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Freleng Takes Over

Author: boblipton from New York City
8 January 2010

Friz Freleng directs his first credited Merrie Melody -- he had directed a few late silents for Mintz and seems to have already directed two or three MMs uncredited -- and, despite the rubber-tube-style animation -- which Termite Terrace would not shake off for another three years -- and the use of Buddy, the most pointless cartoon lead in the history of animation, manages to produce a fine little cartoon.

The whole value of this piece is due to the same strengths he would show for the rest of his career: a fine sense of pacing for his gags, and his unerring ability to pace a purely musical short, which was his forte through such works as SKYSCRAPER SYMPHONY and THE THREE LITTLE BOPS.

Merrie Melodies were made to showcase songs from Warner Brothers' musical library, and here the major theme is "Shanghai Lil", originally used in the Jimmy Cagney feature, FOOTLIGHT PARADE. The plot is standard and pointless: Buddy is a US sailor on shore leave in China, where he rescues a girl who is about to be sacrificed to a dragon. But notice, in the parade sequence, the constant beat of gags that punctuate the parade. Many of them have aged badly, but they match the tempo of Bernard Brown's fast and jazzy arrangement of the song.

While not the best cartoon he would ever direct by a long stretch, this one is well worth your time.

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