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Director: Hawley Pratt
Release Date: August 1, 1964
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Señorella and the Glass Huarache © Warner Bros.

‘Señorella and the Glass Huarache’ was the last Looney Tunes short released before Warner Bros. closed down its cartoon department in 1963.

It’s also the only Warner Bros. Short directed by layout man Hawley Pratt, whom Friz Freleng already had given co-director credits in earlier cartoons from the 1960s.

The cartoon features two Mexicans in a canteen, of whom we only see their shadows. One tells a Mexican version of the Cinderella to the other, with the prince being a bullfighter, the castle being a ranchero etc. Otherwise the story is quite faithful, and the cartoon is rescued by the bold backgrounds and pleasant cartoon modern designs. These betray a strong UPA influence, as does the fact that this short stars human characters, instead of the stock talking animals of earlier Warner Bros. cartoons.

The end of the Warner Bros. studio didn’t mean the end of Warner Bros. cartoons; between 1964 and 1968 Warner Bros. suddenly started releasing cartoons again, now produced by Friz Freleng’s DePatie-Freleng company, most famous for its Pink Panther cartoons.

Watch ‘Señorella and the Glass Huarache’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Señorella and the Glass Huarache’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: March 19, 1960
Stars: Sylvester, Sylvester junior
Rating:
Review:

Goldimouse and the three Cats © Warner Bros.

‘Goldimouse and the Three Cats’ starts as a re-telling of the classic fairy tale with Sylvester as the papa bear, Sylvester junior as the baby bear, and a rather anonymous female mouse as Goldimouse.

This part uses a classic fairy tale voice over, but after three minutes the tale is told and makes place for a routine in which Sylvester tries to capture Goldimouse to impress his son. This part borrows heavily from McKimson’s Hippety Hopper cartoons, with Sylvester junior hiding in shame under a paper bag.

A nice touch is that Sylvester keeps on trying, even after his wife and son have long lost faith, making him a genuine fanatic. This cannot hide the fact that this is a cartoon of tried routine spot gags, which adds nothing new, despite the fairy tale setting with which the film starts.

Watch ‘Goldimouse and the Three Cats’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Goldimouse and the Three Cats’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: March 16, 1957
Stars: Tweety & Sylvester
Rating: ★★
Review:

Tweety and the Beanstalk © Warner Bros.

This short could better have been called ‘Sylvester and the Beanstalk’, because it’s Sylvester who finds himself on top of the beanstalk, and in giantland.

In the giant’s castle Sylvester discovers a giant Tweety, which he tries to catch in four attempts, before the giant chases him down. The cartoon ends rather poorly with the giant falling on the cat, making him fall straight through the earth, and ending in China.

‘Tweety and the Beanstalk’ is essentially a normal Tweety and Sylvester routine, making little use of the size difference (for example, at one point Sylvester uses a saw and a string fit to his own size – how on earth did he find those in giantland?). Freleng’s excellent timing cannot rescue the used and tried spot gags, and the result is a disappointing and forgettable cartoon.

Watch ‘Tweety and the Beanstalk’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Tweety and the Beanstalk’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: September 26, 1959
Stars: Foghorn Leghorn, Miss Prissy
Rating: ★★
Review:

A Broken Leghorn © Warner Bros.As MGM and Disney more or less had stopped production of animated shorts, by 1959 the Warner Bros. shorts were easily the best looking animated cartoons around: the background art and the animation were both still top notch, and didn’t show any sign of cheapness, present at for example the Paramount and Lantz studios.

Unfortunately, story lines and gags were often another matter. ‘A Broken Leghorn’ is a good example: despite the clear quality of design, animation and background art, the story is a rather tired amalgam of blackout gags in which the Foghorn Leghorn tries to get rid of a young smart-alecky competitor.

His attempts to kill the competition includes making the little fellow cross the road (initiating a revival of Tex Avery’s road gag from ‘Señor Droopy‘), blowing him up with dynamite through a rain pipe, tying corn-to-the-cob to a gun, and attaching a fake worm to a landmine. Needless to say, all these attempts backfire.

The Foghorn Leghorn were always very talkative, and the large amount of dialogue wears down the comedy, hampering the already stale routines.

Watch ‘A Broken Leghorn’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Broken Leghorn’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: January 7, 1961
Stars: Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester
Rating: ★★
Review:

Cannery Woe © Warner Bros.‘Cannery Woe’ centers on Manuel and José, two poor mice, who live at the beach and who are starving.

They really would like to join the Grand Cheese Fiesta, organised by the mouse mayor for his re-election, but they are thrown out. Yet, the mayor has more problems: there’s no cheese at the fiesta (‘something new is added to the store’, explains one of the cheese committee mice). Luckily, José is friends with Speedy Gonzales, and only has to whistle to get Speedy’s help.

Speedy fetches the cheese from the store, unhindered by guarding cat Sylvester, who only gets hindered by his own tacks, mousetraps and cannon. In the end, José and Manuel are awarded as cheese inspectors, but Speedy gets even a better job as ‘chick inspector’.

‘Cannery Woe’ is a very mediocre cartoon with rather run of the mill gags. In fact, the mice José and Manuel are more interesting than anything that follows, and one wonders why storyman Tedd Pierce and director Robert McKimson didn’t devote more of the cartoon to them.

Watch ‘Cannery Woe’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Cannery Woe’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: January 23, 1960
Stars: Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester
Rating: ★★★
Review:

West of the Pesos © Warner Bros.The setting of ‘West of the Pesos’ is a ‘veelage’, where several mice have been caught and put into cages inside the ‘ACME Laboratorio por experimentao’, guarded by Sylvester.

The remaining mice of the village would gladly rescue their comrades, so Speedy Gonzales is lured by the beautiful female mouse Camilla to come to the rescue. As the gags come fast and plenty, this is one of the more satisfying Speedy Gonzales cartoons, if hardly really funny. This time, Sylvester doesn’t stand a chance, and isn’t even given time to think of some counter measures.

Despite all the action, the main attractions of this cartoon are the attractive and strikingly modern backgrounds by Robert Givens and William Butler. The list of mice caught for the laboratory includes the names of animators Rudy Zamora, Manuel Perez and Gus Arriola, as well as painter Pablo Picasso.

Watch ‘West of the Pesos’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘West of the Pesos’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: August 29, 1959
Stars: Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester
Rating: ★★
Review:

Here Today, Gone Tamale © Warner Bros.‘Here Today, Gone Tamale’ starts with a cheese famine in a harbor village.

But then a ship called ‘Dutch Treat’ arrives, full of cheese. Unfortunately, the ship is protected by Sylvester, but the starved mice get Speedy Gonzales (he knows one’s sister – let me correct this – he knows everybody’s sister) to get the cheese. In some blackout gags Sylvester does his best to catch Speedy Gonzales, e.g. with a large mallet and a guillotine. In the end, Sylvester has to admit defeat, and adding ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, he puts on some Mickey Mouse-club-like mouse ears and joins some dancing mice.

The best gag is when Speedy Gonzales locks Sylvester inside a storage room full of Limburger cheese, but otherwise there’s not too much to enjoy in ‘Here Today, Gone Tamale’ and one has ample time to enjoy the functional layouts by Hawley Pratt, beautifully painted by Tom O’Loughlin.

Watch the opening of ‘Here Today, Gone Tamale’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Here Today, Gone Tamale’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: January 18, 1958
Stars: Speedy Gonzales
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tortilla Flaps © Warner Bros.‘Tortilla Flaps’ is a Speedy Gonzales cartoon featuring a vulture as Speedy’s adversary.

The cartoon takes place during Cinco de Mayo. The mice are having their own little festival, where Speedy plays tennis with himself as an attraction at the fair. When the vulture threatens the festival, Speedy Gonzales takes care of him. Soon the vulture surrenders and he ends as an attraction at the fair himself.

‘Tortilla Flaps’ is one of the weaker Speedy Gonzales cartoons: the vulture is a poor substitution for Sylvester, and none of the chase gags are very funny. The best gag arguably is when Speedy makes the bird stop for a passing train, but the bird doesn’t make it in time…

Watch ‘Tortilla Flaps’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Tortilla Flaps’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: July 4, 1959
Stars: Speedy Gonzales
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Mexicali Shmoes © Warner Bros.In ‘Mexicali Shmoes’, Speedy Gonzales’s usual adversary Sylvester is replaced by a couple of slow dumb Mexican cats called Manuel and José.

When Manuel does an ill-fated attempt to catch Speedy, José tells him you need brains to catch the little mouse. As José provides the brains, the two immediately set out to catch the rapid rodent. What follows are some blackout gags, the best of which features a street full of landmines.

Writer Warren Foster saves the best gag for the finale: tired of trying to catch the fastest mouse in all Mexico, Manuel suggests they should try to catch Slowpoke Rodriguez, the slowest mouse in all Mexico. José immediately rushes away to do so, but Manuel still has to tell him something important about Slowpoke…

‘Mexicali Shmoes’ is no all-time classic, but it must be the funniest of all Speedy Gonzales films, thanks to the interplay between the two cats. Because of their characterization, the film actually works. Manuel may clearly be the dumber of the two, José fares hardly better, and is equally hilarious to watch. Speedy Gonzales, on the other hand, is as bland as ever, and only speaks during the opening scene. All the more a pity that the two cats weren’t used again.

Watch ‘Mexicali Shmoes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mexicali Shmoes’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: August 20, 1960
Stars: The Honey-Mousers
Rating:
Review:

Mice Follies © Warner Bros.Not to be confused with the delightful Tom & Jerry short of the same name ‘Mice Follies’ marks the third appearance of the Honey-Mousers, McKimson’s parody of the television sitcom The Honeymooners.

The short opens with Ralph and Ned departing way too late from a night out. Somehow, we’ll never know why, Ned taunts a cat on the way. The cat follows the boys home, and they mistake the ferocious feline for their wives when they arrive home. The two men flee the house. Then the wives arrive themselves, only to get the same treatment from the cat. In the end we watch the four going asleep on a tiny park bench.

It’s hard to say anything positive about ‘Mice Follies’, The story just makes no sense, none of the dialogue is remotely interesting, little to nothing is done with the parody element, and the few gags present all fall flat. And so, the Honey-Mousers wouldn’t return after this unsuccessful entry.

Watch ‘Mice Follies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mice Follies’ is available on the Blu-Ray-set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: November 16, 1957
Stars: Sylvester, Sylvester jr., Hippety Hopper
Rating: ★★
Review:

Mouse-Taken Identity © Warner Bros.‘Mouse-Taken Identity’ is the eleventh cartoon featuring Hippety Hopper and by now the routine is so stale, only the setting can provide some variation.

Thus this episode takes place in a museum, which Hippety Hopper enters directly from the zoo where he’s dropped. That night Sylvester brings his son with him on his night job as a mouse catcher at the museum. Sylvester brags about his mice catching abilities. But this works against him when junior encounters a real one, way too feeble compared with the ferocious monsters his father said to battle. So Sylvester lies to his son, stating that mice come in all sizes, taking a stuffed kangaroo as an example. Unfortunately, Hippety Hopper has been hiding inside the kangaroo’s pouch, and when Sylvester approaches the stuffed animal, he gets his first kick.

What follows is a tiresome routine, with way too much dialogue and uninspired gags, a few involving the museum itself (a Neanderthal diorama, a crossbow). Nothing of this is remotely interesting. In fact, the cartoon’s highlight are the evocative background paintings.

Watch ‘Mouse-Taken Identity’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mouse-Taken Identity’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Sylvester & Hippety Hopper’ and on the Blu-Ray-set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Directors: Chuck Jones & Abe Levitow
Release Date: January 10, 1959
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Baton Bunny © Warner Bros.

‘Baton Bunny’ is the last of Chuck Jones’s great tributes to classical music, following ‘Long-Haired Hare‘ (1949), ‘Rabbit of Seville‘ (1950) and ‘What’s Opera, doc?‘ (1957).

The short also forms the closing chapter on a long tradition of concert cartoons with cartoon stars conducting, which goes all the way back to the Mickey Mouse short ‘The Barnyard Concert‘ from 1930. True, ‘Baton Bunny’ is not the last of such cartoons (it was e.g. followed by MGM’s ‘Carmen Get It (1962) starring Tom & Jerry, and ‘Pink, Plunk, Plink‘ (1966) starring the Pink Panther), but these cartoons are hardly the classics ‘Baton Bunny’ certainly is.

Bugs Bunny is the sole performer in the cartoon – we don’t even see the orchestra members, only their instruments. Bugs Bunny and the orchestra play Franz von Suppés overture ‘Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna’ (1844), which Bugs conducts not only with his hands, but also with his ears and feet. Like earlier conductors Mickey (‘The Band Concert‘, 1935) and Tom (‘Tom & Jerry at the Hollywood Bowl‘, 1950) Bugs has some troubles while conducting: with a fly, echoing Mickey’s problems with a bee in ‘The Band Concert’, and with his collar and cuffs, echoing Mickey’s problems with his over-sized costume. Highlight is Bugs’ reenactment of a Western pursuit featuring a cowboy, an Indian and the cavalry, only using his ears to change into each character.

But throughout the cartoon Bugs is beautifully animated, with strong expressions, and deft hand movements. It’s a sheer pity that in the end, the fly turns out to be Bugs’ only audience. But Bugs is not too proud to bow for the tiny creature that had troubled him so much just before. Apart from the animation and Michael Maltese’s entertaining story, ‘Baton Bunny’ profits from Maurice Noble’s beautiful background art, and great staging. Thus the short is a wonderful testimony of Warner Bros. cartoon art of the late fifties.

Watch ‘Baton Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 140
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Pre-hysterical Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-Abian Nights

‘Baton Bunny’ is available on the DVD-box ‘The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 1″

Director: Norman McCabe
Release Date: October 11, 1941
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

robinson crusoe, jr. © warner bros.When Tex Avery left Warner Bros., Bob Clampett took over his animation unit. To fill in Clampett’s gap, Norman McCabe was promoted to director.

McCabe had joined the Harman-Ising studio in 1932 as an inbetweener. By 1941 he had become Bob Clampett’s star animator. He had even co-directed two cartoons with Bob Clampett, ‘Timid Toreador’ (1940) and ‘Porky’s Snooze Reel’ (1941).

As a solo director McCabe only made eleven Looney Tunes, all in black and white. And thus, McCabe sadly remains the least known Warner Bros. director from the classic era. This is a pity, because ‘Robinson Crusoe jr.’ , McCabe’s first cartoon, shows that he had fully absorbed his former master’s style, and that he could deliver a fast and funny film.

In ‘Robinson Crusoe, jr.’ Porky Pig plays the starring part. As soon as he’s stranded on the island, he’s awaited by Friday, who carries a sign saying ‘Welcome, Robinson Crusoe’ and who says to Porky in a Southern accent: “Hello Boss, What kept yuh?“. Later we watch Friday singing ‘The Java Jive’, which had been a huge hit for the Ink Spots in 1940.

Most of the cartoon consists of silly spot gags, and is quite entertaining, even if quite a lot of the humor is time-bound. The short ends when Porky encounters a tribe of cannibals, and flees with Friday on a motor boat he has carved out of a log within seconds.

Note that the character Friday is one of those standard representations of the black servant of the period, with his Southern accent. Nevertheless, in this film Friday is neither dumb, nor lazy, fearful, superstitious or overtly dependent on his white benefactor, all character traits normally given to black characters in cartoons. Neither is he given the horrible ape-like mannerisms found in ‘Mickey’s Man Friday‘ (1935). With his huge lips, Friday may be a heavy caricature, he still is one of the more enlightened black representations of the era. The cannibals, on the other hand, are the standard cliche racist fare.

Watch ‘Robinson Crusoe, jr.’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

 

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 92
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Notes to You
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Pooch

‘Robinson Crusoe, jr.’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Porky Pig 101’ and on the Thunderbean DVD ‘Uncensored Animation 2: Cannibals!’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: December 6, 1941
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

rhapsody in rivets © warner bros.‘Rhapsody in Rivets’ without doubt is one of Friz Freleng’s finest films. The very idea of turning a building site into a symphony orchestra with the foreman as a conductor is marvelous.

The execution, too, is superb. Using Franz Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody, Freleng presents a string of clever sight gags, perfectly timed to the music. When the foreman enters the stage, an audience applauds. The foreman uses his blueprint as sheet music. We watch a cement mixer mixing as if it were a cocktail shaker, and a brick layer frantically building a wall to the fast music. While performing, the workers really do build a skyscraper (with some twists and turns), until a Droopy-like dog destroys it all.

Liszt’s composition had been a staple since the advent of sound in cartoons. For example it had been used in the Mickey Mouse cartoons ‘The Opry House‘ (1929) and ‘The Mechanical Man‘ (1933) and the Betty Boop cartoon ‘Betty in Blunderland‘ (1934). But Freleng was the first to devote an entire cartoon to the composition. With this move Freleng made his own mini-Fantasia. The short uses no dialogue, whatsoever, and is a prime example of Freleng’s famous musical timing. In 1942 the film was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award. Freleng would return to Liszt’s rhapsody several times, most notably in ‘Rhapsody Rabbit‘ (1946) and ‘Back Alley Uproar‘ (1948).

Watch ‘Rhapsody in Rivets’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rhapsody in Rivets’ is available on the DVD ‘Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Award-Nominated Animation: Cinema Favorites’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: June 7, 1941
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

hiawatha's rabbit hunt © warner bros.This cartoon opens with the voice of Bugs Bunny reciting the first lines of Longfellow’s famous poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’, while we watch the Indian paddling through a beautiful scenery.

Bugs soon discovers that Hiawatha is hunting rabbits. Luckily, in Freleng’s cartoon the Indian is one of those nit-witted characters based on Lon Chaney jr.’s portrayal of Lennie Small in ‘Of Mice and Men’ (1939), so popular at Warner Bros. (see also ‘Of Fox and Hounds’). In the end the mighty warrior leaves the scene empty-handed, while Bugs recites some last lines from the poem. Nevertheless, it’s the hunter who has the last laugh…

‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’ marks Friz Freleng’s first try at Warner Bros.’ new star. He understands the character very well: his Bugs Bunny is both self-assured and capable of making mistakes. In one scene Bugs wants to take one of his graceful dives into a hole, only to land hard on the ground besides it. There’s a priceless scene in which Bugs enters Hiawatha’s cooking pot as if he were taking a hot bath. This is by all means already classic Bugs Bunny material. The looks of the rabbit, on the other hand, are highly unstable, and at times Bugs looks more like his predecessor from ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera‘ (1940) than himself.

In his book ‘Chuck Amuck’ Chuck Jones writes that he feels that “[Freleng], too, went wide of the mark in understanding Bugs’s persona. Not as wide as I did and Tex did, but ’twas enough, ‘twould serve“. I don’t quite agree. Tex Avery indeed is way more off in ‘Tortoise Beats Hare‘. Freleng’s Bugs is not really defined, yet, but he’s well underway.

‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’, being Bugs Bunny’s only fourth cartoon, proved once again that this was a character to stay. Nevertheless, in this cartoon Freleng’s unit is at his best in the animation of Bugs’s adversary, Hiawatha. The moves of this dumb and clumsy character are very well-timed and matched with equally funny music by Carl Stalling. The cartoon also boasts some gorgeous background art, which add to the poetic atmosphere, despite all the delightful nonsense.

Watch ‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 4
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Tortoise Beats Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Heckling Hare

‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’ is available on the DVD ‘Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Award-Nominated Animation: Cinema Favorites’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: May 9, 1942
Rating: ★★½
Review:

the draft horse © warner bros.In 1942 Chuck Jones found his own voice as a director. Gone were the Disneyesque characters and settings. Instead, Jones put forward his own recognizable character designs, a very original animation approach based on strong poses, and an unprecedented emphasis on facial expressions.

Gone, too, were the cute, childish subjects, now replaced by wild, mature and gag rich stories. Suddenly Jones became one of the most recognizable directors in the field, equaled only by Bob Clampett. The most obvious example of this change is ‘The Dover Boys‘ from September 1942, but the new style is already very present in the Conrad Cat cartoons from January/February (‘The Bird Came C.O.D.’, ‘Conrad the Sailor‘ and ‘Porky’s Cafe’ ).

‘The Draft Horse’, from May, is also a nice example of Jones’s new self-assurance. The short features a plow horse who, after reading a billboard saying ‘Horses wanted for US Army’ plows all the way to the next army training camp to get himself enlisted. His race is depicted marvelously: we don’t see the horse himself, but we watch several images of the countryside wrecked by his plow, accompanied by a frantic rendering of Gioacchino Rossini’s William Tell overture.

Besides an example of Jones’s new style, ‘The Draft Horse’ was also the first Warner Bros. cartoon penned by Tedd Pierce, after his return from his move to the Max Fleischer studios. Highlight of the cartoon is the horse acting out a complete war scene for the eyes of a bewildered colonel. This scene, animated by Ken Harris, can match the much praised scene from ‘Brave Little Tailor’ (1938, animated by Frank Thomas), in which Mickey Mouse tells his story of how he beat seven [flies] in one blow. In this scene the horse looks like a forerunner of Charlie Dog, who does an equally hilarious performance in ‘Often an Orphan‘ (1949).

Unfortunately, the rest of the cartoon doesn’t live up to the high standards set here. Tedd Pierce’s story is too loosely jointed to engage the viewer, falling back on spot gags. Soon the horse ends in a war exercise, and he flees home with equal speed. In the end we watch him knitting V-sweaters as part of the ‘Bundles for Blue Jackets’ program, in which local ladies knitted sweaters for navy men.

‘The Draft Horse’ mocks the over-zealous response after the United States had entered World War II. At the same time, it shows that every citizen can do his part, even when he is not in the army itself. The horse is designed interestingly, remaining halfway anthropomorphization. For example, he retains his hoofs, and remains on all fours half of the time.

Watch ‘The Draft Horse’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Draft Horse’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: October 25, 1941
Rating:
Review:

rookie revue © warner bros.

Like Bob Clampett’s earlier ‘Meet John Doughboy‘ Friz Freleng’s ‘Rookie Revue’ is a spot gag cartoon on the army, which grew by the minute due to the draft that had been installed since October 1940.

Note that both cartoons predate the attack on Pearl Harbor, showing that the US armed forces were growing even before the United States were being attacked. The premise of ‘Rookie Revue’ is that we “join the army for a day and get a glimpse of military life”. None of the spot gags are remotely funny, however, making ‘Rookie Revue’ very, very tiresome, and only interesting as a period piece. Nevertheless, animation lovers will appreciate the caricatures of Tex Avery, Henry Binder and Ray Katz in the mess.

Watch ‘Rookie Revue’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rookie Revue’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: July 5, 1941
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★½
Review:

meet john doughboy © warner bros.On September 26 1940 the Selective Training and Service Act came into effect. This was the first peace time conscription in the history of the United States.

By 1941 the draft was in full effect, as is reflected by cartoons like ‘Hysterical Highspots in American History‘, ‘Meet John Doughboy’, ‘Rookie Revue’ and ‘The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B‘. Of the real draftee cartoons ‘Meet John Doughboy’ is probably the first. The short stars Porky Pig, who can boast to be the first major cartoon star to join the army. In November Porky was followed by Barney Bear (‘The Rookie Bear’) and Popeye (‘The Mighty Navy‘), while other stars only joined the war effort after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Unfortunately, ‘Meet John Doughboy’ is not about Porky’s tribulations as a draftee. Instead Porky introduces a movie newsreel “chock full of military secrets, so if there are any Fifth Columnists in the audience, please leave the theater right now.”. This is immediately the best gag of the short, which is a rather trite spot gag cartoon.

‘Meet John Doughboy’ is mostly of historical interest. The film features some stark images of weaponry, in beautiful black and white contrasts. The cartoon even depicts a possible invasion by air, luckily easily dispelled by the Statue of Liberty with some use of inspect spray. Otherwise, it remains a rather uninteresting spot gag cartoon. Three months later, Friz Freleng made a color cartoon covering similar grounds in the even less funnier ‘Rookie Revue‘.

Watch ‘Meet John Doughboy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 88
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Prize Pony
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: We, the Animals, Squeak

‘Meet John Doughboy’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: January 18, 1941
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Fighting 69 1-2th © Warner Bros.‘The Fighting 69 1/2th’ opens with peaceful scenes of a picnic in a forest. Soon a red ant and a black ant argue about an olive. When the red ant smothers the black ant with it, he exclaims, Groucho Marx style: ‘Of course you know this means war!’.

Soon the picnic cloth is encircled by trenches, with several ants trying to obtain the food on it, until a lady comes to clear it all away. When only a cake is left behind, the generals try to make peace, which is thwarted by a discussion on how to cut the cake.

‘The Fighting 69 1/2th’ is a rather somber war film, in the tradition of e.g. ‘Bosko the Doughboy’ (1931), ‘There’s Something about a Soldier’ (1934), ‘What Price Porky’ (1938), and ‘Ants in the Plants‘ (1940) and arguably the last to show war as it looked like in World War I. Eleven months later war would come to the US itself, changing the looks of war cartoons forever.

‘The Fighting 69 1/2th’ is not really funny, but it boasts beautiful oil backgrounds, Silly Symphony-like production values like careful shading, and Freleng’s trademark musical timing. There’s even a ‘hold the onions’ gag, when several ants build a hamburger.

Watch ‘The Fighting 69 1/2th’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Fighting 69 1/2th’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: August 2, 1941
Rating: 
Review:

Aviation Vacation © Warner Bros.Tex Avery’s spot gag cartoons always were rather loose-jointed affairs, but ‘Avation Vacation’ tops them all in randomness.

The main frame involves a plane trip around the world, but we also watch ostriches hiding and butterflies emerging. None of the gags is remotely interesting, least of all the plane gags themselves. This results in arguably the weakest of all Avery’s spot gag cartoons.

The short is noteworthy, however, for featuring the first occurrence of the ‘hair-in-the-projector-gag, a 4th wall breaking gag that Avery would perfect in ‘The Magical Maestro’ (1952). In this first version the hair pops up, while a highly realistic Irishman sings a ballad in operetta style. The hair is less convincing than the one in ‘The Magical Maestro’, but the gag works nonetheless, and it’s the undisputed highlight of the otherwise ultimately boring cartoon.

Watch ‘Aviation Vacation’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Aviation Vacation’ is available on the French ‘Tex Avery’ DVD Box Set

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