Tuesday, June 20, 2006

1938 at Warner Bros. - a pivotal year - WB finally becomes Looney

In 1938, Clampett's 2nd year of directing, he really came into his stride.

This is the first year where Warner Bros. cartoons really got "looney". They got sarcastic in 1935 when Tex Avery started directing, but the animation didn't really get crazy until Clampett started directing. Before him, the animation in Warner Bros. cartoons was very conservative and basically was there just to get you from one gag to the next in avisually expositional way.Clampett was the first animator's director.

Take a look at the lineup of cartoons from all the directors. Clampett had the most amount of crazy cartoons and the only truly fast-paced ones.


I urge you to see all these cartoons and watch how much in advance of the other units Clampetts' was. The irony is, he had the most handicaps of all the directors.

He had the youngest, least experienced animators. He was only allowed to make Porky Pig cartoons and only in black and white.

The other directors could work in color, had bigger budgets and could use any characters and subjects they wanted, yet none of them even came close to the amount of fresh ideas and imaginative animation that was in the Clampett cartoons.

No one used animators better than Clampett-in his cartoons the animation does a lot more than merely connect one gag to the next as it does in Avery's cartoons at the time.

The way the characters move in Clampett's cartoons is pure entertainment in itself-even with the ton of gags that already exist in the stories.

Take a look at "Porky and Daffy", a most generically titled cartoon with a most ungeneric style of animation and crazy gags.

The story is simple and has been done a million times-a weak character has to fight a professional boxer for cash. This time it's Daffy versus a big cock, with Porky as Daffy's manager.

The true focus of the cartoon though is-get this-a ballsack! In 1938!

Clampett designed a pelican to be the referee and gave him a one-nut sack for a chin.

Look at the amazing attention to the animation of this fluid package. The pelican's chin steals the scene all through the cartoon. It flops around, gets dragged across the canvas and each gag gets bigger and crazier until everything just goes insane at the end of the cartoon.

The great tasteful Chuck Jones did a lot of the animation of the nutsack!

I can just see Bob acting out the scenes by plopping his own package on Chuck's desk and dragging and bouncing it around while Chuck studied it and then animated it in a frenzy of creativity.

You have to compare the animation in this cartoon to the animation in Jones' own cartoons the same year and the next few after that. What a contrast!

By the standards of the animation industry in the 1930s, Warner Bros. was one of the most conservative of all the studios.

Clampett changed all that and soon the rest of the studios followed Warner Bros rather than Disney.

Side note: Some of you may wonder why I focus so much on Clampett in my posts on classic animation. Someone has to! He has been almost completely neglected by animation historians - even though he was the most influential and popular of the wacky cartoon style directors of the 1940s.

Had I never discovered Clampett I would be writing lots about Jones and Avery. They were my favorites until I found out about Clampett's 40s Warner Bros. cartoons. Plus there already is a ton of literature devoted to Jones and Avery.

The historians tend to pass over Clampett because the cartoons are just too rich and inventive and filmic for them to understand them. They like to write about things that are more obvious - like the concept behind a cartoon rather than the execution or performance and skill and entertainment value-let alone the animation itself!

Eddie and I have a theory that every person has a certain range of entertainment that he or she can sense or absorb. Kind of like how different animals have different ranges of the spectrum of light that they can sense.

Some people like just a little bit of entertainment and have a very small range of entertainment and sensory spectrum. They are easily satisfied with Friz or modern cartoons. Some like a few belly laughs and some cartooniness and go for Tex Avery. Some people are a little more sensitive to style and pomposity and love Chuck Jones. I love Jones and Avery too, but Friz is just too bland for me and you can tell that he doesn't care much about his cartoons anyway-it's just a job to him.

Then there are folks like me and Eddie and others who are greedy and can sense many different things happening at the same time, or in rapid succession. I want as much entertainment and sensory pleasure as someone great can throw at me. That's why I love Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Ella Fitzgerald, Al Jolsen, The Three Stooges, Monty Python and Bob Clampett. These people give their all. They don't hold back. They know they are entertainers and their responsibilty is to put on as orgasmic a show as possible and tittilate as many of our senses as they can in as large a dose as they can deliver.

Clampett's cartoons can be watched over and over again and you continue to find gags and visual treats that went over your head the first 20 times you watched the cartoon.

Most historians tend to be dry pseudo-intellectual types and their senses are limited to what creativity they can justify in words. One historian who wrote a very famous classic animation primer confided in me at a party at Clampett's that Clampett was by far his favorite director, but that he couldn't just say that in his book. He never explained why he couldn't say it.

I'll say it. Clampett has more skills and life than any other cartoon director in history and that's why I love his cartoons so much.

Eddie, you better comment! Milt too!