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Directors: Chuck Jones & Abe Levitow
Release Date: January 10, 1959
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Baton Bunny © Warner Bros.

‘Baton Bunny’ is the last of Chuck Jones’s great tributes to classical music, following ‘Long-Haired Hare‘ (1949), ‘Rabbit of Seville‘ (1950) and ‘What’s Opera, doc?‘ (1957).

The short also forms the closing chapter on a long tradition of concert cartoons with cartoon stars conducting, which goes all the way back to the Mickey Mouse short ‘The Barnyard Concert‘ from 1930. True, ‘Baton Bunny’ is not the last of such cartoons (it was e.g. followed by MGM’s ‘Carmen Get It (1962) starring Tom & Jerry, and ‘Pink, Plunk, Plink‘ (1966) starring the Pink Panther), but these cartoons are hardly the classics ‘Baton Bunny’ certainly is.

Bugs Bunny is the sole performer in the cartoon – we don’t even see the orchestra members, only their instruments. Bugs Bunny and the orchestra play Franz von Suppés overture ‘Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna’ (1844), which Bugs conducts not only with his hands, but also with his ears and feet. Like earlier conductors Mickey (‘The Band Concert‘, 1935) and Tom (‘Tom & Jerry at the Hollywood Bowl‘, 1950) Bugs has some troubles while conducting: with a fly, echoing Mickey’s problems with a bee in ‘The Band Concert’, and with his collar and cuffs, echoing Mickey’s problems with his over-sized costume. Highlight is Bugs’ reenactment of a Western pursuit featuring a cowboy, an Indian and the cavalry, only using his ears to change into each character.

But throughout the cartoon Bugs is beautifully animated, with strong expressions, and deft hand movements. It’s a sheer pity that in the end, the fly turns out to be Bugs’ only audience. But Bugs is not too proud to bow for the tiny creature that had troubled him so much just before. Apart from the animation and Michael Maltese’s entertaining story, ‘Baton Bunny’ profits from Maurice Noble’s beautiful background art, and great staging. Thus the short is a wonderful testimony of Warner Bros. cartoon art of the late fifties.

Watch ‘Baton Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 140
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Pre-hysterical Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-Abian Nights

‘Baton Bunny’ is available on the DVD-box ‘The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 1″

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: November 10, 1956
Stars: Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote
Rating:   ★★★★
Review:

There They Go-Go-Go! © Warner BrothersThis ninth Road Runner cartoon has a deviant opening, in which we watch the coyote baking a chicken out of clay.

Of course he rather has real meat, and his attempts to catch the Road Runner include a spear on a chord, a revolver on a spring, a catapult, a bundle of maces, a half-sewn-through ladder, a wheel of dynamite sticks and a rocket.

The best gag is saved for last, in which the coyote has assembled several rocks above the road. When these fail to fall on the Road Runner, the coyote nervously tries to make them fall until he realizes that he succeeds and they will fall on him. He then brings forth a sign saying “In Heaven’s name, what am I doing?”.

‘There they Go-Go-Go’ contains the most abstract backgrounds ever conceived in a Road Runner cartoon – Maurice Noble really pushes the limits here. Nevertheless they were reused the next year in ‘Scrambled Aches’.

Watch ‘There They Go-Go-Go!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 6, 1957
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:   ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

What's Opera, doc © Warner BrothersOne of the most celebrated animated cartoons of all time, ‘What’s Opera, Doc’ places the typical Elmer Fudd-Bugs Bunny chase routine into the world of Wagnerian opera.

The cartoon’s masterstroke is that it uses all the cliches of the chase, which go all the way back to the first Bugs Bunny Cartoon ‘A Wild Hare‘ (1940), but that they are carried out in the most serious, Wagnerian fashion. The result is ridiculously pompous, mocking Wagnerian opera, as well as playing homage to it. Milt Franklyn’s score quotes music from five Wagner operas: ‘Der fliegende Holländer’, ‘Die Walküre’, ‘Siegfried’, ‘Rienzi’ and ‘Tannhäuser’.

The cartoon’s operatic character is emphasized not only by operatic singing, but also by featuring Wagnerian magic (a magic helmet), a ballet (a staple of French opera, but only employed by Richard Wagner in his very first operas), and a sad ending, a cliche of 19th century opera in general. Michael Maltese provided new lyrics to Wagner’s pilgrim chorus from ‘Tannhäuser’ and made it into a rather Hollywood musical-like love duet between Elmer and Bugs.

The animation is outstanding throughout, especially in the ballet and love duet between Bugs and Elmer. Indeed, for the ballet sequence the animators studied Tatania Riabouchinska and David Lichine from The Original Ballet Russe, and there’s a genuine seriousness about this scene. Yet, the main attraction of the cartoon lies in Maurice Noble’s extreme background layouts and bold color designs. Especially when Elmer gets furious, there is a startling emotional use of colors that has not been seen on the animated screen since ‘Bambi‘ (1942).

The opening sequence, with Elmer casting a mighty shadow is a straight homage to ‘The Night on Bold Mountain’ sequence from ‘Fantasia’ (1940), while the shots of Bugs being dressed as Brünnhilde and riding an oversized horse are retaken from ‘Herr meets Hare’ from 1945 (which, like ‘What’s Opera, doc?” was also penned by Michael Maltese). In this sense the cartoon is as much a homage to animation history as it is to opera.

‘What’s Opera, doc?’ is a brilliant cartoon of pure grandeur and one of Chuck Jones’s all time masterpieces. What’s most striking is that it was made during the normal grind of a commercial animated cartoon studio. The film took much longer than normal to make, which Jones and his unit could only manage to do by cheating on their schedule, stealing time from a much more ordinary short, the Road Runner cartoon ‘Zoom and Bored’ (1957).

Watch ‘What’s Opera, Doc?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 131
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Piker’s Peak
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bugsy and Mugsy

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date:
 July 25, 1953
Stars:
 Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Marvin Martian
Rating:
 ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century © warner Brothers‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ is a spoof of the popular pulp magazine science fiction series Buck Rogers, which was made into a television series in 1950-1951. This makes this short one of the earliest theatrical cartoons parodying a television series.

Daffy “Duck Dodgers” and his sidekick “the eager young space cadet” Porky have to claim planet X for planet Earth. Unfortunately, Marvin Martian wants to claim the same planet for Mars. This starts a feud, which ends in both blowing up the entire planet.

Although the story of the cartoon is rather similar to the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Haredevil Hare‘ (1948), Daffy’s unique performance gives it an entirely different feel, leading to new and great gags. More than being a typical science fiction cartoon, this short can be regarded the second cartoon in a series which pairs Daffy as a misguided hero to Porky as a more sensible straight man (the first being ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ from 1951). ‘Duck Dodgers’ must be the highlight of the series, as well as a peak in both Daffy’s as Chuck Jones’s career.

Unhampered by conventions, Jones, his layout-man Maurice Noble and background painter Phil DeGuard went totally berserk with the science-fiction theme, creating wild and lushly colored backgrounds, which make ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ one of the most beautiful cartoons ever made at Warner Brothers.

Indeed, so great is its fame, it spawned sequels in 1980, 1996 and 2003. From 2003 to 2005 Cartoon Network even broadcasted a Duck Dodgers series.

Watch ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.220.ro/desene-animate/Looney-Tunes-Duck-Dodgers-In-The-24-5-Century/aTflTNIyAr/

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 142
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Fool Coverage
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Claws for Alarm

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 65
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Muscle Tussle
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Duck! Rabbit! Duck!

‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ 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: July 27, 1963
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Penthouse Mouse © MGM‘Penthouse Mouse’ was the first cartoon in a series of 34 Tom & Jerry cartoons produced by Chuck Jones, after he was fired by Warner Brothers.

Jones had taken all his staff with him, including writer Michael Maltese and co-director Maurice Noble. Even Warner Bros. voice Mel Blanc contributes to the film. The result is typical Chuck Jones: highly stylized backgrounds, excellent animation, and great facial expressions and poses. All this makes a great improvement on the Gene Deitch films.

Oddly enough ‘Penthouse Mouse’ borrows its theme precisely from one of Jones’ predecessor’s films: the Gene Deitch’s Tom & Jerry short ‘Buddies Thicker than Water‘ (1962). But now the story is reversed: Tom has made it on the top floor of a skyscraper, while Jerry is the hungry tramp, roaming the streets. Unfortunately, the story is not very consistent, and the result is not really good. Jones could do better as he was going to show in his next Tom & Jerry cartoon, ‘The Cat Above, The Mouse Below‘.

Watch ‘Penthouse Mouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 128
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Carmen Get It
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Cat Above, The Mouse Below

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