Random semiconscious musings

Monday, August 04, 2008

Censored Cartoons suck

What is it August already? Holy moly, where does the time go. Better dust off those cartoons and get posting again.


OK- I agree that Bob Clampett made some cartoons that were real masterpieces. I also agree that he contributed to the Golden Age of animation in huge offerings. He had a fantastic staff of writers and an even better roster of animators at his disposal.

But I will not consider him a god.

There were no directors in the history of WB's studio that had a perfect track record. Each and every one of them had standouts, and each and every one had real dogs. But the more I watch Clampett's cartoons, the more I see his either relying on topical references, other entertainment venues, or borrowing from previous directors (especially Tex Avery). It's more of a case of, "When he was good, he was very, very good- but when he was bad....."

So today I thought I would bring to you one of Bob's lesser received efforts. What's really odd is that this cartoon is bookended by two hilarious cartoons of his, "Porky's Last Stand" and "Ali Baba Bound". At times I wonder if he just wasn't under pressure to submit something to the output schedule, since it seems like this entry is rushed and stuffed with long-winded, one-note reference jokes, so he threw together whatever he had available and called it a cartoon.

Back to the title: I hate censored cartoons- mostly because as a grown man, I don't appreciate someone else preaching to me what is and isn't appropriate for my viewing pleasure. I think I'm old enough to choose this for myself by now, and should have the full intended version available to me if I want it.

This particular cartoon has been televised and severely edited in the process. All the caricatures of the African Natives have been excised, trimming the length of this cartoon from 7:14 to 3:38.... pretty pathetic, isn't it. And there really aren't any derogatory jokes made from the caricatures either (like direct slavery references or mocking the Natives' facial features). They're just drawn as caricatured Natives.

Clampett threw a couple of topical references into this cartoon- one is boxer Tony Galento, seen at approximately 2:33.

Later on in the cartoon, we are treated to the big band sounds of the "Professor of Swing", Kay Kyser... I love that big band sound, hotcha.

He also uses a running gag featuring Spencer Tracer as "Stanley" parodied from the 1939 movie, "Stanley And Livingstone", who continually looks for Livingstone. Notice when we first see Kay Kyser in Spencer Tracy's exposure, he originally looks like "Livingstone" from the movie as well, until he pulls off the mask.

The title is also a parody of the previously released movie from Columbia Studios in 1930, "Africa Speaks".

Does anyone know who the Mayor is that's caricatured at 3:35?

Also, listen for the Elmer-ish sounding Kangaroo at 3:21.

So here is Clampett's "Africa Squeaks" in its total uncut form... yes, it's a real groaner, many jokes lost due to dating of the references.... so at least enjoy the wonderful animation by John Carey and Vive Risto.



  • My guess is this post does not get linked to by either ASIFA web site or by John K's blog...

    (Bob's shorts by 1940 really were showing the strain of having to work with Porky in every single cartoon. Combine that with Clampett's general disinterest prior to 1941 with a really strong story structure compared to wild gags, and you get a lot of shorts where the only personality the audience really cares about is only on screen for a minute or so.)

    By Blogger J Lee, at 4:38 PM  

  • Larry,

    I disagree with your assessment of Clampett's career at WB. Many of the LT directors made topical cartoons, many far worse and more dated than this example. For instance, Tashlin's The Woods are Full of Cuckoos, Jones's The Weakly Reporter, and McKimson's Hollywood Canine Canteen, to name but a few. In fact, McKimson made the most cartoons based on dated references, like the TV show parodies he did in the 50's. Chuck Jones made several cartoons based on radios shows of the 40's, like Quentin Quail and Hush My Mouse. I'm guessing this had something to do with the writers Warren Foster and Tedd Pierce, who seemed to write most of the topical references in the Warner cartoons. (Wasn't it Foster who made a reference to James C. Petrillo in Hurdy Gurdy Hare?)

    All the directors had their share of clunkers. Avery's spotgag cartoons are always hard for me to sit through, for instance. No one denies that Clampett had his share of failures, too. It's just that the ratio of his amazing cartoons far out weighs those failures, and has cemented his reputation as one of the greatest cartoon directors of all time. From 1942 to 1946 Clampett had an incredible creative streak; most of those cartoons are masterpieces, like Coal Black and de Seben Dwarfs, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, Baby Bottleneck, Kitty Kornered, A Gruesome Twosome, A Corny Concerto, etc. Even the worst cartoon by him in that era isn't a total loss.

    It's also impressive when one compares this to Chuck Jones, who is also one of the greatest cartoon director of all time, and his output. Basically, almost all of Jones's cartoons from 1938 to 1941 are worthless. Some are slick and nice to look at but lack any entertainment appeal. From 1942 to about 1945 he made better cartoons, but he still struggled to keep up with the other directors. It isn't until the late 40's through to the mid 50's that Jones made the cartoons that built his deserved reputation, the ones that are rightly considered classics. Then there is Robert McKimson, who ran into a long streak of mediocrity starting in the 50's.

    I realize this is subjective, but I think Clampett had the best animation in his color cartoons from the 40's, and that includes out of all the other animation studios besides his contemporaries at Warners. I also think his cartoons are the funniest.

    By Blogger J. J. Hunsecker, at 9:25 PM  

  • One of the other things I always noticed about Clampett's cartoons is that animation was always reused. I mean, really blatantly and sloppily. He reused more animation than all of the Warner directors put together other than Freleng (most of his reusing was in the Depression when it was expected). What I gather from interviews with his animators is that Bob was always late for deadlines, which lead to his contract not being renewed in Spring 1945.

    By Blogger Thad, at 1:46 AM  

  • I think the 'mayor' on the poster is a caricature of Johnny Weismuller, and the gag seems strange because Bob may not have been allowed to use the word "Tarzan" on the thing, so he opted for "King of the Jungle."

    By Blogger Whit, at 1:52 AM  

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