A Corny Concerto (1943)
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My Grade: A+
I find this very much a classic Looney Tune - highly entertaining, funny and sweet. The Fantasia spoof around it works very well. I also noticed that there was only one joke which was relevant to the world of the time. It was a slight fighter jet joke and of course the Second World War was still raging in 1943. Some of the jokes were slightly lame and a little repetitive/predictable, but a delight to watch all the same.
Also, this has a role of Daffy - who does not look a lot like Daffy. Daffy looks much more like a duckling than the little black duck we know. He does a very good job. Of course, so does everyone in this episode.
Being a spoof on Fantasia, there are two stories, both with a piece of classical music in the background. Elmer Fudd introduces each piece and has rather a trouble with his out-fit (you'll see what I mean when you watch it). I personally preferred the second piece to the first piece, partly because the second had Daffy in it.
Recommended to people who enjoy old Looney Tunes cartoons and who very much enjoy "Fantasia". Enjoy "A Corny Concerto"! :-)
The Warners Cartoons never (at that time) expanded beyond nine minutes - usually they were seven to eight minutes. So there was no full scale spoof on the Disney masterpiece. But everyone could see the spoof by the appearance of the shadow on the podium (Leopold Stowkowski in FANTASIA - here it was Elmer Fudd). Elmer introduces the two segments (both Johann Strauss the Younger standbys: THE TALES FROM THE VIENNA WOODS and ON THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE). He too tries to uplift the cultural level of the audience, by explaining how the melody flows around and around, "and it comes out here". To people not around in the 1940s, it is a reference to a popular tune, "THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND". Elmer's attempt at cultural awareness is undercut by his shirtfront, which keeps popping up and hitting him in the face. He eventually tears the shirt off. Later he strips even more.
THE TALES FROM THE VIENNA WOODS is a ballet with Porky as the hunter (filling in for master of ceremonies Elmer), hunting Bugs. He has brought along his hunting dog, and Bugs (progressively more effeminate in this ballet than usual) is able to fool them. There is a bit of a knock at SWAN LAKE here, with Bugs disarming the hunters, only to enrage a squirrel by hitting him with the rifle. Then, for the first time in any Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bugs dies (briefly). His resurrection, involving a brazier, is also unique in his cartoons.
ON THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE deals with a variant on the "ugly Duckling" of Hans Christian Anderson. Lonely baby Daffy wants to be accepted by a family of Swans (a mother and her three daughters), but he is obviously a duck. He proves himself when he bests a vulture who momentarily grabs the three baby swans. The avenging Daffy takes on the appearance of a U.S. Air Force fighter plane, while the vulture suddenly takes on a yellow coloring. The most subtle point in this sequence is when the mother Swan faints after failing to find her three children. She has fallen faint in the center of a pond or lake surrounded with water. A shocked Daffy runs off, gets a pail of water, and flings it on the Swan - without any effect whatsoever to the Swan.
A delightful romp into cultural pratfalls, to the strings of Strauss.
THe film is framed as one of those light classics concerts in which an inept conductor tries to explain the evening's programme, but is persistantly defeated by his cheap tux. His battle with his suit is slapstick fun, but also points to the ossification and impoverishment of music etc. by bourgeois respectability.
Like FANTASIA in miniature, the short offers two pieces of animation, choreographed to classical music (both Strauss waltzes, nothing too heavy). THe first, Tales of the Vienna Woods, is the usual Bugs fiasco, where he is chased in a forest by Elmer and a big dog. THis is always fun, but is given added piquancy by the recreation of the forest, which has all the living richness of fairy tale illustrations, and by the film's movement, which is choreographed to the music's rhythm, and reaches delirious heights of hysteria.
THe second, superior segment, The Blue Danube, features the young Daffy Duck, a lonely orphan bird who is rejected by a snooty family of swans. When the young chicks (or whatever) are abducted by a vulture, Daffy comes to the rescue, and is welcomed, if problematically, into the family.
THese segments work on a number of levels. The pieces of music chosen are very famous sentimental impressions of nature - the cartoons reveal a vicious dog-eat-dog (or pig and dog eat rabbit) world of violence and terror. The vulture scenes are as chilling as anything in BAMBI.
To say that nature is a self-generating abbatoir still lets us off the hook. But we must remember the year of the film's production, 1943. THe waltzes of Strauss might be among the most beloved fruits of the Teutonic imagination, but that imagination was currently engaged in the destruction of civilisation and nature across the continent. The scenes with the vulture rounding up the chicks have a very disturbing resonance.
BUt when Daffy rescues them, he turns terrifyingly into a being half shark, half fighter airplane. Contemporary US propaganda films showed the belated war effort as a noble and necessary calling; the questioning films only came when it was safe. BUt here was a cartoon tacitly admitting that the defence of civilisation involves a certain loss of that civilisation, a descent into the barbarity it seeks to exterminate. It is a brief moment, and there is a happy ending, but Daffy's reintergration at the end is not complete - this brilliant cartoon is unerringly prescient.
My favorite scenes from this charming cartoon: Elmer is hilarious as he struggles with his loose-fitting attire. Porky and his dog are also very funny when they cry in waltz time as Bugs supposedly lies dead. When the buzzard snatches away the three baby swans, it is revealed that one of them is cheating by using a motor. Determined to save the three little swans from the clutches of the buzzard, Daffy essentially becomes a fierce bomber airplane, and the swans become paratroopers (with a nice sound effect).
The best thing about "A Corny Concerto" is the action that occurs COMPLETELY in synchronization with the musical accompaniment, which is hence where the humor of this cartoon lies. In addition, take note of the superb background paintings in this film, particularly during the opening "Tales from the Vienna Woods" segment.
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Warner Brothers's spoof of Disney's FANTASIA has Elmer Fudd playing the orchestra leader and then we get two different sequences. The first has Porky Pig and his dog stalking Bugs Bunny while the second has a group of stuck up white ducks not playing well with a baby Daffy. This here is certainly a classic film for the series as it really does do Disney better than Disney did in FANTASIA. Both of the stories are extremely good and that's certainly the cast for the first one. I thought the little back and forth between Porky and his dog was quite funny. Of course, the real highlight here was the wonderful music and how it was used for the animation.
The one with Porky Pig hunting Bugs Bunny had ending that seems like it would have been a little risqué for 1943 (especially in a cartoon), but that's what makes these cartoons so good; they weren't afraid to push the limits. But the one with a black duckling - possibly Daffy Duck - is truly the highlight; but how could it not be, featuring "The Blue Danube"? One scene there gave the cartoon a real feeling of WWII.
So, this is truly one of the classics. Up in that great animation studio in the sky, Mel Blanc, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, and that whole crew can take pleasure knowing that their work continues to impress us to this day.
Elmer Fudd is the conductor and tells us what to expect in the concert, using as many "w's" instead of "r's" the writers could think of for a 10-second speech. We then witness the Strauss waltz, "Tales From The Vienna Woods" featuring hunter Porky Pig, his dog and their prey, Bugs Bunny. All the action is done to the music.
The same holds true for the second number, "The Blue Danube." This second part was totally lame except for the great artwork.
The colors in here at stunning, and might be the highlight of the whole cartoon. The laughs were not plentiful, but you can't win them all.This cartoon is part of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two and can be seen on disc three.