Saturday, December 20, 2008

Top Ten Looney Tunes: My Picks

(Read The Link First:  http://www.cartoonbrew.com/books/the-100-greatest-looney-tunes.html)





1. The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (Bob Clampett)


Oh Sweet Lord, is this one ever a masterpiece. I argued with myself about making this number one....for about five seconds!

 Okay, I'm sure there are lots of hardcore classic cartoon fans who just hate the modern notion of clever writing/plot over pure silliness, but c'mon people, IT HELPS. And this is Clampett, Scribner, Ellis, Melendez and Warren Foster AAAAAnd Carl Stalling AT. THE. TOP. OF. THEIR. GAME. No questions asked. 


I'll tell you what people don't already say about this one, though - it's a pretty telling picture of morning-fresh postwar America - this was really THAT moment in 1946 when the nervous systems of the free world were hitting the clutch and the brake at once - warwarwardeathdeathdeathparanoinaprideshamedoubtSCREEEEEECH "OKAY EVERYBODY, TIME TO RELAX NOW! GET MARRIED, FUCK LIKE RABBITS, PUMP OUT BABIES! COME ON, YOU KNOW THE DRILL, WE WENT OVER THIS- hey, what's his problem? Oh right, he's *mocking WASP/gay voice* 'in shooock!!!' Pfft. Unpatriotic pussy."


Here entereth Daffy Duck, delirious over his distractions, in love with the chance to revel in something that isn't anything like what he had to contend with in....well, we'll save that for #2. But peace turns out to be a war of it's own. Give a former draftee a comic book, and what does he do? Turns it into another battle! What else would a war-worn waterfowl know how to do? Even deep in the canyons of his own mind, upon falling five feet on his ass, he must ask no one in particular, "Was That Trip Really Necessary?" 

One of my favorite things about this cartoon is the way the minor, subtle perversions of real physics and rational logic slip past, overwhelmed by the obvious ones. Sure, the SECRET HIDEOUT sign is the very literal embodiment of postmodern irony's proverbial "Neon Signs" - But how about the fact that Neon Noodle's 'hands' appear to actually block Daffy's vision? (On the other 'hand', maybe they don't and that's how he guessed right?) Or the fact that Daffy manages not to notice the stash of piggy banks the first time he's in that room, too caught up in timing his throw of the grenade? Even the rubber footprints barely register within such an unparalleled maelstrom of heart-stoppingly exciting animation, like no one of this generation or even the last ever had the chance to see on the silver screen. Oh, if only to be a precocious kid in a theatre, seeing such fire, such unrivaled imagination, the most vivid, purest distillation of the essence of existential humour, a piss-yourself pantomime of giddily spilling angst, shot through with a craftsmanship that's nothing short of godly. Need I say more? 

AND FURTHERMORE, IT'S UNBELIEVABLE!



2. Draftee Daffy (Bob Clampett)


If this were a Tex Avery cartoon, the chase would take place across whole continents, maybe even into outer space. But Clampett understands his subject, and he inverts the scale of Dumb Hounded with a marvelously surreal logic in mind - the house grows to encompass the chase! Again, this is classic Clampettian psychological inner space worn on the outside. And another thing - this was 1945. The war was at it's peak at this time. Sure, people were damn scared, but this was a cartoon. And this was the same director who had brought us Russian Rhapsody and Any Bonds Today? scarcely two years earlier, portraying the studio's second most popular character as a coward in the face of duty! That.....was a little subversive, no? 

But even if none of that mattered, this cartoon would still be the last word in pure technicolor adrenaline. There are simply no words to describe the excitement I feel right in my chest, in my hamstrings, in my fucking fingers when I watch this cartoon. It's spellbinding. I can't say that about many things. And to think it's "only a cartoon". HAH!



3. What's Opera, Doc? (Charles M. Jones)


Blaaaah blaaaah blaaah, right? Yeah, we've heard enough about this one. It's still a masterpiece. Same goes for

4. Duck Amuck (Charles M. Jones)























5. The Dover Boys At Pimento University (Charles M. Jones)


Ah, good old P.U. This has to be one of the most savagely surreal cartoons WB ever made, up there with Porky In Wackyland, if not even m-*weird-looking guy with bad posture and comically big feet frolics across this author's screen to the inexplicably audible strains of "I was strolling Through The Park One Day"*.....ahem. If not even more perverse. (What the hell just happened there?)

Much has been made of Jones' "mannered" humour versus Clampett's "manic" style. But here is a case where Chuck's detached irony reaches such an extreme that it ultimately makes for a viewing experience that is at least as bizarre as Clampett at his most unhinged. Bobe Cannon's designs looks hilariously out of place in a Looney Tune, and the dialogue is stiff to such a point that it seems to discover a new rhythm: "Eye'll stEEl it! NO-WON-WILL-EV-UR-NO!!!!"


Looking at it now, it's not hard to understand why this cartoon so con*same waddling, big-footed dumbass repeats his earlier route, again with music*founded Leon Schlesinger, to the point where he almost prevented it from being released! To his eyes, as to mine, this cozy collegiate caper made Porky's pilgrimage to find the dodo look almost like it made sense. The humour of this cartoon will continue to resonate for as long as humankind continues to be stiff, neurotic and altogether impractical. We are all, ultimately, flat figures with frozen gestures on three-seated bicycles carrying girls who look like painted wooden sticks. 

One of my favorite bits is whe*Same musical dumbass steals the text of the next paragraph from my screen and carries it off into the sunset*

And now it is time to say......"WTF"?



WTF?



6. The Foghorn Leghorn (Bob McKimson)


Actually, this spot is reserved for whichever Foghorn cartoon has the funniest rant. But how to decide? - they're all classics! Let's just go with the first one, shall we?


Something I realized when rewatching this one alone - you just can't quite get the same funny value out of this one without someone to share it with. 

There's just something in the chemistry between you and those around you when that loudmouth schnook starts a-flappin' his beak and beating that poor dog senseless - everyone can just telepathically sense each other getting that "Oh yeah, I know this guy" feeling, and everyone is grinning widely by the time the dog gets really fed up and lets the schnook have it, at which point the huddled masses crack up with a sound that no soul alive with a funny bone in them can resist. This is hardly what I would call an amazing cartoon in the Clampettian "What the hell was THAT?!" sense, but it's about as solid and satisfying as they come.


7. Baby Bottleneck (Bob Clampett)


If The Great Piggy Bank Robbery touched on the precarious state of the postwar psyche, then Baby Bottleneck is Clampett's astonishingly sharp take on the realities of the time - in cartoonland, nonetheless. We see babies being prepared and sent on their ways by a kind of Rube Goldberg-style munitions plant, the product of a time that was scarcely prepared to handle 


something as touchy-feely as kids with anything other than brute mechanical force. Like those booming babies, the infants of BB are being blown out the chute too fast to risk any cock-ups. So when the machine does get confused, things go haywire quicker than they can be fixed and chaos ensues. Meanwhile, Daffy is embarrassed, even horrified by the prospect of sitting on that egg - the classic Dad, right? (Maybe it gave him a bad flashback to The Henpecked Duck!) Porky and Daffy's conflict is exhilarating to watch, and the cartoon's airborne denoument is one of those things you simply have to see to believe. 

Speaking of which, really, is this not THE CRAZIEST ANIMATION YOU HAVE EVER SEEN???!!!! I think Piggy might have had more individual great ideas overall, but what Scribner did with several of these scenes -a kind of lava-lamp



 Hubley style, liquid and flat at the same time- is particularly fascinating to me, not just to drool at, but also because it is at once unrepresentative of Scribner's style in general, yet precisely the kind of thing that only he would do. I'm 

not sure how that logic works exactly, but when you're talking Clampett, you can say that about everything!


8. Falling Hare (Bob Clampett)


Why, I ask myself, is my second favorite Bugs cartoon the one where he gets royally shafted? I don't know, but this is just such an amazingly satisfying cartoon, and it's hard to describe why. A Gruesome Twosome has more action, Book Revue has more gags, Coal Black is just astounding on every level.....yet I still can't shake the feeling that THIS is still Clampett at his finest. Why? It has little in the way of atmosphere, something which, say, Tin Pan Alley Cats has in spades. Hell, this may be the only cartoon Clampett ever made that doesn't really explode until about three and a half minutes in! By his standards, not much happens. And yet.....every time I see Bugs bashing that door about halfway through while a sad Russian refrain underscores the futility of his efforts, It just......clicks. Oh, and this might just have my favorite Rod Scribner drawing ever: Freeze on Bugs in midair, with bared teeth and wrench in hand, just as he's about to chase the Gremlin into the plane - GOD, I love that drawing!!! (McKimson is at his finest here too!)



9. The Hep Cat (Bob Clampett)


Speaking of atmosphere, holy cow, this is it. Clampett had a rep for bein' kinda hep, and he shows as much here with the kind of subdued pacing and graceful Gestalt gaggery that most - no, actually, ALL of his detractors claim he couldn't pull off. (That's all those jerks ever talk about!)


Am I alone in feeling that the Cat's woo-making with, and gradual catching on to, the dog's sex-kitten hand puppet decoy is probably the single funniest thing to ever happen in a Clampett cartoon? I know there's some stiff competition, but most of it is so blindingly virtuosic that it elicits more of a starry-eyed, slack-jawed "wheeee!" than a true "crack-up" laugh - that was more McKimson's specialty. Here, though, it's all sloooooowed dooooown to the point where every little nuance in the gag is clearly a gag in itself, culminating with the Cat stroking the dog's nose - "Hmm, some junk back there, eh? Aw yeah, this is a real red-blooded woman! Can't wait to get at that....mmmph mp-*honk*WHAT THE FUC- HEY, IT'S THAT DO- oh shit *RUNS LIKE HELL!!!* 

The clothesline sequence, too, has so many brilliant things it's impossible to list them all. The airbrush blurs are some of the most sophisticated I've ever seen. Thy look every bit as balanced and constructed as the drawings!















































4 comments:

Zoran Taylor said...

I apologize for the occasional unreadable brown text - Blogger won't let me change my settings. Fucking nonsense. Fix the goddamn software, you jerks.

Elliot Cowan said...

Terrible list.

Zoran Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zoran Taylor said...

Imaginative comment.