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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. 110
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. 128
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:
★★★★½
Review:

‘The Big Snooze’ (a pun on the Bacall-Bogart vehicle ‘The Big Sleep’) opens with Elmer quitting after a short chase routine involving a tree trunk on a cliff.

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).

The opening scene was taken from Tex Avery’s ‘All This and Rabbit Stew’ (1941), with Elmer replacing the original black caricature. The rest of the film has a disjointed feel, and features weird cuts and odd cinematographic choices. For example, when Elmer tears up the contract, this is shown in five different shots, following each other in rapid succession: 1) a medium shot of Elmer tearing up the contract, 2) a close-up of only his hands tearing, 3) a close-up of the paper snippets flying into the air above Elmer’s head, who’s hardly seen in this shot, 4) a very strange perspective shot of Elmer smashing the contract into the camera, and 5) a close-up of his boots stamping on what remains of the paper.

Another noteworthy scene is when Bugs Bunny is ‘multiplying’: in this scene Elmer is the only traditionally looking character, placed on a black canvas, overrun by rabbits, only drawn in red, yellow and pink outlines and mixing with the green outlines of some plants. This short scene is a startling piece of early cartoon modernism, and looks forward to the work of the UPA studio in the 1950s. On the other hand, the gag in which Bugs pulls away a hole harks all the way back to the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Picnic‘ (1930).

Bugs sings excerpts from three songs in this short: ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, ‘Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat’ and ‘September in the Rain’.

The Big Snooze’ 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 film’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

‘The Big Snooze’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two’

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.

Set in ‘ye olden book shoppe’, ‘Book Revue’ contains caricatures of some famous (white) jazzmen of the era: Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa. There’s a scene resembling ‘The Swooner Crooner’ (1944), and foreshadowing ‘Little ‘Tinker’ (1948), in which several female characters swoon as soon as Sinatra starts singing. There’s a strong sense of sex here, as in an earlier scene involving ‘Indian strip’, affecting male characters. This places ‘Book Revue’ at the end of the World War II cartoon trends, for these allusions to sex would soon be discarded.

At a certain point Daffy Duck (jumping from a Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes magazine cover) dresses himself as Danny Kaye (with a blonde wig). He interrupts the swing music to tell about a nonsensical tale of some Russian youth and a girl called Cucaracha. In this sequence Daffy imitates the Russian accent Kaye sometimes would explore. When ‘singing’ cucaracha the background suddenly changes into a startling monochrome red.

This absurd sequence is followed by Daffy singing ‘Carolina in the Morning’. 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. In line with the book-covers-come-to-life tradition several personas from book covers come to help to get rid of the villain, sending the wolf to Dante’s inferno.

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:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 31
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Nasty Quacks
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Baby Bottleneck

‘Book Revue’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two’ and on the Blu-Ray-set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

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