You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Michael Maltese’ tag.

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: July 18, 1942
Rating:
Review:

Foney Fables © Warner Bros.‘Foney Fables’ is a spot gag cartoon on fairy tales, very much in the vain of ‘A Gander at Mother Goose‘ (1940), sharing the realistic hand skipping pages of a storybook with the former cartoon.

‘A Gander at Mother Goose’ already was anything but classic, but ‘Foney Fables’ is even worse. Neither writer Michael Maltese nor director Friz Freleng seem inspired, and the often beautiful animation is wasted on all the lame spot gags. Even the running gag is trite and predictable.

The most interesting aspects of the cartoon are the war references: the grasshopper will survive winter, because he has bought war bonds, the wolf in sheep’s clothing is called ‘the fifth columnist of his day’, the goose that lays golden eggs lays normal eggs for national defense, and old mother Hubbard is being accused of hoarding food. These gags cannot rescue the cartoon, however, which remains uninteresting and forgettable.

Watch ‘Foney Fables’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Foney Fables’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 5’

Advertisements

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: Friz Freleng
Release Date: May 18, 1940
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Leon Schlesinger
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

You Oughta Be in Pictures © Warner Bros.‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ is the very first cartoon to bridge two ideas of animation film figures being ‘real’.

First, the idea that cartoon figures can come alive from the drawing board into the real world, an idea that hauls all the way back to Max Fleischer’s first ‘Out of the Inkwell’ cartoons (1915). The second idea is that of cartoon figures being real Hollywood stars, explored in cartoons such as ‘Felix in Hollywood’ (1923), ‘Movie Mad‘ (1931), ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘ (1933) and especially ‘The Autograph Hound‘ (1939), with which ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ has most in common. ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ synthesizes these two ideas, making it a direct ancestor of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘ (1987).

‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ was one of the first films director Friz Freleng made after his return from an ill-fortuned move to MGM, and as Jerry Beck points out in the audio commentary track, one can see this film somehow as autobiographical.

In any case, this short marks is Freleng’s first take on Daffy Duck, and he places him firmly as Porky’s rival. In this cartoon Daffy is not necessarily zany, like in Tex Avery’s and Bob Clampett’s cartoons, but overconfident and sneaky, with a tendency to show off; character treats that would be explored more from 1950 on, especially by Chuck Jones. However, by then the relation between Porky and Daffy would be changed completely.

In ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ Porky is still an innocent, cute and Boyish character. In the opening scene we watch him being drawn by animator Fred Jones on the drawing board. When all animators have rushed off to lunch (reused footage from a Leon Schlesinger Christmas Party film), Daffy, framed on the wall, addresses the Porky drawing. He convinces Porky to leave Leon Schlesinger’s studio to get a real job in the business of feature films. Leon Schlesinger lets Porky go, saying into the camera “he’ll be back!”. While Porky has a hard time in the neighboring live action studio, Daffy tries to get his plays at Warner Bros. But Porky returns and beats the hell out of the double-crosser.

‘You Ougt to Be in Pictures’ is a lovely cartoon. It mixes animation and live action, partly from other Warner Bros. features, to great effects. The scene in which Porky talks to Leon Schlesinger is very convincing, and Porky’s drive back no less than breathtaking. Besides Leon Schlesinger, the film stars writer Michael Maltese as a guard, animator Gerry Chiniquy as a director, and executive producer Henry Binder as a sound man. However, as the live action footage was shot silently, all are voiced by Mel Blanc, except for Leon Schlesinger who does his own voice.

Watch ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon No. 73
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Poor Fish
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Chewin’ Bruin

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 9
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Wise Quacks
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: A Coy Decoy

‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two’, ‘Porky Pig 101’, and the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

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: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: February 15, 1954
Stars: Sugarfoot
Rating: ★
Review:

A Horse's Tail © Walter LantzIn their search for new characters the Lantz Studio introduced yet another character after launching Maw and Paw in 1953. Their new star, Sugarfoot the horse, was even less successful than the barnyard couple.

In his debut cartoon Sugarfoot is expelled from his farm for wrecking his replacement, a tractor. He soon finds a job at the movies as a double for a star horse, earning enough money for his boss to buy a new tractor.

Sugarfoot was an interesting character for the 1950s, because he did not speak. Nevertheless, he was so remarkably unfunny, he lasted only two cartoons, the other one being ‘Hay Rube’ from the same year. It remains an almost unbelievable fact that this terribly unfunny cartoon was penned by the great Michael Maltese.

Watch ‘A Horse’s Tale’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.trilulilu.ro/video-animatie/sugarfoot-a-horses-tale

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: December 14, 1957
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Rabbit Romeo © Warner Brothers‘Rabbit Romeo’ opens with Elmer Fudd receiveing an enormous package from his uncle Judd Fudd containing a ‘Slobavian rabbit’.

The Slobavian rabbit turns out to be a giant female rabbit called Millicent. Elmer will get $500 if he will guard the rabbit until his uncle arrives. Unfortunately Millicent gets lonely, and expresses that by wrecking things, so Elmer seeks a companion, which of course has to be Bugs Bunny. In the end of the cartoon Bugs gets rid of the all too loving Millicent by putting Elmer into a rabbit suit.

‘Rabbit Romeo’ is a rare combination of storyman Michael Maltese and director Robert McKimson. Maltese’s peppy story makes it one of McKimson’s better latter day shorts. The designs on Bugs and Elmer may be flat and uninspired,  the animation on Millicent is great. Moreover, McKimson’s timing is excellent, and he excels in some facial expressions on Bugs Bunny, which belong to the best in any Bugs Bunny short.

Watch ‘Rabbit Romeo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 134
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Show Biz Bugs
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hareless Wolf

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 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 9, 1965
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Year of the Mouse © MGMDirector Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese reuse their story idea from their classic Warner Brothers cartoon ‘Mouse Wreckers‘ (1949), with Jerry and an anonymous mouse replacing Hubie and Bertie, and Tom replacing Claude Cat.

Like in the former cartoon, the two mice try to convince the unhappy cat he’s insane. The gags are different, though, as is the ending, for unlike Claude Cat, Tom gets his torturers and punishes them in the end.

Although ‘Mouse Wreckers‘ is much to be preferred above ‘The Year of the Mouse’, the inspired story works once again, and results in one of the better Tom & Jerry cartoons by Chuck Jones’s unit.

Watch ‘The Year of the Mouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 142
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tom Thump
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Cat’s Me-ouch

http://www.supercartoons.net/cartoon/437/tom-jerry-the-year-of-the-mouse.html

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

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

Join 900 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories

Advertisements