Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Release date: August 27, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Cal Dalton & Cal Howard.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Danny Webb (Egghead), Mel Blanc (Sultan / Villain / Slap-Happy Boys / Beggar) and Berneice Hansell (Princess).
Story: Dave Monohan.
Animation: Volney White.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Egghead as 'Aladdin' is determined to marry the princess with help of the Genie.
The last cartoon where Cal Howard works with Cal Dalton aka 'The Two Cals'. Dalton would then work with Ben Hardaway and they were co-directors until 1940. Egghead, however, is displayed as he was in the original version unlike (the other version where he is referred as Egghead's brother). Sorry for the really poor quality of the copy that I own folks.
Egghead continues to walk down the street until he then finds a local fully clothed in Arab uniform and it appears to be that he is struggling to catch a prize in a prize box. Of course; the Arabian stories of Aladdin were set thousands of years ago and yet they add a prize machine in the streets to show some modernised humour which was popular back in the 1930s. Egghead then looks over to see the prize he is aiming after. It turns out that he is after the prize of a Genie's lamp. Although, the big problem is...why would a Genie's lamp end up there? It seems as though any guy could be lucky enough to have the lamp and I thought the Genie's lamp was located in a very rare area? That little scene where the hand just snaps his fingers with a 'Darn it' expression which shows some character. Afterwards - we then discover that the hand then starts to grab some candy and he throws it out which turns out to be the man's prize. The man then cracks as he shouts, "Candy beans I get" he tosses it to the floor and ends up wailing to himself leaning to a wall. When you look at it - they definitely don't look like candy beans.
Egghead then claps to himself with glee, 'Oh boy, I'm lucky. What a pretty sugarbowl' - and of course - Danny Webb is still impersonating Egghead as Joe Penner. Egghead then looks at the lamp to try and find some directions. He looks at the bottom of the lamp that give him the directions. It reads "Rub lamp three times" and he also reads that out. That is pretty cool to have directions at the bottom so some unfortunate guy wouldn't have a clue and just ends up throwing it away missing his luck. Egghead then rubs the lamp three times with curiosity. After he rubs the lamp - there is a puff smoke effect that pops and there it is Egghead's first encounter of the Genie. Although the look of the Genie being shown here is unfortunately a Negro stereotype - but is rather huge and muscular with cuffs around his arms. Mmm, I wonder why they chose to stereotype the Genie - because I don't know how it is supposed to represent charm or humour.
He then comments in a stereotype voice:
Genie: Youse is the master of the magic lamp.
Egghead: Who, me?
Genie: Yeah. Here take the lamp and if ya ever need anything. Just give us a rub.
The genie then flies back into the Genie transforming back into dust and flies back into the spout of the lamp. Hang on a minute, the Genie forgot about the conditions of being the master of the magic lamp. Isn't he supposed to only have up to three wishes so he can chooses his wishes wisely. Afterwards; Egghead then thinks of his first wish as he wishes to be wearing "nice, new clothes" - he rubs the lamp in order to have his own wish to be granted. His wish is granted and the Genie gives him new clothes to wear which amazes Egghead as he likes the new outfit on him.
The man who we saw weeping earlier then sees that Egghead has received his luck. In this close up shot - he looks towards Egghead and breaks the forth wall, "That should be my lamp. And I shall get it!" and vows to steal it away from Egghead which we shall call him the villain of this picture. Instead of coming up with more wishes, Egghead just looks at the lamp just thinking about how wonderful the lamp and how he "can't get over it". He also hums to himself whilst looking at the lamp with admiration. Suddenly there is a crowd of folks dashing in the scene as there is some news going in this Arabian town. Egghead looks over around the crowd to see the commotion and he joins the crowd to hear the news.
The notice on the wall reads: I WANT YOU! TO THE CLEVEREST ENTERTAINER. I WILL GIVE MY DAUGHTER'S HAND IN MARRIAGE. The Sultan. ROYAL PALACE TODAY. There is a little Uncle Sam reference there as the Sultan is pouting towards the people in the poster who was famous for propaganda posters in the US during the First World War. Egghead realises the poster and the lamp is both an advantage. He states, "With my wonderful lamp, I will win the beautiful princess". Egghead, who has a love for the princess then decides to give it a shot and to marry the princess. He then rubs the lamp wishing for a magic carpet. His wish for the magic carpet then comes true and the magic carpet has an engine at the back to help modernise the carpet. The villain then looks behind the wall as he tries to find the plan to take his magic lamp away from Egghead - but Egghead ends up flying away in his magic carpet and it becomes too late for the villain.
It seems quite a long stop and even a clumsy stop for Egghead (mostly because the magic carpet requires to have an engine at the back) as well as he is rather weary from that trip. He then finds the entrance to the palace and he enters inside. Egghead enters the entrance of the royal palace and he finds that the contestants are queued up - and Egghead has to run towards the back of the queue along with the other contestants which would mean it would require a whole lot of rejects until Egghead could be able to get the part. There appears to be an interesting part of personality where Egghead looks at the size of the queue and is rather amazed of the length of it.
We find that there are two guards grabbing the chains that are attached to a rather huge grizzly human that has chains around him and is redeemed as dangerous. It turns out that his grizzly and aggressive self was all a gag. On the other hand, he is just a retarded, silly giant who ends up giggling like a child and recites the poem to Mary Had a Little Lamb. The laugh isn't very infectious and that scene is just plain silly - although if Tex Avery provided his infectious laugh then this sequence would've probably been better. But anyway - for the greater good - the contestant then ends up falling down the trap door as he is did not entertain the Sultan. Well - that is the last we are seeing of this contestant.
Meanwhile the next contestant to attempt to entertain the Sultan is the 'Slap-Happy Boys'. They are in fact references to the 'Happiness Boys' known as Bill Jones and Ernie Hare. They walk to the centre as they carry a piano with them to sing along to. They are going to be singing the song - On the Rule de la Paix but the substitute lyrics are How Do You Do and How Are You? That little sequence here was already used before in 'The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos'. Of course - they are a very annoying group as they sing out loud at the same time - and it angers the Sultan (as well as annoys him) he ends up pulling the trap door where the Slap-Happy Boys fall down the trap door.
The next act to be performing is in fact 'Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp' as Egghead is the next contestant to entertain the Sultan. Egghead then talks over as he chuckles a little - but realises that he is standing next to the Sultan and even has to sing a little entertaining song to him. The good news is that as soon as Egghead and the princess gaze at each other - it is love at first sight for both of them. I like how that there are just a bunch of cartoony love hearts popping out from the princess to demonstrate the mood. Afterwards - Egghead then starts to go into song as he sings the song to 'Bei mir Bist du Schon' which is a German song. Of course - he could've just sung 'My Green Fedora' which was sung by Joe Penner but instead he is just copying Joe Penner's comedy walk and sings a different song. The singing from Egghead amuses and even entertains the princess so much that she expresses her love towards him. However - it is all down to the Sultan who judges whether or not his performance was entertaining or not as the princess appears to have no right to choose - that's....awful.
He then grabs out his Magic Lamp and he is about to wish to the Genie but however, he forgets that he is carrying a kettle and his magic lamp was stolen without his knowledge. Egghead just demonstrates as he rubs the kettle mistaking it for a lamp. He then makes a take as he realises that he was been robbed and his magic lamp is gone. He rubs again the second time but he still has no luck. He then shouts out and quotes Joe Penner, "This thing's craaaaazy!" He still continues to keep on rubbing the lamp but his luck runs out and he falls down the trap door which ends the love of Egghead and the Princess - or is it? After falling down the trap door - Egghead's body then ends up being squashed and his fez is caught down to his legs as he just hops around which is a rather amusing little cartoony gag.
Wait a minute; I thought that the Sultan was looking for the best entertainer but what did the villain contribute to - nothing! It was just a rushed way to get the Sultan entertained and it was nothing even representing entertainment and it makes absolutely no sense. The Sultan then points towards his squire as he declares, "Sound the trumpets!" The slave then sounds the trumpet announcing the wedding to take place - but Egghead arrives at the scene slamming the door open and halts the spontaneous ceremony. "Stop, I've been swindled (?)" - whatever he is trying to saying and it certainly isn't very clear at all.
The magic carpet then flies out of the scene as the Sultan and the guards arrive at the entrance trying to halt their actions. They then fly down towards the guards and the sultan but they manage to dodge the carpet. They then go on a long flight around Baghdad and I have to say the fast-pacing backgrounds are rather impressive here as it shows some good use of speed. They even end up flying above the clouds and away from Baghdad (probably to another palace). Mmm, I wonder if that 'Whole New World' sequence from the 'Aladdin' led to inspiration - probably not. Afterwards; we then discover that Egghead and the princess are already living a happy married life (probably in another palace since they managed to escape the Sultan). The princess then picks up the magic lamp as she then rubs it to try her wish. The Genie then pops up but then turns into a hunky figure as the princess would rather go for the Genie instead of the prince. Egghead is rather stunned as he opens up the lamp but gets pinched in the nose.
It still interests me about the whole Egghead debate. This design there has been identified as Egghead (even in Tex's cartoons like 'Egghead Rides Again' and 'Daffy Duck and Egghead'). The other design is known as Egghead's brother - but still I'd rather just use Egghead since Egghead's brother was just a merchandising name - and I don't know any document as to whether it really identifies him as his brother other than being an Elmer Fudd prototype. I noticed that there was some interesting timing used in a comic form which is rather unique but interesting (I don't know who provided the timing between Dalton and Howard). The hat takes in this cartoon was what I thought was interesting to look at with the tassle stretching as well as the turban gag. I noticed some good use of airbrush speed lines being used here (as it looks like) since the speed lines used in other cartoons (like in Clampett's or early Jones cartoons) look really underdeveloped. I also find that this was a rather dark cartoon since the princess suffers from misery (and I'm surprised about WB cartoons actually presenting drama rather than mocking it).
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Release date: August 27, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Bully) and Ted Pierce (Nick O'Teen / Porky's Mother).
Story: George Manuell.
Animation: Robert Bentley.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky encounters and ends up in a hallucinated dream about the dangers of smoking.
This is the last Porky cartoon that Tashlin directs in his second stint at Warners, and his remaining cartoons are coloured Merrie Melodies. I seem to notice in the 'B/W' Porkies he has separate teams of Joe D'Igalo, Robert Bentley or Volney White animating for them while Harris, McKimson and Monroe animate the colour cartoons (judging by the credits). I've also noticed in the credits that even White and D'Igalo have animated for Hardaway/Dalton - unless both directors were sharing these animators.
There is a neat little filming technique by Tashlin where we see a long shot of the church tower as we notice the bells are still ringing. We then truck back as we find that Porky's mother is in fact calling for her son, Porky Pig. The filming technique even continues on where there is a slow pan representing the staircase - and overall it makes it a very neat background and filming effect which would've been difficult for animation. Porky's mother then continues calling for Porky and even hog-calls for him. She remarks, "Hurry it up, please, or for Sunday school you'll be late". Porky Pig then makes an appearance and we see him in this cartoon being presented as a young child. Mmm, this definitely shows that the character DEFINITELY hasn't been settled yet. We have seen him play a modern character and recognisable in cartoons like 'Porky's Party' or 'Porky at the Crocadero' where he appears to be a young adult but he keeps on varying and they could never finalise Porky in the 1930s. Porky's head pops out of the banister of the stairs as he slides down the rails of the stairs - a good use of timing there. Porky immediately halts sliding when he nearly hits himself on the model part of the staircase. Porky then climbs back down the railing of the stairs and listens to what his mother has to say next.
Porky's mother then pecks him goodbye as he is on his way to church. She then remarks like a mother would always do: "Nix on talking to strange people and crossing the street without getting bumped or nix on the mud playing in". Porky is already walking out of the front porch on his way to church trying to remember all of what his mother had just said to him. Mmm, I wonder why his mother isn't attending church because I thought Christians would still turn up to Church even in their adulthood - oh well, shows how little I know of going to church. Porky Pig walks out remembering her orders, "Don't talk to strangers. Don't get your clothes dirty. Don't spend a nickel. Be careful crossing the street. It sure is a lot for a little old fellow like me to remember". Look at that very shot - where it begins with a long-shot distance of the church bell and Porky walking out of the house - that is some very incredible simulated camera movement and it was only one shot. It also must've been very difficult to film as well, considering they had to film inside the house as well as outside.
A little gag appears where the smoke then forms into fingers and they poke his two eyes to get Porky's attention. Porky then runs out of the way and he climbs up at the top of the fence and attempts to portray being the voice of reason - or in other words; being the punk's good conscience. "Don't you know what happens to little punks (stutters) boys who smoke?" The bully then looks at Porky sarcastically believing that Porky is a tough character. "Kinda tough ain't you? You wanna fight?" and I like how he immediately changed mood from calm to aggressiveness eager to pick a fight on Porky. Porky then stands up for himself in front of the bully - and there appears to be a rather interesting camera angle of where Porky looks huge as though its meant to represent Porky as the mighty one.
The music for these puffing scenes are in fact cliched to the 'Merry-Go-Round Broke Down' theme which is of course the main theme to the 'Looney Tunes'. He continues his puffing where he then ends up puffing out a dove that even flies out of the scene. More music cliches from the music cue (chosen by Stalling) is all timed very well. The bully then finishes off by using some movement with his legs kicking the cigar which looks like a football manoeuvre. He then slides his bowler hat up ready to act tough again towards Porky. "How do you like that, puny puss?" Porky then goes into denial, "I ain't a puny puss". They then argue back with each other back and forth where Porky denies and the bully refuses to believe. There is some pretty cool timing where it is rather jerky as Porky just fights straight back towards the bully numerous times denying he is a 'puny puss' and even the bully fighting back quite a few times. I can see where Tashlin's timing is getting to as it makes the dialogue scenes more interesting there.
Porky Pig: I bet ya a nickel.
Bully: A nickel? One twentieth of a dollar? Five cents? One half a dime? Did you say a nickel?
The bully then quickly impersonates Katherine Hepburn - even with Mel Blanc attempting to put on a falsetto voice shouting, "Really?" Porky is also regretting about what he said but the bully is already being very persuasive about receiving the nickel that it would be difficult for Porky Pig to back on his word. He then backs down, "Yeah, uh, a nickel". Porky then slowly hands out his nickel from his pocket nervously waiting for the bully to take it away from Porky. The bully ends up shaking Porky's hand rather violently that Porky shakes himself. The bully replies: "That's all I need to know. Okay, its a bet. Here's the cigar, I'll hold the nickel and you do the stuff". He just takes away the nickel because he assumes that he would beat Porky easily and Porky is acting too confident that he would have to find an excuse later to how he lost the nickel. The first couple of attempts - Porky actually tries to perform the same tricks the bully managed to do very well - but his attempts fail. At first he tries to puff out darts - but the arrow aims straight for his rear end. Then he tries to puff out the bird but the bird drops an egg on his face. These gags of Porky's attempts are very funny. Porky then finishes off as he attempts to kick the cigar and land it right back into his mouth. Instead, he ends up with the other side of the cigar in his mouth and he coughs out fire from that effect.
It turns out after the dissolve - Porky is then standing outside a smoke shop. Porky is still rather dizzy and he ends up collapsing inside the cigar shop. What Frank Tashlin then uses which I think is a really clever way of timing and its rather cool. We then appear to find this smoke looking creature who pops out form each floor of the stools where they keep cigars, cigarettes, etc. The smoke looking creature then looks down the table looking at an unconscious Porky Pig. It turns out that the smoke creature actually has powers and he ends up using his fingers to help shrink Porky and he gives him the powers. The smoke looking creature then walks over to a shrunk Porky who is roughly around his size but smaller in height. There is a pretty cool long-shot scene from a bird's eye view of Porky fully-awake and he discovers the smoke creature. He stutters frightened, "Who are you?" Then it switches to a point of view shot of Porky crouched to the ground looking up at the creature. "Who am I? Why, I thought all smokers knew me. Here's my card". Some good Tashlin shot pacing where it really feels like looking at a live-action film. The creature then gives Porky his card which identifies himself as 'Nick O'Teen' - a pun use for nicotine. The card also identifies his own address which is read at the bottom corner of the page: 1313 Tobacco Road.
Nick O'Teen then jumps onto an organ playing of a cigarette packet and as he plays the organ - we find that there are smokes coming out of the pipes. We then discover that there are matches striking themselves (and notice how the end parts reveal blackfaces). They then start to go into rhythm as they then begin to sing a song about the dangers of smoking. They then begin as they go into rhythm as they sing 'You shouldn't smoke' and they chant it in whispers. It appears the lyrics of this song are substitute lyrics of 'Mysterious Mose'. We then discover a lighter is lighting some cigars while Nick O'Teen is playing the organ. We even discover a British pipe where there is a British stereotype who comments, "Children should not smoke, rather". Interesting how that this was before the days when it was told smoking was dangerous for all-ages. The matchstick chorus then continue to go into song about smoking.
There is even an old man that goes on and sings, "Little kids shouldn't smoke tobacco". The chorus sings: "You'll feel ill - and see spots. And get a tummy ache". Then we find the Three Stooges that pop up as they're faces are on cigars. They then give Porky a poke in the eye which is a little trademark of the 3 Stooges. A cigar box of crooners then appear at the top as there is a caricature of Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee who sing about the causes of smoking a lot and the causes could cause a stroke. A grandfather pipe appears to be speaking in some accent I can't identify, "Little boys should not be smoking cigarettes". Porky then finds that his punishment is to suffer by being stuck on some force-fed machine. Nick O'Teen then starts to feed him some tobacco by force feeding it into his mouth as he ends up chewing it.
Nick O'Teen then begins to play some drums as we discover that there are cigars formed as Indians that have Porky tied up to a pole being burnt at stake and they perform an Indian tribal dance. Then we discover that there are these Mexican cigars that jump out of the box as they appear to be performing some type of Mexican dance to Porky - and this just reminds me of the mid-1930s cartoons where they had the inanimate creatures just dancing. Poor Porky ends up having to have smoke puffed all over his face as that is his sacrifice which is unnecessary for this sequence but it does teach him a lesson. A really good animated shot which must've been complicating to animate (probably done by Ace Gamer) where there are these cigarettes walking at the scene and they are marching like soldiers, they form the letter 'X' and then they form a sign that reads 'No Smoking'. Montage shots then follow on as we see the more sufferance Porky suffers in this acid trip sequence and its the same shots reused for this montage effect.
Afterwards; Porky then ends up with a fall to the ground after being chased by Nick O'Teen. Porky's small size then starts to shrink back up to his normal size and it turns out that the nightmare he had was obviously just a dream. Porky then wakes up from his nightmare - he hears out for the sounds of church bells. He has completely forgot about the state he has been in and realises he is late for church. He also realises about the coin that he has given to the bully from the bet he had.
He then starts to dash out of the scene as there is a speed effect timed by Tashlin where he dashes inside the church and he sits in one of the pews trying to sing hymns like everyone else attending Sunday church. Porky turns around as he notices the donation plate is being handed over and Porky realises about the nickel that he has given to the bully. This means he has to make a real quick dash to return the coin back to himself and beat up the bully. Porky opens up his pockets and realises that he hasn't got the nickel with him. This means he runs out of the church and find the punk who has it. It turns out the punk is in fact flipping the coin - and Porky dashes at the scene as he grabs the coin away without the bully noticing. The punk continues to flip but turns and finds that the coin has gone missing. Porky arrives at the scene giving the punk his revenge by stuffing a cigar right into his mouth. Porky returns back on time as he quickly places the coin into the donation plate as it is being handed straight back into him. Porky has decided to stay a good Christian as he sings his hymn and there is a halo on top of his head representing his goodness. Porky then sings the last verse to end the cartoon, "I will never smoke again".
Overall comments: The cartoon really interests me because of how I consider that is very dated when you compare it to today. Back around the days when this cartoon was made; smoking was very common among most adults and today there are less people smoking. Back in those days; many folks were unaware of the fact that smoking can cause health issues and likeliness of dying. Most people didn't know - and what interests me is so little was known back then as they would believe smoking is very bad for children when in reality it is bad for anyone - but it just wasn't really known back then. This cartoon must be one of the earliest known films that probably bring up the awareness of smoking. Of course it was regular for adults back then to smoke cigars and cigarettes and even allowed it in public places - and probably the favourite place was the cinema. I wonder how the audience were handled with cigarettes and cigars when they were watching this cartoon?
What I find look about this cartoon is this cartoon actually has some morals in there and it teaches anyone a good lesson of why they shouldn't smoke - even if they had to add pointless celebrity caricatures and a silly song to explain the reasons but I like how it shows Porky's punishment and also how unhealthy it is. It also appears to have a religious side as well in this cartoon since it appears to be teaching you to become a good Christian and to attend church every Sunday. With that asides, Tashlin even got to use some very good techniques with the camera. I love the opening scenes with Porky's mother and they are in the house where it was all filmed in one shot which is just incredible simulated camera movement - all without the infamous Disney multilane camera - shows how really talented the WB cameraman really were, as well as skilful. There weren't too many gags in this cartoon but I do find that the competition between the bully and Porky to features some funny visual gags - even when we find that it goes wrong for Porky.
Monday, 29 October 2012
Release date: August 13, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Ted Pierce (Major) and Mel Blanc (Elephant)
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Upper-class major speaks about the story of his African trip.
The little posh boy remarks to the Major, "I say, Major (?)". The Major then clears his own throat, "Yes, Freddie?" - of course it turns out that the little boy apparently turns out to be the celebrity boy Freddie Bartholomew who was a star of the 'Little Rascals' back in the 1930s. "You do have an awfully fine collection of heads there, you know". The Major then frankly responds with attitude and even a proud look, "Quite so, definitely so, if you know what I mean". The little boy then asks the Major about his hunting and missionaries in Africa. 'I say, Major. Do tell me about your adventures - hunting big game in Africa'. There is a little appealing established film shot of where we pan through the carved animal heads of a lion that he would've captured back in his missions in Africa. The little boy then asks about the ferocious creature (and we pan down to the boy and the Major again - an appealing Tashlin shot). The Major then laughs and chuckles about what the boy asks before standing reporting, "I don't get it".
The music then faces to Africa and we go back in time to one to his expedition in Africa. There are birds flying around the African jungle area and the 'Congo' music is being played in the background. I think from my long-term memory the animation of the birds was reused animation from The Isle of Pingo Pongo. I like that little Tashlin effect where we pan through the background and there is already an overlay of a path with a butterfly flittering around. It then moves away when an elephant's foot stomps at the scene. That is a very good Tashlin effect there of the elephant's foot stomping there which must have not been easy to tackle at animating it - but all in all - it really reminds you of what you see through a live-action pan.
They are then followed on by African slaves - as they go into rhythm. We then see some racism as they are carrying belongings and equipment for the Major as they are portrayed as slaves. They even appear to have a huge collection of the slaves - carrying so much equipment for the major. There is also another slave walking around with a plunger on top of his head and he is carrying a sign that is attached to the plunger that reads: Space to Let Inquire Below. Of course; I believe this is the slave to ask questions to but from the look of him but before I dare it - but the slave that you are looking at is a caricature of Hollywood black actor of the time - Stephin Fetchit.
We then discover a jolly slave who has huge, round lips which is supposedly the stereotype. As he walks around happily carrying the luggage with his huge lips - it turns out that he is actually listening to music and enjoying it as he walks along. After the music repeats itself a little bit - he begins to open up his mouth as he is playing a vinyl record inside his mouth which is just a wrong gag but yet again its still amusing and his tongue is the record player. He then walks along after that slight error but continues to keep on walking. These are just gags of ways to stereotype a slave walking with the major carrying the luggage. Of course - I find that this sequence was presented as a little incorrect - and no wonder its rarely seen in television. It looks like there that Tashlin is already trying to top the gags that Tex Avery would often use in his cartoons - as it appears.
Okay - but I have to say that everything is dark about that gag. I see that it has been used in the Harman-Ising cartoons before but the fact that a black character being eaten up and killed by a crocodile?? Man, that's a very grim, cold gag to even turn up in a cartoon. Holy Jesus. Its just a gag like that which really creeps me out. The elephant and the Major then arrive at the spot as they then discover an road path - where it leads to different directions with motorway signs. The really funny part that comes to my mind is that they are not on a road - they are on a path! We cut to a very Tashlin-esque drawing of the Major as he is carrying a map of a road map - "hitch hiker's expedition". He then opens the road map to check for his directions. We then hear the music in the background to "Arkansas Traveler" - which is the type of rural road map music you would hear in rural areas which makes it rather amusing. Notice how that Tashlin makes a reference to his old boss, Van Beuren as the map reads "Van Buren Parks".
The elephant then walks through Route 50 but he then pauses as he discovers a very, very steep hill that would be extremely difficult to climb. I have to say I don't find the walk of the elephant to be very realistic as it lacks weight. I like those spikes in a long-shot view of the elephant and the major as they just look at the very steep hill. They then decide they have to move up there the very hard way. The elephant moves up there as it sounds like we are hearing the sounds of train-tracks. The elephant's legs then move up there like train tracks and that's how they manage to climb up that hill. I swear I have seen this in a Bosko cartoon elsewhere before because that gag really reminds me of its influence but then again - any director of the 1930s could've used that gag - not just Harman-Ising.
Of course - we all know the expression "an elephant never forgets". We move on to the next sequence where the Major talks about an elephant who has a terrible memory and is "trying to remember something". The elephant is just walking up and down and struggling to think what was coming right into his mind. The elephant then sits down on the rock as he thinks into deep space, "Now...lemme see...now um...was it, err.." We then fade out from from the forgetful elephant. The next gag we continue our expedition trip in Africa. We have already past the Los Angeles City Limits for reason - but hey, its just a joke - we're not supposed to take it seriously. They arrive at a spot which is called 'Kiwunu's Klub' as there is also a lion's club. They arrive at an idea where a dangerous lion resides. He talks about how the boys were already "beating the bush" and they walk up the hill looking out for a dangerous lion. The major then looks out on top of the elephant holding onto his shot gun to see what his boys were afraid of.
There is a little amusing gag where the Major then attempts to shoot the lion. After the gun blast reaction, the major just spins around the elephant's stomach which was an amusing 1930s gag of the time. In the next sequence - the Major then mentions the next part of his story: "failing to shoot him, I decided to track him down". We believe from the close-up point that the Major is using a guard dog to track the lion. It turns out that the Major is using his butler to be a dog and to trace any of the lion's tracks in the ground. The butler then stops and points as we pan along to find that the lion is in fact standing on top of a boxing canvas as he is looking towards the Major using his finger gesture to entice the Major to a match of boxing. The Major then throws his own shotgun to the ground and agrees to challenge the lion in a wrestling match. He then climbs over on top of the canvas and he is given a pair of gloves. He then places them through inside his hands.
After the twister and dust effects clear up - we then discover that the Major has in fact won the game of the boxing match as he has managed to trap the lion as there are horse shoes trapping him from his arms and legs. Meanwhile it appears that Tarzan sees what has happened to the lion and then he beats his chest and makes a loud call for the animals to charge at the Major. That shout is very amusing. Although that Tarzan animation was originally from 'The CooCoo Nut Grove' and it looks rather weird in a Tashlin cartoon. The whole group of animals then charge up to the Major and the they all give him a beating as there are swish effects and some wacky stuff of the Major being beaten up. Meanwhile as the fighting is taking place - the elephant is still thinking and coming out with the words of what was to be said. "Err was it, erm..Aww, course not that's not it. Well, um, could be". That scene with the elephant is a running gag of the cartoon and it won't arrive until its conclusion of the cartoon which appears to be a popular trend back in the Warner Bros. cartoons. After numerous beatings from the animals beating up the Major - he is then tossed out of the arena and he hits the ground.
That line there was a little ad reference to purchasing cigarettes. After the exaggerated growth of his body - it then manages to heel back into its normal size and the major then starts to fight the animals away. As the Major is fighting the alligator away - thats Stalling playing the music cue to 'Poet and Peasant Overture' and the timing along with Stalling's music is very cliched and very well done. Listen to the music of the alligator flipping out of the scene after his beating - that shows the music being played. 'Poet and Peasant Overture' appears to be a cue from Stalling that he has used before whenever there were fight scenes. The really humorous part then appears after the alligator then bounces off he immediately then forms right back into a suitcase. Its a really crazy gag but hey, that was the 1930s for you where they would exaggerate gags.
Afterwards; the elephant is still sitting down on the rock thinking of what he was going to say as we cut back to the elephant. "Nah, nah, nah. It couldn't be that. Nah-uh! No that's not it! Oh if only I could remember what it was!" More action scenes then follow on as the major is now finally tackling the lion as it was his major plan during his expedition. After fighting the lion - another crazy gag where the lion's hair then suddenly transforms him into a hula dancer which is widely funny although yet again - the 1930s for you and it is a pretty exaggerated gag. The Major is then given some help from the butler who has a palm tree bent down and then he ends up catapulting the palm tree where the Major flies out to continue knocking the crap out of the wild animals of Africa. His fighting then continues until his actions then dissolve into the present day. You could say that its a Tashlin technique even though its used be everyone.
After the Major has finished his fighting - he then remarks to the present day, "and here I am - fit as a fiddle". The little boy then remarks, "Yes, yes Major - most interesting. But what about the elephant, tell me about the elephant". He tugs at his arm begging to find out more about the elephant.
The Major then remembers and he finishes his story off about the elephant. "Oh, the elephant, yes, quite so" and he then clears his throat as he is about to continue. We then cut back to the elephant as he is still sitting on the rock only trying to remember what he was supposed to say. Suddenly, his memory then returned in a flash as he has finally managed to figure it out. "Hey, wait a minute. Yeah. That's it. I got it, I got it!" The camera then announces and it turns out what he really was supposed to say was 'That's all folks'. What a really interesting and also amusing conclusion and it made it feel a bit special. It feels as though in this Tashlin has already gone beyond the boundaries, like Avery, in this cartoon and he has already developed the similar type of humour like he did.
Overall comments: Michael Barrier mentioned to Frank Tashlin in his interview that he thought this cartoon was where Tashlin went beyond Avery with humour around this era. I have to agree with Barrier there because I find that this cartoon at least shows some wildness in it but I find much of it very likeable. The opening scenes with the Major and the little boy were rather likeable to me and the British accents were very appealing. Ted Pierce did a great job on voicing the Major and he really gave him a great upper-class British sophisticated accent. Frank Tashlin recalls that he and Ted Pierce both worked on the story for this cartoon but Rich Hogan ended up receiving story credit on there. Whether a few story guys worked on it like Hogan was possible but I can see Pierce's contributions since he also provided the voice of the Major. I also actually like the little voice of the little boy although I imagine it was just a voice from a child actor. This cartoon is also suppressed from television and its rarely been seen in television over the years but only because of a sequence of the black tribe. Much of the gags of the tribe were rather dark and also creepy - like the one with the alligator which I thought was just downright wrong.
I believe that what Frank Tashlin was experimenting in this cartoon was mostly speed. Notice how that this cartoon actually has some fast-pacing at least in the punching scenes and they all sync together very nicely. Tashlin even shows that he can be very capable of creating some very funny action scenes too - particularly of the animals changing into objects after the Major was fighting. I see a lot of Avery influence in that - although Avery wasn't wild back in the 1930s - and was never really wild at Warner Bros. compared to his MGM work but I think it goes to show that Tashlin was showing some capability of making funny cartoons, as well as Bob Clampett around this time. The Popeye reference was rather amusing - and of course it had to be slyly referenced in case they could get filed a lawsuit - perhaps. The elephant conclusion was great - a really special ending without the typical rings with the 'That's all Folks' writing. It goes to show that Tashlin was already showing potential at his age and he was already a great director back in the 1930s showing potential of becoming a great live-action director. The speed in this cartoon is great as well as the gags. Overall, I thought it was a pretty cool Tashlin effort, with stereotypes aside.
Friday, 26 October 2012
Release date: August 6, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Robert Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Daffy Duck / The Champ / Pelican Referee).
Animation: Robert Cannon and John Carey.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky chooses Daffy to fight in the arena against the champ.
After two cartoons of Daffy Duck directed by Tex Avery, Bob Clampett has a go directing this wacky duck. Daffy Duck is a regular character in both the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons. This is the first cartoon for Daffy to be starring with Porky since 'Porky's Duck Hunt'. The first Clampett cartoon where Chuck Jones doesn't receive a screen credit as an animator - although I believe its likely he did the character layouts.
After grabbing the newspaper and milk bottle - he then looks inside the newspaper to read through the dailies. I like that opening shot of Porky as he picks up the newspaper and bottle but we don't see his face, as it sort of reminds me of a Tashlin shot that Clampett could've been inspired by.
The headline he is reading is an important headline for Porky. The headline reads:
CHAMP FIGHTING COCK TO TAKE ON ALL COMERS AT LOCAL ARENA TONIGHT.
The news of the newspaper then surprises Porky as he shouts, "Gosh". He then starts to call out for Daffy Duck and he rushed upstairs to wake him up.
He then attempts to wake up Daffy but he is still sleeping very heavily an not making any movement or motion whatsoever. Porky then begins to shake Porky in an attempt to wake up, "Open your eyes, Daffy! Daffy!, etc." he then shakes Daffy with both hands splashing water out of the tub but still no motion from Daffy as he is too busy snoozing. Daffy Duck then turns around to continue his sleep. After some of the frustration to waking him up; Porky then thinks of an idea to wake up Daffy. First, he grabs out what appears to look like a tureen and then he grabs out a spoon. Afterwards; the gong then makes a big vibrating effect and Daffy finally wakes up with his head also vibrating, too. That is a rather very funny gag on how to wake up Daffy as well as the funny animation. Daffy then wakes up as he is whooping with excitement and he is also singing the song Sinkin' in the Bathtub as the shower quickly turns on. That is mildly amusing as you can see Clampett is having fun with Daffy Duck after directing many Porky cartoons.
I like that really loose Cannon animation of Daffy jumping on the bed and punching the pillow like a punching bag. Look at how Daffy appears most of the time with his pupils expressed with wackiness. After some fun of punching the pillow as he pretends to use it as the enemy - he then finishes his own boxing practice and the pillow flies upwards into the air. After a couple of the seconds; the pillow then beats Daffy and the whole bed crashes together. I like how that even Daffy is make a fool out of - being defeated by and its probably the earliest form of him being made a fool out of. A title card then appears after the fadeout that reads 'That Night' and we see a huge crowd of folks entering the arena where there is a sign reading 'Fight Tonight'. We find that the crowd ends up overcrowding that the building almost explodes but instead - it ends up being formed in some sort of stadium. Now that type of gag development there is incredible! It then follows on with some montage shots of the crowd entering the arena.
He then gets the audiences attention as he speaks for himself in the arena: "Your attention, please. Who wants to fight?" then there is a little gag there there is a whole group ganging up on the pelican referee as they are shaking their fists towards him. You can hear mumbling sounds in the background as they threaten the pelican, "I'll pulverise ya!" The pelican then continues on with his introduction of the match - he then directs his hand towards "the champ". The gang then look at the champ and the champ is watched though we can't see him yet. The crowd then rush out of the scene as they are afraid to fight the champ. I wonder if Chuck Jones was still working on this cartoon? I see that the posting of the crowd really resemble Chuck's drawings or character layouts but he doesn't gain any credit for animation in this cartoon - unless he did the character layouts for the cartoon and left before becoming a director?
He then announces that the chick weighs at "two hundred and three and one-third pounds. The most magnificent, marvellous, multiple, monstrous, etc. etc.", we then find that the pelican is using a lot of nouns to describe the champ's strength and talent at boxing. It results in the pelican then speeding up his own voice as he then speaks faster and faster and it results his voice the pitching higher and his throat then ends up getting croakier. You can notice on the throat pouch is getting rather worn out and wrinkly from all that fast and continuous talking without taking a break. The pelican referee then puffs out after and walks out of the scene as the crowd then applaud at the champ.
The fierce roars even start to form wind as the roars are so intense the nightgown on Daffy then ends up being blown off. We thought that Daffy was all mucho and buffed-up but it turns out that he was carrying two bags of flour to try and disguise his puny self - but then we see a daffy side to his personality and that is wildly amusing. The crowd even roar with laughter after the nightgown is blown off and we even see that Daffy has that worried look on his face. Daffy is rather terrified as he is going to get smashed by the champ. Daffy then finds his time to shine as he grabs the stool and he then manages to pick up a whip and treats the champ like a lion act in a circus. Now that would be worth some laughs since the chicken was in fact roaring like a chicken. The audience then applaud for Daffy's wacky manoeuvre as he has managed to slay the champ.
In the next round - we then discover that we have moved to Round 10. The pelican then reminds Daffy and the champ to not hit - but why must they not hit each other when this is a boxing match? Daffy then pulls up his boxing pants up so he wouldn't be able to get smacked to easily - I presume. The champ then makes a huge wave fist so intensely that the pants rip off towards Daffy. There is some small Clampett toilet humour where Daffy just blushes towards the audience where he covers himself sheepishly. He is then given another loud roar from the champ but this time he just whoops away excitedly and also with cowardness. I'm starting to think that Daffy is at least showing a bit more of personality here. In the earlier cartoons (the previous two) where we see him as just a pest in the ponds - but this time this is his own cartoon in a boxing match and he isn't all much of a pest.
The part where he just pushes the small bell on a 'bicycle' was a rather nice fitting touch, I think. Daffy is now running away from the champ who is chasing Daffy in circles around the arena with the pelican referee watching his moves. Daffy then breaks the forth wall and remarks, 'I'm so crazy, I don't know if this is impossible' before he whoops. There is some neat pacing where Daffy Duck is on his invisible bicycle and as he slightly speeds up - he manages to knock the champ down. Then there is a good use of timing displayed as Daffy speeds up faster and faster in his invisible bicycle that he then dashes out of the way. That scene could've been messed up quite easily - but hey, its solid.
Champ: Where's Daffy?
Pelican: Daffy? Daffy? I don't know. Where's Daffy? Who's seen Daffy.
The pelican referee looks around the arena searching for Daffy but believes that he has vanished. Oh, it turns out that Daffy was hiding inside the pelican's beak as he jumps out to give the champ a surprise which is a beating. I like how his head just swirls after the punch. Some real hilarious comic timing then comes up as the champ socks the pelican by mistake and his neck extends up and hits the light attached to the ceiling displaying the arena. The timing there was really funny and I can see that Clampett is really having fun with the sequences and even the cartoon itself. The pelican then opens up his beak and Daffy is standing at the tip of his tongue acting like a cuckoo clock. Okay, but I really like how Clampett has portrayed Daffy Duck here - he has learnt the craziness from Avery and has decided to make him even more nuts here but at least with a little bit of personality.
Daffy then opens up the pelican's beak and he appears to be mentioning a one-liner and he is speaking way too fast that I actually can't understand what he is trying to say, and it ruins the fun for me a little. The chase then continues as the refers is being chased by the champ and the wrestling match is all going into chaos. After grabbing hold of the pelican referee - we find that the pelican's beak then extends much further and we find that as it stretches through - Daffy can't run any further inside the beak and then the beak slams straight back to the champ as the fighting continues. Daffy jumps out of the pelican's beak as he whoops around with excitement bouncing around. The champ is very frustrated with his effort and he then comes up with another plan.
The champ isn't quite through with Daffy yet - and his next plan is going to be so brutal, so intense, and so violent that he has to pull down the censored slide to tone down the violence. That was a very appropriate and even charming gag setup by Clampett as of course - these cartoons were intended for children and even made the censor part to mock the censorship and even to appeal to an audience, too. I love how the letters, 'Censored' actually moves from the effects of the beating and it really makes the animation look very appealing. This shows that Clampett's cartoons of 1938 were really brilliant and he really had talent. It turns out that Daffy Duck has in fact been knocked out unconsciousness - and he is going to suffer through the knockout. The pelican referee walks over as he begins the count. Porky then walks into the cartoon after what appears to feel like ages without seeing him around. He then shouts out for Daffy to wake up and not to suffer from the countdown.
This quick-pace editing where there pelican is shouting each second (and showing each shot representing a second of Porky in incredible speed) is just amazing. I know Tashlin has used that effect before but here its presented with two events occurring at the same time which wasn't so common back in the 1930s - I don't believe. As the pelican continues to count up to '9' (and a second short from Daffy being defeated from a knock-out') Porky then brings over the tureen and a spoon and whacks Daffy on top of the head. That effect of Daffy waking up is still amusing to me as it is pretty wild. Porky used the trick earlier on in the cartoon and it works for Daffy even in the arena. Daffy is back on his feet - this time wilder than ever. The champ realises that Daffy is charging straight towards the champ and they both end up flying through the canvas. There is a really crazy part where the pelican just stands there (and after the champ and Daffy zoom past) that the pelican's body is caught inside his own throat pouch and he spins like a turtle. That gag idea is so bizarre that its even very creative itself. The pelican then gets back up squabbling.
What I find really good about this cartoon is I think I see a turning point in Clampett's career with this cartoon. I look at the timing - and I've noticed the speed really got fast-paced and even the animation appears to be much more broader and wilder. Clampett is really using his timing very well in action scenes and he certainly knows how to impress an audience with intense action - as I have to say he is good at that. Porky hasn't really been much of a star in this cartoon (playing a minor role) but I can tell that Clampett wanted to focus on using Daffy Duck as the star of this cartoon as he was already a star by 1938.