Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Cagey Canary: A Late-Blooming Hybrid

Original release date: 11/22/1941

The surviving copy is a Blue Ribbon reissue from October 11, 1947. 

The original title card has surfaced, and shows no director credit, as is typical for a Leon Schlesinger production released after a director quit or was fired.

You can see a good-quality (tho' time-compressed) version of this cartoon HERE. No DVD or Blu-Ray release of this cartoon  yet exists.

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A pretty good (and mostly mute) predator/prey comedy, The Cagey Canary feels more like a Friz Freleng cartoon than Avery's work. Freleng would soon release a similar cartoon, Double Chaser, as he worked his way toward Tweetie Pie, his Oscar-winning 1947 classic. If the credits of this original title card are at all reliable, Michael Maltese provided the story for this short. Its tit-for-tat humor, variations on a central (and threatening) action and what dialogue it has syncs up to Maltese's work with Freleng. It's less talky than Maltese's writing for Chuck Jones, but its structure and its character dynamics are accomplished. 

Maltese filtered through the detached chess-match of Avery's comedic eye, it again shows how close these late Schlesinger cartoons approach the look and feel of Avery's M-G-M classics. His drawing style is still buried deep within Robert McKimson's character designs. With their tendency towards better animation, the added bells and whistles slow Avery's timing down--with one gag taking a hell of a long time to get across. Let's wade in and have a look-see...

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Wabbit Twouble: A Small Addendum to An Outstanding Podcast

Original animation drawing from Wabbit Twouble with color
notations for the ink and paint department.
Release date: 12/20/41

Availability: Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 1 (DVD); Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, Volume 2 (Blu-Ray; both from Warner Home Video)

You can view a nice copy of this cartoon HERE.

This may be the most perfunctory post on this blog, since others have already covered, in good detail, what I might have observed about Wabbit Twouble, the last Avery-instigated Bugs B unny cartoon. 

That Komoroski and Bob Jaques devoted the fourth episode of their must-hear podcast Cartoon Logic to Wabbit Twouble. You may listen to that episode HERE.

Steven Hartley, in his gone-but-not-forgotten Warner Brothers cartoon blog "Likely Looney, Mostly Merrie," covered Wabbit Twouble HERE.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Bug Parade: Trusting One's Comedic Insects


Release date: 10/11/41

The version we see is the Blue Ribbon re-issue of 7/12/52


Availability: NONE

You can watch a better-than-average TV version HERE.

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The original credits for this cartoon may or may not have had Fred Avery listed as supervisor. Like many Warner Brothers cartoons, this one lost its original credits when reissued 11 years after its first run, at which time Avery was winding down his time at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Bug Parade was the last thing on his mind then, unless he happened to go see a movie in mid-July 1952 and saw it as part of the program.

Bug Parade was probably titled The Bug Parade in its 1941 release, in a reference to the 1925 silent war film The Big Parade, King Vidor's epic drama of the First World War. The punny title hung on a cartoon with no connection to that cast-of-bazillions film. It would have gotten a laugh from older theatergoers who might have seen the original run, or the film's 1931 reissue with a musical score. 

We open with a complex display of insect transit, as our narrator, who sounds like Robert C. Bruce but may not be him, comments in that sunny, condescending tone we've come to expect.
"The Garden of the Moon," a winsome tune by Harry Warren, Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer (and from the 1938 picture of the same name) underscores this ground-level pageant. Narrator promises us of "little-known facts in the lives of these tiny creatures."

Monday, March 23, 2020

All this and Rabbit Stew: Bugs Bunny's Most Shocking Moment

Release date: 9/13/1941

AVAILABILITY: On many dollar-store VHS tapes and DVDs, and online, usually in atrocious visual quality.

You can view a better-than-average version of this cartoon HERE, but be aware it contains an appalling stereotyped black character.

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The first Avery cartoon released without a director credit, All this and Rabbit Stew is the lowest moment in the screen career of Bugs Bunny. Never re-issued, for reasons obvious the moment the credits end, the cartoon was pillaged for gags in later WB cartoons. Like Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (1944), it's a Bugs episode few have seen. The cartoon speaks well of no one involved, from the beloved series star to its writer and director. 

Making peace with the racism rife in classic animation is a cross its historians have to bear. Baked into America's collective consciousness in the 20th century, racial and cultural prejudice is the bleak flipside of the nation's all-inclusive ideal. Wars were fought, lives were lost and ill will flowed through the country's veins as non-Anglo-Saxon people were thought of as less than human or "not as good as us."

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Aviation Vacation: No Cause for Elation

Release date: 8/2/41 (according to BCDB)

DVD/BR AVAILABILITY: none

You may view a not-so-hot but uncut print of this cartoon HERE. The screen grabs are provided by our great pal Devon Baxter, and make this frequency of posting possible. Please check out and support Devon's Patreon page. He's doing superb work in determining who did what in these classic cartoons, where the film credits usually bely the artists who worked on them.

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Here we go with the last year of this blog. I intend to complete this project in 2020. I've dawdled too much, and have often set this blog aside when paying projects demanded my attention. I'm so close to the finish line (and semi-retired) now that I resolve to get through this final spate of Avery-at-WB cartoons as often and as well as I can.

There are still some surprises remaining in Avery's Schlesinger cartoons. Few are seen in Aviation Vacation, a film notable for the birth of one of its maker's most inspired moments. This gag, refined to perfection in the 1952 release Magical Maestro, is the main joy of this by-the-book spot-gagger.

This was the last spot-gag cartoon completed by Avery before he left the Leon Schlesinger studio. Surviving prints look as bad as many of Avery's M-G-M cartoons. It's never been restored for reasons soon apparent. When shown on television, about a minute of footage went missing. Again, all will be revealed...

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Heckling Hare: "Cartoon Man Walks Out"

Release date: 7/5/41 (according to BCDB); 7/12/41 (according to Michael Barrier's Hollywood Cartoons)

DVD/BR AVAILABILITY: Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 2; as a part of the film What's Up, Doc? A Salute to Bugs Bunny, Pt.1 on LTGC Vol. 3; Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Vol. 8  (all Warners Home Video DVDs)

You may view a crisp correct-ratio print of this cartoon HERE. The screen grabs are provided by our great pal Devon Baxter, and make this frequency of posting possible. Please check out and support Devon's Patreon page. He's doing superb work in determining who did what in these classic cartoons, where the film credits usually bely the artists who worked on them.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Hollywood Steps Out and les films maudits of '41

Release date: 5/24/41 (according to BCDB); the version we have is the edited Blue Ribbon reissue of 10/2/48

DVD/BR AVAILABILITY: Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 2LT Platinum Collection, Vol. 2; LT Spotlight Collection Vol. 2 (all Warners Home Video DVDs)

You may view a crisp correct-ratio print of this cartoon HERE. The screen grabs are provided by our great pal Devon Baxter, and make this frequency of posting possible. 

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Tex Avery's remaining Warner Brothers cartoons often suffer from tampering or the presence of another director's hand. Some were cartoons left unfinished when Avery parted ways with Leon Schlesinger; others had cuts demanded by the front office.

Hollywood Steps Out is an example of how certain cartoons were altered for their reissue--in this case, seven years after its director had moved on to M-G-M. In this window of time, a war was fought, times changed and some celebrities lost their mass appeal; others matured and no longer resembled their caricatured selves. As wartime gags were scissored from post-war reissues, cultural references that no longer made sense got 86d. None of this mattered to the average moviegoer. The cartoon was not the reason they came to the theater. 

Bundled with other short subjects and coming attractions, they were the prelude to the main features--extras that, if missed, weren't a problem for most viewers. Cartoons came and went; some became word-of-mouth favorites and the good ones built a gradual fan-base that blossomed in the age of television.