Archive for Chuck Jones

You Are Elmer Fudd

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2019 by dcairns

First person shooter — from RABBIT FIRE (1951).

A brilliant, one-joke cartoon on the same theme as RABBIT SEASONING (1952) and DUCK, RABBIT! DUCK! (1953): Elmer Fudd gets be-fudd-led about whether it’s duck season or rabbit season.

Interesting early example of direct cutting, before the nouvelle vague: Daffy accuses Bugs: “You’re dethpicable.”

Jump-cut to the pair walking along, Daffy elaborating on his theme. Continuity is sacrificed on the altar of forward momentum.

Most baffling bit is when Bugs opens a cook book of duck recipes to make Elmer want t kill, cook and eat Daffy. Daffy retaliates by snatching up a rival cook book devoted to rabbit-based cuisine. But he produces the volume from Bugs’ rabbit-hole. Why does Bugs own this book? Is there a long-suppressed cartoon dedicated to our grey-furred hero’s cannibalistic lifestyle? If so, is it called DONNER PARTY ANIMAL or BUNNY BOILER?


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 25, 2019 by dcairns

You don’t often see these two together. Sylvester the cat is more of a Friz Freleng favourite, and this is a Chuck Jones cartoon. Sylvester practically has his own distinct wing of the Loony Tuniverse, chasing canaries and kangaroos, rarely meeting anyone better known than himself.

But THE SCARLET PUMPERNICKEL is one of Jones’ occasional epics — Daffy Duck is pitching a dramatic screenplay, thousands of pages long, to studio boss “J.L.” a thinly-not-veiled but never seen Warner Brother. Just about everyone turns up in the swashbuckling romp, as if they were contract players, with Daffy in Errol Flynn mode and a feline Basil Rathbone, who would be hissable if anyone around here could pronounce the letter “s”.

“A lot of our characters had speech defects, for some reason,” said Jones, appearing at Edinburgh Filmhouse in the mid-eighties. Well, it’s easy to see that such vocal quirks help differentiate characters, especially if one guy (the great Mel Blanc) is doing all the voices. Comparing cat and duck is interesting, because he subtly distinguishes their “s” troubles, making the cruelly-named Sylvester (how does he managed to introduce himself?) blow a full raspberry on each sibilant, while the daffy one merely mispronounces.

Of course, those were the days when nobody thought anything of having a character with a stutter for comic effect (Porky) or rendering a diminutive bald hunter more of a milquetoast by giving him a babyish impediment on the letter R. The WB cartoons are emissaries from a harsher but more robust era. The afflicted are expected to just suck it up.

Jones also claimed that Daffy’s voice was patterned on that of producer Leon Schlesinger, hated head of the cartoon department. Everyone thought they were going to get fired when he heard the voice for the first time, but he stood up from his throne in the screening room and declared, “That’th the funnietht voithe I’ve ever heard! Where’d you get it?”

Probably never happened, I know. But of course it should’ve.

Jedi Mind Tricks

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2018 by dcairns

Bug Bunny’s Jedi mind tricks are really impressive, aren’t they? I had a moment of illumination with Bugs when I was 19 or so and Chuck Jones came to the Filmhouse, spoke and showed some classic toons. Me and my friend Robert went and it rekindled the childhood fondness for the Warner toons we’d had. We hadn’t really watched them recently and seeing them on the big screen with 498 other people was amazing, and hearing Chuck’s lies stories was eye-opening and delightful. (I think Jones liked to tell a good story and maybe some of them were exaggerated or distorted for comic effect. They were very good stories though, and doubtless the most unlikely ones were the trust because that’s how it works.)

Robert and I talked before and after about the strange qualities of Loony Toons… characters producing hand-lettered signs from behind their backs in order to communicate without speech… glow-in-the-dark eyeballs… and Jedi mind tricks. It’s not just that Bugs, disguised as a woman, immediately makes Elmer fall in love. “When Bugs jumps on Elmer’s back, Elmer immediately thinks he’s a donkey.” And that is done without any disguise at all.

In Jones’ RABBIT PUNCH, written by Michael Maltese, there’s a particularly good one. It’s a boxing picture. Bugs, an inexperienced rabbit, is for some reason fighting the heavyweight champion of the world. The champ knocks him down. Rather than get up, Bugs grabs the announcer’s microphone and describes getting up. As his opponent look around him in bewilderment, Bugs breathlessly narrates his nimble attack. The rival fighter can’t figure out why his opponent is now invisible (except he’s in plain view, lying by the edge of the ring, if he but looked over there). POW! Bug describes punching the guy, and the guy doubles up in pain.

Bugs is a powerful shaman, or something.

We see something similar in those toons like RABBIT SEASONING where Bugs and Daffy debate which hunting season it is, duck or rabbit? Bugs uses verbal tricks to make Daffy actually demand that Elmer Fudd shoot him. Impressive. Guerrilla ontology. Or, as Daffy puts it, “pronoun trouble.”

In the Friz Freleng BIG HOUSE BUNNY, written by Ted Pierce, prison guard Yosemite Sam locks Bugs in a cell. Bugs tells Sam that he’s locked himself in a cell. After some back and forth — “OUTside? Why, you’re INside!” “Oh no I’m not. I’m OUTside. YOU’RE INside!” — Sam unlocks the door and trades places with Bugs. And finds himself locked in the cell while Bugs goes free.

I would like to have those powers.