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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’

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Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: August 27, 1938
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★
Review:

Wholly Smoke © Warner Bros.In ‘Wholly Smoke’ Porky Pig is still clearly a little boy.

We see his ma, and we watch him walking to Sunday school. On his way to school Porky encounters a street urchin smoking a cigar. The rascal challenges Porky to smoke like him, but, of course, Porky only gets sick, and in a state of delirium he walks into a tobacco shop.

There a ghostly figure called Nick O’Teen starts a song on the tune of ‘Mysterious Mose‘, which tells us that children shouldn’t smoke. This part of the cartoon is much in the vain of Warner Bros. typical books-come-to-life cartoons (e.g. the contemporary ‘Have You Got any Castles?‘), and features caricatures of the three Stooges, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee and Cab Calloway. In the end of this morality tale, Porky rushes back to Sunday school.

‘Wholly Smoke’ is a clear showcase of Tashlin’s excellent direction skills, with its interesting camera angles, speedy cuts, and special effects when Porky gets sick. Nevertheless, the short’s obvious moral, its saccharine ending, and the lack of gags makes it one of the more boring Warner Bros. cartoons, even though one couldn’t agree more with the short’s message.

Watch the colorized version of ‘Wholly Smoke’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Wholly Smoke’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: November 13, 1937
Stars: Porky Pig, Petunia Pig
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Porky's Double Trouble © Warner Bros.‘Porky’s Double Trouble’ is a comical crime cartoon, in which Tashlin plays the classic doppelgänger motif with gusto.

The short starts immediately with a shadow creeping behind the titles, followed by a great cinematic opening, setting the premise of the story: a dangerous killer has escaped Alcarazz prison. When the killer reads the newspaper, he discovers he looks just like the new bank teller of the Worst National Bank: Porky Pig.

The killer kidnaps Porky, and kisses Porky’s colleague, Petunia. She rings the alarm, and the police soon finds both Porky and the convict, who both claim to be Porky. However, Petunia identifies the right one immediately, and yet she runs off with the killer, exclaiming: ‘Boy, can he kiss!’.

‘Porky’s Double Trouble’ plays nicely with the immature Porky and his doomed relationship with Petunia Pig. However, the short’s opening scenes are the most impressive aspect of the cartoon. In these Tashlin unleashes many cinematic devices to create an exciting atmosphere.

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

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 32
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: The Case of the Stuttering Pig
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Hero Agency

‘Porky’s Double Trouble’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Directors: George Stallings & Frank Tashlin
Release Date: April 28, 1933
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating:
Review:

ook & Ladder Hokum © Van BeurenIn ‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ Tom and Jerry are fire fighters.

The cartoon opens with the two playing checkers and preparing for bed. As soon as they’ve lain down, the fire alarm rings, and the two rush to the burning house. However, Tom, Jerry and their horse are remarkably incompetent in extinguishing the fire, and the horse even manages to destroy the house completely.

‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ marks Frank Tashlin’s first and only direction billing at Van Beuren. Tashlin had been an animator and story man at the studio. Tashlin later would improve cartoon directing at Warner Bros., and would become a successful live action director for e.g. Jane Mansfield, and Martin and Lewis comedies. It’s very difficult to detect any of his talent in this cartoon, as most of the action is still silent as if it had been made in the silent era. For example, there’s a scene in which Tom & Jerry gesture the horse to hurry, and later the flames spell the words ‘help’ and ‘hurry’.

In some of the close-ups the duo look better designed than normal, however. This just may be Frank Tashlin’s influence, but who knows? In any case, ‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ compares unfavorably to the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Fire Fighters‘, even though the Disney short is three years older.

Watch ‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 23
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Puzzled Pals
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: In the Park

‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 31, 1967
Rating: ★★★
Review:

he Bear That Wasn't © MGMEven though not entirely successful, ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ is a beautiful, highly stylized film, which uses some avant-garde techniques to tell its story, which makes it one of the most daring of the MGM cartoons, comparable to independent cartoons from the era.

Based on the children’s book by Jones’s former Warner Brothers colleague Frank Tashlin, ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ tells the story of a bear who ends up in a factory after hibernation, and who’s told he’s not a bear, but “a silly man who needs a shave and who wears a fur coat” so many times, he comes to believe it himself.

Jones quite faithfully retells Tashlin’s simple, but deep story, but the cartoon is hampered by bad sound design, canned music and a theme song that never really develops. Moreover, it features a lot of smoking, which distracts the viewer from the main subject. Despite being billed as a producer Frank Tashlin was not involved in the film, at all, and he reportedly hated the film…

Watch ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: October 14, 1944
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Plane Daffy © Warner Brothers‘Plane Daffy’ opens with a military squad of pigeons hopelessly awaiting the return of Homer Pigeon, a dopey character, resembling Bob Clampett’s Bashful Buzzard from ‘Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid’ (1942).

This character has fallen into the clutches of Hatta Mari (an obvious reference to Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and spy during World War I). Hatta Mari appears to be a seductive pin up pigeon and a spy for the axis powers. After he realizes he has revealed his secret, Homer shoots himself (!).

The squad now seeks another for the job, to which Daffy, ‘the woman hater’, happily volunteers. Finally, after a wild chase, he too has to reveal his secret to the Fuehrer. But it turns out to be “Hitler is a stinker”, to which Adolf exclaims “that’s no secret!”, and Goehring and Goebbels add: “Ja! Everyone knows that!”.

‘Plane Daffy’ is one of the best war cartoons the Warner Bros. studio ever made. It may have been inspired by Walter Lantz’s ‘Pigeon Patrol’, but it’s much faster, wilder and zanier. It uses a voice over in rhyme, and citation-rich dialogue, and it’s full of extremely wild and zany animation.

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

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: November 3, 1944
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

I Got Plenty of Mutton © Warner Brothers‘I Got Plenty of Mutton’ opens with a hungry wolf reading in the newspaper that the sheepdog is drafted, leaving the sheep unprotected.

Unfortunately, Killer-Diller, “the wolf destroying ram” is now in charge, giving the wolf a hard time, especially when the wolf dresses up as a sexy female sheep tot lure the ram away. When to get rid of the horny ram, the wolf reveals himself as being a wolf, the ram simply replies “so am I!”.

This cartoon is full of zany silent comedy, with frequent looks into the camera by the poor wolf, anticipating similar looks by Chuck Jones’ Coyote in his Road Runner series.

Watch an excerpt from ‘I Got Plenty of Mutton’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: December 11, 1943
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Puss 'n Booty © Warner BrothersThis cartoon opens with “Dicky Bird”, the canary, missing.

Rudolph, the cat who ate the bird (!), pretends the poor fellow has flown out of the window, so his mistress orders another one, which turns out to be considerably harder to catch.

The main body of ‘Puss ‘n Booty’ consists of blackout gags that anticipate the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons by four years.

This short was Warner Bros.’ last cartoon in black and white. Nevertheless, its broad use of blacks, greys and white and the startling camera angles (Frank Tashlin’s trademark) make it as modern as any other cartoon of the era.

Watch ‘Puss ‘n Booty’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: October 30, 1937
Stars: Porky Pig, Petunia Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Case of the Stuttering Pig © Warner BrothersIn this cartoon Porky suddenly has three elder brothers (Peter, Portus, and Percy), while Petunia appears to be his sister.

The siblings inherit their estate from their late uncle Solomon (who’s a caricature of Oliver Hardy). Unfortunately, the evil lawyer Goodwill is after them, changing himself into a Dr. Hyde-like character. Strangely enough he insults somebody in the audience, the “guy in the third row”. This to his own regret, for it’s this guy who saves Porky and his siblings in the end! This type of dimension-defying humor was a novelty at the time and would become a Warner Bros. trademark in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Watch ‘The Case of the Stuttering Pig’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 31
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Rover’s Rival
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Double Trouble

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: December 19, 1936
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Porky in the Northwoods © Warner BrothersPorky has a game refuge in Canada, in which he defends rather cute animals against an evil hunter.

The hunter is designed like the lieutenant from ‘Little Beau Porky‘, but we only see him appear after 4’30. Before this his threat is shown by his shadow only, a remarkably inventive device for a cartoon of the 1930s.

Like other early Warner Brothers films, ‘Porky in the North Woods’ looks very primitive, and rather Disney-anno-1932/1933-like. Yet it features an extremely fast sequence of a squirrel running a ridiculously long distance through the woods to get help (and back to fetch and apple). Such short and fast sequences of characters crossing ridiculously long distances would become a trademark of Tashlin’s colleague Tex Avery. Like his first two films, Tashlin’s third short at Warner Bros. features a battle sequence: this time we watch an enormous number of animals being called to arms.

Porky hardly talks in this cartoon – it seems Tashlin tried to avoid his tiresome stutter. Indeed, in 1937, the original voice artist would be replaced by Mel Blanc, who was able to make Porky’s stutter funny.

Watch ‘Porky in the North Woods’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 17
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: The Village Smithy
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Wrestler

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: October 24, 1936
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Little Beau Porky © Warner Brothers‘Little Beau Porky’ is Frank Tashlin’s second film at Warner Bros. It’s a more clearly gag-orientated effort than his debut film ‘Porky’s Poultry Plant‘.

Porky (with his old stutter) is a soldier at the foreign legion, being bullied by his lieutenant. However, in the end he manages to single-handedly save the fort and to overthrow an evil Arab and his gang.

Like in ‘Porky’s Poultry Plant’, both design and animation are primitive. But Tashlin unmistakably shows his cinematic talent, especially in the opening sequence and in the preparation for battle.

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

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 15
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Moving Day
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Village Smithy

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: August 22, 1936
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Porky's Poultry Plant © Warner BrothersBoth director Frank Tashlin and composer Carl Stalling make their Warner Bros. debut in this film in which Porky (with his old ugly voice) has a fowl farm, threatened by a bunch of evil buzzards.

‘Porky’s Poultry Plant’ looks primitive when compared to Disney films of the same time, looking more like a Disney film from 1932-1933. Its story is sweet, and not very funny, but Carl Stalling’s music is fresh, and Tashlin’s staging is already very impressive. Especially the air battle sequence (in which Porky, in a small army plane, fights an air fleet of hawks ) is remarkably stunning, showing unparalleled fast montage and original ‘camera’ shots. Both these techniques would become Tashlin trademarks, and would contribute to a faster, more gag-orientated style at Warner Bros. Tashlin had replaced Jack King, who had returned to Disney, and with his first Warner Bros. cartoon he immediately proves to be a more inventive director than his predecessor.

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

http://www.supercartoons.net/cartoon/822/porky-pig-porkys-poultry-plant.html

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 12
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Rainmaker
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Milk and Money

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: 
March 23, 1946
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:
 ★★
Review:

Hare Remover © Warner BrothersIn ‘Hare Remover’ Elmer Fudd is an unlikely evil scientist developing a potion to change animals into monsters.

He tries it on a dog, but it only makes it eat grass. Because he has run out of test animals, he has to find a rabbit to try the potion on. Enter Bugs Bunny. What follows is a plot in which both characters think they’ve turned the other into a monster, which happens to be a totally confused bear.

‘Hare Remover’ was to be Frank Tashlin’s last Warner Brothers cartoon and the second of only two Bugs Bunny cartoons directed by him. Unfortunately, it’s not a grand finale.

Despite some great gags and a clever story, the director seems at loss with the two personalities. Elmer, who has a slightly altered design, having suddenly received buck-teeth, is awkward enough as a scientist. But watching Bugs being aghast that he really has made his foe into a monster, and trying to revive Elmer’s former self by making a chemical drink of his own, is just out of character.

In September 1944 Frank Tashlin would leave Warner Brothers, to direct puppet films for the Joan Sutherland studio. Then he left animation all together to work at feature films, first as a gag writer and screen writer, then as a director, in 1951.

Robert McKimson would succeed Frank Tashlin as a director. When Bob Clampett left Warner Brothers, too, in May 1945, the studio had entered a new era. The wild days were over.

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

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 36
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon:  Baseball Bugs
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hair-Raising Hare

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 10, 1937
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'She Was An Acrobat's Daughter' featuring the annoying little duck and his father in the cinema‘She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter’ is a cartoon about an evening at the cinema.

It makes very clear that in the 1930s the experience of going to the movies was way more elaborate than nowadays: we watch newsreels, the audience singing to the title song and a feature, ‘The Petrified Florist’, a satire of the Warner Brothers film ‘The Petrified Forest’ (1936), with caricatures of its stars Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. During the cartoon we’re confronted with several movie theater annoyances, like people changing seats, people passing by in the middle of a film, popcorn sellers and bad front row seats.

In this cartoon, Friz Freleng really caught up with the new spirit at Warner Brothers induced by the coming of Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin in 1936. Gone is any resemblance to cuteness or children stars. Instead, there is an annoying duckling asking questions in an irritable voice, and causing havoc in the cinema. There’s no story, just gags, and the film ends rather unexpectedly. But the whole film is a sheer delight, aimed at laughs, and succeeding in it, too. Also featured is an early caricature of Adolf Hitler.

Watch ‘She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.supercartoons.net/cartoon/757/she-was-an-acrobats-daughter.html

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