Director: Les Clark
Release Date: August 1, 1958
Rating: ★★
Review:

Paul Bunyan © Walt Disney‘Paul Bunyan’ belongs to a group of Disney specials that retell tall tales from the West, following ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘ and ‘Pecos Bill‘ from ‘Melody Time‘ (1948).

The short is told by three “eye witnesses”, who tell us about the great deeds of the mighty lumberjack Paul Bunyan, who was “63 axe handles high”. The best part describes how Bunyan and his equally gigantic ox Babe have reshaped the American landscape, by building sites like Pike’s peak, the Missouri river and Yellowstone Falls.

The designs in this cartoon are very bold and angular, which are pleasant to watch. Unfortunately, the short is hampered by a remarkable slowness and a terrible lack of good gags, which make it at 17 minutes too long to entertain.

Watch ‘Paul Bunyan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: 1957
Stars: Ralph Phillips
Rating: ★★
Review:

Drafty, Isn't It © Warner Brothers‘Drafty, isn’t it’ is the second of two propagandistic advertisement shorts Chuck Jones made for the US Army in the late 1950’s.

Like its predecessor, ‘90 Days of Wondering‘ (1956), it stars a young adult form of dreamer boy Ralph Phillips. In this short Ralph Phillips has nightmares about all his ideas of  adventure being blocked by a giant shadow of a soldier beckoning him. Then he’s visited by an army pixie who elists some fictions and facts about the army. The cliches, of course, are the most hilarious. This short also contains a very Tex Avery-like running gag in which he pixie repeatedly has to put Ralph’s dog to sleep by singing it a fast lullaby.

‘Drafty, Isn’t It?’ is a well-made and beautiful film, and it would have been more enjoyable were it not so sickeningly propagandistic.

Watch ‘Drafty, Isn’t It?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: July 20, 1957
Stars: Speedy Gonzales
Rating:   ★★★★
Review:

Tabasco Road © Warner BrothersIt was Robert McKimson, not Friz Freleng, who directed the first Speedy Gonzales film ‘Cat-Tails for Two’. But it took four years before McKimson revisited this character.

By then Friz Freleng had redesigned McKimson’s creation in ‘Speedy Gonzales’, which had won an Academy Award.

McKimson’s returns to Speedy Gonzales actually results in one of Speedy’s finest films. Here Speedy tries to protect two drunken mice called Pablo and Fernando from a large grey cat. ‘Tabasco Road’ is a very talkative cartoon, but it’s also inspired and charming, especially because of the characters of Pablo and Fernando, who are as intoxicating as they are intoxicated. The best gag, however, is when Speedy’s action appears too fast for the viewer, and Speedy replays it for us in slow motion.

Watch ‘Tabasco Road’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: 1956
Stars: Ralph Phillips
Rating: ★★★
Review:

90 Days of Wondering © Warner Brothers’90 Days of Wondering’ is a rather propagandistic advertising film to persuade ex-soldiers to reenlist.

Despite its rather questionable message, the film is beautifully designed and animated. Especially striking is its dazzling opening sequence in which we see a young man (an adult version of dreamer boy Ralph Phillips from ‘From A to Z-Z-Z-Z’ from 1954) being extremely happy to leave the army and rushing home. This opening sequence has a speed and gusto that recalls the Warner Brother shorts from the 1940’s. It contrasts with the slow pace of the scenes following after, where the young man soon discovers he is out of tune with is hometown. Soon he is visited by two small characters explaining him why he should reenlist…

In 1957 ’90 Days of Wondering’ was followed by yet another propaganda film for the army called ‘Drafty, isn’t it?‘. It also stars the adult version of Ralph Phillips.

Watch ‘90 Days of Wondering’ yourself and tell me what you think:

https://archive.org/details/90DayWandering

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: November 10, 1956
Stars: Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote
Rating:   ★★★★
Review:

There They Go-Go-Go! © Warner BrothersThis ninth Roadrunner cartoon has a deviant opening, in which we watch the coyote baking a chicken out of clay.

Of course he rather has real meat, and his attempts to catch the roadrunner include a spear on a chord, a revolver on a spring, a catapult, a bundle of maces, a half-sewn-through ladder, a wheel of dynamite sticks and a rocket.

The best gag is saved for last, in which the coyote has assembled several rocks above the road. When these fail to fall on the roadrunner, the coyote nervously tries to make them fall until he realizes that he succeeds and they will fall on him. He then brings forth a sign saying “In Heaven’s name, what am I doing?”.

‘There they Go-Go-Go’ contains the most abstract backgrounds ever conceived in a Roadrunner cartoon – Maurice Noble really pushes the limits here. Nevertheless they were reused the next year in ‘Scrambled Aches’.

Watch ‘There They Go-Go-Go!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 6, 1957
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:   ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

What's Opera, doc © Warner BrothersOne of the most celebrated animated cartoons of all time, ‘What’s Opera, Doc’ places the typical Elmer Fudd-Bugs Bunny chase routine into the world of Wagnerian opera.

The cartoon’s masterstroke is that it uses all the cliches of the chase, which go all the way back to the first Bugs Bunny Cartoon ‘A Wild Hare’ (1941), but that they are carried out in the most serious, Wagnerian fashion. The result is ridiculously pompous, mocking Wagnerian opera, as well as playing homage to it. Milt Franklyn’s score quotes music from five Wagner operas: ‘Der fliegende Hollander’, ‘Die Walküre’, ‘Siegfried’, ‘Rienzi’ and ‘Tannhäuser’.

The cartoon’s operatic character is emphasized not only by operatic singing, but also by featuring Wagnerian magic (a magic helmet), a ballet (a staple of French opera, but only employed by Richard Wagner in his very first operas), and a sad ending, a cliche of 19th century opera in general. Michael Maltese provided new lyrics to Wagner’s pilgrim chorus from ‘Tannhäuser’ and made it into a rather Hollywood musical-like love duet between Elmer and Bugs.

The animation is outstanding throughout, especially in the ballet and love duet between Bugs and Elmer. Indeed, for the ballet sequence the animators studied Tatania Riabouchinska and David Lichine from The Original Ballet Russe, and there’s a genuine seriousness about this scene. Yet, the main attraction of the cartoon lies in Maurice Noble’s extreme background layouts and bold color designs. Especially when Elmer gets furious, there is a startling emotional use of colors that has not been seen on the animated screen since ‘Bambi‘ (1942).

The opening sequence, with Elmer casting a mighty shadow is a straight homage to ‘The Night on Bold Mountain’ sequence from ‘Fantasia’ (1940), while the shots of Bugs being dressed as Brünnhilde and riding an oversized horse are retaken from ‘Herr meets Hare’ from 1945 (which, like ‘What’s Opera, doc?” was also penned by Michael Maltese). In this sense the cartoon is as much a homage to animation history as it is to opera.

‘What’s Opera, doc?”  is a brilliant cartoon of pure grandeur and one of Chuck Jones’s all time masterpieces. What’s most striking is that it was made during the normal grind of a commercial animated cartoon studio. The film took much longer than normal to make, which Jones and his unit could only manage to do by cheating on their schedule, stealing time from a much more ordinary short, the Road Runner cartoon ‘Zoom and Bored’ (1957).

Watch ‘What’s Opera, Doc?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 131
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Piker’s Peak
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bugsy and Mugsy

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: January 5, 1957
Rating:  ★★★★★
Review:

Three Little Bops © Warner Brothers‘Three Little Bops’ retells the story of the three little pigs in a jazz style.

The film features voice actor Stan Freberg as a singing narrator. In the cartoon the three little pigs are jazz musicians who play jump blues (not bebop!). The wolf is a corny jazz cat, who wants to sit in, but whose trumpet playing is too amateurish to entertain. Only in hell the wolf learns that “you gotta get hot to play real cool”.

The film is unique within the Warner Bros. cartoon canon because it features no voice work by Mel Blanc nor music by Carl Stalling/Milt Franklyn. It even lacks the ‘That’s All Folks!’ ending, showing a ‘The End’, instead. In the cartoon Stan Freberg does all the singing, while the swinging rhythm & blues music is provided by jazz musician Shorty Rogers and his combo. Together with ‘Rhapsody in Rivets’ (1941), the cartoon is one of the best examples of director Friz Freleng’s perfect sense of musical timing. The result is one of the most entertaining animated cartoons of the late 1950’s.

Watch ‘Three Little Bops’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 31, 1955
Rating:  ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

One Froggy Evening © Warner Brothers‘One Froggy Evening’ tells about a construction worker, who discovers a singing frog inside a cornerstone of a building.

He dreams of earning loads of money with the frog, but unfortunately the frog sings for him only, not for anybody else. This leads to the man’s ruin, and in the end he disposes the frog into another building. But in 2056 AD the same thing is about to happen all over again…

‘One Froggy Evening’ is one of the most perfect cartoons ever made (one competitor that comes to mind is ‘The Band Concert’ from 1935): its story, penned by Michael Maltese, is told with the most economical means, without any dialogue. The silent acting is superb, the timing excellent and the handling of the facial expressions gorgeous. The transition of the frog (baptized Michigan J. Frog in the seventies) from lively entertainer to ordinary amphibian is completely convincing, and a great example of the power of animation.

Although the frog was supposedly locked inside the building in 1892, most of the songs it sings are from a later date: ‘Hello! Ma Baby’ was published in 1899, ‘Won’t You Come Over to My House in 1906, ‘I’m Just Wild About Harry’ in 1921, and ‘Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone’ is even from 1930. Only ‘Come Back to Erin’ and ‘Throw Him Down McCloskey’ are apt, being from 1868 and 1890, respectively. The catchy ‘The Michigan Rag’ was written especially for this cartoon.

‘One Froggy Evening’ feels like a parable. It is not a hilariously funny cartoon, but delightful and simply beautiful. It was Chuck Jones’s personal favorite, and it’s deservedly regarded as an all-time classic. Not that anyone in 1955 thought so, though. The Academy Award went to ‘Speedy Gonzales’, while ‘One Froggy Evening’ didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. Meanwhile, ‘One Froggy Evening’ remains one of the very, very few animated cartoons to inspire a scene in a live action movie, in this case the alien scene in Mel Brooks’s ‘Spaceballs’ (1987).

Watch ‘One Froggy Evening’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: October 22, 1956
Rating:  ★★★★½
Review:

Niagara Fools © Walter LantzIn this cartoon Woody Woodpecker wants to ride the Niagara falls in a barrel.

However, there’s a park ranger who tries to stop him, and it’s this ranger who repeatedly ends in a barrel on the falls.

It’s amazing to discover a gem like this between the badly designed, badly animated and badly timed Walter Lantz shorts of the late 1950’s. Although this cartoon, too, features ugly animation, the story and the gags (penned by Disney-veterans Dick Kinney and Milt Schaffer) are very good. The result is by all means one of the best Woody Woodpeckers of the fifties.

Watch ‘Niagara Fools’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://oldiesbutgoodiesmusic.e-bookmembers.com/woody/Woody_Woodpecker-Niagara_Fools/

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: July 7, 1956
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Stupor Duck © Warner Brothers‘Stupor Duck’ is a spoof on the Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, a series that had ended 13 years before, and was earlier parodied by Chuck Jones in ‘Super Rabbit’ (1943), starring Bugs Bunny.

This time Daffy is “Stupor Duck”, who, overhearing a television program, seeks for the non-existent villain Aardvark Ratnick, seeing his deeds in everything. Daffy, for example, rescues a submarine from ‘sinking’. The best part of the cartoon is its opening sequence which perfectly parodies the Fleischer’s opening sequence. The rest of the cartoon is unfortunately hampered by mediocre timing.

Watch ‘Stupor Duck’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: February 24, 1956
Stars: Donald Duck, Chip ‘n Dale
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Chips Ahoy © Walt DisneyThis Cinemascope cartoon is one of finals. It was the last screen appearance of Chip ‘n Dale, it was the last non-educational Donald Duck short and it was the last cartoon directed by Goofy director Jack Kinney, his Goofy series itself having stopped three years earlier.

The short features a quite ordinary battle between Chip ‘n Dale and Donald. This time the squirrels steal Donald’s miniature boat to sail to an island full of acorns. Highlights are Donald acting out a thunderstorm and Dale’s deadpan reactions to Donald’s attempts to persuade them into various boats.

By 1956 Jack Kinney, the greatest director of comedy the Disney studio had ever seen, had been out of favor for some time, and on March 13, 1958 he was fired. He continued animating during the dark ages of animation, in which animation was only seen in light of expenses. He worked on UPA’s first feature, ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ and on Popeye films for television, besides several small and often unfinished projects with his own animation company. In 1988 he wrote his highly entertaining and richly illustrated autobiography ‘Walt Disney and Assorted other Characters’. Jack Kinney passed away on February 9, 1992, 82 years old.

Watch ‘Chips Ahoy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: August 31, 1946
Stars: Henery Hawk, Foghorn Leghorn
Rating:  ★★★★★
Review:

Walky Talky Hawky © Warner BrothersAlready in his fourth film as a director McKimson introduces his most durable star, Foghorn Leghorn.

The loud-mouthed rooster is coupled with Henery Hawk, in his second appearance since the Chuck Jones cartoon ‘The Squawkin’ Hawk’ (1942). Also featured is the Foghorn Leghorn’s regular opponent, the barnyard dog, and their recurring feud is already laid out in this short. Foghorn Leghorn uses Henery in this feud, making him believe the dog, not he, is a chicken. In the end Henery catches both, and even a horse, exclaiming; “one of them got to be a chicken”.

‘Walky Talky Hawky’ is one of McKimson’s most inspired cartoons. Both Foghorn Leghorn and the barnyard dog are great characters, and the short is full of great, rather Clampettian animation.

Foghorn Leghorn’s vocal mannerisms were inspired by a 1930’s radio character called ‘The Sheriff’. Later, mannerisms from another radio character, Senator Claghorn, crept into the rooster’s vocabulary. For a detailed account on the origins of Foghorn Leghorn, see Keith Scott’s excellent post on Cartoon Brew.

Watch ‘Walky Talky Hawky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: June 9, 1945
Stars: Tweety
Rating:  ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

A Gruesome Twosome © Warner BrothersTwo cats, a yellow dopey one and a red one who’s a caricature of Jimmy Durante, fight over a little white kitten.

She tells them that she’ll go out with the first who brings her a little bird. Enter Tweety, who, despite his cute and helpless appearance, finishes with the two cats in no mild manner. On the contrary, ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ is probably the most violent of all classic cartoons. It’s also very beautifully animated, full of wild and zany action, and simply hilarious. The highlights are a dog, who “doesn’t actually belong in the picture” and a very silly pantomime horse costume.

With ‘A Twosome Gruesome’ director Bob Clampett made one of his most extreme cartoons. Its outrageousness splashes from the screen in every scene. Its theme of sex and violence is executed in a much wilder way than Tex Avery would do, let alone any other director of the era. The cartoon’s sheer energy still impresses today. In this way, ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ may be viewed as the ultimate Bob Clampett film.

‘A Twosome Gruesome’ was the last of the three Tweety cartoons Bob Clampett directed (the other two being ‘A Tale of Two Kitties’ from 1942 and ‘Birdy and the Beast’, 1944). The character would reappear in a redesigned, less grotesque and much cuter form in 1947 in ‘Tweety Pie’ to start a much better known career with Sylvester, as directed by Friz Freleng.

Watch ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: January 5, 1945
Stars: Pepe le Pew
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Odor-able Kitty © Warner Brothers ‘Odor-able Kitty’, marks the debut of that French-speaking, amorous skunk Pepe le Pew.

Oddly enough, in this cartoon Pepe turns out to be a fraud, being married and having two children. Even his voice changes in the end of the cartoon. But before this surprising finale he’s genuinely Pepe, complete with quasi-French accent, strange hop (including Stalling’s typical theme music), and a love for cats that look like skunks.

Only, in ‘Odor-able Kitty’ this is a male cat, who deliberately disguises himself as a skunk to get a happier life. He has one, until Pepe hops along. In the end, the cat washes himself and returns to his former life as victim of maltreatment, exclaiming “this is the life!”.

Pepe le Pew’s character didn’t really develop after this film, and all his films have more or less the same story as his debut film. Nevertheless Pepe would be one of the most successful of the characters conceived by Chuck Jones, second to the Roadrunner and the Coyote, only. He lasted until 1962, starring fourteen more cartoons.

Watch ‘Odor-able Kitty’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.220.ro/desene-animate/12-Odor-Able-Kitty/GcMYA69rME/

Directors: Tex Avery
Release Date: August 3, 1946
Stars: Droopy, The Wolf
Rating:  ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Northwest Hounded Police © MGM

In ‘Northwest Hounded Police’ Avery revisited the material of ‘Dumb Hounded‘ (1943) to make a film that is faster, more concise, more extreme, more paranoid and funnier than the original.

The idea of Droopy being everywhere is quickly established, while the focus lies on the wolf’s double takes, which get more and more extreme during the film, including the famous jaw drop. The cool part is that Droopy (or ‘Sergeant McPoodle’ as he’s called here) only has to be there to scare the wits out of the wolf. He doesn’t do anything but being there.

In the wolf’s double takes Tex Avery explores the limits of cartoon exaggeration. These extreme takes make ‘Northwest Hounded Police the epitome of animated cartoon paranoia, displaying a world of fear that has not been seen on the animated screen since the Fleischer cartoon ‘Bimbo’s Initiation’ (1931). If there should be only one classic Tex Avery cartoon, this must be it.

Watch ‘Northwest Hounded Police’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Tex Avery
Release Date: November 3, 1945
Stars: Droopy, Red, The Wolf
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Wild and Woolfy © MGMAfter the successful ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo‘ Droopy from earlier that year, Red and the Wolf join forces again in ‘Wild and Woolfy’, a hilarious spoof on the classic western.

The cartoon has the simple plot of Droopy following the wolf, who has kidnapped Red after her performance of a nice country & western yodeling song. But Tex Avery once again packs the film with gags, including a wonderful and now classic empty road gag.

Film composer Scott Bradley reuses his twelve tone row he had introduced in the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Puttin’ on the Dog’ (1944) to accompany Droopy riding his little blue horse, with equally funny results.

Watch ‘Wild and Woolfy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Tex Avery
Release Date: March 3, 1943
Stars: Droopy, Red, The Wolf
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Shooting of Dan McGoo © MGMIn ‘his second film Droopy enters the wolf’s world of sex, joining forces with the ever sexy Red as his lover Lou, while the wolf’s the villain entering the Alaskan saloon and Droopy is ‘dangerous Dan McGoo’ himself.

The cartoon is a hilarious re-telling of the poem ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’ by Robert Service. It is simply packed with self-conscious gags and puns. Red is absolutely stunning, when she sings a great army song, displaying her popularity with the armed forces. Her performance remains a tour of the force of animation, courtesy of animator Preston Blair.

‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo’ was Tex Avery’s second take on Service’s poem, the first being the Warner Brothers cartoon ‘Dangerous Dan McFoo’  from 1939.

Watch ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Tex Avery
Release Date: March 20, 1943
Stars: Droopy, The Wolf
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Dumb Hounded © MGM‘Dumb Hounded’ marks the debut of Droopy, the first of all cartoon heroes to be deliberately deadpan.

He is introduced as a very slow bloodhound used to catch the escaped convict, the wolf. He manages to do so by being everywhere the wolf flees to.

Droopy’s übercalm contrasts nicely with the wolf’s extreme double-takes. The best gag is when Droopy asks the wolf not to move, whereupon the wolf uses a multitude of vehicles to flee to a very remote log cabin, only to find Droopy there, exclaiming: “you moved, didn’t you?”. This sequence has a lightning fast montage, something that is lacking from the rest of the film, whichsuffers a little from an inconsistent story line. The result is a film that is not quite satisfying in the end.

Tex Avery may have felt the same, for he would remake ‘Dumb Hounded’ only three years later with ‘Northwest Hounded Police‘, which uses the same or similar gags to a much greater comic effect.

Watch ‘Dumb Hounded’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: June 28, 1945
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Wagon Heels © Warner Brothers‘Wagon Heels’ is one of the least known of Bob Clampett’s masterpieces.

In this short Porky is as a scout of a ‘wagon train’ (a weird mix of a caravan and a train). He has to face ‘Injun Joe the Superchief’, an enormously powerful Indian. In this he’s helped by a very silly blue Hillbilly character called Sloppy Moe.

‘Wagon Heels’ is a remake of the already very funny ‘Injun Trouble’ (1938), but it’s weirder, zanier, wilder and much better timed than the original. ‘The film is extremely rich in nonsensical gags, the highlight being the demonstrations of Injun Joe’s indestructible power. The result is an utterly hilarious film, and an indisputed highlight in the Bob Clampett canon.

Watch ‘Wagon Heels’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.trilulilu.ro/video-animatie/1945-07-28-wb-wagon-heels-porky-pig-merrie-melodie

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: December 17, 1943
Rating:  ★★★★★
Review:

Chicken Little © Walt DisneyThis Disney short is an original take on the classic fable. It has a clear war message, even though there’s no direct visible link to World War II.

The villain, Foxy Loxy, uses a psychology book, from which he quotes, to lure the inhabitants of a poultry farm into his cave. The inhabitants of the poultry farm are clear representations of contemporary American society, including the upper class (turkeys), female middle class (chicken), male working class (ducks) and the youth (chickens and roosters, whom we see dancing to hot jazz in a short scene).

Foxy Loxy chooses a simpleton called Chicken Little as his main object, making him believe the sky is falling and encouraging him to spread the rumor. Originally, Foxy Loxy was to read from Adolf Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’. I is not likely that the quotes are really from ‘Mein Kampf’, but they do contain surprisingly true lessons in how to manipulate the masses and how to undermine the present authority.

The film’s clear war message is not to fall for rumors and not to join mass hysteria. The film’s ending is as grim as there ever was one in a classic cartoon. In fact, the vision of a graveyard full of chicken bones is only topped by the similar ending in ‘Education for Death’ from the same year.

‘Chicken Little’ remains a little known Disney film, but its message is surprisingly fresh, and is probably even more valid today in an era in which propaganda and false rumors roam the internet and social media than it was during World War II.

‘Chicken Little’ was to be the last short directed by Clyde Geronimi before his dull comeback in ‘The big wash’ (1948). The Disney studio revisited the fable in 2005 in the feature film ‘Chicken Little’, which has ca. nothing in common with this far more interesting and disturbing short.

Watch ‘Chicken Little’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 381 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 381 other followers