Monday, April 29, 2013

Dino in "Stay Out"

Story and Direction: Joseph Barbera
Teleplay by: Stewart St. John
Storyboard: Robert Renzetti
Layout Designer: Drew Gentle
Background Stylists: Jerry Loveland & Craig Robertson
Music: Gary Lionelli
Voices: Henry Corden, Frank Welker, Jean Vander Pyl
Produced in Association with Wang Films Productions Co.

Reviewing this short feels kinda strange. As you can tell by the title card, it's a Flintstones cartoon, so in a series supposed to showcase new cartoons made by young, aspiring cartoonists, this one feels like a cheater, as it uses established characters and the director himself has more experience (almost 60 years at this point!) than anyone else so far. The saddest part is, this short isn't very good. Also, one could argue this was a pilot for a Flintstones spin-off, but did we really need another of those?

Fred is going out bowling and leaves Dino with the task of keeping the cat out of the house. The cartoon is then pretty much a series of jokes involving the cat somehow making it back inside even though Dino keeps throwing him out. Every time the cat comes back there's a different gag that plays, such as the cat appearing on the TV, posing as Santa Claus and a baby, and appearing in the shower. Fred returns and sees the cat is still inside, so Dino tries to explain through gestures (easily the best animated scene in the short) what happened, but Fred doesn't buy his excuse. They all go to the shed so Fred can prove Dino didn't do his job, only to find the shed filled with identically-looking cats. Fred and Dino then go back to the house, but the cat is already inside, and has locked them out. The cartoon ends the same way the closing sequence of the classic series ends, except with both Fred and Dino banging on the door.

The concept of this cartoon is one that has existed for decades, which consists in one character trying to get rid or avoid another characters, but all attempts fail. This is something that Tex Avery conceived back in the classic years, going as early as the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Tortoise Beats Hare". He would later take this concept to MGM and immortalized it, most notably with the Droopy cartoon "Northwest Hounded Police". Now, I don't mind each director taking a shot at a classic concept, but one like this needs good jokes to go along, and this is where the episode falls flat. All the gags are either not funny (the tiger skin rug), rather dumb (the Baby scene), or go for way too long ("The Evil Guard Dog"). Heck, even the Dexter's Lab episode "The Continuum of Cartoon Fools", released a few years after this short, does this concept A LOT better.

There are also a few things that bug me about this short. First, Wilma is present in the short through one off-screen line at the beginning, then she never leaves the house. She's obviously there when all the ruckus between Dino and the cat is going on, but she never intervenes or does Dino make any attempts to make sure she's fine. Fred even calls for her at the end of the episode. Why not make a single establishing shot that shows her asleep with ear-muffs or something? Would have worked just fine and gotten rid of an inconsistency right away.

On another note, I love Frank Welker. The guy is a great actor with an unparalleled talent for doing animal voices... but his Dino just doesn't work. In the original series, Mel Blanc gave Dino a puppy-style voice which fit with the playful personality of the character, but Welker gives the character some sort of grunt, making him sound like a pig more than a dog. It's just not the same, and at some points it's rather annoying. I don't want to blame this entirely on Welker either, as he was likely directed to do it like this. I find it hard to believe he can't do puppy barks.

All in all, there isn't really much to say about this one. It's okay, I guess, but there isn't anything about this one that stands out, unlike the previous three shorts. There are a couple of gags that are mildly amusing, and a couple of cute shots, mainly of the cat, but other than that, I can't say I'm a big fan of this one. I probably won't bother watching it again now that this review is done.

This is a cute expression on the cat ("Who, me?") after Fred tells Dino he's a rather tricky one.

Funny face on Dino here as he tells Fred there's nothing to worry about.

This is a funny walk cycle. Needs to be seen in motion, obviously.

I also like the scene where Dino puts the cat out and opens and closes the door numerous times to make sure he's still there. I particularly like the part where he slooooowly closes the door.

This scene just went too long. In fact, when I first saw it, I thought the "THE END" sign meant the actual short was ending.

This part is really annoying. First, the cat reads the cards out loud as he shows them, which is redundant. Then, he keeps asking for things to eat he immediately rejects, although one could argue he's doing it just to screw up with Dino, but it still feels dub. Finally, Dino discovers the cat when he briefly lifts the baby hat to show the audience that it's really him, as if we didn't find out already.

As I said, this scene is the highlight of the short. The animation is a bit more fluid, and Dino does some great communication through gestures.

This is kind of an animation goof. Not only are the running cats obviously a looped sequence, but they look bigger than the one with Fred and Dino, and we've established they're all the same size (otherwise the running gag doesn't work).

I do like this part at the end, mainly because it always bothered me that at the end of the original closing credits, Fred never bothered to enter the house through the window, but here the cat actually closes it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yuckie Duck in "Short Orders"

Created, Written and Directed by: Pat Ventura
Layout Artists: Mark Kausler, Robert Ramirez, Julian Chaney
Background Stylist: Carol Wyatt
Music: Peter Lurye
Voices: Bill Kopp, Marsha Clark, Victor Love, Earl Kress
Produced in Association with: Fil-Cartoons, Inc., Philippines and Jaime Diaz Productions, Argentina

This is Pat Ventura's first WAC short, and I make note of this, because he will direct more shorts than anyone else in this series (six in total). His style is very distinctive in all of them, which is a good and a bad thing, because if you can enjoy a cartoon for its visuals, specially really wacky, wild takes, then Ventura's stuff could fit your tastes like a glove if you don't mind some gross stuff tossed here and there. If you value plot and characters over everything, well, you might want to look somewhere else.

Yuckie Duck works at a café as both the cook and the sole waiter. After making what seems to be the most disgusting soup in the world, he has to make a Limburger cheese sandwich for a customer, which requires using the most stinky piece of cheese from the depths of the fridge. Said piece of cheese is so putrid it's actually alive, so this causes a chase sequence where Yuckie attempts to capture the runaway cheese. Eventually he does and delivers the customer his sandwich, but he can't even get to eat it without being repulsed by the horrible stench.

Later, a second customer (Dora according to the credits) arrives and asks for a steak. This leads to what's without a doubt the highlight of the cartoon, which is a sequence where Yuckie tries to cut the incredibly hard steak using every tool at his disposal, but failing miserably with every try. The last attempt involves wrapping the steak around a stick of dynamite, but even that proves a failure when it blows up on Dora's face, steak still intact. Dora demands compensation for the horrible service, and the Manager offers anything on the menu for free. She asks for duck soup, and of course, Yuckie serves as the duck.

"Short Orders" is not a bad cartoon, but as you can tell from the synopsis above, it's not hard to realize it focuses mostly on gags and visuals, with the characters serving mostly as setups for Yuckie to do all sort of crazy stuff. The first two minutes have Yuckie making a soup out of all kinds of disgusting ingredients, plus a chicken submerging his butt into the pot, which is apparently his one job at the restaurant. Yuckie finally tastes the soup and vomits the whole thing (not as gross as it sounds) and flushes the remains from the pot like a toilet. This entire scene seems to go too long at around two minutes, and it doesn't have any repercussions to the rest of the cartoon, so it's all just exposition.

The cheese chase sequence has some amusing bits in it, such as Yuckie getting kicked (literally) by the horrible stench of the cheese, and him finally capturing it with a knife, but the best part of the cartoon, and what saves it from being an okay short at best, is the whole "cutting the steak" scene. It's an incredibly fast-paced sequence with amazing timing, and the constant wild takes and great looped animations really make it stand out. It's hilarious watching Yuckie pulling tons of weapons out of nowhere, specially as some of them make very little sense, like when he shoots an arrow. It's a long sequence, but it's definitely up there as one of my favorite long sequences in animation of all time. It's brilliantly done.

Special mention to the music score, which, while nothing too spectacular, definitely fits the mood of the short well. The best moments are the opening scene, since it's completely silent we can appreciate the deli-style music nicely; and of course, the aforementioned steak sequence near the end. The music in that scene builds up greatly, since it starts running faster and faster, and it's timed flawlessly to every time Yuckie hits the steak.

"Short Orders" will not win any awards for its writing and characters, but if you can enjoy a cartoon for its visuals and you like wild takes and exaggerated expressions, then this short may be up your alley. You may or may not like it, but definitely give it a chance.

Okay, that's definitely something I would never want to eat. As mentioned earlier, this whole sequence feels like filler, but I suppose it works to establish what type of restaurant this is.

This would be really gross in most cartoons out there, but the more limited animation actually makes it easy to sit through.

This is a clever joke with the customer screaming"Waiter!" and the word literally  travels from the dining room to the kitchen and hits Yuckie in the head. These jokes with words being seen on screen are kind of a Pat Ventura trademark, as he'll use them in all of his shorts.

I like when Yuckie takes Limburger cheese sandwich order, he scribbles on the note pad and keeps going, scribbling on thin air.

The part where Yuckie first opens the lid to the tray holding the cheese and the horrible stench escapes is pretty good, with the odor forming the shape of a shoe and kicking Yuckie in the face. By the way, the last screenshot above lasts for only one frame, but it adds a lot to the animation.

I love this part. Yuckie hides behind a wall and catches the cheese with a knife. The look of satisfaction in the last shot is great.

The ending of the cheese sandwich scene isn't very good, though. The joke is that every time the customer gets the sandwich close to him, he inhales the stench and his toupee will rise (with a vacuum sound effect). Yuckie then forces the toupee down, writes the check and runs away. The a rat steals the sandwich. Kinda lame.

I remember when watching this short for the first time, Dora slowly lowering the menu lead me to believe she she had a regular face, but then she reveals that huge chin and I was like "woah!". I don't know if this was an intentional fake out, but if it was, they executed it nicely.

Also love Dora's exaggerated screams when she calls the waiter.

Another funny scene when Yuckie opens the freezing fridge.

Probably the best way to cut a steak.

I love how Yuckie cleans the filthy steak after picking it up fro the floor. First, remove the hairs.

Blow it a bit...

A little rub over here...


Ah, what the heck, I'll post the whole "cut the steak" sequence.

Butcher knife's no good.

Or a sword.

 Or a saw.

The chainsaw ends up exploding.

Not sure what this is, but it doesn't work either.

I love how Yuckie pulls all the strong weapons, followed by a bow and arrow. As if THAT will do any good.

This one is hilarious in motion.

I love how you still see his teeth here.

Love the guillotine. So dumb

These three are my favorites and I love they're next to each other and the timing is perfect. The gun in particular is so ridiculous it's amazing.

This should do the trick.

Look out!

Well, that was a fluke.

Love how the Manager's mouth moves sideways as he speaks.

Kinda sucks that after a great climatic sequence, the short ends on a rather predictable joke. Oh well, see you in your next cartoon, Yuckie!