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Page Miss Glory (1936)
An overlooked Tex Avery classic and one of the most beautiful cartoons ever made
Tex Avery's 'Page Miss Glory' is one of the most beautiful cartoons ever made, a parody of the live action musical of the same name, incorporating art-deco experimentation into a lush, grandiose musical extravaganza. If ever testament were needed to Avery's directorial genius, 'Page Miss Glory' is ample answer alone. While a bellboy in Hicksville awaits the arrival of the much touted Miss Glory, he drifts off to sleep and fantasizes himself as bellboy in a huge luxury hotel in which all the male occupants are vying for the attention of the sultry Miss Glory. Stuffed to the gills with great gags and eye-popping visuals, 'Page Miss Glory' is a very early Warner Bros. masterpiece. Avery excels and, while his subsequent output would be crammed full of defining masterpieces, it's only a shame 'Page Miss Glory' seems to have got lost in the shuffle. It is, for want of a better word, truly a glorious creation.
Norman Normal (1968)
Something a bit different and surprisingly excellent for such a late Warner cartoon
Alex Lovy's 'Norman Normal' is an exceptional little satire on business ethics and social behaviour. Produced by the new Warner Bros. department in the late 60s (long after the dreadful Speedy and Daffy series and lacklustre new characters such as Cool Cat had made Warner cartoons seem entirely past their best) as a "Cartoon Special", 'Norman Normal' takes an entirely different approach as a hip animated think piece which ultimately takes place inside the titular character's head. The amiable Norman must fight off unethical propositions from his boss, endorsements of conformity from his father, peer pressure from his acquaintances and the desperate search for approval by a man with a lamp on his head! A whole new contemporary attitude is apparent, especially in the scene in which Norman refuses to laugh at a joke about a minority group which seems like an apology for Warner's decades of politically incorrect racial humour (although a year later Warner Bros. animation department would close down with a short called 'Injun Trouble'!). The satire is sharp and funny and the modern atmosphere is enhanced by a catchy theme tune by Peter, Paul and Mary. It may have little in common with the golden era of Warner cartoons but 'Norman Normal' is a wonderful short and one of the few latter day Warner shorts that really works.
Sleepy Time Possum (1951)
A great McKimson short
Robert McKimson's 'Sleepy Time Possum' is yet further proof that McKimson is an underrated director. A very, very funny cartoon, 'Sleepy Time Possum' pit's a chronically lazy possum against his wily father, who disguises himself as a hunting dog in order to scare his son into doing his chores. The ensuing battle is full of hilarious gags executed with a deft timing McKimson is rarely given credit for. For a cartoon based around the concept of laziness, 'Sleepy Time Possum' is full of energetic set pieces and frantic chases. The ending is unexpected and entirely satisfying. For those who write McKimson off as an inferior director, 'Sleepy Time Possum' should be part of the required viewing.
Martian Through Georgia (1962)
Interesting but charmless. An over-egged pudding
Chuck Jones and Abe Levitow's 'Martian Through Georgia' (co-directed by Maurice Noble) seems to be a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. The excessive directorial input seems to be down to a thoroughly perplexing script by Carl Kohler and Jones himself, which places too much stock in a constant, intrusive narration which is necessary to explain exactly what is going on but is irritating nevertheless. A dark little tale of a depressed Martian who travels to Earth in search of rejuvenation but discovers only rejection and abhorrence, 'Martian Through Georgia' never locates the charm it seems to falsely believe it is in possession of. Over-stylised in every way, 'Martian Through Georgia' is undoubtedly an interesting failure but a failure nonetheless, indicative of Jones's struggle to keep Warner cartoons interesting and relevant during their waning 60s era.
Now Hear This (1962)
Abstract, disturbing, funny and inventive. Another Chuck Jones classic
As a youngster I always eagerly looked forward to a Warner Bros. cartoon coming on TV but I was always disappointed when the opening titles featured, in place of the classic concentric circles, the angular, modern titles that became synonymous with the deeply inferior, latter day Warner shorts. These jutting triangles, accompanied by an ugly re-imagining of the Merrie Melodies theme, almost always signified the arrival of a dreaded Speedy and Daffy cartoon. However, there was always the slimmest of slim chances that you might luck out and instead be rewarded with Chuck Jones's 'Now Hear This'.
'Now Hear This' was the cartoon which first introduced the modern title sequence which would go on to be defiled by the Depatie-Freleng monstrosities. The most abstract cartoon Warner Bros. ever released, 'Now Hear This' is a clear forerunner for any number of surrealist animations from 'Yellow Submarine' to Bob Godfrey's superb 'Do-It-Yourself Cartoon Kit'. Having experimented with just about ever visual and narrative device available, with 'Now Hear This' Jones turns his attention to sound. The visuals here are minimalist, with highly stylised characters performing against a backdrop of nothingness. The cartoons begins with a frustrated devil searching for his missing horn (he wanders through the opening credits, showing a demonic contempt for convention). The horn is discovered by a stuffy English man (recognisable as English by his monocle and moustache even before the confirmation of a 'Keep Britain Tidy' sign and a burst of the British national anthem) who swaps his battered old ear trumpet for this new discovery. Thus begins his descent into aural hell! There is very little logic to the events of 'Now Hear This' but the images flow so beautifully that questioning them seems churlish. The impeccably chosen and synchronised bursts of sound (courtesy of genius sound man Treg Brown) are at once extraordinarily disturbing and this eerie edge to the cartoon cannot have escaped the attention of children's programmers since 'Now Hear This' was rarely seen on kid's TV. It is far more akin to the sort of cartoon I used to discover on TV at about 1am and then be haunted by for weeks for some indistinguishable reason. Like all such cartoons, 'Now Hear This' is utterly compelling and unpredictable. Testament to Chuck Jones's ongoing crusade to keep imagination alive, 'Now Hear This' is both a visual and aural treat.
The Hole Idea (1955)
Needed more work on the script but shows flashes of genius, especially in McKimson's animation
Robert McKimson's 'The Hole Idea' was the director's "auteur" cartoon, which he not only directed but animated himself. McKimson was deeply proud of the cartoon and the result is often quite impressive although it is a tad too unfocused to stand among McKimson's best work. Presented in a stylised fashion, 'The Hole Idea' is based on a clever idea by Sid Marcus in which a hen-pecked inventor invents a portable hole, which is then stolen and used for evil by an anonymous villain. There's flashes of greatness in Marcus's script but it pulls in too many directions, attempting to weave in elements of the domestic cartoons that were popular in the 50s and 60s, which ultimately prove the weakest parts of the short. However, McKimson's witty animation redeems any shortcomings in the material and 'The Hole Idea' is often ingenious in its visuals. McKimson was often underrated as a director but was widely celebrated as an animator and it is the latter skill which is predominant in 'The Hole Idea'. One wonders how much greater it might have been with a little extra script work.
Much Ado About Nutting (1953)
Slow-paced, calculated and sometimes wonderful
Chuck Jones's 'Much Ado About Nutting' is a calculated, slow-paced cartoon which ultimately suffers from a weak and overly bizarre punch line. Nevertheless, Jones's genius is amply displayed in the lead-up to this disappointing finale. 'Much Ado About Nutting' follows an urban squirrel's attempts to open a seemingly impenetrable coconut with ever grander schemes, culminating in him tossing it off the Empire State Building. The squirrel is rendered in a more realistic style than the anthropomorphised creatures that populate most cartoons and the story is played out sans dialogue. Jones uses this to his advantage, highlighting the squirrel's growing frustration and obsession for laughs. Indeed, 'Much Ado About Nutting' is at its funniest and most impressive between the punchlines. For instance, the gag at the end of the Empire State sequence is amusing enough but the lead up to it, in which we watch the squirrel agonisingly push the coconut up the thousands of stairs is extraordinarily attractive and tinged with both a sense of suspense and not a little inevitability. 'Much Ado About Nutting' does not quite scale the heights of the truly classic Warner one-shots but it is constantly engaging and occasionally wonderful.
Wild Wife (1954)
Caught between a feminist tract and a validation of conservative family values
Robert McKimson's 'Wild Wife' is a curious entry in the series of domestic cartoons which were popular in the 50s and 60s. More akin to a sitcom than a classic Warner cartoon, 'Wild Wife' stars an entirely human cast as a chauvinistic husband questions how his wife could possibly have failed to mow the lawn when she has so much time on her hands. This triggers a flashback which forms the basis of the cartoon as the wife (sardonically played to perfection by Bea Benederet) recounts the events of her day. Ostensibly a pro-woman cartoon that implores men not to take their wives for granted, 'Wild Wife' still makes room for plenty of sexist stereotypes with gags about obsessive shopping, chocolate addiction and parallel parking. Still, it's an enjoyably down-to-earth short with several neat little observations about everyday life in the 50s. There's nothing uproarious here but the face remains largely fixed in a smile, even if its sometime provoked by some of the outdated attitudes. Caught between a feminist tract and a validation of conservative family values, 'Wild Wife' is an interesting glimpse at the past and an entertaining one to boot.
Goo Goo Goliath (1954)
Unusual but unappealing
Friz Freleng's domestic comedy 'Goo Goo Goliath' takes as its starting point the idea of babies delivered to the wrong parents. Although this idea had been touched on before in cartoons such as Bob Clampett's 'Baby Bottleneck', 'Goo Goo Goliath' adds the amusing touch that the mix up is due to the drunkenness of a stork who is perpetually toasted by new parents. This concept is the best thing about this rather weak cartoon and Freleng would reprise it in the Bugs Bunny cartoon 'Apes of Wrath'. 'Goo Goo Goliath' is also similar to Chuck Jones's equally odd and misfiring 'Rocket-Bye Baby' which emerged two years after 'Goo Goo Goliath'. The idea of a giant baby delivered to a normal sized couple has very limited comic potential and 'Goo Goo Goliath' struggles to make the concept work. It's not helped by the unattractive, angular style in which the cartoon is presented. Ultimately, the jokes run dry almost immediately and there is little to recommend this unusual but unappealing cartoon.
Rocket-bye Baby (1956)
Caught between unfunny sitcom and self-conscious cartoon
Chuck Jones's 'Rocket-Bye Baby' is an example of the "domestic" cartoons of the late 50s and 60s but with a sci-fi twist. Beginning with the strange concept that a cosmic disturbance resulted in an Earth baby being delivered to Mars and vice versa, 'Rocket-Bye Baby' never really finds its feet. Sharing more in tone with campy sitcoms like 'Bewitched' than with the average Warner Bros. cartoon, 'Rocket-Bye Baby' follows the progress of the Martian baby and his bewildered parents. Jones makes a wise decision in opting for the highly stylised animation which reflects the strangeness of the plot but, while there's the odd amusing moment, 'Rocket-Bye Baby' is largely caught between unfunny sitcom and self-conscious cartoon. An interesting but not especially memorable short which hasn't quite worked out the logic of its own universe.
It's Hummer Time (1950)
Stop........ Hummer Time!
Robert McKimson's 'It's Hummer Time' is a gorgeous and extremely inventive cartoon that expands on the usual bird-cat-dog chase formula by incorporating sadistically pre-prepared punishments on the dog's part. Like many Spring/Summer based cartoons ('Swallow the Leader', 'Springtime for Thomas' to name but two), 'It's Hummer Time' is beautiful to look at, filled with uplifting bright colours. The plot pushes the whole thing into the realms of the classic as predictable spot gags are hysterically punctuated with unpredictable follow-ups in which the insistent dog drags the cat kicking and screaming to punishments that have been carried out so frequently in the past that the cat has named them all ("Oh no, not the thinker!"). There's also a pleasingly cyclical nature to the plot in which the cat begins and ends the cartoon as a bird bath. 'It's Hummer Time' was remade the following year as the infinitely inferior, over-complicated 'Early to Bet' which comes nowhere near recapturing the magic of this unique cartoon.
The Oily American (1954)
Great concept but full of missed opportunities
Robert McKimson's 'The Oily American' represents a serious missed opportunity for some strong satire. Sid Marcus's script has a wonderful premise; an oil-rich millionaire has animals shipped to his mansion so he can hunt them and mount their heads as trophies without ever leaving the comfort of his own home. However, Marcus seriously drops the ball by making this millionaire a Red Indian, which adds a rather unpleasant, un-PC element. Even discounting that, the script is full of missed opportunities for some amusing dialogue between the tycoon and his stuffy English butler. The whole thing amounts to little more than some chaotic flailing about, gallantly held together by a doing-the-best-he-can McKimson. The ending, in keeping with the rest of the cartoon, is suitably lame and the sole enjoyable image one takes away from 'The Oily American' is that of a pygmy moose, far from enough to justify this grossly unfunny cartoon's existence.
Chow Hound (1951)
Jones's famously dark masterpiece will remain with you long after the iris out
Chuck Jones's 'Chow Hound' is a legendary cult classic, renowned for its extremely dark plot (from a beautiful script by Michael Maltese). It would make a great double bill with Jones's equally dark 'Fresh Airedale' since both cartoons feature villainous dogs mercilessly exploiting innocent cats. The main difference is that in 'Chow Hound' the villain actually gets his comeuppance in a gruesomely unforgettable final twist. To say too much more about 'Chow Hound's' plot would be to spoil it but special mention must go to the exceptional characterisation that Jones teases out of even the most minor of players. All three of the cat's unwitting shared owners are brilliantly rendered without the audience ever seeing their faces, a little mouse steals every scene he appears in and the villainous dog is a truly despicable and genuinely threatening presence. 'Chow Hound' is thoroughly deserving of its cult status and will remain in any viewers mind long after the chilling iris out.
Horton Hatches the Egg (1942)
Clampett and Seuss - A match made in heaven
Every animation fan is well aware of Chuck Jones's Christmas classic 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas', a seasonal staple based on the classic story by Dr. Seuss. However, fewer people are aware of Bob Clampett's adaptation of a Seuss story, 'Horton Hatches the Egg', which predates Jones's effort by a couple of decades. Out of all the Warner Bros. directors, Clampett is arguably the most obvious choice as the ideal person to adapt Seuss's surreal tales and he more than proves himself with 'Horton Hatches the Egg'. Both the genius of Clampett and of Seuss shine through as Clampett deftly weaves his own edgy, grotesque humour into Seuss's friendlier tomfoolery. Exceptional wordplay (rhyming "it doesn't make sense" with "I'm so immense" is merely the tip of the iceberg) and brightly coloured characters and settings collide with Hollywood caricatures, indelible images and off-colour jokes about backsides, sea-sickness and characters shooting themselves in the head! Clocking in at just under ten minutes, 'Horton Hatches the Egg' is longer than the average Merrie Melodie but if anything it leaves the viewer begging for even more. It's truly a shame that there were no further Clampett/Seuss collaborations as it is clearly a match made in heaven. 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' may be the recognised classic but 'Horton Hatches the Egg' deserves to be as widely celebrated and its egg-based narrative makes it ideal for the Easter schedules. If only these gorgeous cartoons weren't so rapidly disappearing from our screens, perhaps 'Horton Hatches the Egg' (along with hundreds of other classics) might be rediscovered by a whole new generation. In the meantime, you can get your hands on this charming short on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection volume 6 DVD.
Lights Fantastic (1942)
Attractive and occasionally amusing but not fantastic
Friz Freleng's 'Lights Fantastic' is one of the more unusual cartoons in the things-coming-to-life subgenre. Set in Times Square, 'Lights Fantastic' turns the neon advertising billboards into a series of spot-gags, some funnier than others. As is usually the case with such cartoons, many of the gags are dated and beyond the comprehension of modern audiences when once they would have brought the house down. This was often compensated for by the development of some sort of plot but 'Lights Fantastic' sticks to spot gags all the way through, simply ending when it runs out of time. The animation is certainly attractive and there are a few bits that still raise a chuckle (the eye test skit is particularly amusing) but overall 'Lights Fantastic' is little more than an interesting product of its time. While it's never boring, neither does it ever really light up or come to life!
Fresh Airedale (1945)
Scathingly satirical and deliciously dark
Chuck Jones's 'Fresh Airedale' is one of the most remarkable Warner Bros. one shots ever made and a personal favourite of mine. Extremely subversive in that it refuses to bow to our moral expectations, 'Fresh Airedale' presents us with a set-up that is crying out for a comeuppance at the finale and then declines to provide us with it. Instead, it offers us a scathing political satire which tells it like it is; if you're at the right place at the right time and willing to behave only in your own interests, you can reap the benefits at the expense of everyone else. So we are presented with a sweet-natured, heroic cat who is upstaged at every turn by the deceitful, manipulative, downright evil dog Shep who uses his accepted status as "man's best friend" to gain ever greater plaudits from his master and, ultimately, the rest of the country while the cat is either brutalised or ignored. Cruelly hilarious and constantly relevant, 'Fresh Airedale' is 100% more effective for not giving us the happy ending we all want and expect. While it remains a buried treasure, 'Fresh Airedale' continues to delight and exhilarate anyone who happens to unearth it, provided they are not married to the constrictive notion that good must always triumph over evil in entertainment.
Kiddin' the Kitten (1952)
Dodsworth's debut lacks bite and energy
Robert McKimson's 'Kiddin' the Kitten' suffers from a lack of appealing characters. Add to this problems with plot and pacing and 'Kiddin' the Kitten' is a weak effort that was never destined to be remembered. Dodsworth the cat (imagine an overweight, slovenly Sylvester and you're in vaguely the right area) cannot be bothered to fulfill his position as mouse catcher so he sets up a fake mouse-catching academy and gets a cross-eyed kitten to do the job for him. From the off it's clear that 'Kiddin' the Kitten' doesn't have much going for it. Dodsworth is a very slow-moving, dialogue based character but he hasn't been furnished with any particularly striking lines. The set-up seems to drag and when the cartoon's main plot finally kicks in it is disappointing to say the least. The other main character, the anaemic, zombie-like kitten, is badly designed and has very little personality to speak of. The mice are all generic and uninteresting. 'Kiddin' the Kitten', then, lacks both the frenzied zip of the Warner Bros. wildest cartoons and the biting wit of their more dialogue based efforts. It seems like a completely failed attempt by McKimson to convert his brilliant Foghorn Leghorn series into a feline context. The fact that 'Kiddin' the Kitten' is so little remembered or celebrated is testament to how unsuccessful this venture proved to be.
A Peck o' Trouble (1953)
Dodsworth's second (and thankfully final) appearance
Robert McKimson's 'A Peck O' Trouble' is a second attempt to break in the character of Dodsworth, a fat, lazy cat who debuted in McKimson's frankly dreadful 'Kiddin' the Kitten' (a cartoon every bit as terrible as its title). Dodsworth is clearly not fit for stardom, his comedy being based on an uneasy mix of slow-paced verbal gags and slapstick with the emphasis on the former. To make matters worse, McKimson resurrects the boss-eyed kitten from the previous cartoon as well. This pale, freakish little character has no appealing characteristics whatsoever. Perhaps the assumption that something could be made of Dodsworth is understandable (given the right script, which he never got, Dodsworth might have been a very effective character) but the return of this utterly repulsive sidekick is totally mystifying. 'A Peck O' Trouble' proves to be no more effective than 'Kiddin' the Kitten' and is ultimately perhaps a little worse. Thank god Dodsworth was abandoned at this stage, allowing McKimson to concentrate on the similar but vastly superior Foghorn Leghorn series.
Mouse and Garden (1960)
Stands out from much of Warner Bros. 1960s output
Friz Freleng's Oscar-nominated 'Mouse and Garden' is a nicely orchestrated piece of toing-and-froing which is constantly entertaining. While the Oscar-nomination may have been a bit of an overreaction, Freleng still shows himself to be an old master at timing gags. Sylvester and his supposed pal Sam (voiced by the legendary Daws Butler, doing an impersonation of Stan Freberg's Pete Puma voice) scavenge for food together while constantly attempting to screw the other out of whatever they find. When Sylvester finds a live mouse, the battle is upped to the next level. 'Mouse and Garden' is ultimately a film about friendship and deceit and the detrimental result when the two meet. After suffering the indignity of being paired with intolerable characters like Tweety and Speedy Gonzales for years, it's always good to see Sylvester in a cartoon without either of these twin drag factors. Here, the mouse is more a prop than a character, looking on in mute bewilderment as the two cats cheat themselves out of a meal. The limited animation is effective in evoking the atmosphere of a pier at night and, while Sam is hardly a memorable adversary, the whole cartoon is carried by the false niceties and growing paranoia that eventually defeats the two characters. It might not quite be a classic but 'Mouse and Garden' is a solid, always enjoyable cartoon that stands out from much of the 1960s Warner Bros. output.
Porky's Poor Fish (1940)
Overpopulated by puns
Bob Clampett's 'Porky's Poor Fish' is a so-so cartoon populated by appalling puns and one or two nice moments. Set in Porky's Fish Shoppe, 'Porky's Poor Fish' occupies an uncomfortable area between a standard black 'n' white Porky cartoon and one of the books-come-to-life Merrie Melodies that were popular at that time. Typically of many of the early Porky cartoons, Porky is far from the star, appearing only in a rather stilted opening musical number and the climax of the film. For the rest of the time the star is a scraggly cat who sees the fish shop as an opportunity for a free meal but gets more than he bargained for. Unfortunately, the audience gets far less than they bargained for. As was sometimes the case in the books-come-to-life series, the spotlight is thrown on punning signs which could have worked just as well in a non-animated medium. Laughs are scarce and, while the cartoon is just about saved by Clampett's energetic direction, there is very little at all to recommend 'Porky's Poor Fish' over any of the other below-par early Porky cartoons.
Swallow the Leader (1949)
A beautiful, visual feast
Robert McKimson's 'Swallow the Leader' is a wonderful cartoon which achieves most of its appeal through some gorgeous brightly coloured layouts and a fresh setup. A hungry cat eagerly awaits the arrival of a flock of migrating swallows. What follows is essentially a spot-gag cartoon in the Road Runner tradition but it is so gorgeous to look at that even the most predictable of jokes is glorious to take in. The whole thing builds up to a fantastic finale in which the birds attack the cat en masse, which showcases McKimson at his best. From its clever double-pun title to its uplifting brightness, 'Swallow the Leader' is a joy to behold and while I am sure there are many who consider it a run-of-the-mill spot-gag cartoon, I have a special place in my heart for this lovely visual feast.
Go Fly a Kit (1957)
A likable curio that's a bit too short on laughs
Chuck Jones's 'Go Fly a Kit' is a sweet little cartoon which is just a little too short on laughs. It's often considered to be a solo outing for Pussyfoot, the kitten from Jones's masterpiece 'Feed the Kitty', but the kitten here is clearly a different cat in both design and character. Confusingly enough, Marc Anthony (the bulldog from 'Feed the Kitty') or a dog who looks very much like him, appears as the main antagonist of 'Go Fly a Kit'. Regardless of who these characters may be, 'Go Fly a Kit' aims squarely at the heartstrings rather than the funny bone. There are a few chuckles as we see the flying cat's engaged in battle with the bulldog (the bulldog's eventual fate is priceless) but the story of the cat's childhood and subsequent romance get a little too schmaltzy and the ending is far from satisfactory. This odd tale of a flying cat is typical of writer Michael Maltese's experimental scripts of this period which included the story of a minuscule elephant ('Punch Trunk') and, more famously, a singing frog ('One Froggy Evening', a Jones masterpiece). However, 'Go Fly a Kit' falls short and Jones only manages to create a likable curio that is worth a look but doesn't stand up to repeated viewings.
Dough Ray Me-ow (1948)
Hysterically funny, dark and unusual. Arthur Davis's best cartoon
Arthur Davis's 'Dough Ray Me-ow' is an absolutely hysterical cartoon and easily my favourite of the director's films. Starring two boldly drawn one-shot characters, a grumpy green parrot named Louie and an ugly and ludicrously moronic cat named Heathcliff, 'Dough Ray Me-ow' quickly sets up its dark scenario leaving ample time to have tons of fun with it. When Louie discovers that Heathcliff stands to inherit a large sum of money which will go to Louie in the event of the cat's disappearance, the parrot sets about trying to dispense with his "friend" permanently. It's an idea filled with potential which becomes even funnier when Louie realises to his horror that Heathcliff isn't only startlingly stupid, he is also practically indestructible! 'Dough Ray Me-ow' is slightly cheap looking with a style that's akin to TV animation but it fits the feel of the cartoon beautifully, the more stylised character designs reflecting the bigger exaggerations of their personalities. There are loads of great bits but my favourite is the train sequence, the final battle over a stick of dynamite and a series of throwaway gags involving Heathcliff's novel methods for cracking nuts. One of the great one-shot cartoons, 'Dough Ray Me-ow' starred characters who were perhaps too extreme to ever be considered as potential stars but their one appearance still delights me and makes me laugh out loud to this day.
Pizzicato Pussycat (1955)
A charming, simple pleasure
Friz Freleng's 'Pizzicato Pussycat' is an extremely unusual but thoroughly delightful little tale. Featuring extremely stylised drawings and animation (occasionally boarding on childlike in its simplicity) and two rather uncharismatic lead characters, the cartoon overcomes these potentially detrimental elements with extremely fine storytelling of a simple but effective anecdote. The pleasant, storybook pacing is perfectly complimented by the angular illustrations and the script trims away the fat to leave just the important plot points, making for a constantly engaging experience. 'Pizzicato Pussycat' is best the first time you see it and it isn't a cartoon I'd return to regularly but every so often the fancy takes me and I always enjoy its simple charms. Almost ten years later, Robert McKimson would attempt a similarly picture-book inspired short called 'Bartholomew Versus the Wheel', which went a bit too far into the kiddie-esquire stylisation but, with 'Pizzicato Pussycat', Freleng pitches it just about right.
The Unexpected Pest (1956)
A solid cartoon that throws the spotlight firmly on its neatly plotted story
Robert McKimson's 'The Unexpected Pest' is a neatly plotted little cartoon with some unusual twists and genuine laughs. When Sylvester's owners realise that they don't need him now that he's got rid of all the mice, the cat has to seek out a mouse to save himself from becoming homeless. Threatening him with being eaten unless he follows his instructions, Sylvester uses the mouse hundreds of times in order to convince his owners that they have an infestation. I won't spoil the fun by elaborating further but the final few plot twists make for some very funny moments indeed. 'The Unexpected Pest' moves at a fairly leisurely pace and isn't much to look at but the script is great and McKimson wisely throws the spotlight firmly on the story. It's best the first time you see it but, with the delicious knowledge of what's to come also enhancing the fun, 'The Unexpected Pest' stands up to repeated viewings too. It's a solid cartoon and it's always a pleasure to see Sylvester without either of the twin drag factors, Tweety or Speedy Gonzalez.