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!