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.
I hadn’t seen Here Today, Gone Tamale before, but I’ve seen Freleng’s subsequent Chili Weather. The setup is the same–these starving, but lazy, Mexican mice can’t steal any cheese from Sylvester the cat, so one of them whores out his sister to Speedy Gonzales. In Tamale, Sylvester is guarding a boat. In Chili, it’s a warehouse. But it’s the same… down to the awkward sympathy for the characters the cartoon is being racist against.
Freleng’s direction is terrible in Tamale. Some of the fault is the animators, who are alternately lazy and bad. Sylvester looks different sometimes in the same shot. There isn’t even continuity between frames.
There are a couple good gags–the best is Sylvester getting locked in a limburger cheese compartment–and the ending isn’t bad. Mel Blanc does a great job with Sylvester. He’s likable while still being dangerous.
But, otherwise, Tamale‘s pretty rotten.
Directed by Friz Freleng; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis and Virgil Ross; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Speedy Gonzales / Sylvester / Mice).
I wonder if anyone involved in making The Last Hungry Cat ever owned a cat. The premise is (for a Freleng cartoon) quite good. Sylvester is haunted–by an Alfred Hitchcock-like narrator–after he “eats” Tweetie. There are a couple big logic problems. The major one involves cats. They don’t have remorse. It’s absurd Sylvester would feel guilty.
The second problem is Sylvester’s apartment. He has his own pad, a cat living among people. It’s strange.
Otherwise, if one forgives the lazy Freleng backgrounds, it’s not bad. Mel Blanc has a field day with Sylvester’s guilty ramblings. Ben Frommer’s good as the interfering narrator too.
It’s a simple story and Freleng tells it precisely. Hungry never goes on too long. It’s a tightly paced narrative with a great noir feel.
I’m a little surprised Freleng directed such a strong cartoon. Hungry is the best work of his I’ve seen.
Directed by Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng; written by David Detiege and John W. Dunn; animated by Gerry Chiniquy, Lee Halpern, Art Leonardi, Bob Matz and Virgil Ross; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Sylvester / Tweety) and June Foray (Granny); narrated by Ben Frommer.
Besides Mel Blanc’s voice work, there’s nothing to recommend Knighty Knight Bugs. Actually, even with his voice work, there’s nothing to recommend it. It’s just the only good thing about the cartoon.
Bugs, as a medieval jester, has to go get a sword. Yosemite Sam has the sword. Bugs gets it. The cartoon’s act structure is broken. I doubt it’s intentional, just Freleng and writer Warren Foster didn’t have any ideas. The story’s completely uninspired, but not as uninspired as Freleng’s gags. His animators don’t do a terrible job (the background artist is another matter) but there’s nothing interesting for them to animate.
The cartoon’s single saving grace is its length. At six minutes, by the time the viewer realizes nothing else is going to happen, it only has two minutes left.
So, while it’s not quite painless, its brevity reduces how painful it might get otherwise.
Knighty Knight indeed.
Directed by Friz Freleng; written by Warren Foster; animated by Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis and Virgil Ross; edited by Treg Brown; music by Milt Franklyn; produced by John W. Burton; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny / Yosemite Sam / King Arthur / Sir Osis of Liver / Sir Loin of Beef / The Dragon).