Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day From The Big Chicken

When I was about 10, My Dad decided it was time for me to become mature and start thinking about saving for the future and to forget childish things like cartoons.
He was dumbfounded and frustrated to find me still watching them as a teenager.
Every Saturday afternoon at 5 I would bring a Salisbury Steak TV dinner downstairs and sit on my Dad's chair in front of our "Space Command" color TV set to watch the Bugs Bunny Show.
I'd get through half of the first cartoon when I would hear my Dad stomping down the stairs. "What the Hell are you watching down here? What!? CARTOONS! Aren't you a little old to be watching this crap? When are you gonna grow the F*** up?"
Then he'd kick me out of his chair. "Let me see what you think is so Goddamn funny!"
He'd lean forward and tilt his glasses on his nose so he could see the cartoons better. I had a theory that Dads had trouble making out cartoons; that adults were too serious to see fantasy figures and that they would just see colored blobs floating across their TVs and think the set was broken. But Dad would chuckle at some of the Bugs Bunny or Roadrunner stuff; he could make out the images when someone got hit or blew up. The blobs would come into focus for pain scenes.
But then like clockwork, after the first cartoon was over, the middle cartoon would come on and it would start with a Foghorn Leghorn title card. All of a sudden I could see my Dad's eyes focus. Now he'd get excited. He'd sit up and twist around in his chair. "Hey, wait a minute, is that the big chicken??! I love that guy!" I think he thought Foghorn, unlike Bugs and Daffy, was not a cartoon - that he was a real guy because he could totally follow all the gags and action.
As soon as Foghorn started smacking and shoving the dog or other characters around, he would begin to laugh really loud. He also loved Foghorn's loudmouth fast talking sales pitches. He was always trying to convince Henery Hawk that he wasn't a chicken, that the dog or cat was a chicken and this killed my dad. He really thought Henery was a dumb kid, like me.
Dad would laugh so hard at this stuff that his glasses flew off his head.
I liked Foghorn a lot too, but watching my Dad lose it made me laugh even harder.
Foghorn Leghorn is one of the greatest cartoon characters in history because he's such an identifiable type. He's just like our Dads! Totally in command, thinks he's smarter than everyone else, and when he doesn't get his way through reason, he shoves and yells at you till you understand the logic of his inate beliefs.
I always loved when Dad would come down to yell at me about being too old for cartoons, because I knew I could count on Bob McKimson and Foghorn Leghorn to make him bust a gut and prove I was right.
After the cartoon was over, he'd realize that he'd just been laughing at something really immature, be embarrased and then get even madder than when he first came downstairs to yell at me. He'd pick his glasses up off the floor and stab them back onto his head, lunge out of the seat and start back up the stairs. He'd give me one final disgusted glance" This stuff is STUPID! Grow UP!"
But he'd be back next week to laugh his arse off again at the big chicken.
It was a highlight of every week for me. Foghorn was one of the few things we agreed on. We argued about The Beatles VS Elvis but totally were in synch about our beloved big chicken. He brought out the testosterone in us and taught us family values.

So Happy Father's Day, Dad and I'm sorry I'm not there to have a shoving and yelling contest with you!
Frustration, beatings and yelling are manna for Dads.

Hey, isn't this a cool way to render shadows on a character? I always loved this scene!


Taco Wiz said...

Cool story, John! I can relate to your blob theory. That's how MY Dad views cartoons. He thinks the animation in Ren and Stimpy is pure ugliness.

HemlockMan said...

McKimson was great. The older I get, the more I feel that he was the best of the WB bunch. Yeah, that would have been blasphemy in my youth--in those days we'd argue over who was the best--Clampett or Avery. There was no one else. But even in the days when I didn't even know McKimson's name (I though of him as "the animator who drew big-mouthed-louts"), he was always there in my subconscious, trying to argue his case.

"Pay attention, boy! Listen when I talk to ya! (Kid's about as bright a burnt match stick.)"

Christine Gerardi said...

Awesome story, John! I'm lucky to have a dad who appreciates cartoons and doesn't mind that I stay up all night watching them.

J C Roberts said...

My Dad enjoyed a lot of cartoons, Foghorn, Road Runner, and a big fan of Jay Ward. He'd usually get sillier than us watching them, and it stuck with us through the years. I know he would have enjoyed seeing mine.

Foghorn Leghorn was a particular favorite of mine, also. The early ones are McKimson at his best. Sorry there weren't more on the disc sets.

I used to pound down those Salisbury steaks a lot, too. But now they're like ground rubber.

Pilsner Panther said...

Love those stills...! I used to think that McKimson wasn't as great as Avery or Clampett because he didn't go as far, but that opinion was based on watching his later work, like those bland TV show parodies he did in the 50's. Especially in the Leghorns and Bugs Bunnies he made early on, his extremes are really extreme!

My father didn't either love cartoons or hate them, he just seemed to be unaware of them. He'd laugh at human comedians (especially Jackie Gleason), but that was all. Like many of his WWII compadres, he spoke very little and was hard man to read.

Since I don't have a father any more and I'm not one myself, Father's Day, for me, is sort of like an Australian Bushman's relationship to Yom Kippur; That is, nonexistent. But a happy Father's Day to all you guys who managed to find a woman who could put up with you long enough to have a kid.

drawingtherightway said...

Hey John its funny that your dad thought they were blobs on the screen because that's basically what most of todays cartoons have become: no structure just a bunch of colored blobs morphing around!

patrick said...

Hilarious story, and great frame-grabs!

I know a lot of dad's that liked Ren & Stimpy.

Trevor Thompson said...

Boy, you said it. Foghorn is a dad-like character, which is probably why the later cartoons ( crummier in animation and style though they were ) showed Foggy trying to adopt Miss Prissy's son.

Happy Father's Day from Booo Tooons!

- trevor.

Moro Rogers said...

Did your dad prefer Elvis or the Beatles?

bobblog said...

My Goodness - You hit the nail on the head. My dad used to grumble about looney tunes until he'd watch Foghorn Leghorn cartoons and laugh constantly! well when Foghorn would talk.

The thing is, like you said, it's so easy to relate to Foghorn, at the time we lived in the middle of a forest in northern Ontario and our next door neighbour was a replica of Foghorn and he had to endure his loudmouthed yapping every single day. so I guess my dad would think of him at the time.

Anyway I know i'm just repeating what you said here but I found this post to be so true to reality that I felt i had to comment.

thanks :) :)

Jonathan Harris said...

Oh god, the part where Foghorn tells Sylvester "Hatchet! Head! That's a joke, boy, ya missed it!" and slaps him across the chest slays me. That's killer voice-acting and timing, right there. It's interesting that I find that funny, though, since my dad really isn't like this at all. Though maybe he is, deep down. I should play him some of this stuff and see how he reacts to it.

Nice to see such high res Quicktimes of these! Even if they take a while to download.

Niki said...

I still remember watching Foghorn with my dad, and he'd go temporarily insane and start repeating line while laughing like Jack Nicholson's Joker. He actually quotes both Jack and Foghorn a lot, and I mean a LOT.

Kelly Toon said...

I just finished reading this whole post outloud to my dad over the phone. He said it was the perfect fathers day gift and says, "Now this JohnK is an insightful man!" which is very very high praise from my father. He has been doing a perfect foghorn impersonation since before I was born, and still uses, "that's a joke, son, that's a JOKE," wherever applicable. I held the phone to the speaker for the first clip you provided, and he was breathless with laughter by the end of it. So thank you, JohnK for helping me say Happy Father's Day to my dear ol' dad!

Tinker Ramone said...

This was exactly how my dad was when I was growing up. Foghorn was his favorite. In fact now, 10yrs after my dad passed away, I hear his voice as Foghorn Leghorn, because they were so much a like and it was one of the only cartoons he would really just laugh out loud at. Thanks for this story!

Jay said...

Aw man, that's a great story.

lastangelman said...

Dad loved the Warner Brothers and Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons but didn't watch them very often because it was MOM who cast the disapproving eye over all the Men in the house watching silly cartoons (OTOH, she thought the Peanuts specials were okay to watch, 100% testosterone free)!


Hi John
My dad was the opposite, back in the early sixties he bought a telly just to watch popeye cartoons and the warner stuff, which didnt make mum happy as you could of bought a house here in Australia at the time, he is probably the cause of my love and obsession with the animated arts

Mr. Semaj said...

Your story is a rite of passage for cartoon fans everywhere.

thomas said...

On Saturday afternoons, my Dad would take me with him to the local bar. I was 8 or 9 years old.There were regulars there, gents older than my Dad, sitting at the end of the bar, where the tv was. One time, I saw them laughing out loud at Bugs Bunny cartoon. It kind of threw me, that adults were laughing like that, at a cartoon...but it always stuck in my mind.

Much later, it became apparent to me that these gentlemen were old enough to have seen WB cartoons as theatrical releases.

Pilsner Panther said...

Hoo boy... "Peanuts" cartoons! Since Charles Schulz is virtually an American saint, I'd better not say anything critical.

But those were the only animated TV shows that my mother would even tolerate, either, besides Walt Disney's.

In the afternoons when she wasn't around, the two local non-network stations were showing the Fleischer Popeyes and even, for a while, the MGM Averys. I still remember the host of the afternoon cartoon show cracking up after Tex's "Counterfeit Cat" was broadcast. He was laughing so hard that he could barely continue with the show.

Everyone in the studio (off-camera) was laughing, too. Probably laughing just as much at the totally insane cartoon as the fact that they'd gotten away with putting it on the air. Once...

And all these fathers went right home after work and corrupted their own kids! For shame!!!

The stations and that host will remain nameless. Out of respect.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great post, John! You spin a great yarn!

My dad also hates cartoons, but he loves Foghorn (which as far as I'm concerned, proves your theory right), Speedy Gonzalez, and Tom & Jerry.

This also reminds me of the comedian Norm MacDonald's stories about his dad hating anything fictional on TV, because it was too fantastical. His dad only watched the news, and that's it, so he REALLY hated The Twilight Zone.

Did your dad hate when you watched The Twilight Zone, too?

Gabriel said...

About being unable to visually interpret a cartoon: that's exactly what happened to my parents when i was 12 and they tried to figure out my videogames. My father couldn't tell what was happening in sonic the hedgehog, but he knew that 'all those fast blinking colors must screw your eyeballs'.

Reg said...

Lovely story - thanks John.

Reg T.

Mitch K said...

My dad loves this guy, too!

Rodrigo said...

As a child, I never appreciated Foghorn, but I found myself cracking up with these clips.

Also, my father's nickname when he was a young buck used to be "Foghorn Leghorn", and again, this never registered for me until recently.

Very appropriate father's day post.

glamaFez said...

Although I am in awe of many vintage cartoons, McKimson Foghorn Leghorn cartoons are the only ones that consistently make me ROTFLMAO.

David Germain said...

My dad did nothing to discourage me from watching cartoons. As I recall, he was somewhat of an entertainment buff himself. Well he did manage a movie theatre for a time in the 1970's.

Although, I do remember a jackass in elementary school (who had been left back 2 whole grades) who thought that anything animated was automatically uncool. He wouldn't have looked twice at Foghorn Leghorn I don't think. One glimpse of him being a drawing would be enough for him to turn his head.

There are way too many people in the world like him (heck, one is one too many).

kris.w said...

nice anecdote.. hits close to home :0)

(great stills too!)

Andy Norton said...

I couldn't agree with you more on the rendering of the shadows of Foghorn in that thunder scene- I wish modern animation takes note on it, because I'm fed up of seeing that ugly shadows in a lot of 2D animation.

Foghorn is definitely has a lot of characteristics of a father figure- particularly a know-it-all that thinks he knows what he's doing is personally poignant with me.

I think my Dad would watch some animation- primarily the Simpsons (which does not say much) - but that is it as far as it goes with his taste in the subject. He grew up watching Hanna-Babera cartoons and British stop-motion shows like Trumpton, but he is probably one of those people that would dismiss animation as a product for children. Therefore, he would rather have me have an education then to make films, or anything 'creative' like that.

That is a very good post for such an occasion, John.