Wednesday 27 April 2016

398. Flop Goes the Weasel (1943)

Warner cartoon no. 397.
Release date: March 20, 1943.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Baby Chick / Weasel), Ruby Dandridge (Mother Hen).
Story credit unknown.
Animation credit unknown.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A weasel steals a newly-hatched egg; where the chick mistakes the weasel as his mother. Desperate to eat him, the weasel plays along.

For the sake of "politically correct" readers; let's brush this out of the way. The short is perhaps known today for its racial imagery and stereotypes: especially on the mother hen and her newly-hatched chicken. The mother adorns the stereotype, as she wears a kerchief and speaks in a Southern accent.

However, as a reviewer: it's important to understand the cultural context of the era it was produced - as it's otherwise ignorant to write off the past as if it's never happened. The stereotypes themselves aren't the central focus of the short: which more importantly deals with the antics of a baby chicken and a weasel.

The stereotypes themselves are so subtle, especially on the baby chicken that it goes inconspicuously throughout the short - as the funny portrayals of a baby chick outwitting a foxy weasel makes it stand out. Enough of the malarkey and on with the cartoon:

The opening status quo reveals a mother hen awaiting for her child to hatch as she knits and hums tenderly to Mammy's Little Coal Black Rose. The mother feels a rhythmic tapping from the egg; and leaps happily of a seemingly merry moment. She temporarily leaves her coop for the lookout of a "southern fried worm". As she leaves; a foxy weasel takes his chance to steal the egg himself to eat.

The weasel's introduction is a broad, exaggerated portrayal of his characterisation and discreet nature. He hides at various spots surrounding the coop to reassure himself he is unseen; and the gag overplays that nicely. As seen in his opening scene - the weasel hides behind the coop and peeks his head back and forth at different positions. Then he quietly hides at different spots like a fencepost, dustbin, and a tarnished stove.

Finally he returns to the coop he had already started and steals the hatching egg. It's a funny, colourful scene that gives his personality too much paranoia and suspicion.

Chuck Jones' timing and John McGrew's layout mechanics are a perfect blend altogether; as Jones has to time the weasel's peaking here and there briskly in accordance to McGrew's complex staging.

It would seem unethical for the reviewer to completely overlook the forward-looking art direction of McGrew's layouts underneath Jones' vision. A common analysis for a Jones-McGrew cartoon of the era; each short they worked on is always unique from the other - by not following the standard "classic" formula often associated with other studios.

For Flop, McGrew gives the backgrounds a non-traditional, slanted view which is used creatively in animation rather than just a decorative function. Perhaps the most striking of McGrew and Fleury's work in the short is the scene of the weasel attempting to trap the chicken in the basement.

There is a strong emphasis of low-key lighting and silhouette which works effectively and perhaps an attribute to the lighting style of live-action features of the era. As the baby chick is hiding inside a lightbulb, the weasel attempts to reach after him by foolishly placing his hand inside the socket - creating an effective, bold electric shock which is prosperous in colour and outcome.

Chuck's explorative ways of advancing comic timing is put to good use for throwback gags. A golden oldie, the baby chick gives the weasel a hot-foot when the weasel attempts to sabotage a hide and seek game - which results in him to reacting hysterically. Chuck makes the reaction more advanced - as the weasel shoots up like a rocket and runs around the house in a very complex layout setup.

A very courageous move from Johnny Burton's camera department who nail the camera mechanics - up to the finishing close-up of the weasel's foot. Alas, Chuck nails the expressions of the weasel's easing face as his foot is resting in a bucket used "in case of hot foot only".

Other times in the short, Chuck's experimenting doesn't quite meet great results. A striking example occurs in the sequence of the weasel hiding behind a wall, waiting for an unsuspecting chick to be smashed by a cleaver. Unbeknownst to the weasel, the chick is standing on the shelf and strikes him with a mallet.

For the gag; Jones channels a little of Frank Tashlin as the anticipation and the weasel's collapse occurs in five separate shots lasting a total of five seconds. It's an imaginative effort but Chuck's timing is a tad sloppy as the rapid-pacing feels sluggish and forced.

As far as writing and story goes; it's a great showcase of the struggle for identity - a regular formula from the Schlesinger staff. As the baby chick is newly hatched, he immediately mistakes the weasel as his mother - delaying his chance to eat the chick.

The weasel responds: "Ain't that touchin'? The kid thinks I'm his mother. It kinda gets you here", and then reveals his true colours: "Too bad I'm so fond of, um, chickens." The role-play is extended as the weasel disguises himself as a "mammy" by wearing a kerchief. Here, the embracement of the stereotype is used cleverly.

Mel Blanc exceeds in both performances; as he nails the inquisitive chick who asks: "What is we mammy?" and impersonates several animal noises; while also giving the weasel some added character with the Southern falsetto. Blanc's range and ability at cartoon acting gives the weasel two different voices (his own - and the falsetto) which really gives it a personality of its own.

His quick wits are put to great use when he swiftly tricks the baby into thinking he's a weasel. He manipulates him into believing he's seeing a reflection of himself from a infant photo of the weasel; and places the sailor hat to add the right touches. As a result of being "Blue Ribboned" in recent years; it's a pity there is no available information on the short's writer...who develops the characterisations and role-play of the weasel so creatively. To hazard a guess, it's most likely Ted Pierce (Chuck's regular writer then), or perhaps Michael Maltese - who would sporadically write a short for Chuck before becoming his principal story man in the late 40s.

Without doubt - the most fulfilling and executed sequence in the short is centered on the weasel's violent sneezing. The weasel foolishly tosses pepper across the room to distract the chick, who as a result accidentally turns on a fan - causing the pepper to ricochet and land on the weasel's face. This results with an abundance of violent sneezing completed with a string of visual gags.

The visual gags are very innovative and hysterical in delivery - it's a sample of how capable Chuck Jones could be in pulling off far-out gags which is otherwise out of his usual tastes. He takes complete advantage of his comic timing gift to make particular gags have great effect.

Jones pulls this off beautifully in the teapot scene. The weasel has his head caught inside a teapot; and builds up to another violent sneeze. as a result: the teapot reacts violently from the sneeze and spikes upwards, in the shape of a crown.

The gag is built up further as the weasel's sneeze causes him to crash several objects like a stove and a rug - and rolls out dressed like a king sitting on a throne. As inventive and outrageous the gags are - the sneezing fits get carried away as it clocks in for almost two minutes. It builds up from gag to gag making the action feel anti-climatic and choppy in pacing. The chick's mistake for the pepper as smelling salts however, has a hilarious delivery to it gag-wise.

A couple of wartime references in the short which are worth the mention. A gag which can go completely oblivious to a contemporary viewer is centred at the weasel's kitchen. The weasel sings the recipes as seen in a close-up of the list. One of the recipe lists "an ounce of sugar" which the weasel hesitates at the indication of sugar on the paper.

The weasel abruptly pauses, and then sighs "Oh well" as he carries on with the recipe. A very dated gag by today's standards; sugar was rationed during World War II, which is what's hinted in the subtle delivery of the off-screen weasel.

At the climax of the short - the weasel is defeated while suffocating in a wringer washer. To admit defeat, he holds a white flag to show his surrender - as evidently written. It's possibly a subtle indication of the audience's desires for peace from their enemies during the war.

Animation by Bobe Cannon.
Back home safe to his mother, he recounts the story on how he outsmarted the weasel. "But ah fooled him mammy, ah fooled him good!", the chick boasts. The mother cuts in, responding skeptically of his story: "Tellin' such big lies!". The chick insists he's telling the truth, with an injured weasel stepping in to back him up, in the hilarious closing lines: "He ain't just whistlin' Dixie, mammy!". Animator Bobe Cannon adds to the right touches with some exaggerated animation poses of the weasel's anticipated sneeze fit; which wouldn't likely appear under Chuck Jones' direction and character layouts.

Flop Goes the Weasel is a great representation of some of Chuck Jones' underrated works. The stereotypes are a possible factor to why the short hasn't been released to home media as well as being rarely seen in general. Despite the stereotypes outdating the short; there are still great elements altogether. The weasel shows a lot of entertainment and personality under one roof; and the newly-born chick's innocent nature creates a great foreshadowing of the weasel's fate. Chuck Jones completely went to town as far as experimenting with layouts and comedic timing goes: which is altogether a mixed blessing. The sneezing fits itself is a great example. Whilst the gags are very creative and full of energy; it is slightly padded to add up its running time.

Rating: 3/5.

Thursday 14 April 2016

397. To Duck...or Not to Duck (1943)

Warner cartoon no. 396.
Release date: March 6, 1943.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Larimore / Duck Referee), Arthur Q Bryan (Elmer Fudd).
Story: Ted Pierce.
Animation: Bobe Cannon.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy Duck challenges Elmer to a boxing match; to prove he's more vulnerable without a weapon.

Animation by Bobe Cannon.
By this point at the Schlesinger studios; Daffy Duck or Elmer Fudd had become so established it gave the writers an opportunity to expand their roles in the Looney Tunes universe. In this case, Ted Pierce takes the chance of penning the first Daffy/Elmer collaboration. It makes a fitting combination to expand Elmer's activities as a hunter, asides from hunting "wascally wabbits".

As far as colour styling goes; it's an unusual blend. The sky colour has a sepia wash look to it; which is seen all through the short with Technicolor-painted characters like Daffy or Elmer applied to the backgrounds. Another example of experimenting with layouts and colour styling; this short's takes on a dangerous task to pull it off accordingly; that only Gene Fleury could tackle.

Chuck Jones was still heavy with smear animation in light of The Dover Boys. The opening sequence of Daffy flying up the sky is an example alone. Humming to himself casually; he narrowly misses the gunshots fired by an unseen hunter. He uses the clouds to protect himself.

As he carries on, he makes a snide comment on the shooting: "Confidentially, those hunters couldn't hit the broad side of a duck." As he eats those words; a bullet strikes Daffy's tail-feathers - he them hams it up reacting melodramatically and falls.

Bobe Cannon does a stellar job on a complex animation assignment as the scene shows how involved Daffy is, as well as the various actions he pulls across the scene (like his "invisible bicycle" trick). Daffy falls to the ground; but lands safely by the softness of a pillow and is retrieved by Larimore, Elmer's hunting dog. Daffy's brief "resurrection" on lecturing Larimore on how to retrieve a duck adds to the touch and charm of Daffy's persona.

And so, Elmer apologises to a motionless Daffy Duck, but proudly acknowledges he's a "gweat sportsman". Daffy retorts to Elmer's comment and slowly awakens, offended by his biased comment ("Listen, sport! You don't know the meaning of fair play!"). Daffy bullies and dominates Elmer further on, by removing his hunting equipment and stripping him to his boxer shorts. He proves Elmer's weak without his weapons, and so challenges him to a "fair" fight.

The sequence proves that the Elmer/Daffy alliance in the short has merit. It sheds more light on Daffy, and Ted Pierce's writing works so well around his character it would seem slightly out of character in 1943 for Bugs Bunny to perform.

Daffy's domineering is elegant and spontaneous, especially as he strips most of Elmer and cornering him. It's a funny foreplay of a smaller, defenseless character bullying a bigger, equipped man so effortlessly and entrancing.

Another tough but effortless piece of animation by Ken Harris; who nails Daffy's domineering personality. Both characters express a lot of personality on screen; and their actions read very clearly - especially the vulnerability on Elmer. Harris navigates through Chuck Jones' and John McGrew's layouts beautifully - particularly in the scene of Daffy cornering Elmer to a wrestling ring, which for some reason is located in the middle of a swamp - and already surrounded by duck spectators.

Daffy's unconstrained personality is nailed milestones ahead in the sequence showing the start of the fight. Both the duck referee and Daffy are in league together in making it a very unfair fight for Elmer.

Before the match begins, the referee exhorts the two opponents to "fight clean". His forth-wall "wink" is a fitting touch to indicate his conniving trick. The referee carries out the rules of the game; and asks for "no rough stuff".

So, the referee uses Elmer as an example by punching and assaulting Elmer each time he demands: "None of THIS! Or THAT! Or like so!". Ted Pierce takes advantage of his interest for violent, physical gags; and uses them comically and appropriately to make the fight unfair on Elmer's behalf.

To be reassured; Daffy recites the off-limit rules of the fight by repeating the referee's actions and regulations and injures Elmer even further. It's a hilarious piece of action by Daffy; as Mel Blanc's delivery on the character makes him appear law-abiding and innocent, which is of course contradictory. It's a hilariously conceived gag implies the ducks are hypocritical and unfair, much like Elmer.

More of Ted Pierce's physical ideas kick into gear that fit into Daffy's spontaneity. An example occurs once Elmer is knocked out at the corner of the ring; encouraging him to fight back: "Give it to him, champ! Let him have it, champ!". Spontaneously, Daffy feels the bald texture on Elmer's head. He suggests, "How about a little somethin' to stimulate the scalp?". He produces a hair tonic bottle, and knocks him out-cold again.

A cross-dissolve manipulates time as a weary Elmer walks over to shake Daffy's hand before another fighting round. With the mannerisms of a screwball; Daffy plays on Elmer's mind asking "Which hand do you take?"...resulting in a little game of guessing the right hand.

Once Elmer picks the hand; Daffy reassures him before he smashes him with a mallet. Although the gag is a tad predictable; Daffy breaks the forth wall prior to the outcome, commenting: "Ain't he a dope?" which obviously implies Elmer's falling into a trap; but it's his gullible nature what makes the delivery of the gag work. It's a funny little sequence that conveys Elmer's naiveness wonderfully, and Ted Pierce's good gag sense forth-wall lines blend together.

Despite funny characterisations and gag sense in the cartoon; Chuck Jones' direction still has flaws that adorn the short. His pacing is a little sloppy in the sequence where the referee introduces the two opponents. First, the transition from a threatening Daffy to the announcement of the fight is too fast-paced and abrupt; as it doesn't manipulate time with a cross-dissolve. The sloppy timing is evident from Daffy taking Elmer to the ring; that cuts right to an establishing shot of the duck spectators surrounding the arena.

As the duck referee is about to introduce Elmer; he laughs mockingly at his appearance: "He's a dog! You can have him! What a trap!" and breaks into hysterical laughter, and hangs onto the rope to control himself. Mel Blanc's delivery on the laughs is irresistible and entertaining; although it slows down the sequence slightly.

The following scene where the duck referee introduces Daffy Duck, paces slower than the laughing sequence. The duck referee looks at Daffy with absolute admiration. He admirably caresses and snuggles onto a pampered Daffy as he announces him as: "Daffy 'Good to His Mother' Duck".

It's a funny sequence alone to express an obvious comparison: the referee shows strong favouritism towards his own specie, being Daffy. But as part of the story, the sequence is slightly over-written with a little too much filler that doesn't quite fit the tone with the rest of the short.

The gags in the short that are probably the most innovative and better accomplished are the gags focused on Elmer's dog, Larimore. Between the introductions from the referee; the duck spectators boo in unison at Elmer; while Larimore cheers on Elmer - which results in brickbats getting thrown at him by the duck spectators. The reactions reverse after Daffy's introduction; with the ducks cheering on him, while Larimore boos at him - getting the same reaction from the spectators.

Chuck's layouts and Ted Pierce's writing create a hilarious visual juxtaposition that fits the cynical humour in the Warner Bros. shorts. The duck spectators are a large crowd adorning the arena; indicating the number of support Daffy has. Meanwhile, Larimore is the only supporter of Elmer - and sits in a completely isolated stand. Chuck's timing on the objects flying at Larimore couldn't have been executed better or funnier.

Another great little line occurs when Larimore spectates the wrong-doings in the fight. Breaking the forth wall, he observes: "Y'know there's somethin' awfully screwy about this fight...or my name isn't Larimore. And it isn't". Of course, he's been called that all through the picture.

After being knocked out again from Daffy's mallet; the referee unfairly declares him knocked-out by rapidly counting to ten. He declares Daffy Duck the winner, where he receives a standing ovation from the duck spectators.

Elmer, regaining consciousness, steps in and complains about the violations of the rules. Finally getting even with the two ducks; he recites the rules of the game and performs similar violent actions towards them, as he makes his point.

A decent closure gag for the short; the abrupt ending and sloppy pacing around the short has marred the cartoon slightly. The fight sequences aren't paced or executed very well as it shows little or no build up to a climax; as it's merely a string of gags of Daffy tricking Elmer Fudd. While Elmer gets even with the ducks - the ending gag feels somewhat rushed and out of place - given that the short has a slightly smaller running time compared to the average animated short.

To Duck or Not to Duck contains some funny elements of characterisation with the occasional perfectly-executed gag; but putting it altogether it's a slapdash effort for Chuck Jones. With a decent introduction and a great build-up that leads Elmer and Daffy to the wrestling ring; most of the short's problems are laid on the fighting scenes. The pacing is very inconsistent and unorganised that was sometimes sluggish or too abrupt. It appears Ted Pierce was more interested in conceiving physical gags rather than fixing the structure of the plot. Pacing problems asides - it points out the potential and opens the possibilities the Elmer/Daffy Duck pairings that resulted in far superior cartoons which later followed. Audiences might've taken it for granted upon its first release; but today  - Jones' short doesn't hold up too greatly as a first effort of a Daffy/Elmer pairing. In all, the cartoon is passable and an innovative effort of pairing the two iconic characters.

Rating: 2.5/5.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

396. The Fifth-Column Mouse (1943)

Original title card.
Warner cartoon no. 395.
Release date: March 6, 1943.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Dumb Mouse / Cat / Other mice), Michael Maltese (Strategy Mouse) \ Sportsman Quartet & Sherry Allen Group (Vocal singers).
Story credit unknown.
Animation credit unknown.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: The mice of a house prepare for war as their appeasement policy fail to end the menace of a cat.

The cat wipes the condensation from
the window and peeks through - an
allegorical  representation of Hitler. 
As World War II had hit hard at the United States - it gave the opportunity for many animation studios to make satirical anti-Nazi cartoons to mock the enemy. At Warner's, Norm McCabe made an allegorical short depicting Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo as ducks in The Ducktators. Friz Freleng pulls it off similarly in this cartoon; but told from a cat-and-mouse perspective.

The short itself is a satire depicting the cat's low cunning; which parallels Hitler's double-crossing schemes against the Allies; the most infamous being the non-aggressive pact made between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the summer of 1939.

Another notable example occurred with British Prime Minister's Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" speech, concerning the Munich Agreement. Remembered for it's ironic value, Adolf Hitler's continued dictatorship and the invasion of Poland followed with declarations of war from France and the United Kingdom. Whoever wrote the short (Mike Maltese or Ted Pierce?), it's an innovative portrayal of two feuding sides, like the mice and the cat, attempting make an appeasement without decreasing the enemies' power. After being double-crossed, the Allies are forced to declare war.

Originally, a line was sang by the mice:
"Down with the Axis / We're glad to pay
taxes" as part of the chorus - but was later
omitted in its re-release; as it was
considered dated. The original audio used
to exist online years ago.
The opening sequence establishes a fitting exposition of the mice's peaceful times. Raiding the kitchen; they celebrate their carefree liberties by singing Ain't We Got Fun? as they engage in several activities around the room - like skiing down window blinds.

Animation by Dick Bickenbach.
Their fun is at the brink of danger when a snooping cat observes them through the window. One timid mouse notices the cat's presence and panics as he takes caution to the grey mouse.

The grey mouse responds with an imprudent attitude: "Aww, there's nuthin' to be afraid of. He can't hurt us. He can't get in here!". A moment later; the grey mouse's words are eaten as the cat effortlessly makes it into the kitchen - creating a panic across the kitchen. The attitude itself reflects the behaviour of other Allied countries who overlooked Hitler's wicked policies. This resulted in the majority of Europe invaded by Germany at the start of the war. To some extent; it can be linked to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour - which immediately followed on the nation's declaration of war.

Upon the invasion of the kitchen, the mouse watchman cries: "The cat! Lights out!"; creating a blackout across the kitchen - another key element of the Second World War. The mice run across the rooms in an attempt to save themselves from the cat and back to their mouse-hole.

The grey mouse, however, walks into a trap as he finds him approaching into a set-up mouse hole, masqueraded as the cat's mouth. Whoever painted Friz Freleng's backgrounds on this short (most likely Paul Julian - 13/04 edit: I stand corrected; it was Lenard Kester - see comments) - the blackout scenes create a very subtle tone to make it not completely dark on screen - but by adding value blends to interpret the actions happening. The silhouetted mice in the background helps fit the mood and effect required for the scene.

The conference between the cat and the grey mouse is very compelling in developing characterisations. The personalities read very clearly: the cat is conniving; while the grey mouse is cowardly and greedy. Once the mouse is cornered by the cat; he entices the grey mouse by acting friendly ("What's the rush? I'm not going to hurt you") and offers him a slice of cheese.

Animation by Gerry Chiniquy.
Immediately, the mouse is enchanted by the appetising piece of cheese as he attempts to take a bite. Graciously refusing him a piece; the cat manipulates him by making an appeasement: by offering him an endless supply of cheese in exchange for the mice to serve for him. The grey mouse, initially reluctant, is once again distracted by the scent of cheese which the cat uses as bait to manipulate and control him.

It's a great satire on dictatorship as the cat plays all the elements of a dictator: full of low cunning and manipulation. Henceforth, the mouse lives up to the title: becoming a 'fifth-column' as he cowardly agrees to side with the enemy for his own desires.

In a bid to portray a seminar as riveting and innovative - and yet advancing the story: the solution is answered. Instead of a hearted argument which is typically portrayed in conference sequences for war films; the mice's two leading arguments are dealt in a song battle. The feud sung in the melody of Blues in the Night is itself a bizarre, uncanny concept - but it's hilariously executed that it's accepted easily.

The grey mouse sings to the mice committee in an attempt to convince them to fulfil an appeasement policy with the cat. The alternate lyrics are written with little references to the song like: "Dat catty done told me / out there in the kitchen" or "that cat is a two-face / A treacherous thing who will leave us to sing 'the blues in the night'". The parody is so inventively written that the sequence itself surpasses without being too corny or in bad-taste.

Animation by Phil Monroe.
The right touches are blended well in the sequence as Friz Freleng's right frame of mind of dynamic staging comes together neatly that would otherwise be difficult to pull off in animation. An example appears like the rear shot of the grey mouse appealing to the mice committee. It's a great piece of composition that captures the rally-like appearance as well as its charismatic nature.

The shots also cut to the cat who eavesdrops the song battle - nodding with approval over his crooked plan working accordingly. The cat's take at the defending mice rebelling against him ("That cat's a rat just the same!") has a nice touch to it.

And reluctantly, the mice agree to the appeasement. Falling under the power of the cat; he has their rights breeched as he enslaves them so he can live luxuriously and pampered. Some reluctant mice attempt to revolt, with one deliberately filing his nail hastily - but this results with a flick on his head.

Like Hitler, the cat's two-faced backstabbing persona is revealed as he starts to take complete advantage of the mice's fear and oppression. Whilst ordering from the menu, he slyly remarks: "Did you ever have a feeling that you a--wanted something, and...but you didn't know what it was?".

Making up his mind, he asks for a "nice, fat, tender mouse". Alarmed, the majority of the mice make a run and retreat back to their holes. The grey mouse, attempting to remain the cat's good graces, finds himself a victim of circumstances. The cat hungrily glares: "You're a nice, fat, tender mouse. You'll do". The grey mouse makes a lucky escape and returns to his hole - resulting in the rest of the group to declare war on the cat.

The grey mouse's fifth-column personality appears to play a key identity; as he's the only grey-coloured mouse compared to the other brown mice - hinting he's the outcast and likely traitor of the group.

As the mice prepare for war; the allegorical satire turns to a more patriotic and hopeful note. As the war wouldn't end for another two years - it's ideal that Friz would have the Allied mice win for the sake of sticking to its principals and patriotism.

An amusing blueprint depicting the cat
on the attack.
Friz Freleng's montage sequence of the mice troops is heavy with war propaganda. Not only is it evident in the off-screen chorus singers singing We Did It Before (And We Can Do It Again); but the "Buy Bond" posters, too - a common propaganda poster for animated cartoons.

Gags that are standard to the style of Warner Bros. coincide with the nationalistic sequence; as evident in the shot of an assembly line of mice troops having their troop hats installed. The machine appears to be out of action, as one mouse unexpectedly gets a boater placed on top of his head.

For the battle sequence; it's a fitting combination of great gagwork and what Friz Freleng's masterful direction of comic timing and staging has in store. The cat is being chased by a mechanical-like bulldog; controlled by the mice. To keep it inventive and entertaining; Freleng includes a great POV scope shot of the cat's ambush - while the mice off-screen are trying to coordinate the target at the right position.

To make the mechanical-bulldog come across as great effort; the mice pull an extended pair of false teeth to bite the cat's tail. Stalling's frame of mind for action fits accordingly as he uses Johann Strauss' Perpetual Motion for the battle sequence.

Freleng's staging ideas makes the chase all the more exciting to watch - as the cat and the mechanical-bulldog run at different perspectives animation-wise. The cat finally surrenders when a mouse finishes him by turning on an electric razor to trim almost all of his fur.

Victorious - the mice troops finish into a finale of We Did It Before. Their victory is almost marred when the uncooperative grey mouse cuts in, attempting to claim partial credit: "We dood it!" (quoting Red Skelton). In response to his starting of a war; the mice throw a piece of cheese at him.

Although it might be a tad dated with its patriotic overtones and it's allegorical message - its satire depicting the cat-and-mouse routine shows it remains an all-round creative, prescient effort. The characterisations of the cat and the grey mouse are convincingly portrayed that the dictatorship satire can go almost unnoticed by a modern or younger viewer. To some extent, the short is a throwback to the earlier Warner Bros. shorts of the 1930s; like Bingo Crosbyana or A Sunbonnet Blue where a group of allied small animals work together to defeat a bigger foe. Except in the case of Fifth-Column Mouse, the short has tempo and magnetism that the source material can be reworked to fit with a new audience compared to a decade earlier.

Rating: 4/5.