the unreliable IMDb gives a release date of 12/30/1936 for this film. BCDb says 11/7/1936 is the release date. They give 4/10/1948 for its Blue Ribbon re-issue, which is the version that survives today.
NONE AT PRESENT
You can watch a decent color print of this cartoon HERE. Thanks to Devon Baxter for his help with this. If you're not familiar with this cartoon, please watch before you read--thanks!
Like the earlier I'd Love To Take Orders From You, this film is Avery at half-strength. It's another attempt to make an appealing mass-market Technicolor cartoon. That it's done with greater humor and film-making attests to Avery's constant ambition to grow as a creator and show his colleagues and rivals what he could do.
Unlike the earlier cartoon, Don't Look Now has a more pointed, direct narrative, and takes advantage of every attempt to cram something funny into its footage. In retrospect, knowing what lays ahead for the Avery unit in their 1937 films, this cartoon seems less impressive than it ought to.
Avery's comedic sense held a high place for polar opposites. They are usually diametric in their outlook on life, intelligence, and social status. Here is a more direct good vs. evil confrontation--although Avery seldom has outright villains. His "evil" figures are often more colorful, decisive and aggressive than his passive "good guys."
To better contrast black and white, it's always best to start on the bright side. In the cartoon's first third, we view both faces of the situation. Avery enjoyed clever visual transitions, early in his career, and this one is typical of that trend:
Avery characters are often obsessive-compulsive in achieving their chosen goal, or job, and Dan Cupid is no exception. Every facet of his life involves his quest to unite lovers and let billing, cooing and eventual matrimony occur.
Okay, this is the ostensible good guy... so what's his doppelganger? Don't worry--Avery is wringing his hands at the prospect.
"Aw, this Valentine Day gag is the bunk!"
"Love... kisses... sweehearts..."
(ASIDE: as these cartoons were designed to plug the Warner Brothers song publishing catalog, it seems odd that the song lyrics were so often rewritten therein. Perhaps the studio assumed viewers would already be familiar with the songs via their appearance in live-action features...)
Dan is, quite honestly, a bit hard to stomach, so it's with relief that we see another romantic union thwarted by our prehistoric Hot Stuff stand-in... after he has a go at singing rebuttal lyrics to Cupid's la-de-dah self-confidence (not seen here, because life's too short)...
"Will ya go sit on a tack, y'ol' horse face?"
"Take a gander at this!"
Example given: an ethnic woodpecker couple, who talk in catchphrases obviously derived from Bert Gordon's "Mad Russian" routines on Eddie Cantor's popular radio program.
"How do you like to be my Valentine, kiddo?"
"Do you mean it?"
"Yes, I mean it!"
"Shall I tell him?"
One long blonde hair, comin' up!
Romance on the rocks... or is it? Here comes that #@(^%@ Dan Cupid again...
We cut to a she-skunk, who, like the male protagonist of Avery's 1948 classic, Little 'Tinker, desires love outside of her species. Dan Cupid again intervenes. Here's what happens:
Speaking of back, we return to the emotionally conflicted bear couple...
But we cut away to a climactic confrontation between love and hate. Hate fights dirty--and in this beautifully timed ballet of struggle, we almost feel like rooting for him!
Funnier than it has a right to be, Don't Look Now fails to engage Avery the comedian sufficiently. The greatest stride made here, by Avery, is his increased casual approach to character-to-audience communication. With each successive cartoon, this interaction of screen and moviegoer becomes more off-handed, and more integral to the overall effect.
The less of a big deal made about this breach, the better. This approach will soon influence both animation and live action. Matter-of-fact asides to the passive viewer, who has no way to change the course of projected on-screen events, was one of the liveliest tools that came to motion pictures in the 1930s.
Avery deserves a great deal of credit for making audiences comfortable with this concept. What might be a jarring detachment from the audience's tacit suspension of disbelief contract with the silver screen becomes a means to bring pre-made entertainment and live audience closer. These cartoons still achieve a rapport with the viewer that is easily gauged in the rare event that they're screened to a live audience.
This off-the-cuff approach to bridging past, present and future continues to be a staple of TV and movie technique. Certainly, if Avery hadn't been so hooked on it, someone else would have done so. Many films before Avery's attempt this casual dialogue with their viewers.
1937 will be the year Avery makes great strides to bring fiction and real life closer together, through this technique. We will begin our survey of this fateful year with our next installment, which I hope shall come sooner than the lapse between the last posting and this one!
UP NEXT: Porky the Wrestler (1937).