Thursday, July 02, 2009

What Causes Tit Eyes? - 2

The situation and the resulting reactions from Claude are funnier than some of the gags that prompt them.
This is a stock kind of cartoon gag. It's drawn and animated beautifully though.
The gag itself is just there to get to the real point of the cartoon - that the mice are trying to convince Claude that he is going crazy so they can take over the house. Claude's reactions to all the things that happen to him are the real point of the cartoon, and where a lot of the humor comes from.
This reminds me of when we were writing Stimpy's Invention - we needed to prompt Ren to get furious and then crazy to prompt Stimpy to create a Happy Helmet for him. Some of the gags that did the prompting weren't that funny on their own, a couple were. Sometimes when you have a pre-ordained structure that all your story details have to fit into, some of the details that connect the structure end up contrived and thus, less spontaneous. This is the difference between just letting your characters take the story wherever the gags lead. Both story approaches have their plusses and minuses. No one approach is the correct one.



Flying around like a balloon is funny when you see it for the first time, but it's a cartoon staple.


This is the part that's funny.
It's pure Chuck Jones. He can create expressions that are impossible to make in real life, but tell you exactly and specifically the complex emotion a character is feeling.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHUCK JONES' STYLE
It took Jones a long time to get comfortable making pure entertainment cartoons - almost 10 years.If you look at his first year of cartoons, not a single one is a WB style comedy (maybe the Daffy Duck one was an attempt to please Leon, but it doesn't come off as sincerely wacky). They are all meant to be sweet and cute and precious - very strange for a Warner Bros. director - a risky road to take at the funniest cartoon studio. The next year is even slower and sweeter! Except for 1 important ground-breaking cartoon.From 1940 to 1945 he began doing more funny style cartoons on purpose, but little by little each year.
Here's something odd: the first 3 cartoons of 1942 are all comedies, then the rest of the year is filled with slow conceptual cartoons. Maybe he got yelled at just at the start of the year; who knows?
He got over his cutesy thing after a while and exchanged it for more experimental stylistic cartoons. I really like these cartoons from around 1946, even though they aren't super funny. Chuck seemed consciously intent on creating his own style and personality and was searching for ways to distinguish himself from the other directors. Clampett and Avery on the other hand just made cartoons in their own confident personalities. They didn't have to find themselves. Their natural personalities fit and established the Warner Bros. style.These mid 40s Jones cartoons are full of great ideas in staging, design, stories based on high concepts or influenced by other mediums like radio. His timing is still kinda plodding for the most part.

The animation in them is more full than what he did a short time later - it coincides with Bob Cannon's tenure in Jones' unit. After Cannon left, Jones started doing funnier cartoons - but more pose to pose and less fully animated. I don't know if that's a coincidence or not.
Hair-Raising Hare is the most typical Warner Bros. style cartoon of that year.

In 1947, right after Clampett left, he tried making a couple Clampett style cartoons:
Little Orphan Airedale is actually a remake of Clampett's "Porky's Pooch" from 1941. In fact, right after Clampett left, the whole studio started making Clampett-style cartoons and this lasted for a couple years. His creative momentum and energy inspired the rest of the studio for years after.

By 1948 Jones seems to have decided to make the complete leap to comedy cartoons. Every one of the cartoons on this list is funny and many of them are true classics - some of the best cartoons ever made. They also have a great combination of straight-ahead and pose-to-pose animation.
One thing that confuses matters is that these dates don't match the dates on the films on the DVDs. But you could safely say, Jones did his purest WB comedy cartoons in the late forties.

By 1949, you can start to see a radical change in approach in his cartoons. They become more talky. (Excluding the Roadrunner which has no dialogue at all!) There is less animation and more reliance on the key poses. There are great cartoons in here, but in my opinion it's not quite as powerful a year as the one that came before.

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Jones/48mousewreckers/ClaudeCatTitEyes2.mov

12 comments:

Pilsner Panther said...

Isn't this cartoon a takeoff on the George Cukor film "Gaslight?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslight_(1944_film)

Released just a couple of years earlier, and it's also about an attempt to drive someone crazy. Jones and Maltese certainly would have seen it.

jrhalfo said...

I read somewhere that Chuck Jones didn't like Clampett at all, partly because he was allowed to get away with things the other directors were not. The thought of Jones imitating his style after he left is pretty funny.

nktoons said...

Thanks for the sharing your knowledge John! Excellent post! Keep em coming;)

JohnK said...

I have a bunch of theories about that, but mainly I think it was jealousy.

They started out as best friends and equals, both animators at Schlesinger's.

Clampett became a director first, then the most popular and innovative director at WB, much wilder than Jones or anyone else. It took Jones a long time to find his way. Then when Jones finally came into his own, Clampett became a big star on television just as the cartoons in theaters were dying.

thomas said...

I find the mouse yanking on the line is funny also; might be because of the music cues, like you said.

Isaac said...

Another brilliant post, especially the point about having significance to the gags.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Those eyes kill me hahaha- HELP ME!

EalaDubh said...

Maybe it was jealousy, maybe it was Jones feeling upstaged by Clampett, and holding himself back?

Or, it may have been that Jones had different and more highbrow notions about what animation humour could achieve, and had a very structured approach to comedy logic and rules which the uninhibited Clampett didn't fit with at all. In which case, the turning point in Jones' career, and the cartoon that firmly cemented the whole Jones/Maltese creative partnership, would have been The Fast And The Furryous in 1947. The whole Coyote and Roadrunner dynamic was conceived as a satire on the comedy chase (and in Jones' own admissions, failed miserably on that front), but struck an entirely different comedy chord.

Much of Jones' subsequent directorial career at WB appears to be strike a balance between Maltese's screwball gag writing and
Jones' more highbrow aspirations. Certainly when Maltese was eventually poached by Hanna-Barbera he took his gag style with him, while there seems to be a definite underlying level of pretentiousness to a lot of Jones' output as a post-WB producer, however well-made and noble his intentions were.

Niki said...

Mr. John, Do you know why Jones credited as Chuck sometimes and Charles at others? because I've been wanting to know that and I can't find anything on websites I frequent.

Also I've been wanting to know some Jones cartoons to study and I'd like to thank you for providing a good number of them.

Brubaker said...

Niki,

Jones was always credited as "Charles M. Jones" until sometime in the late fifties when he started using the Chuck name. Around that time Friz Freleng was being credited with that name after years of "I. Freleng".

Niki said...

I've known that, Brubaker, but I would like to know why he changed it.

John A said...

Niki: In the early days, Leon wouldn't let them use nicknames in the credits.(not sure whether it was his policy or WB's) Even Bob Clampett had to use the more proper sounding "Robert" on all his cartoons. Tex Avery had to be Fred Avery until he moved to MGM and Friz was forced to use his real name, Isadore, which he must have hated so much that he shortened it to just I. Freling. As far as I know, this continued until Eddie Seltzer retired and Chuck and Friz took over the producing duties in the early '60s.