Monday, May 12, 2008

MILT ON CLAMPETT 4 - CLAMPETT'S BLACK AND WHITE PORKY CARTOONS








http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Clampett/38DaffyDoc/daffydoceditsmall.mov

Clampett Starts Directing at 24 years old, on the lowest budget cartoons

So, in 1937 Schlesinger finally gives in and lets the young, brash Clampett, with the screwy, crazy ideas, have a chance to direct. But at a price. I don’t think this has been mentioned anywhere else before, but here is the picture that emerges when you look closely at the facts:

The Schlesinger Studio in those days had the smallest budgets for cartoons in the movie business, especially compared to Disney, Fleischer, and M-G-M, and yet Schlesinger was eager to compete, the only way he knew how.

Conventional wisdom (so-called) in those days was that, to compete, cartoons needed “respectability” -- they should be in color and have a certain richness of production values -- elaborate drawings and labored animation -- all of which cost a lot of money.

Here's a typical "quality" cartoon from the 30s.


Schlesinger needed more money than Warners was giving him to make the color Merrie Melodies, so he took as much money as he could from the black-and-white Looney Tunes, to augment the Merrie Melodies budgets.

Clampett's Unit had the least experienced animators
The Schlesinger Studio was expanding at this time, and so had to hire or promote a lot of new, beginner animators. These beginners were started on the low-budget Looney Tunes and were paid a lot less.

All of this was a sure recipe for disaster for the Looney Tunes -- except for one ace-in-the-hole: Schlesinger assigns the young, brash, crazy-idea kid, Bob Clampett, to make most of the Looney Tunes, hoping that Clampett’s crazy, funny ideas will somehow save them. It was a gamble: financially, the success of the whole Schlesinger Studio was placed on Clampett’s shoulders. Would it work?


PORKY'S BADTIME STORY, Clampett's first credited cartoon

Clampett’s first cartoon was written not by Clampett, but by the story department at Schlesingers.







But Clampett gave it the unmistakable “Clampett touch” -- almost the first scene in Porky’s Badtime Story shows Porky’s garage being ripped (in a snappy action) completely inside-out as Porky’s car roars out. Several other things in the same cartoon get a similar treatment.

Clampett's Cartoons Favor The Animators-they are fun to animate

Clampett always controls his cartoons with a certain sensibility, yet as far as he can he leans his cartoons in the direction that pleases his animators.

One of Bob’s primary direction techniques is to try to accommodate the talents and interests of the animators and artists on his crew -- whoever those animators and artists happen to be, on any given film. Bob told me one time, “By allowing your animators to be enthused about what they are working on will get you a level of quality that no amount of money can buy.”

Chuck Jones was Clampett's Layout Man on first few cartoons

For about the first year that Bob directed, Chuck Jones was Bob’s layout artist and head animator -- and hardly anyone could be further removed from Bob’s sensibilities than Chuck Jones.

So Bob’s earliest cartoons are relatively slow and underplayed, probably to try to accommodate Chuck.


Chuck Leaves, Porky In Wackyland: the turning point in Clampett's style
But as soon as Chuck left, to direct his own cartoons, the very next cartoon that Clampett put into production was Porky in Wackyland -- probably the seminal Clampett cartoon, and in some respects the seminal Warner cartoon. Bob was finally in his own element.

From here on, the Clampett Looney Tunes continue to break new ground, with some special successes and some relative misses. (But even the misses have their good moments -- and how could there not be some relative misses, considering the extreme disadvantages that Clampett was burdened with?)



The other directors see what Clampett is doing and, little by little, incorporate more of his zaniness into their own cartoons. Yet Clampett rarely gets any credit, since “after all”, his cartoons are the “inferior” black-and-white Looney Tunes.

____________________________

Coming soon: Milt wrote an insert article detailing some of Bob's innovations in his early Black and White cartoons....

______________________________


Hi PC:

You asked, "Why would Schlesinger put so much responsibility on Bob
Clampett?"

Schlesinger wanted to put his best talents -- his "proven" talents --
on the expensive Merrie Melodies, and try to get by on the cheaper
Looney Tunes with gags alone, and Clampett was known by then to be
particularly good at inventing gags. If the experiment with Clampett
didn't work, then Schlesinger would have had to demote Clampett back
to animating and possibly try someone else at directing the Looney
Tunes. The real point that I was trying to make was that when
Clampett finally got his chance to direct, it was under circumstances
more difficult than what the other directors at that time had to
face. In other words, Clampett was competing with a distinct
disadvantage.

You also said, "What about Porky's Party and Porky and Daffy? Those
weren't slow and underplayed. Porky's Bad Time Story was pretty good
too."

I agree. After all, these are still Clampett cartoons, so they do
have some of Clampett's pizazz. And Chuck Jones did do some
excellent sustained character animation in those cartoons. I just
think that after Chuck left, then Clampett went more all-out with his
craziness, starting with Porky in Wackyland.

And by the way, I should also mention to everybody that Clampett's
"craziness" was not just irresponsible, out-of-control, "anything
goes" direction. His cartoons could have easily fallen apart if that
was the case. Actually, it took a lot of thought and discipline to
make cartoons that seem crazy and yet are also funny and coherent --
especially back then, when Clampett was still inventing a whole new
style.

Thanks for asking, I enjoy the dialog.

Milt Gray


http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Clampett/

17 comments:

Matt P said...

Hey John.
I'm a UK animation student and I'd really like to ask you a couple of questions. If that'd be cool, I'll post back?
Cheers
Matt

P.S- thanks for the blog man, it's a great read!

Matt P said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eyeslikesugar said...

Wowowow! That last image! The backgrounds are amazing. I mean, all of the illustrations are incredible; following the lines with my eyes, they're fluid and seamless. But the staircase on the last image, the shadowing, the wood, and even the chunk out of the wall -- incredible drawings!

PCUnfunny said...

Milt this sure is a good article but I am going to have to respectfully disagree on a couple of points.


"All of this was a sure recipe for disaster for the Looney Tunes -- except for one ace-in-the-hole: Schlesinger assigns the young, brash, crazy-idea kid, Bob Clampett, to make most of the Looney Tunes, hoping that Clampett’s crazy, funny ideas will somehow save them. It was a gamble: financially, the success of the whole Schlesinger Studio was placed on Clampett’s shoulders. Would it work?"

Why would Schlesinger put so much responsibility on Bob Clampett ? He did good work before for Tex Avery but I can't believe he put the very fate of the studio in Clampett's hands. Besides, Avery was doing good work at the time.

"So Bob’s earliest cartoons are relatively slow and underplayed, probably to try to accommodate Chuck."

What about Porky's Party and Porky and Daffy ? Those weren't slow and underplayed. Porky's Bad Time Story was pretty good too.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Thanks to Milt and John for this great read!

Seems like Clampett was a bigger influence on the way things ended up being than anyone gives him credit for. I wonder why that is.

- trevor.

Charlie J. said...

Great Stuff! The Clampett Looney Tunes are way ahead of their time. People credit Avery with developing the WB style, but Clampett was making "screwball" cartoons way before Avery really was.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Well said, Milt! Well said!!!!! It's amazing what Clampett was able to accomplish with low budgets and the so-called "B" crew! Leon gambled and he won, big time!

Fuzzhound Lluis said...

Hello John,

Thanks for your comment, I still think I need to work harder, especially the drawing, I think the cabins would need to be more cartoony...
I usually just paint the picture with gouache colour directly onto white board then just scan it.

I'm gonna keep at it, I think it's a good excercise and I thinks I'm learning new stuff that I love.
Thank you
I'll keep you updated!

Larry Levine said...

"So Bob’s earliest cartoons are relatively slow and underplayed, probably to try to accommodate Chuck."

"What about Porky's Party and Porky and Daffy ? Those weren't slow and underplayed. Porky's Bad Time Story was pretty good too"

Milt likes to knock Chuck Jones everytime he writes about Clampett, today's 'Jones critique' is how he held Clampett's creativity back.

PCUnfunny said...

Milt: Thanks for the response !

Marc Deckter said...

Great article - the Clampett black&whites are packed with fun and imagination. We should have a Schlesinger Appreciation Day for giving Bob the opportunity to direct.

Marty said...

Hey that camel

Marty said...

How great is the clip with the camel?! "Desert madness!" sounds familiar. Does anyone know who did the voice for the camel?

benj said...

Great READ!
Thanks for sharing.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Actually, Larry, Chuck's one of my favorite directors of all time, but there's no denying he was very jealous of, and at a disadvantage when it came to, Clampett.

- trevor.

Mr. Derp said...

I just wanted to thank you for staying true to comedy and artistic design of moving images. They certainly have inspired and will begin some kind of great animation movement!!
I have really found this blog to be an invaluable resource. I have an immense amount of gratitude for you all providing all the gems found here, and at no cost!
I don't know if I would still be interested in an animation career if it wasn't for all your work!!
Eternally grateful,
peace

J.T. Blevins said...

This is a great article, I am a long time fan of Looney Tunes, and I've always been curious about the creators, and the studios that produced them. I have always had aspirations of becoming an illustrator, and am finding out that Looney Tunes really inspired me more than I really knew. (Ren and Stimpy, too! :)