Directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Available on: Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection Vol. 1
This Tom and Jerry short has a premise that is a common cartoon scenario. There is a character who desperately wants some sleep, Spike the Dog in this case. The tired character tells another character that if he (Tom this time around) makes just one sound he's dead meat, which leads a third character (Jerry) to try and make as much noise as possible.
So, not a terribly original concept, but it is one that is consistently funny in most of the cartoons it's used in. This cartoon does have several funny sequences, the light bulb scene is a standout. But, like most Tom and Jerry cartoons, many of the things these characters do to each other look extremely painful, once again the light bulb scene is a standout.
There is some great animation display. About my only complaint from an artistic standpoint is that there isn't enough contrast in the background colors and the colors of the three main characters. That's nitpicking though, after all, this film did win an Oscar.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
30. Valerie - Steve Winwood
Steve Winwood is a great artist, a white British dude who mixes elements of the blues into his music. However, he sings like he has marbles in his mouth. I admit to not being able to understand much of the lyrics of this song at times... except for the name of the titular love interest, “Valerie.” The original version appeared on Winwood’s 1982 album “Talking Back to the Night,” but a remixed version from his greatest hits collection “Chronicles” was a hit again in 1987. And if that wasn’t enough, Eric Prydz used the song as the basis for the dance club favorite “Call on Me,” which has one of the strangest videos I’ve ever seen. I won’t post the video here since it features a lot of scantily clad aerobicizers and, quite frankly, more butts than your average ash tray.
Many artists have had songs about a girl named Valerie, including The Monkees and Frank Zappa, but I think this is the best.
31. Wake Up Little Susie – The Everly Brothers
This first hit for the Everly Brothers is a classic 50’s tune about a young couple who fall asleep while at the drive-in and must concoct a story to explain to the parent s why they are out past curfew. It’s a cute little song that was actually deemed too controversial and even banned by a few radio stations at the time of it’s release.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The trailer for the long-awaited Spike Jonze directed version of "Where the Wild Things Are" is online. Rumors of a troubled production have been circulating for awhile. I say the film will either be brilliant or will join the likes of "Ishtar' and "Heaven's Gate" in the list of great film disasters. This trailer looks encouraging, though. And kudos for not using CGI wild things! They look great.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Directed by Nathan Greno
Available on: "Bolt" DVD
I have been watching my cartoons that last few days, but fell behind on blogging. Hopefully I'll get caught up tomorrow, but for today I decided to look at a new cartoon. While out with the kids today we picked up the DVD of "Bolt." Included as a bonus feature is a new short, "Rhino," which will be today's cartoon. I think this is the first CG short we've done for Cartoon a Day. Now just to clear things up before we start, all the commercials and even the packaging refer to this short as "Super Rhino," but the title card just says "Rhino," so I'm going with that. Oddly enough, the IMDB, who are usually sticklers for going with what the title screen says, still list the film with "Super" in tact. These are the geniuses who decied that the film "Seven" should be listed at "Se7en." I mean, how do you even pronounce that!?!? I digress.
In this short Bolt and his human Penny have been captured by the villainous green-eyed man. They are about to be lowered into a pit of lava when Rhino, the hamster in a ball, is sent to rescue them. The film lives up to being a "short," it's only about 4 minutes long, but it is a lot fun.
This film is pretty much in the style of the opening "Bolt," which I described as being like "The Matrix" if the Keanu Reeves part were played by a dog. That 10 minutes was the best part of what turned out to be a really good movie. The action is exciting and funny all at once. Spoiler ahead: it turns out Rhino is dreaming all this, which you start to catch on to when he suddenly goes off from fighting bad guys to sing Hannah Montana tunes at a rock concert. It would've been better just to make it a big action fantasy and not to the "it was all a dream" ending. Still, it's a fun short. Here's hoping they do more with the Rhino character. He's a keeper Disney.
31. Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac…more people have been in that band than bought the last Vanilla Ice album. Every lineup has brought something different. While the casting change that added Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham to Mick Fleetwood, John McVee and Christine McVee’s existing roster is possibly the band’s best lineup , you’ve got to admit that the arrival of Nicks added a bit of a creepiness to the band. That is perhaps no better demonstrated than with Nicks’ ode to a welsh witch, “Rhiannon.” There’s just something about the combination of Buckingham’s guitar and Nicks' sinister voice, not to mention a bass line from McVee that thumps in pit of your stomach, that makes you want to pull the covers over your head.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
32. A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash
Well here’s a song with a girl’s name in the title that’s not about a girl. “A Boy Named Sue” was written by Shel Silverstein, his book of poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends, was a classic when I was growing up. This story of a man who gets into a bar fight with the long absent father who named him Sue was recorded live at San Quentin prison. It was the very first time Cash performed the song and the crowd loved it. One of the most interesting aspects of listening to this song is hearing the reactions of the hardened criminals in the audience. Call it a novelty song if you want, but don’t forget to call it a classic.
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I haven't lived there for 15 years, but it is still my home. So when the news came down earlier this month that one of the icons of the Second City's skyline would be changing names from The Sears Tower to Willis Tower I was heartbroken. Once the tallest building in the world, it opened in 1973 (just two years after I was unleashed on the world). The thing is huge! Just a few blocks from the home I grew up in you can see it if it's a clear day...and it's still 25 miles away! You can't just change it's name!
This isn't the first incident like this. There have been several cases of Chicago landmarks going through a name change in recent years. In 2003 Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox, was changed to (cough cough sputter) U.S. Cellular Field. Now I've got no problem with corporate naming of stadiums, but when it makes sense, like my current hometown ballclub's home Coors Field. Coors is an important company in the history of the Denver area. Not to mention the fact that, though I don't choose to consume it myself, beer is a staple of the baseball park menu. Our football stadium name, however, the wimp-out...please don't hate us name Invesco Field at Mile High makes no sense at all.
Back to the Windy City, there was then the Marshall Field's incident. On September 9, 2006 the icon of Chicago's State Street became Macy's...yes Macy's. Could there be a greater crime against the city of Chicago? I mean, what do you think of when you hear the name Macy's? New York...the Thanksgiving day parade (speaking of which, am I only person who goes nuts when the folks on TV call it "The Macy's Day Parade," sorry about that one Pilgrims). I mean, what better way to offend a bunch of Chicagoans than to take their hometown store and change it's name to New York's hometown store. No true Chicagoan would shop at Macy's. It was a tradition for most Chicago area kids to go downtown at Christmas time and see the tree and the window displays at Marshall Field's. From what I understand, the Macy's folks have not kept up the tradition well.
And now comes the changing of the Sears Tower. Would anyone dare even suggest changing of the name of The Empire State Building, or even a corporately named New York icon like the Chrysler Building. I seriously doubt it.
Whoever this Willis guy is, someone close to him (Arnold or Mr. Drummond maybe) needs to go slap him in the face and tell him that he's not going to earn a place in the hearts of Chicagoans by doing this. Most Chicagoans, myself included, will continue to call it The Sears Tower.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Hook, Line and Stinker
Directed by Chuck Jones
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6
The 13th Road Runner / Coyote short is not the strongest of the batch, but it's hard to go wrong when these characters are in the hands of Chuck Jones.
The right elements are all there...the great backgrounds, the crazy inventions (especially the final one used in this cartoon), the great reaction shots...these are the things that make the Road Runner films great. There is one thing that really gets in the way in this short, however. It may seem like nit picking, but the music is just all wrong.
I know nothing of John Seely, who is given the music credit on this film, but for this film he needed to take a few lessons from the maestro Carl Stalling. Stalling knew when to let it rip with the music and when to lay low. Here the music just draws attention to itself...which is exactly what film music should never do.
Directed by Friz Freleng (as I. Freleng)
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6
As you might imagine from it's title, "Satan's Waitn' " features one of the darkest story concepts you're ever going to find in a cartoon. This is a Tweety and Sylvester short which reveals a deep dark secret about cartoon characters...they can die.
That's right, and not only does Sylvester die just a few minutes into this short but he goes to hell! Lucky for him it's only his first of nine lives. So Sylvester #1 will have to wait until the others show up. The devil, a bulldog, is anxious to speed things up, so he heads up to encourage Sylvester on with his dangerous Tweety chasing ways.
There are some great moments in this short and some wonderful stylistic designs. The roller coaster sequence features some amazing visuals and the opening shots that feature Sylvester and Tweety running across a sea of wires and TV antennas (a bit of a jab at the new medium of the time) are great from a design standpoint. Even the shots of the "putty tat" riding a conveyor belt down to hell are fun from a design standpoint. But despite the laughs and the great art, it's hard to get into a short that is so...well...morbid. It's no fun seeing cartoon characters H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.
33. Oh Sherrie – Steve Perry
When Steve Perry took a break from Journey, his first single as a solo artist was this grandiose ode to a girl named Sherry. The video for this song actually seemed to poke fun at the big sound of the tune by starting as a big costume piece with castles, knights, and princesses, only to have Perry walk out on the shoot and sing the song to his girl on a big empty staircase. The song was about his actual girlfriend at the time, who also appeared in the video. It didn’t exactly launch a huge solo career for the Journey front man, but it’s become a staple of those “80’s weekends” you hear across America’s radio dials each week.
Friday, March 20, 2009
34. Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) – Looking Glass
I told you Brandy would be making an appearance. This song about sailor who cannot draw himself away from the sea to be with the woman he loves is another example of a song that was originally released as B-side. Supposedly a disc jockey in Washington DC first played the flip side and soon the rest of the country followed suit. The band that performed it, Looking Glass, broke up about two years after Brandy was released but the song remains a classic.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
35. Walk Away Renee - The Left Banke
This is a catchy song, but you’ve got to admit it’s a little strange. It’s got this baroque sound complete with harpsichords and violins. It was written by Left Banke’s Michael Brown at age 16 and was about the girlfriend of the band’s bass player.
Cat-Tails for Two
Directed by Robert McKimson
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 4
Many cartoon characters go through changes in their history. Everyone from Bugs Bunny to Bart Simpson have had their look altered as the characters developed over time. "Cat-Tails for Two" marks the first appearance of a beloved Looney Tunes character, Speedy Gonzales, but it also shows what is perhaps one of the most drastic changes in character design of any major character.
This short actually focuses on two cats, George and Benny, who are parodies of the George and Lennie characters from Of Mice and Men. They wander onto a Mexican ship in search of a Mexican dinner...a Mexican mouse, of course. They happen upon "the fastest mouse in all Mexico" and the hilarity ensues. And this is a very funny short. There are many great reaction shots from the two cats. Stan Freberg's voice work as Benny is also a highlight.
It is very interesting to see the change that would happen in Speedy's design. The studio must've realized after this short that they'd created a great character, but that they'd given him a really annoying look. With his flat head and over sized front teeth, he just doesn't look like able in this short. Lucky for us he would go through a dramatic makeover and become the Speedy we all love.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Directed by Michael Lah
Available on: Tex Avery's Droopy - The Complete Theatrical Collection
During Tex Avery's time at MGM he came up with several great characters. Among them a slow moving hound dog, a high-kicking dancing girl, and two very different versions of the Big Bad Wolf. Probably more famous is the bulging eyed, waggling tongue version of the wolf that ogles the girl in many of Avery's shorts. But just as funny, in a different way, is the laid back version of the wolf that appeared in the 1950's. "Sheep Wrecked" is a great short featuring this character going against Droopy presented in beautiful CinemaScope (woo-hoo).
The design of this laid back wolf is just perfect. The body curves into an odd pear shape with the feet leading as he walks while the rest of his body seems to lag a few inches behind. The constant whistling and Daws Butler's wonderful voice work make for a character that makes you laugh before he even does anything.
One of the things that is so interesting about this short is the fact that it is presented in wide screen. The backgrounds, however, are very minimal. Not exactly sprawling landscapes, but it seems to work perfectly with the wide screen format. It almost creates the illusion that you are looking at something grander than you really are.
This is probably one of my favorite of the later Droopy cartoons, and certainly one of my favorite featuring the laid back wolf. But my favorite of his appearances, "Billy Boy," remains unreleased on DVD...memo to Warner Brothers.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
About a week and a half ago I was in Anderson, SC for One Way Street's Greenville/Anderson area Puppet Ministry Festival. I decided to stay a bit later than I normally would to visit Newspring Church, who have their main campus in Anderson. It just so happened that the day I was visiting was the first Sunday for their new children's facility. Some cool folks from Kidspring gave me a tour of the facility. Check out some of the photos.
The Art of Self Defense
Directed by Jack Kinney
Available on: Walt Disney Treasures - The Complete Goofy
Goofy really hit his stride when Disney began producing a series of shorts that featured him in various sports activities. Baseball, Football, Swimming, Golf, even the Olympics were all fair game for the Goof. In "The Art of Self Defense" he is training for a boxing match.
The short begins with a short history of one-on-one combat which takes us all the way from cavemen hitting each other with clubs up to the present day. There are a few good gags in this sequence, but in some ways it feels like padding.
The short really gets going when Goofy goes through some scientific training for his upcoming match. Our leading man does not speak at all in this short, he simply responds to the narrator. Though the Goofy voice is classic, the character works very well when done in this style. It leaves him to engage in more physical comedy, which has always been his strongest suit.
The highlight of the short is the shadow boxing sequence. Of course, the shadow does not confine itself to the wall and ends up having the upper hand in this sparing match. The sequence takes good advantage of the physical flexibility of the Goofy character. Though not as strong as some of the other Goofy sports films, this is still an enjoyable entry in the series.
36. Mandy – Barry Manilow
My dad used to play Barry Manilow records on Saturday mornings. So there was many a weekend when I woke up to the sound of “Mandy.” Manilow released his version of the song in 1974, but it was originally written and recorded by Scott English in 1971. The song was somewhat of a hit in the UK, however, there it was known as “Brandy.” Manilow’s version was changed to Mandy to avoid confusion with the Looking Glass song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).” Stay tuned, that one’s coming shortly. Though this tune gets poked fun at a lot, you’ve got to admit it’s a romantic little song.
Monday, March 16, 2009
37. Maggie May – Rod Stewart
This song about the first woman Stewart had…uh…relations with is supposedly a true story. The song itself wasn’t originally released as a single. It was the B side for the single “Reason to Believe,” but disc jockeys ended up liking this song better and spinning it instead.
Betty Boop's Penthouse
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Available on: YouTube
I had to not blog for several days, due to a puppet festival and a very sick child at home. So here we go again, enjoy "Betty Boop's Penthouse," courtesey of YouTube.
From the very first frame you can tell this is going to be a creative short. The broken smoke stack haphazardly repaired with smoke that twists around as it comes out is such an original gag, it sets the tone for what's to come.
The short doesn't actually spend that much time at Betty's penthouse. Bimbo and Koko's science lab is a source for a lot more humor. Their experiments at the opening of the film are classic Fleischer and have a great progression as the gags build on each other. When they discover Betty on the roof of a building across the street, well, it's a perfect example of just how risque Miss Boop could be. As they watch her cool herself off with a garden hose I couldn't help think of David watching Bathsheba.
My only complaint with this short is that the ending is a bit abrupt, otherwise this is a great Betty Boop short.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
38. Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
Iris – Goo-Goo Dolls
This is one of those songs that seemed to play endlessly on the radio in the 90’s. It was impossible not to know this thing backward and forward, yet I don’t think I could’ve told you the title. That’s because “Iris” is never mentioned in the lyrics of this song from the Nicholas Cage movie “City of Angels.” The song is supposedly about someone invisible who find true love and wants her to know who he is.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Available on: YouTube
Today's cartoon is a Betty Boop short featuring a great song performed by the one and only Louis Armstrong. Once again, thanks to the public domain, here is the short in it's entirety.
Betty Boop cartoons are just so much fun. Though, this one doesn't featured much of the lovely Miss Boop. Bimbo and Koko take up most of the time in this one, but they manage to carry the short well despite usually being in the shadow of their costar. Some of the visual gags are classic Fleischer...both the fun ones such as the palm trees becoming giant legs for our heroes, and the bizarre ones such as the floating disembodied head of Louis Armstrong. The Boop cartoons just never fail to put a smile on my face.
Milk and Money
Directed by Tex Avery (as Fred Avery)
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5
This was actually yesterday's cartoon. I was having some computer problems last night so I'm a bit behind on blogging about it. In "Milk and Money" Porky Pig is working his father's farm, but it seems that the mortgage is due and Mr. Viper has come to collect. So Porky heads off to the big city with his horse to try and make a fast $10,000.
They first try delivering milk door to door, but they end up getting fired after the horse is bitten by a horse fly and goes nuts causing the destruction of all the milk bottles. They end up going to the horse track where a bite from the same horse fly results in Porky and his horse becoming the winners of the race...and the $10,000 prize. The farm is saved.
This is an interesting short to look at as it is an early example of Tex Avery's direction. There are a few hints at some of the things he would do in some of his later MGM shorts, especially during the horse race sequence. The humor does come in spurts, but this is a pretty funny early Looney Tune.
39. Jezebel - Chely Wright
There are only three entries on this countdown of songs with girls’ names actually sung by members of the female persuasion, two of them are country songs. This is the first, and the most recent. Chely Wright is a great country artist and I enjoy many of her songs, especially her salute to the military, “Bumper of my SUV.” This song, about a woman determined not to let a “Jezebel” snatch her man away, is a fun little country tune and is a completely different approach than Dolly Parton takes with the same situation later in the countdown.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I was thinking the other day about how many great songs there are with a girls name in the title. Yes, these are the sort of things that go through my mind. I tried to come up with a top 10 list but it was too difficult. It ended up being a list of 40 songs!
I decided to share my list with my blogisphere friends, so here are the top 40 songs with a girls name in the title...as decided by me.
40. Come On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners
From the days when jumping around in overalls was in style comes Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Come to think of it, what that every in style? I digress. Despite strong accents and mumbled lyrics conspiring to keep us in the dark as to what Eileen could actually see in this guy, “Come on Eileen” is one of those just so darn catchy tunes that makes for a perfect one-hit wonder, which is just what Dexy and his pals ended up being.
More to come later...
Monday, March 09, 2009
Directed by Bob Clampett (as Robert Clampett)
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5
Once again I've missed several days of cartoons. My travel schedule makes it hard to keep up. Let's get going again with a Bob Clampett short featuring Porky and Daffy, "Wise Quacks."
In this one Daffy is about to be a father. Who knew he even had a wife? Anyway, his old buddy Porky comes to visit the new family. While waiting for the blessed event, Daffy calms himself with some "Corn Juice." By the time the four ducklings are born he's hammered, which is probably why this one isn't on TV much. Soon, a passing eagle decides to try and snatch up one of the youngsters and Daffy must fly while intoxicated to rescue the little guy.
This is another example of how cartoons in the 30's weren't being made for kids, but the fact that drunkenness is the main plot device of this short makes it seem to be a bit over the top. Clampett, of course, is known for going over the top...but usually in the animation department. Here the animation isn't as crazy as in some of Clampett's films, but Daffy's drunken expressions do show some of his style.
Porky doesn't really contribute much to the story, it would've been just as well off without him. It's certainly an enjoyable and well animated film, but Daffy Drunk can't help but make you cringe a bit.
Posted by Squonk at 8:49 PM
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Directed by William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Available on: Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection
In this Tom and Jerry short, Jerry manages to get away from being chased by Tom long enough to free Spike the bulldog from the dog catchers truck. The grateful pooch offers the mouse his protection in gratitude, all Jerry has to do is whistle and Spike will be there.
Spike's quick entrances to pummel Tom make for some funny moments, and Tom giving Jerry a glue covered gumball to prevent him from whistling adds a different element to the mix, but ultimately this is a pretty standard Tom and Jerry short.
There also isn't much of a payoff in the ending. There is a big buildup, but ultimately the ending just puts us right back where we started from. The setup was ripe for a big gag that just didn't happen. It's enjoyable, but there just isn't anything that leaps out at you as extraordinary.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Directed by Dick Lundy
Available on: Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection
"Smoked Hams" features a premise that has been used in many a cartoon...one character is tired and in need of sleep, meanwhile another character is bent on engaging in the noisiest activities he can. Thus in this film Wally Walrus is the one trying to rest, and, you guessed it, Woody Woodpecker is out to spoil that.
It starts with Woody doing some yard work. He pushes around the lawn mower and sings as he works. We've seen it all before in other cartoons, but then the direction of this short changes. Woody rakes the leaves in the yard and then sets them on fire, remember the days of burning leaves? Anyway, now it is the smoke which is keeping Wally awake and this turns out to be a very original turn for this cartoon.
The smoke, almost a character itself, enters the house through any crack it can find. After boarding up all the cracks, the smoke begins pouring in through a hole in the floor. Wally plugs it with the leg of his bed which leads to the best sequence in the film. Soon the pipes of the bed frame become a pipe organ, with Wally trying to plug more holes than he has limbs to cover. It's a very funny and original sequence.
Another thing that is interesting about this short is that Wally has his revenge on Woody at the end. He puts Woody into a strange machine that subjects him to a lot of the same treatment he gave Wally throughout the rest of the film. That's one of the unique things about Woody Woodpecker, he doesn't always end up on top. Can you imagine that being done to Bugs Bunny, no way!
Monday, March 02, 2009
Directed by Bob Clampett (as Robert Clampett)
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5
Well everyone, sorry that I completely blew off a week of "Cartoon a Day" posts. So much of last week was spent driving across the country that I didn't even try. So let's get back on track with a Bob Clampett directed Bugs Bunny short, "Hare Ribbin'."
This is a strange cartoon, and that's saying a lot when talking about Bob Clampett. Ultimately, only some of it works. In this one a dog, with strange hair and a voice that just doesn't fit, is after Bugs. Bugs gets in a few good jabs before being chased underwater, where he impersonates a mermaid with fun results, but then the short never leaves the underwater environment and we're left wondering why.
It's not that the gags aren't funny underwater, there are still some fun bits, but the underwater setting becomes distracting. There is an odd distortion effect put over the animation to make it look like we're looking through water. It just ends up being headache inducing and many gags, and great animation, is lost because we're trying to look past this goofy effect. All in all, the short is only mildly amusing. Guess you can't win 'em all.