Saturday, June 19, 2004

Those Endearing Young Charms

I don't have a lot to write about today, so I will follow up my previous post about who-animated-what in an Warner Brothers cartoon by doing the same thing for another cartoon. I promise not to do this too often, but I wanted to try to do one on my own, as opposed to leeching off Greg Duffell's work.

The cartoon is Show Biz Bugs, a Bugs Bunny cartoon from 1957, directed by Friz Freleng. It was a Bugs-Daffy teaming where Daffy is jealous of Bugs' popularity and trying to either outdo him or bump him off; this 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.)

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. Show Biz Bugs will be released on DVD on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2.

At this time, Freleng had three animators in his unit. Gerry Chiniquy, Freleng's favorite animator, had been with him in the '40s and then left to work outside of animation; Freleng brought Chiniquy back in the mid-'50s when the Warners animation studio re-opened after a brief shutdown. By this time, Chiniquy's animation style had changed, partly in response to lower budgets but partly, I think, in response to the new vogue for "limited" animation (which, because of the influence of the UPA studio, was considered more artistic than old-fashioned fluid animation). His style from this point on is easy to identify: "Jerky" rather than fluid body motion, a lot of repeated drawings. Chiniquy animates the opening scene of Show Biz Bugs, and watch Daffy: he strikes a pose, and sort of jerks his body from one drawing to another instead of moving with any fluidity.

The next scene, with Daffy outside the dressing-room, is animated by Virgil Ross. Ross animated for Tex Avery and Bob Clampett in the early '40s; his style didn't really fit in with the Clampett unit, and he moved to the Freleng unit, where he stayed until the studio shut down. His animation is fluid, graceful, emphasizing the likability of characters like Bugs; he's particularly identifiable by a habit of having a character sort of bend down and tilt to one side while talking. His way of drawing Daffy 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.

The long dance sequence that follows is animated by Gerry Chiniquy. He often did dance and musical sequences, and the style is quite close to his animation for the famous "This is It" opening of the Bugs Bunny Show.

The scene with Daffy and the pigeons seems to have been animated by Art Davis, though I'm not completely sure, and it Might be Chiniquy. Hard to tell.

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 more fluid 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).

Daffy saying "hmm, I can get rid of the rabbit and it'll look like an accident" is Virgil Ross. 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.

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).

And that's all, folks.

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