Thursday, February 09, 2006

WB Animation: "Show Biz Bugs"

Following up on my post on "Hillbilly Hare": shortly after I started this blog, I did a couple of similar posts on individual animators in Warner Brothers cartoons. I didn't have the ability to post screenshots at the time, so I thought I'd re-post the analysis with illustrations of the animators' work.

I'll start with "Show Biz Bugs" (1957), directed by Friz Freleng. It's a Bugs-Daffy teaming where Daffy is jealous of Bugs' popularity and tries to either outdo him or bump him off.
The cartoon is very funny, as Freleng's cartoons usually are, because of his superb sense of timing; I saw it on the big screen once and it got some of the biggest laughs of the night, in a program that included a bunch of classics. Freleng knew exactly how long a pause should be, when to cut, how long to hold a character in a particular pose, for maximum comic effect.

From 1955 through 1960, Freleng had only three animators in his unit, all veterans: Gerry Chiniquy, Virgil Ross, and former WB director Art Davis. They all had fairly distinctive styles which are easy to spot -- easy enough that I was able to do this particular analysis without leeching off Greg Duffell's work, for once.

The opening scene with Daffy outside the theatre is animated by Gerry Chiniquy. Chiniquy's animation style had always been kind of jerky, based on spasmodic rhythmic movements rather than full body motion; with the lower budgets of the '50s, his animation mostly consisted of characters bending down and jerking their heads up again, with very stiff and angular poses:

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The next scene, with Daffy outside the dressing-room, is animated by Virgil Ross. His animation is graceful, emphasizing the likability of characters like Bugs; he's particularly identifiable by a habit of having a character tilt his body to one side while talking, and by his fondness for having characters point a lot. His way of drawing Daffy is easy to spot here because it seems closer to the '40s model than the others; Daffy's design had changed quite a bit by the late '50s, but Ross kept drawing the smaller, longer-beaked early Daffy.

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The long dance sequence that follows is animated by Gerry Chiniquy. Freleng preferred to give him the dance and musical sequences (Ross was arguably better at them, but Chiniquy usually got them unless he wasn't available), and the style of Bugs and Daffy's dance to "Tea for Two" is quite close to the style of Chiniquy's animation for the famous "This is It" opening of the Bugs Bunny Show.

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The scene with Daffy and the pigeons is probably Chiniquy again:

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The sawing-in-half sequence is Art Davis. He had been a director at Columbia and Warner Brothers, but when his unit was shut down, he stayed at Warners, stopped directing, and animated for Freleng for many years. His movement is a bit less jerky than Chiniquy's and his drawing for Bugs seems different (more "streamlined" for want of a better word) than Chiniquy or Ross. He also has what someone called a "looser" animation style than the others, going in for slightly more extreme poses and exaggerated movements, as much as Freleng would allow for (Freleng didn't like "extreme" animation).

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Daffy saying "hmm, I can get rid of the rabbit and it'll look like an accident" is Virgil Ross, with Ross's trademark use of hand and finger gestures:

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Chiniquy gets the brief shot of Daffy working on the explosive xylophone and laughing evilly:

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The subsequent xylophone sequence, with the famous "Endearing Young Charms" gag (which writer Warren Foster had previously used in the Private Snafu cartoon Booby Traps and the Bugs/Yosemite Sam scuffle Ballot Box Bunny) is Art Davis. Again, Freleng tended to give him a lot of scenes involving something extreme -- extreme anger or extreme violence, both of which are in this particular scene.

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Finally, the entire closing scene is Virgil Ross: the old-school drawing of Daffy is one clue, as is the positioning of Bugs' ears; Ross had a trick of characterizing Bugs when he wasn't speaking by positioning his ears in unusual ways, one ear slightly down, ears farther apart than usual, and so on.

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And that's all, folks.

Some more notes on the cartoon itself:

- It recycles two major gags -- the pigeon gag (which cartoon writer Mike Maltese reportedly called his favourite cartoon gag of all time) and the closing gag about a trick that can only be done once -- from an earlier Freleng cartoon, "Curtain Razor," where Porky Pig is a talent agent watching a bunch of bad performers audition.

- "Show Biz Bugs" also features some very stylized backgrounds from avant-garde painter Boris Gorelick, who had a brief and not very happy period as Freleng's background painter.

- The concept of Daffy being jealous of Bugs's stardom was a concept that would be used in the prime-time Bugs Bunny Show, and which unfortunately would take over Daffy's character to the point of ruining him. Up to 1954 or so, Daffy had been getting angrier and more frustrated, but could still become a winner, or a crazy duck, or a con man, if the director preferred it that way. By the late '50s, he was just angry and greedy all the time; by the early '60s, he was basically a villain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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