Monday, January 19, 2009

Gag me...with an Anvil

I title the blog entry as such because I simply wanted to write a little about the gag's and jokes often used in the cartoons that used a lot more visual humor, than verbal. Also, as a child of the 1980's and half of the 1990's, the phrase "gag me with a spoon" was often used in the 1980's that it stuck with me...I don't use the phrase but I figured i'd base the title of this blog on that slang expression, since this entry is about cartoon gag's, and so "Gag me...with an Anvil" fits rather nicely I think...even though I'm writing about more than just the anvil.

The picture of me reacting to the outrageous design of the Wolf going to pieces at the site of Droopy was taken awhile ago...I wish I had a picture of me reacting to an anvil gag but I don't. The cartoons that spring to mind for me that incorporate the use of anvils are the ones from Warner Brothers and quite a bit from MGM, namely the cartoons from Tex Avery, the early Droopy cartoons. However, it's the Warner Brothers cartoons that popularized the gag of anvil drops to the best of my knowledge...mostly seen in the Chuck Jones series about the Road Runner and Coyote. Several gag's were used where the Coyote uses an anvil, often in a pulley scenario where an anvil would be used as a weight with rope tied around it while the rest of the rope would go up and into a pulley and back down to the Coyote's hands...the Coyote of course would let go of the rope, with the anvil dangling high up in the air, laughing to himself as he thinks the anvil's dropping and smashing the Road Runner as the bird is eating the ever-famous "free bird seed" offering.

However, something always goes wrong with the Coyote's attempts and so the Road Runner has quickly eaten the bird seed and goes "beep beep" and speeds off. The Coyote, for example, is standing in the spot where the anvil's suppose to fall and nothing happens. He looks annoyed and then looks up and see's the anvil dangling he looks back at the camera and then looks back up at the anvil...and in an example of timing, just as he's decided the trap failed, he turns to walk away and WHAM down falls the anvil on his head...squashing him a few inches or he makes his way behind a boulder or a cliff as the scene fades to black.

Anvils also played a part in several of the more looney Daffy Duck a particular Porky Pig cartoon he and Sylvester are spending the night in a haunted house that Porky mistakes for a hotel. The place is "haunted" by a couple of mice, actually...playing tricks on Sylvester. In one scene where Sylvester is trying to dismantle one of the mice's traps, Porky wakes up and see's what's happening and he rolls up his sleeves and says: "A-a-a-nd just wh-wh-what were going to do with th-th-that anvil??".

The anvil was the most-used prop for gags...the second most-used prop was the dynamite stick. Countless cartoon characters always had a stash of dynamite handy...even innocent characters like Tweety could pull sticks of dynamite out of his imaginary pocket, light it, and toss it at Sylvester. The MGM Tom and Jerry series made extensive use of dynamite and anvils to some degree...their gags were centered mostly around household appliances or tools one could find outside, like a push mower for example or a more famously the garden rake that Tom never failed to step onto and have it swing up and slam into his face, causing him to shatter. Tom or Jerry equally could pull dynamite out of nowhere if they needed it. In several scenes the dynamite was endless...Tom once crammed the entire living room with dynamite sticks, dynamite drums...all sorts of explosives...the point isn't where did he get all those explosives...the point was watching him fill the place with dynamite in his desire to destroy Jerry. Jerry on the other hand often gave Tom a hot foot with matches and sometimes would substitute candles on a cake with dynamite sticks, something a lot of cartoons used. In some of the Droopy cartoons, hand grenades were used...the grenades would often backfire on the Wolf or the dog, depending on which villain was using one. Spike the bulldog in a classic scene pulled the pin out of grenade and he had the pin clinched in his teeth getting ready to throw the grenade...well, as he's counting, another grenade comes sailing into the scene and it explodes...then the grenade Spike's holding explodes.

The third most-used prop for gags was the mallet...where characters would pull a mallet out of nowhere, often thin air, and hit their antagonist on the head with it. In Tex Avery cartoons a character could get hit with a mallet and the character would split into various pieces and crumble...also, depending on how the mallet was struck onto the character, it could squash the character and cause multiple smaller characters to emerge, all of them waddling around like clowns popping out from a small car at a circus. Sometimes, getting hit with a mallet would cause a character to stop, twirl around a bit, get that dazed, disoriented look on their face, before ultimately falling backward or face forward...shattering into a thousand pieces in the process.

Funny, funny visual slapstick cartoons. The Tom and Jerry cartoons, especially, rate up at the top when it comes to visual humor because the two main characters never spoke except for when Tom would give out with a loud holler. The cartoonish violence in the cartoons of course has long been held in contempt by a society who just doesn't get the point of slapstick humor in my opinion. The cartoons as they're shown on TV have been edited and toned down...if one is inclined to see many of these cartoons in their original form, they're all available on DVD collections.

A lot of little gags that use violent pay-off's or social comedy of the time period have all been edited out for TV broadcast so watching a familiar Tom and Jerry for example on an un-cut DVD presentation, fans who may have seen the same episode a hundred times on TV, will see several gags that may appear out of place at first but were actually part of the original presentation in theaters during the 1940's and 1950's that TV censor boards had long since edited out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

All those gadgets, widgets, and digits

"Go-Go Gadget Copter!!!" That was just one of several catch-phrases on the internationally popular cartoon series Inspector Gadget which ran for a few seasons...churning out 86 episodes. The series had a long history prior to it hitting the air in 1983...I can't recall but I believe three or four pilot episodes were taped before settling on the definitive pilot and voice cast. The show's production schedule was also rather bizarre when compared to most animated programs. Pre-production was handled in Canada, which included the voice work, while the animation/production of the series was handled in Japan and then post-production was dealt back to Canada before airing. The DIC company distributed the series to America and all points of the world.

The series itself was a light parody of a whole mix of spy and secret agent TV shows and movies. Inspector Gadget's appearance, with the trench coat, is a direct parody of Inspector Clouseau, the detective made famous by Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies. In fact, there was a cartoon series patterned after the character simply titled The Inspector which featured the voice of Pat Harrington, Jr. The character is human but he's composed with robotic and bionic parts enabling him to do all sorts of things but because he's a klutz, his gadgets are often a curse instead of a blessing. He often calls out a gadget "Go-Go Gadget Skates!" and the copter would pop out of his hat...or he'd be in a situation that called for his mini-copter "Go-Go Gadet Copter!" and his skates would pop out from his shoes...often his gadgets malfunctioned...resulting in hilarious results. He drove what he called the GadgetMobile which was a sleek transformation car that could go from being a high-speed police car to a family van just by shifting the gears.

In the series, Gadget is working for the Metro Police Department and he receives his assignments from Chief Quimby. In nearly every episode, Gadget reads his message, which ends with the line "this message will self-destruct", spoofing the secret agent program Mission: Impossible. Gadget usually tosses the message, almost always finding it's way to Chief's hiding place...blowing up soon after. The evil organization that Gadget is in pursuit of is the MAD Agency. MAD is a spoof of both the SPECTRE crime organization from the James Bond movies, KAOS from the "Get Smart" TV series, and THRUSH from "The Man From UNCLE". The MAD agency is headed up by the never seen Dr Claw. The only thing people see of Claw is the metal gloves that rest on his chair...which often are pounding the desk in anger...or hitting his pet, Mad Cat. Claw can monitor just about everything on his computer...which I believe is a spoof of computers in general and the mystery surrounding them to the public at large. Claw often deploys several Mad Agents to stop Gadget...and this is where we get to the heart of the series.

Inspector Gadget is a bumbler in the tradition of the previously mentioned Clouseau with an added touch of moronic logic obviously borrowed from CONTROL Agent Maxwell Smart from the TV series Get Smart. The star of the show, Don Adams, supplied the voice for Inspector Gadget. This connection seemed perfect because in a lot of ways it was like watching an animated version of Maxwell Smart in a trenchcoat. Gadget's phone wasn't in his shoe, though...Gadget's phone was in his thumb and index finger...a wire would pop out of each finger as Gadget spoke to the Chief or someone else. Gadget being a bumbler and clueless meant he needed serious help in solving his cases. This fell on his niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain. It's also interesting to note that in the early episodes of Get Smart, the dog on the show was known as Fang, aka K-13. The character wasn't featured in many episodes, though. Penny was like the 99 of the show...being the sensible and rational thinker. Penny used a watch and a computer book to help her solve crimes for her "Uncle Gadget". Brain did the leg work...being in disguise...almost always being pursued by Gadget, thinking Brain's in-disguise character was a MAD agent. Penny used her Uncle's clueless nature to enlist Brain with making sure he got her Uncle here and there and everywhere...once Brain was able to lure Gadget to a check-point, the villains of the episode somehow managed to bungle their own operation and end up at Gadget's feet like he had apprehended them...just in time for the Chief to pop out of nowhere congratulating a clueless Gadget on another well-done job.

Each episode of the series ended with Dr Claw's promise of "I'll get you next time, Gadget...NEXT TIME!!!".

Some of the catch-phrases, in addition to Dr Claw's promise were:

"Wowsers!!": an exclamation by Gadget whenever something wrong happened, which was often.

"I'm Always on Duty": this was Gadget's promise to Chief Quimby and a sly reference to Maxwell Smart's pet phrase on the Get Smart TV show when Smart would imply "...And loving It!" upon getting news from his boss about the potential dangers of an upcoming case.

"This message will self-destruct": This one is heard after Gadget reads his mission from the Chief borrowed from the Mission: Impossible TV show.

"Go-Go Gadget...": This was used as a command of sorts for the gadgets he used in the case.

In addition to Don Adams, the series used Frank Welker and Maurice LaMarsche as well as Cree Summer for the bulk of the series. Don voiced Inspector Gadget while Frank was the voice of Brain, Dr Claw, and MAD Cat. Maurice handled the voice of Chief Quimby. I am sure Frank and Maurice also voiced an assortment of MAD Agents, too.

In a bit of pointless or useless trivia and probably only a coincidence but in the GET SMART series, Max's agent number is 86...and that's exactly the number of episodes that were made of Inspector Gadget. The series consisted of 65 episodes during the 1983-1984 season...those episodes re-ran another season, 1984-1985, and then 21 new episodes aired during the 1985-1986 season...bringing the series to 86 first-run episodes altogether.

The series has ran almost forever in reruns...well, I use the word forever loosely. Last year was the program's 25th anniversary. After it's original run it was shown every weekday morning in many TV markets for years and years. The children's network, Nickelodeon, ran the show from 1987-1992. It's aired all over the world since the mid 1980's and shows no signs of slowing down.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Looney Tunes: Spotlight Collection Volume 2

In this particular installment, we're treated to 30 cartoons. These cartoons are also featured on the more in-depth Golden Collection, Volume Two.

As with all of my DVD commentaries, it will include if you don't want to know much about the cartoons and their punch-lines and sight-gags prior to watching for yourselves, then this blog site isn't for you.

The first DVD in the collection is almost entirely Tweety and Sylvester. "Bad Ol' Putty Tat", "All A-Bird!", and "Room and Bird" are laugh out loud with their visual humor. Friz Freleng, the director of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, put his cartoons together timed to music. His cartoons often featured musical accompaniment to almost every action. Sylvester stomping around on the floor would be accentuated musically...his climbing a set of stairs or a'd hear the "da da da da da da" music as he's walking...the higher he gets on the steps the higher the musical notes become. "Room and Bird" is a stand-out for's about a wacky hotel who has a NO PETS ALLOWED policy so Granny sneaks in Tweety while another older woman sneaks in Sylvester. There is also a dog that figures into the mix...all the animals have to keep their presence a, whenever the landlord is making his rounds they have to hide. The landlord is over-the-top...pounding on doors of suspected guests with animals. "Open up!! Open up that door!!! Open up I said!!!". Later, the landlord has all that he can stand and he makes a broadcast on the loud speaker about if anyone has pets in this building, they're to be removed and the pay-off comes with an entire zoo of animals running out of the hotel. In "All A-Bird!", the familiar crew of Tweety and company are on a train ride where the conductor looks after Tweety as his owner has dropped him off at the depot. The conductor assures the woman no harm will come to the bird...later, Sylvester tries to grab Tweety and the conductor interrupts and becomes a protector...warning Sylvester to behave because he'll have his eyes on him. "And remember, CAT, no tricks!!". Figuring into the mix is Hector the a cage in the same car as Tweety and of the memorable scenes is the train going up and down a hill...slamming Sylvester's crate into the dog's...which causes the dog to punch Sylvester in the face each time.

The collection also contains "Tweety Pie", the cartoon that paired the two together for the first time. In the cartoon Tweety is being tormented by the cat...whose called Thomas, instead of Sylvester...but this is only a minor difference as the character is the same. "THOMAS!! YOU BRUTE!!!" is the cry of the owner each time she notices that the cat has harmed the bird. Sylvester and Porky Pig are depicted in "Kitty Kornered", a cartoon about a pack of cats who taunt and torment Porky, spoofing the WAR OF THE WORLDS panic about martians invading Earth. The cat isn't called Sylvester but he has the same speech pattern. In a departure of sorts, "Old Glory" is featured here. This was a cartoon made to promote patriotism. Porky Pig doesn't understand the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance and so in a dream he's taken back through time, via Uncle Sam. It appears between "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" and "Baby Bottleneck"...which sort of looks out of place sandwiched between two zany cartoons like that.

Bob Clampett created the Tweety character but Friz took over the character and added yellow "feathers" on him...actually, the character was painted yellow over censors objections to the bird looking naked without them.

"Snow Business" is about a blizzard hitting a rural area. Granny is stranded while Tweety and Sylvester are up in a cabin. The two start to get hungry...Tweety says there's nothing to worry about because the cabinets are loaded with bird seed. Sylvester hollers about not having cat food. Innocently, Tweety asks the cat what they eat. Sylvester names off a list of items...but becomes quiet realizing that birds is a food cat's love. So, the rest of the cartoon is Sylvester attempting to eat Tweety for supper. Later, Granny makes her way to the cabin with the news that she's brought food...but the cruel irony is she's brought more bird seed.

"Gift Wrapped" is a funny cartoon about Christmas. Granny gets Tweety as a Christmas gift...Sylvester notices this and before she wakes up to open gifts, Sylvester switches the bird with a rubber mouse. Granny notices the mistake and walks in to get her real gift...only to see Sylvester laying back like he's stuffed...coughing up feathers. Granny freaks out and demands: 'DROP HIM!! DROP HIM!!" as she literally pounds the bird out of Sylvester's stomach. The dog gets into the action later...he pounces on Sylvester and swallows him whole...after Sylvester had swallowed Tweety whole. So, Granny freaks out again and pounds on the dog who coughs up Sylvester...then she pounds on Sylvester who coughs up Tweety. 'DROP HIM!! OPEN YOUR MOUTH!!! DROP HIM!!!'.

The second DVD in the collection focuses on the music-related cartoons and some of the Hollywood spoofs. "Have You Got Any Castles" and "Hollywood Steps Out" are featured on this DVD as are a 13 more music-enhanced productions. Sylvester fancies himself as a in the opening cartoon "Back Alley Uproar" we see him singing his heart's content all at the expense of an impatient and sleepy Elmer Fudd. "Katnip Kollege" is an older cartoon spoofing the new sound of jazz/swing music. The cartoon is about a cat who isn't familiar with this new sound...the teacher is a parody of Bing Crosby cartoon's end he learns how to perform in the new style. Jazz is also featured on "I Love To Sing-a" about an owl family whose father wants his children to be of his sons has a talent for singing but the parent's are horrified that the boy sings jazz instead of pop music. The boy, named Owl Jolsen, finds his way to a talent show and wins with his jazz performance. "The Hep Cat" is another spoof of pop-culture...this time it's about a cat who fancies himself as a Don Juan and ends up having a date with what he thinks is a knock-out but is in reality a hand puppet being performed by a bullying dog. This DVD also features classics: "One Froggy Evening", "What's Opera, Doc?", "Rhapsody Rabbit", and the live action blend with animation "You Ought To Be In Pictures".

In addition to those, we also have "Stage Door Cartoon", "Corny Concerto", and "The Three Little Bops", the latter a cartoon voiced/sung by Stan Freberg. "One Froggy Evening" is the famous cartoon about the singing frog who only sings in front of the man who found him and nobody else. The frog is now known as Michigan J Frog and it the mascot of the Warner Brothers network, The WB for short. The frog is famously known for singing bits and pieces of 'Michigan Rag' and 'Hello, My Baby' as well as 'I'm Just Wild About Harry' and other pop-standards. Chuck Jones directed the cartoon and he also directed "What's Opera, Doc?". That particular cartoon, like several others on DVD #2, seem to have lives of their own...going beyond just being a 7 minute cartoon. "You Ought To Be In Pictures" is the mini-biography of Friz Freleng's departure from Warner Brothers to a rival studio and how after his contract was up at the rival, he immediately rushed back to Warner Brothers. However, this was slightly changed for cartoon's sake and the story was about Daffy Duck tricking Porky Pig into leaving Warner Brothers for a much bigger career in movies. Porky gets out of his contract...talking with Leon Schlesinger, mixing animation and live action. He heads to the studio's for his big break but finds contempt and confusion...not to mention the rage from a security guard played by cartoon writer Michael Maltese with the voice of Mel Blanc.

Here's the story about's accurate to the best of my knowledge: Warner Brothers didn't want to pay the writer an "actors fee" for speaking on camera and so they dubbed Mel's voice over-top of Michael's lines so they didn't have to pay extra...and Mel was their voice actor that's the story i'd read as to why Mel's voice is heard when Maltese is "speaking" in the cartoon.

Porky ends up making his way back to Warner Brothers where he overhears Daffy telling Leon how Porky wasn't really much of a star or a talent anyway...he's attempting to become the star of the cartoons but Porky makes his presence known to Daffy...a sweaty, nervous Daffy sees what's happening. Porky motions for Daffy to step outside...then we hear thrashing and fighting. Porky rushes into the office and asks Leon for his job back. Leon chuckles and tells Porky he really never ripped up his contract. Daffy, shown in bandages, whispers to Porky about a new offer elsewhere...showing us Daffy hadn't learned his lesson.

"Show Biz Bugs" is about Bugs and Daffy competing in a song and dance routine. It was directed by Friz Freleng and it made use of Daffy being jealous of Bugs Bunny's fame and popularity.

The "Stage Door Cartoon" is a gag-filled cartoon about Elmer and Bugs in a vaudeville theater. There is a scene with a southern sheriff who some say became the model of Yosemite Sam...his voice is similar in tone to both Sam and Foghorn Leghorn. Bugs is in disguise as the sheriff and while in the theater the film shows a scene of Bugs dressing up as the sheriff...Elmer thinks "I got him!" and he runs over and rips the sheriff's clothes off to reveal it's a real person. Bugs closes the cartoon Durante style... "I got a million of 'em!".

Funny collection for those not too interested, unlike myself, in having the Golden Collection with all of it's extra features. These 30 cartoons as I mentioned previously, can be found on the 60 cartoon Golden Collection, Volume Two.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

he's a chicken...rooster, that is!

1946 was the year Foghorn Leghorn made his mark on Warner Brothers cartoons. The character was created by Robert McKimson and was often featured in a series of formula driven cartoons. The appeal of the series was the mannerisms and expressions of Foghorn and how he attempted to either thwart the aggressive attempts of Henery Hawk or set up elaborate pranks on the dog, known as The Barnyard Dog. In other adventures, Prissy often would feature into a story. She is the thin bonnet wearing hen who often had a crush on Foghorn and would later have a son of her far as I know there was no indication of who the father was as Prissy was often played as the sorrowful hen who couldn't catch a matter how she tried.

Foghorn's debut was in a cartoon short called Walky Talky Hawky that featured Henery Hawk, the small chicken hawk. The debut cartoon in a lot of ways set up the "formula" I was referring to earlier of life on the farm. Foghorn goes through a lot of pranks and jokes trying to convince Henery that the dog is a chicken. Earlier in the episode Foghorn claims to be a horse and the way he imitates the horse is the exact way Mel Blanc often imitated a horse on TV talk placing a finger beside the nose and whinnying. Naturally, Foghorn placed his finger up on one of his nostrils on his beak to provide the horse effect. By the end of the film a horse gets into the "i'm not a chicken" argument and the cartoon ends with Henery capturing all three animals and dragging them off.

Foghorn's second appearance, "Crowing Pains", appeared on the DVD collection I previously wrote about. It features Foghorn, the Dog, Henery, and Sylvester the cat. It's in these earlier cartoons that Foghorn's voice is a lot more raucous and up-tempo prior to it being modified toward the more laid-back southern drawl it became. In all, Foghorn appeared in 28 theatrical cartoons released between 1946 through 1963. There was often one or two cartoons a year produced. The last theatrical, "Banty Raids", featured a beatnik rooster at the farm throwing love fits among the hens. Foghorn doesn't quite grasp the rooster's manner...until he learns that the rooster is crazy for females. In one scene, the rooster is kissing each hen who are lined up. Foghorn is in line and the beatnik rooster is too into the moment he doesn't even realize who Foghorn is. "Broken Leghorn" features Foghorn planting an egg underneath Prissy...the egg hatches to reveal a baby rooster. This causes Foghorn to get jealous and say something like: "we already have enough roosters and I'M it". He spends the episode teaching the kid how to be a rooster, always failing to trigger Foghorn's traps...causing the pranks to back-fire on Foghorn instead. By the end of the cartoon he marches into the bosses office and demands that either the kid goes or he goes...the cartoon ends with Foghorn being hauled away in a poultry truck.

In one of the last cartoons, "Dixie Fryer", from 1960, Foghorn does battle with a couple of southern buzzards: Pappy and Elvis. Pappy's name actually being B.O. Buzzard which stood for body odor as one can tell by the flies that swarmed around him. Elvis was the son filled with promise but slow-witted. Daws Butler voiced the two characters. In another entry which featured Daws Butler, "Raw! Raw! Rooster!", we are introduced to one of Foghorn's college friends, Rhode Island Red. Butler voices the rival. Interestingly, Mel Blanc provides the voice of the character at the end of the cartoon.

One of the memorable aspects of the character was his speech pattern and mannerisms. Foghorn was never won to back down when it came to the battle of wits...often sparring with whoever happened to appear on the farm. "That's a joke, son!" and the recurring phrases "I say", "that is!", and "you all" were heavily used by Foghorn. One of the mysteries if one can call it that is the story behind the character. Mel Blanc, the voice of Foghorn, recounts in his 1988 autobiography his story of why he gave Foghorn the sort of voice he did. The character debuted in theaters in 1946 in the "Walky Talky Hawky" cartoon. However, radio comedian Fred Allen during this same era featured a character named Senator Claghorn on his radio show. This character was played by Fred's announcer, Kenny Delmar. The voice characterization Delmar provided was in step with Foghorn Leghorn...and both characters had similar sounding names: Claghorn-Foghorn-Leghorn. Now, the mystery of sorts is who came up with "that voice" first: Delmar or Mel Blanc? The answer most often given is both...since the voice is a stereotypical southerner who likes to bellow and embellish the truth; so, it's quite possible both men simultaneously came up with that voice.

Delmar, I might add, once said that he did that voice years before the Senator Claghorn character was even created and Mel had also said in interviews that he had often used "that voice" prior to the rooster character being it's a strange scenario where the same kind of voice was created by two different people and used on two commercially successful characters. However, due to the Claghorn character hitting the national airwaves on Fred Allen's radio show in 1945...and the first Foghorn cartoon hitting theaters in 1946...critics often say the Foghorn character was a parody of Senator Claghorn and therefore referred to as a "rip-off". I certainly wouldn't call it a rip-off...if anything it's a parody, which goes hand in hand with the kind of cartoons Robert McKimson was noted for at Warner Brothers. Several of the animated parodies of radio and early TV shows were directed by McKimson.

And now we shift focus to Robert McKimson...

It was Robert McKimson who directed "Backwoods Bunny", the cartoon I made reference to earlier which pitted Bugs against the two buzzard characters. "The Honeymousers" and "The Mouse That Jack Built" are two now-famous cartoons that McKimson directed. The first, from 1956, is a spoof of THE HONEYMOONERS and the second, from 1959, is a spoof of THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM. Daws Butler did the voices of Ralph and Norton and June Foray voiced Alice. In the Jack Benny parody, the radio cast donated their voices for their cartoon counterparts...and Mel Blanc just happened to be a member of Jack Benny's radio and TV shows anyway so he was on hand as the voice of Jack's car, The Maxwell.

Foghorn and the Tasmanian Devil are McKimson's biggest characters for the studio. Some other McKimson directed cartoons: "Early To Bet", "Tabasco Road", "Rabbit's Kin", "Pop 'Im Pop", "Hillbilly Hare" {hilarious cartoon featuring a laugh out loud violent square dance call sung by Bugs Bunny}. All of the theatrically released Foghorn Leghorn cartoons and those with the Tasmanian Devil were directed by McKimson. In addition to those, he also created the series of Sylvester cartoons with his son, Sylvester Jr, on the pursuit of the baby kangaroo that Sylvester always mistakes for a giant mouse. McKimson worked at the DePatie-Freleng company for a number of years as well when Warner Brothers closed it's cartoon division. McKimson died in 1977...years before the directors of the cartoons were lauded and applauded by successive generations. Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng both lived long...Chuck passing away in 2002...Friz in 1995...Bob Clampett passed away in 1984...animator/sometimes director, Arthur Davis, passed away in 2000...while Tex Avery passed away in 1980.

Robert McKimson's work is showcased on those DVD collections but yet in popular culture, he's often noted as the forgotten director...whose work is greatly remembered but whose name was never lauded or praised in the same lavish way as his peers. If one mentions Foghorn Leghorn or mentions one of many of the cartoons McKimson directed, the response often greeted is a surprised: "Oh...he did those!?? I didn't know that." So, chances are, McKimson's work is popular if you bring up a particular cartoon or a scene from one...even if his name often goes over-looked among the other directors at the studio.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Looney Tunes Premiere Collection

This collection was released in contained 28 cartoons from the first volume of The Golden Collection DVD project. I'm going to highlight a few cartoons from the DVD in this blog...

A lot of the cartoons featured on here, and on the other DVD's, consist of projects directed by Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones. However, there are cartoons here directed by Bob Clampett, Robert McKimson, as well as Arthur Davis...but Chuck and Friz have the lion's share of cartoons here. Clampett's cartoons spotlighted on here are "Bugs Bunny Gets The Boid" which is a cartoon about a family of buzzard's whose youngest, a dimwit in the mold of Mertimer Snerd and or, Goofy, is on the trail of a rabbit...Bugs Bunny, of course. The cartoon is #13 on DVD number one. The buzzard goes through all sorts of stunts trying to capture Bugs but it's useless because Bugs simply out-smarts the bird. The buzzard's mother is remembered for her Italian dialect.

"Tortoise Wins By a Hare", another Clampett cartoon, closes out DVD #1. In this cartoon, Bugs competes in a foot race with a turtle named Cecil. The idea is a recurring gag but in this particular depiction, Bugs dresses up like a turtle in hopes of winning the race. He wears a metal turtle shell packed with a motor. In the end, though, he ends up losing the race through ironic means. "Haredevil Hare" is a cartoon from Chuck Jones which introduces Marvin the Martian, although he isn't named this. Mel Blanc's original voice for Marvin is way different than the more familiar voice Mel later gave him. Marvin wants to blow up the Earth...the reason for Bugs being up in space is due to a space company wanting to put a rabbit on the moon. Bugs resists at first until the top half of the rocket is filled with carrots. The cartoon ends in a cliff-hanger or sorts...or I should say a moon-hanger. For those who've seen the cartoon you'll understand.

"Canned Feud" is one of the funniest cartoons on DVD #2. It's the story of a couple who leave on vacation for California. They accidentally leave the cat in the house...the cat being Sylvester. He spies through the front window that the owners left a note to the milk-man to not deliver any milk to the house while they're away. Sylvester panics and goes running through the house looking for food. He finally comes across a cupboard full of cat food but he needs a can opener. A mouse makes his appearance...taunting Sylvester with the can opener. The rest of the cartoon is about the two battling back and fourth. Later, when Sylvester has had enough and blow up nearly the entire kitchen, the can opener falls at his feet. He immediately gets excited but then makes his way back to the kitchen and discovers the cruel irony awaiting him at the hands of the mouse.

"Kit for Kat" is just as hilarious. Elmer Fudd becomes the victim of Sylvester and a small kitten's rivalry. He has both of them stay at his house and declares that he'll make up his mind which one to keep in the morning. This prompts Sylvester to go about ridding himself of the kitten through elaborate stunts...each of them backfire...causing him to look bad in Elmer's eyes. Near the end of the cartoon there's a scene with the radio...the kitten turns the radio up full blast and we hear some banter between the voice artists, Mel Blanc and Bea Benederet. They call each other by their full name: Melvin and Beatrice. "Ahhhh, Melvin!! What are you gonna do with that gun, Melvin??" "I'm gonna kill you, Beatrice! Do you hear?? Kill you! Kill you!!! Bwahahahahahaha!!" " mustn't...ahhhh!! hahhahaha now i've got the gun, Melvin!", etc etc. Finally, Elmer runs downstairs and declares to the two cats that he's made up his mind which one's leaving and then, out of the blue, a knock on the door is heard and Elmer's given some bad news of his own.

"Tweety's S.O.S" is a cartoon by Friz Freleng where we see Sylvester, Tweety, and Granny all on a cruise ship. Throughout the cartoon Sylvester is trying to get Tweety but Sylvester has a slight case of sea-sickness which prevents him from fully conducting his plots against Tweety. Granny, on the other hand, is her usual protective self. Sylvester temporarily finds a cure for his sea-sickness but Tweety doesn't help matters when he often pulls out a picture of a ship with crashing waves...telling Sylvester, in a hypnotic tone, "it was a terrible storm; the ship was rocking and rocking; waves were splashing...rocking...rocking..." causing Sylvester to go hang his head over the ship once again. Later, Tweety dumps nitro-glycerin into the bottle of sea-sickness formula. Sylvester drinks the entire bottle...but then Granny goes after Sylvester with her umbrella, trying to hit him with Tweety protesting "no Granny..." and then Sylvester explodes...shooting him up in the sky. He falls back down to the ship with the Captain exclaiming he tawt he taw a putty tat.

"Early To Bet" features Stan Freberg as a gambling bug who constantly bites down on a bad luck cat. Each time, he and a bulldog play card games...and each time the cat loses. The dog suggests the two play Penalties. The funny part is each time he loses he has to go spin a wheel...then whatever number the wheel stops on, the cat goes to a filing cabinet and searches for the corresponding folder. Inside the folder is the type of penalty that the dog unleashes on the cat. A typical line from the cat: " ROLL OUT THE BARREL!!! Anything but that!!!". Mel Blanc voices the cat, the dog, and the announcer at the beginning introducing the gambling bug. The cat gets his revenge on the gambling bug by the cartoon's end.

The southern rooster, Foghorn Leghorn, makes a couple of appearances. The first one being a short simply called "The Foghorn Leghorn" where Henery Hawk wanders to the farm that his father is raiding. Foghorn catches the father in the act and beats him up. Henery, not really knowing what a chicken looks like, asks his father if that was a chicken. The father shrugs it off and says something like: "you think i'd let a chicken do that to me? that's nothing but a loud mouth schnook.". So, the rest of the cartoon, Henery tries to capture a lot of animals he thinks are chickens...not even Foghorn can convince Henery what a chicken is. Finally, the Dog beats Foghorn up and calls him a good for nothing chicken. Henery captures Foghorn soon after with a shovel to the face...dragging him "home" as the scene fades to black...with Foghorn muttering "i'm just a loud mouth schnook". The other Leghorn cartoon is "Broken Leghorn".

Pepe LePew appears in "For Scent-Imental Reasons". Chuck Jones often directed the Pepe many of the ones with Bugs Bunny that are featured on this collection. Friz Freleng directed a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons as he directed all the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. One of the Chuck Jones cartoons, "Don't Give Up the Sheep", features Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog. Ralph looks similar to Wile E Coyote. This segment features mostly pantomime dialogue except for the dog saying hi and goodbye to Fred, his replacement watching sheep when the time clock whistle blows. This Premiere Collection concept was later re-named The Spotlight Collection when volume two came along.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection 6

I don't know if I'm sub-consciously writing more about Warner Brothers cartoons or not. I may have touched upon this in a previous entry but I tend to not write as much about the Warner cartoons because there's so many people who do...I tend to spotlight the lesser-known or the made-for-TV programs from Hanna-Barbera simply because there's not a whole wide spectrum of sites that specialize in those cartoons whereas the programs from Warner Brothers are embedded into pop-culture so much what isn't there to know?

However, I wanted to spotlight one of the latest spotlight collections, number 6. It's a DVD collection of 30 cartoons on two disc's which comes to 15 cartoons on each. There are 8 more cartoons featured as bonuses: 4 on DVD #1 and 4 on DVD #2. I hadn't had the time to watch DVD #2 but i've watched DVD #1 a couple times. The theme of DVD #1 is "Cartoon Superstars". It features cartoons that star each of the main characters. The first, "Baby Buggy Bunny", centers around Bugs finding an orphan of sorts...actually, some money has been stolen from a bank that finds it's way to Bugs' hole in the ground. The thief, a midget, adopts the identity of a baby and arrives at Bugs' hole as an orphan. Bugs at first is unaware of the baby's true identity...the baby's name is Fenster. After repeated attempts from the baby to grab the money, Bugs excuses himself and later spies the baby shaving and smoking a cigar in the bathroom. Coincidentally, a news report flashes on the TV about a bank robber on the loose...Bugs gets that 'look' on his face that he's been tricked and then gets the devilish look that he's going to get his revenge. He strolls in and starts whipping the kid and throwing him up in the air and shaking's quite a funny scene as guns and weapons start falling everywhere all the while Bugs is still spanking him "Oh Fenster! What a naughty, naughty, boy!!!". The anger in Bugs' voice as he's getting his revenge is quite satonic but that makes it all the more hilarious.

In the next short, "Broom-Stick Bunny", Bugs is out on Halloween dressed as a witch and he stumbles upon the castle of Witch Hazel. This cartoon's plot is Witch Hazel trying to get the "witch" {Bugs} into a pot of boiling water...periodically she stops at a magic mirror asking who's the ugliest one of all. She gets great delight in being declared ugly...she also gets delight in making jokes, causing her to go off into a fit of cackling laughter. Bugs reveals himself as a rabbit which causes Witch Hazel to grow even more determined to fulfill her magic potion. She is about to kill Bugs when he gives her the pouty-eyes routine and she starts crying, thinking about memories of Paul. Bugs turns the tables and offers the witch a drink. She drinks it and turns into a Cinderella-type...and then she goes to her magic mirror asking who's the ugliest one of all...the genie in the mirror doesn't even bother answering look and he hops on his carpet in hot pursuit and flies out of the mirror chasing her.

"To Duck or Not to Duck" is a cartoon starring Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd. The cartoon is basically about a boxing match between the two of them...with a lot of duck's in attendence cheering on Daffy while only one in the stands cheers on Elmer, namely the hunting dog Ladamore. Each time he cheers on Elmer he gets pelted with fruit. The referee introduces Elmer amidst a series of laughter...and the audience boo's. The referee then turns his attention to Daffy...and in a scene that often becomes a subject of mockery, the referee brings on Daffy with some of the most sentimental words imaginable...going so far as to climb upon Daffy in an intimate way, blinking his eyes and wrapping an arm around Daffy's shoulder, becoming quite affectionate in the process. This, of course, is a spoof of boxing in it often comes across that referee's have favorites and that the fighting is rigged...which is spoofed when the referee goes into his "I wanna clean fight" routine. Elmer, at cartoon's end, turns the tables on the scheming ducks. The cartoon fades out as Elmer's throwing the ducks all over the boxing ring.

"Birth of a Notion" is one of the more hilarious ones. In this, Daffy gets tangled up with an evil scientist wanting his wish bone. The scientist is a caricature of Peter Lorre. Daffy was brought to the castle by a dog named Leopold...Daffy, not wanting to fly south for the winter, befriended the dog and was soon in the castle. Daffy overhears the scientist's plans of needing a duck's wishbone and soon it's a battle of wits between him and Daffy. The action takes place between the two of them so much that in one segment it shows Leopold griping about his lack of screen-time. In one of the most singled-out moments in the cartoon, Daffy attempts to throw a baseball bat at the scientist only for Leopold to grab it in time. This, however, causes the scientist to think his own dog is out to kill him and the scientist breaks the bat into tiny pieces.
Daffy attempts to murder the scientist with a knife but the scientist is prepared...he lets out with a creepy, perverted giggle as he chases after Daffy, who, runs off hollering his trademark "hoo hoo hoo hoo".

The two Foghorn Leghorn cartoons appear on "Crowing Pains" and "Raw! Raw! Rooster". In the first cartoon, we see Henery Hawk on a quest for a chicken. The character has never really been written as a smart guy...more of a little tough guy instead...who can never recall what a chicken looks like since he's so easily fooled by Foghorn in all the cartoons. So, he usually listens to Foghorn's stories and claims about other animal's being chickens. In "Crowing Pains" the action revolves around Foghorn, the Barnyard Dog, and Sylvester the cat...although some cartoon purists would say it isn't Sylvester because the character doesn't have a patch of white fur on his tail...but the character design and speech pattern is definitely Sylvester. So, the three of them are consistently fighting amongst each other while Henery just wants to know which one of them is a chicken. This is one of the earlier Foghorn cartoons as Mel Blanc's vocal performance is more in step with bellowing and hollering his words instead of delivering them as the refined southern blow-hard the character became. 

Foghorn likes to play tricks on the dog...and Sylvester's presence causes the dog to be after the cat, natural instincts. Foghorn plants an egg under Sylvester at one point...further confusing Henery, who's actually inside the egg...a device Foghorn came up with. Henery finally decides to wait until sunrise to see which animal crows...Sylvester, prone to keeping his mouth open even when he isn't talking, has his mouth open a little as the sounds of a rooster is heard. The Dog looks over at Sylvester and gets a disgusted look because he knows Foghorn's tricks...and Henery drags Sylvester away.

"Raw! Raw! Rooster" is one of the later Foghorn'll notice the difference in Mel's delivery. The cartoon is about one of Foghorn's rivals coming for a visit...the rival is a big practical joker, which doesn't sit too well with Foghorn, who would rather play jokes on others instead of having them played on himself. The rival, known as Rhoad Island Red, mingles with Foghorn and has all the hen's love-struck, which causes further jealousy to mount. Rhoad Island Red was voiced by Daws Butler. Foghorn sends his rival away by the end of the cartoon and has a few going away prizes...filled with dynamite.

In "My Favorite Duck", Porky Pig attempts to have a relaxing time at a camp site only to be tormented by Daffy at each attempt. The joke of the cartoon is that the woods has a strict fine on hunting ducks...people aren't even allowed to harass or bother ducks. This, of course, allows Daffy to become over-bearing and do all sorts of things to Porky...who can't do anything because each time he attempts to strangle or hit Daffy, this would cause Daffy to whip out a sign that read "No Duck Hunting" or "No Harming Ducks". Later in the cartoon, the tables are turned, and Daffy finds himself as a most-wanted duck...each sign that he comes up with invites Porky to kill and sign I think read "Open season on limit". The cartoon ends rather Tex Avery-like with Porky and Daffy chasing one another around and around a tree...before long the cartoon's "film" starts to go haywire and it snaps into. Daffy pokes his head into the scene and goes about telling us how the film ended...only to be pulled off-camera by Porky, who finishes beating him up...with the cartoon ending as Porky drags Daffy across the screen.

"Jumpin' Jupiter" is a surreal involves Porky and Sylvester camping out in a dessert area. Later, aliens come down to Earth and literally lift the camp ground up and fly off with it into outer space. Sylvester awakens and reacts to all of this while Porky remains asleep. Even after the gravity pull is gone, Porky is clueless of what's going on...then the camp site appears on the planet Jupiter. Porky wakes up...Sylvester was up all-night experiencing everything. Sylvester spots one of the aliens...Porky meets the alien but mistakes him for some sort of Indian. Gags from this cartoon were re-used years later on the Daffy Duck film Daffy Duck's Quackbusters including the gag of Sylvester being so scared he turns stiff as a board around Porky's face and when thrown off, hits the ground with a hollow thud. Another re-used gag was the phrase "yellow dog of a cowardly cat", Porky's affectionate description of Sylvester.

In "Satan's Waitin", we see the story of Sylvester and his nine lives. The cartoon centers around a bulldog Devil wanting Sylvester to go through the last 8 lives rather quickly...often causing Sylvester to get into all kinds of predicaments, with his lives evaporating one by one. Each of his lives sit together on a rock couch down in the pits of fire...he soon decides to hide himself in a bank vault where no harm can come to him...since he only has one life left. Later, bank robbers blow up the vault and everyone's killed. The cartoon fades out with Sylvester and the bank robbers all taking a trip down to meet the devil.

The rest of the cartoons on DVD #1 are just as good as those that I mentioned. "Dog Gone South" is a laugh-out-loud cartoon about a dog's adventures on a plantation. In "Often an Orphan" we have the same dog being the victim of owner abandonment. At the start of the cartoon we see the dog purposely being left at a camp site by his master. The dog talks his way into Porky's life by trying to convince him he needs a dog. This goes back and fourth throughout much of the cartoon...near the end we see Porky and the dog in a very familiar scene at a camp site ready to have a picnic. Porky tells the dog to fetch a stick but being through that routine too many times the dog jumps into Porky's car instead and speeds off as the scene fades.