Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Cute Way To Offend Delicate Sensibilities

Bob Clampett once told me that he had a secret for getting away with material that would normally offend everyone. He said he tried to make even his most shocking material all upbeat and cute. It works for me!
Bob always made his animation very specific - like this odd upshot of Daffy's beak as he walks into the scene. Why an upshot? Because it's more interesting than just having him walk in for the mere sake of story continuity.
Here's all the principles of animation in action, only exaggerated more than the other directors. Bob's actions have a lot more punch to them because of this. Stronger accents, which help make the actions clear. - especially important when there is so much happening so fast in his cartoons.

This has the makings of a really gruesome scene. Mr. Meek has to bring home a duck for dinner or "Thweetie Pie will cook my goose!" Here's this mild mannered guy only too ready to enact the most brutal death upon a cute character with a giant axe.
Watch the animation in the clip of Meek slicing his axe through the hay trying to cut up Daffy. It's amazing.
This next scene is by Scribner. HUGE accents. Look at that beak!

One of the things I love about Clampett's cartoons is that I'm always discovering new gags and details I missed before. I've seen this cartoon 100 times and I never noticed that Daffy is ripping his feathers off and tossing them into the air along with the bloody ketchup.
This gag just kills me. I can't believe this was in a cartoon made almost 70 years ago.

Back to super cute Daffy.

Then more screaming and squirting blood everywhere.

I just noticed that Mr. Meek shoves his finger into his nostril. Never saw that before either.
Clampett cuts away from super exaggerated Scribner to another milder animator.
But this is a very funny expression and action coming up.

This may be Art Babbit's animation; I'm not sure. It's very round.

Look how Goddamned weird this is.

You can't have enough blood and feathers in a Clampett cartoon.
I think he gets away with this stuff because it's just so exaggerated you can't possibly take it seriously.
You see if you tried to do a scene like this today, some exec would read a script: "Daffy squirts ketchup all over the place and tears his feathers off and shoves his head deep down into his neck sheath, making it look like he is a chicken with his head cut off." Even if it made it past the exec and into production, if you didn't have a really strong funny director following the scene through production, chances are an artist would draw it too straight - and then it really would look gruesome. The key to successful violence in cartoons is to make it obviously ridiculous.
OK, you gotta watch this animation in the clip too. It's Scribner again and he animates some of the funniest and best acting ever in a cartoon here.
First Daffy flops around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Then he gives us a cute goofy look to tell us "It's just a gag, folks, I'm not really dead!"
Then into another frenzy...

and then it switchs to Daffy begging Mr. Meek to save him. All in pantomime. And without a head!
The idea that a director and the best animators in the world would go to such trouble and skill for such a simple gross idea, makes the whole scene 10 times funnier. - that they thought the gag was so important, it needed virtuoso execution.

Watch how he twirls around while walking around the corner. Such humor, deftness and control!


Wow. This scene is a complete animation opus and should be in all the history books. They should have piled Academy awards on Clampett and Scribner.

The funny part is, the story itself is a pretty routine WB plot. It's a stock heckler story like a Woody Woodpecker cartoon and Bob could have just thrown it away and not paid any attention to it, but he didn't. His meticulous direction turns the stock story into a complete caricature of what a "Looney Tune" is - it's almost a satire of the formula - and it becomes art.


Looney Tunes - Golden Collection, Volume Five

Disc One: Bugs and Daffy

1. 14-Carrot Rabbit
2. Ali Baba Bunny (with Commentary Track by Filmmaker Greg Ford & Music Only Track)
3. Buccaneer Bunny
4. Bugs' Bonnets
5. A Star is Bored
6. A Pest in the House (with Commentary Track by Writer Paul Dini)
7. Transylvania 6-5000 (with Commentary Track by Historian Jerry Beck)
8. Oily Hare
9. Stupor Duck (with Music Only Track)
10. The Stupor Salesman
11. The Abominable Snow Rabbit (with Music and Effects Track)
12. The Super Snooper (with Music and Effects Track)
13. The Upstanding Sitter
14. Hollywood Daffy
15. You Were Never Duckier (with Commentary Track by Director Eric Goldberg)

Special Features Include:
1. Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, a Life in Animation Part 1 (Estamated time: 45 minutes)
2. Featurettes: The Bugs Bunny Show
a. Bad Time Story Bridging Sequences (Estimated time: 8:26)
b. What's Up Dog? Audio Recording Sessions (Estimated time: 3:00)

Disc Two: Fairy Tales

1. Bewitched Bunny (with Commentary Track by Director Eric Goldberg & Music and Effects Track)
2. Paying the Piper
3. The Bear's Tale
4. Foney Fables
5. Goldimouse and the Three Cats (with Music Only Track)
6. Holiday for Shoestrings (with Commentary Track by Historian Daniel Goldmark)
7. Little Red Rodent Hood
8. Little Red Walking Hood (with Commentary Track by Animator Mark Kausler)
9. Red Riding Hoodwinked (with Commentary Track by Filmmaker Greg Ford & Music Only Track)
10. The Trial of Mr. Wolf
11. The Turn-Table Wolf (with Music and Effects Track)
12. Tom Thumb in Trouble (with Commentary Track by Historian Jerry Beck)
13. Tweety and the Beanstalk (with Music Only Track)
14. A Gander and a Mother Goose
15. Senorella and the Glass Huarache

Special Features Include:
1. Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, A Life in Animation, Part Two (Estimated Time: 45:00)
2. Behind the Tunes
a. Once Upon a Tune (Estimated Time: 8:27)
b. Drawn to Life: The Art of Robert McKimson (Estimated Time: 15:00)
3. A Chuck Jones Tutorial: Tricks of the Cartoon (Estimated Time: 13:21)

4. Bonus Cartoons
a. Coming!! [1943] (Estimated Time: 3:00)
b. Gripes [1943] (Estimated Time: 3:00)
c. Gas [1944] (Estimated Time: 4:00)
a. Take Heed Mr. Tojo [1943] (Estimated Time: 3:00)
b. The Good Egg [1945] (Estimated Time: 3:00)
c. The Return of Mr. Hook [1945] (Estimated Time: 2:00)
d. Tokyo Woes [1945] (Estimated Time: 4:00) -CLAMPETThttp://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/search/label/Hook

Disc Three: The Best of Bob Clampett

1. Bacall to Arms (with Commentary Track by Historian Jerry Beck)
2. Buckaroo Bugs (with Commentary Track by Historian Michael Barrier and Commentary Track by Director John Kricfalusi, Director Eddie Fitzgerald and Cartoonist Kali Fontecchio) http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/search/label/buckaroo

3. Crazy Cruise
4. Farm Frolics (with Commentary Track by Actor Keith Scott)
5. Hare Ribbin'
6. Patient Porky 7. Prehistoric Porky 8. The Bashful Buzzard (with Commentary Track by Writer Paul Dini)

9. The Old Grey Hare (with Commentary Track by Filmmaker Greg Ford)
10. The Wacky Wabbit (with Commentary Track by Director Eric Goldberg)
11. The Wise Quacking Duck
12. Wagon Heels
13. The Daffy Doc (with Commentary Track by Animator Mark Kausler)
14. A Tale of Two Kitties (with Commentary Track by Historian Michael Barrier)

15. Porky's Pooch

Special Features Include:
1. Behind the Tunes
a. Wacky Warner One-Shots (Estimated Time: 8:40)
b. Real American Zero: The Adventures of Private SNAFU (Estimated Time: 8:45)
2. From the Vaults
a. Hare Ribbin' Director's Cut (Estimated Time: 8:00)
See Bugs commit murder!

b. The Bashful Buzzard Storyboard Reel (with Bashful Buzzard Orignial Opening Music Cue) (Estimated Time: 8:00)
3. Alternate Milt Franklin Opening Themes (with Introduction by Greg Ford)(Estimated Time: 5:00)

Disc Four: "The Early Daze"

1. Alpine Antics
2. Eatin' on the Cuff or the Moth Who Came to Dinner (with Commentary Trac by Historian Jerry Beck)

3. Milk and Money
4. I've Got to Sing a Torch Song
5. Porky at the Crocadero (with Commentary Track by Historian Daniel Goldmark)
6. Polar Pals 1939

7. Scrap Happy Daffy
8. Porky's Double Trouble
9. Golddigers of '49
10. Pilgrim Porky 1940
11. Wise Quacks 1939
12. Porky's Review (with Commentary Track by Fimmaker Greg Ford)
13. Porky's Poppa 1938
14. Wholly Smoke (with Commentary Track by Historian Daniel Goldmark)
15. What Price Porky 1938

Special Features Include:
1. Unsung Maestros: A Directors Tribute (Estimated Time: 15:00)
2. The Looney Tunes Television Specials
a. Bugs and Daff's Carnival of the Animals [1976 TV Special] (Estimated Time: 24:23)
b. Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales (1979 TV Special] (Estimated Time: 24:13)
c. Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over [1980 TV Special (Estimated Time: 23:46)


malbowbee said...

How can they have a "best of clampett disc" and not have coal black!!? That seriously needs to be put on dvd; I've only seen stills of it!

JohnK said...

It's not really the "best of". That's just a marketing thing.

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to how they pick the cartoons on these sets. But there are some great cartoons on it.

Trevor Thompson said...

Malbow, if you live in the LA area, there's a relatively crisp copy of Coal Black at the ASIFA. Also, there's a few versions in varying crappiness on YouTube.

Hey John, is this one of the cartoons that was in production when Clampett left? There's parts where it doesn't feel like him or where Scribner's toned down, though obviously not this scene. Maybe it's an earlier one? Daffy isn't as upright in his design as he was in cartoons like 'Draftee Daffy'.

Herman G said...

Thanks a lot for the Killer breakdown.. There is some Hilarious stuff, made my slow week.. And the overacting death at the end too, classic.

Mitch K said...

Amir first showed this to me on VHS in college. We were eating pizza and drinking beer, and I couldn't believe I had gone so long in life without seeing this cartoon.

JohnK said...

Trevor, you say some funny things.

James Sugrue said...

One of Daffy's DAFFIEST. I remember seeing this cartoon when I was 13 yrs old and began a new appreciation for the Looney tunes which continues to this day. God I miss the OLD Screwy Daffy.

:: smo :: said...


it's funny how everyone talks about how "warner brothers cartoons were all on twos - insert whatever reason here" but that scene with mr. meek trying to chop off daffy's head is all on ones! his march out before he jumps in is all on ones too. then right after daffy says "i see you" it's ones again until part way into the scribner animation of daffy screaming behind the haystack. the thing that kills me about it, is it's on ones AND there's 3 different daffy heads popping out of the hay at once AND smears on the axe.

popping it on ones makes it possible to have more detail faster than the rest of the surrounding animation but then triplicate daffy heads and smears just make this move lightning fast and still be readable!

my mind is blown!

thanks so much for posting this, these are definitely the most fantastic cartoons to study to learn fun animation!

Trevor Thompson said...

Glad to make you laugh, John. It's nice to return the favor once in a while.

Trevor Thompson said...

According to IMDB, this was Clampett's first Daffy cartoon. Makes sense.

Katie said...

This is hilarious. Thanks for sharing. It's a great example of how far you can go with a simple idea.

JohnK said...

You said something funny again, Trevor.

Chip Butty said...

This is a great Daffy cartoon! I've always loved this scene and the one where he stripteases his whole skin off while getting in Mr Meek's oven, and Mr Meek becomes bashful. Pansexual!

Trevor Thompson said...

I'm on a roll!

Kate McElroy said...

Great post! I remember even being in awe of this as a kid. The stuff they used to be able to do just for the sake of humor is fantastic!

rob mac said...

Mr. Meek also sneaks a peak through his fingers when daffy does the headless gag reveal.
So towards the end he knows daffy is fakeing it.

/\/\ikeB said...

I had to animate a robot collapsing a while ago, in CG. It was bloody hard, I can only imagine the kind of animator it took to animate daffy 'dying'.

I especially like how the music beat at the end coincides with the legs straightening out.

Achi-L said...

And the million dollar question is....

what about the DVNR?
Did they destroy another classic
by "remastering" them ?

Paul B said...

Hi john
Do you know if they animate Daffy and the little guy together or separately?

Donnie said...

That was a great post!

Keunemeun said...

That cartoon is hilarious!
With some of the best voicework of mel blanc ever.

Andrés Sanhueza said...

Perhaps I misread but I'm a bit confused. You also said in an earlier post that shows like South Park can get away with a lot of "violence" because nobody believes in it, while "Man's Best Friend" was believable and real.

damsel said...

Lol John I think your bias for Clampett is showing.

I wish we studied this stuff in Animation class last semester. Looking at that scene, I couldn't help but pay attention to the background. It looks fantastic...

Shawn Dickinson said...

I love this Daffy cartoon. I'd give my left one to see 2D animation like THIS again.

P.S. Trevor is my hero.

Anonymous said...

AHAHAHA XD Chicken without Head-Gag was so Hillarious HAHAHAHA XD I can't stop laughing. :,D

RooniMan said...

It's so mesmerizing how Clampett and his crew can take a reltively gruesome idea and make it funny.

THAT, my friend, is true talent.

John Atkinson said...

Good point about the upshot on Daffy - I guess that's the kind of thing you can only do when you really know how to draw.

patrick sevc said...

I love this cartoon, I just watched it again a few days ago. I love how Daffy dies in the end!

Yes, Trevor has become part of the experience here on this blog! I love reading his question!

HemlockMan said...

That's a pretty fun, twisted cartoon. I'd never noticed some of those details!

As I've said before, the older I get the more Clampett rises among the cartoon animators.

Zoran Taylor said...

Andres makes a good point, John - if anything, you've done more to break down the invisible wall between cartoon violence and something much more real than anyone. And that's a positive. I for one am sick of violence ALWAYS being cutsiefied in cartoons. The DESIGNS should be cute, of course, but that's enough.

Ren and Stimpy got a huge amount of juice out of the contrast between the appeal at the root of the show and the horror of where it went. Yes, it's all pretty ridiculous and the drawings all find some humour in whatever is going on, but that's not always the dominant element.

I think great cartoon violence is MORE shocking that the real thing is in movies or TV. It makes us confront our humanity in unusual ways in a strange context, which makes it more uncomfortable. R&S makes me squirm WAY more than most serious films dealing with violence. I find one scene (you know the one) in "Stimpy's Fan Club" HORRIFYING. Difficult to watch. Kind of funny, but I can't laugh at it. I'm 20 years old and I've watched some pretty grisly R-rated movies. Not the same. They were even GOOD movies.


Zoran Taylor said...


So here's an alternate theory: Maybe the real secret is to hit both buttons at once, to be at once more and less real than real, and in different ways. Dark, violent, sick and/or perverse scenes in Clampett cartoons and in many of your own are, as you say, obviously over-the-top and silly in certain ways, yet they also hit a nerve of real shock which is not usually touched and is thus less RECOGNIZABLE than the one that has been stabbed so many times by so many action/horror/crime films that it's almost dead. This BTW goes some way towards explaining the backlash against APC: What I think a lot of fans (myself included) kinda missed in that was the feeling of one's HIDDEN buttons being pushed by inexplicable, irrational shock rather than the more obvious kind. A great example of that within APC itself, just to flip the script for a moment: Stimpy on the roof. 'Nuff said. Actually, "Altruists" is the exception - it is CRAMMED full of exactly what I'm talking about.

*Sorry for the long comment - I know your rule, I try not to do this often.*

Beef Witted Klingon said...

I really prefer the older Daffy Duck when he was just insane and laughin/smilin when someone was after him with an ax. Now his character is alot more grumpy and pessimistic. Every thing seems to get under his skin nowadays. I still like him but in alot of ways he's a totally diff character. It's always funny when he gets his bill shot off though...

Daniel Huertas said...

I am loving this post so much... this reminded me how much and why i loved cartoons when i was a kid... now i am an animator but with all the restrictions we have nowadays.. this kinda clips just boost me up! :)

thanks for sharing!

Sven Hoek said...

All of those Golden sets seem like they picked the cartoons at random. Strange.

A great cartoon would be the old Daffy meeting the newer grumpy daffy. He went from being the instigator to the fall guy.

Captain Karanga said...

I wish they would release that set in the UK, it seems to have a much better collection than the previous release.

Milton Gray said...


Brandon Lyon said...

Speaking of damn weird.. Daffy seems to grow a fifth finger when he holds his finger to his bill right before he sinks his head into his neck. Then the finger morphs away within a few more frames.

Loren Broaddus said...

Hey John just wondering, I'm making a cartoon with a plotline much like "The Cagey Canary" or "Hiss and Make Up" and there's a scene where a cat tries to frame a dog for giving him rabies (think back to the scene in "Hiss and Make Up" where the dog imitates a fight between the cat and the canary, sorry if you've never seen it). My question is, I'm wondering if that is at all offensive material, and if it is, whether or not I should use this method.
Loren :)