there is a type of battleship but in shape of a duck sailing. I imagine the layout and animation is a reuse from the battleship scenes that originated in the Buddy cartoons but it was redrawn in a duck form. The name of one of the battleships shown here is called 'S.S. Saratoga' and there was such a ship called that which was a navy ship that was in use during the First World War - in which this is the war that is parodied in this cartoon. There are ducks then flying out as though pretending to be dive bombers and fly out with their own wings.

Back in the trenches, we then find that the ducks and the chicks opposite one another then end up firing when Porky is still standing in the 'No-Man's Land' area. That is rather funny since poor Porky is just out of nowhere in his mind and almost gets fired up when his animals are at war which is plain silly but a funny idea for a cartoon.

Meanwhile there is a hen that is climbing on top of the 'No Hen's Land' area making sure that there are no shooters or bombers making any firing. Meanwhile there is a duck soldier that approaches at the scene carrying a bayonet, the duck then asks in a ducky voice, 'Who goes there?' a set of chicks then appear under the hen as they respond at the same time in their children voice, 'Nobody, boss, but us chickens'. The chicks then grab out some guns under the hen's fur in which they fire towards him. He is then completely covered in smoke as he is being shot and that's all we hear from him, and of course they used the smoke so that they could tone down the amount of violence we could use (I wonder if it was cut in this version unless there was a censored part?). It's a rathe funny scenery since the chicks look very harmless and cutesy from under the hen but considering that they even have guns under there - they managed to outwit the duck soldier in this war.

Meanwhile up in the sky there are ducks flying about as they are disguised as war planes zooming past. There is a chick that appears to be in some type of hot-air balloon; and on top of it is a hot dog, and...why would a hot-dog be helium like a hot-air balloon? It really doesn't make too much sense to me. There is a chick on top of the hot-air balloon that giggles at the scenery.

The chick realises he is in trouble when there is a duck planning on eating him. The duck then grabs out the two clouds in which the clouds suddenly form into bread rolls. Suddenly this is just completely beyond me, and I don't care whether Clampett was not going to have the cartoon rules followed in these cartoons but you can't get clouds to turn into bread rolls and eat it like a hotdog; it doesn't even make sense for the gag to even work out. At least the chick managed to land safely in a parachute. In the next sequence we then discover that there appears to be this duck killer who is filled with dangerous weapons then asks one of the duck soldiers protecting their land, 'Which way is the front?' The duck then points, 'That way' which it is facing his direction, he responds to that with a 'Thanks' but we find that he just runs back to the exact same location as he was at. The duck soldier then starts to look rather confused at that sequence; even though it didn't make such sense but I found it particularly enjoyable that funny sequence.

We then start to fade back to the chickens where we find that they are looking at their clocks on when they are should start fighting. One of the chicks then looks at their watch in which he whispers to the next's soldier's ear, '12 o'clock'. They all whisper the same message (even though slight variations like '12 sharp' or 'At 12') as they perform a type Chinese whispers.

As soon as the clock then strikes to 12 o'clock - the chick commander then starts to whistle the bell. All of the other chicken soldiers then step out of their own trenches in which they enter the field. The really funny part that happens is that they even end up forming a blanket and making a picnic. They start to sit down as you hear some smooth music as they eat some food. That is very funny as we think that they're going to start up some action but instead go on a picnic - which is not what we expected but enough for us to understand the joke. After that sequence with the chicks on a picnic we then find that there is a duck that appears and appears to probably be a spy planning on a booby trap towards the chick farms. He is disguising an Easter type prank; as he is painting and decorating the Easter eggs. After the duck has painted the eggs inside the basket. He then starts to place on a bow tie on top (to try and disguise as bunny ears) and a piece of what looks like cotton to disguise it as a rabbit's tail.

After the duck has finished decorating himself as the Easter bunny, he then walks along and there is a very neat background and silhouette effect and what we see in the dark distance looks like a Easter bunny. The duck as the Easter bunny then arrives at the scene as he then places some Easter eggs hear the explosion part where Porky is hiding. He stutters, 'Who goes there?' The duck then replies, 'It's me. The Easter Bunny'.

Porky then starts to jump up as he collects the Easter eggs by picking them up. After picking up the Easter eggs, we then find that the Easter Eggs then crack open in which there are baby duckling formed and they start an attack on Porky's face. One of the ducks has a baton to whack Porky on top of the head as well as one of them also having a mallet to hit him on top of the head. The easter egg was in fact a duck in disguise in which he starts to whoop around acting rather crazily. Out of all the other ducks in this cartoon that look a lot like 'Daffy Duck' I find that this sequence shows a version where I think it looks an AWFUL like it was a Daffy Duck appearance but we're really unsure. Of course - the lisp sounds and even the whooping sounds make it really sound an awful lot like Daffy, but the only difference it makes is that he doesn't have the white ring around his neck to identify himself as the character, and that's the problem.  Choosing this as a Daffy Duck appearance in my opinion is a very hard choice, but I'm not going to count that as a Daffy appearance for those reasons.

After the sequence with the Easter bunny duck, the title card then pops up that reads, 'Night Must Fall' in which the title card then fades away and we view a couple of ducks at night planning on their escape. However dust then appears at the scene in which a duck on top of a bird smoking a cigar blocks them from seeing it (I think a reference to mustard gas).

It turns out that the ducks that are about to enter through the dust of smoke are creeping forward towards their chicks. Once the smoke then rises, the ducks are caught at the spot in which they disguise themselves by performing some dancing. That was a rather funny bit of business since they had to come up with something on the spot and almost the last chick in the line even almost had no clue what was going on and then dashes off. The smoke is disguised as 'Asbestos' curtains in which it falls and the chicks in their trenches then applaud at that bit of entertainment not aware that they are at war with them. Suddenly after they have been tricked; the ducks then jump at the scene as they are carrying their bayonets and start an invasion and attack on their trenches - and even the dance was a set up. Even up the sky when there are plane birds up there in the area; there is a duck on top in which it is carrying a bomb that is fall of eggs. The duck pulls one of the feather as it is like a switch in which the eggs then drop like a dive-bomb.

The eggs then fall from the sky in which they are about to land on top of the chick's heads. The eggs are already hatched in which they are ducklings that are carrying mallets. They then land in which they start to bang on their helmets one at a time and they go in the rhythm of the Looney Tunes theme which is very funny and very well timed.

Meanwhile as the fighting and bombing still continues, Porky still has to suffer from all that as he is hiding inside a crate which has already been bombed. So that he can avoid the areas of where it is bombed, he then starts to push the crate around so that he can dodge the areas where he won't get bombed. Of course being very impossible - but hey that doesn't exist in this animation world. There is a duck soldier that is running off, and we think that after a bomb has landed on him that he is blown to smitherings but we find that he has landed in a tree hanging onto a piece of wood. A bomb then lands directly to his in which the gag results in him being roasted like a roast duck. Very grim gag, isn't it? There are tanks now riding across, but after the tank then gets blown up; only the writing on the tank changes as it reads, 'You're welcome' - which is another play-on with words since 'Tanks' sounds like 'Thanks'.

As Porky is still hiding inside that blown area of his, he finds that there is a bomb that has just landed just where he is. He then starts to go into a state of panic in which he jumps out of the hole in which he places the bomb inside it, zips it up and runs off. The bomb erupts under there but it almost pushes the bomb upwards and I love the timing of that eruption where it is very sharp.

Porky then runs on in which he arrives at the spot of where there is a washing mangle at the spot. He uses that as an advantage for him to shoot some corn (like bullets) straight at the (greater than pesky) ducks. A gag then gets developed where Porky is still shooting out some corn, and he ends up just shooting parts of a tree and then a tree on top of it. The ducks run out of their trenches to retrieve him but the tree collapses on them in which their heads are stuck and those two trees then form into stocks. That was a very cleverly developed gag I thought and Clampett was a great gag man at least here. Porky continues to fire with his corn up in the sky so that he can stop the dive-bombers from landing in his area. One bit of corn then starts to shoot straight up towards the duckling's parachute that he ends up shooting straight towards the sky and ends up caught inside a box of dozen eggs, trapped.

Porky is still shooting from the sky but there is a duck creeping up towards him without Porky's knowledge. Porky makes a turn around after a suspicious feeling and shoots corn straight at the duck. The duck then starts to get pushed back over a bit of fence until the fence then finally traps him as it forms into a circulated prison around him. Porky arrives at the spot where the war is finally over. The chickens are there where he drops some corn for them and he sticks his tongue towards the duck. The duck then grabs out a basket of eggs as he's not through yet; the eggs then hatch in which there are ducklings that come over and steal the eggs. After taking the eggs, the duck and the ducklings finish off eating their corn. That was a rather funny ending since we expected them to lose, as they may have lost the fighting but they still managed to steal the chicken's food which was very funny.

Overall comments: According to the man himself (Bob Clampett) who directed that cartoon, apparently he wrote the story and came up with it himself. I find that the reason for those ducks and chickens go to on war over a corn in the cob to be very stupid to be exact but yet again very funny since there is a war sequence that ends up going on. There were a few pointless gags that turned up again, but I did like the sequence with the duck as the Easter bunny but even though we are unsure whether or not this could be Daffy Duck or not. If it is him in this cartoon (which I doubt) then it would've been a very early appearance where he's certainly not finalised since he's missing the white ring around his neck. Also, if it were him, then he'd probably already be co-starring with Porky in this cartoon and you only see him in the actual cartoon for like what? a minute and that's it and it occurs in the middle of it.

According to Sogturtle, back in the days of GAC forums - he believes that this is the first cartoon where it is almost certain that Bob Clampett did direct the whole cartoon himself 100% since the other animators would get credit here, but Jones would be credited since not only was he Clampett's main man back then but he also drew the character layouts where his drawing style back then is very distinctive. Although it probably explains why he was credited as a sole animator on the first five cartoons which explains that he probably also co-directed with Clampett's cartoons but I don't know if that theory could be correct. I do like the idea for that cartoon to be set in a World War I theme, and funny how that this cartoon is a war-themed cartoon but yet this all occurs just one year prior the start of World War II when England went to war with Germany in 1939, and that this cartoon was made when the countries wouldn't be aware of another war coming.


  1. “The dog on the table is like the colonel as he plucks one of the duck's feathers out to write a letter.”: You mean duck on the table, right? Isn’t a canine in sight.

    The animation of the chickens agreeing to fight is too loose to be Jones. His animation was usually much smoother. Not sure who animated it, though, nor will I guess without any substantial evidence from a very reliable source.

    “I guess that might have been an early Nazi salute reference.”: You’re right. The ducks are “goose-stepping” much like the Nazis did.

    The “Night Must Fall” title card is a reference to a 1937 MGM film of the same name.

  2. The 'big chin' design on the ducks' leader is supposed to be a parody of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was over two years into a his invasion of Ethiopia when this cartoon was made, which also was to make clear who the bad guys were supposed to be (Italian troops also started goose-stepping just about the time this cartoon came out after Mussolini visited Germany, so Clampett was ahead of the curve here). But unlike, say, Bugs impersonating Hitler a few years later, it's a little unsettling to see 'Benito' paint the Easter eggs and then to have him speaking in Daffy's voice -- Friz and Chuck would later show him to have a huge ego, but fascist dictator Daffy seems a little too far gone (and when Norm McCabe borrowed the same black feathered Mussolini mallard concept for 1942's "The Ducktators", he wisely kept Daffy's voice as far away from the cartoon as possible).

  3. The title of course refers to the 1926 silent movie "What Price Glory?" which starred Victor McLaglen and Edmund Lowe, directed by Raoul Walsh. It would be remade in 1952 with James Cagney and Dan Dailey and directed by John Ford.

  4. For better or worse, the original Warner copyright synopsis for this cartoon says the lead duck is Daffy.

    1. Not only that, but it is clearly shown that the lead duck was the same duck who was wearing the Easter Bunny disguise, and he had another line of dialogue earlier in the short with the exact same Daffy voice. The only other black duck who speaks has a Donald-type voice. This was deffinatley a genuine Daffy appearance, the only thing against it was the lack of the neck ring, and that was probably just an oversight.