Friday, June 15, 2007

My Favorite Reverse

This is from one of my favorite Chuck Jones cartoons, TO DUCK OR NOT TO DUCK. Some of the best Jones cartoons come from this transitional period, after he stopped trying to be Disney and before he hit his more sophisticated stride. Daffy here is being a jolly and defiant jerk, challenging Elmer to a "fair" fight in a boxing ring instead of hunting him with a rifle. The ring is entirely populated by ducks, including the referee, which makes Elmer's dog suspicious. He makes a non-sequitor observation at one point that used to crack me and my brothers up as kids: "There's something awful screwy going on or my name isn't Larrimore...and it isn't."

This cartoon is very loose and funny and has some beautiful "swoopy" animation by Bobe Cannon and Ken Harris. I don't have space to analyze the whole thing but these frames are from the end of a very long scene where Daffy and the referee are defining the rules of the fight and beating the living crap out of Elmer in the process before the fight starts. ("No THIS, no THIS, none of THAT, or THIS" etc). On the last beat Daffy winds up (fr.2) swoops into an anticipation (fr3) holds this pose for about eight frames while Elmer wobbles and (fr4) he does a complete full-figure 180 with exactly zero inbetweens! When I step-framed thru this on my old Betamax in my early 20's I was stunned and I still am. Snapping a portion of a figure or even the whole line of action from one arc to its opposite happens all the time, but here Bobe Cannon makes a complete flip to a mirror image of the figure work with nothing more than a couple of frames of light drybrush effects. Amazing. It shows what you can do when you have complete confidence and command of your craft.

I really love Bobe Cannon animation from this period. Not to start up the whole UPA thing again, but 22 years ago at Filmation I turned in a scene consisting of a single held cel and one of the final checkers chuckled and said: "This is like a Bobe Cannon scene." I was totally confused. She said she worked at UPA and by then Cannon was so in love with limited animation that he went out of his way to move as little as possible, preferably nothing. She turned out to be right when I checked out the UPA's on videotape that were around back then. Its one of those inexplicable shifts in personal preference I'll never understand...

I seem to be the only person who isn't a big YouTube fan, so if anybody knows if there's a link to a copy of this cartoon, let me know. It isn't on any of the current DVD's to my knowledge. Thanks!


John S. said...

I love this cartoon, and in particular, love Chuck Jones's cartoons from this period. I had no idea who had done the animation. You never cease to amaze me with your knowledge of who did what.
Do you know if Jones was posing out the cartoons in this period(as he did in later years)?

Will Finn said...

John--i think Chuck doing his own posing was pretty much a given, right up till when he was running his own studio in the 60's. Someone I met who worked there said Ben Washam took over and did a lot of the posing then, even during parts of THE GRINCH. Washam probably posed out a lot of the POGO special as well as the Kipling ones too.

Michael J. Ruocco said...

I love this cartoon as well. It entertained me very much when I was little & it still does today, but in a totally different way.

I like quick, spontaneous movements like this scene. It definitely gives an action or a gag a lot more "punch" than if it was done with full inbetweens. You feel the impact & pain inflicted on Elmer.

The "...or my name isn't..." gag is a pretty funny gag in this cartoon, but it was done to death on the early episodes of Courage the Cowardly Dog.

christopher said...

I too love his cartoons from this period! Wackiki Wabbit, Super Rabbit, and Hair-Raising Hare are a few of my favorites. The first three bears cartoon has some great Cannon animation too!

It seems like not only Bobe but Chuck too had a shift in personal taste as his later cartoons don't feel as alive as these. The animators seemed to have more freedom.

I always wondered about how strict Chuck was on the poses on these because the way some of the characters are drawn seems to change occassionally. Bugs has really short legs and is very squatty during most of the scenes and cartoons I associate with Cannon but they seem longer in scenes by different animators. When Cannon is no longer in the unit we get a much longer legged Bugs again. Was Chuck influenced by the drawing styles of his animators or not doing all the posing?

Sorry to be long winded it's just always been on my mind because I find those short legged baggy pants characters from this period incredibly appealing. Particularly the Bugs design.

Max Ward said...

I love Bobe Cannon's animation in Chuck Jones cartoons. It is really unique. Characters move fluidly and almost like they are underwater. It's sure fun to watch!

Will Finn said...

I got to see Chuck Jones speak many times and probably got to converse with him maybe half a dozen of those. I even freelanced animation on his last Road Runner cartoon CHARIOTS OF FUR. He posed things out pretty darned specifically and it was almost impossible to F up his poses. i suggested at one point that one of the holds was too long and you can guess who won that one. Even though his later drawings are wonky, when he was posing with a purpose in mind you really got the character and the acting, it wasn't like some of those late model scary gallery cels.

i do think at this earlier point though he was probably a lot looser in regards to model and influenced by the Freddie Moore style that was prevailing. he probably was still doing lots of poses but the characters hadn't really been standardized yet so there was a of room for leeway. he seemed to be very open about how the animators articulated the poses and i got the impression he always cast to each guy's strength.

a couple of times i tried to ask him about this era but he didn't really have much to say that wasn't in his books. he wasn't senile or anything, he just didn't seem to recall these cartoons with the same relish or pride that he had in his later stuff. he completely denied ownership of PEST IN THE HOUSE, he honestly thought i was talking about somebody else's cartoon. given how many he made, its not hard to imagine forgetting a few.

dwestburg said...

Not the greatest quality, but here's a YouTube link:

perkypickle said...

yeah, this was always a great one.

especially, the "the ducks are wise crackin' asses" aspect of having elmer on their turf.

blur-tweens and other experimental movements were definitely being perfected by this period.

it's almost if 'dover boys' was the first grand experiment in impressionistic inbetweening, so, by '43 and '44, chuck had shot his wad and was pulling back on it for accents only.

amazing what leaps these guys would make just in the span of a year or two. it seems like three months since i started writing this comment.

a nickle sure went a lot further in those days, sheesh!

Amy said...

I love all of Chuck's work, I like subtlety and sophistication. But these are still just fantastic. Same technique used to much more famous effect in The Dover Boys.

Chuck's later 'limited edition print factory' drawings left me totally cold as well.
But if I'd had the chance to animate under Chuck when he was doing what he did best - make cartoons - yer damned right I'd never have DARED change a Chuck pose. His key drawings were beautiful - it takes a really special breed of animator (Harris, Washam, Cannon...) to not only do their job so hilariously well, but do it within actual drawn boundaries set up by the director.

Thad K said...

I dunno, Will, Chuck denied directorship of "Angel Puss" for years (claiming to have never done a racially charged cartoon like Clampett or Friz). Not that I blame him. "Angel Puss" is one of the few golden age Looney Tunes that really and truly does suck.

Awesome animation in "To Duck or Not to Duck"! Not sure if it's Harris or Cannon's though.

Will Finn said...

thad--well, i think we all know why Mr. Jones denied owning ANGEL PUSS...(for the record he did a "clean" version with Elmer and a horrendously racist version with a "Steppin Fetchit" character for markets that were into that sort of thing). i never heard him outright deny it, but he was very sensitive about it:

I innocently asked him once about A FEATHER IN HIS HARE and he freaked--not that he denied it but he just kept saying some of his old pictures deserved to be "cut up and turned into mandolin picks." I think he thought I was going to drift into ANGEL PUSS territory because there's a goony American Native character in it as a foil. I just loved the character's nerdy voice which most people say was done by Mike Maltese.

No i really think he just forgot PEST (at least at the time we were talking), after all there's nothing offensive in it and there are a couple other cartoons like it.

im also pretty sure the middle of TO DUCK... is Cannon, his style is typically very buttery smooth and expressive. of course that he gets sole animator screen credit is erroneous. i asked about that once and Chuck told me that during that time they credited a single animator on the unit per cartoon, on a rotating basis. they were still trying to work out union rules i guess.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Great post! The late 40s transition period is my favorite Jones too. Maybe Jones isn't as fond of these cartoons because Cannon had an uncomfortably big influence on them.

Friz said that Cannon was really into broad humor in the 40s. He said that he and Chuck talked Leon out of giving Clampett's unit to Cannon because they thought broad humor wasn't the direction the studio should be taking.

BTW, terrific "Hedge" drawings below!

Boris Hiestand said...

I laughed so much strolling down those stills studying them, and all of a sudden WHAT?!?!!

Great example of the fact that there are no rules- experimenting is so much fun and can be so rewarding.