Lights Fantastic

“It’s Swell!!”

Supervision by I. Freleng; Story by Sgt. Dave Monahan; Animation by Gil Turner; Musical Supervision by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on May 23, 1942.

Light is pretty fantastic stuff. I don’t mean the natural kind you can get from the sun. (That stuff causes cancer!) I mean the artificial kind that people use to give nature the finger, and turn night into diet day. And apart from Vegas, I’d say the best place to experience such a marvel, is New York City. What types of gags might we find just marveling at billboards?

One ad is typed out to us as if on a typewriter. But whoever is in charge of things, sure as heck can’t spell “stewpendaus.” And while you’re enjoying the sights that are lights, why not take a trip to Chinatown? (The bus is built like a rickshaw. At least it’s not as racially insensitive as it could have been.) One ad gives a free sample of what it’s promoting: an eye test! Being able to read the first line means you’re average. (Crap. I can make it out, but I can’t read that mess. Guess I need new contacts.) The next one means “above average” and the one below that is “exceptional!” And if you can read the bottom one, you clearly are a foreigner. (Who would bother to learn another language?)

What would a “Merrie Melody” be without a song number? (Still entertaining.) The ads come to life to serenade us. The featured song is “My High Polished Nose.” (“My Wild Irish Rose”) Next on the playbill: “Laugh, Clown, Laugh” performed by the mascot of Clown cakes and cookies. And as many can jokes as they can make! Coffee cans doing the can-can, while frequently showing off their cans! (Can there be anymore? It just can’t be! So I better can it, lest I get canned.)

One ad tries too hard. It tries to grab your attention with as much neon as they can afford. All for a tiny “Eat at Joe’s” message. (Freleng would use a similar gag in “Holiday for Shoestrings.” (Even using the same music piece.) And since this wasn’t the most story driven short, what better way to end it than with a music party? The dripping of coffee, the shaking of peanuts, and the dinging of a cowbell make an irresistible beat that has the rest of the ads dancing. Ending up with the same shot we began with. (What a bright idea.)

 

Shuffle Off to Buffalo

“What a man!”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Paul Smith; Music by Frank Marsales. A Merrie Melody released on July 8, 1933.

Did you ever wonder where babies come from? What? You mean the only people who visit this site already know very well the answer to that question and have known for several years? Well, you were lied to. Babies are stored in some building that is not explicitly stated to be heaven, and are delivered by storks. (If the stork gets hungry and eats its cargo on the way to the new parents, that is called a “miscarriage.”

The person in charge is some god/father time looking guy. (I’m calling him Tony) He answers the phones and reads letters that people send asking for children. Having a baby is just like writing to Santa! Only, it takes nine months to deliver. (A nice bit of continuity, the letter is dated as July, 1933.) Wherever there are people, there are those who want children. (I can’t fathom why. They are such noisy things) A letter from Mr. and Mrs. Nanook of the north want some twins, so he pulls a couple of Inuits from the freezer. And yes, they look as racially insensitive as they could be drawn. (Except for their feet. At one point they are white. Trying to make a master race, Tony?)

The next letter in written in Hebrew. Seeing as how Tony can’t make it out, I guess that rules him out as being god. Nothing to worry about, though. All he has to do is send the letter to the stock room, and the ideal child will be chosen. (Said child and Tony himself are voiced by Johnny Murray. The same guy supplying Bosko’s voice) They sing our title song and are joined by several of the babies that I guess are just in storage. (Which means that unless someone specifically chooses them, they aren’t ever leaving this place.)

But it’s not the end of the world is you are trapped forever in this state of unbirth. You’ll just get a job as one of the gnomes who are helping to care for the babies. Step one: toss them in a washing machine. (Breaking character for a bit to point out that I know very well this is not an accurate depiction of where babies come from. With that said, don’t worry about the babies in the bathwater. Being in a warm, wet, place that you can’t escape from right away? Sounds like being in a womb to me)

Where was I? Oh yes! Dry the babies and sprinkle on plenty of talcum powder. Then, put on the 1930’s version of the disposable diaper: a paper towel. And staple it shut. And if one of the babies needs changing? Just throw them back in the wash. Don’t pay any attention to their sudden loss of hair.) Finally, before tucking them into bed, feed them some of our special seal milk. (It’s gotta be. Look how fast they chub out.)

So now that you know the basics, you’re ready for some on hands experience. Here’s your situation: all the babies are crying. What do they want? Isn’t it obvious? They want Eddie Cantor. (Yeah, why not?) What do you do?

A. Go find the guy and get him to perform

B. Dress up like the guy and perform

C. Ignore them. They are such noisy things.

D. Don’t worry about it. The guy actually works here.

The correct answer is the same one it always is when someone online makes a multiple choice question: D. Cantor performs, but the kids are hypocritical a-holes. Despite clearly asking for him, they criticize him once he sings. Not even his Ed Wynn impression wins them over. Instead, the racially insensitive Asian baby just shows off racially insensitive blackface babies. But I suppose it’s okay. After all, they aren’t crying anymore. They play, fight and join Cantor in his piano playing as the short comes to a close. But not before one more baby says “so long” to us. AWWWWW! That was pretty cute! I’m convinced. I want children now. 7.6,000,000,000 clearly isn’t enough people. We’ve got to try harder. Write Tony today!

We’re in the Money

“♪We’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along!♪”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Larry Martin; Music by Frank Marsales. A Merrie Melody released on August, 26 1933.

It’s night, it’s late, and it’s time to close up the department store. With all humans now vacated from the premises, the merchandise can come to life. Well, they could do that during the day too, but it’d be really awkward. (Either asking to be bought and being refused, or certain products not being aware of their purpose until its too late. I’ll leave it at that, use YOUR imagination for once)

They toys start up some music. You’d think it would be hard to play instruments several sizes larger than you are, but they make it work. Although some of the instruments require more than one of them to play, and in the case of the trombone, they have to use a bike pump to blow the air into it. Hope you enjoy the title tune, they’re playing nothing but for the majority of the short.

The toys aren’t the only ones having fun. Many of the clothes and mannequins also dance to the beat. (As best as they can, seeing as how none of them have complete bodies. By human standards. They aren’t missing any of their parts, despite the lack of limbs. I don’t know where I’m going with this tangent, but it’s nowhere relevant.) Even the coins in the cash registers join in. They have every right to, as in their own words: “They are the money.” One doll plays dress-up and shows her best Mae West impression.

One mannequin actually has a full humanoid body, so he can dance with the best the human race has to offer. (Maybe even top them, as his feet can also function as wheels.) Standing in front of mirrors, he now is part of a quartet to sing the title song. And his talent isn’t limited to dance. He plays every piano in the store. But he gets a little too carried away and crashes into a shelf and getting caught in a avalanche of hat boxes.

(And what if you come to this store but you aren’t “In the money?” Clearly, they mount your severed head as a reminder to those who try to be frugal. Why else are Laurel and Hardy’s heads there?)

You don’t know what you’re doin’

“O.K. baby!”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Norm Blackburn; Music by Gus Arnheim’s Brunswick Recording Orchestra. A Merrie Melody released on October 21, 1931.

With Foxy gone, we needed somebody to take the Merrie reigns. A character named Piggy was given a shot for two shorts, but afterwards Merrie Melodies weren’t stuck with just one character anymore. Piggy himself doesn’t have much of a personality to set him apart from other toons of the time. He stole a pair of Mickey’s pants, but that’s about the most interesting thing we know about him. (Please note: this Piggy is not related to the Piggy Hamhock who would appear later in the decade for a couple of shorts. Warner Bros. just had a thing for piggies.)

One night, hundreds of thousands of a crowd are heading for a night at a vaudeville theater. Piggy included. But first, he needs to pick up his girlfriend, Fluffy. (A great name. If their is one thing pigs are known for, it’s their thick fleecy coats.) They head to the show and listen to some of the music. But Piggy is a bit of a musical snob, and accuses the musicians of the title of the short. He figures he could do better, and takes the stage. I’m not a musician, so I can’t say for sure, but I think he sounds pretty good. I guess I’m in the minority, as the crowd isn’t too happy with him. Especially a trio of drunks.

Even though it’s clear they’ve been drinking, and their senses dulled, they think he kind of sucks. They sing the title theme, with Piggy arguing that they are just jealous, and the drunks continue to claim he has no talent. (Fluffy has just disappeared by this point, a shame that no one besides me is willing to defend her boyfriend) Eventually, the lead drunk (A name? How about… Tyler? Tipsy Tyler.) falls onto the stage. He breathes some booze breath at Piggy, and the stuff is potent enough to get him sauced as well.

Now, that he is a slave to the alcohol, Piggy takes the drunk’s drink and runs. With the wino in hot pursuit, Piggy pours some of the drink in a car, and tries to make a getaway. (Seeing as how he came to the theater in a scooter, he is clearly stealing now) For a creative touch, we see how the world looks through their eyes: the world is in waves. The road rises and falls, and it makes for a real wild ride. A clock dances, and a sewer grate becomes a monster. Piggy loses the car, and he and the drunk end up in  a pickup truck. Not wanting to carry them, the vehicle dumps the blissful drunks in a dump. (I think Piggy is going to be a little late picking Fluffy up)

What a fun short! Catchy music, trippy visuals, and fun gags! And so early in the Looney Tunes run! This proves they had what it took to make it in Hollywood. And look how it all turned out in the end. Possibly the most well known characters in animation history!

Bosko’s Picture Show

“Howdy, howdy, howdy folks!”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Max Maxwell. A Looney Tune released on September 18, 1933.

Bosko is such a musical fellow, it only makes sense that he’d have a job supplying music for entire audiences. And in the era where silent movies were still in the public’s memory, (and a few were still around) we find him playing the organ for such a venue. And he invites us to sing along! So join in the fun! “We’re in the money!” is what we’ll sing.

Please tell me you sang. We love music around here. After such a fun opening number, we sadly have to tone it down a bit and see a news reel. A peace conference is in effect. Look at the pummeling! (Things must be getting better.) People still flock to California’s beaches despite the snow, and a boxer plans a comeback, even though he needs at least one arm to hold his walking stick.

We see footage from a dog race. (Which in itself is taken from “Bosko’s Dog Race”) with the Marx brothers playing a role as dogcatchers. (Odd. But at least they allowed Zeppo to join in the fun this time) And after being told that a famous screen lover is on a European vacation, we get a really weird joke about Hitler chasing Durante with an ax. (…wha?…) Back to the fun things! How about a Haurel and Lardy short? I think Haurel is the fat one, because it would be too obvious if he was Lardy. Today, they are going to steal a pie off a windowsill. But they get to arguing who will eat it, and Lardy smashes it in his friends face. In turn, he is smacked on the head. (And I don’t think his collar has a shirt attached to it, but that’s just me.)

Time for the feature film. A TNT picture called “He Done Her Dirt. (And How!)” Starring Bosko’s girl, Honey! And I just realized that I never gave her a proper post, so let’s do that now.

Honey was Bosko’s girlfriend. She was born to be a love interest and that is all she ever was.

What? What do you mean that doesn’t count? It’s my website! She fits my “five appearances rule” but she doesn’t have enough character to warrant description. She was made to be a love interest and that’s all she ever was. (part 2) She was just Bosko with a dress, high heels, eyelashes, and a bow. (Neither of them was known for wearing shirts.) But if you really need more Honey in your life, here’s a shot of her when she appeared on “Tiny Toons”

As you might have guessed, the “black person” angle wasn’t going to go over so well in the nineties, so he and Bosko were redesigned as generic dog creatures. (And they had the audacity to claim she was Warner Bros. “first female star.” There was no such thing. Sexist it may be, but people tend to freak out if a female receives slapstick.) Let’s return to our regular post, shall we?

Honey is riding a bike. (And the Marx’s are there again. They heard me say “generic dog creature” and needed to check it out for themselves.) The villain of the piece is called Dirty Dalton. Hey, wansn’t that also the name of a Hanna-Barberra character?

I already knew it was. You didn’t need to add that, me.

As I was saying, Bosko is not too keen to see the villain. I know what it sounds like, but I swear he says “The dirty fox.” (Whats this in the gutter? Why, it’s your mind! You should really keep it out of there) Bosko is loyal to his soulmate and is going to save her, whether it’s reality or not. He jumps through the screen to rescue her. Normally, that would result in him entering the movie, but real world rules are applied this time, and he just tears a hole in it. At least, that seemed to work.

 

One More Time

“Oh, bologna!”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Paul Smith; with Abe Lyman and His Brunswick Recording Orchestra. A Merrie Melody released on October 3, 1931.

Well, seems Walt wasn’t too fond of characters looking an awful lot like his own Mickey. Because of this, Foxy would only appear this “one more time.” Well, until he would appear decades later on Tiny Toons. By then people were extra careful to make him look different from a mouse. With pointier ears and snout. (But at least he wasn’t as blatant a rip off as Milton Mouse.)

(Disney may have killed him off rather quickly, but he’ll live forever in my nightmares)

For his last appearance, Foxy is a cop. And he patrols some pretty nasty streets. He is nearly killed several times. Either by being hit by car or just flat out being shot at. But he’s not unarmed. He has a gun that fires a mouse with a hammer at assailants. But even the non-criminal citizens are causing some trouble. Another hippo (this one speaks mostly in “wahs”) is having some road rage with another Mickey clone. (They are popping up everywhere today) Eventually, she accidentally runs over Foxy and he gives chase.

When she pulls over, she begs and pleads to not be given a ticket. Foxy doesn’t really buy her story, but he does forego on the ticket. (Instead, he just shoves her head in a trash can.) Roxy is making one more appearance too and her dog happily greets the scared vulpine. (Being several years before Disney would prove that a fox and a hound could get along, you can understand Foxy’s terror) The three take a break to enjoy some impromptu music.

Another hippo, meanwhile, has just been robbed. The cops give chase, with Foxy leading the pack. The criminal may seem pretty small, but after entering a pipe, he is not only larger, but accompanied by three other crooks. A grenade is hurled that takes care of the other officers. (I think it kills them. It at least knocked the flesh off their legs.) They also fox-nap Roxy which just gives Foxy even more reason to give chase. He takes a robot horse from a penny arcade and gets her back. With the criminals now chasing him, he tricks them into running into a prison. But he hasn’t completely won. The driver managed to escape and shoots Foxy in the butt. (What a way to make your final appearance!)

Smile, Darn Ya, Smile

“Boil, darn ya, boil!”

Animation by Isadore Freleng and Max Maxwell; Music by Abe Lyman and His Californians.  A Merrie Melody released on September 5, 1931. (This is the earliest short we know the air date of)

Yes, this is the same song the toons sing in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and what better character to have star in a short that’s title theme was used in a Disney movie, than a guy who looks like he ran away from Ub Iwerk’s sketchbook? Remember Foxy? I’ve mentioned him before. He still looks an awful lot like a mouse. But he’s acting like a lucky rabbit. Here, he is running a trolley. (And he’s sure to have some troubles)

His first customer is a hippo. The perfect choice for making fat jokes. (sdarwkcab secnetnes reh fo lla syas ehs kniht I ,oslA) Foxy takes a pin out of her hat and stabs her. Rather extreme, but she does shrink. (Not due to a large loss of blood, but all the air she had in her.) Even though she is now compact enough to take a ride, she is cross with the fox for some reason. He couldn’t care less. He has rounds to make. And besides then he’d have to share his alone time with his girlfriend, Roxy. (Who’s not even waiting at any station. But when you date the conductor, you get special privileges.)

Life is just so grand, that they start singing the title song. (Early Merrie Melodies were like that. The title just referred to a song that would be sung) Even the ads printed on the trolley’s side join in. But the fun is short lived. As cartoon law dictates, “If you shall find yourself on tracks, then you shall find a cow blocking your way. And chances are, she’ll be really ugly.” (Look, Foxy has a cute hat now!) Even the hoboes that live under the bridge laugh at his misfortune. (When your Lyme disease keeps you from sleeping soundly, you have to find humor wherever you can.) Foxy’s trolley takes a running start, and jumps under the cow. (That’s not a typo. That’s funny.)

Now without his hat, Foxy should have no problems showing his girl a good time. But he wasn’t watching where he was going, and he is knocked out when the trolley enters a tunnel. (To quote Spyro 2: “Trouble with the trolley, eh?”) He tries to tie it down with a rope, but it just drags him back to it. Despite Roxy pleading for him to stop, it apparently has no brakes! And worse yet, the tracks lead to a cliff! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Then Foxy wakes up. It was all a dream. (One of the earlier times this cliche was used, so I’ll forgive it.) And why was that catchy song in his dream? His radio was playing it. Not amused, Foxy kills it with a bedpost.

 

 

Russian Rhapsody

Silly, isn’t he?

 Supervision by Robert Clampett; Story by Lou Lilly; Animation by Rod Scribner; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released in 1944.
Supervision by Robert Clampett; Story by Lou Lilly; Animation by Rod Scribner; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released in 1944.

One of the hundred greatest Looney Tunes and well worth that title!

Germany isn’t doing so hot these days. (These 1941 days to be precise) All of the planes they send to bomb Moscow are being destroyed mysteriously. Could it possibly be gremlins? It couldn’t be! Not with Disney refusing to allow any cartoons about them being made at the time. Hitler is furious. (And let’s be real here, this is the funniest Hitler to ever exist. He screams, he speaks in random words with a bad German accent, and he moves like a spaz! It’s the only time I can say: “I love this guy!”) He finally decides to just send the finest person Germany has to offer: himself. As he flies to Moscow, (which, did you know, borders Berlin?) it appears that he is not alone. Several gremlins are on board and they sing a hauntingly catchy song. What’s more, they appear to be caricatures of various looney people. Tedd Pierce, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Leon Schleshinger, and the man himself, Bob Clampett. They set to work destroying the plane. A “Tubby” gremlin tries to stab Hitler in the butt, one saws the plane and just barely misses his pal, a adorable teeny one smashes the dials with a hammer, and one unleashes a termiteski to devour the plane. (Unlike termites which eat wood, termiteskis subsist on only the finest of messerschmidts.) One joke that is kinda dated is replacing Hitler’s C card with an A card. (Gas rationing. C is more.) The “Millar” gremlin finally gets Adolf and the fuhrer finally realizes he has company. (Also the little one he talks to is holding a feather, that magically morphs into a hammer) They put his nose in an electrical socket, and the resulting shock turns him into a glowing swastika, skunk, and donkey in that order. He pulls a knife on them, but they scare him with a Stalin mask. (And then the short immediately jumps to him on the floor. I can’t help but wonder if a scene was cut) With him taken care of, the gremlins cut around him and he falls to earth with the plane crushing him. He pops out of the ground to comment on how “Nutzis is the cwaziest peoples.” The gremlins pound him back under his grave where he belongs.    

Cartoon Network Groovies

What’s all that racket?

You know what made Cartoon Network so much fun to watch, back in the day? Well, yes, having cartoons that I wanted to watch was nice, but they went out of their way to make the commercials a joy as well. It’s a network where the cartoons are in charge, so naturally, the cartoons would be working there. During a commercial break, we could see the toons working at their jobs, and interacting with each other. But my favorite thing they did was the groovies. Short music videos about the cartoons we loved and if we didn’t already love them, then these videos might encourage us to take another look. They were brilliant. Each one was different. (Even the ones that were based on the same series. “Dexter’s Laboratory”, and “The Powerpuff Girls”, each had more than one for their series. (Not that I mind. I love those shows.) Even a few shows you wouldn’t think would be popular enough to get one, got one. Like JabberJaw and Betty Boop. (I didn’t even know her shorts ever aired on that channel) Although there were some weird ones. There’s one based on “Ed, Edd and Eddy” where Sarah gives the titular boys a drink that shrinks them for her amusement. It’s a great song, but is that really related to the show? I never really watched it. Plus one based on “Courage the Cowardly Dog” that takes place somewhere not in Nowhere, Kansas, Eustace and Muriel look much younger, and they are having a party. This show, I did watch. And Eustace doesn’t seem like the type to allow that many people into his house without giving him something. But of course, the reason I’m talking about them here is because there were some based on “Looney Tunes”. And they get looked at more in-dept.

L’Amour A Un Odeur: A remix featuring Pepe Le Pew and his various shorts. It’s my least favorite just because it feels the most rushed to me. The music is that classic faux French they put in all his shorts.

Wascally Wemix: As you’d expect, this is Elmer’s song. A bunch of his lines remixed. Bugs and Daffy feature prominently too. The music kinda dying near the end, keeps it from being higher on my favorites.

Pork Jam: AW YEAH! My pal Porky gets a remix, and it’s awesome. His lines mix with the music, never fail to put a smile on my face. It was my favorite as a kid. So, what could possibly top Porky?

Mars Forever: My favorite out of all the groovies. A recruitment video Marvin made to build up his troops. Best music in my opinion. Contains bits from all his shorts, plus “Rocket-Bye Baby.” A masterpiece if ever there was one.

 

In memory of my good friend, Abby the Dog. 2006-2017. While there are no shortage of great dogs, there was only one of you.

 

 

 

Porky at the Crocadero

Today… you are a ham!

 Supervision by Frank Tashlin; Story by Lew Landsman; Animation by Volney White; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released in 1938
Supervision by Frank Tashlin; Story by Lew Landsman; Animation by Volney White; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Looney Tune released in 1938

No relation to the also awesome “Quasi at the Quackadero.” (Wish that was a Looney Tune, so I could blog about it) The Crocadero in question is based on the “Trocadero Ballroom” Porky is outside and excited to see that many conductors are scheduled to be playing that night. It’s Porky’s dream to be a conductor! (Isn’t a conductor what you do when you can’t play an instrument? Like how a coach can’t play a sport and someone who can’t draw blogs about animation?) His heroes include Leopold Stokowski (Whose name I’m actually bothering to spell right for once) Rudy Vallee, and Benny Goodman. He idolizes them so much, he imitates them all. But there is one thing to dampen his glee. It’s $25.00 for a plate at this place. (Fifty cents more gets you food on the plate) Porky can’t afford that, so he slumps off. But God is on his side, as he finds that the club is hiring and he rushes in. He gets the job because why wouldn’t he? And he begins washing the dishes. His boss (some sort of aquatic mammal. I’d like to say walrus, but he has too much neck and no tusks, so maybe he’s a sea otter.) He tells Porky to get his work done, and he just might be able to watch the music. But there’s a fly in the ointment. Actually, in the kitchen. Porky tries to get it which results in him breaking many dishes. He is fired. (And I begin sharpening my aquatic mammals carving knife) But God is still on Porky’s side as there are no conductors for the eager crowd and the boss has received a telegram saying that they won’t make it. The boss has a good idea! Get Porky back! His fly swatting did look an awful lot like conducting. He heads out to get him back “Schnell!” (Which, a randomly appearing narrator tells us, means “fast.”) He catches up to the pig and brings him back. (Of course, since the crowd is expecting other people, Porky will have to be in several disguises.) Good thing he takes to impersonating his heroes so much! He acts as Paul Whiteman (with some added gut) and gets some jazz going. A penguin waiter (there is no other kind in cartoons) has his drink stolen by a trombone player, and some lesbian kangaroos dance. (They must be lesbian! They both have pouches!) As Guy Lumbago (Guy Lambardo) Porky has his “Boiled Kanadians” sing “Summer Nights” rather shakily. (The audience dances to the beat) And as Cob Howlaway (Cab Calloway) Porky puts on some blackface. Which… actually doesn’t look too racist here. Maybe it’s just because I’m a Porky worshiping fanboy, but he looks pretty tame. The lips aren’t too exaggerated and it’s always fun to see Cab referenced. Good work Porky! He sings Chinatown (even dressing up as a Chinese Stereotype at one point. Less charming) while the band plays along. A turtle makes his body a banjo, a rabbit plays two pianos at once, (with his paws and ears) and a goat plays his beard when his violin breaks. The penguin waiter meanwhile, (who has been having his drinks stolen throughout the whole time) finally one ups the thief by drinking the drink himself.