Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sam and Ralph:1954

First things first: the characters names are still a jumble here. Sam is Fred, Ralph is Sam. All things in due time, I suppose.

"Sheep Ahoy" finds the wolf awaiting the shift change so he can nab some sheep but of course he isn't quick enough for the sheepdog. This cartoon features a more stationary Sam. He definetely doesn't move around as much as in the first film. I love the fact that not only can the Wolf/Wile E. Coyote not capture a fast character, but he also can't outwit an immobile one.

Here we see the wolf not only trying to aquire a sheep, but also turning to murderous plots as he tries to kill Sam, for example, with a boulder. For all of Sam's lethargy, he still packs a mean whallop.

As with the coyote, the wolf defeats himself a lot of the time, such as with a balloon/fishing pole scheme. The film ends with the inevitable shift change, but there's a new element that comes into play this time. Not only does Sam have to stop his thrashing of the wolf to allow his co-worker to take over, but it's quitting time for Ralph as well, who has a co-worker of his own take his place for the resumed beating.

One point that I always find amusing is this: I can see why someone would pay Sam to protect the sheep, but who in the world is paying Ralph to steal them (and most likely eat them)?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sam and Ralph:1953

Chuck Jones' Sam and Ralph first appeared in 1953's "Don't Give Up the Sheep". As with most cartoon series, all of the elements didn't come together right from the start. The first obvious point is that Sam is named Ralph!

The series revolves around a sheepdog whose job is, of course, to guard a flock of sheep. The job aspect is amusingly highlighted by the dog punching a time clock and relieving his co-worker during a shift change. A hungry wolf creeps along, anxious for dinner. Another aspect of the series that would not emerge just yet is that of the wolf also punching the timeclock on his way into "work". For now he is just a predator trying to score a meal.

The sheepdog thwarts the wolf's attempts at sheep-nabbing in several "black-out" gags similar to the Road Runner series. After all, the wolf is just Wile E. Coyote with a red nose, although his design in this first cartoon is a bit more scraggly.

The sheepdog is a bit more active here than in later cartoons. Sure, he is always quick with a fist to the wolf's face, but the dog would eventually become much more stationary.
Messing with the timeclock, unleashing a wild cat (from Acme of course), and disguising himself as the Greek God, Pan, are some examples of the wolf's schemes.

The end of the cartoon sees another shift change occur during the sheepdog's beating of the wolf. The canine co-worker takes over the thrashing with barely missing a beat.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mornin' Sam...Mornin' Ralph

Next up in the spotlight here at the Factory are Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf.
When I was a kid, the Roadrunner/Coyote series were my favorite Looney Tunes. I think it was the lack of dialogue that made the cartoons so easy to follow. So to find "the Coyote" in two other series of cartoons always made it worth it to get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings.

Hearing Wile E. Coyote speak in the cartoons with Bugs Bunny was never really appreciated until I was older, but the Wolf/Sheepdog films were right up my alley and I appreciate them still, but on a completely different level.

Once I entered the world of labor, I began to appreciate the antics of Sam and Ralph all the more. We all have had to do things that we really didn't want to, but we had to because it was our job. Our business lives are completely different from our social lives. There are the themes of the Wolf/Sheepdog cartoons.

An advantage to such a timeline is that I won't have to choose just one film per year, for there was only one Wolf/Sheepdog cartoon released in any given year. Not only will every Sam/Ralph film be highlighted but I get to glorify one of my favorite cartoon series. Stay tooned!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

PD Warehouse:1934

It's time for another edition of PD warehouse. Where cartoons are "breathtakingly restored" after "hundreds of hours of detailed restoration work". How do these companies sleep at night?
Sarcasm aside, today's cartoon comes from the Fleischers in two-strip technicolor for all fans of red and green.

"An Elephant Never Forgets" features a group of jungle animals as children heading to school. The Fleischer's use of a rotating tabletop background behind the cels creates the three-dimensional effect in the opening scenes. A lazy hippo never makes it inside the school, but rather falls asleep just outside the door.

A messy pig is physically disciplined with a smack on the head by the goose teacher. After a musical role call, a bullying gorilla abuses the elephant and the other children mock him for not remembering what two plus two equals.

A turtle is left in charge of the classroom who thwarts a giraffe's cheating attempt. While the teacher's back is turned, violence erupts and many a head is bonked with a book.

When class is dismissed, the elephant exacts revenge on the gorilla, proving that an "elephant never forgets" hold a grudge, apparently.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tom and Jerry:2005

We end our trip through time with Tom and Jerry with "The Karate Guard". Joseph Barbera returned one last time to co-direct this cartoon. He passed away soon after.

The cartoon takes the idea of Spike being Jerry's bodyguard and puts a martial arts spin on it. Jerry's karate skills are no match for Tom's flyswatter (there's that darn flyswatter again). The mouse is offered help by a mystical mentor who gives a magical gong to Jerry.

Whenever Jerry is in trouble with Tom, he simply bangs the gong to summon Spike the dog, who pummels Tom in classic violent fashion. Even when Tom attaches pillows to Spike's ears to block the sound of the gong, the cat's good fortune is short-lived.

In one impressive scene, Tom is launched directly at the camera, passes it and hits the roof of a house, all in one continuous shot, where he then claws frantically at the roof as he slides down. Tom enlists the help of Butch and his cronies and paintballs prove to be Spike's kryptonite. However, soon the cats are mere bowling pins to be knocked down by a balled-up Tom.

Tom is reduced to a servant, waiting hand and foot on Spike and Jerry, who gorge themselves on popcorn.
As with most cartoon series, the later, lackluster efforts of Tom and Jerry should not diminish the films of thier glory days, when fast-paced action, great music and violent mayhem ruled the screen with hilarious results.
Thanks to everyone who visits here for toughing it out through what became the longest timeline to complete due to my gaps in posting.
Coming up next will be another installment of PD Warehouse. From there...well, I have some ideas for characters who deserve the timeline treatment but I am open to any suggestions as well. Drop me a comment and let me know of any characters you would like to see highlighted here and I will see what I can do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tom and Jerry:2001

When I made my last post, I was so grateful to reach the end of the Deitch/Jones films that I actually implied this timeline was over. Not true, as Tom and Jerry would not go away so quietly.
In 1975, H-B made some new cat and mouse cartoons for television, but the violence was turned down to an extreme and the duo were more buddies than enemies.
I hate to even mention the Filmation cartoons of the early '80s, which make the Deitch cartoons seem like animation masterpieces.
H-B took another crack at Tom and Jerry in the 90's before the rights were turned over to Turner and more specifically, Warner Bros.

I will spare you any mention of "The Tom and Jerry Movie".
Plenty of direct-to-video releases have resulted, as well as today's highlighted cartoon, "The Mansion Cat".
Not much to say here really. Amidst very simplified backgrounds, Tom and Jerry wreck havok in the house while thier owner is away.

While trying to watch his own performance in "Muscle Beach Tom", the cat is forced into the VCR by Jerry and ejected in cassette form. In a moment resembling a scene from "Terminator", Tom is frozen, shattered and reassembled and the slow-paced chase resumes.

A water bed is punctured, fireplace soot is tracked everywhere, and an out-of-control vacuum cleaner sucks up everything it gets near. Tom gets a plunger stuck on his rear and drives a lawnmower through the house.

Finding his home destroyed doesn't seem to effect Tom's owner much, who just makes a dry observation on Tom's worth.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tom and Jerry:1967

Tom's shark troubles continue in "Cannery Rodent". Why did I pick this cartoon? I actually dig the music over the opening titles. There, I admitted it.

Now that I have gotten that shameful revelation out of the way, let's move on. The cat and mouse chase leads our heroes onto a conveyor belt and into a cannery where they are sealed within properly-labeled cans.

Tom escapes easily with the aid of his claws while Jerry is left trapped in his can until he is captured and released in the same manner. Jerry repays Tom with a bite to the finger.

Tom repeatedly ends up in the water below where a hungry shark awaits. In yet another "friendship" moment, Jerry rescues Tom from the shark with some conveniently-placed pepper. Tom doesn't have such an easy change of heart, as evidenced by his devil horns, which quickly pop Jerry's halo.

Jerry earns his own devil horns, however, when he uses the classic "fake shark fin" gag to send Tom swimming for his life into the horizon.
This would be the final year for theatrical Tom and Jerry cartoons, but is this the end? Nope. The mandatory wrap-up/conclusion post is forthcoming.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tom and Jerry:1966

Zzzzz...huh? Wha? Sorry, I must have dozed off there. "Filet Meow" has Jerry once more in charge of protecting a goldfish from Tom's starving belly. A simple needle to the feline's rear thwarts his first attempt.

Tom discovers that by wearing a trashcan, he can now be protected from any future needle attacks. Bear with me, folks. Tom attacks Jerry with an axe but (as I have pointed out before) Tom apparently has no feeling in his tail, which allows Jerry to place it on the chopping block without his knowledge. Luckily it screws right back in place.

Still wearing the trashcan, Tom is mistaken by the garbage man for actual trash and is thrown out. Tom returns and rigs up a hose system beneath the fishbowl to suck out his prey.

In order to accept the ending of this cartoon, you would have to accept the fact that Jerry finds a pet store that delivers a man-eating shark to his bathtub. Tom unknowingly sucks the shark through the tube and is forced to flee for his life.

Oh...and the shark apparently falls in love with the goldfish...or something.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tom and Jerry:1965

In sifting through the Tom and Jerry cartoons from this period, I can come across a few that are more tolerable than the others. "Tom-ic Energy" is one. I think I enjoy the films where Tom is simply chasing Jerry. No fancy backdrops, no real plot, no forced situations...just a simple chase.

One little detail that I like from Chuck's films is that he sometimes has action occuring during the title sequence. Yes, it results in the eye being distracted from actually reading the names of the people who worked on the film, but I feel it gives things that extra boost of energy right from the start.

Some gags are typical (a stoplight momentarily interrupts the chase, for example). Not to mention a strange sequence where Tom is mistaken for a female by an amorous cat. Pepe Le Pew would be proud.

A seemingly helpful act from Jerry is anything but, as the overzealous mouse inflats Tom's body with an air pump, resulting in the classic "deflating balloon" gag.

Jerry saves Tom from an angry dog, proving that the two characters actually need each other, filling the void in thier otherwise meaningless existances.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tom and Jerry:1964

We all know that Tom is able to sing. He does so in "Solid Serenade" for example. The difference between that cartoon and "The Cat above and the Mouse Below", however, is that the former is actually entertaining.

Concert halls are also nothing new as a backdrop for Tom and Jerry's feuding. "Cat Concerto" and "The Hollywood Bowl" come to mind. The difference between those cartoons and this one? I think you know the answer.

Tom sings excerpts from "Barber of Seville", annoying Jerry, who lives beneath the stage. Jerry attempts many unfunny ways to silence Tom, including a rubber band and publically licking a lemon.

A plunger to the face and a sack to the head, which sends Tom crashing through the stage floor, result in Jerry concluding the opera, which is odd because I thought he was looking for peace and quiet.

It will only get harder for me to pick cartoons from this period because they are so unmemorable that I have forgotten what most of them are about, and I'm not really in the mood to watch them in order to find out. I've been a bit moody lately, folks. Bear with me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tom and Jerry:1963

As I said, I enjoy Chuck Jones films very much, but it is clear that he never quite knew what to do with Tom and Jerry. The films have that great Jones look to them but the stories are rather flat and they are anything but funny.

The title of Pent-House Mouse comes from the fact that Tom lives in a penthouse (and it conveniently rhymes with mouse, I suppose). A starving Jerry comes across an unwatched lunchbox at a construction site near Tom's house.

Typical construction site physics ensure that Jerry is dropped into Tom's waiting hand. Jerry escapes back to the work zone only to figure that Tom's mouth offers a more safe place to be.

There is a strange flyswatter sequence that needs no more attention here. Finally Jerry manages to dump Tom off the roof, into the construction site, where an out of control barrel ride lands the cat into a dog show. Offscreen violence ensues.

Jerry takes command of Tom's penthouse and should be grateful that ice cubes melt. Chuck Jones, Mike Maltese, Ken Harris, Ben Washam...what could possibly go wrong? Several things apparently.