Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dumb Patrol (April 1931)

The first war cartoon from Warner Bros. Bosko and his pet plane are attacked by a very surprisingly non-stereotypical German. After his plane is destroyed he finds himself with a French Honey and a fully functional piano. His singing and dancing with Honey is interrupted and he builds a plane out a Dachshund and a broom. Bosko then defeats the bad guy and laughs.

Notable Gags:
  • Bosko's plane flaps its wings and "swims" to fly
  • As soon as Bosko lands his clothes come back
  • French Honey apparently has a hard time understanding French
  • The old U pipe to return bullets gag
  • The bad guys plane is blown into hundreds of tiny planes that Bosko disposes of with bug spray
This cartoon was again a little disappointing It's comforting to know that the Warners people will eventually make better use out of wartime material. Even Bosko the Doughboy is more entertaining. There really just weren't enough gags. I think the most creative one here is the U-Pipe gag so famous in my mind due to Spaceballs. Also I do have to admit that Honey not understanding French put me in mind of Holy Grail. Even so, I can see the changes happening in how the Termite Terrace (That might be anachronistic) people are approaching cartoons. It is getting better. I know I complain a lot about the general lack of quality in these early cartoons, and I stand by that, but I do have to admit it's getting better.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ups 'N Downs (1931)

A day at the races. Bosko is selling hot dogs, which dance on the griddle. Spectators arrive in various silly ways and then Bosko sneakily leaves his stand to go to a locked shed. We see the horses and jockeys training and it becomes clear that Bosko intends to race. We soon find out that his horse is rather impressively not alive - it's mechanical. The mechanical horse proves to be troublesome, but every time it breaks, Bosko is able to put it back together. Bosko eventually wins the race by extending the horse's neck in a "Go Go Gadget!" sort of way.

Notable Gags
  • People riding a cow as a trolley, squeezing its head for a horn
  • A dog buying a hot dog, The hot dog comes alive and pleads "Mammy!", the dog replies "Sonny-boy!" and the dance off together
  • Mice sneak in to the race with the unwitting help of an ostrich
  • A racehorse trains like a boxer
  • One too big jockey on a too small horse, then a too small jockey on a too big horse.
Well, we're back on track for plots, sort of. While there is still a lot of music here, most of the gags are just gags with music playing, not song and dance routines. And of course later we get Bosko's attempt at racing. What's really missing from this cartoon, and many others as well, is genuine humor. Very little in this cartoon can be truly considered funny. There is silliness, and there is what must have been novelty for the time, but little humor. The moist clever bit may have been the hot dog pleading for its life, but the "Mammy" element makes it fall a little flat to a modern audience. And lets not forget the fact that Bosko blatantly cheats and gets away with it. A mechanical horse with an extending neck is hardly on the up and up.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ain't Nature Grand? (March 1931)

This cartoon is about a fishing trip Bosko takes. He is followed by a dog that he sends away. He then can't bring himself to kill the worm he brought, so he lets it go and improvises. The worm gets chased by a crow but is able to handle the threat. Bosko then catches a fish who does not appreciate Bosko's attitude about it. The singing and dancing then begins with bees, spiders, frogs and bugs getting into the act. Some apparently gigantic bugs drop what I thought was an olive, but turned out to be a boulder on Bosko's head. They then shrink and attack Bosko with a beehive machine gun, chasing him into a fountain.
Notable gags
  • Using the letters NO from the " No Fishing" sign as worms.
  • When the worm is being chased by the crow, it rolls into a circle to get away
  • After the crow gets the worm, the worm stretches through a few holes and then pulls the bird through. Classic trope of someone getting dragged through a tangled situation.
  • The crow puts his feathers back on like a coat
  • After catching a fish and being nice to it, Bosko gets spat on for his trouble
  • The bugs use a flower as a propeller, on a bug that can already fly
  • The flying bugs turn a beehive into a machine gun

This cartoon is interesting to me for a few reasons. First, there was relatively little singing and dancing. we are continuing or journey away from the strictly musical nature of Looney Tunes. Although I have to say I regret the lack of plot. Second, I think this is the first time, at least for WB, that we see the "Threading" trope. (Not and official trope, but it's when a character is tied to a string that is threaded through a lot of obstacles, then pulled through). Lastly, we see some truly wanton and unprovoked violence. The multi-sized bug attack on Bosko has no rational cause. I won't say this is the beginning of Heckling, but it is certainly in the same vain. Overall, this is no where near my favorite Bosko cartoon, but I have to admit the relative lack of musical silliness was encouraging.