Robert McKimson

Russian Rhapsody (1944, Robert Clampett)

Russian Rhapsody is a strange–and very funny–cartoon. First, as a historical document, it's a Hollywood cartoon mocking Hitler (before the end of the war and the extent of his atrocities became clear). In Rhapsody, he's an obnoxious windbag and there are a bunch of good jokes at his expense.

But once the first act is done–Hitler is going to fly a bomber himself to Moscow–Rhapsody takes a different turn. It's about the gremlins attacking the bomber. They're funny little creatures, destroying the plane in creative ways (though director Clampett never actually shows the specific effects of their sabotage) and they have a great song.

There are a lot of contemporary pop culture references; some still work, some don't. The Stalin one probably didn't work even back then if you knew anything about foreign affairs.

Until the final gag flops (it's another pop culture reference), Rhapsody is a very funny cartoon.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Lou Lilly; animated by Rod Scribner, Arthur Davis, Manny Gould and Robert McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Adolf Hitler / Gremlin from the Kremlin).


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).


Wild Wife (1954, Robert McKimson)

Wild Wife is easily McKimson’s best cartoon (of those I’ve seen, anyway). I was going to start by talking about McKimson as an unlikely feminist, since Wife mostly concerns a housewife whose male chauvinist pig husband berates her for not getting enough done.

The cartoon then flashes back to show exactly how full her day has been, mostly with his little tasks. Then it sadly diverts to her being a shopaholic and a gossip, which is more what I expected.

But the ending recovers somewhat and McKimson and writer Tedd Pierce never make judgements. It’s a shocking cartoon coming from McKimson.

He’s even ambitious in his direction; though the character design lifts a lot from Blondie and the animation’s fairly bad. It also lifts a Blondie gag.

But it’s a good cartoon. Bea Benaderet (who’s uncredited as the lead, showing sexism wasn’t dead in the title card department) is great.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Herman Cohen, Phil DeLara, Charles McKimson and Rod Scribner; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bea Benaderet (Marsha / Daughter / Old Women with pennies / Beautician) and Mel Blanc (John / Son / Mailman / Bank Teller / Red Cross Nurse / Casper J. Fragile / Soda Jerk / Pedestrian / Officer).


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).


A-Haunting We Will Go (1966, Robert McKimson)

Expository dialogue in a cartoon? I’ve never heard anything so silly before… in A-Haunting We Will Go, the witch introduces Speedy Gonzales. Unfortunately, she does not cook him.

Strangely (and sadly since the character dynamic is amusing), Daffy’s nephew doesn’t get an introduction.

The stuff with Daffy and his nephew isn’t bad–and the animation on the exterior scenes is quite good–but June Foray’s witch is exceedingly annoying. Except when she turns Speedy Gonzales into her physical clone, then Haunting becomes some weird gag about a Mexican drag queen. You’d think an anti-defamation league would have complained.

Bill Lava’s music is bad and McKimson’s approach seems more informed by “The Jetsons” than anything else.

It’s unfortunate, as the opening with Daffy and his nephew is quite good. It’s probably the best twenty or thirty seconds I’ve ever seen from McKimson.

But then Haunting plummets fast and far.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; animated by Warren Batchelder, George Grandpré, Bob Matz and Manuel Perez; edited by Al Wahrman; music by William Lava; produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Speedy Gonzales / Daffy’s Nephew) and June Foray (Witch Hazel).


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 Mouse That Jack Built (1959, Robert McKimson)

A prerequisite for The Mouse That Jack Built is probably working knowledge of “The Jack Benny Program.”

I have none, though I think I’ve heard the radio show before. But I certainly do not remember it enough for Mouse to make sense.

It’s a strange concept for a cartoon–imagine Jack Benny is a cartoon mouse; he’s still Jack Benny in all respects, except species and affinity for cheese. And then there’s the frame. Apparently, the cartoon opens in the “real” Beverly Hills, even though it’s a cartoon. Because it ends with Benny, in person, in the house where the cartoon takes place. McKimson didn’t think anything through.

The animation’s mediocre. It’s weak on Mary Livingstone’s mouse alter ago and good on Benny’s.

Benny gives the only good performance (besides Mel Blanc).

I suppose it does make me want to see Benny’s program, but it’s not much of a cartoon.

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 Jack Benny (Jack), Mary Livingstone (Mary), Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson (Rochester), Don Wilson (Don) and Mel Blanc (Ed the Vault Guard).


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).


n

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).


Scroll to Top