Random semiconscious musings

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Showboating with my Buddy

With the recent release of the most magnificent Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5, we've been treated to some wonderful Black & White goodies from the Warner's vault.

Many people seem to dislike those oddball cartoons from the 30s with no starring character- "I've Got To Sing A Torch Song" from Vol. 5 for one.... probably because there's no familiar character to relate entertainment with like Bosko or Bugs or Daffy, and the humour and/or references don't make sense due to being out of context because of their age.

I, for one, heavily enjoy these obscure things. I think it's because without a familiar starring character, what's left for the rest of the cartoon has to be entertaining enough to sustain the seven minutes in one way or another. This often inferred intertwining mishmash gags with a song or some kind attempt at amusing audiences of the 30s. That's what I find entertaining- watching what's thrown onscreen and, with my knowledge of the mindset of those who premiered the film, laughing at how simplistic or even low-functioning those with money to go watch these things must have been, and how those who wrote the gags were not far from that mentality themselves.

What's even more entertaining is seeing a flopping fish of a film taking stabs in the dark at humour and failing... embarrassingly.

Which brings me to this blog's cartoon: Buddy's Show Boat.

Now Buddy himself is forever under scrutiny. He's not funny, he's bland, he's as congenial as vanilla ice cream. But think of the mentality behind him- audiences were in the midst of a depression... things were gloomy all over and hardship was staring everyone in the face. His job was to give these poor sods a few minutes of escapism with whatever vehicle he had. Keeping this in mind, it's actually possible to enjoy his feeble efforts to lift the spirits of the audience.

I chose this selection because it's a weird mishmash of ideas as mentioned above. I suppose looking at it loosely, it's about Buddy's traveling showboat and how he lands in town-to-town entertaining anyone that may be interested in attending. But there's so much added to this cartoon that it literally shouts out "straight-ahead" scriptwriting, meaning the writers started somewhere and made themselves to the end of the seven minutes by adding interjections, "Now let's make him do this....", "now let's make Betty Boo-- I mean, Cookie do that", "OK now we need a conflict or plotline of some sort...." and finally winds up with the bad guy getting what he justly deserves... a spanking.

Also, this version is the uncut one, and there's some pretty off-colour / rather tasteless jokes in it. Oh, I don't mean the throwaway racist characterizations of the coal boys or the Maurice-Chevalier-ish Aborigine.... some even more risque: like the telephone ringing its bells which by no accident, have a direct resemblance to a cabaret dancer's breasts (don't believe me? just watch them); or the 'ferry' boat gaily making a pass as he prances past the barge; or the dung birds that walk in the parade then rip into formation as the horse in front of them lifts its tail readying to take a dump on the street.... Unrefined farm humour at its best....!!

There's a nice scene here where Buddy is ringing the steamboat whistle- the animation is so rubbery and fluid. It's probably Jack King- since he'd have been recently acquired from Disney prior to doing this- but really, that's just a guess. This, and the scene where Buddy telephones Betty Boo- er, I mean Cookie, are the only scenes where Buddy has these pointed, pinned-back ears, so whomever contributed this scene was probably new or on loan from another department. Maybe Irv Spence?

This version of the Looney Tunes theme used for the opening titles is my favourite one- it's a little slower and smoother than the ones used later. Anyone know the name of this song?





Here's a challenge... try to find at least something enjoyable about Buddy's character... he's such a perky little smiley-faced guy....!

7 Comments:

  • The song's copyrighted title, I believe, is "Beauty and the Beast" by Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby.

    Gahh! Buddy is teh suck. Thanks for that. Now to gouge my eyes out with a toothpick.

    By Blogger Thad K, at 6:11 PM  

  • I really was surprised there was no commentary for "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" on Vol. 5, because of how important it was to shaping the future history of the Warner's cartoon studio. The fact that it is a bad cartoon of course is what makes it important, since it and "Buddy's Day Out" forced Leon to go out and beg Friz to come back from Harman and Ising to save the studio.

    Oh well, they've still got a chance to get all that info out there when "Buddy's Day Out" shows up on a future DVD (and IIRC, the opening theme there is even slower/cuter than the one on "Buddy's Show Boat". Combined with the title card image of Buddy, Cookie and Elmo in a baby carriage, it's probably the least-looney Looney Tunes opening of all time).

    By Blogger J Lee, at 11:19 PM  

  • >>Now Buddy himself is forever under scrutiny. He's not funny, he's bland, he's as congenial as vanilla ice cream. But think of the mentality behind him- audiences were in the midst of a depression... things were gloomy all over and hardship was staring everyone in the face. His job was to give these poor sods a few minutes of escapism with whatever vehicle he had. Keeping this in mind, it's actually possible to enjoy his feeble efforts to lift the spirits of the audience.

    The only problem is that Depression era audiences didn't like the happy-go-lucky, goody two-shoes characters of the early 30's. Instead, they made stars out of subversive characters like the Marx Brothers, Mae West, W. C. Fields, etc. (The only exception being Mickey Mouse, but he wasn't so innocent in the early days.)

    Even the artists who worked on the Buddy cartoons didn't think they were any good.

    By Blogger J. J. Hunsecker, at 1:39 AM  

  • The only problem is that Depression era audiences didn't like the happy-go-lucky, goody two-shoes characters of the early 30's. Instead, they made stars out of subversive characters like the Marx Brothers, Mae West, W. C. Fields, etc.

    Good point, J.J.- I guess it was primarily about empowerment in an age of helplessness... audiences didn't want feelings of placation, they wanted to live through characters who were ballsy.

    The opening theme there is even slower/cuter than the one on "Buddy's Show Boat". Combined with the title card image of Buddy, Cookie and Elmo in a baby carriage, it's probably the least-looney Looney Tunes opening of all time.

    Yeah, I have this one too, and I like the title theme music on it. Buddy even looks different in that cartoon, a bit more like some ragamuffin newsboy. And I agree... the title card and cartoon are rather nauseating, with that "friendly guy + innocent love interest + bratty kid" plotline.... maybe Buddy should be considered a more integral vehicle to the all-out wild heroes we got from WB a few years later... if it weren't for him, directors might not have had the urge to release their inhibitions through more dynamic characters.

    By Blogger Larry T, at 3:56 PM  

  • Larry --

    The design, pacing and just animation in general of "Buddy's Day Out" and "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" stick out like sore (ugly) thumbs, even amid the H-I cartoons before and the Earl Duvall ones that followed. The characters just seem to float in a lot of scenes, as if the folks in charge had absolutely no sense of timing (though it's fun in both to try and guess the scenes Freleng reworked after J.L. tossed the film cans back in Leon's face).

    If nothing else, Buddy's repressed hostility did make for a good 30-minute plot for Animaniacs, though it was only Nick's decision to air the B&W Looney Tunes for a couple of years that allowed anyone besides the hardcore WB animation fans to even get part of the joke.

    By Blogger J Lee, at 4:30 PM  

  • Hey Larry,
    is this the one you consider the best Buddy cartoons or there's another one better?
    I ask you because, "luckily", I've not seen all of the character's cartoons.

    By Blogger Duck Dodgers, at 4:27 AM  

  • Andrea,

    This particular Buddy cartoon is rather weak... there are better selections- some are actually rather entertaining in an insipid way.

    But even the best Buddy cartoon hardly compares to the worst say, Bosko cartoon... such is the curse of Buddy.

    Some of the 'better' Buddy cartoons include: Buddy's Lost World, Buddy's Bug Hunt, Buddy the Detective, Buddy's Beer Garden, Buddy's Adventures, and Buddy of the Apes.

    By Blogger Larry T, at 10:04 AM  

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