Random semiconscious musings

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bob Clampett: Rover's Rival

I love cartoons, especially those that are funny just for the sake of being funny. Lightheartedness is so hard to find these days, in such a cynical and marketable world.

One such cartoon that classifies as being just plain funny is Warner Brothers' Studios "Rover's Rival" directed by Bob Clampett. Additionally, it's one of my favourite Clampett cartoons period. Yes, I know it's in black and white, and yes, I know it's an early effort of his (and hardly measures up against such masterpieces as "Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs" and "Tortoise Wins By A Hare"), but in the scheme of things, it is a great cartoon all around.

It has the silly, yet amusing method of delivering gag after gag, in Clampett's own inimitable style. Puns, sight gags, and topical references ("Yeah, man!") are abundant in this clever romp about Porky trying to teach an old dog new tricks.... Plus, the timing of gag delivery is top-notch and razor-sharp!

In these days at WB Studios, circa 1937, Ub Iwerk's studio had just closed down and Bob inherited some of Iwerk's former staff: Lu Guarnier and Jack Carey. Chuck Jones remained Bob's head animator until he was given a unit of his own a year or so later. But it was also noted by Tim Cohea, that Bob Cannon, Jerry Hathcock, and Bill Hammer were believed to have made the shift over during this grey period as well- but exactly when, it was not known. However, in "Porky's Hero Agency", Bob's very next cartoon, the caricature of animators Chuck Jones, Lu Guarnier, and Bob Cannon can be seen in the picket fence- so it is safe to say that they were indeed on staff for "Rover's Rival".... and the artwork of Jones and Cannon can easily be seen in the cartoon as well.

There are several brief scenes to which I cannot attribute an animator in particular- however, I have observed that the same art style can clearly be seen in Iwerk's two previous cartoons, "Porky's Super Service" and the most excellent "Porky's Badtime Story". It is for this reason that I believe these unknown styles must belong to two of Iwerk's original staff, probably Bill Hammer and Lu Guarnier. I'm probably wrong with this association, but they also disappear or are very minimal in Bob's next cartoon, "Porky's Hero Agency", which signifies that these animators were either moved or left to join Ub back at his new studio making the Columbia cartoons.

Either way, here's my breakdown of the cartoon. And if I possibly get a few of the attributed scenes wrong, well- correct me and we'll both be sure. However, that doesn't stop it from being a most enjoyable cartoon.... Hope you like it.

More animation posts on the horizon.... but first, I've got a move coming up.....


  • Larry!
    You posted one of my favorite cartoon!
    I always thought of this as one of the most unreasonably unsung cartoons ever.
    The sequence from the moment in which Rover runs to read the meaning of the word "Dynamite" to the end, is simply amazing.
    One of the greatest animated sequence ever, feauturing a cool character years before Bugs ("Here,man!"), terrific, wild and fast gags.
    IMHO, THIS cartoon started to changed the entire concept of animation at WB and predates the wild and furryous atmosphere of the 40s.

    By Blogger Duck Dodgers, at 6:27 AM  

  • I've always had a little lower opinion of it, because in the same way they just didn't get Porky's antagonist quite right in "Porky's Super Service", I find the dog here to be just a bit too annoying to the audience without offering up any punishment/retribution at the end to make the story work (Hardaway and Dalton would suffer the same fate a few years later with "Porky the Giant Killer")

    On the other hand, Clampett's next cartoon, "Porky's Hero Agency" along with Avery's "The Sneezing Weasel" really were revolutionary in terms of story because the introduced the "comic villan" to the Warners' universe, who was played far more for laughs than for any real menace in the Disney bad guy vein.

    And as far as the animation goes in "Rover's Rival" Clampett's a work with Jones had very polished designs that make some of the other units at the time look particularly backward. The difference between the Clampett -Jones Porky and the one that apparently was designed by the Avery unit for the closing LT-drum ending really hammers home the difference (Tashlin's cartoons also had a certain stylishness, though his stubborn refusal to drop his "Porky crushed by a falling anvil" design of 1937 is hard to explain).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:09 PM  

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