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Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: July 15, 1939
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Dangerous Dan McFoo © Warner Bros.This Tex Avery cartoon is a rather zany retelling of the poem ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’ by Robert Service.

Dangerous Dan McFoo appears to be a small, timid dog with the meek Elmer Fudd voice of Arthur Q. Bryan. His love interest, Sue, talks like Katharine Hepburn, but the villain, an early version of Avery’s wolf, images her as Bette Davis.

In this cartoon Tex Avery’s zany style is in full operation: in the opening shot of the Malibu Saloon, which stands in cold Alaska, we watch it advertise with ‘A 90 degrees cooler inside’. There are no less than two embryonic door gags, which would be expanded upon in ‘Señor Droopy‘ and ‘Little Rural Riding Hood’ (both 1949), and a first draft of the horse-in-the-glove gag, reused with gusto in ‘Lonesome Lenny’ (1946). There’s also an old reuse of the gag featuring a chorus stopping in mid-verse to make some weird faces, earlier used in ‘Penguin Parade’ (1938). And then there’s someone in the audience interrupting and dropping the two fighters two guns. The best gag, however, must be the streetcar coming out of nowhere to signal the rounds of the fights between the hero and the villain.

‘Dangerous Dan McFoo’ is delightful nonsense, but it still suffers from mediocre designs and sloppy timing. Its end too, is anything but fitting. Avery knew he could do better and he would return to the same material six years later with ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo‘ (1945), starring Droopy as the hero.

Watch ‘Dangerous Dan McFoo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Dangerous Dan McFoo’ is available on the French DVD box set ‘Tex Avery’

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Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 1, 1939
Stars: Porky Pig, Uncle Sam
Rating: ★★
Review:

Old Glory © Warner Bros.‘Old Glory’ starts with Old Glory itself, i.e. the American Flag. Below it we watch Porky Pig trying to memorize the pledge of alliance to no avail.

In frustration, Porky throws away his history book, and falls asleep. In his dream Uncle Sam materializes from Porky’s history book and he tells Porky what the pledge of alliance is all about, with images of the declaration of independence, Paul revere’s midnight ride, the war of independence, the signing of the constitution, the trek to the West, and finally the statue of Abraham Lincoln, while we listen to an excerpt of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. After this Porky awakes and salutes the flag with enthusiasm.

‘Old Glory’ was Chuck Jones’s first cartoon starring Porky Pig. It’s also the character’s first full color cartoon (after his debut in the two-color cartoon ‘I Haven’t Got A Hat’ Porky had remained a black and white character). Chuck Jones makes him genuinely juvenile, and perfect fodder for patronizing material, just like Frank Tashlin’s ‘Wholly Smoke‘ (1938) had been, which also stars a child version of Porky.

All of Chuck Jones’s early cartoons have a high quality look, matching the production values of Walt Disney and Harman-Ising’s cartoons for MGM. None more so than ‘Old Glory, a commission by Warner Bros. in a series of patriotic shorts about American history (all the others were live action shorts). Unlike any other Leon Schlesinger film, ‘Old Glory’ relies heavily on rotoscope, and features a multitude of realistic people. Moreover, there’s some careful and very convincing shading on the characters, and Uncle Sam, in particular, is animated with great care, even if his eyes become spooky at times.

‘Old Glory’ thus is a well made cartoon, with high production values. But let’s face it, the short also is a sickeningly patriotic and nationalistic cartoon, which has very little to offer to all those outside the U.S. In a way it looks forward to some of the propaganda from World War II, for example the finale of ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face‘ (1943). Unlike the latter cartoon, however, ‘Old Glory’ is completely devoid of humor. Luckily, it remained highly atypical for the Warner Bros. studio’s output.

Watch ‘Old Glory’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 59
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Scalp Trouble
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Picnic

‘Old Glory’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

Director: Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton
Release Date: August 12, 1939
Stars: proto-Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Hare-Um Scare-Um © Warner BrosIn 1939 Ben Hardaway revisited the rabbit he had introduced in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938).

The rabbit was completely redesigned, and received the colors that would make Bugs Bunny. However, the rabbit retained his loony character and Woody Woodpecker laugh, and is a far cry from the cool guy Bugs Bunny would become. But as he was Ben “Bugs” Hardaway’s bunny, it was this character that gave Tex Avery’s later star his name.

‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ stars an anonymous red-nosed man who goes hunting when meat prices soar. In the forest he encounters the loony rabbit, who at one point even sings a song about how crazy he is.

There’s remarkably little to enjoy in ‘Hare-um Scare-um’, as neither hunter nor rabbit are sympathetic, and one doesn’t care for either. However, the short introduces cross-dressing, when the rabbit disguises himself as a female dog to attract the hunter’s pooch. This cross-dressing would become a popular feature of the later Bugs Bunny.

Watch ‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

This is the third of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Prest-O Change-O
To the next proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Elmer’s Candid Camera

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 25, 1939
Stars: Two Curious Dogs, proto-Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Chuck Jones uses the silly rabbit from Ben Hardaway’s ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938) and makes it a magician’s rabbit in a cartoon featuring his earliest stars, the “Two Curious Dogs”, which had made their debut in January in ‘Dog Gone Modern’.

In ‘Prest-O Change-O” the two dogs flee from a dog catcher into a magician’s house, where the tall dog meets the rabbit, while the small dog struggles with a “hindu rope”.

Jones’s handling of the material is very Disney-like, slow in action and with much attention for situation comedy. Unfortunately, his two dog characters are anything but funny, and the complete film fails to impress. The rabbit, a forerunner of Bugs Bunny, is as unsympathetic as he was in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ and rightfully gets punched in the end. He doesn’t talk, however, but shows the weird laugh he got in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’.

‘Prest-O Change-O’ doesn’t add anything, however, and the rabbit remains unappealing. So, after this film this particular rabbit was transformed into another design, making its debut in ‘Hare-um Scare-um’ of five months later.

Watch ‘Prest-O Change-O’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Prest-O Change-O’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

This is the second of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Porky’s Hare Hunt
To the next proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-um Scare-um

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: March 29, 1941
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Goofy Groceries © Warner Bros.‘Goofy Groceries’ was the first Merrie Melodie directed by Bob Clampett, and thus his first color film.

In this film Clampett made a follow up to Frank Tashlin’s cartoons, ‘Have You Got any Castles?‘ and ‘You’re and Education‘ (both 1938), in which things come alive at night, featuring Hollywood caricatures. Moreover, he maintains Tashlin’s high production standards and original cinematography. Thus, ‘Goofy Groceries’ is a beautiful and well-made picture, even though it makes little sense.

As the title implies, now things come to life in a grocery store, including caricatures of Ned Sparks, Jack Benny and Leopold Stokowski. The best parts are a Busby Berkeley ballet of some feminine sardines, and Tomato cans dancing a can-can. The musical number is interrupted by a King Kong-like gorilla, which prompts the stock battle scene, until he’s called home by his mother.

‘Goofy Groceries’ is far from a classic, but it shows that the Leon Schlesinger studio was capable to incorporate the innovations by one director, in this case Frank Tashlin, into other directors’ films, making the studio improve with a remarkably speed.

Watch ‘Goofy Groceries’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Goofy Groceries’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: May 6, 1939
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Thugs with Dirty Mugs © Warner Bros.The title ‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ is a parody of the 1938 Warner Bros. gangster picture ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’, and the short is indeed a gangster picture itself.

Starring ‘Edward G. Robesome’ as Killer Diller, the cartoon tells the story of a notorious bank robber, mostly by newspaper headlines.

However, much more than a story, ‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ is a genuine gag cartoon. Its arguably the first Tex Avery film to show his mature style from start to end. It’s simply packed with the director’s unique gag style: cars can contract like harmonicas, a safe can become a caravan or a radio, and a bank can turn into a slot machine. Meanwhile the police can cross a split screen, and cigars and guns can hang in mid-air only to be picked up again. And finally, the crooks are betrayed by a man in the audience, who has seen the picture twice. With this film Tex Avery definitely proved to be a unique voice in the cartoon world, and his influence can hardly be overstated.

The pin gag was reused by Bob Clampett in ‘The Great Piggy Bank Robbery’ (1946).

Watch ‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: December 12, 1938
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Daffy Duck in Hollywood © Warner Bros.In ‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ Daffy visits ‘Wonder Pictures’ only to sabotage the shooting of a film by a pig director with an irritating accent.

Halfway Daffy edits a film of his own, which is eventually shown to the studio’s boss, and which consists of unrelated spot gags on live action news reels, with the visuals totally out of tune with the soundtrack.

‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ is disappointingly unfunny. Avery’s timing is remarkably sloppy and Daffy Duck is, if anything, utterly annoying. The short’s best gags do not involve the duck, and are the opening shot of Wonder Pictures, with its slogan ‘If it’s a good picture, it’s a wonder‘ and the studio boss’s reaction to Daffy’s film. Indeed, after this film Avery never worked with the duck again, and it was left to other directors to transform the annoying duck into a likable character.

Watch ‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon no. 5
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Daffy Doc
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur

‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: November 19, 1938
Rating: ★★½
Review:

In ‘A Night Watchman’ a young kitten has to replace his sick father to be the night watchman in a kitchen.

The kitten soon encounters some large tough mice led by a real gangster type, and they bully him, until the kitten’s conscience gets the better of him, and makes him fighting back. Soon he clobbers all the mice one by one, and back into their hole.

‘The Night Watchman’ was the very first cartoon directed by Chuck Jones, who took over Frank Tashlin’s unit when Tashlin left Schlesinger. In his first short Jones clearly continues the rather Disneyesque style of Frank Tashlin’s Merrie Melodies. The short even contains a clear Tashlin-like montage scene.

Despite the detectable Disney-influence, ‘The Night Watchman’ is a clear Warner Bros. product, thanks to Stallings’ peppy music, Treg Brown’s idiosyncratic sound effects, and a fast gag scene in which we watch the mice eating in ridiculous ways.

Nevertheless, in true mid-1930s fashion, the kitten is cute, not funny, and the action is hold up by a catchy jazz number on the 1905 hit song ‘In the Shade of the Apple Tree’, including a vocal trio and a big band take. This number shows the Merrie Melodies’ raison d’être: to showcase songs from the Warner Bros. publicity catalog.

Jones’s earliest output is often regarded as slow and rather boring. Indeed, it’s hard to call ‘The Night Watchman’ a classic, and nowhere Jones’s signature can be detected. Moreover, when compared to contemporary cartoons by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, the short seems to belong to another world. Yet, the cartoon is nicely animated, and in fact much more enjoyable than other Disney imitations of the time, e.g. Fleischer’s Color Classics.

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

‘The Captain’s Christmas’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: December 16, 1938
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Cracked Ice © Warner Bros.‘Cracked Ice’ looks like Frank Tashlin’s answer to Walt Disney’s ‘On Ice‘ (1935).

However, the familiar scene of animals skating is enhanced by the presence of a pig, who is an excellent caricature of W.C. Fields, both in voice and design. When he discovers the liquor storage of a phlegmatic St. Bernard, the pig goes at lengths to retrieve the alcohol. His best scene is in which he tries to get the drinks by talking to the dog, in real W.C. Fields style. In another great scene the pig goes into discussion with someone in the audience. The cartoon ends with an elaborate magnet gag, but it’s the man in the audience, who has the last laugh.

‘Cracked Ice’ is an entertaining film, if not a too spectacular one. It was Frank Tashlin’s last film at Warner Bros. for the time being, and his unit was taken over by Chuck Jones. Tashlin left Warner Bros. for Walt Disney, where he worked on films like ‘Donald’s Vacation’ and ‘Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip’ (both 1940). However, the Disney studio was not his style, and he interchanged it for Columbia in 1941, working on the ‘Fox and Crow’ series. By June 1942 he was back at Warner Bros. where he would direct some superb films, like ‘Plane Daffy‘ and ‘The Stupid Cupid’ (both 1944).

Watch ‘Cracked Ice’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Cracked Ice’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: November 5, 1938
Rating: ★★½
Review:

You're an Education © Warner Bros.With ‘You’re an Education’ Frank Tashlin rounds up his trio of contributions to the Warner Bros. books-come-to-life-cartoons.

As with the earlier ‘Speaking of the Weather’ (1937) and ‘Have You Got Any Castles?‘ (1938) the cartoon consists of a bunch of musical routines, followed by an embryonic story of all characters trying to catch a criminal. This time the setting is a travel agency, and all gags and puns come from countries, cities and other places around the world.

‘You’re an Education’ is less lush than ‘Have You Got Any Castles?’ was, and feels like a repetition of the former film. However, the film moves at an incredible speed. The opening sequence, in particular, is rich in events, with the music changing quickly, forming a dazzling medley. The title song is sung by three fat black ladies, while the criminal is a guy from Bagdad stealing from the Transvaal Kimberly Diamond Mines. The film ends with the Bagdad criminal joining the Lone Ranger, a popular fictional radio star that had come to the movie screen in February 1938.

Watch ‘You’re an Education’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘You’re an Education’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: October 8, 1938
Rating:
Review:

Little Pancho Vanilla © Warner Bros.‘Little Pancho Vanilla’ is one of Frank Tashlin’s particularly Silly Symphony-like Merrie Melodies. Indeed, the short’s star, Little Pancho Vanilla, looks like a grumpy cousin of Disney’s Little Hiawatha (1937).

Pancho dreams of becoming a bullfighter, especially when his three sisters admire a Clark Gable-like toreador. To prove his worth Little Pancho Vanilla rushes off to the arena, trying to join a group of amateur toreadors, to no avail. However, he accidentally lands inside, crashing the bull by falling on it, twice, and thus becoming a success.

There’s little to enjoy in ‘Little Pancho Vanilla’, the main hero is far from sympathetic, and the bullfight scenes are hardly interesting. The best gag is when the bull kicks all amateurs in all corners as if they were billiard balls. The end gag, however, only depicts these Mexicans as ignorant people.

At best Warner Bros. produced Silly Symphonies-lookalikes like this cartoon were better than Fleischer’s attempts in the same field, but it was a good thing Warner Bros. soon moved away from them, and embraced their own unique cartoon style wholeheartedly.

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

‘Little Pancho Vanilla’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: May 14, 1938
Rating: ★★
Review:

Now That Summer Is Gone © Warner Bros.While Tex Avery and Bob Clampett were experimenting with a cartoon style totally different from Disney, Frank Tashlin made some Merrie Melodies that were still surprisingly Silly Symphonies-like.

‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ is one of the most conspicuous of them all, opening with autumn images of numerous squirrels collecting nuts for the winter. The industrious ways in which the squirrels collect nuts hark all the way back to early Silly Symphonies like ‘Autumn‘ (1930), ‘The Busy Beavers‘ (1931) and ‘Father Noah’s Ark‘ (1933). In any case these opening sequences feature complex scenes and lush production values.

This setting gives way to a story about a young squirrel who’s addicted to gambling. When his father orders him to collect nuts at the ‘First Nutional Bank’ he loses it all to a mustached stranger. In the end, it turns out to be the father himself, who gives the lying little brat a big spanking.

This humorless and cloying morality tale places ‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ deeply in the second half of the 1930s. Nevertheless, it’s still enjoyable to watch Tashlin’s experimental cinematography at play.

Watch ‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: April 22, 1939
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur © Warner Bros.After directing four films with stars of his own, fledgling director Chuck Jones first directed a major Warner Bros. Star in ‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur’.

Jones does a fairly good job in trying to capture the wacky spirit of contemporary cartoons by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, although his animation is more Disney-like than that of his peers.

Daffy’s adversary is a grumpy caveman called Caspar, whose surprisingly elaborate design and voice anticipate Elmer Fudd a little. The dinosaur of the title is called Fido. He is the caveman’s pet, and a large brontosaur. However, the dinosaur hardly comes into action, and most of the comedy is between the duck and the caveman.

There are some nice gags, but highlight is the non-animated gag of an enormous string of billboards leading to a duck dinner. Jones is still uncertain with Daffy as a character, but let’s be fair, so was even Tex Avery himself at this point – and he invented the duck. Jones’s caveman in fact is a better opponent to Daffy than Avery’s Egghead was. However, only with his third Daffy Duck film, ‘My Favorite Duck‘ (1942), Jones directed the character to great comic effect.

Watch ‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 6
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Daffy Duck in Hollywood
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Scalp Trouble

‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3’

 

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: January 1, 1938
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Daffy Duck and Egghead © Warner Bros.‘Daffy Duck and Egghead’ marks Daffy Duck’s second appearance. The short is the first film carrying Daffy’s name, and his first one in color.

The cartoon uses exactly the same premise as the first one, ‘Porky’s Duck Hunt’ (1937), but now with Egghead as the hapless hunter. Egghead never was much of a character, and Avery deliberately changed him for this cartoon, giving him a Moe-Howard-like hairdo, but otherwise making him less loony than before, and more of a straight man. Daffy Duck, on the other hand, is completely wild in this cartoon, and sings about himself on the melody of ‘The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down’, an idea that was copied in the feature film ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ from 1988.

Avery and story man Ben Hardaway tell some great gags here: for example, Egghead shooting down a man in the audience who won’t sit down, and a random turtle suddenly breaking in and ordering the duo to duel. This colorful short surely couldn’t be hardly be more removed from Disney for a 1938 cartoon. The Warner Bros. cartoon studio clearly was on its own course. However, Avery’s timing is still unsteady, wearing down the fun, especially in Egghead’s tiresome slow reactions to the duck’s antics.

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

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 2
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Porky’s Duck Hunt
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Porky and Daffy

‘Daffy Duck and Egghead’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: June 25, 1938
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Have You Got Any Castles © Warner Bros.‘Have You Got any Castles?’ is the second of Frank Tashlin’s three contributions to the Warner Bros. books-come-to-life-cartoons, a type of short unique to this studio. 

The cartoon doesn’t really have any story, but is built around four songs, of which the song ‘Have You Got Any Castles’ , from the film ‘The Varsity Show’ (1937) is the last.

This entry is one of the most Silly Symphony-like of all, starting with a particular lush opening, in which a town crier casts a huge shadow on a library. There’s also some beautiful shading on this character (a caricature of radio man Alexander Walcott) himself.

The Silly Symphony-like lushness notwithstanding, the cartoon is full of gags and caricatures of a.o. Greta Garbo, Cab Calloway (while Heidi sings hi-de-hi), Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and W.C. Fields. The animation is surprisingly mature, and shows how the Warner Bros. studio had improved in only a few years. The human figures are particularly lifelike, highlight being the town crier, and some scarcely dressed black ladies dancing to the swinging score.

The film features best-sellers from the 1920’s and 1930’s like ‘Topper’ (1926) by Thorne Smith, ‘Green Pastures’ (1929) by Marc Connelly, and ‘The Good Earth’ (1932) by Pearl S. Buck, which had been made into a film in 1937. It also revisits and improves on the thin man gag from ‘Speaking of the Weather’ (1937).

When the three musketeers rescue the prisoner of Zenda, the cartoon suddenly bursts into a frantic finale, with all kinds of book characters shooting at the four characters. After this frenzy we return to the town crier, rounding off this wonderful cartoon perfectly.

Watch ‘Have You Got any Castles?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Have You Got any Castles?’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2’

Directors: Cal Howard & Cal Dalton
Release Date: June 11, 1938
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Katnip Kollege © Warner Bros.At Katnip Kollege, all cool hep cats attend the swingology class. They all sure can swing, except bespectacled Johnny, who has no rhythm at all.

Johnny has to stay in the dunce’s corner, and at night he’s still there, while all other cats are having fun outside. But wait! Suddenly the clock gives Johnny the ‘rhythm bug’ and he rushes to the others to sing that swinging is ‘as easy as rollin’ off a log’ to his surprised girlfriend Claudia Kitty Brite. He also breaks into a hot trumpet solo, Roy Eldridge-style, which earns him kisses from his sweetheart.

‘Katnip Kollege’ is the second of only three films directed by the duo consisting of story man Cal Howard and animator Cal Dalton. The two Cals replaced Friz Freleng when he was lured away by MGM. After these three cartoons their unit was merged with that of Ben Hardaway, until Freleng returned from an all too short stint at the competing studio in 1940. In their films Howard, Hardaway and Dalton displayed not too much talent as directors, and although they produced some fun shorts, their cartoons are inferior to contemporary cartoons by Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin.

‘Katnip Kollege’ is a clear example of their unsure style: the cartoon is low on gags, and the animation is erratic, with a lot of superfluous movement. At times it’s unclear whether the characters’ actions are supposed to be funny. Moreover, the school backgrounds feature incongruous over-sized tins, cans and clothes pins, as if the cat characters are supposed to be as tiny as bugs.

On the other hand, the swing music is genuinely intoxicating, the cartoon simply bursts with color, and the atmosphere is one of sheer joy, resulting in a really enjoyable cartoon. The cartoon easily beats ‘The Swing School‘ by the Fleischer studio, which was released only two weeks earlier, but which covers remarkably similar grounds.

Watch ‘Katnip Kollege’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Katnip Kollege’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2’

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: July 23, 1938
Stars: Egghead
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Cinderella Meets Fella © Warner Bros.‘Cinderella meets Fella’ is Tex Avery’s second take at a classic fairy tale after ‘Little Red Walking Hood’ (1937).

The cartoon’s opening scenes are one string of nonsensical gags, from the invitation card with which it starts to Cinderella’s arrival at the ball. For example, to get warm, Cinderella just adjusts her candle to get more flames. And when the fairy godmother is late, Cinderella calls the police to look for her. To get mice for the couch, the fairy godmother plays a slot machine, which incomprehensibly is built in the wall. Gags like these were completely unique at the time and could only be found in Warner Bros. films, and in Avery’s films in particular.

Prince Charming turns out to be Egghead, Tex Avery’s second cartoon star, after Daffy Duck. Egghead unfortunately is just too odd and too unsympathetic to carry the rest of the cartoon. So the short deflates a little after his entrance.

But the cartoon is revived by the extraordinary end gag: Egghead finds out that Cinderella got tired of waiting and has gone to a Warner Bros. show. Egghead is heartbroken, until he’s called by his love from the audience. We watch a silhouette standing up, and within seconds she’s back on the screen.

It’s great gags like these that made Tex Avery the undisputed innovator of cartoon comedy. ‘Cinderella meets Fella’ is undoubtedly one of the funnier cartoons of 1938, but when Avery would revisit this particular fairy tale seven years later, with ‘Swing Shift Cinderella’, the results would even be much, much better.

Watch ‘Cinderella Meets Fella’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Cinderella Meets Fella’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’

Directors: Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton
Release Date: July 9, 1938
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Love and Curses © Warner BrosLove and Curses’ is set during the gay nineties and is a spoof of the classic melodrama, complete with mustached villain, a train track and a sawmill.

Unfortunately, the cartoon is hampered by the stiff melodramatic dialogue and the slow timing. Most of the ‘humor’ comes from the invincible hero Harold reciting proverbs all the time, but his appearances are tiresome, not funny. There are also a couple of throwaway gags, but these are mildly amusing at best.

This is one of those rather rare cartoons (not counting Popeye) featuring adult human designs, and the results are pretty unsteady. The animation of the girl singing at the nightclub is the most elaborate, but none of the animation is convincing.

Chuck Jones would visit the same kind of material four years later with ‘The Dover Boys‘, which seems light-years ahead of this cartoon.

Watch ‘Love and Curses’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Love and Curses’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: February 29, 1938
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Jungle Jitters © Warner Bros.‘Jungle Jitters’ is a cartoon about cannibals.

We watch them drumming, dancing and trying to cook a Goofy-like travelling salesman. Their white, bird-like queen sees a Clark Gable or Robert Taylor in him and wants to marry the salesman, but he prefers the cooking pot.

‘Jungle Jitters’ is an unsure mix of musical gags, spot gags and a rudimentary gag story. The voices of both the salesman and the queen are weak [see Yowp’s comment below for their origin], and the weird mix of human cannibals and these two animal-like characters is very unconvincing. And let’s not get started on the racist aspect of the movie. Besides, the scenes with the salesman are irritatingly slow, and the gags mostly trite. The best gag is when some cannibals dancing around a hut suddenly change into a merry-go-round.

On the positive side, Carl Stalling’s music is superb throughout, and enhances the action, even if it’s not much to look at.

Watch ‘Jungle Jitters’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Jungle Jitters’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation 2: Cannibals!’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: January 30, 1937
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Pigs is Pigs © Warner Bros.In ‘Pigs is Pigs’ a fat little pig thinks of food all the time.

At night the pig dreams he’s being fed by a machine of an evil scientist with a hic-cough. He eats so much, he explodes. He awakes in a fright, but when his mother invites him to breakfast, it’s clear he hasn’t learned anything.

With its quasi-moralistic tale, its family-setting, its child star, and its Silly Symphony-like backgrounds, ‘Pigs is Pigs’ is still firmly rooted in the goody-goody world of the mid-1930s. However, an early ‘Hold the onions’-gag (the first of a long series), the fast machine-scenes, and the surprisingly non-moralistic finale look forward to a more individual Warner Bros. style.

‘Pigs is Pigs’ is far from a classic, but it’s surprisingly well animated, and shows that by 1937 the Schlesinger studio could use the Disney influence for their own ends.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Pigs is Pigs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pigs is Pigs’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

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