You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘John McGrew’ tag.

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 3, 1943
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Wackiki Wabbit © Warner BrothersTwo castaways on a raft are so hungry they are ready to eat each other.

Then they land on a tropical, quasi-Hawaiian island, which strangely enough is inhabited by Bugs Bunny, and the two hungry men immediately try to catch and eat our hero. Of course they don’t manage to do so, and in a hilarious end scene, it’s Bugs, not they, who sails off on an ocean stormer into the distance.

The two castaways were modeled on the cartoon’s story men, Tedd Pierce (the tall one) and Michael Maltese (the short one), and the two men actually voiced their cartoon counterparts themselves.

The cartoon’s real stars however, are its outrageous backgrounds. Designed by Bernyce Polifka and painted by her husband, Gene Fleury, they are arguably the boldest backgrounds in any cartoon from the pre-UPA-era. The island is depicted in brassy, strangely colored, semi-abstract to abstract images, with no sense of three-dimensionality, whatsoever. Nevertheless, the clearly three-dimensional characters read surprisingly well against the outlandish backgrounds.

Polifka had replaced John McGrew, who had worked with Fleury on experimental backgrounds for Chuck Jones cartoons like ‘Conrad the Sailor‘ (1942) and ‘The Aristo-Cat‘ (1943), but who had joined the navy in 1942. The couple shared McGrew’s boldness, and worked with Jones on ‘Hell-Bent for Election’ (1944), one of UPA’s earliest films. But apparently they left Warner Bros. somewhere in 1943-1944. In 1949 they worked for Lou Bunin’s part live action part stop motion feature ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but after this job, they seemingly disappeared from the animation world. So, ‘Wackiki Wabbit’ remains their most famous and greatest legacy. The backgrounds themselves can be admired on the late Michael Sporn’s excellent blogpost on this cartoon.

Watch ‘Wackiki Wabbit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 18
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Jack Rabbit and the Beanstalk
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: A Corny Concerto

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: June 12, 1943
Stars: Hubie and Bertie
Rating:
 ★★½
Review:

The Aristo-Cat © Warner BrothersThe aristo-cat is the pet of a rich lady. He nags the butler so much that the latter quits. Not knowing how to get food himself, the cat panics, until he learns from a book titled ‘the behavior of cats’ that cats eat mice.

He immediately sets out to get one, but when he encounters one (Hubie) he doesn’t recognize it and he’s scared to death. Hubie and Bertie take advantage of the situation to convince the cat that Rover, a vicious bulldog next door, is a mouse. This leads to several chase routines, until it is revealed that it was all a dream.

‘The Aristo-Cat’ is only moderately funny, and the aristo-cat has a rather ugly voice. But the cartoon’s highly stylized backgrounds are beautiful and an attraction on their own. They are based on layouts by John McGrew, who did some innovative work in a couple of Chuck Jones cartoons from 1942 and 1943, e.g. ‘Conrad the Sailor‘, ‘The Dover Boys‘, and ‘Flop Goes The Weasel’. The backgrounds in ‘The Aristo-Cat’ arguably form the apex of McGrew’s art with their expressionistic angles and patterns, supporting the cat’s agony and fear. In fact, such daring designs would not be seen again before the advent of UPA.

‘The Aristo-Cat’ marks the debut of the mischievous mouse duo Hubie and Bertie. Strangely enough, they were shelved for three years, although Hubie had one solo-outing in 1944 with ‘From hand to Mouse’. The duo returned in 1946 to star five more cartoons: ‘Roughly Squeaking’ (1946), ‘House Hunting Mice’ (1948), ‘The Hypo-Chondri-Cat’ (1950), ‘Cheese Chasers’ (1951) and the greatest of them all, ‘Mouse Wreckers‘ (1949).

Watch ‘The Aristo-Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: February 14, 1942
Stars: Conrad Cat, Daffy Duck
Rating:
 ★★½
Review:

Conrad the Sailor © Warner Brothers‘Conrad the Sailor’ is the third and last cartoon featuring the early Chuck Jones character Conrad Cat, who also starred ‘Porky’s Cafe’ and ‘The Bird Came C.O.D.’, all from early 1942.

Conrad’s most distinctive trait was his voice, provided by Pinto Colvig, who also voiced Goofy. Indeed, Conrad’s and Goofy’s voices are very similar. However, in ‘Conrad the Sailor’ his voice is rarely heard, as most of the comedy is silent.

In ‘Conrad the Sailor’ Conrad Cat works as a sailor on a battle cruiser (a setting reflecting the war time), where he is nagged by Daffy Duck. Their chase is stopped several times by a small captain who pops up at unexpected moments, a type of gag typical for early Chuck Jones cartoons (see e.g. ‘Inki and the Minah bird’ from 1941 and ‘The Dover Boys‘ from 1942).

‘Conrad the Sailor’ is not a very funny cartoon: neither Conrad nor Daffy behave sympathetically, and the origin of their conflict remains unknown. The Daffy-Conrad-encounters appear to be nothing more than a string of unrelated events. Moreover, Jones’s pacing is still rather slow at times, wearing the comedy down. Conrad’s personality is rather undefined, and after this cartoon he was shelved.

Notwithstanding its weaknesses, the cartoon is noteworthy for its remarkably stylized and surprisingly angled backgrounds, courtesy of lay-out artist John McGrew, who collaborated with Jones on a number of cartoons, before joining the navy himself in 1942. The backgrounds in these cartoons are often the real highlight of the short, and look all the way forward to UPA’s cartoon modern style of the early fifties. McGrew would push the limits even further in ‘The Aristo-Cat‘ (1943).

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 12
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Henpecked Duck
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Daffy’s Southern Exposure

‘Conrad the Sailor’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 940 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories