Cartoon of the Day: I Wanna Be a Lifeguard

I Wanna Be a Lifeguard
1936
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Available on: Popeye the Sailor Volume 1

One of the most memorable Popeye shorts from my childhood was today’s cartoon, “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard.” It was probably due to its catchy title tune. Many of the Fleischer’s Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons have these stick-in-your-head type of songs. In this cartoon, Popeye and Bluto are battling it out for a lifeguard job which they both decide would be perfect for them after having spied the bathing suit clad Olive Oyl through a peephole in the local pool’s fence.

One thing that grabbed my attention this time around that I never paid attention to as a kid is one innovative shot that could be seen as an early attempt at a 3D like effect. It’s for the brief sequence in which Bluto first swims across the pool. It’s hard to see in a still shot, but many elements are layered in the foreground and background of the shot. As the camera moves across the shot, there is a definite sense of depth that comes across. It’s quite innovative for the time.

As usual, there is very little actual lip synching of dialogue by the characters, but lots of muttered lines from both Bluto and Popeye which are the source of many laughs. It’s a funny short, but be prepared to be singing “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” for the rest of the week.

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Cartoon of the Day: Wackiki Wabbit

Wackiki Wabbit
1943
Directed by Chuck Jones
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Colllection Vol. 3

Chuck Jones was an animation director who was always pushing the envelope. He liked to experiment. “Wackiki Wabbit” is a perfect example of this.

In this short, two guys who are adrift at sea end up on an island where the sole resident appears to be Bugs Bunny. Since these two are starving, they set out to have roast rabbit for dinner. Of course, Bugs Bunny unleashes his tricks on them instead.

There is some great animation in this short, but, truth be told, it is not as funny as many Bugs Bunny outings. Maybe it’s because you can’t help but feel a little sorry for the two starving sailors.

But as I said earlier, this short is notable because of Jones’ experimentation. The backgrounds are where this stands out the most. The scenery in this short consists of trees and bushes that are obscure colored blobs and a background that is simply a pattern you might expect out of a role of 1970’s era shelf paper. They are interesting choices to say the least. I would not be surprised if it takes repeat viewings to fully adjust to the visuals in order for the comedy to comes through stronger.

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Cartoon of the Day: How to Sleep

How to Sleep
1953
Directed by Jack Kinney
Available on: Walt Disney Treasures – The Complete Goofy

These last few nights I’ve been getting really tired right about the time I usually do my cartoon of the day. So that led me to classic Goofy short, “How to Sleep.”

Every animation studio had certain areas that they excelled at. Disney was always strongest from an artistic standpoint, but never quite made it to the levels of comedy that the folks at Warner Brothers achieved. However, some of the Goofy shorts are certainly bigger on laughs, especially his series of instructional films. “How to Sleep” is a late entry in the Goofy series that has some great moments of comedy mixed with the amazing artistry we expect from Disney.

The 1950’s brought some unique new looks to many animated films at Disney. The 50’s style of animation is still so cool looking to me. The opening sequence of this short where we see the Goof in bed being disturbed by various noises (portrayed as colorful line drawings) is a great example of the 50’s style.

Goofy’s “how to” movies contain some of the best comedic moments in the history of Disney animation. This one even features a surprising, somewhat un-Disney moment when a device that is measuring Goofy’s brainwaves as he sleeps draws a picture a shapely female he must be dreaming about. It’s nowhere close to the kind of shapely young women you’d find in one of Tex Avery’s shorts, but for Disney it’s surprising.

And now, I’m going to take the advice of this film and get some sleep myself.

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Cartoon of the Day: Stop that Noise

Stop that Noise
1935
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Available on: YouTube

Well, this is actually yesterday’s cartoon, but oh well. Since it’s the lovely Miss Betty Boop, that means it’s public domain and can be viewed via YouTube, so enjoy…

I love the Betty Boop series, but I’d actually consider this to be a pretty weak outing for her. In this short she decided that the noise of the city is too much, so she heads to the country. But it turns out that things are crazier there.

The Fleischer Studio was based in New York and many of their cartoons reflect that. They were known for often having an urban setting. But here we have Betty Boop heading to the country and the end result is not as strong. The way the Fleischers would bring all sorts of everyday items to life was a signature of their shorts, but there is very little of that here. Instead we have a bunch of animals character, which brings this short closer to the style that was being put out by other animation studios of the time. So this is a somewhat un-Fleischer cartoon. The charm of the Betty Boop character still makes this enjoyable, but it’s certainly not her best.

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Cartoon of the Day: Crockett-Doodle-Do

Crockett-Doodle-Do
1960
Directed by Robert McKimson
Available on: Looney Tunes Superstars: Foghorn Leghorn and Friends

Foghorn Leghorn was not one of top Looney Tunes stars but he is a favorite to many. The same could possibly be said of his creator/director, Robert McKimson. When asked to name the great Looney Tunes directors, many animation fans can probably quickly rattle off names like Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery and Bob Clampett…but McKimson is sometimes forgotten. It’s a shame, he was a talented director who certainly left his mark on the world of animation. McKimson directed all of Foghorn Leghorn’s shorts from 1946-1964.

In “Crockett-Doodle-Do,” McKimson takes Foghorn Leghorn into the wilderness where he tries to get little Egghead Jr. to stop reading his “long-hair goblety gook” and teach him the ways of Davy Crockett. What follows is a series of gags where the little kid proves to be quite skilled at outdoor survival while all of Foghorn’s attempts blow up in his face.

The character of Egghead Jr. does not speak at all in this short and has almost no facial expression, yet he is the source of a lot of comedy. All the talking is done by Foghorn, voiced by Mel Blanc (of course). These limitations make the short a great example of the brilliant comic timing of both Blanc and director McKimson.

From a visual standpoint, this short has some very interesting designs for the background elements. They are very stylized and extremely flat looking. The opening shot of the film looks a little odd when Foghorn steps out of the hen house…he’s the only thing that appears to have any dimension. But after a moment, your eyes adjust and the backgrounds seem to fit in perfectly.

All-in-all, a great entry in the Foghorn Leghorn series and proof the McKimson’s work is deserving of more respect.

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Cartoon of the Day: The Dippy Diplomat

The Dippy Diplomat
1945
Directed by James Culhane
Available on: The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection

Sorry for the week off from cartoons. I was at a conference where my access to the internet was spotty at best. So now that I’m back, let’s start with some Woody Woodpecker.

The Woody Woodpecker cartoons are usually amusing but not laugh-out-loud funny. Such is the case with “The Dippy Diplomat.” The cartoon actually has very little to do with a diplomat. Wally Walrus is preparing a barbecue for a visiting diplomat when Woody catches a whiff of the food and decided to help himself. Woody does pose as the diplomat briefly, but it’s a short bit that comes at the end of the film. I guess the guy who came up with the titles was sick that day.

This short does have one very funny moment that I remembered instantly from my childhood. It’s the “pardon me, but my ping pong ball has fallen into your hard-boiled eggs” bit. Woody searches for the ball by eating all the eggs and it really is a funny bit. Hearing him say, “that’s an egg…that’s another egg…” and so on just cracks me up.

Though Walter Lantz’s cartoons never reached the artistic or comedic highs that some of his rivals did, there is a lot of enjoy about his work and this is a solid outing for Woody.

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Cartoon of the Day: Betty in Blunderland

Betty in Blunderland
1934
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Available on: 200 Classic Cartoons

Two years before Mickey Mouse went “Thru the Mirror,” guess who did it first…none other than Betty Boop. Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass have inspired many animation studios over the years, so it was fun to take a look at this Betty Boop short which I had never seen previously.

It’s a little surprising at how similar the premise is to the famous Mickey Mouse short “Thru the Mirror.” Here Betty is working on an Alice in Wonderland puzzle when she dozes off and imagines herself following the white rabbit through the mirror. Of course, this version of Wonderland is not very Disney-like. The rabbit hole Betty comes to is portrayed as the entrance to a subway station (showing the urban influence that is often seen in the cartoons of the New York based Fleischer Studio). And of course, Disney’s Alice never had to worry about her panties showing as she fell down the rabbit hole…unlike Betty.

As much as I love Disney’s versions of Wonderland, the Fleischer’s style of animation was actually much better suited to that environment. With the way any and every item would come to life in their shorts, you could make a case that many of their cartoons already took place in a Wonderland of sorts.

With every Fleischer short I watch I continue to become more and more impressed. Their studio was a treasure chest of creativity which is sadly underappreciated today.

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