Archive | January, 2010

It’s All About Him: Duck Dodgers In ATTACK OF THE DRONES

31 Jan
Daffy addressing his robot copies in Attack Of The Drones

Daffy as "Duck Dodgers" addresses his...uh, "troops" in ATTACK OF THE DRONES

After a brief hiatus to accommodate the Freeze Frame Friday feature (and to give your tired blogger a badly needed rest) we resume our look at Larry Doyle’s 2003 Looney Tunes.

Review by Rachel Newstead

Copyright year 2003 (unreleased)

Director: Rich Moore
In short: What’s worse than one Duck Dodgers? Try 100….with lasers

Like just about any other fan in the known universe, I love Duck Dodgers In The 24th 1/2 Century. I love it from the first scene to the last, from the wonderfully wonky “1930s space opera meets Salvador Dali” designs of Maurice Noble, to Marvin Martian’s Acme ray guns, to the “disintegrating pistol” gag (“Well, whaddaya know, it disintegrated….”). Nothing could come close to it, and indeed, nothing ever has. Even the men behind the original, Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese, couldn’t re-ignite the spark, though they certainly tried. I’ve spent much of the last thirty years trying to wipe Duck Dodgers and the Return Of The 24th 1/2 Century from my memory.

The Duck Dodgers TV series was…adequate, most of the time. If one pretended the classic 1953 “Duck Dodgers” never existed and judged the latter version on its own merits, it could be quite entertaining. That, essentially, is the attitude I had to take when it came time to review Larry Doyle’s take on the “Dodgers” universe, Attack Of The Drones. With the proper mindset in place, I found myself enjoying it more than I ever thought I would.

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Freeze Frame Friday 1/29/10: A Plethora of Porkys–And Chock Full Of Charlies

29 Jan

still shot of a "smear animated" sequence involving Porky and Charlie Dog

by Rachel Newstead

When I was first introduced to the cartoons of Chuck Jones as an impressionable pre-adolescent,  I knew him mainly for two things: the measured, Disneyesque cartoons of his early years, and the stylized, mannered-nearly-to-the-point-of abstraction work of his later years.  Little did I know then of the riches that lay in the middle.

In that shakedown middle period, running more or less from the release of the groundbreaking Dover Boys in 1942 to the first of the Bugs/Daffy/Elmer trilogy (Rabbit Fire) in 1951, Jones was perhaps at his freest and most innovative:  when Eugene Fleury, then Robert Gribbroek,  were his background designers, when he was reading up on the filmmaking techniques of Eisenstein, and when the stranglehold he’d one day have on his animators hadn’t quite taken effect.

This week’s freakish Freeze Frame comes from Often An Orphan, the second in Jones’ series of cartoons featuring Charlie Dog. Released in 1949, it would come toward the end of Jones’ “middle period”, but the relative liveliness of  that time was still in evidence.

In this scene, con man–er, dog Charlie is trying to sucker gullible Farmer Porky into adopting him as a pet, tearfully relating the horrors that await him should Porky send him back to…the city!! As he loudly and histrionically imitates the raucous taxi horns and cringes at imaginary towers,  he momentarily becomes a blur, splitting into multiple images of himself–and throwing Porky into the maelstrom with him.

This scene, the work of the ever-versatile Ken Harris, is a masterful use of the smear animation, the best since Dover Boys, and the best  use of a multiple-image flurry since Dave Tendlar’s distinctive sequences in Fleischer’s Popeye and “Grampy” cartoons. It perfectly plays out the overwrought melodramatics Charlie is going through as he attempts to reel in his “pigeon.”

It goes to prove that left to their own devices and freed of Jones’ restraining hand, his artists could produce a bit of animation every bit as wild as Clampett’s.

A Magic Book “Spells” Trouble For Wile E. in THE WHIZZARD OF OW

28 Jan

The Whizzard Of Ow

copyright year 2003 (unreleased)

Director: Bret Haaland

In short: Don’t tamper with sinister forces you don’t understand–especially if you’re Wile E. Coyote…

Review by Rachel Newstead

In this installment of my ongoing series on the Larry Doyle Looney Tunes, I take a look at the one of the six that perhaps comes closest to the spirit of the original: the Road Runner cartoon The Whizzard Of Ow. As you’ll see as we work our way down the list, however, it turns out to be faint praise…

After using such varied–yet unsuccessful–means as a dehydrated boulders, Burmese tiger traps, an Acme Batman suit, and even performance-enhancing drugs (leg-muscle vitamins, to be exact) through the years,  it makes perfect sense that in the era of Harry Potter, Wile E. Coyote would resort to the one thing he hasn’t tried in his quest to catch the elusive Road Runner.

Namely, magic.

Therein lies the premise of the first–and best–cartoon of our Unseen Six, The Whizzard Of Ow.

Two things become apparent immediately. Well, make that three. First is the background design: it lacks Maurice Noble’s elegant stylization, and Robert Gribbroek’s varied color palette, but it’s certainly better-looking visually than the McKimson and Larriva shorts had been. The various cacti and mesas are rendered with highlights, and have some dimension. The background artists were obviously going for an early-fifties look here, but as this was done at Rough Draft Studios, I couldn’t help but think this landscape could double as an alien planet for Fry, Bender and Leela. (Rough Draft worked on Futurama, as well as The Simpsons Movie).

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Because Somebody Had To Do It: The Larry Doyle Looney Tunes

28 Jan
Duck Dodgers argues with alien in Attack Of The Drones

Duck Dodgers is back (again?) in "Attack Of The Drones" (yes, that's a Klingon behind him)

by Rachel Newstead

My ol’ southern granddaddy had a saying: expect the worst. Then, when it doesn’t happen, you’re pleasantly surprised….

So when I took on the unenviable task of reviewing the reviled, unreleased 2003 Larry Doyle Looney Tunes, my expectations couldn’t be much lower. Steeling myself for exposure to the alleged blood-congealing, stomach-liquefying animated plague produced by Mr. Doyle, I was not only surprised, but almost disappointed to find that most of them were at least watchable. [Note:  “Almost disappointed” because I revel in true, Ed Wood-level badness. It’s practically a Zen experience.–R.] Some, dare I say, even approached “good”. (I can almost see the lynch mobs forming as I write this–just try defending these within 500 miles of the nearest Looney Tunes geek. You’ll really need Obama’s health plan).

I admit my obsession with these “Unseen Six”, as I’ve come to call the cartoons, might seem a little strange to most of you, but it shouldn’t be surprising to those who know me. Of all the creative endeavors ever conceived, nothing intrigues me as much as those that might have been. I like the Larry Doyle Looney Tunes for the same reason I’m fascinated with Scott Joplin’s lost musical scores, Walt Disney’s aborted feature projects, and the first two pilots for “All In The Family.” They’re a glimpse into what might have happened had the creative process taken a slight detour, producing an “alternate-universe” version of the movies, TV shows and music we know.

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That Golden-Voiced Crooner…Lurch??

27 Jan

Lurch in Addams Family episode posing for his album cover

I have to tell you, I love YouTube. My usual searches for documentaries on early television (upon which I embark when I’m trying to avoid work) sometimes lead me down a blind alley to a number of strange but wonderful places. This is definitely one of those.

The TV series THE ADDAMS FAMILY spawned the usual tie-in products during its two-year (1964-66) network television run. And a few things decidedly less….uh, usual.

Fans may remember an Addams Family episode in which Lurch (Ted Cassidy) becomes an instant pop sensation. Who’d have thought life would imitate art? Cassidy–as Lurch–provides his distinctive bass growl for a mid-60s single in this YouTube gem….

Too bad American Idol didn’t exist then–he’s a natural.

Of Daffy Ducks, Napoleonic Wabbits (And Chuck Barris, Too): The LOONEY TUNES SUPERSTARS Collection and Other Musings

24 Jan

Napoleon has his plans for world conquest foiled by...Bugs Bunny?

By Kevin Wollenweber

In anticipation of the forthcoming LOONEY TUNES SUPERSTARS single disk collections of classic Warners cartoons, I’ve been revisiting the best disks of the GOLDEN COLLECTION series.  I’ve been paying close attention especially to the disks that also feature later cartoons from the studio.  The forthcoming disks seem to spotlight the cartoons of the latter 1950’s and even the early 1960’s, an era that we don’t always get to see.

Never fear, there is no way I’m going to praise the artistic efforts of this period alone, holding them above my beloved 1930’s surreal black and white favorites, but we as collectors do, after all, want each and every cartoon in the Warners library to be restored and released.  At least that is the way I want to see it done, but then again, my ideal originally was to see a massive out-pouring of these cartoons, beginning at the beginning and ending at the last cartoon to be created at the studio.  Sure, this idea probably would have never worked with the general public, but we collectors would be anticipating the various volumes like so many chapters in the Greatest Story Ever Told!!

Anyway, I am hoping that the results of the April, 2010, releases will be quite interesting, especially regarding DAFFY DUCK.

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Freeze Frame Friday 1/22/10: The Other MGM Lion Roar

22 Jan

Jerry "roaring" at Tom in climactic scene of "The Milky Waif"

by Rachel Newstead

Somewhere, deep in that vast, labyrinthine archive of visual memories that is my co-blogger Kevin’s mind, lies one of countless indelible images–the one you see above. One which had barely made an imprint on my own brain cells until now.

Not because I didn’t notice it–how could one miss a “money shot” like that?–but because I, having seen so many Tom and Jerry cartoons so many times, took it for granted.

It’s a funny scene, taken from the climactic moment in The Milky Waif . Jerry, having discovered Tom had struck Jerry’s young charge “Nibbles” with a flyswatter, literally roars with a rage that could only come from a parent whose child has been harmed. Or surrogate child, in this case.

Further, he expands to three times his size, making the scene all the funnier. But to me,  it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary for a Tom and Jerry cartoon: just one of a blur of funny poses I’d long since come to expect. Yet as so often happens, it would take Kevin (never one to take visual memories for granted) to pull that image from the blur and in the process, make me realize something I hadn’t before.

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