Uncle Tom's Bungalow manages to be both appallingly racist and a little progressive. Director Avery turning the slave trader into the devil, poking a little fun at the angelic white girl, general mocking of Southern cultural all around….
But Bungalow just isn't a good cartoon. Ben Harrison's script–with Tedd Pierce obnoxiously narrating–doesn't even include a bungalow. It's just for the title. The first two or three minutes is setting up the characters and setting up the characters is the cartoon being both racist (with the black characters) and condescending (of the Southerners). The wrap-up even has the cartoon taking inexplicable pot shots at social security, which make it more significant historically than anything else about it.
The gags are trite and predictable. The slave trader turning into a snake and getting electrocuted felt way too familiar.
I kept expecting it to be worse, but it could never be any better.
Directed by Tex Avery; written by Ben Harrison; animated by Virgil Ross and Sidney Sutherland; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Tex Avery (Uncle Tom), Mel Blanc (Hound), Billy Bletcher (Simon Simon Legree), Bernice Hansen (Little Eva) and Lillian Randolph (Topsy / Eliza); narrated by Tedd Pierce.
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.
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).
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 First, as a historical document, it's a Hollywood cartoon mocking Hitler (before the end of the war and the extent of his atrocities became clear).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).