Baseball Bugs (1946)

Director: I. Freleng
Story: Michael Maltese
Animation: Manuel Perez, Ken Champin, Virgil Ross, Gerry Chiniquy
Layout and backgrounds: Hawley Pratt, Paul Julian
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc
Musical Director: Carl W. Stalling
Cast: Bugs Bunny

Following yesterday’s toon made in 1944 this 1946 cartoon shows just how far the team had progressed in 2 years. It’s a riot of gags and clever animated jokes it’s not practical to list them all. The premise centres around a baseball game between the aging home-side the Tea Totallers and the visiting brutish villains the Gas-House Gorillas. The ball literally screams as it is knocked out of the park! The characterisation of the Gorillas is brilliantly animated with saggy trousers, cigars and gaping mouths. Bugs Bunny heckles the Gorillas from his rabbit hole claiming he could beat them single handed. The upshot is that Bugs ends up being forced into playing every position including speeding from the mound to behind the plate to catch his own pitches.

The cartoon is full of great shots, such as the slow ball that Bugs releases with the most brilliant wind-up. It moves at a snail’s pace accompanied by the sound of a jalopy engine popping and spluttering as it travels across the field, being vainly sliced at by a long line of opposing Gorilla hitters. One Gorilla tries to catch one of Bugs’ reality-defying pitches and is dragged under the earth and buried complete with a headstone reading “He Got It”. Another Gorilla gets his cigar flattened across his face and is left senselessly grinning sat beneath an advertisement that reads “Does your tobacco taste different lately?”

The most notable scene for me was the final play from the Gorillas where Bugs is forced to run for a ball, catch a taxi, a bus and climb the “Umpire” State Building and the flagpole on its roof and throw his glove in the air to catch it. Even the Statue of Liberty gets in on the celebrations (featuring the uncredited voice of Betty Rubble herself Bea Benaderet).

Bugs himself closes the show by bursting from a drum and announcing “And dat’s de end!” this is one of only two toons to feature a Bugs sign off.

Apparently this cartoon owes something to an earlier Tex Avery cartoon called “Batty Baseball” from 1944, maybe we should take a look at that one tomorrow.

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.

Acrobatty Bunny (1946)

Director: Robert McKimson
Animation: Art Davis, Richard Bickenbach, Cal Dalton, I.Ellis (uncredited)
Layout and Backgrounds: Cornett Wood & Richard H. Thomas
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Bugs Bunny, Nero the Lion
Date of release: June 29, 1946

After the first two Robert McKimson directed cartoons, I wasn’t holding out a great deal of hope for this one, but I was delightfully surprised. It’s a beauty.

The look, the backgrounds, the sound, the writing is fantastic. Most of all the characters, Bugs and Nero are so beautiful together.

The cartoon opens with a beautiful circus background by Richard H. Thomas with carny men, hammering in tent pegs. We see a clever shot of a discarded carrot bouncing with each hammer blow, by a familiar open rabbit hole. We follow the hole down into the comfortable abode of Bug Bunny, who is awakened from his sleep by the hammering. Suddenly Bugs’ warren shakes violently and Bugs falls out of bed. The circus folk have dragged a lions cage over the rabbit hole. There is a nice sequence where Nero the lion sniffs at the hole, so violently that Bugs is physically sucked backwards and forwards, like a piston across his home. He takes a twisting and turning elevator to the surface and steps out straight into the lion’s mouth. Bugs looks down into the Lions throat and shouts “Pinocchio!” Fantastic!

Bugs confronts “Nero” and they take it in turns to roar at each other. Some great animation here. There appears to be a rather sly jokes tucked away in this exchange where Bugs appears to stick two fingers up at Nero, while randomly agreeing that there are “two sides to everything”

The two take it in turns locking themselves inside and outside Nero’s cage, including a fine sequence where Nero enlists the help of an elephant, who is ultimately and predictably scared away by wind-up mouse that Bugs just happens to have in his pocket. Before Nero chased Bugs to a caravan where the rabbit appears dressed as a clown. What follows is pure gold. Bugs, starts laughing and his clowning is so infectious Nero starts laughing as well. Soon they are both convulsed in laughter before Bugs brings it all crashing down by whacking Nero in the face with a wooden mallet. Fun while it lasted!

The couple end up inside the big top, chasing each other on the trapeze. Some nice perspective backgrounds and beautifully timed sequences where exchanges are made at the apex of the swing. Finally Nero ends up being fired from a cannon. The barrel ends up like a grass skirt around a dazed Nero’s waist, while Bugs plays the Hawaiian ukelele to close the cartoon.

A great short.

Daffy Doodles (1946)

Director: Robert McKimson
Animation: Robert McKimson, Manny Gould, Rod Scribner, Basil Davidovich
Layout and Backgrounds: Thomas McKimson and Michael Sasanoff
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Date of release: 6th April 1946

A villain is at large, someone is painting mustaches on all the advertising boards in the city. That someone is Daffy Duck, who proudly proclaims his compulsion to paint mustaches on posters advertising hoardings in verse:

“Science is some folk’s calling,
Others is piloting a ship.
My mission in life stated simply is…
A mustache on every lip!”

Daffy goes to great lengths to fulfill his affliction including a short where he manipulates an elaborate device of many drawing hands to paint mustaches on many advertising boards simultaneously. The frantic police set a trap for the “Mustache Maniac” in the form of Porky Pig holding an empty picture frame and posing as an advertisement. Daffy leaves a parcel with the word “Do not open until Xmas” on it. When Porky succumbs and he opens the box, Daffy leaps out and draws a luxurious mustache on Porky’s face. It was only the second watching where I noted that Daffy has effectively delivered himself! Clever that duck.

Daffy escapes down into the subway where he successfully paints mustaches on all the commuters traveling in a passing subway train.

There is a successful “camera turn” sequence where we follow Porky down the street, furious at Daffy’s antics and the “camera” swings to behind Porky who finds a collection of film posters including stars of the day such as Pete Lorre, Humphrey Bogart and Bugs Bunny, all with mustaches.

I check out a couple of prints of this a.p.p cartoon and concluded that colour palette for this cartoon is pretty limited. There is a certain art-deco charm to the city scape backgrounds they are really quite drab.

The highlight for this pretty poor cartoon is a sequence where Daffy complete his “masterpiece” by swinging on a window cleaners rope to paint a three story high mustache on the face of a model in a skyscraper advertisement. While he swings he recites the following:

“She was an acrobat’s daughter,
She swung by her teeth from a noose,
But one matinee, her bridge-work gave way,
And she flew through the air like a goose.”

Daffy swings down onto a rooftop, with a really peculiarly ineffective landing. He feigns drunkenness and when confronted by Porky threatens to commit suicide. Daffy leaps of the lend and lands on the ledge a couple of feet below, where Daffy has an ideal opportunity to paint another mustache on Porky’s astonished face. There’s a lovely loop on Porky chasing Daffy around the ledge of the building a couple of times, then in turn Duffy chasing Porky on a motorbike. The pair fall through a skylight and inexplicably end up seeing stars and rubbing their heads on the street below. Poor!

My favourite moment of the picture is during a chase in which Daffy repeatedly paints mustaches on Porky, Daffy stops at a corner and proceeds to paint a luxurious black mustache in mid-air. The gravity-defying black painted mustache, hangs in the air, until Porky runs around the corner, straight into it and ends up with yet another black mustache.

When Daffy is finally apprehended and brought before a huge bulldog of a judge he is acquitted by a jury of Jerry Colonna’s (a popular comedian of the day, famous for his handle bar mustache). A penitent Daffy swears never to draw another mustache again because he’s switched to beards instead. He quickly paints one on the judge and then paints the camera and brings the picture to a close of darkness.

Although this was the short picture debut of one of the finest animators of all time, Robert McKimson, it is not very enjoyable. Aside from a nice script, the scenery was drab and the gags few and far between.

Rabbit Seasoning (1951)

Rabbit Seasoning

Director: Charles M Jones
Story: Michael Maltese
Animation: Ben Washam, Lloyd Vaughan, Ken Harris
Layouts: Maurice Noble
Backgrounds: Philip De Guard
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd
Date of release: September 20, 1951

From the Bugs-filled credits to the opening shot of a series signs leading us along a stylised country track, it is clear we are the 1950s. The economical minimalism of the great Maurice Noble‘s layouts and Philip De Guard’s backgrounds, while clean and crisp, seem to smack of a style peculiar to this period.
The signs revealed one by one are painted with the words “If youre looking for fun–” [missing an apostrophe], “you don’t need a reason”, “all you need is a gun–”, “it’s rabbit season!”. Coupled with the name of the cartoon we are left with little doubt as to this cartoon’s subject matter and a strong clue as to it’s narrative.

We follow the signs into a forest to the very edge of Bugs Bunny’s rabbit hole, where we discover Daffy Duck in the midst of executing a cunning plan complete with fake rabbit footprints, to rid himself of his nemesis once and for all. He confesses to camera as he tip-toes for cover behind a huge boulder “Awfully unsporting of me I know, but what the hey, I’ve got have some fun. …and besides it’s really duck season!”

Elmer Fudd the hunter, excited to action at the arrival of “rabbit” season follows the trail dutifully.

The character interplay in this delightful short is wonderful, the trio and now fully formed and at the top of their game. When the nonchalantly carrot munching Bugs exits his burrow via the rear exit to watch Fudd empty his shotgun repeatedly into the front entrance of the home, Fudd, explains to him that it’s “Wabbit Season” but he hasn’t even seen a rabbit yet. Cue the arrival of the central premise, a delightful, still of Daffy, stupefied with incredulity. The game is afoot! Fudd clearly isn’t very bright, he doesn’t even recognise a rabbit when one’s standing right in front of him munching a carrot. Daffy storms over to the casually chatting pair and angrily points out the prepospterous’us’ness of the situation.

What ensues is essentially a series of well written gags whereby using clever wordplay, or as Duffy put’s it “pro-noun trouble”, Bugs is able to confuse Daffy sufficiently to argue Fudd into shooting him in the face, again and again. Each gun shot resulting in ever more grotesque displacements of his bill.

There are a couple of variations in the action, where Daffy and Bugs are both chased by Fudd and take cover in Bugs rabbit hole and another example of Bugs’ penchant for dressing in women’s clothes and seducing dim witted antagonists, all of these distractions end in the same way. BANG! Poor old Daffy!

The beauty of this cartoon is the carefully and subtly animated interplay between the characters. It’s a great example of how Chuck Jones‘ team of master animators worked together. Ben Washam‘s Bugs Bunny with his tapered canines, Lloyd Vaughan‘s keen sense of dialogue, all that head nodding, can be attributed to him and of course Ken Harris who was famous for his comic timing, life-like character work and intricate body movements. I like to attribute that elbow of Bugs’ resting on Elmer Fudd’s head as he peers down his rabbit hole to Harris.

Thanks to Jones’ ferocious loyalty to his team, many of these animators went on working beyond the closure of Warner Bros and directly influenced the development of animation throughout the following decades right up until the present day.

Mouse-merised Cat (1946)

Director: Robert McKimson
Writer: Warren Foster
Animation: Art Davis, Richard Bickenbach, Cal Dalton, Don Williams, A. C. Gamer
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc and Tedd Pierce
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Babbit and Catstello, Unnamed cat.
Date of release: October 19, 1946

The final Babbit and Catstello feature, sees the short lived duo as mice again.

An interesting although completely pointless zoom in from outer-space to the state of Mouseachewsetts down to the city skyscrapers, through the shop window of Flugers Delicatessen and across the shop to the waiting figure of Catstello leaning in the opening of a mouse hole. “I thought you’d never get here” he says.

As in A Tale of Two Mice. Catstello is reluctant to the leave the comfort of the skirting board because of the cat. The manipulative Babbit uses a big red book with the words “How To Hypnotize” on the cover to mesmerise Catstello. Babbit fires laser beams of hypnotic power from his eyes!

At first Babbit’s attempts to control the cowardly Catstello meet with failure. Babbit cruelly beats Babbit again and again. I am reminded of how popular physically violence to weaker characters was during the 30s and 40s. Hardy beating Laurel, Harpo Marx being beaten in A Night at the Opera and of course Abbott’s continuous beating of Costello. I find the violence in this short a little sickening.

Finally Babbit succeeds in hypnotising Catstello, even after the hapless mouse fails in a number of avoidance tactics such as reading “How to Resist Hypnotism”, jumping behind a brick to find cover, wearing goggles and even a welders mask. Finally Babbit’s eye-beams become hands that remove the visor and subdue Catsello. There’s a lovely animated turn were Catstello walks zombie-like towards the camera and turns. Babbit zaps Catstello and he becomes Bing Crosby complete with Hawaiian shirt and pipe. “Oh you must have been a beautiful baby”, Frank Sinatra characterised by Catstello holding up a board with a huge bow tie and a stick-man body, again singing “Down Where the Trade Winds Play” as seen in Babbit and Catstello’s last cameo appearance in “Hollywood Canine Canteen” in 1945 and Jimmy Durante singing “Lullaby of Broadway”. When Catstello is hypnotised into believing that he is a chicken he even manages to lay an egg. Finally Babbit is satisfied that Catstello is under his control and hypnotises him into believing that he is a dog.

There’s a great Tex Avery style moment when the Cat believing that he is being chased by a dog, is so surprised when he sees the little mouse barking away that he eyes pop clean out of his head.

At the critical moment the trance wears off and Catstello goes running back to Babbit chased by the furious cat.

Babbit sends Catstello out again as a dog but the cat has also mastered the art of hypnotism, having digested the discarded book. A tennis match of hypnotised Catstello running backwards and forwards between Babbit and the Cat occurs.

Finally Catstello succeeds in turning the tables and produces a mirror whereby the Cat and Babbit hypnotise themselves and Catstello suggests that they are the Lone ranger and his trusty horse Silver. Catstello is even given a voice not at all dissimilar to Yosemite Sam by Mel Blanc.

The cheese munching Catstello admits to being a “Bad Boy” over another mouthful of cheese,. All in all a fair ending to one of animations dead-ends. Farewell Babbit and Catstello!

A Tale of Two Mice (1945)

Director: Frank Tashlin
Writer: Warren Foster
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc and Tedd Pierce
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Babbit and Catstello, Unnamed cat.
Date of release: June 30, 1945

Abbot and Costello’s Warner Bros. cartoon doppelgangers get another outing in this interesting short from 1945, this time the pun from the original short “Tale of Two Kitties” is meaningless because Babbit and Catstello are mice.

The short opens with a mouse being pursued by a very scary looking cat, with very sharp teeth. There is an interesting effect when the background is panned as the two race up a baronial staircase. Essentially the view of the hall is from the second floor, down the stairs. This allows us to move easily up the staircase by just panning the background.

Finally the unnamed cat chases Catstello smack straight into a wall, leaving behind an elaborate crack in the plaster while the tubby mouse disappears into the mouse hole, which continually changes from the classic semi-circular hole in the skirting board to a suburban doorway complete with a porch throughout the movie.

Behind the skirting board there is a nice sequence where Catstello explains to Babbit about the cat, he hisses and spits, jumps into Babbit’s arms. Babbit staggers convincingly under the weight and there are a couple of 360º turns that look flawless.

Babbit convinces Catstello to go outside again after the cheese, as soon as the door closes behind him Catstello gets cold feet. His efforts to get back inside the door are thwarted by the sinister Babbit who stretches a rubber band across the doorway and opens it just as the sprinting Catstello makes another attempt at breaking down the door. The rubber band sends Catstello flying into the soft face of the sleeping cat.

“My Mother told me there’d be days like this.”

After an unsuccessful attempt to fly a clockwork airplane up to the cheese, the pair appear to have succeeded in capturing the cheese with a rope and pulley. Catstello, the plate and the cheese are being held aloft by Babbit. I love that as Catstello dreamily eats the cheese, Babbit’s load increases in weight. He struggles with the rope being stretched with even more elasticity than the rubber band seen earlier. Finally Babbit looses his grip on the edge of the mouse hole and is pulled on his heels by the plummeting Catstello and cheese. In a Mission Impossible moment of impeccable timing Babbit regains a purchase on the cat’s face and Catstello and the cheese, stop their descent inches from the top of the sleeping cat’s head.

When Babbit notices where he is, he drops the cheese and Catstello and races back to his hole, as a flaming comet and shuts the door behind him. The cat has a delicious moment untangling himself from the rope neatly animated. Catstello coolly tries to use the cover of the cheese to make his escape. The cat watches the cheese walking itself back to the mouse hole. He lifts the cheese and Catstello carries on walking blissfully unaware that he has been relieved of his burden. It is only when Babbit through the open spy hole of the door alerts him that Catstello realises that something is wrong, he stops lets go of the nonexistent cheese and and shushes Babbit before continuing. Finally the penny drops and he stops and feels the thin air with his fingers.  Instead of running, he looks round ignores the Cat who is leaning his chin on his hand with amusement, and tip-toes back for the cheese. Stopping on the way to play with the claws of the cat. Noticing with amusement how they protract and retract when he jumps on and off them. Finally the chase begins and the cat is on the receiving end of an encounter with an ironing board a good example of the classic cartoon gag.

The climax of the cartoon is Catstello’s return to the safety of the mouse hole. He’s running so fast the cheese and it’s holes actually have to catch up when he stops. When Babbit callously dismissed the cheese on the grounds that it’s “Swiss”, the furious Catstello proceeds to force feed Babbit with handfuls of the stuff. The cheese is wonderfully animated, it stretches and moves with a life of it’s own throughout.

Hollywood Canine Canteen (1946)

Director: Robert McKimson
Story: Warren Foster
Animation: Cal Dalton, Don Williams, Richard Bickenback
Backgrounds: Richard H Thomas
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Date of release: 20th April 1946

The second Warner Bros. short feature directed by Robert McKimson is less impressive than the first. This weakly plotted cartoon, seems little more than an attempt to cash in on the success of the Warner Bros, film Hollywood Canteen made in 1944. While there are one or two interesting gags the lack of a central protagonist is a real problem. Even the original movie had a leading man and lady. The cartoon opens when a meeting of a group of dogs owned by famous movie stars decide to organise a nightclub to entertain the members of the Army K-9 Corps. The dogs all bear a resemblance to their celebrity owners, who include Edward G. Robinson, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Colonna (featured yesterday in Daffy Doodles), Carmen Miranda, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Abbott & Costello and Laurel & Hardy. The music is provided by Kings of Swing “Hairy” James, “Boney” Goodman, Tommy “Dorgy”, Lionel “Hambone” and “Kaynine” Kyser (

The cartoon has dated badly because so few of the “stars” depicted here are remembered today. Even those names I did recognise were often difficult to recognise because they are depicted here as period caricatures. The barely recognisable Frank Sinatra depicted in a sing off with Bing Crosby is an example.

I noticed in a sequence featuring Abbot & Costello’s pooches. The Lou Costello dog calls his partner “Babbit” Interesting because Warner Bros were at this time developing the cartoon double act Babbit and Catstello. A spoof version of the Hollywood double act. They starred in three Warner Bros. cartoons from 1942 to 1946. See “A Tale of Two Kitties“.

We see pooch versions of Laurel and Hardy repeatedly cleaning the same plate, over and over again. Ollie washes it, Stan, dries it and put is on the wrong end of the sink so that it slides back into the suds, where Ollie cleans it again. Very faithful to the original characters. For me, a favourite moment.

There is an extended orchestra scene where the conductor “Bowowski” is seen conducting with both a bone and a baton in the same sequence. There are a number of weak gags involving various pooches playing either instruments that look like themselves or appear to be in complete contrast.

We see an example of the classic cartoon cliche of a character hiding or appearing from behind an object much smaller or thinner than themselves. The skinny “Sinatra” appears from behind the skinniest palm tree ever singing “Down Where the Trade Winds Play”. Not very funny.

There are more moments of rather dull inanity, often involving, physical appearance jokes, such as fat dogs, dogs with lots of hair or stupid dogs. The cartoon is interesting as a study of 1940s American celebrity but not a feature I can say I’m glad I’ve seen. Even the “Jimmy Durante” hound who closes the feature with his catchphrase “That’s my boy who said that” seems to be laying the blame on somebody else.

A Gruesome Twosome (1945)

Director: Bob Clampett
Story: Warren Foster
Animation: Robert McKimson, Manny Gould, Rod Scribner, Basil Davidovich
Layout and Backgrounds: Thomas McKimson and Michael Sasanoff
Effects Animation: A.C Gamer
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Colonel and Snucks, Tweety Pie, Butch the bulldog.
Date of release: June 9, 1945

We start the feature with a parallax of the feline equivalent of “Lover’s Lane” with the static silhouettes of embracing cats in the foreground – lovely.

Two tom cats are in the midst of wooing the same white tabby. The first is a ginger caricature of the famous vaudeville comedian Jimmy Durante named “Colonel” by another more stupid yellow tom cat who is in turn is called “Snucks”.

The two love rivals ends up coming to blows, the characters are excellent and they are very much the stars of this feature. Colonel and Snucks are told by the tabby that the cat who brings her a bird will be her “fella”. Much charging, blunderbuss firing ensued. In one sequence the Colonel and Snucks are at the starting line of their bird quest, during the count, Colonel ties a heavy weight to Snucks’ tail, the ricochet send Snucks flying at such a speed he is reduced to liquid in the tin bath that Colonel kindly hold up to receive him. The unfortunate tom is then poured out onto the ground where he miraculously coalesces again.

Finally the cats climb opposite sides of a telephone pole and meet Tweety and each other at the top. The two cats end up falling and there is an interesting shot where the cats are seen falling to the ground like wheeling aircraft spiraling down. The scenerary painting is beautiful. “Bombs Away!” yells Tweety.

For me the highlight of this really good cartoon is an extended sequence where Colonel and Snucks are disguised as a pink pantomime horse. Quite why they would think that this disguise would help them capture the illusive Tweety isn’t very clear but the scene is hilarious and very well animated. All the bagginess and stretchiness of the costume are played to the full. Tweety slaps a wasp until it becomes furious and then drops it into the back end. The William Tell Overture from the Lone Ranger starts playing and we see Tweety Pie, complete with white hat and mask, riding the horse and yelling “Hi Ho Silver Away!” – Finally Tweety beats Butch to a furious temper and sets him on the cats. Still wrapped up inside the pantomime horse costume.

He repeats the same unlikely catch phrase from “Birdy and the Beast

“You know, I lose more putty tats dat way!”

A couple of interesting points about this cartoon. It was the last time that Tweety is seen as pink. Although the title card from “Birdy and the Beast” shows him as yellow, it isn’t until the next feature that Tweety finally arrives in the guise we all recognise today. See my previous post “Tweetie Pie

According to Wikipedia the cartoon was eventually censored because Colonel says “here comes that naked genius” (at 6’35”). Apparently, censors did not like the implied nudity.

Colonel and Snucks also appear to be Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi‘s inspiration for Stimpy. He combined the two cats in this short to create Stimpy.

This cartoon was animated by Robert McKimson and the layout and backgrounds are credited to his brother Thomas McKimson, there was a third brother, Charles, who also worked at Warner Brothers, so I think it’s only fitting that we explore their work in a little more detail. Starting with the eldest brother Robert’s premiere short, “Daffy Doodles“, released in 1946

Tale of Two Kitties (1942)

Director: Bob Clampett
Story: Warren Foster
Voice Characterisation: Mel Blanc and Tedd Pierce
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Cast: Babbit and Catstello, Unnamed bird (proto Tweety Pie, nicknamed Orson by the staff)

This 1942 cartoon in notable for a number of reasons. It features peculiar cartoon cat versions of the popular comedy partnership of the day Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Babbit and Catstello made a number of appearances in Warner Bros. cartoons, but never cut it as real stars. It also features the first screen appearance of the unnamed character who would eventually become Tweety Pie and features a couple a belting sequences, made famous by Who Framed Roger Rabbit. According to Wikipedia Tale of Two Kitties it is one of many a.a.p.-owned cartoons to fall in the public domain, as United Artists did not renew the copyright in time. I’m betting there’s a connection.

The first sequence that caught my eye was Babbit trying to push the reluctant Catstello up a ladder to catch Tweety, there’s a charm about these precious seconds that would be difficult to capture with mocap and CGI. A lovely example of the animators craft.  Struggling up ladder claiming no desire to harm the bird, Catstello is “motivated” with a pin, there is a protracted ladder sequence with all kinds of funny business ensuing, including breaking rungs, stilts and balance gags. The short features a number of references that would have been familiar with the audience of the day, but are no longer clear. Babbit shouts up the lady “Give me the Bird!”, Catstello slyly remarks to camera the “If the Hayes Office would only let me I’d give him the bird alright.” The Hayes office were the guardians of taste and censorship in America during this period. A popular target for jokes.

I noticed a nice gag where Babbit forces Catstello into a small box. Catstello pleads and begs not to be locked inside the box. Finally when he is trapped Babbit releases him like a Jack-in-the-box and Catstello flies into the air on springs in an bid to capture the tiny bird.  The spring sequence shows Catstello bouncing up the the rim of Tweety’s next and disappearing down again, bouncing back and forth one swipe after another. Tweety is a baby bird pink colour in this feature but he is unmistakable. Mel Blanc‘s voice characterisation is fully formed and the character is exactly the same. That wonderful mixture of cute and psychotic. The first thing he says to camera is “I taught I taw a putty cat.” as Catstello disappears again. With each reappearance of the tubby cat Tweety delivers a punishment, a baseball bat, Catstello returns with a tin Air raid helmet and cigar (like Winston Churchill), Tweety removes the hat and beats the cat again, this quickfire exchange of one-up-manship includes a divers helmet a bird cage and a large stick of dynamite. So many of the Looney Tune signature jokes are included in this cartoon, probably more so than any of the later features we’ve looked at so far this year. The sequence ends when Catstello doesn’t return after the final stick of dynamite. Tweety squeaks “Oh the poor little putty cat, he cwushed his poor wittle head.” followed by the widest grin possible for a character so small.

Catstello ends up in one scene on a telegraph wire, holding on with three fingers; Tweety does the famous gag. “This widdy piddy went to market, dis widdy piddy stayed home, did widdy piddy had woast beef. Well wadda you know. I wan out piddys.” This was re-played with Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In one sequence Catstello finds himself falling and Tweety shows some compassion for the cat by throwing him a rope, with an anvil tied to the end. When Catstello hits the ground, all the background and scenery is dragged into the hole along with it. Classic!

The penultimate sequence really sets the period. Catstello takes to the air with planks for wings and thanks to Tweety is chased by searchlights and anti-aircraft fire like the London Blitz which ended the year before.

The final scene-closer shows the two cats creep up of the tin-hat wearing air warden tweet and begin a terrifying snarling pounce. Tweety turns and with a voice as big as a mountain screams “Turn out those lights!” Babbit and Catstello shrink back in fear and their yellow eyes switch off to grey one by one like electric lights.