Saturday, 30 August 2014

352. Porky's Pooch (1941)

Warner cartoon no. 351.
Release date: December 27, 1941.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Rover / Scotty Dog).
Story: Warren Foster.
Animation: Izzy Ellis.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Rover, explains to a "down-on-his-luck" Scotty dog, on how he managed to successfully find a master, which happened to be by manipulating Porky Pig.

When you are thinking of a Warner Bros. character Chuck Jones is associated for...many people would associate Charlie Dog with Chuck. True, Chuck directed funnier cartoons of the character, and did a great interpretation: but not so many people realise that Clampett actually created the personality, but with a different one-shot character.

For a long time, at least in his later life, Chuck Jones would accuse Bob Clampett for stealing a lot of his material: as well as the other directors at Warner Bros.

The accusations which were somewhat meaningless--the cartoon itself contradicts Chuck's accusations. It's likely the personality was conceived by Warren Foster, but it has Clampett's fingerprints over the character. Bear in mind, the persona may be Charlie Dog, but its a different character under the name of Rover.

It seems somewhat baffling that Jones would later use that character into his own creation, despite despising Clampett as a person as well as the material he put out. The entire cartoon story, being conceived by Foster, is a great establishment for Porky Pig, and a plot which hadn't been done before: a homeless dog attempts to find a master and will stop at nothing to be granted one. Though, this started off by Clampett: Chuck Jones would later use the formula, and improve on it.

What makes the cartoon stand out, not only the character itself, would be the use of backgrounds Clampett uses for the cartoon. You can't ignore this when reviewing this short, for you all know it. Clampett uses a majority of the backgrounds of the short still photographs.

Whether this was used for budget purposes or if Clampett was attempting to try out something creative, it works well in the cartoon for the scenery for the short is set downtown, and henceforth: it seems somewhat logical to use still photographs for the scenes.

However, there are several photographic shots where the backgrounds are partly painted over a still photograph. You mostly see this in the exterior shots of the short, to try and give the cartoon a city atmosphere to it, and plus: for scenes that would require backgrounds like the opening scene of the baker flipping pancakes. Note in the screenshot at the top right, you'll find the name of Porky's apartment is "Termite Terrace" which itself is a decent little in-joke, but I'm speculating whether this was really an exterior view of what Termite Terrace looked like (and not the main animation studio on Sunset Boulevard). Who knows..

The opening scenes, which would later be reworked into Chuck Jones' Little Orphan Airedale is a great establishing opening for Porky's now-dog: Rover. The scene starts with a homeless Scotty dog, Sandy, who watches the baker flipping pancakes, and finds his stomach is almost empty (hence the belt gag).


Walking over to the cab, he spots his then-homeless friend, Rover, who is seen seated inside Porky's car. The Scotty dog, explains to Rover he is in a "hard bit of luck", and asks him what he's doing in the "grand car".

Rover explains about he lives a life under a master, and has moved on from the days of being homeless. This is a great establishing scene for the shot is set at its then present day, but as he explains his story: the entire cartoon is presented in its past tense. It's been used several times in cartoons, but the opening itself works well in that sense.

Mel Blanc does a great performance on the Scotty dog (as well as his other voices), who gives the character only such charm that no-one else could give it. Here, he makes the character trill his 'rs and 'ls', parallel to the von Hamburger character in Daffy Duck in Hollywood, but voiced by Rolfe Sedan.


Moving forward to Rover and Porky's first meeting in Porky's apartment, Warren Foster establishes the entire purpose of the short all through Rover's dialogue, and doesn't waste a moment with it. For a typical Warner Bros. fan, you will expect to hear familiar lines such as: "You ain't got no home, and I ain't got no master!".

The scenes that follow afterwards like Rover attempting to impress Porky with his tricks, are also parallel to the later Charlie Dog cartoons: such as the "And I'm loveable" scene. It's a great establishment, as the dog character really feels human in that sense, making him more worthy to have a master, even if a little obnoxious.

Scenes involving Rover making his tempts to win Porky over, such as the cliched "play dead" trick. Rover takes this a little further as he says, "Watch me make like rigor mortis?" and he stiffens into that pose. Some great timing on that scene, and also a funny line by Foster that has a taste of his wit.

It's an overall great scene that establishes not only the cartoon but also Rover's desire of choosing Porky as his new master. This doesn't impress Porky as much, and rejects Rover politely by pushing out of the door. But Rover doesn't give up, Porky later attempts to dispose him by throwing him off the balcony from his apartment. What a rather dark turn for Porky, don't you think? And so, this carries on through much of the cartoon.

For what would be a great way to introduce Rover and Porky, there is some comical elements which are missing in this cartoon, compared to how funnier it was in Chuck Jones' cartoons. That element would be Porky Pig himself. Though he does play a more prominent role than what Clampett would give him, he doesn't have much of an assertive personality compared to the Charlie Dog shorts.

Though he does stand up for himself in front of Rover, and tries to go through all his ways of disposing him: it doesn't seem as funny enough. For example, when Porky attempts to toss him off the apartment balcony, it isn't as funny, for it's more sadistic of Porky to do so.

What saved the character later on in the Charlie Dog shorts was how sardonic he would be, and thus his witty dialogue, which is lacking in this cartoon. He is presented as an even more vulnerable character with a less assertive persona. To be fair, Porky was still a developing character at this point, and it was only just about this time where Porky really began to improve upon his personality: becoming more cynical and assertive, saving the character.


Following up after Rover's performance as Carmen Miranda, Porky once again boots him out of his apartment room, rejecting him once more. This follows with another well executed sequence by Warren Foster, with some great dramatisation and satire from Clampett.

Rover acts to Porky in a melancholic, dramatised performance of how low his life is. Rover shouts to Porky, "I can take a hint. You don't want me!", and goes far to express his inner self: "Nobody wants me. I'm a dog without a country, that's what, I'm a refugee, etc."

Then, Rover walks over to the side of the window where he jumps on the window sill in a melodramatic pose, on wishing to end his own life. The window sill is also suspenseful and stagy in how its written and animated.

The way he jumps out the window appears to suggest so, even though it is mostly satire.

Porky, feeling empathy for Rover walks over to window expressing guilt and concern. This changes, however when Porky finds Rover is seated under the window of the feeling, tricking Porky once more. It's a sequence that works well in satire and execution, Jones would use it again for The Awful Orphan.

As for cases including Clampett's subtle humour: that is still over even if the story may be Foster all over. Notice how Clampett appears to be teasing the censors by having Porky nude with a towel covering him, all throughout the cartoon. Since the audience are used to associating Porky who usually only wears a waistcoat, and thus being a pig character: the idea of Porky wearing a towel all through the short would be more forgiving. Though it may be a useless analysis, but I can't imagine anyone other than Clampett who would feature Porky in a towel.

The sequence with Rover standing behind Porky's window closing up to the cartoon's closure is another cases of how subtle and yet edgy Clampett could get. Watch how Clampett appears to mouth at Porky through the window, but from Porky's perspective; you can't hear Rover. Watch carefully at the scene where he mouths "Goddamn son of a bitch!". Being used previously in Freleng's The Hardship of Miles Standish, the gag works a lot better in this cartoon: for the gag is well executed that way.

And so, as Rover begins to balance from the edge of the building, he starts to lose his balance. Resulting in some intriguing photography angles of Rover balancing: it helps capture the atmosphere of the scene, and the plea for help. Porky opens the window, in an attempt to keep Rover's balance, but it's too late. The suspense is killing as Rover falls from what would be his death.

Porky runs down the stairs from his apartment building in an attempt to catch the dog from falling. Though, to make the scenes lighthearted, Rover halts himself from falling and prays to himself before continuing his fall. Just as Porky rushes outside his apartment building to hopefully catch Rover, he fails finding that Rover has hit the ground hard.

From a pose that assures Rover is dead, Porky begins to express guilt upon himself and mourns Rover. After hugging and crying over Rover's body, he immediately perks back to life, cheerfully and remarks: "Gosh, I didn't know you cared", and much to Porky's surprise. The short ends with Rover kissing Porky all over, and quoting Abbott and Costello, "I'm a bad boy".

Though Clampett and Foster both created the obnoxious homeless dog persona, Chuck without doubt would master it later on. Anyhow, this is not a bad, overall cartoon and the conflict between Porky and Rover is delivered well. Despite the idea that Porky isn't assertive or as funny enough, at least he is given a more prominent role for the short, and a role which is best suited to him. This is a very artistic turn for Clampett for his artistic ego is evident in the cartoon. The use of still photographs for scenery is enough to suggest so, as Clampett shows he wants to be different compared to the other directors at Warners. Overall, it was a decent attempt with the persona, and this is one of Clampett's more fulfilling cartoons of the year.

With 1941 all wrapped up, it is an improvement upon 1940: and at least every director are showing signs of improvement. One major factor at the studio occurred is the departure of Tex Avery (with two more cartoons he did in 1942 that were finished up), but the other Warner directors (Freleng and Clampett especially) have caught up and carried on to the point where they no longer need to rely on him when making funny cartoons. Theirs no denying Tex Avery inspired them to refresh ideas and create humorous, inventive cartoons. Though this may be a little of an "off" year in terms of Warners outputs, it is certainly an improvement compared to the previous year. Clampett no longer has to direct black-and-white Looney Tunes, Chuck Jones  is gradually finding his own true style, Tex Avery isn't as reliant on spot-gag cartoons and Friz Freleng is producing more inventive and funnier shorts. The following year will be an even bigger improvement for everyone (Clampett and Jones especially), and 1942 will be a fulfilling year of reviews..

Rating: 3/5.

1 comment:

  1. For Clampett, 1941 was the year he slowed down his manic pacing in order to focus more on story structure and personality animation, which may have been due in part to Bob's graduation to the color Merrie Melodies shorts. This isn't one of them, of course, but the fact that Chuck Jones could take a Bob Clampett short and remake 75 percent of it point for point a few years later shows how different 1941 was than the previous couple of years (when Clampett's shorts were frantic, but the story structure was slim) and the years that followed (when the stories were frantic again but built far more on the personality of the characters). Only a cartoon from this particular period by Bob could have been remade as a Jones cartoon, and feel like a Jones cartoon with little change to the premise, pacing or story structure..

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