Russian Rhapsody is a strange–and very funny–cartoon. First, as a historical document, it's a Hollywood cartoon mocking Hitler (before the end of the war and the extent of his atrocities became clear). In Rhapsody, he's an obnoxious windbag and there are a bunch of good jokes at his expense.
But once the first act is done–Hitler is going to fly a bomber himself to Moscow–Rhapsody takes a different turn. It's about the gremlins attacking the bomber. They're funny little creatures, destroying the plane in creative ways (though director Clampett never actually shows the specific effects of their sabotage) and they have a great song.
There are a lot of contemporary pop culture references; some still work, some don't. The Stalin one probably didn't work even back then if you knew anything about foreign affairs.
Until the final gag flops (it's another pop culture reference), Rhapsody is a very funny cartoon.
Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Lou Lilly; animated by Rod Scribner, Arthur Davis, Manny Gould and Robert McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Adolf Hitler / Gremlin from the Kremlin).
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.
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).
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.
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).
Are all Speedy Gonzales cartoons the same? Cannery Woe opens with starving Mexican mice needing Speedy to get them cheese. Sylvester is guarding the cheese. Woe does have a couple minor differences though. First, none of the mice have to whore off their sisters to Speedy. Second, he doesn’t even show up until the cartoon’s half over.
The first half of the cartoon follows a couple of the down and out local mice and they’re mildly charming. It’s not just Mel Blanc talking to himself, Tom Holland voices one of them, and it’s mildly amusing. They’re a fine comedy team.
The animation’s not bad–though the backgrounds are terrible–and Woe is occasionally thought provoking. Seriously.
The town is destitute and starving, yet the mice want to steal from the humans. These Speedy Gonzales cartoons are a sociologist’s goldmine for American characterization of Mexicans.
Shame they aren’t good cartoons.
Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Warren Batchelder, Ted Bonnicksen, George Grandpré and Tom Ray; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Speedy Gonzales / Sylvester / Jose / Mayor Raton) and Tom Holland (Manuel / Mice).