Sunday, 2 June 2013
Release date: March 3, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) and Mel Blanc (Proto-Bugs Bunny).
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Bob McKimson.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Elmer Fudd takes on a new hobby of photographing wild animals; however, in a attempt to photograph a wacky rabbit: Elmer's attempts backfire.
Before anymore useless debates about which was the first 'Elmer' cartoon: I still strongly believe this is the first official appearance of Elmer Fudd. Hell, it has Arthur Q. Bryan's voice for Elmer, for God's sake. Arthur, at the time, was very popular on the Grouch Club with Phil Kramer, on KFWB. Chuck thought that he was the perfect voice for Elmer, whose redesigned after the 'Egghead/Elmer' concepts prior that which Tex Avery heavily worked on.
Friz Freleng, that same year, who use the cartoon's character design for Confederate Honey and The Hardship of Miles Standish; before his Dopey-ish design appeared in A Wild Hare. In fact, Elmer has been redesigned rather frequently, hasn't he? They couldn't agree on a appropriate design for him until at least 1942: when the 'fat Elmer' design, created by Tex Avery, himself...was used in a few cartoons, though it proved to be unpopular.
You could also say this is the last short to use the proto-Bugs Bunny design, unless you want to count Patient Porky to be the last. Chuck Jones is using the Charlie Thorson design for the Hardaway-rabbit, one last time, before Bob Givens and Bob McKimson, themselves would give Bugs the standard design in A Wild Hare - his first official appearance. But this short is definitely the first where Elmer is manipulated or screwed by a rabbit.
In a extreme close-up shot; he exclaims: 'Gowwy, that sounds simple enough!'. Elmer walks over towards the his box where he contains his requirement for animal photography. He walks over his checklists and lists them out: 'Twipod, film, camewa, butterfwy net, etc.'.
The opening sequence is a good example in introducing the character: as the 1940 audience are already aware that Warner Bros. have based Elmer heavily on Arthur Q. Bryan, the voice and all..since he was such a hit in radio. However, his redesign (Bob Givens or Charlie Thorson, anyone?)..already shows the crew are a little indecisive in their approach towards the character's design. The crew had already been working around the concept of 'Elmer' since 1937...with Danny Webb and Mel Blanc voicing the characters; and it's obvious his personality is already established by this cartoon, as they already found their star.
Elmer stops, and in a point-of-view shot: he spots 'wabbit twacks'...as well as mentioning so, and could go on to be one of his famous quotes. He follows the rabbit tracks, where he finds the trail, as the proto-Bugs is seen asleep in the field. Elmer walks over and prepares the camera stand.
Fo any fan, whose completely unaware of the chronology of the Warner cartoons; Elmer is portrayed as a civilised human being, where he aims to take photograph of animals in the forest, instead of hunting animals, which is his most standard personality.
I suppose it was Chuck's nature, of the time, to use Elmer as a harmless human being, and this short is still early days, so he hasn't been completely reformed. As the rabbit is asleep, and Elmer's camera is all ready: in another shot from the camera's view; Elmer moves the rabbit at different angles so he could fine the most established shot to picture. The camera shot is amusing in a subtle way, considering how the rabbit is too big to fit into the image capture.
Elmer resumes with his photography, and this time from the camera lens: the rabbit's behind is being pointed at towards him.
At what is intended to be a little crude in terms of humour, Elmer takes, although his reaction was a little slow. The rabbit then walks towards Elmer, in a attempt to fool him. He walks towards Elmer, starting off a conversation: 'What'ya doing, taking pictures?'.
Elmer nods, not knowing be is being spoken of. The character animation of Elmer nodding is a little weak of the covers, where it doesn't show any proper signal to an audience watching this, even if it was difficult to animate. 'Nice hobby. Mind if I watch?'. Elmer shakes his head, covered from the cover. The rabbit asks what picture he's taking a picture of, and then Elmer pulls the cover to reply: 'A wabbit'. He responds: 'What rabbit?'; and Elmer points slowly before realising: 'That little gwey wabbit over there!'. Knowing the sequence, it's the first short where Chuck already has a shot of the rabbit with a tamed personality, and outsmarting his antagonists casually: apart from acting screwy constantly, like Daffy Duck, which was how Bugs Hardaway interpreted him.
After what appeared to be an uncomfortable situation for Elmer, the acting in the next scenes are a little spotty, but we communicate with Elmer much more clearly where he turns his attention on a cutesy, realistic looking squirrel, holding a chestnut.
Elmer brings his camera which has been grounded to the field, off and carries it closer towards the defenceless squirrel which he resumes his hobby, and gives up on the rabbit. Too difficult to even debate with Elmer's personality on these scenes, I meant his personality being established because of the Arthur Q. Bryan resemblance, although here, he is just a gentlemen who isn't even a threat to the rabbit.
The rabbit walks over towards the scene where he is chewing his apple. He finishes off much of the apple, and menacingly targets it straight at poor Elmer's face.
Elmer makes an eye-take and ducks under the pile of apples, and the apple splats; missing his face. Judging the eye-take; Chuck was already tamed those down apart from those extreme ones he used in Prest-O Change-O or Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur. After ducking under the pile of apples, it turns out his bad luck arrives when one apple, left hanging onto the tree lands and drops on top of his head. Elmer then shows a disgruntled look on his face.
In a close-up shot the rabbit goes on: 'I know a rabbit who wouldn't mind posing for ya. That is if you are at all interested'. Afterwards, Elmer finds the rabbit and is growling towards him, and is at the pinnacle of snapping.
Acting rather cool, the rabbit goes on: 'Of course, if you don't like rabbits, you don't like rabbits' and walks off. Just as Elmer was about to grab the rabbit, he pauses and regains self-control when he watches the rabbit leave. He looks around, and then grabs a butterfly net, and in vengeance: plans to trap the rabbit. Mmm, this probably explains why Elmer turned down animal photography, and turned to hunting. All solid acting work from the likes of Mel Blanc on the rabbit (even if the voice is annoying); though the rabbit manages to keep calm, and already has the ability to cause Elmer to nearly snap.
In the sequence which shows some great character animation of the rabbit's acting on nearly going insane. The comic timing is rather tamed down, although some of the facial expressions of the rabbit, first noticing he is trapped, is classic. 'What's this? What's this?!' wails the rabbit: 'I'm trapped!'.
The rabbit continues to put on the performance, from going almost completely berserk, to dying. He coughs in agony, and croaks: 'Come here! Come here! I can't breathe!'. The rabbit continues to put on the performance shouting out: 'Hold yourself, hold yourself! Easy!'. At that point, Elmer's vengeance face already turns to pity. After the rabbit plays dead, Elmer breaks down, and that part of his personality already kicks in where he bawls over the rabbit's dead body. 'I didn't mean to hurt the poor wittle grey wabbit!'.
At that point, a great sequence pours in where Elmer has snapped. His eyes widen, and ends up chantings: 'Rabbits, rabbits! I'm going mad! Rabbits! I'm going crazy! '..and then breaks out of the nest. For a slow-paced Chuck Jones cartoon, this is rather off-model and loose for his cartoons.
After breaking out of the net, he rushes off towards his camera as well his book and stampedes on top of them, damaging them. He continues shouting out: 'Wildlife! Rabbits!' and then, in a extremely off-model looking Elmer, he rushes out of the damaged equipment and then dives into a river. Though the single dreaming look rather off and crude, whoever animated that, showed a great understanding of Elmer reflected into a twisted state of mind.
The rabbit pulls him out of the river, where Elmer is standing up, recovering from his outburst. The rabbit asks: 'Now how are ya?'. Elmer responds: 'I'm feel pretty good?'. After a few assurances, the rabbit continues: 'Are you positive?', 'Absolutely sure?'.
As Elmer passively responds he feels better: the rabbit only asks just to kick him back into the river again, where he performs the obnoxious laugh Hardaway came up with, that pre-dates Woody Woodpecker. Instead of just snapping enough, Elmer just shows an irritated look on his face, sitting in the river as the 'How to Photograph Wild Life' book is tossed on top of his head.
Some of Bugs' quirks towards his antagonists are rather evident in this cartoon, particularly where he fakes his own death...however, Bugs is just presented as a rather sadistic character: who bullies Elmer which he doesn't deserve, whereas Bugs would only be menacing whenever he felt threatened amongst his antagonists. Whilst being the same design used from Hare-Um, or the same character: Chuck has completely tamed down as he shows his experimentation of the character. Blanc's voice for the character also toned down where it sounds rather relaxed. My thoughts: it works well as we finally get to see the rapid development going on with the rabbit character, before he would change into Bugs. With that asides, the cartoon was also another attempt for Chuck to try about comedy, except his rather sluggish pacing and timing.
Friday, 31 May 2013
Release date: February 10, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Eldery Elf/Cross-Eyed Elf).
Story: Jack Miller.
Animation: Richard Bickenbach.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A baker is already near bankrupt and is facing closure, although with the help of elves, the bakery is back to business.
Last cartoon which was directed by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton, prior Freleng's return in April 1939, who took over their unit, and the pair given demotions: Cal Dalton returning to animation, and Ben Hardaway given the Head of Story Department position, although didn't hold that position for very long.
Meanwhile inside the bakery; the main baker: The baker, Swenson is pacing around the shop. He appears to take out a measurement for the barrels, where the camera trucks in to already indicate to the audience, through communication it's empty.
He walks over towards the cashier to check for any profits the bakery has made. To make it appear gag-wise; a tin of canned tomatoes indicate his 'profits' aren't shown as real money (i.e. bottle cap, button, etc), which is a dark for a gag, since Melancholy Mood is the music cue. Meanwhile; a elderly blind man walks into a store, where the baker believes he has a customer. He asks for any dimes to spare; although the baker could only offer him a doughnut. After almost a whole minute of just drama with no gags, we get a rather odd blessing from the blind man, as he leaves.
Jack Miller, probably directed from Hardaway/Dalton is engaged with some rhyming couplets, that feel Disney-ish. An example is shown where the main elf warns: 'The store is empty, he hasn't a crust / we must work fast, or he'll go bust!'.
All the other elves then scamper out of their beds to get changes as they are to head over towards Swenson's Bakery. One of the elderly elves then looks over towards a sleepy Swenson where he is lying on his desk, which means the coast is clear.
As Swenson is asleep and they enter inside the bakery shop; the elderly elf reminds the others: 'Must work fast before he wakes / and fill his store with pies and cakes!'. The elves then begin with the bakery, and as if the cartoon could get any worse--the elves start to sing the song The Happy, Slappy Little Baker Man. The chorus singers are terribly irritating to listen to, its insufferable, and painfully unentertaining.
Not too sure who is providing much of the voices of the other elves, although it sounds like much of them were sped up, especially the Colonna elf; whose voice impersonation just sounds off-key. The elderly elf is also seen a shot where he puts all the ingredients together to help bake the recipe.
After the sequence, it's all just gag-after-gag; where you will find virtually no surprises coming up whatsoever, and it all just runs down together. A Harpo Marx-type elf runs into the scene, dropping the cake; and flips the other side. To add to a really corny gag, he pins a sign on top reading 'Upside down cake'. The gag itself has no charm, and just unfocused.
Obvious to the fact he has pulled out an enormous, rounded pumpkin; it takes him a while to know the pumpkin isn't flat or squished to be prepared for a pumpkin pie. To solve the problem, he grabs a mallet where the pumpkin splats and also splatters on his clothes and face.
Whilst it could work as a gag, the comic timing for that part is just flat. More baking scenes appear where there is a baker making some doughnuts and uses a pumper to pump up the flattened doughnuts, and another elf just sprays chocolate icing over the doughnuts. Seriously, these gag sequences are just extremely weak. In fact, even 8 years olds have a better understanding on how a good gag work, and would even criticise such poor pacing in this cartoon.
The next sequence does so happens to be one of those slow-paced pointless gags where a character comes in a sticky situation, and attempt to figure out how to solve the problem, but still come to failure. This results where a cross-eyed baker is rolling the dough with his rolling pin..the rolling pin ends up stuck on the dough.
The rolling pin is very sticky, and he attempts to pull it out physically, although the weight is trapped inside the dough that it is too strong to pull off. However, this does work except he falls off the table with the rolling pin clashing on top of his head.
It gets extremely even more pointless where the baker just attempts to whack the dole; and yet the dough retaliates. For such a crappy cartoon, this sort of exaggeration just doesn't work in that environment. The dough then forms into a hand and prods the baker in the eye, and then they battle one another on top of the table. Virtually humourless, and also known as padding in that cartoon.
After just an entire string of gags, that I couldn't take any longer, Swenson finally wakes up from the rumpus, thank God, as he walks over to investigate the activity occurring in his kitchen. The elves discover he has approached the kitchen and then rush out of the scene.
Swenson is completely baffled from all the activity occurring his kitchen, but moments later, a doorbell rings where the entire village see all different kinds of bakery in display which persuades to purchase the food.
In a conversative looking crowd shot, the whole crowd are waving their money in the shop, desperate to purchase some of the bakes. Hardaway and Dalton, whose never been very daring in their film techniques, use the following shots as a montage success for Swenson; which is relevant at best for the sequence, despite the atrocity the directors have already given us.
Just as the elderly man walks out of the bakery store, closes the door and then walks away. Swenson then steps out of his own store, where he shouts out towards the elderly man: "Hey, mister! I forgot to tell you there's a five-cent deposit on the pie tin!".
Love the fact that he is trying to use his hand for the 'five-cents' gesture, when in the cartoon world: he only has four fingers. Doesn't see work out too well when it comes to personality animation. The pie is then tossed straight towards his face, where he finishes with the closing line "That's gratitude for ya!", as the cartoon ends.
As already mentioned, Dalton was still working in the same unit, but as a animator; and according to the 'Exposure Sheet' issue 5--it was a position he already loved...whilst Ben Hardaway took the demotion pretty hardly, at least according to Martha Sigall. He was, however, given the position as Head of the Story department, where he would work on a few shorts, before his departure in January 1940 for Lantz. Nevertheless, it was evidently all for the greater good. With Freleng's return to the Studio, the cartoons released from the previous year finally pick up the pace again, and the Studio desperately needed Friz Freleng back to help reform the WB cartoons, in terms of comic timing, as well as humour...which Freleng does.
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Warner cartoon no. 275.
Release date: February 10, 1940.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig/Baby Dumpling/Suicide Squad/Man at Gas Station/Bomber)
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Vive Risto.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky is sent on a mission to stop the attacks of Ali Baba and his troops from attacking a fortress.
Then the camera quickly pans to a gas station, with neon-lights reading 'The Oasis', where Clampett and his crew are satirising names of clubs as well as linking the word to a isolated area in a desert.
Meanwhile over at the Brown Turban nightclub (a pretty obvious spoof of the Brown Derby, don't you think?)..Porky walks out of the club singing The Girlfriend of a Whirling Dervish--and for some reason, Blanc's voice isn't sped up for those scenes, which does sound rather odd for a viewer listening. In a quick pan to the left, we find a particular spy loitering by a palm tree in secrecy. The spy is shown as a caricature of George Raft, and there's a little gag Clampett hyperbolises where he is flipping a coin with his feet, which is a direct reference to one of Raft's most famous films: Scarface.
Porky reads the letter and discovers a message from the spy, notice the film reference to the 1939 motion picture: Confessions of a Nazi Spy written as Confessions of a Nasty Spy.
Prior America entering World War II, altering the title to 'nasty' would of course, be relevant for that matter, even though they both have a negative connotation, of course. Porky reads the message and discovers the legionnaire criminal: Ali-Baba and his Dirty-Sleeves (referencing the famous Arabian legend: Ali Baba) are planning to attack the Desert Fortress. The letter turns out to be signed by the 'Tattle Tale' Guy. Porky gets a reaction from the letter, and rushes off to save the day, before rushing back to the spy to thank him, and quotes Joe Penner, 'Ya nahaaaaasty spy!', were Penner's original quote was 'Ya naaaaaasty man!'.
Porky then rushes off an a attempt to save the day and stop the attacking from occurring. 'And I thought Ali Baba and his Dirty Sleeves were washed up!' stutters Porky. Meanwhile, Porky stops and finds a 'U-Drive' store where you can hire camels. Porky walks in to hire a camel.
He reads the sign of a small camel who is labelled as Kiddy Kar. He picks the baby camel as a choice to stop the attack on the foreign fortresses. Without paying the price yet, he already decides to start off riding the camel as he climbs on top, although slides off the humps, and back on the camel's back again.
Particularly very cutesy gags for Porky, although Treg Brown's sound effects at least make an attempt and help make it a little funnier, even if weak. The next scene shows some neat timing by Clampett which syncs in wonderfully to the notorious song The Streets of Cairo to the camel walking out of the rental store.
No gag written on the letter, except for a rather weird and silly regard at the end reading 'Loves and kisses' which is amusing as it just looks unprofessional and camp. After reading the note, Porky is relieved: 'And I was worried about those days'.
Pan to the left, we find the real Ali-Baba spying on Porky by using beer bottles as binoculars. To avoid any tension and fearfulness of the character: Blanc just delivers a dog voice which Clampett asked for, to add weight to the caption under Ali Baba's name in the screen: The Mad Dog of the Desert. Clampett comes up with a unique visual gag, which is cleverly animated, of Ali Baba whistling with his fingers which briefly turn into a whistle.
Porky then makes a turn to escape from the thieves as they dash out of the scene. Porky and the camel already encounter a dash of mud; Clampett interrupts the pacing of the action and music for tiptoeing through the mud, and then back to action.
The sort of action Clampett and the other WB directors loved, to test the audience's attention span. Porky and the camel quickly rush back inside the fortress where the thieves have the complete fortress surrounded. Porky closes the door and locks it tightly. However, the thieves are already attempting to break into the door with one particular thief using headache pills to help break the door open. Ouch.
Each gag is unfunny and slow, and this is a good example to show that Clampett isn't showing any reform in his own cartoons. More gags included show the thieves aiming inside the fortress like a strength tester.
Meanwhile, outside where the attacking is occurring: a thief with a bomber strapped on top of his head is cheerleading on the fighting that's going on, and is seated as a substitute. Blanc's delivery is rather amusing, as it usually is, although the gag itself is a little overused in some of the earlier 1930s cartoons.
Meanwhile there is another thief who then attempts to climb up a fortress, by climbing and jumping up like a cat would. Whilst at the top of the fortress, Porky just knocks the thief down with a mallet. Instead of a fighting back with violence, the thief just turns into a attitude of a depressed labour worker holding out a sign reading: 'This fort UNFAIR to Arabs!'..which is mildly amusing, where he just tames immediately from the point of anger.
In the next sequence; the cornered Baby Dumpling who is standing rather meekly by the war: to create tension; a shadow of a thief with a dagger is pointing towards Baby Dumpling, and also kills him within an inch of his life. The baby camel then grabs out a horn which shouts out 'Help!' with the way Mel Blanc would usually deliver it.
Meanwhile over at the camel rental place; the words 'HELP' occur to her mind; until the words pop out of the scene. She realises that Baby Dumplings is in trouble and leaves her spot and rushes on her way towards the fortress to save her baby camel.
She also hops along the way which makes the characteristic hop very funny. During her journey towards the fortress; the mother camel pauses; and then hops back over to a local gas station in the desert.
The cartoon continues to get bonkers where a guy is filling the camel with gas, inside the camel's hump. An awful lot of the writing of the cartoon just runs together, especially the 'gas' sequence which just shows an awful lot of padding. The inside of the camel's humps appear, as the engine inside is functioning, and the camel can resume the rescue, although travel at such speed. As he breaks inside the fortress, Ali Baba has Porky and Baby Dumpling cornered. The camel then charges straight across his rear end where he falls out the scene. Clampett is obviously not very ambitious with any wackiness in any of those scenes, and the timing of being booted is rather conservative and disappointing.
In his goofy mode, with the bullet strapped towards his head, he then makes way to charge straight towards the fortress with a powerful bullet on his head to blow up the fortress.
Whilst he is charging straight towards the fortress, Porky opens the door, and discovers that he is in danger from the bullet, and quickly opens the door as a result. The substitute thief charges at the bullet shouting out 'Beep, beep' continuously. As he continues to charge, the other camels open the door to make way for the bullet to attack Ali Baba and his followers by accident. The final gag ends with the bullet striking the organisation, where they turn into tents, and the sign turning into: Ali Baba's Auto Camp.
his output is about as weak as Clampett's other Porky cartoons are in that period. Explaining the weakness of the cartoon is almost as similar to repeating myself about his previous efforts, but I'll go through it again. Much of Clampett's gags in the attack are just too unoriginal and flat. Clampett doesn't encounter anything daring to do in production, and throws throws in a lot of mild gags that it all runs down together as a cartoon. Much of the gags are just padded like the gas station sequence, which just doesn't juice into the cartoon very well. Watching Clampett's own comic timing (and gags)--you just know that despite his frustrations with the pig, his attitude just got lazy, and he isn't even trying to come out with something outrageous gagwise.
He also had used battle sequences before in earlier cartoons like What Price, Porky which did have funny gags as well as great timing, whilst here it is lacking the spirit.The gag with the substitute bomber was probably the only amusing part of the cartoon as a mode, and to resemble Clampett's own charm. However, I did particularly like the sequence prior to the attacks with the George Raft spy; which showed some media appeal in that particular sequence. It's also the 2nd Porky cartoon where he is seen defending a foreign fortress; although the previous cartoon Little Beau Porky, has him working in a fortress, whereas Porky is just a mere messenger in the cartoon, and ends up victimised into this. Clampett couldn't have much better accomplishments to do with Porky, and either uses him in less screen time of the cartoon, or just victimise Porky in battles, due to his frustrations.