Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery

Lately I've been thinking a lot about Warner Brothers cartoons… specifically me trying to pick out what exactly I like about the cartoons that inspire me. I've seen a bunch of other writings and blogs on the internet with people talking about their favorite cartoons of all time, and well, I guess I should put my two cents into it as well.

First off, let's get this out of the way. I hate Chuck Jones' Warner Brothers cartoons. Hate. HATE. With a passion.

Okay, yeah, once you've been revived with smelling salts after fainting from that statement, let me elucidate. I know the majority of animation people love and worship this man, and most fo the blogs and articles I've seen concerning this topic ALWAYS have to mention him and praise his name, but I just... I don't agree with any of them. And I guess hate is a very strong word. It kind of comes off as if, when I see a Chuck Jones cartoon, I'd rather slather my eyeballs with hot oil rather than continue watching it. Seriously, though. That's not necessarily the case. It really isn't. His way of designing the Warner Brothers characters is by now iconic, not to mention the fact that he was able to pioneer a lot of terrific devices in animation. But, seriously? Even if he is the guy who made What's Opera, Doc? and introduced Wile E. Coyote on his never-ending futile quest to catch the Roadrunner? He's no Bob Clampett.

Bob Clampett is my hero forever and always.

This is the portrait of a hero who created some of the greatest animated cartoons ever. You can not escape the charm of his gorgeous smile.

To make a point about who is the best in more superficial terms, who are the two hottest animation directors in this picture? One is on the left, but first prize goes to the handsome stud in the front.

I never met the guy, I can't say if he was a big jerk who took credit for things he didn't do (like some people claimed, coughcoughChuckJonescough) or if he truly was a sweet, awesome badass who made painfully amazing cartoons, but I love him. I love his stuff. Put me in front of a TV playing Beany and Cecil episodes and old 30s and 40s WB cartoons and I will drool with happiness all day.

And the characters he brought to life, man. They were so fun! I love Bob Clampett's Bugs Bunny. God, Bugs is such a jerk in his cartoons. He doesn't always have to be a wise ass or the Hero of the Day. And Daffy! Daffy is always filled to the brim with hysteria and craziness and such lovable puerility. I get so jumpy when I watch a Clampett cartoon and I feel like I'm going to start bouncing off of the walls myself (it's like when I watch a Tex Avery cartoon and I feel like running around on the walls or something). But Bob is so much more crazy than Tex and Chuck. He's got surrealism down to a tee.

I don't have a favorite Bugs cartoon because I really don't like Bugs as a character that much (I mean, I like him, but it's not like I have a huge affinity towards the guy). Daffy's my favorite. Daffy is amazing. Even in Chuck Jones' version of the character, he's so vindictive and spiteful and mean and just a huge pain in the neck for everyone to deal with. I always have a soft spot for villainous characters and he fits the bill (no pun intended). He's jealous and greedy and flawed… but not as daffy as he should be. That's why I love Clampett's Daffy. He can be a total jerk, too, but he's a lot more fun-loving about it, the kind of guy who would blow you up with dynamite but french you afterwards. He's so much more like a kid, too. He's got a sense of wonderment around him and a crazy energy of immaturity that makes me love him so much.

So of course, the source of most of my cartoon inspiration has been The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, which you can watch in all of it's glory here.

Why do I even need to explain why this is so great? It's such a super fun amalgamation of childlike imagination and said childlike imagination gone horribly, incredibly wrong. I had to write a paper a long while ago for an animation history class about Bob and touched upon the short as one of his greatest.

"The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, made in 1946, may be Clampett’s most defining short, and is an outstanding example of both his signature brand of dark humor and fast-paced chaos and the characterization of Daffy Duck in his cartoons. Unlike his earlier short, Porky in Wackyland (1937), the tone of this piece is much darker and the action more aggressive than silly. In the cartoon, Daffy Duck, after receiving his latest Dick Tracy comic, giddily fantasizes that he is Duck Twacy, a famous detective who must catch an elusive piggy bank thief. Near the end of the short, Duck Twacy encounters some of his greatest foes: deformed, dark, looming thugs with names like Hammer Head, Neon Noodle, and Jukebox Jaw. From then on his so far silly yet innocent fantasy escalades into an apocalyptic nightmare, as his enemies begin to attack and chase him through their hideout, which has subtly morphed into a large, warped, abstract landscape. Things being to become increasingly abstract as the chase continues, and at one point, Daffy’s body actually breaks apart, and the separate body parts slither back into his full form. Daffy then proceeds to whip out a machine gun from thin air and begins showering bullets onto his enemies as they fall from a doorway one by one. This change in tone may be what makes the end of the short so unsettling, and in a way relatable, to the viewer, since it is almost as if Clampett has reached into the mind of the audience and made them relive one of their own nightmares. Through watching Daffy’s imaginary ordeal, the audience is able to relate to their own emotional fantasies, however idealistic or chaotic they made be."
Seriously, I don't know how anyone couldn't like this cartoon. It's everything, at least in my opinion, that a great cartoony animation should be: fast-paced, exciting, engaging, surreal, and just plain fun. Clampett always makes full use of the medium of animation, something you honestly don't get to see nowadays.

Also, for more Clampett fun and dissection, check these John K. posts out and this post by Kristin Thompson.

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