Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yankee Doodle Daffy 1943 (dir Friz Freleng)

Say what you want but I've always hated Yankee Doodle Daffy from the day I say it as an 8 year old. It irritates the hell out of me. Banal plot, shallow and horribly animated.

Porky works as a talent scout and plans to take a half day, in order to play golf. In rushes Daffy announcing that his client, Sleepy la Goon is a star in the making. As Porky just wants to play golf, he ignores Daffy and runs away. No matter where Porky goes, Daffy is right behind talking about La Goons talents.

In the end Porky relents and know he'll get some rest if he sees what la Goon offers.

La Goon, a minature, version of Daffy with a huge lollipop and straw hat inhales and begins to sing in a rich voice. But then he stumbles halfway through in a coughing fit.

and that's it.

not funny
not clever
quite juvenile.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Scarlet Pumpernickel 1950 ( dir Chuck Jones)

FINALLY, I've got some free time again so the blog will be updated four times a week ( Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) and things will go back to normal again.


The Scarlet Pumpernickel is, as most will know, a spoof on the book/film The Scarlet Pimpernel and it features the transitional Daffy, which is my personal favourite phase. Jones protrays Daffy as slightly nuts with a touch of cunning. Not the evil schemer that Jones morphed him into.
The scene starts out with Daffy trying persuade a big time director to film an action flick instead of the usual comedy ones. To prove to the director that he is capable, Daffy wheels in a script.

it's a basic storyline, where a princess Melissa has to marry the evil Sylvester, even though she doesn't like him. Eventually, Daffy as the Scarlet Pumpernickel saves her from his clutches.There are some puns and gags. Nothing spectacular though.

The thing about this cartoon is that it features a whole slew of looney tunes characters - Porky Pig, Daffy, Melissa Duck,Mama Bear, Sylvester, Henery Hawk and Elmer Fudd something that wouldnt be seen again until Casablanca Bunny (i'm excluding who framed Roger Rabbit) and Jones gets all the chemistry between the chracters perfectly. In fact the reason why Bugs is left out is simply cause his attitude would clash.Clearly Daffy is the star and he needs this cartoon for himself.

It also proves who Looney tunes characters aren't faceless and have distinct personalities and can be given certain roles that suit them perfectly. Or really Jones knew what type of roles these guys would be good in.

Oh and Jones can DO action as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Ducksters 1950 ( dir Chuck Jones)

The Ducksters is one of those cartoons which is good but requires more than one viewing to fully appreciate it.

The cartoon starts off with Porky bound to a conveyer belt, ready to be sliced up by a buzzsaw and then the whole thing stops and Daffy enters the scene and the audience finds out that we are on a radio gameshow called 'Truth or AHHHHHHHHHHH', where the contestant has to answer a question. If he gets it wrong Daffy springs some sort of punishment on the contestant. Dafyy obviously doesn't want to part with the cash prize so he asks a myriad of difficult or impossible to answer questions so Porky is subjected to many tortures. Probably my personal favourite scene is when a member of the studio audience tells Porky not to answer a question and Daffy whips out a pistol and promptly shoots him.

Finally Porky actually manages to win the prize and he buys the studio and then puts Daffy through all the tortures Porky went through in the cartoon. In other words it's a total role reversal short.

At first the picture seems empty, even lacking in adventure, but peel away the surface and you see a commentary on a censored looney tunes cartoon, and parodies of radio programs and entertainment industry. It's Chuck Jones being his anarchic self and that is what makes 'The Ducksters' a great cartoon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scaredy Cat 1948 ( dir Chuck Jones)

The Porky/Sylvester collaborations ( there are three to my knowledge) are quite unique as Sylvester doesn't talk and plays an incredibly cowardly cat. Throughout these cartoons, Sylvester's cowardice just places Porky into embarrassing or uncomfortable situations, and he replies my insulting Sylvester ( who doesn't talk at all)

Scaredy Cat is the first cartoon in this triliogy and by far the best one.

The scene begins with with Porky, with Sylvester in tow, moving into their new house. The audience already can feel that something is going to happen and so does Sylvester. The only one who is completely oblivious is Porky.

And yes there is something wrong with the house, it is inhabited with a bred of murderous mice (led by a mouse wearing an executioners hood). To make it worse, Sylvester stumles upon them executing the previous owner's cat. This heightens Sylvester's paranoia and to Porky's annoyance he clings onto him for a fair amount of the cartoon.

The mice are intent on killing their new inhabitants and flings axes and knives at them, even trying to push the bed out of the window. As Sylvester blocks all these actions, unbenowst to Porky, he achieves in irritating his master even more and finally he goes out to the kitchen to prove that nothing is wrong. As a result the mice kidnap him and prepare the chopping block.

Sylvester then escapes the house only to be stopped by his guardian angel, who reminds him that Porky looked after him as a kitten and that a cat his bigger than a mouse! Sylvester then plucks up courage and chases every mouse out of the house.

As Porky is thanking his pet for saving him the executioner mouse pops out of a cuckoo clock, whacks Sylvester with a mallet, pulls of his hood, puts on a Napoleon hat and states in a Lew Lehr ( a vaudeville actor) voice

Pussycats is the cwaziest people

and the cartoon ends.

To tell the truth this cartoon isn't funny - at all and as a kid it used to frighten me, especially the bit when Sylvester turns all white and enters Porky's room. However it is mesmerising and keeps you at the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. Plus it's twisty ending gives you some sigh of relief At this point Jones' cartoons were flawless and this one in particular is a stand out as it is able to grab your attention from the first second and keep you stuck in your chair. Also there is chemistry between Sylvester and Porky, which all leads to an entertaining short.

Drip-Along Daffy 1951 ( dir Chuck Jones)

Drip-Along Daffy is one of those cartoons that never fails to provide laugh. It's just a non stop barrage of gags flowing thick and fast. I could also say it's the best western I've seen.

The opening minute sets the scene and the tone of the whole cartoon. Daffy is riding on a white modelesque mare with 'Western type hero' written on the screen and trailing after him is porky on a donkey and the words 'Comedy Relief' pop up.

on their travels they come across a town who's population is decreasing on account of the amount of gunfire and crime that goes on ( and there are tons of visual gags emphasising this). As soon as Daffy finds out that the town needs a Sherriff, he pulls out a badge from his waistcoat ( and there's a badge for every occaision) says that he is going to clean up the one horse town and zooms off on his horse tinfoil ( lone ranger parody) while Porky's donkey is trying to keep up the pace.

Daffy then bursts into a saloon in the typical Western cliche pose but as he's drawing his guns he pulls off his trousers as well and he hops out saying that he needs to arrange his 'acoutrements' ( that line makes me crack up)

Upon ordering a milkshake at the bar, the villain of the picture enters. Nasty Canasta. A brute who's ten times larger and stronger than Daffy. When daffy brandishes his gun, Canasta just bites it off ( and Daffy says offhandedly that he needed his dose of iron) .

Canasta then challenges Daffy to a drinking contest. The bartender whips up a drink so toxic and hot that the ice cubes jump out yelping. When Canasta drinks it nothing happens to him. Daffy being the foul fowl he is, tests his drink on Porky and when he finds out nothing happens he orders the drink and downs it.

then ensues both daffy and porky reciting mary had a little lamb and then pacing across the floor, skin green and tongues moving in and out like party toys.

when things reside Daffy challenges Canasta to a typical western duel at dawn. Canasta arrongantly knows he is going to win.

when the pacing starts, Porky winds up a toy soldier in Canasta's direction. Canasta picks it up and the bullet form the toy's gun floors him and Porky becomes sheriff.

the cartoon ends on a double joke. First it focuses on daffy and he said that he was going to clean up the one horse town and the camera moves back and we find out that Daffy is now the sanitation engineer.

we then focus at Porky, who looks at the camera and says 'lucky for him that it is a one horse town!'

and the cartoon ends.

Drip-Along Daffy, besides it's blink and you'll miss it humour also focuses on the underdog winning. In most Chuck Jones' Daffy/Porky collaborations you'll find this a common theme but it's at it's best in this cartoon. In other words Jones likes to protray Daffy as some type of Looney Tune version of Charlie Brown - a loser who tries to overcome his circumstance but falls prey to it. In this aspect one can compare Bugs to Lucy ( dominant and the winner, no matter the situation) and Porky is Linus ( the helper who comes up trumps through accidental means). Technically speaking the name Daffy is a total misnomer now as there is absolutely nothing eccentric or crazy about him . Despite this factor I find that the majority of the late Jones cartoons and depiction of Daffy have more depth and are more interestign in the long run.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dough for the Do-Do 1948 ( dir Friz Freleng)

Oh dear it seemed that I slacked a bit on the updates. November has always been a busy month and there are loads of things happening now but it will all calm down and things will flow at a steady pace.

Don't you hate it when directors 'redo' perfectly good films? Well Dough for the Do-Do is sort of like that. I say sort of cause there is only one major change but lets go back in time a bit.

In the 30's Bob (genius) Clampett directed a film called Porky in Wackyland. In this short Porky goes to Africa in order to hunt the elusive Do-Do bird and has many surreal encounters. It's a typical Clampett cartoon. Off kilter, hugely entertaining and gets the laughs rolling from the first second.

Freleng's version is basically a colour update so Clampett's 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach is present. The visual puns are intact and the ending ( Porky captures the Do-do only to discover that there are millions more in hiding) is Clampettesque and makes the short a bit more well rounded.

but it still feels wrong.

Maybe some things that worked shouldnt be tampered with especially if it's a Clampett cartoon. Anyway watch the two cartoons back to back and see which one is slightly better.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Vol 1, Disc 2 : Duck Amuck 1953 ( dir Chuck Jones)

Disc 2 of Looney Tunes Golden Collection series starts with a bang with the all time classic Cartoon 'Duck Amuck' To summarise the plot briefly Daffy Duck is constantly sabatoged by a unknown artist. Throughout the short's seven minutes Daffy goes through many mutations, background changes, gets duplicated and in the end ( yes there's a false ending as well) gets blown up. Also there are experiments with close ups, sound effects and even silence being a major contributor. In the last few seconds we find out the the artist who has been putting Daffy through these tortures is none other than Bugs Bunny, who finishes off the cartoon winking at the audience and declaring.

Ain't I a stinker?

Just why is this cartoon so important. Most of the time if you read up on Duck Amuck you'll find out that it breaks the invisible border between audience and actor ( the fourth wall). Daffy is losing his temper, screaming and sometimes bargaining with the artist or animator. Thus Daffy is not just a artistic drawing but an actor yet he cannot quit as he is a slave to the pencil at the same time. Notice throughout the cartoon that whenever Daffy rebels the pencil crops up and makes him helpless and even more angry.

this is not the first time this has happened in cartoons. Disney's 1930 Alice movies, protrayed a non animated girl interacting with both the artist and her cartoon situation. For Warner brothers breaking the fourth wall was done from the very start as the first cartoon, Bosko the ink well kid had a character squirting ink at his animator and going through all types of mischief, tormenting his artist ( sort of the opposite of Duck Amuck). More famously the cartoon 'You Ought to be in Pictures (1940-Friz Freleng)' had Porky Pig jumping out of the drawing board and tearing up his contract ( incited by Daffy) and Tex Avery's 1941 short 'Tortoise Beats Hare' had bugs reading and mispronouncing all the credits.

but none of these achieved the inspired lunacy of Duck Amuck and here's the reason why

none of these characters had the extremist personalit that Daffy has. When Daffy loses his temper he goes all out. Funnily enough his other duck counterpart Donald is an extremist as well but Donald lacks wit and the evil streak that Daffy embodies. In fact if you notice Bugs is able to bully Daffy precisely because of his extremist behaviour, which makes it apt that it is Bugs who turns out to be the artist teasing Daffy. In other words Daffy's distinct personality makes this cartoon work so well. No matter how many changes he goes through, he still is the screaming, shifty eyed duck. So daffy, in this aspect is well and truly an actor in every sense of the word but a paradoxical one as he lacks the freedom of the actor and cannot interpret his lines in a unique fashion cause the pencil will come and change everything.

Duck Amuck is one of those cartoons that stick out, has different interpretations and will be under scrutiny for years to come. Already it's more than 50 years old and yet it's still way ahead of it's time and if you want to talk about influence, well wasn't Zemeckis' 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit all based on this idea of cartoons as distinct personalites? And how many times do we see cartoons and a pencil pops up and redesigns everything in one go? A amazing cartoon through and through

Rabbit of Seville 1950 ( dir Chuck Jones)

Vol One disc one's conclusion is a very strong one as Rabbit of Seville, despite the fact that it resembles Stage Door Cartoon in plot, is a very interesting cartoon.

The whole sheband starts off with Elmer hunting Bugs and chasing him until they reach a theatre. Bugs then tricks Elmer into performing Rossini's Barber of Seville with him. In Stage Door Cartoon Bugs lures Elmer into a theatre and tricks him into taking part in some silly antics. So this is where the resemblence ends and the cartoon starts to go on it's own tangents.

First of all, like the other operatic cartoon What's Opera Doc, there isn't any conversation. Just singing. However while What's Opera.... is quite serious, The Rabbit of Seville is bombastic and great surreal slapsticky moments.

second Obviously, as the title of the opera suggests, it all takes places in a babrbershop.

As soon as Elmer realises that he has stumbled in a theatre he becomes vunerable and confused as he's not in charge of the situation. Bugs, being the showman that he is dons a barber's costumes and violently shaves Elmer.

Elmer tries to escape but Bugs cuts off his braces and forces Elmer in the chair again and performs his next gag.

First he massages Elmer's scalp and then turns it into a Carmen Mirandesque fruit concoction. Elmer realises and there's a funny scene where Bugs pretends to be a snake charmer and persuades a shaver to chase Elmer, until he shoots it.

both characters then jump into identical barber chairs and Bugs pulls the chair's lever ( which raises the seat) to escape. His nemesis catches on and tries the same thing. Bugs sends him back to the bottom by cutting a sandbag and making sure it lands on Elmer.

after a little waltz Bugs gets Elmer on the chair one more time to perform his final trick.

He destroys elmer's shoes and pours red paint on them. Cakes his face in Beauty clay and then massages 'figaro fertilizer' in his scalp ( notice that there are 5 fingers not four) which causes some flowers to grow on his head.

Elmer gets fed up and chases bugs with an axe. Bugs returns with a bigger Axe. Then Elmer with a pistol. Bugs with a double barrelled shotgun. Elmer with a cannon. Bugs with a bigger canon. Elmer with a cannon that takes up the screen and then bugs returns with roses and chocolates.

Elmer likes this. Then Bugs offers a wedding ring and Elmer returns in a bride's dress ( at least Bugs isnt in drag ) then Bugs returns in a tuxedo. Both get married and the couple run to the top of the theatre and Bugs chucks Elmer in a cake. Bugs smirks and says 'next'

Rabbit of Seville is a very fun and joyous cartoon. Moving at a pace faster than Speedy Gonzales, it is a pleasure to watch. Yes Bugs resumes the role of the vengeful trickster who triumphs over stupidity but that cultural twist takes it to a new level. The combination of Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese always created faultless cartoons and this is another top notch one.