Archive for Looney Tunes

Bosko Bitch

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , on June 8, 2021 by dcairns

THE BOOZE HANGS HIGH — not just a terrible pun, but one that doesn’t even work — is the fourth Looney Tune ever made or released. It begins in the darkness of a cow’s ass, slowly emerging into daylight as the cow saunters away from the camera, now irrevocably soiled and fit only for photographing Chester Morris.

The cow starts dancing with our protagonist, Bosko, a little dog/monkey/blackface minstrel boy. Then the cows skin trousers fall down, along with the udder attached to them, exposing the bovine bloomers beneath. Seems like Termite Terrace had their thing worked out pretty good from the start. Of course the more familiar characters haven’t been dreamed up yet, but the grotesque, vulgar surrealism is front and centre.

Soon Bosko is playing his horse’s tail like a fiddle, in the animals-abused-as-musical-instruments motif popularized by Mickey Mouse. (Mickey is clearly going to grow up to be a psychopath.)

The idea that animals are all secretly wearing clothes continues — perhaps the secret of cartoon anthropomorphism is that they’re all people wearing animals costumes — or at least, DRAWINGS of animal costumes. A duckling has to go poop so the parent duck lowers its backflap to reveal the duckling’s tiny human arse.

The plot — the thing to do with booze — doesn’t start until the toon is halfway over, with the discovery of a black bottle of XXX by a happy piglet. Soon the swine are swallied, or sloshed if you prefer. The large pig throws the bottle away and glasses poor Bosko in the best Begbie tradition. This of course makes Bosko drunk, all though concussion may also be playing a role.

When the pig pukes up a corn on the cob, he reinserts it through a door in his abdomen, which throws my theory about cartoon animals being people in drawn animal costumes into confusion. Apparently cartoon animals are really buildings.

The film ends, as mysteriously as it began, with Bosko singing with the inebriated pigs. But it appears we now have an explanation for the iris ending of most WB cartoons — it’s a call back to the film’s opening, a reverse angle — the cow is now behind the camera, backing into it, and its rectum is decisively enclosing the lens in its Stygian grip.

Rushin’ with Concussion

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2020 by dcairns

This is a nice documentary on Robert McKimson, who I always thought of us around about the number four man at Termite Terrace, home of the Looney Tunes, dwarfed by Jones, Clampett, Freleng (and Avery, though he did his best work at MGM). (Oh, and Tashlin, though he did his best work in features.) Probably my-ish low opinion of McKimson is due to seeing his name mainly on late-period toons, when Warners animation was in decline.

The startling bit in the doc is where we learn that McKimson, who would handle Speedy Gonzalez, suffered a traumatic brain injury after which he found he could drawn and animate better and faster. That’s remarkable and unlikely. What was damaged? Some inner critical voice that had been holding him back? How many brain cells would he have had to lose to overtake Freleng?

Bosko Does Not Believe in Tears

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2012 by dcairns

Bosko, star of early Looney Tunes, underwent a mysterious transformation. Here’s Bosko in his best-known form —

I take him to be a little monkey, don’t you? Everybody else is an animal, and he has those cute ears. Surely he’s a chimp or monkey. Of course, there’s also the obvious fact that he’s a thinly disguised rip-off of Mickey Mouse, shorn of the nose-dot and vast, black spherical ears (people assume they’re discs, but they never vary their appearance whatever way MM faces). He even has a Pluto-like dog, Bruno, and a girlfriend who looks just like Bosko in drag, called Honey.

And there’s also the suspicion that he’s a minstrel-like caricature of an African-American. In fact, from 1929, here’s Bosko’s first talkie —

Different voice, and very obviously an Amos ‘n’ Andy style ethnic caricature. But that side of the character recedes as he adopts the eunuchoid falsetto of Disney’s famous mouse. Cartoonist Rudolf Ising denied that Bosko was of any ethnic type, characterizing him as “an inkspot type thing,” but the view of Hugh Harman, who actually dreamed Bosko up, is apparently not recorded.

Then Bosko is acquired by MGM, when Harman & Ising (Harman-Ising well together!) switched studios, and he goes into Technicolor, becoming a little more sugary in the process.

The bratty kid dresses in Mickey Mouse’s red shorts, and the animation is a bit more three-dimensional, the comedy more domestic and less surreal/grotesque. The MGM effect creeping in.

Then this happens —

Bosko has become fully human, or almost, and he’s certainly African-American now. Curiously, the caricature isn’t particularly offensive (to me, anyway, but I wouldn’t presume to speak for everybody). I wonder how audiences reacted to his transformation? At any rate, the character was quickly retired. The more realistic Bosko became, the less fun his adventures seemed. The final phase, though technically the most elegant, is the least pleasurable to watch.

Bosko’s strange evolutionary leap from inkspot/minstrel/monkey to “real boy” is paralleled over at the Fleischer studio by Betty Boop’s transition from poodle to flapper, which is arguably as insulting in its implications. Very oddly, even after her floppy ears had turned into earrings, and her muzzle modified into the low, chinless mouth we know and lust for, Betty continued to go out with Bimbo, a dog. The implications of which are best left unexplored.