Monday, April 30, 2007

Daffy: 1946

"The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" is quite the visual treat. What could have been just another "dream sequence" film, is much, much more. It begins with Daffy eagerly anticipating the arrival of a Dick Tracy comic book in the mail (to the tune of "Powerhouse"). A self-induced punch in the face sends him spiraling into his dream world.

Now Daffy is "Duck Dwacy" receiving phone calls regarding stolen piggy banks. When he realizes that his bank is gone as well, he sets out in search of the thief.

Numerous sight gags are spread throughout, such as Daffy putting his head through his magnifying glass, proving that there is no glass and also proving that the instrument is useless. A trolley operated by Porky proves the fastest route to the gangster's hideout. The flashing neon signs outside don't hurt either.

Once inside, Daffy walks on the ceiling and lifts footprints from the ground for closer inspection. When confronted by some truly bizarre villians, the fight is on. Daffy is literally rubbed out, launches a grenade resulting in Pumpkinhead's transformation into a walking bakery sale, breaks apart into multiple squiggly pieces, only to reform and machine-gun the villians.

Once Neon Noodle is transformed into an "Eat at Joe's" sign, Daffy is able to find the stash of piggy banks. At this point he awakens, to find himself smooching a swine.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Daffy: 1945

While other cartoon characters at other studios were joining the war, Daffy was dodging the little man from the draft board. This film's plot is quite simple, and yet the results are amazing.

Daffy is filled with American pride until he learns that a letter from the draft board is being delivered to him.

The tables are turned on Daffy here. Usually he is the character who can appear anywhere anytime, ensuring no escape for his co-stars.

This time there is no escape for Daffy. Even when he runs fast enough to reduce himself to a comet-like streak, the little man from the draft board is always behind every door, thrusting the letter in Daffy's face.

There are some pretty wild "takes" from Daffy, including the moment he learns when he should literally have eyes in the back of his head.

A rocket trip gone wrong makes Daffy believe that perhaps hell will be a safe haven from the army. "Well now, I wouldn't say that."

Not much more to say really. Sometimes the films just speak for themselves.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Daffy: 1944

As I move along here, I am realizing that I really enjoy the cartoons in which Porky (or any other character for that matter) is rendered completely helpless by Daffy's lunacy. There is really nothing that he can say or do to restrain the duck. Such as it is in "Duck Soup to Nuts", in which Porky seems not to have learned his lesson from his last hunting expedition and once more takes up his rifle.

Daffy quickly informs Porky that he should think twice before shooting him, due to his extraordinary talents. Daffy demonstrates by singing, dancing and producing his Warner Bros. contract as proof.

Daffy then asserts his acting skills by tossing a blonde wig upon Porky and swooning over him like a love-struck frenchman. Enter the villian, as Daffy throws on a cape and top hat, twirls his new mustache between his fingers and proceeds to chase Porky around a rock. Appearing much like a silent movie villian, one might think that Daffy would tie Porky to some railroad tracks if he caught him.

When Daffy peers into porky's gun, he witnesses a bathing beauty residing within, however, when Porky looks into the gun, he sees...well, something completely different.

Using fast-paced word play, Daffy convinces Porky that the pig is an eagle. While Porky climbs a tree to prove his flying abilities, Daffy, with his back to the audience, turns his head to the camera and gives us a raise of his eyebrows. Acknowledgment of the audience was always a welcomed aspect of Looney Tunes, making us feel as though we are in on the joke.

Even with a certain rabbit as the biggest star in Looney Tunes at this time, Daffy proves yet again that no character can top him in the realm of "looniness".

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Daffy: 1943

It was easy for me to pick a Daffy Duck film from 1943 to discuss. "Yankee Doodle Daffy" never fails to make me laugh...a lot.

Porky Pig closes up his talent scout office to catch a plane, only to be ambushed by talent agent Daffy. Daffy physically plants Porky in a chair and forces him to listen while the duck tries to promote his client, Sleepy. Sleepy serves no real purpose here, other than to give Daffy an excuse to harrass Porky.

Daffy gives Porky his card, then prompty takes it back. Soon, Porky is trapped as Daffy launches into the most twisted renderings of songs ever. Daffy leaps from one tune to another, giving his manic spin on each of them. He opens with "Wild about Harry", then after stopping Porky's escape attempt, breaks into a banjo solo. Not missing a beat, Daffy is instantly in drag, performing some high-speed, hip-shaking shenanigans.

The look of desperation on Porky's face is priceless as his failed attempts of escape from the office are thwarted by Daffy in full Paliachi garb, insanely hooting through "Laugh, clown, laugh". Daffy rides on Porky through the room like a cowboy for no apparent reason, but no reason is needed for Daffy to do such a thing. Insanity has never been so funny.

Porky learns that even a locked safe is not enough to contain the zany duck, for as he escapes to his plane and breathes a sigh of relief, it is revealed that Daffy is the pilot. Daffy's wartime song in the plane always fills me with patriotism and the urge to salute becomes rather strong.

Porky's leap from the plane proves to be no escape as his parachute contains nothing but Daffy himself. A fast-paced, vocal version of the William Tell Overture by Daffy forces Porky fleeing back to the office.

Daffy's movements are now so frantic that multiple images of him fill the screen, each one performing various circus acts to the tune of the "can-can." Porky finally reaches his breaking point and we learn that Sleepy is not all that talented after all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Daffy: 1942

Conrad is a rather forgettable character. Daffy Duck is not. In Chuck Jones' "Conrad the Sailor", Daffy is aboard a ship seemingly for the sole purpose of taunting and tormenting Conrad.

Daffy mocks Conrad's singing (rightfully so), changes his mop bucket for a paint bucket and twists Conrad literally at every turn.

The speed of the characters is what always draws me into this film. In practically every scene, either the characters' body parts, or thier entire bodies, are reduced to nothing more than blurs, as Conrad chases Daffy around the ship.

The pair must halt the chase several times in order to properly salute the captain as he quickly shuffles by. Even a speeding torpedo must obey this rule.

Daffy's references are as obscure as they come. "Very petite, Betsy." "Very sloppy, Roscoe. You're a slovenly housekeeper." I've never taken the time to investigate them since they are funny regardless.

As Daffy rides the torpedo through the air (twice), races across the deck with Conrad (with yet another pause for the mandatory salute) and then speeds into the distance, we are left with the feeling that the action will continue on, even after we are told "That's All, Folks!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Daffy: 1941

I am feeling lazy today so rather than go through the hassle of transfering my vhs copy for screen grabs, you can watch A Coy Decoy on AOL. Bad news: it's the colorized version. Good news: it's unedited.

Directed by Bob Clampett, the film has another "books come to life" theme. Daffy leaps from the cover of "The Ugly Duckling" and gives a manic rendition of "Get along, little doggie" before mounting "Black Beauty", a typical "mammy" stereotype character.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" sets his sights on Daffy while swimming in "The Lake" and uses a decoy duck to entice his prey. Soon Daffy is smitten over the decoy and swoons over it in a very Pepe Le Pew fashion.

The jig is soon up though and Daffy quickly tries to save his skin by enlightening the wolf to his many medical problems such as dandruff, b.o., dishpan hands, ingrown toenails and deviated septum.

Soon the chase is on and Daffy must "Escape" over the "Bridge of San Luis Rey" before using the "Hurricane", "Mortal Storm" and "Lightning" to defeat the wolf, who dies in front of "For Whom the Bell Tolls".

Porky is in this film too, but he is only really there to help administer the end gag as Daffy breaks all laws of reproduction and has a family with the decoy.

Best gag for me: When Daffy halts the wolf for a moment in mid-chase to admonish him: "You're a hard man, McGee!"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Daffy: 1940

After a brief and dissapointing stint at MGM, Friz Freleng returned to WB. Grateful to have his former job back, he made a film which mirrors his experience. Both he (in real life) and Porky (in the film) left the studio, realized the grass was not greener elsewhere and returned.

In Friz Freleng's "You Ought To Be In Pictures", some different personality traits begin to emerge in Daffy. Selfish and manipulative, Daffy manages to convince Porky Pig to leave the cartoon studio and seek out a job in feature films, believing that, with Porky out of the way, Daffy will be elevated to top star at the studio.

Probably the best comedy moment for me is that every time Daffy tells Porky how much money he can be making elsewhere, the price increases.

Blending live-action with animation, the film shows Porky saying farewell to boss Leon Schlesinger and then getting into all sorts of trouble around the movie lot.

Daffy seizes the opportunity to promote himself to Leon as the future of WB cartoons. The duck cannot contain himself as he warbles opera, thumps his rear on the floor and scatters around the office, delighting in his greatness. Before he can seal the deal, Porky returns and shows Daffy just how much he appreciates his "help".

This personality of Daffy as a self-preservationist would be taken to an even further extreme by Chuck Jones later in the duck's career.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Daffy: 1939

"Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur" was Chuck Jones' first film featuring Daffy and right from the start, Jones puts his own spin on the duck. Daffy is slightly more in control of himself in Jones' hands (slightly is the key word). Clearly, Daffy is in control of the situation (at least until the film's end). He is able to make his opponent respect his authority over the cartoon's universe.

Casper Caveman (a charicature of Jack Benny) and his pet dinosaur, Fido, are on the hunt for breakfast, and Daffy is the main course. Catching the duck is no easy feat, as Casper learns. When threatened with a slingshot, Daffy only has to don a police officer's uniform in order to bring the hurtling stone to a halt.

Fido takes the brunt of the stone and waltzes through a wobbily delerium. Meanwhile, Casper begins to jump into the lake after Daffy, but the duck holds him at bay with a "Positively No Swimming" sign.

Daffy paints a self-portrait upon a rock for the caveman to strike. Just as in "Porky's Duck Hunt", Daffy offers assistance to his foe, showing good sportsmanship for just a few seconds before luring them into his next trap.

The caveman and Fido walk deliberately but blindly, lured by signs and advertisements complete with guiding arrows planted by Daffy, to a gigantic inflatable duck. Daffy has not thought this out completely, for when Casper stabs the duck, it explodes, killing all three characters. Daffy admits the oversight to the audience, a little too late.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Daffy: 1938

Inspired by Daffy Duck's recent birthday, I have decided to pick one of the duck's films from each year of his career to discuss from time to time here. Having already discussed "Porky's Duck Hunt" from 1937, today we move on to 1938.

The film is "The Daffy Doc", directed by Bob Clampett, and in it we find Daffy as the assistant of Dr. Quack. Daffy, of course, can not control his insanity and soon his antics (which include sliding across the instrument table and using the anesthesia machine as a punching bag) get him thrown out of the operating room and into an iron lung.

One bit of comedy that occurs here surprisingly does not even include Daffy. Dr. Quack leans over the surgery table, carefully placing stitches in his patient, until it is revealed that his patient is, in fact, a football.

Meanwhile, Daffy's body is stretched and squashed from the effects of the iron lung, until he finally decides to go find a patient of his own to treat...regardless of if they are sick or not.

Enter Porky, whistling as he goes about his business down the street, blissfully unaware that Daffy walks behind him with a mallet. We are spared the brutal assault as it takes place around the corner, but we see the result as Porky is carried unconscious on a stretcher back to the hospital by Daffy.

Now clearly there is nothing physically wrong with Porky (except for a bruised head I am sure), yet Daffy's lollipop thermometer tells a different story. Daffy calls a consult by whacking himself with a mallet and discussing Porky's case with the images of himself that appear due to his blow to the noggin. It is agreed that the treatment for Porky apparently is a hacksaw to the belly, a treatment that Daffy does not get to carry out, since a mad chase around the hospital results in both doctor and patient being stuck in the iron lung.

This film shows Daffy even more insane than usual as he attempts to inflict physical harm on Porky, all the while acting as if he is doing it for the pig's own best interest. With a crazed, cross-eyed expression,it will not be long before Daffy begins to eclipse the studio's main star, Porky.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Good Grief!

Here at the Acme Factory, not only are classic cartoons appreciated, but classic comic strips as well. Peanuts ranks right up there at the top of the list and will most likely be discussed here from time to time. As Fantagraphics releases the latest volume in thier "Complete Peanuts" series, I felt now would be the time to reflect on the strip.

It's hard to describe the feelings that are instilled in me while reading Peanuts. While other comics try to be funny, Peanuts brilliantly goes the opposite route. Don't get me wrong-There is great comedy to be found in the strip, but it is always cast over by a shadow of doubt and isolation. It is as if a large, dark cloud resides over the characters, with only brief gaps in which the light of hope can peek through.

I think that most people can relate to the traumas of childhood and Schulz captures these difficult years with brutal honesty. A child's world is not always a bed of roses. There are bullies, unrequited loves, loss, despair, rejection, loneliness and the fear that you just don't fit in.

As I read Peanuts, I am instantly transported back to that time in my life when I felt like the world was going to eat me alive. Yet there is comfort to be found in Peanuts, a sense that Charles Schulz is telling us that everything will be alright somehow. He doesn't say it in words, yet I am left with the feeling that Charlie Brown has grown-up now and has a successful career, a wife and kids, and that Snoopy has finished writing his "dark and stormy night" novel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Holy Smoke!

I promise I will not bore you with my personal life here but the following fact does have something to do with cartoons. I promise.

I am currently trying to quit smoking. Rather unsuccessfully, I might add. I think back to when I started and nowhere in my memory bank can I find the thought "I think I will start smoking because Tom and Jerry did it."

Now, I know that the edits being done to Tom and Jerry on Boomerang is old news now, but I just need to discuss it anyway. I just cannot seem to understand the belief that children can be so easily swayed by a cartoon character, that they would begin to mimic thier unhealthy habits. Maybe it really does happen, I don't know. If it has, I would like to know. If anything, I would think that kids would be more influenced by real-life actors. Should Casablanca be edited because of Bogart's smoking? Not on your life.

The most glaring example that I can think of right now is Disney's "Saludos Amigos" Gold Collection DVD. The scene of Goofy smoking has been made "socially acceptable" and yet during one of the live-action segments, a Disney artist aboard the plane can be guessed it...smoking!

So, let me get this straight. Imaginary character Goofy smoking=bad. Real, live flesh-and-blood man smoking=acceptable.

All I need to say is this. Where DVDs are concerned, if 500 warning labels need to be plastered across the case, warning all who buy it of the potentially damaging and scarring scenes depicted within, so be it. You will get no complaints from me as long as the content on the disc is unedited. As for television, there are ratings systems now for a reason. Slap Tom and Jerry with an MA rating for all I care. Just stop editing our cartoons.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

70 Years of Daffy

As I sat here thinking of what to discuss tonight, a thread over at goldenagecartoons tipped me off to the fact that it is Daffy Duck's birthday. 70 years ago, the duck was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. Cartoons would never be the same again.

It began in "Porky's Duck Hunt" (1937). Director Tex Avery and animator Bob Clampett set Porky Pig off hunting, only to be confronted by a duck who refused to back down. Daffy was clearly insane, spinning and bouncing on his head as he "hoo-hoo'd" his way across the lake, foiling a flustered Porky at every turn. Porky even pulls out a copy of the script to use as leverage, but to no avail, for Daffy could not be contained in any manner.

Until the arrival of Daffy, characters in cartoons did not act this way. During the early 30's, they sang. They danced. They got into mischief sometimes, sure, but nothing that even came close to the unhinged chaos of Daffy Duck. I always wish I could have seen the audience's reaction in 1937 to Daffy as he behaved in a manner that cartoon characters of the time had never behaved before. Daffy clearly put the "Looney" into "Looney Tunes".

The few pieces of dialogue Daffy has in the film are perfect. After flinging Porky's dog at its master's feet, Daffy explains "Don't let it worry you, skipper. I'm just a crazy darn-fool duck!" Indeed he is.

When Porky's gun fails, Daffy graciously helps the pig get the gun working again. When Porky realizes that it is Daffy who is helping him, the duck simply says, "It's me again" before breaking into more insanity.

The film ends with Daffy sliding and hopping across the "That's All Folks" end title card. No other character was given permission to do such a thing, but then again, Daffy never needed permission to do anything. Just one of the reasons why Daffy remains one of the best cartoon characters of all time.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Upcoming DVDs

So, to start things off, I will mention a few upcoming DVDs.

First, WB will release "Tex Avery's Complete Droopy" on 5/15. The set will feature 24 Droopy cartoons. (the 16 Tex Avery's and 8 by other directors) Word has it that if this set sells well, we might eventually see a complete set of Tex Avery's other films from MGM. We can only hope.

Next, the unbelievable has happened. Universal has finally decided to release "Woody Woodpecker and Friends" on 7/24. I'm not too keen on the cover art, but who cares? As with all of the sets mentioned in this post, we have been promised that the cartoons will be restored and unedited! A whopping 75 cartoons will appear featuring Woody, Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, Oswald the Rabbit and others. This looks like it will put to shame the 15-disc Columbia House set that is currently on my shelf.

Finally, WB is releasing "Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938", featuring 60 Fleischer films in chronological order. Release date is 7/31 (one week after the Woodpecker set. Nobody disturb me during these 2 weeks. I'll be in front of the tube.)


This blog will be devoted to my ramblings on animation. I have always been obsessed with cartoons, specifically from the 1920's-1960's.
Until recently, it has been some hard times on those of us who appreciate these films. They have been yanked from television and have teetered on the brink of obscurity. However, now many studios have wised up to the realization that they have these classics rotting away in thier vaults and have thankfully began releasing them on DVD.
So, expect some news, reviews and other musings on the classic cartoons of yesteryear.