Saturday 24 November 2012

217. Little Pancho Vanilla (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 216.
Release date: October 8, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Little Pancho Vanilla).
Story: Ted Pierce.
Animation: Bob McKimson.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Little Pancho Vanilla aspires to become a bullfighter - but will anyone give Pancho the chance to prove his skills?

We begin as we find Little Pancho Vanilla (the name is obviously a reference to famous outlaw Pancho Villa) is reading a book on how to become a book fighter. Whilst he mumbles through the book as he aspires to become one - he is interrupted by his mother o.s. who calls for his name. Pancho drops and responds, "Si, Mamacitta?" (of course - meaning in English: yes mamma?"

There is a camera pan where we view Pancho's mother in this cartoon and she disapproves of Pancho's dream of being a bullfighter. She speaks: "How many times must I tell you not to read the book of the bullfighting? You will never be a bullfighter. You will always be Mamacitta's good little muchachito. Remember" and she continues with her own washing by a stream. 'Muchachito' is another word to describe a youngster - so she's basically saying she always wants her Pancho to be a mama's boy. There are certainly some very strong poses and drawing through Tashlin's distinctive layouts and drawings like of Pancho and the mother where he  draws curvy cheeks that would be evident in his Van Boring comic strip. That pan was a rather touching effect of Tashlin as the background pan looks rather complicating.

Little Pancho complains and mimics his mother's voice with her exact words as though she's repeated them a hundred times before. He ends up in a grump - whilst at that same moment we find three señoritas as they are carrying a basket of fruit with them from behind the wall Pancho is sitting on top of.

They sing the song - which I believe is an original Stalling cue called 'To Market'. Whilst the animation of the three girls singing along and carrying fruit is pretty decent - the staging and even the camera overlays is a pretty incredible achievement what Tashlin did. This was without the use of a multiplane camera (which Disney occupied) and all done with the directorial skills of Frank, himself. That must've been complicating to shoot as he had to have the film go through the wall and we get a view inside with the girls walking by the rock and then back as the camera then moves back where we pan back to Little Pancho. That was enough to have my head almost explode - how the hell did Tashlin (when he was only about maybe 24 making this cartoon) figure THAT out? You can take a look at the full scene yourself:

After the girls sing their song they then find Pancho is sitting on top of the wall as he is still grumbling about what his mother has spoken to him. The girls then greet Pancho with a 'hello' but Pancho rejects their greetings in a grumpy mood. As he quickly grumbles, he replies back with a 'hello' and continues to grumble.

The girls suspect his mumbling as one girl asks, 'What's the matter with him?' The girl in the red hat replies, 'I don't know'. Then the girl in the green hat replies, 'He has sourpuss like lemon'. To annoy Pancho even more - they then begin to start singing very childishly to anger him. The childish singing appears to be another what Stalling came up with - I suppose. After a few seconds of singing childishly - one of the girls points out to a poster of a matador in a bullfighting poster: "Oh look, look!" the camera then pans along to a toreador who is a caricature of Clark Gable (referencing Gable there since he was considered a hunk back in the '30s). He is called Don Jose in this cartoon and is considered to be the 'greatest toreador in the world'. A really amusing line at the bottom reads: 'well, in Mexico anyhow' as the poster is even honest itself. The camera trucks back with the girls admiring his looks as well as his bullfighting skills.

Pancho eavesdrops at the conversation of the girls who consider him to be the greatest bullfighter in the world. He hears one of the girls say, "He's the greatest in all Mexico". The yellow-hooded girl even states, "He's the greatest in the whole world, I bet you". Pancho laughs at their comments and he states:

Pancho: There is one who is much better.
Girls: Who?

Pancho takes his sombrero off his head and bows to himself declaring he is much better than Don Jose. Watching these scenes with the girls noticing the bullfighting poster is really just dialogue scenes but it gives Tashlin a good chance to show off his camera moves like the truck in on the poster, then a truck back and also the pan up to Pancho on the wall. One of the girls asks, "You are the biggest bullfighter in Mexico?" Pancho responds with an acceptance but the girls laugh as they refuse to believe. Pancho, burning up as the girls mock him for not being the greatest bullfighter but Pancho is determined to prove it. He climbs down the wall and walks over to the girls and he declares, "Alright, I' show you. I fight the bull".

So then becomes the big day where we see a very decent bit of effects animation of the crowd waving out their sombreros and confetti for the big bullfight match where Pancho will be the toreador. We pan along to a wall outside of the stadium where there is a poster that is written in Spanish language but is translated in English (in a rather clever background effect) as the sign reads about all the bullfighters are amateurs. A caption at the bottom even reads: This is our chance to throw the bull!

Afterwards there are a line of amateurs lining up by the door to the entrance - and Pancho is the last in the queue. The man then announces the full is ready to fight as the amateurs march into the stadium. Pancho is too distracted in complaining about the girl's laughs at them, "I'll show those squeaky-voiced females that they can't laugh at me. But I'll show them how a bull should be thrown". Pancho realizes the line has already gone so he begins to march and he zips right through with a good use of early airbrush speedlines which shows that Tashlin is at work. So Pancho then marches over to the entrance for amateurs but only to end up being caught by the guard who tosses him out of the scene and into a bale of haystack. The guard shouts: "Only toreadors allowed in there, not little shrimps like you". The guard slams the door but opens up and quotes Jimmy Fiedler: "And I do mean YOU". Little Pancho - in the haystack quotes back what the guard says and blurts "Phooey!"

After Pancho got rejected - a group of toreadors enter the arena in front of the crowd where they plan to fight the bull. As we pan along - we find the bull hasn't finished as he is using chalk for snooker to sharpen his own horns. After sharpening, he breaks the forth wall: "Hey, watch this, the eighth ball on the side pocket".

We then go into action where the ball begins charging straight towards the toreadors and it's all arranged from a bird-eye view shot. The toreadors are standing like a triangle of snooker balls and as the bull charges at them - they even scatter around the arena like snooker balls and the gag has been cleverly timed and even planned. After that scene - a toreador flies out the stadium and lands on a cartwheel of hay where Pancho is sitting at. This leads to Pancho flying out of the scene and floating in air still complaining about not being able to fight. He may as well stop bitching and moaning until he makes a take as he realises that he is floating and falling in mid-air. There were some good shot pacing of the POV shots of Pancho looking down as the bull watches his fall. Pancho then lands in the stadium as his chance to get the bull.

Pancho lands at the spot where he manages to knock-out the bull in rhythm of 'Shave and a Haircut' but his feet are caught inside the sombrero which is some good comedy movement. The crowd cheer as they throw their sombreros in the air which form 'Viva Pancho'. Even the girls inside the stadium watching the fight all cheer as Pancho had the last laugh. Some really great perspective animation of the sombreros flying at the scenes to go from shot to shot. Pancho realises that he has got fame from beating the bull in the fight where he stands on top of the bull as a pepperazzi group take pictures.

A really great Frank Tashlin manoeuvre appears where the three girls throw roses towards Pancho and the camera trucks in on the roses flying in mid-air but they fall as they land right in front of Pancho in that really great angle. That must've been difficult to tackle out and it clearly shows Tashlin's determinations to direct live-action.

As Pancho picks up the rose - he notices the snorting bull has regained consciousness and Pancho makes a great take as the bull charges straight towards him. Pancho zips out as the bull crashes into the wall rather dazed. In a point of view shot of the bull - there is a great blur effect where he sees multiples of Pancho waving the red left. The bull wakes back up - and notices the red flag - to try and get the bull into action. The bull manages to get his consciousness back as he charges towards Pancho and then we are followed on with some action.

The action scenes are rather impressive and it makes the climax, the intense staging rather exciting to watch. What I consider to be great animation is the part where the bull starts to reload with his tail (like a vehicle) and then starts to race around the arena like a sports car and charges towards Pancho.

This then leads to Pancho falling straight up on air - and this gives Tashlin the excuse to reuse some of the animation like where Pancho is in mid-air and he is falling. Also reused is the exact 'Shave and a Haircut' rhythm animation of the bull's knockout - with new animation of the referee counting out the knockouts. The girls also join in on the knockout as they are impressed with his fighting. After the knockout - Pancho is declared the winner of the match as the crowd cheer and Pancho received first prize.

So - Pancho returns home safely as he is sitting on his mother's lap explaining about the bullfight and he certainly has had the last laugh and has proved he had the ability to fight. Pancho's mother gets concerned and explains he could've been hurt - of course trying to be the whimsical mother.

The girls (and it turns out that they are Pancho's sisters - and it was only shown until the very end) assure the mother he was a very good fighter as they have shown a great admiration towards him. We pan along afterwards as it appears Pancho was rich from the fight they have already bought a new pair of a washing machine to wash the clothes - I guess if that's the ending gag.

Overall comments: This is a rather Disney-esque type story for the 1930s back then where it would involve a character who would aspire or has an ambition that particular characters disapprove of. It's been used before in some of the 'Silly Symphonies' off the top of my head and I believe some of the influence has been used for the story of Pancho. Mel Blanc's voice for Pancho in that cartoon - wasn't been particularly very appealing for the whole cartoon but at least it would be the most appropriate voice for Pancho. It may not have seem such an original story but the animation there is really great - where Frank had Ken Harris or Bob McKimson animating his cartoons and that must've been a treat for Frank in that era by having the two most solid animators. Disney already made another 'bullfighting' cartoon the exact same year in 1938 called 'Ferdinand the Bull' which was based from a children's book - and of course, won the Academy Award but I'm not sure if Frank had the idea of that cartoon into his - as he claimed everything was stolen by Disney.

With that aside; you can see Frank Tashlin hard at work with figuring out camera pans, staging, overlays, etc. as those techniques are very dominant and he's used those a lot from his bag of tricks. This cartoon has some of the most amazing camera techniques in animation and it's very highly overlooked - and it amazes me that a man in his 20s really had skills for directing and you can see that Frank Tashlin was very versatile. The one which I believe stands out the most is the shot of the entrance of Pancho's sisters as they enter singing their song - and this was just one shot as it was an overlay of backgrounds - I would have no idea how much work that could have been done. The flower scene was also a very touching technique as this would've had to have done to a mechanical animator that would be great at figuring out camera pans. Well, with this Frank Tashlin cartoon reviewed - we have one more to go before he leaves the second time and leaves for Disney.

Friday 23 November 2012

216. Porky in Wackyland (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 215.
Release date: September 24, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky / Dodo / Various Characters), Billy Bletcher (Roaring Goon), Ted Pierce (mysterious voices) and Dave Webber.
Animation: Norm McCabe and Izzy Ellis.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky travels over to the darkest Africa (in Wackyland) in search for the last existing Dodo - but he encounters strange and surrealistic creatures upon his discovery.

1949 remake - 'Dough for the Do Do'
This is evidently one of Bob Clampett's most memorable cartoons and even one of the most memorable of the entire WB set. Evidently Bob Clampett was inspired of the surrealistic and bizarre style of Salvador Dali which was the evident style of this cartoon as you can see so in this cartoon. This is probably the first Warner Bros. cartoons where imagination and reality is already beyond. This cartoon was inducted in 2000 in the animation field of 'National Film Registry' and is one of the few Warner Bros. cartoons to ever enter that.

Of course the cartoon was ever so popular that Clampett made a remade version five years later with 'Tin Pan Alley Cats' and Friz himself did a remake with the exact same storyline: 'Dough for the Do-Do'. Also to note that this is the last Clampett cartoon to not have Chuck Jones animating on the cartoon (the last being 'Porky and Daffy' but was uncredited). It's safe to assume that without Jones' involvement in the cartoon - Clampett got complete control which probably explains one of the earlier signs of his wackiness and unique style to the cartoon.

(You probably realize that I'm going through a different style of the posting of this blog - which I am trying out).

We begin as we find a newspaper dog rushes into the Porky in Wackyland credits barking out the latest and most important news: "Extra, read all about it, etc." It's rather neat having a character jump straight through the credits as it evidently stands out more than the names on the credits and you could say that it is deliberately used to gain attention. The newspaper boy then flies a newspaper towards the screen where we read the main article.

From an animated shot of the newspaper transformed to a background layout of the front page of The Globe - we read that Porky Pig is on a expedition in search of the last known do-do to have existed. The front headline reads: PORKY HUNTS RARE DO-DO BIRD WORTH $4000'000'000'000!! That little gag in the column of the newspaper reading: "P.S. 000'000'000," is of course very humorous and also an exaggeration as if Porky got that reward he would end up being the richest man alive and of course nobody could invest THAT large amount of money - so it's very funny. From what I've calculated - that is an investment of 4000 quadrillion dollars.

After the newspaper announcement which is the main focus of our story - we cut to Porky who is on his small plane beginning his expedition. I like how even the size of the plane matches Porky himself. After flying in perspective - Porky greets his own theatre audience explaining that he is on the hunt of the missing dodo - and even brings out a picture to prove it.

That design of the dodo used in this cartoon is incredibly unique and wonderful. It clearly does look like Clampett following Dali's ideas and even drawing out a cartoony version of a 'dodo'. We hear Porky's stutter as he has troubles with pronouncing the word 'photo' and instead says 'picture'. Porky flies from North America across the Atlantic and then travels to Africa. That design for the world certainly looks odd from outer-space but at least it's very artsy. From a plane shot view we view Porky's plane arriving at the Africa area. Clampett, himself, uses some plays around with the areas of Africa such as 'Dark Africa' and his plane flies fast a much darker shaded area called 'Darker Africa' and then to 'Darkest Africa'. Records of a 'dark Africa' is unknown but it has been referred to as a 'dark continent' probably because of dark natives residing there. Near the 'Darkest Africa' area lives an unknown area which Porky has to land - at least in this cartoon world Porky knows the location of the unknown part of Africa.

Porky then lands in a empty area in the unknown part of Africa. What makes the plane landing even broader is Clampett has the plane actually skid like how a person's feet would skid. After the skid - Porky approaches an area where it is none other than 'Wackyland'. A close up sign of 'Wackyland' reads the population is '100 nuts and a squirrel' which is Clampett playing around with words that the 'nuts' are the insane creatures of Wackyland. The motto reads: 'It can happen here'.

That dark voice that reads out the motto for Wackyland certainly shows a rather creepy side to the story and it certainly keeps me intrigued to watch the cartoon. After Porky reads the sign he steps back into his plane where he and the plane tip-toe through Wackyland in search for the Dodo.

Porky Pig then encounters the very first bizarre creature of the forest when there is a rustling on the canopy in the background. It turns out to be a muscular creature that doesn't appear to resemble any animals other than the feet resemble a bird's. After a scene which we think turns out to be a threat to Porky - it turns out the creature doesn't harm Porky and turns into some homosexual pose as it appears and then trots out of the scene acting all nutty. It's evidently a very bizarre scene - but of course; it's still rather charming because of the childish and wacky atmosphere it gives us.

Porky, out of curiosity - continues to go through Wackyland in search for the Dodo. With the 'William Tell' tune played in the background - we see Porky watches the sun rising up from the hill in the distance. It turns out that the sun was being carried by a couple of wacky creatures that are standing onto each other - one-by-one.

Porky looks at the craziness - and even points towards the audience where the silliness is coming from - although the character animation for that isn't very strong and there doesn't appear to be a strong expression on Porky's face. However - the hat-take on Porky is rather splendid pacing as Porky has clearly got his attention to the unusual surroundings. This background clearly shows some Salvador Dali - and Clampett records in an interview that he designed the backgrounds himself. The music to 'William Tell' - still playing in the sequence turns out to be a wacky creature residing in a flower using his long hooter as a flute to the music. It makes it very absurd and - the wackier the cartoon will go. The crazier it goes is when the Wackyland creature quits playing the flute and turns more upbeat by playing the drums and jazz music - which would evidently be referencing popular music of that period.

During a camera pan from the drum player - we the view a lot of the unusual sightings of Wackyland and the 'nuts' that reside there. A lot is said and shown on how to describe 'Wackyland' in that one pan with the various doodle characters walking past doing their own wacky business.

They look like these were doodles for Clampett's ideas for Wackyland creatures - and anybody's own doodles except they're being used for a 1930s animated cartoon and Clampett is getting paid to doodle. I believe this also extend's the cartoon's important for its odd and funny character designs - as well as doodles. During that pan - we stop where we find a nutty rabbit on an unattached swing which definitely is an oddball. During the pan - we pan to a cauldron where it is staff references to the Studio. The pot reads: "Treg's a Foo" - referencing sound editor Treg Brown. Then a weird creature pops out and shouts, "Hello, Bobo" which is referencing to animator Bobo Cannon who animated on the cartoon. Everything of the background during this very long pan shows the surrealistic and even the fun the background and layout artists get to use. It's a sense of freedom Clampett gave in his cartoons when Leon ordered his own directors make what they believe - and I think Clampett really followed Leon there. There is even an amusing part at the end where we see a prisoner behind bars (although even the bars are unattached) and scream for freedom where a weird cop creature arrives at the spot and whacks him with a baton before exiting at the scene. Everything of that scene is rather bizarre - the voice, the animation, the layouts, and even the timing. Were backgrounds perhaps done by Richard Thomas??

Porky wonders through Wackyland as an Al Jolson duck pops in at the scene shouting 'Mammy' in his famous 'Mammy' act which was a popular reference at the time as Jolson was popular. Loud horns are heard as Porky hides behind a tree - but it turns out to be a horn creature walking past the area touching his own horn. Porky end up being caught up in a cat-and-dog situation where he is surrounded by the fight. That scurry animation there is really fluid and amazing.

After the fight it turns out that it appears to be a conjoined cat and dog with the same body. Mmm, I wonder if that ever inspired the show 'CatDog' to be created? Porky ends up being scurried into the fight which causes him to bump into a tree - why not have the tree act rather weird with some surreal movement? We then cut to some very appealing animation of the drumming creature finishing off and as he clashes - the whole flower and himself shakes which is just crazy animation.

A sequence with characters that have heads resembling the 'Three Stooges' appear to even get vaudeville into Wackyland. That I find that stands out is before we know there are three heads in a body - they are hiding behind an igloo and we can just question why would an igloo reside in 'Africa' - but of course, this is Wackyland.

The Three Stooges are evidently talking gibberish as they poke each other in the eyes which is their comedy trademark. They then gibber in front of the audience. Of course - we would be baffled; but a messenger creature arrives quick in time and translate gibberish language to English: 'He said his mama was scared by a pawnbroker's sign' in Mel Blanc's hilarious distinctive falsetto voice. Even that English translated sentence doesn't make sense but hey - its funny. I love the fact that he just has wheels - that is just cool. Looks like it is Treg Brown having fun with his sound effects when the Three Stooges creatures poke and prod each other with their characteristic trademarks.

The next sequence which is animation by Bobe Cannon where Porky is searching for information about the dodo's whereabouts. He walks a sign worn by a googly-eyed creature who just likes to roll his  pupils non-stop. Porky reads the sign as he starts to burst with excitement blurting out questions about the Dodo's whereabouts.

The weird creature with the sign responds to Porky with a huge amount of direction signs as he shouts "That way!" which is just an oddball but I can see Clampett's wackiness going on as Porky is in a land with no logic or intelligence - but I feel it makes the cartoon a masterpiece that way. The weird creature then closes the sign with a doorway that leads to the Dodo (that is underground). Porky enters to find the Dodo which leads him to fall below Wackyland. As Porky falls down - he then lands from a spout - which turns from liquid to Porky himself. That is just incredible animation, imagination and timing which is incredibly clever.

Porky is then caught attention to a mysterious voice heard in the background where the doors even have letters of what the mysterious voice is reading out: "Introducing in person..." after a couple of doors slide past - a castle with light lettering reads 'The DoDo' attached to a castle. The bridge then drops where the dodo finally makes his entrance by crossing the moat on a jet-ski. That is a really cool design of the Dodo - as I have said. The Dodo parks his own boat where he rips an anchor but of course it sinks which proves the Dodo is nuts and retarded and that's the joy of the cartoon.

Porky and the Dodo then make their first dialogue together in this memorable scene. Of course; Porky has just found the "last" of the Dodos, and it's his chance to finally catch him.

Porky Pig: Are you really the last of the Dodos?
Dodo: Yes, I'm the last of the Dodos!

That way the Dodo just stretches his neck as his face goes straight towards' Porky is rather cool and I can see a looseness to the animation. The Dodo then goes into a crazy motion where he appears to chant 'dodo' over and over as it sounds something of a tongue twister. That little dance and where he jumps on top of Porky's head feels like something of a Daffy Duck routine. In the climax of the sequence as Porky gets rather dazed from all the jumping - the Dodo zips out and then back (behind Porky) making a police siren. So then it follows on with a chase sequence where the Dodo hides behind bizarre shaped trees acting like Daffy Duck excitedly. That little tree scene where Porky runs but falls was rather neat timing as well as the Dodo acting jumpy.

We then follow on with a magic sequence as the Dodo starts off with "Hocus pocus". He begins his magic trick by forming a pencil from his finger tips. He uses the pencil to illustrate a door. After the drawing - he goes into a wild take and instead of opening the door - he opens up the bottom part which looks all rubbery and he just scrams through.

That is just some very funny animation there where he the door is inanimate but it is treated in a very rubbery form. Clampett used that trademark a lot - even in his later cartoons where he liked to move curvy movements for guns, telescopes, etc. Porky runs into a door and crashes - classic. Porky struggles to open the door and to twist the doorknob to open. Meanwhile - the Dodo is hiding by the window sill. The really weird part is that there is no house, no wall to even hold a door or a window sill - it's all invisible and it just stays there as the purpose is that Wackyland has no logic. Porky notices the Dodo by the windowsill as he runs over to climb up but he is too slow. Good timing choice as the Dodo is evidently a much faster character, while fat Porky is much slower as a runner. As Porky climbs the windowsill - the Dodo turns up and kicks his booty through the window and the Dodo runs towards the door.

As nuts as it could go - the Dodo then uses the back part of the door as an elevator but Porky is too late to catch the Dodo. What I consider to probably be the most exaggerated part of the cartoon is they even have an animate Warner Bros. shield zoom straight in towards Porky where the Dodo rips it open with a slingshot and hitting Porky with a rock.

The WB shield just definitely pushed the limits as we all came to know the logo very well but to even use that in Wackyland is just...nuts. It's hard for me to analyse but I think perhaps it was added to add Warner Bros. credit to the Looney Tunes.  The Warner Bros. shield zips away as Porky's chase sequence continues with the dodo. The Dodo stops in midair as Porky bumps into him but the Dodo continues his wacky chase. As the Dodo reaches his wild take - he opens up the scenery (another wacky moment as we thought it was the backgrounds). The Dodo reaches an edge but adds in a bricked-wall to block Porky from chasing him. The brick wall is definitely out of nowhere. Porky crashes into the wall with bricks flying out and it then causes him to cry and whimper afterwards. Wouldn't it have been funnier if Clampett or Treg Brown to have included baby cry sounds to make it more wacky?
After a while - the Dodo walks through Wackyland acting normal and minding his own business. That characteristic walk is rather broad of the logo. We then hear the sounds of a disguised Porky Pig dressed as a newspaper man shouting out the headlines of the news. He shouts out "Porky Pig catches dodo!" which catches the Dodo's attention as it is total bogus. The Dodo falls for the trick as he shouts "Where's that, where's that? Where, where??"

Porky then responds, "Now!" which was a part of the trick to catch the Dodo and he finally has caught "the last of the Dodos" and he would be the richest man on Earth for that. Porky jumps with glee as he prances "Oh boy, I've really caught the last of the Dodos". The Dodo responds to that, "Yes, I'm really the last of the Dodos - aren't I boys?". A group of dodos arrive at the scene which frightens Porky and shout "Yeah! Woooo!!". What a funny conclusion to the cartoon as it turns out there really were more Dodos  and the jokes on Porky.

Overall comments: This is definitely Bob Clampett's masterpiece of the 'Porky Pig' era he was making - hands down. As well as one of the greater cartoons of the WB catalogue in the 1930s. Bob Clampett really has gone out there and shown off his talent and abilities he could pull off in a seven minute cartoon. His designs there are really simple-looking and they're evidently just doodles that anybody can pull off - but that's what really makes the cartoon watchable. It shows that anything can be done with animation and Bob certainly knew about 'no rules' in animation. Most animated cartoons of the 1930s followed rules - with many studios following the Disney formula where it was all about story, character personalities, etc. but good ol'Bob will have none of it in this cartoon. Even though some of his earlier cartoons with Chuck Jones working with him feel like they have a pattern of Disney-esque sequences (like a character involved with a problem - which involves character animation) was heavily used back then - but in this cartoon it really feels like Bob Clampett has shown what he can really do - and even more beyond what Tex could do around that era.

A good way that I would describe that cartoon is it feels like Bob Clampett was working around on a wackier version of Lewis Carroll characters and even the concept of 'Alice in Wonderland'. You can clearly see it there - Porky after the Dodo -- Alice chasing after the White Rabbit. Even the strange creatures of the cartoons appears to be showing Clampett trying to top Lewis Carroll but he was really influenced by Salvador Dali. Clampett gave his unit the sense of freedom to let his animators choose what they believe - and it could be he asked his colleagues to create the most surrealistic and kooky backgrounds to even be seen in a cartoon. Clampett was only roughly 24 or 25 when he made this cartoon and he pretty much had a clear mind with what he was doing and he certainly knew how to handle Porky in this cartoon. It's a shame the work later on deteoriated around 1939 when he got bored of making Porky Pig cartoons.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Prod. 3-14 - Gruesome Twosome draft

I'm only down for a short weekend - but I've felt inspired to make a post of this. What you are seeing above is the animator 'draft' of 'A Gruesome Twosome'. No - I do not own this copy. This is just a draft that was used in Jerry Beck's Sylvester & Tweety book which he wrote years ago...I just cropped the draft so you could take a look for yourself. It's inspired me to write this as Hans Perk is also posting the draft to the Disney film 'Peter Pan' - which you should see your yourself. Check it out for yourself - there is great animation there by Frank Thomas, Norm Ferguson, etc. so far.

Yes - this is a handwritten draft and I imagine that it belongs in one of Clampett's many collections. Robert Clampett's son told me in an e-mail that only roughly eight or ten animator drafts survive as many of these drafts (even from other directors) are pretty much lost. The animators on the first page - are of course the four main animators that appeared in the screen credits: Bob McKimson, Rod Scribner, Manny Gould and Basil Davidovich. I believe that the notes in this document were all hand-written by Clampett.

The draft is rather a mess, and as the handwriting feels scattered and it can be difficult to follow through (particularly which scene number, artist and particular screen footage) but I believe I've managed to follow it. The credit also credit effects animator A.C. Gamer but the first page of the draft doesn't credit him for any effects scene (although there is no single scene with effects animation). However, I also know that many of the WB drafts don't credit effects animator that answers that. Don't forget that the book only features the FIRST PAGE of the draft. It only goes up to the scene of the Jimmy Durante cat mentioning of using 'strategy' to the dumb cat. So, the sequence with the horse costume is rather a mystery, unless it exists in the archives of Clampett's collections.

Bob McKimson gets top billing in the credits although the draft of the first page only credits him for two scenes (although it probably is the only sequence he animated as the scenes following with the horse costume do not resemble his style or drawing). Even though only being credited for two scenes - the second shot is 124 feet and 15 frames long. Altogether that is 1999 frames and it's 01:23:07 in. It's also three week's work.

Bob McKimson sure got some hard assignments to do from Clampett. That animated scene with the Durante cat beating up the Stupid cat during the interruptions is probably my favourite animation that he has done for Bob Clampett. I love how when the Durante character just beats him up and it's all very funny animation. That very first scene where the Durante cat whacks him with a frying pan is just hilarious animation and it's really worth analysing. Bob McKimson really brings a lot in that 125 feet scene and his characters look very on-model. If I forgot to mention; he is credited for the silhouetted scene of the dumb cat meowing.

Rod Scribner animation of the dog acting rather excited (although I never, never understood the reason for that scene - and why the dog kisses the cat. I just don't see the charm) is rather solid animation and you can definitely feel the weight and power Scribner puts in his drawing. However, when I took a look at that draft - what really stumped me was the scenes of the cat's proposition for the two cats as they fight. That is some really odd Scribner drawing. The scenes of the cat's finishing their fight and especially the scenes with the female kitten doesn't look like Scribner's work.

Looking at the poses of the cat's from the fighting - is that really what Rod would draw like? However, more suspicion was the scenes of the cat. The cat is rather sloppily animation and it nearly resembles Scribner's trademarks. Do you really think he would draw like that? However - the cats whistling together look a little like Rod did it. Although, the draft credits the scene to Scribner alright - perhaps those scenes were infested from clumsy assistant work. Other than that - the rest of Scribner's animation in the cartoon is mostly the close-up shots of Tweety (even later on with the horse costume sequence) - he is also credited for the fighting scenes of the cats during Tweety's 'I Tawt a Taw a Puddy Tat' song.

Manny Gould animates quite a number of the shots so far as it appears but probably not as much screen footage as Rod or Bob McKimson appears to have had. His main animated scene - as it appears to be is of Tweety's catchphrase as the two cats look at Tweety's nest on top. He animated mostly the nest sequence (except for the mallet scene which was by Scribner).

We even get to see some of Gould's traits of this cartoon, particularly the scene where the cat's scream from the mallet reaction and just before their fall where he twins the poses. He likes to have the arms and legs together as he twins them - he even has the knack for drawing large mouths in reaction or action scenes. He was a bit like Rod Scribner in terms of drawing but Rod was much more solid, and Manny animated much quicker than Rod. Another Gould trait in the Clampett cartoons is he mostly animates speech scenes - you can see that for yourself in the 'strategy' scene.

Last but not least -- Basil Davidovich. Basil was one of the ex-Disney animators who fled over to the Schlesinger Studio after the Disney strike. He later returned to the Disney Studios in the 1950s as a layout artist on the features and remained there until his death in 1971.

His style isn't easy to identify in the Warner Bros. cartoons (although he is mostly associated for animating on a few Chuck Jones cartoons and also for Art Davis) but he started off in the Clampett unit in 1944. I think the first cartoon where he did animation was on 'Buckeroo Bugs'. Anyway; I haven't got too much to say about his animation output in this cartoon but I can say that the animator has really nailed Clampett's timing in the iron gag sequence which I think is some very funny animation. However, as for drawing - the cats look rather on-model and a little cutesy, only a little bit of Disney-esque animation even though that was where he was. His timing was very good and I think he was a very good, comedy animator for the WB cartoons.

As for the overall footage output: Bob McKimson animates the most footage so far animating over 150 feet of animation. Followed by Manny Gould who animates a bulk of that first page - then followed by Rod Scribner, and Basil Davidovich. I know that Rod did more animation later on in the cartoon - but perhaps Basil did more footage later but we will only know if the second page of that draft still exists. Of course - no footage credits Ace Gamer - but we can assume he did the effects animation in the animated shots done by the character animators.

Sunday 4 November 2012

215. A Feud There Was (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 214.
Release date: September 24, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Elmer Fudd / Egghead), Non-Stop Corrigan, Cuckoo Bird, Various Hillbillies), Billy Bletcher (Weaver from Audience / McCoy at Cellar Door) - and 'The Sons of the Pioneers'.
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Sid Sutherland.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Elmer Fudd Peacemaker tries to make peace of two hillbilly rivals: The Weavers and the McCoys.

This is the earliest cartoon that has fallen into its Blue Ribbon programme when it was first set up for the 1943-1944 season. However, according to Dave Mackey's site - it is supposedly the first Merrie Melodies cartoon of the 1938-1939 season starting with the green rings (even though Blue Ribboned). Another reason why this cartoon is also important is the fact that this was the first cartoon where Elmer Fudd is first mentioned. Its very debatable as to whether or not the 'Egghead' characters are still called 'Elmer' (according to the merchandising) but its only one mention in this cartoon and Elmer doesn't make his first official appearance until 'Elmer's Candid Camera' where Arthur Q. Bryan voices him - so, I'm still going to count this as an Egghead cartoon.

The cartoon begins as we discover a background setting in the countryside where it looks very peaceful and beautiful. There are birds flying at the scene enjoying the scenery. We can also hear the sounds of some off-screen yokels yodelling in the background and playing their acoustic guitar. The pan through the background with the birds flying around is a rather very slow pan as its supposed to demonstrate the peace of it at the beginning; and of course Avery's choice to add yodelling in the background.

The background music was provided by a vocal group called the 'Sons of the Pioneers'. As we enter inside a hut (we saw another one just at the beginning opposite that hut) where there are hillbillies sleeping in that room and there appears to be that each pair of hillbillies share a double-bed each. It turns out that they are very heavy snorers that as they snore their snores cause strong winds and they blow the pages from a diary to move as well as a lampshade at the top of the ceiling. The strong snoring appears to be so intense that the cuckoo in a clock attempts to step out of the clock but struggles to break through. The cuckoo then walks out and remarks, "Gosh - that's powerful snoring. Just like a hurricane!" The cuckoo then breaks into a British accent, "from the motion picture of the same name". I imagine that sequence was a reference to the film The Hurricane which came out a year earlier made by John Ford. The cuckoo even grabs out a moonshine bottle but the scene just cuts there.

I don't know which side of the hillbilly family I'm looking at but the rivals here are called the Weavers and the McCoys - a parody of 'The Martins and the Coys'. Since we are looking at the last hut - I'd say that this is the McCoys. The McCoys then wake up as their animals were sharing the same bed and they all rush out to get washed and ready.

A McCoy then rinses his face from a tub of water - and afterwards he walks over to try and find a towel as his eyes are clothes. Another hillbilly arrives at the seene to rinse but the hillbilly ends up walking over and rips off a part of his shirt as it now looks like paper towel - which is the gags shown here. I like how the braces for their shirts are unhooked to show that they are getting ready. More sleepy hillbillies are seen in the morning as they are just snoring and they use their snore to let the axe to the cutting on a piece of wood and I can see that Avery is just following influence from a 1930s gag. There is then an Irv Spence sequence that follows on with the hillbillies where we find that a hillbilly is sleeping under a tree and there is an apple that drops on top of the hillbilly. He is still asleep but has a very slow reaction where he just groans "Ouch" before going back to sleep as they are all clearly drunk.

There is some really neat timing but unusual timing by Irv Spence where the cat just walks lazily and looks very tired out. After the cat walks past a sleeping dog - the dog just wakes up and barely even barks "bow wow" as he is too drunk and lazy to chase after the cat. The cat looks back at the dog and instead of hissing rather fiercely; the cat just hisses back very weakly before walking past.

The hillbillies sleeping on the front porch are still asleep but then get up as they sing in front of a microphone and they go into song. Look at the way that the timing has been set up there. All the lazy hillbillies have been displayed with some slow-paced movement and it looks like as though that will be the remainder of the whole cartoon but then the action kicks in with the singing hillbillies and I believe the singing was by the 'Sons of the Pioneers' band. The McCoys continue to sing their brief song and I like how they just stand there very stuff but the Spence animation looks very rubbery. Then there appears to be a celebrity that arrives at the spot with the microphone where there is a little advertisement reference being noticed as the commentator records to call "Gladstone 4131" - the line is heard as: "Do you need money? Borrow on your own shot gun payed for or not. Call Gladstone 4131 and a versatile representative will call at your home or often". I like how the hillbillies just fall back to asleep with that little advertisement going on before they then go into song singing their little song - although I'm a little unsure of the song they are singing. As they continue to sing - we find some really lazy hillbillies at least trying to make some effort with their dancing by barely moving their feet to step dance.

Meanwhile there is a boy that ends up climbing on top of a chimney who is in fact a Weaver. The Weaver is to tell a message towards the McCoys in order for a fight to occur. He shouts out (what I can't quite make out what he is saying) but its a direct insult towards the hillbillies, he even makes a reference where it appears to be saying, "Bob Hope says so" and he continues to comment, "You can't shoot straight".

I'm not sure about where the voice is a reference to as this cartoon is full of unknown references - in my opinion that I can't seem to track down. Some Irv Spence animation then appear with the sleeping McCoys as they wake up and they receive the insulting message. The Weavers are in fact laughing at them to try and humiliate them. As the McCoys fire, they then shoot out the message towards the Weavers - "Do you mean it?" There is some Avery humour there where they just send each other messages back and forth by pistols. The Weavers shoot straight back towards the McCoys where they respond back (even using the words they would say dialectically) "Yas we mean it!" The feud then begins for the day as the Weavers and the McCoys are enemies - like the Martins and the Coys. We then find a shot where there is a sign that reads "Boundary line which is a river that crosses between the two houses. They then begin to fire pistols as they use their houses to help defend themselves from being killed.

One of the hillbillies from one of the enemies (maybe a McCoy) then begins to fire towards his enemies. There is a little subtle gag where as he fires - he ends a number on his adding machine which is supposed to mean how many targets and hillbillies he shot - which is a dark gag when you think of it.

The next gag for you is even darker when a McCoy just brings out a huge machine gun from the basement which is really funny. He then fires the missile and the missile lands on a pig and a chicken just minding their own business eating their foods. The missile lands on them where a plate drops and so goes ham and eggs. Very dark indeed but I've seen it in so many 1930s cartoons that the others I can't remember at the top of my head.  A Weaver (I think - I can't tell the differences) then approaches to the cellar and points with his shotgun and demands for a McCoy to identify himself. Instead, there is just a Douglas Corrigan reference. The hillbilly walks over to the cellar and asks, "Who's that down that in the cellar?"  The Corrigan character then replies, "My name is non-stop Corrigan...", if you don't know Douglas Corrigan was an American aviator who was famous for his non-stop flights, so hence the name Non-Stop Corrigan here. "I thought I was heading to Los Angeles, it was a mistake - my compass broke". The hillbilly with the gun makes a take out of that. Of course, Corrigan was famous at the time which would have been funny at the time.

In comes Egghead who step into the cartoon as he is riding some type of motorbike and at the bottom it reads "Elmer Fudd Peacemaker" and of course - this is the first mention of Elmer Fudd - but it is still clearly Egghead and his design so I'll just go along with Egghead. So the peacemaker then starts to yodel as he rides and tries to make peace with the hillbilly rivals. I like how he just slides his bowler hat down his back and bounces it back up to his head which is some funny animation.

Meanwhile there is a hillbilly who as a weird type shotgun that he pulls down to fire out bullets. He then chuckles and makes a reference to cartoon violence as it appears, "In one of these here now cartoon pictures - a body can get away with anything" I guess that was some message to add in to stop protests about the violence in cartoons??? We then find that there is a hillbilly who then finds that his old beard then gets shot from the bullets shooting straight past towards him. He then comments about it, "The old grey hair - ain't what she used to be". And he ends up breaking out into hysterical laughter. After breaking out into a jolly laugh he even states about, "Well it sounded funny if it hurts a little". He then places his hand on top of his beard to show that the beard has been cut off. Meanwhile an old mother then walks into the scene carrying a teapot with her and she is also a McCoy. She calls out the window rather loudly, "The Weavers are sissies!" She covers herself to see their reaction to that insult. Instead they fire back and the bullets then hit the teapot and tea falls out. The holes with tea pouring out even have tea landing into the cups which pleases the mother - a rather interesting gag for Avery to come up with.

A Weaver is hiding behind a barrel and continues to fire but instead aims for a poultry house. We find a chicken inside where she hatches her eggs. She steps out of her nest with glee over the eggs. 'Chicken Reel' is of course played in the background. The bullets then strike at the eggs as the yolks fall out.

The chicken then looks at the egg very sadly and appears to quote a reference that I can't seem to find where it is from. The chicken just comments rather sadly, "Three days work - all shot to pieces" unless it could be some reference to the Depression days but Im not sure. The chicken just shrugs after the eggs have been shot. Meanwhile the fighting between the Weavers and the McCoys and it continues on as Egghead (Elmer Fudd Peacemaker) arrives at the porch for one of the enemies' front porches and there is still firing going outside from their guns.  As the shooting still goes on - we hear the knocking on the door where the peacemaker just knocks and he remarks, "Gentlemen - let this be an end to this meaningless massacre. Let there be peace". Irv Spence animation there - at least by telling the posing of the hillbillies. Egghead then walks out of the scene yodelling but he gets shot in the fanny by the bullets. The hillbillies all laugh and mock the peacemaker and they rush back inside the house to continue the feud.

I like how inside the house we just find a hillbilly who is just sitting on a mattress and pulling the trigger like the guns to see in amusement parks. A McCoy then looks over and he expresses his hatred towards the Weavers. He shouts about how he hates the weavers and even goes as far as to shout:

"Is there a Weaver in the audience?", it turns out there is a Weaver as he is in silhouette and waves his arms out, he shouts, "Yeah, ya skunk!" - he then brings out his pistol and fires straight towards the McCoy in the rear end which causes him to jump in reaction. From what I've seen - the feud gags meant really nothing to me - but I thought that was a very funny gag to add an audience member in there - that would've got a laugh back then. The McCoy then jumps out of the window from the pain of being shot in the rear end - but still it was a funny sequence. As the massacre still goes on - Egghead arrives at the end to approach to the Weavers - okay, I think I'm starting to see the differences - the Weavers have red beards and the McCoys have black beards. Oh dear, it took me almost the whole cartoon to figure out the differences. Egghead rides over to the Weavers household where he uses his own characteristic yodel and rides on his little scooter.

He knocks on the door of the household of the Weavers. The Weaves hear the knocking on the door and they answer it as Egghead (Elmer Fudd peacemaker) walks over and he gives them the same message to end the massacre, "My friends - let there be peace. Good day all". He then walks over hoping the feud will be settled but the Weavers take his advice as offence and they just shoot him instead. Of course - Irv Spence's animations style in this cartoon is dominated throughout and this is one of his scenes.

More feud and fighting still continue as it looks like a McCoy is shooting a Weaver in the face and yet there appears to be no reaction out of it which is nuts! A referee then arrives at the two shooters that are just shooting each other and they are supposed to be dead. The referee arrives at the scene and he blows his whistle. He calls to the McCoy - "You're offside, five yards penalty for you bud!" he then carries the little hillbilly five yards back and after being picked up five yards - he then resumes shooting. That was a rather little humorous part where they even have rules to the feud which makes it very odd and funny since arguments and feuds often don't have rules - even for feuding separate hillbilly families. The shooting then continues from the point after being moved five yards.

Egghead the peacemaker then arrives at the scene where he plans to end the feud right at the spot. He blows in his whistle and he then comments, "Gentlemen, I've spoken to you time and time again - I've begged - I've pleaded with you it is apparent that you stop this useless slaughter - we must have peace".

He continues to beg to end the fight as it is very continuous. The two enemies then look at him with disgust as he demands peace. The McCoys are standing at their front porch as they shout, "So its peace they want huh?" in that Irv Spence sequence (who started off with Egghead's plead to the rivals disgusted of wanting peace). There appears to be a reference (although I don't think its supposedly a Durante one) where he comments, "We'll give him plenty of peace". The Weavers even have the same thought as the McCoy as the boys then follow on and they plan on banging up towards Egghead the peacemaker. It rather amuses me about the fact that Egghead is the voice of peace in this organ and they play the church organ in the music to help demonstrate peace.

 The two hillbillies then walk over to Egghead as they begin to threaten him, "Now what did 'y'all say?" Egghead responds to their answer and he replies back, "I say - we must have peace". At that point the hillbillies then jump over towards the peacemaker where there is smoke covering the scene as he is being beaten up by the two hillbilly groups. The peacemaker then concludes by yodelling the last part and he sweeps himself as he has managed to win the fight against the group against him. That is rather amusing since he is indestructible.

Afterwards - he then comments towards the audience as he announces - "Good night, all". A Weaver in the audience again then shouts back "Good night" and shoots straight back at Egghead. That was just amusing since he thought that he had made peace but it turns out there is one Weaver in the audience from earlier on that shoots the peacemaker knowing the conflict is still there. Ha-hah.

Overall comments: The fact that this cartoon may be important just because of the first use of the name "Elmer Fudd" wouldn't mean that he's Elmer from that point on even though its still clearly Egghead. Overall - I find that this cartoon appears to rely too much on radio or advertisement references - even though the cartoons used them frequently most of the time but it felt like most of the gags were just references. Avery still gets to have fun fun with the silhouette audience which is rather amusing that the Weaver just shoots after his own enemy.

As for the animation in this cartoon - I will speak very briefly that it appears that Irv Spence did the most animation out of the other animators as his style is all over it. I recall that the name 'Weavers' and 'McCoys' was already used before when Freleng made 'When I Yoo Hoo' - but Bob McKimson wouldn't make a funnier cartoon later on with Bugs facing two hillbillies 12 years later... I admit that is pretty much all I have to say about my overall comments for this cartoon - and I couldn't come up with much to say other than it wasn't the cartoon I thought was hilarious - and it was pretty much a hit-and-miss.