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Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: February 1, 1941
Stars: Sniffles
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Sniffles Bells the Cat © Warner Bros.In the seventh of twelve Sniffles cartoons Sniffles suddenly has a number of lookalikes, who are as annoying as the title character himself.

In the opening scene we watch them all fleeing from a cat. When Sniffles wishes out loud that the cat should have a bell, the others immediately put him on the job.

Like other Sniffles cartoons, ‘Sniffles Bells the Cat’ is slow and pretty unfunny. Yet the chase scenes show some beautiful background art, emphasizing the vastness of the house for a little mouse like Sniffles. Moreover, Carl Stalling’s music is extraordinarily beautiful in this cartoon.

However, the cartoon is most important in the development of Jones’s mature style. Like in ‘Bedtime for Sniffles’ Jones excels in giving the cute little character a surprisingly broad range of emotions, especially when Sniffles realizes he has to tie the bell to the cat himself. This scene is the undisputed highlight of the cartoon and shows that even at this early stage Jones knew hardly an equal in handling facial expressions. The cat, too, is animated delightfully when he performs the old shell game with considerable deftness. These two scenes contain the seeds of more to come, and make the cartoon one of Sniffles’s best, despite its slugged pace.

Watch ‘Sniffles Bells the Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sniffles Bells the Cat’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

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Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: November 23, 1940
Stars: Sniffles
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Bedtime for Sniffles © Warner Bros.This Christmas cartoon opens with a stunning scene in which the camera zooms over a winter village scene. ‘Bedtime for Sniffles’ may not be a ‘Pinocchio’, this is still a very atmospheric opening intro to the Christmas spirited cartoon.

Cut to Sniffles, who wants to stay awake until Santa comes. Unfortunately the radio plays a lullaby, drowsing our cute little hero.

Because this is a cartoon about the familiar problem of trying to stay awake despite a desire to sleep, this is a more entertaining short than most other Sniffles cartoons, and a great antecedent to the classic Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Sleepy Time Tom’ (1951), which covers similar grounds. The animation of Sniffles’s eyes when he tries to stay awake, is priceless, and is an early showcase of Jones’s upcoming mastery of facial expressions. Sniffles’s reluctant walk into bed, too, points forward to Jones’s mature style.

Apart from this, ‘Bedtime for Sniffles’ excels in great background art, and lovely lay-outs, with delightful details, like a walnut functioning as a waste basket, and cigarette paper substituting for a towel.

Watch ‘Bedtime for Sniffles’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bedtime for Sniffles’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 20, 1940
Stars: Sniffles
Rating:
Review:

The Egg Collector © Warner Bros.In the 1930s Frank Tashlin had made the most beautiful cartoons at Warner Bros. When Chuck Jones inherited his unit at the end of 1938, he too made the most beautiful shorts of all.

‘The Egg Collector’ is a prime example, with stunning background art, original camera angles (a clear Tashlin influence), great shading and excellent animation. However, unlike Tashlin’s cartoons, Jones’s were extremely slow. ‘The Egg Collector’, for example , moves at such a sluggish speed, one almost falls asleep while watching it.

The short stars the little mouse Sniffles, Jones’s very first returning character, and his friend, the bookworm from ‘Sniffles and the Bookworm’ (1939). They read in a book about egg collecting, and wish to collect an owl’s egg, not realizing that the fact that eats small rodents means it can possibly eat them. Thus they are on their way to a church nearby, where they soon discover the real nature of the barn owl. There’s little humor in this cute and boring cartoon, although the little owl’s hoots are very charming. The design of the little owl is exactly the same as the one in ‘Little Brother Rat‘.

Carl Stalling accompanies the church scenes with particularly solemn music, based on Felix Mendelssohn’s stage music for A Midsummernight’s Dream. His score rarely sounded so German as it does in this particular short.

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

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

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: May 11, 1940
Stars: Sniffles
Rating:
Review:

Takes a Trip © Warner Bros.In ‘Sniffles Takes a Trip’ Sniffles goes on a holiday to the country meadows for some peace and quietness.

The short opens with Sniffles walking the rails and singing a tune in his all too childish voice. When he arrives at the meadows, he tries to get some rest in his hammock, but is hindered by a woodpecker. In his next attempt, he hangs his hammock between the legs of a crane, who quickly walks into a pond. Sniffles’s last trial is at night, when he gets so scared, he rushes back to the city.

‘Sniffles Takes a Trip’ is the Sniffles’s fourth film, and in this cartoon the little mouse is even cuter than before. The cartoon is genuinely Disney-like in character: it’s beautifully animated, its backgrounds are lush and artful, and the humor is mild and devoid of conflict.

Unfortunately, the short is also utterly boring, being even much less entertaining than Sniffles’s earlier films. The woodpecker scene mimics a similar one in the Donald Duck cartoon ‘Self Control‘ (1938), another example of the huge Disney influence on Chuck Jones’s earliest efforts as a director.

Watch ‘Sniffles Takes a Trip’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sniffles Takes a Trip’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’ and the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 2, 1939
Stars: Sniffles
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Sniffles and the Bookworm © Warner Bros.‘Sniffles and the Bookworm’ opens with Sniffles taking refuge in a bookshop to escape the winter cold.

Inside Sniffles encounters the bookworm, who’s scared of the little mouse, and asks two book characters, the pied piper and a viking, for help. This first act is acted out completely silently, and is very, very Silly Symphony-like. Its uninteresting comedy is greatly helped by Carl Stalling’s score, who makes excellent use of music from Franz Schubert’s Moment musical no. 3.

When Sniffles turns out to be small, the pied piper suddenly starts playing the clarinet, with Sniffles joining in. Thus starts the second part, in which Sniffles, the bookworm and several nursery rhyme characters play and sing some peppy swing tune. Unfortunately, a particularly angular version of Frankenstein’s monster awakes, too, and soon spoils the fun. This second act is hardly more interesting than the first, but the swing music is nice.

With ‘Sniffles and the Bookworm’, the third cartoon starring Sniffles, Chuck Jones gives his own twist on his precursor Frank Tashlin’s books-come-to-life series (e.g. ‘Have You Got any Castles?‘ and ‘You’re an Education‘ from 1938). Despite the paper-thin story about Sniffles and the bookworm itself it’s all there: book characters coming to life at night, characters performing some jazz music, and a threat which ends the fun – this all done with the highest production values possible at Leon Schlesinger’s studio at the time.

It’s hard to call the bookworm a classic character (after all, Sniffles himself isn’t really interesting). Yet, the bookworm would return in two other Sniffles cartoons: ‘The Egg Collector‘ (1940) and ‘Toy Trouble‘ (1941).

Watch ‘Sniffles and the Bookworm’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sniffles and the Bookworm’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: September 2, 1939
Stars: Sniffles
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Little Brother Rat © Warner Bros.‘Little Brother Rat’ is the second cartoon featuring that cute little mouse Sniffles.

In this short Sniffles has to perform tasks at a party. The cartoon opens with Sniffles plucking a whisker from a cat. His second task is stealing an owl’s egg. The egg soon hatches into a little, far from life-like baby owl. The owl appears to be a precursor of the Minah-Bird, Jones’s famous dimension-defying bird, or even Droopy in ‘Northwest Hounded Police‘, as it is as capable of being in unexpected places.

‘Little Brother Rat’ is far from funny, but the night scenes are very beautiful, and Carl Stalling’s score is excellent.

Watch ‘Little Brother Rat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Little Brother Rat’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: May 20, 1939
Stars: Sniffles
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Naughty But Mice © Warner Bros.‘Naughty But Mice’ introduces Chuck Jones’s very first regular cartoon star, the infamous mouse Sniffles.

Sniffles’ first appearance immediately explains his name, for he has a cold, and visits a drug store for medicine. He finds one with a lot of alcohol, and is drunk almost immediately. Then follows a rather curious scene in which Sniffles talks and even sings with a humanized electric razor, in an all too slow scene. After this strange scene the second act starts, in which Sniffles is threatened by a cat, and rescued by the razor.

Like many of Jones’s earliest cartoons, ‘Naughty But Mice’ is a clear attempt to emulate Walt Disney. Sniffles even vaguely resembles the country mouse from ‘The Country Cousin‘ (1936), which also gets drunk. The result is a slow and cute cartoon. The short is saved, however, by gorgeous art deco-inspired background paintings and by Carl Stalling’s beautiful score.

Sniffles is far from an interesting character, and out of league with Daffy or even Porky. Nevertheless, the little mouse would star ten more cartoons, lasting even until 1946.

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

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

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: 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: 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: 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: 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:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 17
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: My Favorite Duck
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: The Wise Quacking Duck

‘My Favorite Duck’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

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. 98
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Cafe
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Confusions of a Nutzy Spy

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 16
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Daffy Duckaroo
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: To Duck or Not to Duck

‘My Favorite Duck’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: July 5, 1941
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Willoughby
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Heckling Hare © Warner Bros.The dumb dog Willoughby was a minor Warner Brothers character, created by Tex Avery, and starring a few cartoons in the early 1940s.

The dog kept changing names, and that’s probably one of the reasons he never got famous. ‘The Heckling Hare’ was his third cartoon, and in it he remains nameless. Tex Avery puts him against his much more famous creation, Bugs Bunny. Penned by Michael Maltese, the result is an inspired cartoon, full of gags.

Willoughby swaps places with Elmer Fudd in hunting rabbits. He’s of course no more successful than Elmer, and Bugs tricks him a lot. The best scene is when Bugs makes the dumb dog making faces, while he puts forward a sign to the audience reading “Silly, isn’t he?”.

However, the cartoon is most famous for its finale: for it ends with a lengthy fall from a cliff by both characters. This scene is obviously cut short in the final version. Producer Leon Schlesinger didn’t like the original ending, which apparently involved no less than two other falls, and ordered the cut. Rumors have it that this was the reason for Tex Avery to leave Warner Bros. This isn’t true. Tex Avery wanted to do a series combining live action animals with animated mouths. Schlesinger wasn’t interested, so Avery ended up doing this series, Christened ‘Speaking of the Animals’ at Paramount. However, this was not a success, and by September 1941 Schlesinger was making cartoons again, now at MGM, where he would direct his greatest shorts.

In his book ‘Chuck Amuck’ Chuck Jones argues that ‘The Heckling Hare’ was the cartoon that re-established Bugs Bunny’s character, after three somewhat misguided cartoons by himself, Tex Avery and Friz Freleng. Bugs Bunny certainly is much more himself and in any of the previous cartoons. In any case, he would meet Willoughby again in the dog’s very last cartoon, ‘Hare Force’ (1944), directed by Friz Freleng, in which the dog is called ‘Sylvester’.

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

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 5
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: All This and Rabbit Stew

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: November 17, 1951
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Drip-Along Daffy © Warner BrosFollowing the premise of ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel’ (1950), Chuck Jones launched a series of cartoons starring Daffy as a misguided hero and Porky as his calm side-kick. ‘Drip-along Daffy’ is the first of this excellent series, with the others being ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century‘ (1953), ‘My Little Duckaroo’ (1954), ‘Rocket Squad’ (1956), ‘Deduce You Say’ (1956) and ‘Robin Hood Daffy‘ (1958).

In ‘Drip-along Daffy’ Daffy is a typical Western hero, clad in white, riding a well-groomed horse, with an unshaven (!) Porky as ‘comic relief’, riding a donkey. Daffy wants to clean up ‘Lawless Western Town’, which lawlessness is depicted in a series of Tex Averyan gags. However, Daffy finds a heavy adversary in the villain Nasty Canasta…

‘Drip-along Daffy’ is a delightful and gag-rich cartoon, highlight being the strong drink scene, an elaboration on a gag Avery had made in ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo‘ (1945). Also noteworthy is the high noon scene, in which Jones and his team indulge in numerous camera angles depicting Daffy and Canasta approaching each other. Such original and devoted cinematography was rarely been seen since the Frank Tashlin days.

Nasty Canasta who would return in two more cartoons: ‘My Little Duckaroo’ from 1954 and ‘Barbary Coast Bunny’ from 1956.

Watch ‘Drip-along Daffy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 136
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: The Wearing of the Grin
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Dog Collared

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 56
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Rabbit Fire
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: The Prize Pest

‘Drip-along Daffy’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

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 Daffy Duck cartoon No. 55
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Ducksters
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Drip-along Daffy

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

‘Rabbit Fire’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

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:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 134
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Golden Yeggs
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Wearing of the Grin

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 54
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Golden Yeggs
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Rabbit Fire

‘The Ducksters’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

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: Chuck Jones
Release Date: August 13, 1949
Stars: Charlie Dog, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Often an Orphan © Warner Bros.‘Often an Orphan’ is the third of four cartoons featuring Chuck Jones’s minor cartoon star Charlie Dog.

Of the quartet, this short is probably the best. Left alone at the roadside, Charlie Dog tries to become Porky Pig’s dog again, who now is a farmer in the countryside. At no point Porky is willing to take him in, despite some great acting by the deceitful mutt: highlight of the film is his playing of a weak, sick, nervous wreck, ruined by the terrors of the big city. This is arguably Charlie Dog’s all time best moment. The cartoon ends at the roadside, again, but now it’s Porky who gets left behind.

Watch ‘Often an Orphan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 127
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Curtain Raizor
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Dough for the Do-Do

Director: Chuck Jones
Airing Date: February 23, 1978
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★
Review:

Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court © Warner BrothersThe Looney Tunes Television Specials were a series of 25 minute long television programs running from 1976 to 1989 and revisiting the classic Warner Brothers characters in all new material. They were produced by either Chuck Jones’ studio or De Patie-Freleng.

‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court’ is the fourth within the series, and produced and directed by Chuck Jones. The story is loosely based on Mark Twain’s ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ from 1889, as Jones readily admits in the opening titles. It features Bugs Bunny as himself, Elmer Fudd as a knight, Daffy Duck as a very unlikely King Arthur, Yosemite Sam as Merlin, and Porky Pig as an anonymous soldier.

Although Jones’s mastery shines through at times, the episode is a sad caricature of the old cartoons. Just nothing seems right. The designs are weak, especially that of Yosemite Sam (not a Jones character), who is too small compared to the others. Moreover, the timing is remarkably slow, and there’s way too much dialogue, slowing down the animation. The gags are further hampered by Dean Elliott’s terrible, partly electronic music. Even Mel Blanc’s voices are poor: his imitation of Arthur Q. Bryan’s voice of Elmer Fudd is nothing like the real thing, and Porky Pig simply stutters too much.

The episode’s trite story is expanded over 24 minutes, while, considering its flaws, it would already have been difficult to remain interesting within seven minutes. The result is a 24 minute long bore. The 1970s were the middle ages of animation, indeed…

Watch ‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.funniermoments.com/watch.php?vid=05851c679

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