Tag Archives: Chuck Jones

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966, Ben Washam and Chuck Jones)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has three rather distinct things going on throughout the twenty-six minute television special. It also some some indistinct things going on–the Whoville songs, while charming, are nowhere near as impressive as the big things.

First, but not foremost, is Washam and Jones’s direction. Although Grinch is a Dr. Seuss adaptation, as a cartoon, its possibilites are different. Jones and Washam make the Grinch (and Max, his dog) into familiar cartoon roles. The Grinch is the bad guy, Max is the reluctant accomplice. It’s familiar because the dog can’t talk, while the Grinch does. Though not to poor Max so much as at him.

And when the Grinch does talk, it’s Boris Karloff’s voice, which is the second distinct thing going on. Boris Karloff narrates The Grinch–reading the source book. When the Grinch speaks, it’s Karloff’s voice… just filtered a little. The effectiveness of the filtering is a tad questionable, but more because of the additional noise the filter adds. Karloff’s familiar but not exactly the same voice for the Grinch’s dialogue? It works. It just sounds too distant.

Karloff’s narration is always good, frequently awesome. For example, the times he has to list various silly-named Christmas items are delightful, as Karloff approaches each new and absurd word with the jovial–but still reserved–calm; it’s awesome. It’s great narration. It defines Grinch.

At least for the first half or so.

Because then in comes the third distinct thing. Thurl Ravenscroft, uncredited singer of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. When the Grinch is stealing Christmas, sure, there’s some narration from Karloff, but it’s all about Ravenscroft’s voice. There are some great lyrics too–the song is set aside from the narration and is more a musing on the poor character of the Grinch. It’s awesome.

The Karloff narration and, eventually, Ravenscroft’s singing never bump into each other. Throughout, the animation works with the narration–expression is important in Grinch, as the amount the Grinch can contort depends on how long it takes Karloff to get through a particular line. And it can seem like Karloff is dragging it out to encourage contortion. And a contorted Grinch is not a pretty sight.

Similarly, when Ravenscroft gets back to the chorus in each of the Mean One segments–there are at least three–it defines the moment, not the animation. Lovell Norman and John O. Young cut most every sequence just right. There are a couple long moments during the Whoville songs, but Jones and Washam have the charm baseline high enough to allow indulgences. And even enjoy them. The finale’s tensions work because Jones and Washam don’t rush things, because they do slow down the pace. They let the finale rhyme with the opening, back to relying on Karloff.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is fantastic. Jones and Washam pace it out just right for the narration and song. Except without Karloff or Ravenscroft, there’d be nothing to pace. Good thing everything works so well together. Or, so well, alongside each other.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Ben Washam and Chuck Jones; teleplay by Irv Spector, Bob Ogle, and Dr. Seuss, based on the book by Seuss; animated by Ken Harris, Tom Ray, Phil Roman, Richard Thompson, and Don Towsley; edited by Lovell Norman and John O. Young; music by Eugene Poddany; production designer, Maurice Noble; produced by Jones and Seuss; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Narrated by Boris Karloff.


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Baby Buggy Bunny (1954, Chuck Jones)

Baby Buggy Bunny opens with its weakest sequence–a bank robbery. The perpetrator is a baby-sized thug who gets away by throwing on a bonnet and hopping in a carriage. Clearly there are some Baby Herman connections, especially later on when the robber and Bugs Bunny start battling.

Bugs gets involved thanks to a runaway baby carriage carrying the loot–hence the title–but most of the cartoon has him caring for this thug, unaware of the true identity of the “baby.” There are some great bits; Jones has the comic pacing down here.

The arrival of Bugs also has a change (for the better) in the animation. The bank robbery sequence is erratic, maybe even intentionally, but the Bugs stuff is just good work. The writing is really strong too. The scene where Bugs finds out who he’s been caring for is fantastic.

Buggy is a great time.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Abe Levitow, Lloyd Vaughan and Ben Washam; edited by Treg Brown; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny / Baby-Faced Finster).


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Robin Hood Daffy (1958, Chuck Jones)

Robin Hood Daffy is an unappealing mix of pointless, dumb and bewildering. Besides Porky beating up Daffy (Porky’s Friar Tuck, Daffy’s apparently Robin–more on that one in a bit), Jones’s gags all seem recycled from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. It’s Daffy swinging around to disastrous result.

It’s never clear if Daffy’s actually Robin Hood or just playing in the forest and pretending. One hopes the latter, as it makes Robin a little more interesting. Also interesting is Jones and writer Michael Maltese’s anti-welfare take on the redistribution of wealth. It’s just a line, but it gets the brain working more than the rest of the cartoon.

The animation’s not bad, with the grand finale somewhat impressive, but there’s no energy. Mel Blanc does exceedingly well with the voices. It’s a shame the cartoon doesn’t match his efforts.

Jones only had to fill six minutes; he fails miserably.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Abe Levitow and Richard Thompson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Porky Pig).


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Hare Conditioned (1945, Chuck Jones)

Embarrassingly, I didn’t understand Hare Conditioned‘s title until I looked it up online. No, I won’t tell you.

The cartoon is an enthusiastic chase through a department store, with star window attraction Bugs Bunny about to be shipped off the to taxidermy department. Bugs is likable here, partially because he’s opposite a heinous villain, the store manager (voiced by Dick Nelson).

Jones and writer Tedd Pierce manage to get both characters in drag, with Bugs’s feminine persona wooing the manager. There’s just got to be a scholarly work about the use of cross-dressing as a seduction device in Warner Bros. cartoons. There’s just got to be….

Jones has some fun ideas and a lot of good gags. Occasionally his animators can’t realize them but, on a whole, Hare Conditioned is a lot more successful than not.

It’s pleasant and consistently amusing, but there’s nothing particularly distinctive about it overall.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Basil Davidovich, Ken Harris, Lloyd Vaughan, Ben Washam and Robert Cannon; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny) and Dick Nelson (Store manager).


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