Milt Franklyn

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).


Cannery Woe (1961, Robert McKimson)

Are all Speedy Gonzales cartoons the same? Cannery Woe opens with starving Mexican mice needing Speedy to get them cheese. Sylvester is guarding the cheese. Woe does have a couple minor differences though. First, none of the mice have to whore off their sisters to Speedy. Second, he doesn’t even show up until the cartoon’s half over.

The first half of the cartoon follows a couple of the down and out local mice and they’re mildly charming. It’s not just Mel Blanc talking to himself, Tom Holland voices one of them, and it’s mildly amusing. They’re a fine comedy team.

The animation’s not bad–though the backgrounds are terrible–and Woe is occasionally thought provoking. Seriously.

The town is destitute and starving, yet the mice want to steal from the humans. These Speedy Gonzales cartoons are a sociologist’s goldmine for American characterization of Mexicans.

Shame they aren’t good cartoons.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Warren Batchelder, Ted Bonnicksen, George Grandpré and Tom Ray; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Speedy Gonzales / Sylvester / Jose / Mayor Raton) and Tom Holland (Manuel / Mice).


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).


West of the Pesos (1960, Robert McKimson)

West of the Pesos is a hideous cartoon, with terrible animation and McKimson ripping off Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. There’s not much to amuse oneself with during the insufferable six minute cartoon, but there are some places to try.

First is the whole Speedy Gonsalez thing. I mean, Warner produced cartoons–not expensive, but still professionally produced–for no reason other than to cap on Mexico? The terrible jokes in Pesos aren’t even inventive bigot humor. They’re just lame. McKimson’s got no wit (or subtlety).

Sadly, the only other way to pass the runtime is to marvel at the awful animation on Sylvester. It’s loose and lazy, the worst the cat’s ever looked. Given he’s just a stand-in for the coyote… maybe it doesn’t matter.

Pesos might be a new low for McKimson, at least of what I’ve seen.

At least, I hope this one’s his low.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Warren Batchelder, Ted Bonnicksen, George Grandpré and Tom Ray; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.

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


A Broken Leghorn (1959, Robert McKimson)

A Broken Leghorn never confronts its bleakness or meanness.

It opens with Foghorn Leghorn doing a good thing, tricking a presumably barren hen into thinking she laid an egg. But then it turns out to be a baby rooster, so Foghorn spends the rest of the cartoon trying to kill the adorable little rooster.

Mel Blanc’s voice characterization of the baby rooster sounds a little too much like Bugs Bunny, but it’s likable enough… and Foghorn’s a monster. Strangely, he does get his comeuppance. The cartoon ends with him caged and off, one would assume, to be slaughtered.

McKimson doesn’t seem to understand the bleakness or the meanness, which is no surprise. If he did, the cartoon might be better.

The animation’s pretty weak too. There’s no inventiveness. I suppose Broken‘s not bad, just boring.

I haven’t seen a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon since I was a kid. They haven’t improved.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Warren Foster; animated by Warren Batchelder, Ted Bonnicksen, George Grandpré and Tom Ray; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Foghorn Leghorn / Junior Rooster) and June Foray (Miss Prissy / Hens).


The Last Hungry Cat (1961, Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng)

I wonder if anyone involved in making The Last Hungry Cat ever owned a cat. The premise is (for a Freleng cartoon) quite good. Sylvester is haunted–by an Alfred Hitchcock-like narrator–after he “eats” Tweetie. There are a couple big logic problems. The major one involves cats. They don’t have remorse. It’s absurd Sylvester would feel guilty.

The second problem is Sylvester’s apartment. He has his own pad, a cat living among people. It’s strange.

Otherwise, if one forgives the lazy Freleng backgrounds, it’s not bad. Mel Blanc has a field day with Sylvester’s guilty ramblings. Ben Frommer’s good as the interfering narrator too.

It’s a simple story and Freleng tells it precisely. Hungry never goes on too long. It’s a tightly paced narrative with a great noir feel.

I’m a little surprised Freleng directed such a strong cartoon. Hungry is the best work of his I’ve seen.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng; written by David Detiege and John W. Dunn; animated by Gerry Chiniquy, Lee Halpern, Art Leonardi, Bob Matz and Virgil Ross; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Sylvester / Tweety) and June Foray (Granny); narrated by Ben Frommer.


Knighty Knight Bugs (1958, Friz Freleng)

Besides Mel Blanc’s voice work, there’s nothing to recommend Knighty Knight Bugs. Actually, even with his voice work, there’s nothing to recommend it. It’s just the only good thing about the cartoon.

Bugs, as a medieval jester, has to go get a sword. Yosemite Sam has the sword. Bugs gets it. The cartoon’s act structure is broken. I doubt it’s intentional, just Freleng and writer Warren Foster didn’t have any ideas. The story’s completely uninspired, but not as uninspired as Freleng’s gags. His animators don’t do a terrible job (the background artist is another matter) but there’s nothing interesting for them to animate.

The cartoon’s single saving grace is its length. At six minutes, by the time the viewer realizes nothing else is going to happen, it only has two minutes left.

So, while it’s not quite painless, its brevity reduces how painful it might get otherwise.

Knighty Knight indeed.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Friz Freleng; written by Warren Foster; 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 (Bugs Bunny / Yosemite Sam / King Arthur / Sir Osis of Liver / Sir Loin of Beef / The Dragon).


Birds Anonymous (1957, Friz Freleng)

Birds Anonymous should be really good. Its failings so how tied animation technique and writing are when it comes to a cartoon. The narrative, down to the scenic plotting, is fine. But the animation is bad so Birds flops.

The most startling problem is the backgrounds. A more generous person might call them stylishly spare. I’ll call them cheap and lacking. Sylvester never looks like he’s interacting in a setting. It’s painfully obvious he’s not.

Worse is the supporting cast. Both Sylvester and Tweety look fine, but all the rest of the cats look terrible. The plot involves Sylvester joining a twelve-step program to overcome his craving for birds. Like I said… Birds should work.

Every time Sylvester’s sponsor shows up to save him, the bad animation undoes what should be a great scene.

Mel Blanc’s voice work is fabulous. It’s too bad Freleng didn’t take Birds as seriously.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Friz Freleng; written by Warren Foster; animated by Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis and Virgil Ross; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Sylvester / Tweety / Clarence / B.A. Cats).


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.


Mouse and Garden (1960, Friz Freleng)

Mouse and Garden has some bad animation… shockingly bad. The cartoon’s about Sylvester and his sidekick, Sam, fighting over a mouse. The animation on Sam (an orange cat) and the mouse is awful. Freleng apparently didn’t care about appearing three dimensional.

Actually, a lot of the gags work in two dimensions, as does most of Freleng’s composition. Garden is a bore to watch.

Sylvester looks a little better, like the animators had good reference materials. Not so for the annoying Sam–the character’s weak and a terrible pair for Sylvester.

Maybe if the mouse had any personality the cartoon might work better, but Freleng sort of ignores it until the final gag. Gag might be too strong a word to describe it. Final attempt at humor.

Mel Blanc’s characterization of Sylvester is so strong it’s hard to dislike Garden entirely, but there’s nothing else good about the cartoon at all.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

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

Starring Mel Blanc (Sylvester) and Daws Butler (Sam).


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