Birdy and the Beast (1944)
Director: Bob Clampett
Story: Warren Foster
Animation: Tom McKimson, Gil Turner
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Unnamed Cat (proto Sylvester), Tweety, Butch the bulldog.
Date of release: August 19, 1944
Today we move on to the second Tweety Pie feature, in which Bob Clampett develops his character a step further. Although he is still without feathers Tweety now has a name! Thank goodness they didn’t go with Orson. Although it took two years since the first film for Tweety to get his second outing.
Right away we are introduced to our Sylvester prototype (Called the Cat throughout this post) he is scaling a tree. He continues vertically up the tree in such a straight line there are times when the tree bends to one side and he continues through the air between branches, seemingly defying gravity. When the cat finally arrives at the edge of Tweety’s nest he whistles so appreciatively that a breeze blows over the sleeping Tweety, he shivers, grabs the Cat’s tongue, pulls it over himself as if it is a blanket and settles back down to sleep again. Finally Tweety awakes and delivers his catchphrase ” I taught I taw a putty cat.”
There is a surreal quality to this film that I like, Tweety exits his nest via a little “Exit” door and takes the elevator up inside the tree trunk to return to it.
The Cat character looks fantastic, he has a pot belly that wobbles convincingly throughout. Probably a real headache to animate but well worth the effort. In one sequence Tweety sets off on the most unlikely flight. I can’t ever remember seeing Tweety fly but it’s hilarious here. His tiny wings, enormous head and the accompanying music are in such contrast the effect is beautiful. When the Cat sets off in pursuit having forgotten that he can’t actually fly Tweety kindly reminds him he explodes with panic and flails about madly, and shrugs before plummeting to the earth below. The observant will notice a loop during the flail here. Where the Cat appears to repeat the same “random” twists. A shortcut but by extending the flailing the joke is all the funnier.
Tweety hides in Butch the Bulldog’s food bowl. The cat is discovered by the Dog rummaging through his food and is naturally none-too-pleased. I laughed at the way that when Butch first trots out of his kennel and sees the Cat he appears to be genuinely delighted to see him, but as soon as he notices that the Cat is messing around with his food, his pleasure evaporates and is replaced by anger. This is a really good lesson for writers and animators, the transformation makes the scene funnier. The way Butch bounds after the Cat in a sorted of ice-skating motion is not dissimilar to the motion Bugs Bunny makes during Tortoise Beats Hare and Tortoise Wins by a Hare but funnier given the thick chain still attached to his collar. How long is the chain! Not long enough. The resulting recoil compresses of Butch’s head against his collar. Suddenly Butch is Oliver Hardy listlessly running his fingers gently through the dirt with a head the thickness of a flattened pancake. “This shouldn’t even happen to a dog”
There’s a rather unfunny gag involving a chicken and some eggs and a cracking finale when the Cat is blindly rummaging around in Tweety’s nest and Tweety while easily avoiding the cats clumsy fumbles is pleading for mercy “Help! Help! Let me go, Oh you crushed my widdy head, oh help, you mashed my widdy metacarpal, help unhand me you brute.” he finally slips a live hand grenade into the Cat’s hand and awaits the explosion. Boom!
“You know, I lose more putty tats dat way!”
He then ticks off another mark on an enormous scoreboard of ticks on the tree trunk.
All in all an enjoyable cartoon, but its weak narrative let it down. Tweety is developing into a real star. I think we should cover the next Tweety Pie cartoon in the canon “A Gruesome Twosome” from 1945 tomorrow.