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Directors: Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton
Release Date: May 1, 1939
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Porky and Tea Biscuit © Warner Bros.In ‘Porky and Teabiscuit’ Porky is the son of a farmer.

Porky’s father sends him away to the race track to sell hay. By accident Porky buys a sick horse, called ‘Tea Biscuit’, a salute to Seabiscuit, the most famous race horse of its time. Despite the horse’s illness, Porky enters a steeple chase with it, end even wins the race.

‘Porky and Teabiscuit’ pays tribute to Floyd Gottfredson’s classic Mickey Mouse comic ‘Mickey Mouse and Tanglefoot’ (1933). Where Tanglefoot won by his fear of wasps, Tea Biscuit wins by being startled by blows. Unfortunately, Hardaway & Dalton add nothing to this premise, and the result is a rather mediocre cartoon, albeit a quite entertaining one.

Watch ‘Porky and Teabiscuit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 54
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon:  Chicken Jitters
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Kristopher Kolumbus, jr.

‘Porky and Teabiscuit’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

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Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: June 25, 1938
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Porky's Party © Warner Bros.By 1938, the Warner Bros. Studio really started to hit its stride. ‘Porky’s Party’ is a good example of the studio’s new, confident and unique style, which owed virtually nothing to the Disney convention.

In ‘Porky’s Party’, Porky celebrates his own birthday. His party is hindered by a silk worm he gets as a present from uncle Phineas Pig. When one exclaims ‘sew’, the worm immediately starts sewing clothes out of nowhere, including a bra. It may be clear that once Porky says ‘So!’, the worm does the same thing. Another problem is Porky’s dog, who gets drunk on his hair tonic, and who’s mistaken of being mad. Porky’s guests aren’t helping either: one is a penguin who eats all his food, the other a particularly loony duck.

‘Porky’s Party’ is rather disjointed, but its atmosphere is strikingly silly, and the gags come in fast and plenty. Only the gag in which the penguin swallows a worm-produced silk hat, is milked too long. But mostly, ‘Porky’s Party’ is an early testimony of Warner Bros.’ unique, wacky style, which would dominate the war years.

Watch ‘Porky’s Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 42
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Fireman
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Spring Planting

‘Porky’s Party’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: April 17, 1937
Stars: Porky Pig, Petunia Pig
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Porky's Romance © Warner Bros.In ‘Porky’s Romance’ Porky tries to court Petunia Pig, but she remains indifferent.

Porky then attempts to commit suicide by hanging himself on a tree. The attempt fails, but it knocks him unconscious, and leads him into a dream sequence which shows what would become of a possible marriage with Petunia. This turns out to be a bachelor’s nightmare: Porky has to do all the housework and is bullied by an enormously fat Petunia. When he’s awake, Petunia is at his sight, now ready for marriage, but Porky rushes off into the distance, only to return to kick Petunia’s obnoxious dog.

‘Porky’s Romance’ is still from a transitional period for the Warner Bros. studio. It’s most probably inspired by the Mickey Mouse cartoons ‘Puppy Love’ (1933) and ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ from 1932. ‘Puppy Love’ uses the same setting, including a Pekingese dog, while ‘Mickey’s Nightmare’ shares a dream sequence that quickly becomes bachelor’s nightmare. In this way the cartoon still looks back. Moreover, both Porky’s design and voice are still rather unappealing, and the design of Petunia’s pesky Pekingese is primitive and awkward.

On the other hand, this cartoon features remarkably modern backgrounds, which show very streamlined and rather futuristic architecture. And as Leonard Maltin shows in ‘Of Mice and Magic’, Frank Tashlin experiments with remarkably rapidly cutting, speeding up storytelling at Warner Bros., and in cartoons in general.

However, the film’s most striking feature is it opening sequence in which Petunia Pig is pompously introduced as the new Warner Bros. star. We then watch her nervously trying to give say to the radio audience that she hopes that they’ll like her picture. When an off-screen voice whispers to her not to get excite, she explodes and yells into the camera: “Who’s excited!!!”. Only then the opening titles appear!

More than anything this kind of self-conscious gags would become a hallmark of Warner Bros.’ own brand of humor.

Watch ‘Porky’s Romance’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 21
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Picador Porky
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Duck Hunt

‘Porky’s Romance’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date: September 18, 1933
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

Bosko's Picture Show © Warner Bros.‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ was one of the last Bosko cartoons Harman & Ising made for Leon Schlesinger.

The short nicely parodies a typical cinema evening of the time. Bosko himself plays the organ in a cinema, inviting the audience to join him in singing ‘We’re in the Money’ from the Warner Bros. musical ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’ . Then we watch some nonsensical news items.

The most disturbing of these is about Jimmy Durante being on holiday in Germany: we watch a scene of Adolf Hitler chasing the comedian with an ax, supposedly because the actor’s big nose makes him look Jewish. This gag wasn’t really innocent in 1933, but nowadays is appallingly shocking. It does show, however, that already in 1933 the fierce antisemitism of the freshly installed dictator was widely known. In any case, it might very well be the earliest caricature of Hitler in animated cinema.

Then we watch a Laurel and Hardy short (sort of) called ‘In Spite of Everything’. Somehow Laurel and Hardy are dressed as little boys, trying to steal a pie, but the caricatures are neither convincing, nor really funny.

Then we can watch the main picture ‘He Done Her Dirt (And How!)’, an obvious take on the Mae West vehicle ‘He Done Her Wrong’ from earlier that year. The feature stars Honey, who’s dressed like West in that picture, but that’s it. No other reference to the great comedienne is shown. Instead we’re treated on pure melodrama, with Bosko making a rather unconvincing end to it.

‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ somehow painfully shows the lack of appeal Bosko actually has. Unlike Harman & Ising’s last Merrie Melodies, which show a Disney-like quality, the Bosko cartoons were disappointingly devoid of ambition. Bosko just ‘does’ things. He lacks either motivation or purpose, and belongs to an era that by the end of 1933 had pretty much ended.

However, Schlesinger’s answer to Bosko, Buddy, would become anything but an improvement. Luckily, in 1936 Warner Bros. finally found its own style, and so, in 1937 could cover similar grounds in ‘She was an Acrobat’s Daughter‘ (1937) with much funnier results.

Watch ‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Tom Palmer
Release Date: September 9, 1933
Rating: ★★
Review:

Buddy's Day Out © Warner Bros.Early 1933 Hugh Harman demanded more money for their cartoons, but Leon Schlesinger refused it. This led to a break between the two, and Harman & Ising quit in June 1933.

This event left Schlesinger with a contract with Warner Bros. to deliver cartoons, but without a studio to make them. Moreover, he was without a cartoon star, as Harman & Ising had taken Bosko with them. Schlesinger quickly set up a studio of his own, at the old Warner Bros. lot at Sunset BLvd. He quickly signed several people to man his brand new studio, including Jack King from Disney, and Bob Clampett from Harman & Ising.

However, somehow he first trusted his new studio into the hands of a guy called Tom Palmer, tipped by his sound engineer, Bernard Brown. Palmer and his associate quickly came up with a brand new star called Buddy, whom Bob Clampett described as “Bosko in whiteface”. This is not entirely true, however, for where Bosko was devoid of personality, he was at least cheerful, and nicely drawn. Buddy, on the other hand, had an ugly design, and was bland as hell.

In ‘Buddy’s Day Out’, Buddy’s first film, even his makers were not sure what to make of him. He’s obviously drawn like a boy, but he drives a car, and has an all too clearly erotic relationship with his girlfriend Cookie. Added to these ‘stars’ are a little baby brother called Elmer and a dog called Happy, which is almost a copy of Terry from Disney’s ‘Just Dogs‘ (1932). As you may notice Buddy, Cookie and even Elmer follow a trend that had existed since the dawn of the sound era of creating a star and giving him a girlfriend. Obnoxious baby brothers are nothing new either, and appear in e.g. Fleischer’s ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart‘ (1932), Van Beuren’s ‘In the Park‘ (1932), and in Columbia’s complete Scrappy series.

In their very first adventure the quartet go on a picnic, but problems soon start when Elmer runs away with the car. This part is absolutely action rich, but the complete cartoon lacks anything that resembles a gag. Palmer was not much of a gag man, let alone a director, and after ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ he directed only one more cartoon (‘I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song‘) before Schlesinger fired him.

‘Buddy’s Day Out’ thus was the first cartoon of Leon Schlesinger’s very own studio, and it shows. Compared to the Harman & Ising Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is clearly of a lesser quality. Especially the thin lining of the characters is subpar, as is the rather erratic animation on them. That said, the animation on ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is still far better than practically any animation at Paul Terry or Van Beuren, and the short at least showcases a nicely animated train. However, the cliched blandness of Buddy and friends, and the lack of anything resembling humor make ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ a far from promising start for Schlesinger’s new star.

Nevertheless, Buddy was a child of his time, for in 1933/1934 cartoons moved away from the world of sex, booze and horror to a more childish world of fairy tales, nursery rhymes etc. It was Disney who had made the first move, but also Iwerks and Van Beuren had already drifted into that direction. Thus at Warner Bros. the supposedly black, somehow mature Bosko was replaced by the white, somewhat childish Buddy. The Hays code sealed the trend by banning sex, drugs etc. By 1934 cinema had entered its most infantile stage. And it was Buddy who would be Warner Brother’s epitome of this low point in early cartoon history, which would last until the end of 1935, when a guy called Tex Avery came along…

Watch ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date:
 April 10, 1933
Stars: Bosko, Honey
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Bosko in Person © Warner Bros.‘Bosko in Person’ is to Bosko what ‘Just Mickey‘ (1930) was to Mickey: a cartoon devoted solely to the star performing on stage.

Where Mickey was completely alone, Bosko gets help from Honey in an extraordinary song-and-dance extravaganza, including Bosko playing the piano, Honey dancing, Bosko tap-dancing, Bosko’s glove(!) reciting ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’, Honey singing a blues and doing a Greta Garbo imitation, and Bosko imitating both Maurice Chevalier and Jimmy Durante. The cartoon ends with a celebration of the end of the prohibition, which after 13 years ended in effect when on March 22, low alcohol beer and wine were legalized again.

Unfortunately, ‘Bosko in person’ is over-the-top, trying much too hard to make Bosko an appealing personality, which he isn’t. Indeed, when turning into Maurice Chevalier and Jimmy Durante he loses himself completely. Moreover, the cartoon is stuffed with repetition as some gags appear not once, but twice. The result is tiresome and desperately unfunny. In the end, the short is only noteworthy because of the caricatures of Hollywood stars.

Watch ‘Bosko in Person’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bosko in Person’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Six’

Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date:
 January 16, 1933
Stars: Bosko, Honey, Rudolf Ising
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Ride Him, Bosko © Warner Bros.This Looney Tune has a Western setting with Bosko starring as a singing cowboy, a new type of Hollywood star that has risen during the early 1930’s.

Bosko enters a saloon in Red Gulch, immediately starts a dance and goes on playing the piano. Meanwhile his girlfriend Honey rides a stagecoach, which is chased by three vicious bandits. This chase scene is simply stuffed with animation cycles. As Bosko is busy entertaining, it takes quite a while before Bosko rides off to rescue his sweetheart.

The complete cartoon is rich in action, but surprisingly low on gags (there’s one about a homosexual). It ends surprisingly however. Suddenly we cut back to three animators. Rudolph Ising asks “Say, how does Bosko save the girl?”, an animator replies: “I don’t know.”, and another: “Let’s go home”, leaving Bosko on his sheet of paper. This gag is pretty unconventional, but one cannot but feel a bit of laziness and disinterest in this scene, as if the animators didn’t care much for their own star themselves. Even so, Bosko would star in fourteen more Warner Brothers films, before Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising took him with them to MGM.

Watch ‘Ride Him, Bosko!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Ride Him, Bosko!’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Six’

Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date: October 17, 1931
Stars: Bosko
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Bosko the Doughboy © Warner Bros.In ‘Bosko the Doughboy’ Bosko is a soldier during World War one.

The cartoon opens spectacularly with several war scenes, including an enemy soldier firing his automatic gun at the audience. The cartoon is completely plotless, and Bosko actually only does three things:

  1. trying to cook a meal and kissing the picture of his sweetheart, before both are bombed (echoing the Oswald cartoon ‘Great Guns‘ from 1927 on which Hugh Harman had worked as an animator);
  2. helping an officer to get rid of his flees;
  3. saving a hippo, who has swallowed a bomb, by zipping its body open.

The cartoon is remarkably violent, and there’s a lot of killing going on. For example, we watch literally a dog being shot to pieces. Because all the animals involved still have mechanical bodies (a legacy of Harman and Ising’s work on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit), pain is never suggested, and the violence remains cartoony. For example, the dog, after being shot, just walks away much shorter, while a bird with a hole in his body only collapses because he’s supposed to, not because he’s in pain.

Nevertheless, there’s little to enjoy in Bosko’s World War I cartoon, and even when fought out by practically invulnerable animals, it remains a disturbing event.

Watch ‘Bosko the Doughboy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bosko the Doughboy’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Directors: Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising
Release Date: October 1930
Stars: Bosko
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Congo Jazz © Warner Bros.‘Congo Jazz’, Bosko’s second official cartoon, is Harman and Ising’s answer to Disney’s ‘Jungle Rhythm‘ (1929).

Like Disney’s cartoon, it hasn’t aged very well. The cartoon opens with Bosko wearing a pith helmet and exploring a supposedly African jungle. When confronted by a tiger (a species not endemic to Africa), Bosko immediately loses the pith helmet.

He appeases the tiger with music, and then kicks it over a cliff. Then he has to sooth a large ape, which he does by giving it some chewing gum. Together they play some plucking string music with their gums, while a few monkeys dance. Soon, other animals join in, e.g. a kangaroo, another rather un-African animal. Bosko directs all the animals into an upbeat tune.

The cartoon is low on gags and feels endless, especially during the musical part. The most extraordinary scene is that of a palm tree shimmying to Bosko’s music as if it were a woman. The animation of Bosko is still very rooted in the Oswald-era: Bosko’s body is very flexible, and almost mechanical.

Watch ‘Congo Jazz’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Congo Jazz’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date:
 September 19, 1931
Stars: Bosko
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Bosko Shipwrecked © Warner Bros.‘Bosko Shipwrecked!’ opens with a great cartoon gag, in which the title card is washed away to show us a stormy scene, with Bosko at the rudder.

In the next scene Bosko is washed ashore a tropical island. When fleeing from a lion, Bosko enters a cannibal settlement. Luckily our hero can escape certain death by climbing on a rhino in a lake.

‘Bosko Shipwrecked!’ is hampered by long scenes, which are surprisingly low on gags. The animation, on the other hand, is fluent, and at times no less than outstanding, with the lion chase scene as a particular highlight. The film’s best gag is when out of the cooking pot a skeleton appears to shake hands with Bosko: “Come on in, the water is fine!“.

Watch ‘Bosko Shipwrecked!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bosko Shipwrecked!’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation 2: Cannibals!’

Director: Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising
Release Date:
 April 19, 1930
Stars: Bosko, Honey
Rating: ★★
Review:

Sinkin' in the Bathtub © Warner Bros.Harman & Ising’s pilot ‘Bosko the Talk-ink Kid‘ lead to a succesful contract with Leon Schlesinger, and in April 1930, the young studio could release their first film for Warner Bros.: ‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’.

‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ is the very first of the Looney Tunes, Harman and Ising’s first of three series which name was an all too obvious variation on Walt Disney’s successful Silly Symphonies. In 1931 they would launch the Merrie Melodies, and in 1934, when at MGM, the Happy Harmonies.

Schlesinger had sold the series to Warner Bros. with the prospect of selling their sheet music, and music would be an important part of both the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies until the end of the 1930s. Apart from the title song, one can hear ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles’ when Honey turns her bath tub into Bosko’s saxophone, making him blowing bubbles with his instrument.

Animated by Friz Freleng, ‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ features Bosko, the star of ‘Bosko the Talk-ink Kid’, and Warner Bros.’ sole star from 1930 to 1933. Bosko invites his girlfriend Honey for a ride in his anthropomorphized car (which he finds on the toilet(!)). On their journey they experience problems with a cow and a steep hill. The ride ends in a pool.

The cartoon is well-animated and cheerful, but surprisingly boring at the same time, even though it lacks the endless song-and-dance-routines of contemporary Mickey Mouse cartoons. Bosko and his girl behave like Oswald and his girlfriend, and are only different in design, being clearly black stereotypes. They are totally devoid of any personality. In fact, Bosko would never develop one, and eventually it became even unclear what Bosko actually was, as exemplified by the following anecdote from Jack Zander, quoted by Leonard Maltin in ‘Of Mice and Magic’ (page 225):

One Day a porter at the studio said to young animator Jack Zander, “I want to ask you something about that character you’ve got. I know Mickey Mouse, and Krazy Kat, and Oswald the Rabbit… but Bosko the what?”

Watch ‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’ and on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: January 9, 1943
Stars: Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

To Duck or not to Duck © Warner Bros.In ‘To Duck or Not to Duck’ Elmer Fudd shoots Daffy out of the sky. The duck then challenges the ‘sportsman’ for a boxing match, something which takes place immediately for a crowd of ducks. Needless to say, the match is far from fair.

‘To Duck or Not to Duck’ is the first Warner Bros. cartoon to star both Daffy and Elmer. The poor hunter is good fowl for the foul-playing duck and his brethren. When Elmer gets his revenge in the end, we’re almost surprised.

The cartoon knows some good gags, but Jones’s timing is still sloppy, and not every gag hits the screen well. Highlight may be Daffy’s ridiculously haughty humphing at Elmer Fudd’s apology for shooting him.

Note the surprisingly empty backgrounds in this cartoon.

Watch ‘To Duck or not to Duck’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 5, 1942
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

My Favorite Duck © Warner Bros.‘My Favorite Duck’ is Chuck Jones’s third try on Daffy Duck (after ‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur’ from 1939 and ‘Conrad the Sailor‘ from 1942), and his first cartoon starring both Daffy and Porky Pig.

In this cartoon he finally manages to get grip of Daffy’s wacky character: Daffy’s antics are not only annoying, they’re also funny, and well-timed, and Porky is much more sympathetic victim to his antics than Caspar Caveman and Conrad ever were.

When Porky goes camping, the duck nags him, protected by the law which forbids Porky to harm any duck. Nonetheless, in the end, the tables are turned and Porky has his revenge. However, at that point the film breaks, and Daffy tells us ‘what happened’, or does he?

The film break gag first appeared in Max Fleischer’s Popeye cartoon ‘Goonland’. Six years later Jones reused this wonderful film break gag in ‘Rabbit Punch‘ (1948).

Like in other Chuck Jones cartoons from this era, the beautifully stylized backgrounds are a highlight on their own.

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

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 97
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Cafe
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Confusions of a Nutzy Spy

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: October 3, 1942
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Hep Cat © Warner Bros.‘The Hep Cat’ was the first Looney Tune made in color. As the Merrie Melodies already were in color, this cartoon heralded a full color era for the Leon Schlesinger studio.

In ‘The Hep Cat’ the dog Rosebud (Willoughby but with another name) tries to catch a ‘hep cat’, a feline womanizer who, on his turn, tries to get a girl, a.o. by speaking with a deep french voice, anticipating the romancing skunk Pepe Le Pew by three years. Rosebud succeeds to seduce the jive cat by using a sexy kitten-like hand puppet. He looses the chase however, and in the last shot we can see the hep cat stroking the hand puppet, saying, with a Jerry Colonna voice ” I can dream, can’t I?”.

‘The Hep Cat’ does not have much of a story, but who cares? It’s an intoxicating and jazzy cartoon, and from the moment the Hep Cat starts singing, you’re lost. The short is fast and funny, full of uninhibited sex and violence gags and throughout the picture one keeps marveling at the extreme and amazingly flexible animation from Bob Clampett’s unit.

Watch ‘The Hep Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 27, 1940
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Leon Schlesinger
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

You Oughta Be in Pictures © Warner Bros.‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ is the very first cartoon to bridge two ideas of animation film figures being ‘real’.

First, the idea that cartoon figures can come alive from the drawing board into the real world, an idea that hauls all the way back to Max Fleischer’s first ‘Out of the Inkwell’ cartoons (1915). The second idea is that of cartoon figures being real Hollywood stars, explored in cartoons such as ‘Felix in Hollywood’ (1923), ‘Movie Mad‘ (1931), ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘ (1933) and especially ‘The Autograph Hound’ (1939), with which ‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ has most in common. ‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ synthesizes these two ideas, making it a direct ancestor of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘ (1987).

‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ was one of the first films director Friz Freleng made after his return from an ill-fortuned move to MGM, and as Jerry Beck points out in the audio commentary track, one can see this film somehow as autobiographical.

In any case, this short marks is Freleng’s first take on Daffy Duck, and he places him firmly as Porky’s rival. In this cartoon Daffy is not necessarily zany, like in Tex Avery’s and Bob Clampett’s cartoons, but overconfident and sneaky, with a tendency to show off; character treats that would be explored more from 1950 on, especially by Chuck Jones. However, by then the relation between Porky and Daffy would be changed completely.

In ‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ Porky is still an innocent, cute and Boyish character. In the opening scene we watch him being drawn by animator Fred Jones on the drawing board. When all animators have rushed off to lunch (reused footage from a Leon Schlesinger Christmas Party film), Daffy, framed on the wall, addresses the Porky drawing. He convinces Porky to leave Leon Schlesinger’s studio to get a real job in the business of feature films. Leon Schlesinger lets Porky go, saying into the camera “he’ll be back!”. While Porky has a hard time in the neighboring live action studio, Daffy tries to get his plays at Warner Bros. But Porky returns and beats the hell out of the double-crosser.

‘You Ougt to Be In Pictures’ is a lovely cartoon. It mixes animation and live action, partly from other Warner Bros. features, to great effects. The scene in which Porky talks to Leon Schlesinger is very convincing, and Porky’s drive back no less than breathtaking. Besides Leon Schlesinger, the film stars writer Michael Maltese as a guard, animator Gerry Chiniquy as a director, and executive producer Henry Binder as a sound man. However, as the live action footage was shot silently, all are voiced by Mel Blanc, except for Leon Schlesinger who does his own voice.

Watch ‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon No. 71
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Slap Happy Pappy
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Poor Fish

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: May 9, 1951
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Rabbit Fire © Warner Bros.‘Rabbit Fire’ is the first of three cartoons in which writer Michael Maltese and director Chuck Jones play Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd against each other.

The cartoon introduces a new incarnation of Daffy: as the jealous and treacherous miser who never wins. This transformation works, because Daffy the trickster was already present, as can be seen in films like ‘You Ought to be in Pictures‘ (1940) and ‘The Ducksters‘ (1950). As we could expect Daffy’s tricks, so successful against Porky Pig, fail when tried on Bugs Bunny, and Daffy’s repeated failures add to the duck’s frustration.

However, with this transformation, Daffy would lose his lunacy altogether, and it was this new frustrated, misguided, loser type of Daffy that would prevail to the present day, combined with Daffy-the-misguided-hero, championed in other Chuck Jones cartoons, like ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ (1951) and ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century‘(1953).

In ‘Rabbit Fire’ the contrast between Bugs and Daffy is played out very well: Bugs is the initial victim, but he remains über-cool and in total control, while Daffy is the treacherous actor, trying to harm Bugs, but biting the dust every time. In fact, this character trait makes Daffy rather similar to an earlier incarnation of that other famous duck, Donald, who, by the early 1950s had more or less evolved into the straight guy.

The team’s streak of genius is that Daffy never turns into rage, but remains cool, as well. When confronted with a string of defeats, he just walks up to Bugs and utters: ‘you’re despicable!’. Elmer Fudd, meanwhile, remains the confused instrument of the feud between the two animals.

‘Rabbit Fire’ is a dialogue-rich cartoon, but the dialogue never wears down the action. In fact, two of the film’s highlights involve a lot of talking: the gun-pointing scene, and a scene in which Bugs and Daffy read aloud several recipes (strangely enough Daffy pulls out a book on rabbit recipes out of Bugs’s rabbit hole…). Other highlights are a gag involving an elephant gun, and the short’s finale, in which it’s suddenly Elmer Season.

The success of ‘Rabbit Fire’ was repeated in ‘Rabbit Seasoning’ (1952) and ‘Duck! Rabbit! Duck! (1953). After this classic trio the studio paired Bugs and Daffy, and even Elmer in a bunch of other cartoons, and the antagonism between rabbit and duck remains intact to the present day, as can be seen in the feature film ”Looney Tunes: Back in Action’ (2003).

Watch ‘Rabbit Fire’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 82
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Fair-Hared Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: French Rarebit

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: September 2, 1950
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Ducksters © Warner Bros.Chuck Jones is famous for directing cute characters, but throughout his career he directed some extraordinarily cruel cartoons, like ‘Fresh Airedale’ (1945), ‘Scaredy Cat‘ (1948) and ‘Chow Hound’ (1951). ‘The Ducksters’ is probably the cruelest of the lot, and in this cartoon the cartoon violence feels more painful than funny.

In ‘The Ducksters’ Daffy Duck is a quizmaster and Porky the unlucky contestant in the radio quiz ‘Truth or Aaagh’, an extreme take on the radio (and later television) show ‘Truth or Consequences’, which had been around since 1940. The cartoon violence starts immediately, as the opening shot features a tied-up Porky slowly approaching a sawmill. A few scenes later, Daffy shoots someone in the audience.

Throughout the picture Daffy remains the ultra-violent trickster, until the tables are turned in the end. However, Daffy is neither loony nor misguided, being in the midst of a transition of character, which renders him ‘just cruel’, and very unsympathetic, indeed.

Luckily, Chuck Jones knew a better a use for the duck, using him as a misguided hero (e.g. ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel‘ (1950) and ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ (1951), or playing him against the cleverer Bugs Bunny (e.g. ‘Rabbit Fire‘, 1951 and ‘Rabbit Seasoning’, 1952). These cartoons are all far funnier than ‘The Ducksters’.

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

‘The Ducksters’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 133
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Golden Yeggs
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Wearing of the Grin

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 16, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Rabbit of Seville © Warner Bros.‘Rabbit of Seville’ is the second of three superb Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny cartoons on opera, bridging ‘Long-Haired Hare‘ (1949) and ‘What’s Opera, Doc?‘ (1957).

The cartoon starts with an open air opera theater setting with the Elmer-Bugs chase quickly entering the scene. When Elmer hits the stage, Bugs quickly opens the curtains, prompting the orchestra to play ‘The Barber from Seville’ by Gioachino Rossini. This leads to a wonderful aria by Bugs, and even Elmer joins in.

But the best part of the film is the silent comedy that follows on the music of the opera’s overture. During this sequence Bugs Bunny’s expressions are priceless, and the action is beautifully staged to the music, leading to a great finale in which Elmer and Bugs get married.

Throughout the picture Jones’s timing and staging are perfect. It improves on both Charlie Chaplin’s barber scene in ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940) and on the vaguely similar Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Barber of Seville‘ (1944). The result is no less than a masterpiece.

Surprisingly, this cartoon about  ‘The Barber of Seville’ does not feature the famous ‘Largo el factotum’ aria from that opera. This is remarkable, for this aria was a staple in cartoons, and used extensively in e.g. ‘Barber of Seville’, the Tex Avery cartoon ‘Magical Maestro’ and Chuck Jones own Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘The Cat Above, The Mouse Below‘ (1964).

Watch ‘Rabbit of Seville’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rabbit of Seville’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 77
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bushy Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare We Go

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: June 17, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

What's Up, Doc © Warner Bros.‘What’s Up, Doc?’ starts very much like Friz Freleng’s ‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan‘ from 1947: Bugs Bunny is a Hollywood star, interviewed by the press.

However, Writer Warren Foster and director McKimson’s take is much funnier than Freleng’s: instead of turning to an ordinary chase sequence, the duo retains the idea of Bugs being a real actor throughout the picture. The cartoon shows his erratic career in the vaudeville scene.

The most absurd take is when Bugs Bunny is down in the dumps. We seem him hanging out in the park with actors, who, by 1950, belonged pretty much to the has-beens: Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor and Bing Crosby. At this point, it is Elmer, “the famous vaudeville star”, who turns Bugs into a star. We watch the duo performing in what must be the most terrible vaudeville act ever put on screen. But when Bugs utters “what’s up, doc” the duo hits the jackpot.

This loony, self-satirizing from-rags-to-riches story is entertaining throughout, and leads to a great finale. It may well have inspired the equally tongue-in-cheek opening sequence of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952), which shows some similarities to McKimson’s short.

‘What’s Up, Doc?’ is without doubt one of McKimson’s best cartoons. Sadly, the film more or less marks the end of McKimson’s most inspired era, for during the 1950s the quality of his cartoons steadily declined, becoming more and more routine, and less and less funny.

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

‘What’s Up, Doc?’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 72
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Big House Bunny
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: 8 Ball Bunny

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: December 13, 1949
Stars: Goofy Gophers
Rating: ★★★
Review:

A Ham in a Role © Warner Bros.Robert McKimson reuses the Goofy Gophers from the Art Davis cartoons ‘Goofy Gophers’ (1947) and ‘Two Gophers from Texas’ (1948) to play them against an anonymous dog who wants to be a Shakespearean actor.

The dog finds the gophers in his house, where they start to nag him for no reason. The humor comes from the Shakespeare quotes and the apt practical jokes the Gophers play on the dog. However, it’s the opening scene that is the most remarkable part of the film: directly after the opening titles we watch the dog being hit by a pie, only to get the ‘That’s All Folks’ caption immediately after it. Then we watch the dog leaving ‘the stage’, cartoons and broad comedy in general to follow his Shakespearean dreams. This scene anticipates a similar scene in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ (1988).

It’s a pity that the rest of the cartoon doesn’t live up to this great opening, and that McKimson didn’t use a more familiar or appealing character than this dog, which ultimately fails to impress.

Robert McKimson would return to the Gophers only once, in 1958, with ‘Gopher Broke’.

Watch ‘A Ham in a Role’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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