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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’

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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: Bernard Brown
Release Date: January 27, 1934
Rating: ★★
Review:

Pettin' in the Park © Warner Bros.Mid-1933 Harman and Ising had quit with Leon Schlesinger after a dispute over money, leaving Schlesinger without a studio.

So Schlesinger quickly set up one at Sunset Boulevard, initially with help from sound engineer Bernard Brown and his friends. Brown even himself directed two cartoons during the studio’s chaotic starting months, of which ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ is the first.

Brown was no animator himself, and judging from this cartoon he was not much of a director, either: ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ just makes no sense. The first half is just an illustration of the song from the Warner Bros. musical ‘Gold Diggers from 1933’, featuring the familiar theme of a cop courting a babysitter (see also Fleischer’s ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart‘ and Van Beuren’s ‘In the Park‘ (1933). The second half suddenly reports a diving contest and a swimming race between birds. Bridging the action is a cheeky little penguin – what he does in a park no-one will ever know.

There’s a surprising lack of continuity and consistency rarely seen outside the Van Beuren studio output, and the cartoon is of an appalling low quality, especially when compared to the earlier Harman and Ising output. Even worse, few of the gags come off, and none is anything near funny.

Nevertheless, even a terrible film like ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ shows that the typical Warner Bros. animation style, developed at Harman & Ising, had not been lost. It certainly helped that Schlesinger had managed to hire away some crew from his former associates. Bob Clampett, for example, who gets his first billing as an animator here. Clampett and Jack King (hired away from Disney) are clearly trying to put some pepper into the hopeless scenes. Thus despite its story atrocities, even ‘Pettin’in the Park’ displays Warner Bros. own distinct animation style, which, in 1933 was second to Disney only in quality.

Watch ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pettin’ in the Park’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: April 11, 1942
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Horton Hatches the Egg © Warner Bros.

‘Horton Hatches The Egg’ is a unique film within Bob Clampett’s oeuvre, and indeed the complete Warner Bros. canon: it’s the studio’s only book adaptation, it lacks sex and violence, and there is nothing of the zany and extreme animation so typical of Clampett’s unit.

Instead, we’re treated on a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s children’s book to the screen. The cartoon uses most of Dr. Seuss’s rhymes, with adding only a little dialogue of its own, which is easily identifiable because of the lack of rhyme. Dr. Seuss’s designs, too, are wonderfully transferred to the animated screen. Especially Horton and the other forest animals have a distinctive Dr. Seuss character.

The Warner Bros. team departs from Dr. Seuss’s drawings, however, in the human designs. The three hunters are rather bland in Dr. Seuss’s children’s book, but Clampett made them a very funny trio in the cartoon. Moreover, some of the wild Warner Brothers humor has crept into the cartoon, most typically two movie star references, which, unfortunately, date the film a little: Lazy Mayzie imitates Katharine Hepburn, and there’s a fish with Peter Lorre’s features, who, after seeing Horton on a ship, shoots itself, exclaiming “Now I’ve seen everything!”.

Today, a gag like this is regarded inappropriate for children, and it might be this gag that is responsible for the little screen time the cartoon gets today. This is very unfortunate, because this animated adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book is not only the first of all, it is also one of the best, being second only to Chuck Jones’s ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas‘ from 1966.

Watch ‘Horton Hatches the Egg’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.metatube.com/en/videos/195775/Horton-Hatches-the-Egg-Cartoon-1942/

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: September 25, 1943
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck?
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

A Corny Concerto © Warner Bros.‘A Corny Concerto’ is a two part spoof on Disney’s most ambitious feature, ‘Fantasia’ (1940), using two waltzes by Johann Strauss jr.

The cartoon features a very Fantasia-like opening, with Elmer Fudd as a clear caricature of Deems Taylor. He announces ‘Tales from the Woods’, which tells about Porky Pig and a dog hunting Bugs Bunny. Porky fills the role of Elmer Fudd in this sequence, and it’s the only cartoon in we can watch him hunting Bugs Bunny. This first part is a classic Bugs Bunny routine, complete with death scene, but now timed to music and acted in pantomime. With its overt mix of high culture and silliness this part is a direct ancestor to Chuck Jones’s later ‘What’s Opera, Doc?‘ (1957).

The second part is a story on ‘The Blue Danube’. It opens with flowers dropping on water, just like in the Nutcracker Suite sequence in Fantasia. This part tells about a little black duck, an infant version of Daffy Duck, trying to join a family of swans, and finally saving them from a vulture by destroying him with TNT. As this story is some kind of inverse of ‘The Ugly Duckling‘ (another acclaimed Disney masterpiece), this could be considered to be a parody within a parody.

Apart from Elmer Fudd’s speeches, the cartoon is completely pantomimed, and full of the wild and zany animation so typical of Bob Clampett’s unit. The backgrounds are lush and colorful, and reminiscent of the the Pastoral Symphony sequence in the original Fantasia. Their designs become overtly ridiculous in ‘The Blue Danube’, with Greek columns placed randomly in the water.

The result is a highly original mix of style and nonsense, and a great testimony of what Leon Schlesinger’s studio could do on a limited budget. In all, the cartoon is an undisputed classic, and very enjoyable, even if you don’t know its topic of parody.

Watch ‘A Corny Concerto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 19
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Wackiki Wabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Falling Hare

This is Porky Pig cartoon No. 101
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Pig’s Feat
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Tom Turk and Daffy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 109
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Trap Happy Porky
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Baby Bottleneck

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date:
 September 2, 1949
Stars:
 Porky Pig
Rating:
 ★★★★½
Review:

Dough for the Do-Do © Warner Brothers‘Dough for the Do-Do’ is a remake of Bob Clampett’s ‘Porky in Wackyland’ (1938) in color.

The cartoon is more than a recoloring, however. Porky is reanimated throughout, and several scenes are different from the original. Scenes that are omitted are the paperboy appearing on the title card, Porky showing us a picture of the dodo, and the cat-dog attacking itself. Two scenes are altered: the way the guide ‘leads’ Porky to the dodo, and the finale: in the original Porky dresses as a paperboy announcing that Porky has captured the dodo, in ‘Dough for the Do-Do’, Porky dresses like a do-do, making the bird itself think he has caught the last of the do-dos.

The most conspicious difference between ‘Dough for the Do-Do’ and ”Porky in Wackyland’, however, is found in the backgrounds: where the original had rather undefined, a little George Herriman-like backgrounds, the remake uses clearly Salvador Dalí-inspired settings, full of typical Dalí-rocks, sticks and eyes. The title card even shows Dalí’s melted watches, linking cartoon surrealism to high art surrealism. Dalí-inspired scenery would return two years later in the Porky Pig cartoon ‘Wearing of the Grin’ from 1951.

It is striking to see how different this cartoon is from its contemporaries. ‘Porky in Wackyland’ was a milestone in surrealism, a move forward in wackiness, an innovative cartoon stirring up the childish make-belief world of the 1930s cartoons. However, eleven years later its remake ‘Dough for the Do-do’ feels old-fashioned: its animation is crude, its characters are unrefined, and its zaniness seems to come from another era.

And it does: in the late 1940s, the wild surrealism of the early Warner Bros. cartoons had toned down. It survived in cartoon conventions, which always contained a twist of surrealism, but the outlandishness had disappeared. Now, more emphasis was played on character humor and dialogue, something the Warner Bros. studio excelled at with its numerous stars. Only at MGM and Walter Lantz some of the original zany vibe was retained, but at large the wild era of studio cartoons was clearly over.

Watch ‘Dough for the Do-Do’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.220.ro/desene-animate/16-Porky-Dough-For-The-Do-Do-1949/mL0EVmznKK/

‘Dough for the Do-Do’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 127
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Often an Orphan
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Bye, Bye Bluebeard

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: 
October 5, 1946
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:
 ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Big Snooze © Warner BrothersAfter a short chase routine involving a tree trunk on a cliff, Elmer quits.

He tears his contract with Warner apart and decides to enter a career of fishing only ‘and no more wabbits!’. When he rests at the riverside, Bugs enters his serene dream to create a nightmare. This involves e.g. nightmare paint, rendering Elmer in Adam’s costume, making a girl out of him, followed by wolves and a great fall, which typically ends the nightmare. At the end Elmer returns to the scene, reassembling the contract and ready for another routine with the tree.

‘The Big Snooze’ is one of those great cartoons that play with their characters as being real stars (others being the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ (1933), the Donald Duck cartoon ‘The Autograph Hound’ (1939) and ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ (1940, starring Porky and Daffy).

It was to be Bob Clampett’s last cartoon at Warner Bros. He was fired before he could finish it, and the short was completed by Art Davis, who succeeded him as a director. The short’s look and feel is still that of the war era, while contemporary cartoons by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng show the studio was heading into other directions, with milder humor and more sophisticated designs. In contrast, in ‘The Big Snooze’ Clampett’s animation style is extremely flexible, as usual for him, and his backgrounds are as vague as ever.

‘The Big Snooze’ is a hilarious cartoon that marks the end of an era, where the wildest and the zaniest gags were possible. Only Tex Avery at MGM would continue the extreme style. Bob Clampett left Warner Bros. in May 1945 to join the Screen Gems studio. He was succeeded by Art Davis, who would direct some great cartoons until his unit was closed down in 1949.

In the years following Clampett’s leave, his zany style was continued for a while by his master animator Robert McKimson, who had been promoted to director only a few months earlier. However, McKimson soon toned down both animation and humor, and he would never achieve the same level of originality as Bob Clampett did during his Warner Bros. days.

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

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 40
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Racketeer Rabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rhapsody Rabbit

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: January 5, 1946
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

Book Revue © Warner Brothers‘Book Revue’ is the last of the book-covers-come-to life cartoons, a series started by Harman and Ising in 1932, with ‘Three’s a Crowd’.

These cartoons, in which the book titles provide the gags, were mostly plotless, relying on puns and sight gags. ‘Book Revue’ is no exception, but it has the most swinging take on the formula one can wish for.

‘Book Revue’ contains caricatures of some famous (white) jazzmen of the era: Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa. At a certain point Daffy Duck interrupts the swing music to sing ‘Carolina in the Morning’, dressed like Danny Kaye (with a blonde wig). Daffy even imitates the Russian accent Kaye sometimes would explore. Daffy immediately exchanges the song for some superb scat singing to warn Red Riding Hood for the Wolf. These two sequences form a highlight in Daffy’s career, and a real tour de force from voice actor Mel Blanc. The ‘story’, if there is any, involves Daffy being followed by the wolf from red riding hood.

The animation of Daffy is extremely flexible in this cartoon, especially when animated by Rod Scribner and Manny Gould, who really push the limits here. At one point Daffy even converts into one big eye – probably the most extreme deformation of a major cartoon star ever put to screen.

‘Book Revue’ makes no sense at all, but it is a cartoon full of sheer joy, and a crowning achievement of the book series.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Book Revue’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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