Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Big Man From The North (Feb 1931)

A Plot! A Plot! Finally A Plot! Well, sort of. The cartoon starts off at a Mounted Police station in the middle of a blizzard. Bosko enters causing the storm to blow hard into the building. In the process of re-shutting the door, the Captain loses his pants. He tells Bosko to go "get your man", a mean looking figure with no name, but he's wanted dead or alive whoever he is. Bosko goes out to his dog sled, with a team of dogs in no way prepared for life in the snow. And one not prepared to pull a sled, since he is about a fifth the size of the other dogs. Bosko goes on a sled ride involving a couple of gags and ends up slamming into a bar in the middle of nowhere. Inside, Honey is singing and Bosko sings with her. This is the only vestige of the random music making of the earlier cartoons. Eventually, the Bad Guy comes in and Bosko plucks up the courage to fight him. They have a gun battle in the dark and Bosko stabs the guy in the rear with an ENTIRE SWORD, no really, up to the hilt! Oddly, that does not dispatch the villain, it doesn't even really phase him. Eventually Bosko shoots off his fur, leaving him a skinny weakling and he runs off embarrassed.

Notable Gags:
Bosko pulls off the pants of his boss while being blown by the wind.
Bosko has a tiny dog on his sled team that doesn't reach the ground as they run.
The dogs legs adjust to the up and down landscape, classic gag.
When the dogsled slams into the bar, the dogs meld together and walk off.
Bosko's Gun is apparently a cork-gun
Bosko uses a machine gun on Mr. Baddie
Bosko Sticks an entire sword into Mr. Baddie's rear-end
Bosko shoots off Mr. Baddie's fur, leaving a skinny weakling

I have to say I like this one a little. It's about time we got to an attempt at a plot. I know that even in the Golden Age toons plots were mostly thinly veiled excuses for gags, and that's ok. But even a weak plot is better than random, unconnected gags. The fight at the end isn't as clever as say, Bugs v. Sam, but I can see how blowing the fur off of the villain would have been at least entertaining in the early days.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Great News!

Just read on Cartoon Brew that Looney Tunes will be returning to Cartoon Network this month. Can't tell you how excited I am!


Box Car Blues (Jan 1931)

This cartoon is much more gag oriented than it is focused on random music making. We start with a musical train and in the last car are our "heroes" Bosko and an unnamed pig (possibly a rough version of the pig from The Booze Hangs High) the two sing for a while, until their car is separated from the rest of the train. This leads to a series of gags that almost exclusivly feature Bosko. The car goes off and on the tracks at random and finally crashes into a tree at the end of the tracks.

Notable gags:

The train becomes anthropomorphic several times. Including when the wheels become hands that choke music out of the whistle, and when it pulls itself up a very steep mountain.

Speaking of the mountain, the train manages to pants the mountain and the mountain pulls his pants back on.

Bosko is repeatey subjected to groin injuries. Primarily from trees and telephone poles.

At one point the tracks get too wide for the car and it splits in half. Bosko fixes the problem by using his neck as a crank to pull the car and tracks back together.

There is also a random cow that is suddenly being chased by the car. It ultimately is smashed by the car, but is ok in spite of that.

Overall this is an interesting cartoon because it departs from the "use any thing as an instrument" gimic. Sinkin' In The Bathtub had a similar runaway vehicle gag, but only after the silly music making. This cartoon also focuses on a certain kind of humor, namely pain. It is Bosko's trouble and pain that make us laugh. For whatever reason, it doesn't work here as much as it will in later Warner shorts. There is something missing here, maybe it isnthe fact that Bosko is not somehow inflicting the pain on himself. The Coyote could stop chasing the Roadrunner if he wanted to. I'm not sure I will continue to muse on this as we move on through the cartoons. Maybe something will occur to me.

-- Jack

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Booze Hangs High (December 1930)

This cartoon begins with Bosko at a farm, dancing to what is presumably the title song with a cow. The cow's "pants" fall down and Bosko laughs. Bosko then goes to a horse and buggy and plays a tune on the horses tail. He later sees a pitchfork which he plays as a banjo. While play the banjofork, a family of ducks is dancing while they are walking, one of the little ones whispers to his mother and she sends him off to "use the facilities" while the rest distract us with dancing. Bosko eventually drops the banjofork and plays the horse again, reusing a good bit of animation. Bosko then goes to feed the pigs with the garbage. In the garbage the two small pigs find a bottle with three Xs, this unkown substance could not be alcohol because this was 1930. Somehow, they get drunk of of this substance and their father(by the voice) does too. The bottle gets thrown onto Bosko who also becomes drunk. The quartet sings and dance some and then we all go home.

Notable Gags:
Bosko uses the horse's ear to tune his tail

The little duck has a flap in the back of his feathers to make using the restroom easier, convenient.

The little pigs use one tail as a corkscrew to get the booze open

As they pop the booze bubbles, it plays "How Dry I Am"

Bosko gets drunk by physical contact, a cartoon staple, but the first time Warner used it

The father pig burps out a corn cob, then puts it back through the door in his stomach -
after which he has a classic guilty look on his face.

I actually enjoyed this cartoon, not sure why really. Maybe drunks pigs are comic gold or something. This one had no more story than the others, but I think Harman and Ising hit on some genuinely funny situations this time. The expression on the characters' faces seemed more real or at least more thought out. I genuinely laughed when the bubbles played "How Dry I Am", and the guilty/embarrassed look on the daddy pig's face was hilarious.

As I alluded to in the summary, this cartoon has to be seen in the context of Prohibition America. Now I do not mean that I think it is some grand allegory or pointed political statement. More that it fits in with modern stoner movies. It makes light of a substance that is not only illegal, but also still widely used.