Tag Archives: Robert McKimson

Russian Rhapsody (1944, Robert Clampett)

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 First, as a historical document, it's a Hollywood cartoon mocking Hitler (before the end of the war and the extent of his atrocities became clear).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.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

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).


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Cannery Woe (1961, Robert McKimson)

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.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

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).


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Wild Wife (1954, Robert McKimson)

Wild Wife is easily McKimson’s best cartoon (of those I’ve seen, anyway). I was going to start by talking about McKimson as an unlikely feminist, since Wife mostly concerns a housewife whose male chauvinist pig husband berates her for not getting enough done.

The cartoon then flashes back to show exactly how full her day has been, mostly with his little tasks. Then it sadly diverts to her being a shopaholic and a gossip, which is more what I expected.

But the ending recovers somewhat and McKimson and writer Tedd Pierce never make judgements. It’s a shocking cartoon coming from McKimson.

He’s even ambitious in his direction; though the character design lifts a lot from Blondie and the animation’s fairly bad. It also lifts a Blondie gag.

But it’s a good cartoon. Bea Benaderet (who’s uncredited as the lead, showing sexism wasn’t dead in the title card department) is great.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert McKimson; written by Tedd Pierce; animated by Herman Cohen, Phil DeLara, Charles McKimson and Rod Scribner; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bea Benaderet (Marsha / Daughter / Old Women with pennies / Beautician) and Mel Blanc (John / Son / Mailman / Bank Teller / Red Cross Nurse / Casper J. Fragile / Soda Jerk / Pedestrian / Officer).


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West of the Pesos (1960, Robert McKimson)

West of the Pesos is a hideous cartoon, with terrible animation and McKimson ripping off Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. There’s not much to amuse oneself with during the insufferable six minute cartoon, but there are some places to try.

First is the whole Speedy Gonsalez thing. I mean, Warner produced cartoons–not expensive, but still professionally produced–for no reason other than to cap on Mexico? The terrible jokes in Pesos aren’t even inventive bigot humor. They’re just lame. McKimson’s got no wit (or subtlety).

Sadly, the only other way to pass the runtime is to marvel at the awful animation on Sylvester. It’s loose and lazy, the worst the cat’s ever looked. Given he’s just a stand-in for the coyote… maybe it doesn’t matter.

Pesos might be a new low for McKimson, at least of what I’ve seen.

At least, I hope this one’s his low.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

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 / Mice).


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