Thursday, October 23, 2008


It's hard to rate the best cartoons ever made in any kind of top 10 or top 20 list, but this should be among them.

This is the first cartoon that establishes the core Foghorn Leghorn cast and it does it wonderfully and confidently.

In 1947 animators at WB were very confident in their skills. They did much more custom made animation than Disney. They understood the gags and stories better and animated each scene not according to a pre-ordained animation formula, but to the individual scenes. That's why WB cartoons have stood the test of time and are still funny today, while Disney cartoons seem naive and archaic. McKimson's cartoons were especially down to earth and geared toward real people - you know the "Real Americans".
McKimson used strong contrasts and variations in his timing. He didn't rely on Cal Arts timing tricks like they do today.
This scene starts off with Foghorn slowly turning his head to watch Henery walk by. The head remains very solid and convincing as it turns. Hard to do!Then Foghorn stops Henery and begins to act. This cartoon is amazing. It's not only funny, but it instantly establishes 4 characters and their relationships to each other. Every one of them is clearly defined. They each have a distinct personality and a motivation.

Plus, they are all funny characters. This type of cartoon creation is the opposite of how it's done today. Today, many studios start with an "arena". They start with an environment, then try to come up with characters that would live in that environment. The last step is to come up with a standard animation personality to dump onto each character.

McKimson animators listen very closely to the voice track. Mel's characterization is even better than the radio personality they stole it from!

Mel stands alone as not only a fantastic voice talent, but a top-notch actor too. Foghorn's voice is full of variations in timing and emphasis. It's not monotone. The accents stand out and give more meaning to the already funny written dialogue.

The animator in this scene really exaggerates the accents by moving Foghorn far away up in perspective before he comes forward to hit each accent.

Within this bit of dialogue, the animator uses many variations of actions and timings to drive home the personality and meaning of the dialogue. He adds all kinds of funny hand gestures to add even more punch and meaning to the dialogue.

He doesn't use the same timing formula to connect each successive pose, as full animators tend to do today.
McKimson loves these upshots. It helps emphasize how huge his lummoxes are.

This next gag always killed my Dad. Watching my Dad laugh his ass off at it killed me too. You have to watch Foghorn Leghorn with men in the room. It's 10 times funnier that way.

This whole bit is great writing by Warren Foster. "I almost had a gag there, son!" Brilliant!The gags, the direction, the staging are all excellent, but what makes it really work is the exciting and deliberate full animation. Not just that that it's "full", but that it's so in character. Foghorn is a really dynamic character and McKimson's animators really customize his actions to bring him to life. If it was a 40s Disney cartoon, it would be full of timing tricks and stock actions and each character might have one customized bit of business that he does over and over again. (Like Donald's stock temper tantrum, or Tramp leading every action with his ass)

The fact that Henery isn't fazed by Foghorn's huge powerful bluster makes it even funnier.

Foghorn later was toned down (just like most characters) but for a few years he was one of the funniest characters in cartoon history. Everyone on McKimson's team worked together perfectly to create this magical truly animated entertainment.

I'm going to post more clips from it so keep your eye on the ball!