1. Big Cartoon Forum

    You WIll Need To Reset Your Password!!!

    We just moved hosts on this system, and this has caused a few updates. One is the way we encode and store the encoded passwords.

    Your old passwords will NOT work. You will need to reset your password. This is normal. Just click on reset password from the log in screen. Should be smooth as silk to do...

    Sorry for the hassle.

    Dave Koch
  2. Big Cartoon Forum

    Are You Just Hanging Out?

    Just lurking? Join the club, we'd love to have you in the Big Cartoon Forum! Sign up is easy- just enter your name and password.... or join using your Facebook account!

    Membership has it's privileges... you can post and get your questions answered directly. But you can also join our community, and help other people with their questions, You can add to the discussion. And it's free! So join today!

    Dave Koch
  3. Big Cartoon Forum

    Other Side Of Maleficent

    I have been looking forward to Maleficent with equal amounts of anticipation and dread. On one hand, she is easily my favorite Disney villain, so cold and so pure, and I want desperately to see more of her and her back-story. On the other hand, she is easily my favorite Disney villain, and I would hate to see her parodied, taken lightly or ultimately destroyed in a film that does not understand this great character. The good news is that this film almost gets it right; but that is also the bad news.

  4. Big Cartoon Forum

    BCDB Hits 150K Entries

    It took a while, but we are finally here! The Big Cartoon DataBase hit the milestone of 150,000 entries earlier today with the addition of the cartoon The Polish Language. This film was added to BCDB on May 9th, 2014 at 4:23 PM.

  5. Big Cartoon Forum

    Warner Brings Back Animated Stone-Age Family

    Funnyman Will Ferrell and partner Adam McKay are working on bringing back everyone’s favorite stone-age family. The duo’s production company Gary Sanchez Productions is in development on a new Flintstones animated feature.

  6. Big Cartoon Forum

    Disney To Feast In France

    The follow up to Disney’s 2013 Academy Award Winning short Paperman has been announced, and it will premiere at France’s Annecy International Animated Film Festival. Titled The Feast, the short looks to be based on the same stylized CG techniques used on last years Paperman, a more natural and hand-drawn look to computer animation.

  7. Big Cartoon Forum

    Renegades of Animation: Pat Sullivan

    Pat Sullivan became famous worldwide for his creation of Felix the Cat. What most animation histories gloss over is Sullivan’s checkered past and longtime standing as a wildcat renegade. He didn’t follow the rules. And he made damn sure to fully protect his intellectual properties.

Universal's Woody is weak, but worth watching...

Discussion in 'The Animated Word' started by Dave Koch, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. Dave Koch

    Dave Koch Cartoon Admin

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2013
    Messages:
    2,569
    Likes Received:
    49
    Trophy Points:
    366
    THE WOODY WOODPECKER AND FRIENDS CLASSIC CARTOON COLLECTION

    (UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOME ENTERTAINMENT, 2007)

    [​IMG]


    Recently someone here in the Big Cartoon Forum remarked that this past summer was a great time for DVD reissues of classic Hollywood animation, and I will not refute that sentiment. During the month of July cartoon-lovers reaped a veritable harvest of sight and sound with the near-simultaneous releases of WHV’s Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938 and Universal’s Woody Woodpecker and Friends Cartoon Collection. I previously reviewed the Popeye DVD set here in the Animated Word; praising the almost-crystalline quality of the restored cartoons and the plethora of bonus features. In the case of this new DVD release, however, I must temper any praise with some misgiving.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    By now many of you have read elsewhere about the excessive use of DVNR perpetrated on a number of the shorts contained in this set; therefore I won’t bore anyone with redundancies. I can, however, corroborate those reports; adding that the damage to the affected shorts is inconsistent from one short to the next and only momentary within individual scenes. Still, it’s unfortunate that some of the really great Lantz shorts from the 1930's and 1940's were subjected to this kind of treatment. Hopefully, the shorts contained in any future volumes will be DVNR-free.

    I should point out at this juncture that the “disappearing pillow” at the beginning of Smoked Hams is not the result of excessive DVNR or color-correction, but rather is a continuity error inherent in the original film. The most likely explanation is that the pillow was inked and painted on a separate animation cel which, in tandem with cels of Woody and the painted background, was used for this particular layout shot. Apparently that cel was momentarily misplaced when the camera operator switched the different cels of Woody; which would have been placed on top before the entire set-up was photographed:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    It has also been reported elsewhere that some of the shorts appear not to have been re-mastered from the original negatives. It is true that there are a few shorts contained in this set that were re-mastered from archival prints which, unfortunately, are somewhat dirty and have a fair amount of light scratches. One viewer stated that the prints used here appear to be darker than the ones used in the compilation volumes from Columbia House. I never had an opportunity to view any of those volumes, so I personally have no basis for comparison. From my own viewing of the current set I can attest that the picture quality of these shorts varies from excellent (Knock Knock, Pigeon Patrol, The Bandmaster and Puny Express), to very good (Woody Woodpecker and Pantry Panic), to just fair (The Dippy Diplomat). My assessment is that the good-looking shorts far outnumber the bad; and even the bad-looking ones are not so horrible that they're unwatchable.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Visual weaknesses notwithstanding, the claim that all of the shorts are complete and uncut is not in the least exaggerated. The Columbia House DVD and VHS sets contained many television prints in which scenes involving drinking, drug-use, mental illness, and ethnic stereotypes were heavily-edited. There are no such complaints with the present compilation, however. All of the shorts included here retain any such questionable scenes. With the exception of the “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” short, Grandma’s Pet (which is missing its end-titles) and the Woody Woodpecker short, Banquet Busters (presented in a Universal-International re-issue print), all have their original main and closing titles intact and are presented in their proper aspect-ratio.

    The bonus features on the Universal set are just a little on the lean side; when one compares them to those offered in any of WHV’s Looney Tunes Golden Collection or Popeye the Sailor DVD sets. There are, for example, no audio commentaries or music-only tracks for any of the shorts; neither are there any contemporary documentaries which might have brought fresh and objective insight to viewers about Walter Lantz, his studio, his staff, and his characters. Universal has, however, unearthed six live-action segments with Lantz from The Woody Woodpecker Show (1957-1961). These segments normally would appear at the start of each television episode and in between the three classic “cartunes” that were also featured. Each segment would address some aspect of the art of animation; combining animation with live-action as Woody interacted with his “Boss”.



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Also included is a special Halloween episode of The Woody Woodpecker Show containing two theatrical shorts: Under the Counter Spy (starring Woody in a spoof of “Dragnet”) and Playful Pelican (one of the best Andy Panda shorts made at the Lantz Studio). Both of the theatrical shorts have truncated main and end titles, which remove, respectively, the familiar Universal-International “spinning globe” logo and United Artists main-title card (see examples below). Curiously, the television print of Under the Counter Spy has added voice-overs that were not in the original theatrical version. These occur whenever an inserted shot of a sign or billboard appears; perhaps for the benefit of younger viewers who couldn’t yet read. The Halloween episode is unique in that it features Lantz’s only made-for-TV short, “Spook-a-Nanny”; which, unfortunately, is only mildly-amusing. It is especially disconcerting to see Andy Panda here reduced to a mere shadow of his former self. In the frame-grab below he looks terribly off-model when compared to the vintage main-title card just above it. Even Daws Butler’s voice-characterization for him (reminiscent of his "Elroy Jetson" voice) sounds strange.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The packaging format is exceptionally well-done and preferable to the problematic one recently adopted by WHV for some of their multi-disc sets. Contained in the handsome, simulated wood-grain slipcover is a four-section, folding cardboard and plastic DVD case; the last three sections of which have one dedicated-space apiece for a single disc. I encountered no difficulties whatsoever in either removing or replacing discs to their individual plastic hubs. Care should be taken, however, to grasp the cardboard slipcase at the bottom when retrieving the set or putting it away; otherwise the folding cardboard and plastic DVD case will slide out and fall to the floor and possibly dislodge the discs.

    The overall presentation of the entire program is also well-done; dividing the 45 Woody Woodpecker “Cartunes” in the set into 3 groups of 15 shorts apiece and then filling out the remaining disc-space for each DVD with 5 “one-shot” titles and 5 shorts featuring other starring characters like Andy Panda and Chilly Willy. In addition all 75 shorts in the DVD set are presented in chronological-order and, unlike the Popeye DVD set and previous volumes of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, the theatrical release date for each short is listed on the inside covers to the DVD case.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Woody Woodpecker made his film debut in a 1940 Andy Panda short, Knock Knock, directed by Lantz and featuring Mel Blanc as the voice of Woody. Blanc tells the story of how he had originated Woody's distinctive laugh back when he was in high school. Before recording it for posterity in Knock Knock, however, he first used the laugh while previously working for Leon Schlesinger's Studio at Warner Bros; in his voice characterizations for two early shorts featuring embryonic versions of Bugs Bunny: Porky's Hare Hunt and Hare-Um Scare-Um. Both of those shorts were supervised by Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, with the latter co-supervised by Cal Dalton. Hardaway reportedly came up with the first design for Woody; according to Blanc, Hardaway must have been in a foul mood when he did so. When Blanc first saw the model sheet he called Woody the "...ugliest damn thing [he] ever saw."1 Hardaway wrote the story for Knock Knock and had previously written a similar story ending for Fred “Tex” Avery’s Daffy Duck and Egghead during his tenure at the Schlesinger Studio: Woody and Daffy each end up going berserk and have to be spirited-away to the funny farm in an ambulance. I have to say that I personally prefer the ending to Woody’s seminal film over that to the Daffy Duck short; simply because I thought that it was in some ways executed better.

    [​IMG]

    The first official Woody Woodpecker short, appropriately entitled, Woody Woodpecker, also introduces what Lantz apparently had hoped would become the character’s signature-tune, “Knock On Wood”. That little ditty was dropped after just two films and Woody would not acquire an enduring theme-song until 1948. 2 What is interesting about this short is that the character of “Dr. Horace N’ Buggy” (as well as that of the loan shark who lends Woody money in The Loan Stranger) bears more than a passing resemblance to the title-character featured in Frank Tashlin’s The Fox and the Grapes (and in the subsequent “Fox and Crow” series), which was released by Columbia Pictures the same year.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Pantry Panic is, in my opinion, the best of the first five Woody shorts that were directed by Lantz. Not only does it occasionally break the "fourth wall", as when the "hungry little kitty-cat" comments to the audience about a title card they have just read; but it also has a wonderful bit of hyperbole, as when Woody “stares death in the face”. In 1942 Alex Lovy, who was the principal animator on the first batch of Woody shorts, took over as Director for the next four films in the series. Although they are pleasant enough (with some occasionally-funny gags in entries like The Screwball), they also suffer at times from sluggish pacing. Woody’s physical appearance in this group, however, had improved somewhat since his film debut. Woody's voice sounds a little strange in some of these because, unfortunately, Mel Blanc had by this time signed a contract with Leon Schlesinger at Warner Brothers. Ultimately, Ben Hardaway was recruited to provide Woody’s voice; which he did through the end of the 1948-49 release year.3

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Woody Woodpecker shorts directed by James Culhane during the mid-1940’s are some of the very best to come forth from the Lantz Studio. The shorts pairing Woody with Wally Walrus are particularly distinctive, with impressive and innovative layouts and backgrounds by Art Heinemann and Philip DeGuard (who would later join Chuck Jones’ unit at Warner Bros). It was Heinemann who, along with animator Emery Hawkins, re-designed Woody during this period; replacing some of his garish colors and lumpy appendages with more streamlined features. My personal favorites in this group include The Beach Nut, Woody Dines Out, Ski for Two, Chew-Chew Baby and The Dippy Diplomat. The latter includes a memorable sight-gag that recalls the opening scene of Chaplin’s City Lights; at one point Woody is found sleeping in the arms of a statue of the Madonna.

    [​IMG]

    The one weak exception among Culhane’s Woody Woodpecker shorts, in my honest opinion, would be The Barber of Seville. Despite the accolades this short has received, I personally have always found it to be somewhat uneven. I also feel that it could have used a wittier title. The first-half of the short, which consists of some topical humor (and some unfortunate ethnic-stereotyping) lags considerably; while Culhane’s brilliant and frenetic pacing in the latter-half builds to a shattering conclusion. In the final analysis, however, I prefer Chuck Jones’s 1950 Bugs Bunny vehicle, Rabbit of Seville; and consider it overall to be the more-satisfying of the two shorts which parody Rossini’s best-known opera. Culhane also directed a number of Andy Panda shorts. His Oscar-nominated Fish Fry, in which Andy’s pet goldfish is hilariously pitted against a crafty feline, has some truly outrageous gags and deft timing.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When Culhane left the studio Dick Lundy took over the direction of the Woody Woodpecker shorts and other Lantz “Cartunes” until the end of 1948. Lundy’s directorial style was, on the whole, less manic and outrageous in gag-content than Culhane’s. At the same time, however, his shorts imbue their characters with well-rounded personalities and clear-cut motivations. His first Woody Woodpecker short, Bathing Buddies is as wildly funny as any of those directed by Culhane and has some wonderful pantomime sequences. As good as that effort and others like Woody the Giant Killer are; the true gem among Lundy’s Woody Woodpecker shorts is, without question, Musical Moments from Chopin. This short and The Bandmaster were two of the six “Musical Miniatures” that Lundy directed while at the Lantz Studio. Nominated for an Academy Award in 1947, it features the playing of duo-pianists Ted Saidenberg and Ed Rebner in classical music repertoire that hitherto had not been fully-exploited in animated cartoons. It was an inspired choice to use Frederic Chopin’s piano pieces as the genesis of the plot and the consequential gags; for Lundy could easily have gone the traditional route and used the much-hackneyed Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 of Franz Liszt (which would eventually be used in the Woody Woodpecker short, Convict Concerto). It was also a sound idea to pair Woody with Andy Panda in this short. It’s a shame that the two characters were not paired more often (they would be featured together one last time in Banquet Busters); since their on-screen chemistry here easily invites comparison with some of the better Warner Bros. shorts starring Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Lundy had previously worked for Disney and was an acknowledged master of personality animation; which in today’s animation industry is a slowly-dying art. Nowhere are the Disney associations more readily-apparent than in the Andy Panda shorts he directed at the Lantz studio; particularly in later ones like Dog Tax Dodgers (not included here) and Scrappy Birthday, in which Andy bears a striking resemblance in appearance and mannerisms to Mickey Mouse. One of the best of the six Andy Panda shorts featured in this DVD compilation are Lundy’s Apple Andy, in which Andy heeds the Devil’s advice and steals apples from a neighboring orchard. The film’s best sequence depicts Andy’s hallucination after eating too many unripe apples. The plot of this short is comparable with Frank Tashlin’s 1938 Looney Tune, Wholly Smoke (with Porky Pig still in his child-stage) and, to a lesser degree, a Donald Duck short directed by Jack King, Donald’s Better Self.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Andy Panda made his film debut in 1939's Life Begins for Andy Panda; the title of which, for the record, has absolutely nothing to do with the similarly-titled MGM "Andy Hardy" comedy. This short is, in part, a parody of the then-recent sensationalism surrounding the donation of a panda bear to the Chicago Zoo. The plot here calls for some suspension-of-disbelief on the part of the viewer; when a band of pygmies capture Andy's father and a chase ensues (the panda bear is indigenous only to the mountain regions of China and Tibet). Up until mid-1942 Andy was depicted as a child (usually voiced by Bernice Hansen) and featured along with his father, "Andrew P. Panda Sr." (usually voiced by Mel Blanc).

    Beginning with Goodbye Mr. Moth Andy went solo.

    [​IMG]

    In subsequent films he remained somewhat "child-like", if not actually a child. He was never depicted as a completely grown-up panda like his father, and his voice-characterization as provided by Walter Tetley suggests that he never aged beyond his pre-pubescent years. Andy was officially retired in 1949 and never again appeared in theatrical shorts (save for a brief cameo in The Woody Woodpecker Polka); although he continued to appear in comic books featuring all of the other Lantz characters. Film Critic and Historian Leonard Maltin has suggested that the main reason for Lantz ending the Andy Panda series at that point was most likely because, after Lundy’s departure from the studio, no one else there was able to work effectively with the character. 4According to the editors of the Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia, all of the popular Lantz characters were given make-overs in 1999 for The All New Woody Woodpecker Show which aired on FOX Kids; all except for Andy...who nowadays can't even be found on a drinking glass or a T-shirt.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The period from 1947-1950 was a dismal one for the Lantz Studio. Having parted company with Universal at the end of 1947, over a dispute concerning the rights to his characters and films, Lantz struck up a new distribution agreement with United Artists for the 1948-49 season. In the meantime Universal (which by this time had been renamed Universal-International) continued releasing older Lantz shorts to theatres. At the end of 1948 Lantz closed his studio, due to financial troubles, and laid off nearly all of his animation staff. In 1950 Lantz was reconciled with Universal-International; which subsequently re-issued the United Artists shorts during the remainder of that year.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    In 1951 Lantz began releasing new Woody Woodpecker shorts to theatres. Nearly all of the Woody Woodpecker shorts released from 1951-52 were reportedly directed by Lantz; but it's difficult to tell from these and from the first five Woody shorts that were released in 1941-42 just how much "directing" he did. It could be that the real direction of these shorts was executed by the head-animator (as was the case with the "Popeye" shorts produced at the Fleischer Studio during the 1930's); and that Lantz's own directorial duties were limited to such tasks as approving storyboards and checking the timing of sequences.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The first two shorts released in 1951, Puny Express and Sleep Happy utilized storyboards that had been left behind by Ben Hardaway and exposure sheets that had been prepared by Dick Lundy. With Hardaway gone, there was no one to do Woody's voice and so most of these cartoons have virtually no dialogue. They all seem to end the same way as well: with Woody skipping off into the sunset and emitting his trademark laugh (which apparently is none other than Mel Blanc's original recording, albeit speeded-up considerably). One Woody short from 1952 that stands out is Born to Peck. This enjoyable entry comprises, in it's own way, a more-or-less "official" story of Woody's childhood, adult years and old age; although it offers no clear explanation for the abuse that he heaps upon his long-suffering father. The animation is quite good here and the accompanying score by Lantz's new Music Director, Clarence Wheeler, is also well-done.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    One of the last two shorts from 1952, The Great Who-Dood-It, was directed by Don Patterson. Patterson, who had also worked for Disney, had recently been promoted to the Director's Chair by Lantz from within his skeleton animation staff. Leonard Maltin has praised Patterson's "deft handling of characters" and his "snappy timing" in the shorts he directed at Lantz during the early 1950's. 5 While that may be true with regard to an outstanding film like Patterson's Termites from Mars (also not included here); this particular short, which takes place at a local fairground, leaves much to be desired. There is one scene in particular in which Buzz Buzzard has just locked Woody inside of a steamer trunk. Carrying the trunk on his shoulder he proceeds to board, in succession, the freight car on a locomotive, an airplane and something resembling an electric go-cart. Having arrived at his ultimate destination he dumps the trunk in the ocean and then returns to the fairground using the same modes of transportation via the same routes. When he returns to the fairground he learns to his shock and bewilderment that Woody has escaped and beaten him there. This entire sequence was so tediously long and drawn-out in Patterson's hands; that I actually had time to go into my kitchen, make a sandwich, grab a soda, and sit back down again in my comfy chair before Buzz even returned. This was like watching Tex Avery's Dumb-Hounded or Northwest Hounded Police after having taken massive amounts of Ritalin (!) One can only imagine how Avery himself would have directed this sequence.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Avery is represented on this DVD set by the only four shorts he directed for Lantz in the mid 1950's. The best of these is a Chilly Willy entry from 1955, The Legend of Rockabye Point, which reunited Avery with his long-time Warner Bros. collaborator, Michael Maltese. Avery re-used plot elements from his 1952 MGM short, Rock-a-Bye Bear; in which a dog tries against all odds (i.e., a pesky rival for his job) to keep the bear whose house he is watching from being awakened by extraneous noises. Here, the tables are turned somewhat; a polar bear tries against all odds (i.e., a pesky rival for his loot) to keep the guard dog on board a fishing vessel from awakening while he steals the fish. In typical Avery fashion the running gags (and variants thereof) keep coming non-stop; and just when you think he can't top the previous gag, he does.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    One other Avery short deserves mention here; his one-shot "cartune" from the same year, Crazy Mixed-Up Pup; which takes role-reversal to the most absurd heights when a dog and his owner are mistakenly given each other's plasma-type following a hit-and-run accident. Both Avery shorts were nominated for an Academy Award.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Five of Lantz's "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" "cartunes" are featured on Disc One in excellent-looking prints. Viewed in succession they provide a glimpse of how the character's appearance changed over the course of the three years that had passed from the time that Lantz "inherited" him from Walt Disney.6One of the more entertaining shorts in the group is Spooks, a parody of Universal's earlier, silent Lon Chaney thriller, The Phantom of the Opera. In a few scenes of this short there is a rodent who bears more than just a passing resemblance to Disney's Mickey Mouse. In 1932 Lantz introduced another starring character named Pooch the Pup, who turned out to be just another in a long line of Mickey Mouse imitators. The character was featured in just 13 shorts and then dropped. King Klunk, a parody of the 1933 adventure classic, King Kong, is one of the better efforts in the series.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Five of the remaining shorts on this DVD set come from Lantz's "Swing Symphony" series. These made use of the most popular music of the day, and often an entire short would be built around a particular song. The shorts boast some of the jazziest soundtracks ever to come out of Hollywood at the time. Music Director Darrell Calker knew most of the popular "big-band" musicians, and would often arrange for them to come into the studio for a recording session when regular work was not forthcoming. The Pied Piper of Basin Street, for example, has some truly-fabulous trombone solos by Jack Teagarden. Given the exceptional quality of the music in the Swing Symphonies series, it is regrettable that no alternate "music-only" audio tracks for these were included on the DVD set. But then, perhaps no suitable original music tracks could be located in the Lantz archives. Some titles in the series like Abou Ben Boogie and The Greatest Man in Siam were obviously aimed at members of the armed forces; and thus they contained more than their fair share of sexy females.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    For some reason two of these swing-based shorts, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B (taken from the popular song of the same name) and Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat were not part of the "Swing Symphony" series but rather were released as two of Lantz's "Cartune Classics". Both shorts, the latter in particular, contain some blatant racial stereotypes. No doubt these and the violence inherent in some of the other shorts presented here prompted Universal to issue issue the warning, "This collection is for adult collectors and may not be suitable for children".

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Of the ten "Cartune Classics" that have been included here in the program, there are two that deserve special mention. The first is a black-and-white short (billed as a "Cartune Comedy") from 1938, entitled Hollywood Bowl. Admittedly, neither the story nor the gags in this short (depicting a concert with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski) are particularly noteworthy; and younger viewers probably won't recognize a number of the more obscure celebrity caracitures like "Charlie McCarthy" or Martha Raye. What is unique about this short, however, are some of its visual effects:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In one scene, as Stokowski conducts the 1st Movement to Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony (note the erroneous spelling and Opus Number on his score, above), the entire string section is shown playing in a completely disembodied manner on the screen. This sequence anticipates similar visuals that would appear in the opening "Toccata and Fugue" segment of Disney's Fantasia, just two years later. In addition, the Music Director for this particular short was Frank Churchill, who had previously collaborated on the music score for Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Churchill had originally been hired away from Disney by Lantz to work on his studio's first feature-length animated film, an adaptation of the story of Aladdin. The project was deemed unfeasible, however, and was quickly abandoned. Since Churchill was still under contract to his studio, Lantz put him to work on a few shorts. One can't help but wonder if Disney actually saw Hollywood Bowl; and subsequently incorporated some of its graphic ideas into Fantasia, which was already in production at that time.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Reportedly the "Toccata and Fugue" segment of Fantasia was inspired by the experimental films of Oskar Fischinger. Fischinger had approached Leopold Stokowski in 1936 with the prospect of creating an animated film set to classical music, but the project never came to fruition. In 1939 Fischinger was hired by Disney specifically to work on the segment. Some of his ideas, however, met with mixed reactions from the Disney animators and layout artists. Ultimately they came up with a somewhat different concept for the segment that was based on his preliminary work.7 This begs the question as to whether the Lantz artists themselves had been similarly-inspired by Fischinger's films when they were developing layouts for Hollywood Bowl. Then again, perhaps it was Churchill, upon returning to the Disney Studio, who mentioned some of Hollywood Bowl's visuals to one of the animators or layout artists over there. In any case, the similarities between the Lantz short and the subsequent Disney feature-film appear to be more than just coincidental.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    The next short was possibly the most Disney-esque of any that Lantz produced during the 1930's. It also appears to have been a pilot film for a proposed running series (although I have been unable to find any documentation verifying this). Scrambled Eggs tells the story of a young faun named 'Peterkin' who delights in two things: playing his flute and playing pranks on others. When the collective boasting of some neighboring expectant birds disrupts Peterkin's playing, he decides to switch the eggs in their nests to teach them a lesson. The resulting confusion leads to a rift in the bird community; with the husbands and wives going their separate ways and leaving the newly-hatched baby birds to fend for themselves. Peterkin is quickly pressed into service as a surrogate-mother; but when the pressure becomes too much for him he ultimately confesses to his misdeed. As punishment, he is consigned to laundry detail for an indeterminable amount of time. Peterkin has apparently learned his lesson, for now.





    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Lantz shorts from this period always had impressive layouts and backgrounds, as well as handsome main-titles; but the ones here, designed by artist Willy Pogany (1882-1955), are exceptionally beautiful. Pogany, best known as an illustrator of children's and adult books, was born in Hungary and came to America via Paris and London. While in London he had created some magnificent set designs for productions of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser (1911), Parsifal (1912) and Lohengrin (1913). The story for Scrambled Eggs was written by Pogany's wife, Elaine; who subsequently wrote a children's book based on that story. This charming short is not completely without fault, however. Peterkin seems just a tad anachronistic in his woodland setting, in which the other inhabitants sport silk hats, spats, bonnets and other manner of anthropomorphic attire. That aside, the character is an engaging one who manages to be cute without being overly-cloying. There is also a little "in-joke" during the first half of the short; when one of the expectant mother birds (who has laid a rather large egg) looks sheepishly at the camera and scolds, "Be quiet, Willy!"

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    My rating for The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection, then, is as follows:

    Package Design [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (Warner Home Video, please take note!)

    Visual-Quality [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (no more excessive DVNR, please!)

    Audio-Quality [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (a few of the mid-1940's shorts sound a bit muffled in places)

    Bonus Features [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (with hope for audio commentaries on the next volume)

    Value for the Money [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (75 cartoons on 3 DVD's aren't bad, but a 4th disc with more black-and-white cartoons and more bonus features would be better)

    [​IMG]

    Special thanks to Eminovitz for submitting additional synopses for many of the Walter Lantz shorts in the Big Cartoon DataBase.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. Blanc, Mel, and Bashe, Philip; That's not all, folks: my life in the golden age of cartoons and radio; Warner Books, 1988; pp. 10-12, 223-226. Some sources credit animator Alex Lovy with Woody's initial design.

    2. In June 1948 Kay Kyser and his Orchestra, with Gloria Wood and Harry Babbit as vocalists, released a hit single, The Woody Woodpecker Song. The song reached the top of the pop charts and enjoyed escalated record sales; prompting Lantz to incorporate it into Woody’s latest short, Wet Blanket Policy. The recording was quickly dubbed onto the soundtrack over the main titles and into the first scene (which unfortunately obliterates the first moments of dialogue), replacing Darrell Calker’s original music cues. The song, as used in this short, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song of 1948. The melody of the song became Woody’s official theme music at the start of every Woody Woodpecker short for the remainder of the theatrical series. Lantz later tried to score another hit with The Woody Woodpecker Polka, which was featured in a 1951 short with the same title (see above). That song ultimately failed to generate any lasting popularity.


    3. Oddly enough, Woody’s distinctive laugh as originally recorded by Blanc continued to be heard on the soundtrack at the start of every Woody Woodpecker short through the end of 1952. His “guess who?” greeting actually can be heard in every subsequent Woody cartoon right up until 1972 when lantz closed his studio for good. Blanc maintains, in his autobiography, that he provided Woody’s voice for a total of 30 shorts, the last one being 1949’s Drooler’s Delight. He goes on to say that in 1950 he signed an exclusive contract with Warner Bros. which precluded his doing character voices, including Woody’s, for any other cartoon studio. That contract did not, however, prevent him from doing Woody’s voice in other mediums; and so he provided Woody’s voice on a number of children’s records for Capitol and other labels during the late 1940's and early 1950's, including an alternate version of The Woody Woodpecker Song (the record label of which credits him as the "original" voice of Woody). Walter Lantz’s wife, Grace Stafford, occasionally did Woody's voice during the 1951-52 season; providing his laugh (recorded at a very high speed) and brief snippets of dialogue in such entries as Wicket Wacky and Woodpecker in the Rough. Stafford officially took over the voice in 1953 and continued to provide it in theatrical shorts and on TV until Woody was officially retired in 1972. Thereafter she did Woody's voice in TV specials, commercials and public-service announcements until her death in the early 1990's.

    4. Maltin, Leonard: Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, revised edition; Plume, 1987; p. 176

    5. Ibid; p. 177

    6. Disney had originally created the "Oswald" series and distributed it through Charles Mintz (whose wife, MJ Winkler, had distributed Disney's earlier "Alice" comedies) and Universal Pictures. When Disney asked for more money to improve the quality of the shorts, Mintz refused; and in an underhanded coup d'ete wrested the series away from Disney. Mintz's brother-in-law, George Winkler, had recently formed his own production company which was staffed by a number of former Disney animators; and subsequently began to produce his own Oswald shorts for Universal. Around that time, however, the President of Universal Pictures, Carl Laemmle, had decided to open his own animation studio with Lantz in charge. Since Universal actually owned the rights to the Oswald character, Winkler and his associates were ultimately left out in the cold. The first six Oswald shorts to come out of the new studio were actually those that Winkler's studio had finished but had not yet been released. Lantz added synchronized-sound to these cartoons in a unique way: the musicians, sound effects men and voice actors actually watched the cartoons on a screen and recorded music, SFX and dialogue as the picture progressed. An example of this process (albeit one that looks suspiciously staged) can be seen in the 1936 documentary newsreel, Going Places #18: Cartoonland Mysteries, that is included here as a bonus feature. The final incarnation of Oswald's character design, that of a white, more natural-looking, "Beatrix Potter" type of rabbit, can be seen in the 1936 short, Beachcombers, which is included in the Thunderbean/Mackinac Media DVD compilation, Attack of the 30's Characters.

    7. Maltin, Leonard: Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, revised edition; Plume, 1987; pp. 60-61

Share This Page