Michael Maltese

Baby Buggy Bunny (1954, Chuck Jones)

Baby Buggy Bunny opens with its weakest sequence–a bank robbery. The perpetrator is a baby-sized thug who gets away by throwing on a bonnet and hopping in a carriage. Clearly there are some Baby Herman connections, especially later on when the robber and Bugs Bunny start battling.

Bugs gets involved thanks to a runaway baby carriage carrying the loot–hence the title–but most of the cartoon has him caring for this thug, unaware of the true identity of the “baby.” There are some great bits; Jones has the comic pacing down here.

The arrival of Bugs also has a change (for the better) in the animation. The bank robbery sequence is erratic, maybe even intentionally, but the Bugs stuff is just good work. The writing is really strong too. The scene where Bugs finds out who he’s been caring for is fantastic.

Buggy is a great time.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

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

Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny / Baby-Faced Finster).


Robin Hood Daffy (1958, Chuck Jones)

Robin Hood Daffy is an unappealing mix of pointless, dumb and bewildering. Besides Porky beating up Daffy (Porky’s Friar Tuck, Daffy’s apparently Robin–more on that one in a bit), Jones’s gags all seem recycled from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. It’s Daffy swinging around to disastrous result.

It’s never clear if Daffy’s actually Robin Hood or just playing in the forest and pretending. One hopes the latter, as it makes Robin a little more interesting. Also interesting is Jones and writer Michael Maltese’s anti-welfare take on the redistribution of wealth. It’s just a line, but it gets the brain working more than the rest of the cartoon.

The animation’s not bad, with the grand finale somewhat impressive, but there’s no energy. Mel Blanc does exceedingly well with the voices. It’s a shame the cartoon doesn’t match his efforts.

Jones only had to fill six minutes; he fails miserably.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Abe Levitow and Richard Thompson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Porky Pig).


Here Today, Gone Tamale (1959, Friz Freleng)

I hadn’t seen Here Today, Gone Tamale before, but I’ve seen Freleng’s subsequent Chili Weather. The setup is the same–these starving, but lazy, Mexican mice can’t steal any cheese from Sylvester the cat, so one of them whores out his sister to Speedy Gonzales. In Tamale, Sylvester is guarding a boat. In Chili, it’s a warehouse. But it’s the same… down to the awkward sympathy for the characters the cartoon is being racist against.

Freleng’s direction is terrible in Tamale. Some of the fault is the animators, who are alternately lazy and bad. Sylvester looks different sometimes in the same shot. There isn’t even continuity between frames.

There are a couple good gags–the best is Sylvester getting locked in a limburger cheese compartment–and the ending isn’t bad. Mel Blanc does a great job with Sylvester. He’s likable while still being dangerous.

But, otherwise, Tamale‘s pretty rotten.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Friz Freleng; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis and Virgil Ross; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Speedy Gonzales / Sylvester / Mice).


Fresh Airedale (1945, Chuck Jones)

Fresh Airedale opens without titles and I’m a little surprised to see it’s Chuck Jones. The animation is rather weak for the most part and, while there’s inventiveness, it’s chaste.

The cartoon has either a mixed message or just a depressing one. It’s all about a sociopathic, Machiavellian airedale who does whatever he can to get all the attention in the world. Meanwhile, a nice cat suffers.

So it’s either about how people stupidly like dogs over cats or about how this particular dog is the Mussolini of terriers.

Sadly, there’s no point in deciding which one. Michael Maltese is all over the place with the plotting and it sort of kills any expectation for the cartoon.

Mel Blanc doesn’t have much to do with most the voices, but Frank Graham is excellent in his role as the dog’s stupid owner.

Knowing it’s Jones, I expected a whole lot more.

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 (Cat / Prowler / Nightmare Voices / Shep) and Frank Graham (Narrator / Shep’s Master).


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).


Baton Bunny (1959, Chuck Jones and Abe Levitow)

Baton Bunny casts Bugs as a perfectionist conductor who, during a performance, has to cope with wardrobe malfunctions and a bothersome fly.

The most interesting thing about the cartoon–and something I’ve never seen from a Bugs Bunny cartoon before–is how co-directors Jones and Levitow go out of their way to make Bugs cute. He’s not drawn cute–in fact, he’s quite ugly in some shots–but Jones and Levitow show his little fluff tail being cute as it dances to the music and his ears doing something. It’s odd, but at least it keeps one’s attention.

Sadly, even though Baton has good direction (sometimes great) and good animation, it’s boring. It’s not the best way to listen to the piece of music the orchestra plays and it’s not a good Bugs Bunny cartoon. Bugs is interchangeable with anyone in Baton.

At best, Baton‘s a tedious viewing experience.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones and Abe Levitow; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Richard Thompson and Ben Washam; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.


Hook, Line and Stinker (1958, Chuck Jones)

I don’t get it.

I haven’t seen a Road Runner cartoon since I was a kid, but watching Hook, Line and Stinker, I couldn’t figure out the appeal.

Oh, Jones’s direction is outstanding and the animation is great, but it’s a long series of gags. They’re not laugh out loud funny, but some of them are amusing–especially in Stinker‘s case, this long complicated one at the end. But there’s no other point….

Stinker‘s an exercise in craftsmanship, a cartoon boiled down to the gags and those gags drawn out to extremes.

And, even though Wile E. Coyote would undoubtedly eat the Road Runner, one can’t help but feel sorry for him. The whole cartoon is centered around laughing at the poor coyote. At least the Road Runner isn’t stuck-up; he’s clearly a birdbrain.

Again, Jones and his animators do a great job. Just a pointless one.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Richard Thompson and Ben Washam; edited by Treg Brown; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.


Feed the Kitty (1952, Chuck Jones)

A tough bulldog adopts an adorable kitten in Feed the Kitty; a story Jones liked so much he remade it. This one, the original, manages to be charming without saccharine, maybe because of the really strange objectification of the dog’s lady owner.

She kicks up her skirt at one point, revealing her legs, and it seems highly inappropriate.

The cartoon mostly concerns the dog not being allowed new toys–or, he assumes, a new kitten–and having to hide the kitten from the owner.

All the various gags to hide the kitten are good. There’s even the sequence where the dog thinks the kitten’s been baked. Jones handles the despondence quite well.

The only weak moment is during a chase sequence when the perspective gets messed up. Otherwise, everything–story, direction, animation–is wonderful.

Kitty‘s a fine fifties visual time capsule, but it’s also an excellent bit of cartooning.

3/3Highly Recommended

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 (Marc Anthony / Pussyfoot) and Bea Benaderet (Marc Anthony’s Mistress).


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).


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