Carl W. Stalling

Uncle Tom’s Bungalow (1937, Tex Avery)

Uncle Tom's Bungalow manages to be both appallingly racist and a little progressive. Director Avery turning the slave trader into the devil, poking a little fun at the angelic white girl, general mocking of Southern cultural all around….

But Bungalow just isn't a good cartoon. Ben Harrison's script–with Tedd Pierce obnoxiously narrating–doesn't even include a bungalow. It's just for the title. The first two or three minutes is setting up the characters and setting up the characters is the cartoon being both racist (with the black characters) and condescending (of the Southerners). The wrap-up even has the cartoon taking inexplicable pot shots at social security, which make it more significant historically than anything else about it.

The gags are trite and predictable. The slave trader turning into a snake and getting electrocuted felt way too familiar.

I kept expecting it to be worse, but it could never be any better.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Tex Avery; written by Ben Harrison; animated by Virgil Ross and Sidney Sutherland; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Tex Avery (Uncle Tom), Mel Blanc (Hound), Billy Bletcher (Simon Simon Legree), Bernice Hansen (Little Eva) and Lillian Randolph (Topsy / Eliza); narrated by Tedd Pierce.


Hare Conditioned (1945, Chuck Jones)

Embarrassingly, I didn’t understand Hare Conditioned‘s title until I looked it up online. No, I won’t tell you.

The cartoon is an enthusiastic chase through a department store, with star window attraction Bugs Bunny about to be shipped off the to taxidermy department. Bugs is likable here, partially because he’s opposite a heinous villain, the store manager (voiced by Dick Nelson).

Jones and writer Tedd Pierce manage to get both characters in drag, with Bugs’s feminine persona wooing the manager. There’s just got to be a scholarly work about the use of cross-dressing as a seduction device in Warner Bros. cartoons. There’s just got to be….

Jones has some fun ideas and a lot of good gags. Occasionally his animators can’t realize them but, on a whole, Hare Conditioned is a lot more successful than not.

It’s pleasant and consistently amusing, but there’s nothing particularly distinctive about it overall.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Basil Davidovich, Ken Harris, Lloyd Vaughan, Ben Washam and Robert Cannon; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny) and Dick Nelson (Store manager).


Duck Amuck (1953, Chuck Jones)

Duck Amuck is either very memorable or very predictable. If I have ever seen it, it was fifteen plus years ago. Yet I could guess a bunch of the plot twists, including the final one.

That final reveal, which might make Amuck memorable, also undoes a lot of the neat stuff the cartoon does otherwise.

The premise is simple–Daffy Duck battles a mischievous animator, losing his voice, his body, the backgrounds, the foregrounds and so on. The cartoon’s best when Jones is playing with how sound works in animation and it puts Amuck ahead.

There’s also the secondary thread–how cartoons abuse their characters. Here, Daffy gets to voice (to the animator and the audience) some of that outrage and indignity.

But then the final reveal comes along and undoes all that work. It’s just a gag, think about.

Blanc does great voice work here.

It should’ve been better.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Lloyd Vaughan and Ben Washam; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / The Animator).


Golden Yeggs (1950, Friz Freleng)

Once again, the boys at Warner Bros. have some problems with basic gender realities. Not only does Daffy Duck lay eggs (something he strongly infers in Golden Yeggs without getting graphic), neither do ganders.

That incredible plot problem aside, Yeggs is a lot of fun. It starts on Porky Pig’s farm with a gander laying a golden egg. The gander blames it on Daffy, who ends up kidnapped by the mob.

What’s so fun about Yeggs is the lack of gags. There’s a lot of story with a relatively long present action as Daffy gets kidnapped and barters with the mobsters. Then the finish, with the chases and the gags, takes place over five minutes.

The animation is fluid and enthusiastic, even if it’s a little lazy in terms of detail. Actually, Porky and the farm are weak, the mob and the city are strong.

Freleng does a great job.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Friz Freleng; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Ken Champin, Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis, Emery Hawkins and Virgil Ross; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Porky Pig / Rocky / Nick / Hotel Employee / Chickens).


Rabbit Hood (1949, Chuck Jones)

Rabbit Hood features some great voice work from Mel Blanc. Some of the responsibility falls on Jones and writer Michael Maltese, of course, since they put Bugs Bunny in Sherwood Forest with the Sheriff of Nottingham as an antagonist… but Blanc makes the cartoon memorable. Bugs has some great dialogue and Blanc nails it.

That success even makes up for his lesser work on the Sheriff, who’s a problematic antagonist. Jones and Maltese can’t make him actually threatening, so they play him like a buffoon. He’s not just an unworthy adversary for Bugs, he’s a boring one.

But the cartoon excels anyway. The gags are all strong, as is the pacing. Jones holds the gags in their aftermaths, waiting until the perfect moment to release the tension.

The animation’s quite good and Jones composes some excellent frames.

Hilarious tights on the Sheriff too.

And the final gag is utterly fantastic.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Phil Monroe, Lloyd Vaughan and Ben Washam; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny / Sheriff of Nottingham / Little John).


Frigid Hare (1949, Chuck Jones)

Frigid Hare ends on a strange note. It looks like Bugs Bunny and his newfound penguin friend are walking in place in front of the Northern Lights. The shot’s disconcerting since the rest of the cartoon is so strong.

Bugs is in Antarctica, having made a wrong turn and wasted a few days of his vacation. The vacation timeline is rather problematic… when the cartoon ends, Bugs only has four days left. So it takes him about a week to figure out his plan to rescue the penguin from an Inuit hunter. Oh, wait… Antarctica is unpopulated.

I guess Frigid Hare has more than one logic hole.

But it’s a charming cartoon, with Jones coming up with all sorts of great sight gags. I actually remember it from my childhood, the imagery is so strong.

And the penguin is adorable.

It’s even good natured, which is somewhat surprising for Bugs.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Phil Monroe, Lloyd Vaughan and Ben Washam; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny / The Inuit Hunter).


The Windblown Hare (1949, Robert McKimson)

The Windblown Hare is fairly intolerable. Even if the animation wasn’t lazy–maybe Warner slashed the budget after finding out what McKimson wanted to do–there are still two and a half major problems.

First, and most surprisingly, Mel Blanc’s Three Little Pigs voices are terrible. He’s doing them as Cagney toughs and it flops. Next, the half point, is Blanc’s Big Bad Wolf. Also bad.

His Bugs Bunny is fine, though the animation on Bugs is particularly bad.

The other big problem is the writing. McKimson doesn’t realize the Wolf doesn’t even acknowledge Bugs’s presence until it becomes a plot point. It’s incredibly lazy writing.

As far as the gags go, maybe the Wolf kicking grandma out of her house (without eating her) is the best. The final gag is terrible and the cartoon doesn’t even end properly; it stops instead.

At least Bugs isn’t annoying here. Just dumb.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Warren Foster; animated by John Carey, Phil DeLara, Manny Gould and Charles McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny / The Three Little Pigs / The Big Bad Wolf).


The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946, Robert Clampett)

Is that Porky Pig cameoing in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery? I kept expecting him to be revealed as the big villain.

The story concerns Daffy Duck getting clomped on the head and imagining himself in a Dick Tracy adventure. Now, for Tracy fans, there’s a lot to see, including some inventive takes on the villains. But it’s actually pretty tame for everyone else.

Some of the problem is the animation. Piggy looks like it was done, for the most part, on the cheap. For the first half, it’s mostly just Daffy by himself, acting wacky. In this wackiness, his body contorts to extraordinary proportions. There’s little point to it… unless Clampett was just trying to keep the cartoon active.

Since it’s clearly a dream, the payoff has to be in the dream sequence—and there are a couple decent gags—but overall, it fails.

Piggy is way too loose.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Warren Foster; animated by Rob Scribner, Bill Melendez, Manny Gould and Izzy Ellis; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck).


Daffy Duck Slept Here (1948, Robert McKimson)

So all you need to make Daffy Duck an incredibly sympathetic character is Porky Pig.

In Daffy Duck Slept Here, Porky’s a traveler in search of a hotel room. He ends up lodging with Daffy, only they haven’t met yet. Once they do, the majority of the hilarity ensues.

And it is hilarity. Slept Here is an excellent cartoon, making great use of a Harvey reference, for example.

Daffy’s a fun loving guy and Porky’s somewhere between a square and a jerk. The animation on Porky is peculiar, actually. It’s almost like one’s supposed to be predisposed to dislike him. Even Mel Blanc’s voice for Porky is unenthusiastic, not just compared to his work on Daffy’s, but on the supporting characters too.

Treg Brown’s editing is particularly sublime here; the whole cartoon’s a technical achievement.

Well, except the final gag. It’s flat. But Slept Here still leaves a fine impression.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Warren Foster; animated by Manny Gould, Charles McKimson and Izzy Ellis; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Porky Pig / Hotel Clerks / Manager).


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The Hep Cat (1942, Robert Clampett)

In the last minute and a half of The Hep Cat, Clampett finally comes up with some really interesting shots. The short’s a cat and dog one. It follows the standard. Dumb dog versus a mean, vain and not much smarter cat.

The titular hep cat breaks out into a song routine, but it’s not enough to separate him too much from all the rest.

They chase each other around (the dog’s smart enough to put on a pussycat puppet and tempt the cat) but at the end they end up on the city rooftops. All the animation is solid, but once they’re on the rooftops, it all of a sudden gets a lot more visually compelling.

Otherwise, there’s nothing to recommend it. The cat isn’t much of a character, even with singing and various voices, and the dog’s even less of one.

It feels long too (at six minutes).

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Warren Foster; animated by Robert McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (The Hep Cat / Rosebud) and Bea Benaderet (Bird).


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