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Fresh Airedale (1945)
Satirical Cartoon with an Adult Sensibility
This Chuck Jones directed masterpiece is sometimes misunderstood by people who don't get the satirical message. It's about the relationship of a pet owner and his dog and cat. To his master Shep the dog appears loyal and kind, but in reality is completely amoral and conniving. He frames his crimes on the unnamed cat in the cartoon, who is actually the kind and loving pet, so that the poor cat gets the blame from their master.
This is one of the darker Jones cartoons from the 40's. Jones made a series of them, when he was teamed with the writer Mike Maltese, and it is likely that Maltese provided the caustic flavor for these.
Like in the cartoon CHOW HOUND (1950), FRESH AIREDALE is about wanting to get revenge on those who are responsible for suffering, but unlike the former film, the latter has a downbeat ending. There is no justice at the end of AIREDALE, unlike the darkly satisfying revenge enacted in CHOW HOUND. This makes the cartoon a rarity in the history of American animation -- a truly ironic ending where evil triumphs. Shep gets away with it because he is able to charm and deceive people, like a consummate politician. In a way, AIREDALE reminds me of the darker films of the 70's, so it's ahead of it's time in a way. It's obvious that the cartoon was meant for adults, rather than the small tykes. It's a little too sophisticated for the wee ones.
Pre-Hysterical Hare (1958)
Lackluster Looney Tune
I love the Looney Tunes cartoons, but this isn't one of the good ones. The pacing and humor are subpar, which for a Warner Bros. cartoon is a great disappointment.
There were some problems that plagued the production of this cartoon; maybe that's why it didn't come out so good. The first problem you'll notice is that canned music is used from John Seely Assc. instead of a full orchestrated score. The music used is rather tepid, and doesn't sync to the action on screen like the best of Carl Stalling's scores did for the Looney Tunes.
The second really noticeable problem is when Elmer Fudd speaks. The original voice of Elmer Fudd, Arthur Q. Bryan, didn't work on this cartoon, probably because he was ill. (He died the year after this cartoon was released.) Dave Barry took over the job of providing Fudd's voice, and he doesn't sound anything like the character should.
Another problem adding to the overall mediocrity is the fact that the animators in director Robert McKimson's unit, at the time of this cartoon, had little experience animating. Combine that with the tighter budgets the crews had to work during the late 50's and the animation really suffers. It's limited and very dull -- the characters mainly stand around and talk. There's very little slapstick like in the better cartoons from the 40's and early 50's.
I say avoid this one, unless you're curious to see how low a once great cartoon series could sink.
Tangled Travels (1944)
Possibly the worst cartoon of the Golden Age...
I've never seen a cartoon from the 40's as bad as this one. Usually, cartoons from that era had a high standard of quality, but it's as if the artists who made this cartoon didn't even bother to try.
A parody of travelogues, it is filled with nothing but bad puns one can see coming a mile away. (Travels? Mile? There's a bad pun there somewhere. If I could figure it out, I could write for Columbia.) The pacing is slow and dull, and there is actually very little in the way of character animation. Most of the cartoon consists of some object animated over live action photographs for backgrounds, to illustrate yet another excruciating pun. One starts to feel that the people responsible for this cartoon were somnambulists or at least addicted to morphine at the time.
Columbia/ Screen Gems had a poor track record in terms of producing good cartoons, and this is their worst effort by far. In fact, it's the worst cartoon from that era, period.
Watch it only if you are interested in the history of Hollywood cartoons from the golden age, and how some animators could go so very far astray. Otherwise, avoid.
It's a Grand Old Nag (1947)
Bob Clampett's last theatrical cartoon
I've only seen a worn 16mm print of It's a Grand Old Nag, but even with that handicap the cartoon still shines. It's a very funny satire on Hollywood, about a horse named Charlie who dreams of meeting his dream girl (horse), Heddy La Mare.
One can't help but compare this cartoon, which was produced for Republic Pictures, with the great work Clampett did while at Warner Brothers. (Clampett used a pseudonym instead of his real name in the credits; he is listed as Kilroy.) Surprisingly, the Republic cartoon is on par, in terms of pacing, timing, humor and quality of animation, with most of Clampett's Looney Tunes cartoons. While not quite up to masterpieces like The Great Piggy Bank Robbery or Baby Bottleneck, it is nevertheless still a very good cartoon. I was surprised at how good the animation was since Clampett did not have his great team of animators from Warners. Deprived of the excellent talents of Rod Scribner, Manny Gould and Robert McKimson, Clampett still managed to turn out animation that was strong and exaggerated.
The cartoon is not in circulation on television or on home video, so it is difficult to see. However, if a rare opportunity does arise to view the cartoon, I recommend it highly.
Fawn-a over Flora
One of the few good cartoons to come from the Screen Gems/Columbia Studio. The studio had a spotty track record in regards to producing funny theatrical animated shorts in the 40's -- in contrast to Warner Bros. and MGM, which made some of the greatest. In fact, this cartoon was written by two veterans of the Warner Bros. cartoon studio, Dave Monahan and Cal Howard. (It was also produced by two ex-employees from WB, Ray Katz and Henry Binder.)
The cartoon is a witty and clever parody of the "film noir" crime melodramas. The dog narrates the cartoon about his infatuation with a Siamese cat named Flora and how it lead to his downfall. The narration alone would lead one to believe the infatuation is about love, but the actual action in the cartoon contradicts this -- the dog is really trying to harm the cat (ala Tom & Jerry style) in typical cartoon fashion (with Flora always outsmarting the dog). It is the incongruent aspect of these two elements that produces most of the humor in the cartoon. A difficult conceit to pull off, but it works marvelously here.
The director was Alex Lovy, who also had a spotty track record for most of his career. He was a director at Lantz studios in the early 40's, and most of those cartoons, while containing some of the anarchic spirit of the Warner Looney Tunes, were rather crude and ugly in design and animation. Flora contains some of Lovy's faults as a director, too. The character design of the dog is uninspired and a little clunky (especially his round ears which make him look almost like a bear in some shots) and the animation is routine and pedestrian. Not that the animation is bad (especially compared with cartoons today) but it's surprising how literal it is at times, considering the heights the other Hollywood animation studios were reaching at the same time. However these problems don't distract from the good qualities of the cartoon, like it's novelty and humor.
The Whizzard of Ow (2003)
Lackluster comeback for the Road Runner and Coyote
This film was one of several new cartoons that Warner Bros. was going to release to theaters along with their live action features. While most of the finished shorts have not seen the light of day, this particular title was included on the DVD release of Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
It is a tepid and banal cartoon without much laughs, slightly better than the awful Rudy Larriva Road Runner theatrical shorts of the late sixties (produced by Seven Arts). It begins with an unnecessary set up in which a dueling wizard loses his book of spells. Wile E. Coyote then finds the book and decides to use magic to capture the Road Runner. Why waste time with such a long and unfunny prologue? Wile E. simply could have ordered the book from the reliable Acme Co. instead. This would have wasted less time and gotten right to the chase.
The rest of the cartoon is comprised of gags that misfire because of poor staging, or slow timing. There are some occasional funny gags here and there (I honestly can't remember them at the moment, though) but they are too few and far between.
The animation on only a few occasions rises above the type of fare we are used to seeing on television. In fact, the animation for the Ren & Stimpy Show is far superior to that of this theatrical short. And the former was produced on a television budget!
The filmmakers also break one of Chuck Jones and Mike Maltese's cardinal rules about the Road Runner series, and that is that the Road Runner never willfully causes the Coyote any harm.
Save yourself the trouble of seeing a once fine series corrupted by sitcom writers and television animators, and watch the original cartoons directed by Chuck Jones instead.
Chow Hound (1951)
Gluttony, Greed and Gravy
Not only is this a great cartoon, but it represents a change in Chuck Jones' style while at Warners. In the late 30's and early 40's Jones made cartoons in the Disney mode, or rather he tried to. Most of those cartoons were rather dull and humorless. By mid-forties, though, Jones had seen the light and started to make funny cartoons like his contemporaries Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng and Frank Tashlin. But it was when he was teamed up with writer Mike Maltese in the late 40's that Jones' cartoons really started to gel; they became funnier and more polished as well as being stylistically unique, especially when compared to the cartoons Freleng and McKimson were turning out during the same period at Warners.
Maltese's writing was much darker and more cynical than anything Jones had worked with before. (Jones tended to make rather sweet and sentimental cartoons when left to his own devices.) "Chow Hound" shows how well Jones and Maltese complimented one another's styles. It is Jones' strong sense of design, superior draftsmanship, funny expressive characters, and expert timing that keeps the cartoon from getting too dark or grotesque.
The plot involves a bully of a dog (who looks like a beefier version of Charlie Dog) who uses a cat and mouse to run several scams on some unsuspecting pet owners in order to get himself a running supply of meat. However, the dog's own gluttonly and greed drive him to think up the ultimate plan to get a bigger score. The cartoon moves at a brisk pace, and scenes build on top of each other, leading nicely to the next until the final surprise ending. And it is a great ending!
In one scene, featuring a close up of a newspaper want ad, several of the animators' name are printed as an injoke.
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
Disasters of the Universe
This movie was universally panned by the critics when it was first released theatrically in 1990. Although it may not be as horrible as the critics believed it was, it is still a poorly made movie. The many problems include: the general miscasting of just about every lead and costarring role -- Tom Hanks as a WASP, Melanie Griffith as a southern-belle, Bruce Willis as himself, basically; all the actors overact and mug shamelessly, as if this is the key to comedy; and the cinematography and direction are handled in a very showy and self-conscious manner.
But worst of all is the writing. It wasn't so much a problem with a book that was difficult to adapt to the screen, but the fact that the screenwriter contradicted what the book was all about. The satire and irony in the novel was gutted in favor of a broad, farcical type of comedy. The producers showed their cowardice by politically correcting certain characters (the judge played by Morgan Freeman), and changing the original downbeat ending of the book into a typical Hollywood happy ending. The reporter that Willis was cast to play was changed from a venal and unlikable character to one more in line with the ingratiating Willis persona. Most embarrassing of all, Freeman's character gives an idiotic, simple-minded "uplifting" speech near the end of the film (suddenly, "Bonfire" becomes a Frank Capra film). It's as if the filmmakers were frightened of the "controversial" book they decided to adapt that they turned it into a lighter and more inconsequential movie. One that audiences stayed away from in droves.
Draftee Daffy (1945)
Patriotic Peril for Draftdodging Duck
Daffy changes his tune from patriotic flag-waver to craven draftdodger when he learns that the little man from the draft board is coming to pay him a visit. Daffy's reaction when he learns of his induction status is the highlight of the cartoon; the implication slowly dawns on him. He spends the rest of the cartoon trying to avoid the little man, even resorting to attempted murder. (And to think, only a few years before Daffy fought the Nazis in such cartoons as Daffy the Commando  and Plane Daffy .) Only Daffy could get away with such brazenly unpatriotic behavior during World War II, and only a director like Bob Clampett could pull it off and still keep the duck an appealing character. This also marks the beginning of the craven, self-preserving Daffy that Chuck Jones would later develop in such cartoons as Duck, Rabbit, Duck and Rabbit Fire. Another very funny and energetic Clampett cartoon.
Tortoise Wins by a Hare (1943)
Best of the Bugs vs. Cecil trilogy
A hilarious sequel to Tex Avery's Tortoise Beats Hare (1941), the cartoon even starts out with Bugs watching selected film footage of the former cartoon. Bugs is very aggressive here and is determined to do everything in his power to win the race this time. If in the Avery cartoon the roles of Bugs and Cecil were reversed, so that Bugs was the loser and Cecil the heckler, here they literally switch identities. Bugs is dressed like a turtle in a mistaken belief that his "streamlined" shell will make him faster (If you're going to miscast Bugs Bunny as the loser you might as well go all the way with it), while Cecil is dressed like a rabbit because he knows the rabbit underworld has bet heavily on the hare to win and will use whatever means necessary to ensure a rabbit victory. Mel Blanc's acting is especially good here, probably one of his best performances. One standout scene is the passion in Bugs' voice as he draws nearer to the finish line. In an interesting side note, the newspaper that announces the rematch also contains an article in the lower right hand corner labeled "Adolf Hitler Commits Suicide." (Remember, this was 1943.) Were the animators at Warner Bros. clairvoyant? Unfortunately, the ending is censored on most television prints today, so try to see this cartoon uncut on videotape instead.
Porky in Wackyland (1938)
"It can happen here!"
In 1937 Robert Clampett was promoted to director and one year later he created his first, true classic cartoon of the many that he would direct for Warner Bros. studio: Porky in Wackyland. Along with Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin, Clampett was instrumental in creating the Warner style. He was an innovator who liked to push the boundaries of the medium, and Wackyland is a perfect example of this. It was also the first of Clampett's many cartoons to use hallucinatory, surrealistic images; others would include The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, The Big Snooze and Tin Pan Alley Cats (which re-used animation from Porky in Wackyland.) Wackyland was later remade in color as Dough for the Do-Do by Friz Freleng.
Angel Puss (1944)
It's no Coal Black
It is interesting to compare this Chuck Jones cartoon with Bob Clampett's Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943), since both were written by Warren Foster and dealt with racial stereotypes. While Coal Black seems to have an admiration for the culture it is ridiculing, and is filled with an exuberance and joy in its portrayal of the characters, Angel Puss seems just mean-spirited. The vain Prince and greedy Queen are the main objects of mockery in Coal Black, but Angel Puss picks on an innocent black child for fun. He is paid to drown a cat but cannot bring himself to do it. While he is arguing with his conscience the cat manages to escape the bag he was kept in. The cat, pretending to be the child's conscience, urges the child to go through with his original plan. The cat then spends the rest of the cartoon pretending to be a ghost and "haunting" the child. This part of the story is just painful to watch. The child obviously doesn't deserve the treatment he suffers through. While many of the Warner Bros. cartoons dealt with a heckling character hassling some milquetoast in a very humorous way, this cartoon seems spiritless, as if director Chuck Jones was just going through the motions. It is interesting to note that this is one of the rare times that Jones worked with Foster, as he usually worked with writers Tedd Pierce and Mike Maltese.
*EDIT* I was mistaken about Warren Foster being the writer of this cartoon. It was actually written by Lou Lilly.
Jones' first classic
I consider The Dover Boys to be Chuck Jones' first classic cartoon at Warner Bros. Before this cartoon Jones bored his audiences with weak imitations of cute Disney cartoons. Some of these earlier efforts had no humor in them at all, and the animation and timing were slow and plodding. He made a radical departure with The Dover Boys. Since it was a parody of gay nineties melodrama Jones has the characters strike very exaggerated poses. Because the poses were so strong they were easier for the eye to "read," and required less animation in between them. This also led to quicker timing of the action. Jones also invented a new way to animate speed. Up until this point in animation history speed was indicated by "drybrushing" streaks of paint following a fast moving character. Here, though, as the character moves from one extreme pose to the next he stretches like taffy (or "smears") for a few inbetween drawings. This created a more believable illusion of speed. (One has to watch these scenes frame by frame to appreciate it.) Besides all this inventiveness, the cartoon is incredible funny, too. Jones forsook Disney "realism" and has the characters move in humorous ways (Dora Standpipe never walks but glides across the floor). Mel Blank provides one of the funniest voices in his career for villain Dan Backslide. Jones got into some trouble for this experiment and it would be some time before he would use the lessons he learned from this cartoon again (mainly in the late forties). A real gem, highly recommended
Kitty Kornered (1946)
Bob Clampett was at his creative height and his last year at Warners when he directed this cartoon. The plot involves Porky Pig trying to put his four cats out for the night (one of the cats is an early version of Slyvester). Several scenes parody Arsenic And Old Lace and the Orson Welles' radio play of War Of The Worlds. Everything gels together very nicely in this one; the jokes come fast and furious, the timing is razor sharp, and the art direction, use of color and camera compositions all greatly enhance the scenes. A special standout is the animation, though. It is suitably exaggerated and there are several great eye-popping "takes." The rest of the animators on Clampett's team had finally caught up to Rod Scribner's style of cartooning at this point. (Rod Scribner was one of Clampett's head animators and was instrumental in breaking the Warner cartoons away from the stultifying and literal "realistic" animation of the day to a looser and more expressive style.) A very funny and energetic cartoon that for some reason has hardly been shown on T.V. Highly recommended!
The Wrong Trousers (1993)
cracking good story
The best film of the Wallace and Gromit trilogy, and one of the greatest films, period. Nick Park and the animators at Aardman are some true talents and gifted storytellers. Nick Park has made some great clay stop motion cartoons before, such as Creature Comforts, but with The Wrong Trousers he really topped himself. The technical aspects of the movie are amazing. The noirish lighting, the attention to detail, the small jokes in the background, the camera compositions and the fluid animation (it doesn't have that herky-jerky look of most clay animated films) are awe-inspiring by themselves, but combined with such a witty story and appealing characters the result is something that truly deserves to be called a classic.
The Flintstones (1960)
A good show, but with many compromises
Created by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera in 1960, there are many good things to recommend about The Flintstones. The graphics are pleasing, the backgrounds have vibrant colors and interesting textures. The character designs are simple yet bold and cartoony (designed by Ed Benedict). Fred and Barney have barrel-shaped bodies, big heads with bulbous noses, and meaty fingers and toes (one wonders how these two ever wound up with such babes for wives). All the characters have thick inked outlines, making them easier to see on the small screen. Some of the stories were written by Mike Maltese and Warren Foster, veterans of the classic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes. The voice cast was also excellent.
Unfortunately, because of television's tight budget and schedule, the animation had to be severely restricted and the stories told mostly through dialogue. These type of cartoons became known as "illustrated radio." One can't help but compare this unfavorably with the full character animation of Hanna-Barbera's pantomime Tom and Jerry cartoons of the Forties. Fresh material was used up pretty quickly and jokes and ideas were re-used alot. Also, for some odd reason, a distracting laugh track was added.
In the best episodes, though, the humor, characterizations and graphics make up for the weaknesses.
The Critic (1994)
Why did The Critic fail? Could it have been the Harvard Lampoon style formulaic writing? The recycling from The Simpsons of bald and fat jokes? The fact that the lead character Jay Sherman was an unappealing whiner? Or maybe because the character designs were ugly and the styling inconsistent, as if each character wandered in from a different show? That the writers never took advantage of the possibilities of animation and simply tried to imitate a live-action sit-com? Maybe it was that the writers committed the same mistakes all writers of modern animated sit-coms make; too many characters, subplots that don't relate to the main story, too much exposition, not enough visual humor and storytelling (unless you like watching limited animated talking heads), overreliance on parody, toothless satire, and last but not least, bland, lifeless "on model" animation (which was even more stilted than the animation on The Simpsons). It's no wonder that the show was canceled twice by two different networks.
The Oblongs... (2001)
tame and lame
The Oblongs represent wants wrong with t.v. in general and writer driven animated sit-coms in particular. They claim to be daring and politically incorrect, but end up giving their audiences the same old luke-warm safe jokes. Nothing has any real bite to it, the satire is always softened by the writers letting us know they don't really mean it. Take the mother, Pickles, for example. She's an alcoholic. Pretty daring, right? Maybe it was when W.C. Fields did it (and did it better) sixty years ago. The difference is, Fields played it as a bad parent, too, as any real alcoholic would be. Here, Pickles is actually a caring parent and every show ends with a maudlin lesson learned. If the writers wanted to do such a bold, shocking show why not go all the way? Leave out the phony lessons, drop the hardened tried and true sit-com formula and show us the true black humor that such desperate circumstances bring. They also never take advantage of the fact that this is an ANIMATED show, that they don't have to be so literal minded. Their earthbound imaginations never seem to take flight. They treat the show as if it were live-action, so why not just shoot it in live-action? I guess it was to avoid that exploitive freak show quality. List this dud along with those other writer driven ink and paint failures The Critic; Sammy; God, Bob and the Devil; and Mission Hill.
The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991)
animation you can sink your teeth into
The animation was amazing, especially in episodes such as Sven Hoek, Big House Blues, Space Madness, Stimpy's invention and Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen. Scenes such as Stimpy being kicked by a horse and shaking off its affects, Ren miming the punishment he is going to hand out to cousin Sven and Stimpy from Sven Hoek or Ren trying to twist himself free of Stimpy's glue filled socks from Stimpy's Invention WAS full animation, and this was achieved on a t.v. budget and schedule (well, I don't know about the schedule part since the shows were always late). Not to mention all the wonderful eyepopping double and triple takes. The acting was inspired also, again see Ren's tirade from Sven Hoek or Mr. Horse's paranoid explanation from Rubber Nipple Salesmen when he thinks the F.B.I. have caught up with him. This kind of stuff hadn't been seen since Bob Clampett's Warner Bros. cartoons from the early forties. The art direction and designs were also beautiful, even when they lovingly depicted something gross. Such craftmanship won't be seen for a long time. Puts the Simpsons to shame.
The Simpsons (1989)
a slow painful death
The Simpsons was a very funny and clever show during its first few seasons on t.v. Sometime around the forth season, with the show entitled "Gambling Comes To Springfield," (at least, I think that's the name of the episode) it started its inevitable decline. There had been a few duds before this, such as when Homer managed a country singer named Lorleen or that old sit-com stand by where Homer writes an angry letter to his boss and accidently mails it, but the gambling episode represented a turning point. Those other shows at least had some funny jokes in them even if the over all story was unsatisfying, but the gambling show was almost devoid of anything humorous. While the following seasons never sunk to that low, they never again achieved the splendor of the first few seasons. There are many signs when a sit-com runs out of steam and starts to show its desperation to seem fresh. Celebrities start making guest appearences playing themselves, certain characters from the show get married or have children or die off (think of I Love Lucy or The Flintstones). All of these things have happened on the Simpsons, plus they've gotten more maudlin as the years have gone by. Every episode ends with a hug or a lesson (remember when the show used to be considered controversial?). They don't have to worry about cancellation because they've been dead for years. And this walking corpse has outlived the shows that once outdid it, such as The Ren and Stimpy Show. It is still even nominated for Emmy Awards, despite the fact that The Powerpuff Girls and Southpark now surpass it. The Simpsons won't die, they'll just fade away.
what's all the hubbub, bub?
This is an incredibly dull movie. If you enjoy watching emotionless mannequins spouting techno-babble exposition for almost two hours, then this film is for you.
Now on to the important stuff: the animation. Some people will think the animation in this movie is "realistic." Nothing could be further from the truth. What people are reacting to is the rendering and modeling, the textures and lighting given to the characters and sets. This is the most amazing thing about the movie and the only aspect of the film to achieve its vaunted (if somewhat cold and sterile)photorealism. The actual animation is stiff and unnatural, filled with stock gestures. The characters never seem to change their facial expressions (especially the lead Aki, whose eyebrows never move even when she is crying), and the lip sync is all wrong. Aside from the technical problems, this is simply bad acting. In trying to attain the subtlety of live actors the animators have made their creations lifeless and dull.
Of course, in animation realism isn't that important, believability is. The characters don't have to look real, but simply move in a plausible way. This can be achieved by heightening reality through the use of exaggeration. Perhaps if the movements of the characters where stylized a bit more, made a little more expressive, they might have seemed more engaging and a little less awkward and creepy. After all, the caricatured humans in Toy Story 2 are much more credible than the characters here. (The Pixar films also know how to tell a story)
People will think this film is a leap forward but it is actually a giant step backward. Back to the silent era and the rotoscoped animation of the Fleischer brothers' Koko the Clown. Whenever animators have tried to rigidly copy life-like movements they always end up with something less than real.
Der Fuehrer's Face (1942)
great wartime short
I can't remember exactly where I saw this cartoon, it was either at art school or an animation festival. Either way it is an excellent short, filled with many funny and surreal images. A (literal) nightmare in which Donald Duck works in a Nazi munitions factory at breakneck speed while constantly saluting caricatures of Hitler, it is a cartoon that would make George Orwell proud. One great scene of many has the duck hoarding a single coffee bean which he treats like gold. His covetous attitude and expression tell volumes about wartime shortages. The art direction is really strong throughout, especially the psychological uses of color to reflect Donald's varying moods. Also featured is the splendid title song, later recorded by the band leader Spike Jones. Although the Jones version of the song is available on CD, the cartoon itself has never been released on videotape or laserdisc. This is unfortunate since it is one of the best the studio has ever made. Disney has been extremely touchy these days about any image that could be construed as politically incorrect. Heaven forbid if a small child should see this cartoon; he might think fascism was bad. If you have access to a projector, you can probably rent a 16mm print of the cartoon. Many schools and colleges have catalogs of available 16mm films. *EDIT* The cartoon is now available on DVD, from the Disney Treasures set "On The Front Lines".
The Return of Mr. Hook (1945)
Mckimson's directorial debut
This is the first cartoon Mckimson directed. It was made for the U.S. Navy and stars a character named Hook. Similar to the Pvt. SNAFU cartoons, it was meant to teach the sailors various lessons of Navy life. In the cartoon we see illustrated Hook's plans about using his war bond savings to fulfill his postwar dreams. These are presented in a rather mainstream and pedestrian manner. Compared to the innovative use of graphics of Chuck Jones' SNAFU cartoons or UPA's industrial films of the same period and you realize how staid Mckimson's approach really is. There is also very little comedy present, the story being told in a straightforward fashion, unlike Clampett who would sugar coat his lessons to the soldiers with outrageous ribald humor. Hook's design is very cartoony, but the animation doesn't reflect this and instead is done in a very literal style. Hook's fellow crewmen are drawn in a realistic manner, which contrasts uncomfortably with Hook. One can see in this cartoon all of the qualities that would later plague Mckimson's cartoons of the fifties. For a first time director this is a polished and professional product, presented without any flair.
Baby Bottleneck (1946)
A Clampett Classic
Another Clampett powerhouse! Fast, funny, frenetic, and nightmarish. Porky and Daffy run a factory that delivers babies to their expecting parents. The highlight is Scribner's animation of Porky trying to get Daffy to sit on an unhatched egg. These scenes are presented without backgrounds, just color cards. As Jones would prove later with "Duck Amuck," Clampett shows that the only important thing is the character's personalities; that they don't need any arbitrary props or even backgrounds. In the beginning of the cartoon, Daffy argues with some irate parents over the phone. Clampett, writer Warren Foster, and animator Rod Scribner manage to make Daffy, alone with just a phone, hilarious.
Russian Rhapsody (1944)
Funny Wartime Propaganda
A very funny, energetic cartoon (but what do you expect coming from Clampett?). It starts out with a devastating caricature of Hitler ranting and raving. The level of exageration is amazing. Hitler sprays spit as he talks and has a truly manaical look in his eyes. He decides he is the only man to carry out a bombing mission to Moscow, but en route his plane is attacked by gremlins from the Kremlin. The Kremlins are mostly caricatures of the Warners staff. Leon Schlesinger is seen hitting Brother-in-law Ray Katz with a mallet in one scene. There is also a great scene of Hitler being electrocuted by the gremlins to an amazing drum solo. He twists and writhes into different shapes that show his true colors, such as a jackass. The cartoon ends with Hitler doing a Lew Lehr imitation, a reference that is lost on modern audiences. The only thing that mars this cartoon is a glaringly bad cut that was probably due to a censorship problem with the studio or the Hays office. Schlesinger would not have paid for a retake if something was cut.