Friday, May 24, 2013

George and Junior in: "Look out Below"

Written and Directed by: Pat Ventura
Based on characters Created by: Tex Avery
Layout Artists: Mark Kausler, Robert Ramirez, Julian Chaney
Background Stylist: Victoria Jenson
Music: Peter Lurye
Voices: John Rubinow, Tony Pope, Rob Paulsen
Produced in Association with: Fil-Cartoons, Inc, Philippines and Jaime Diaz Productions, Argentina

This is a rather odd entry. Like "Stay Out", it uses existing characters, yet unlike that short, which was basically a Flintstones episode cut to seven minutes, this is an entire new take on an old favorite. Here, Pat Ventura borrows George & Junior from the late, great Tex Avery, adding his own signature jokes and character design. I know there are some purists out there who will scream "Sacrilege!" at the mere mention of this short, but I honestly have to say this is not a bad cartoon at all. In fact, it's a lot easier to sit through than "Out and About" is.

A Bird can't get his sleep because of a constantly blinking light bulb at the top of a transmission tower, so he destroys it. George and Junior are janitorial engineers in charge of making sure the light stays lit, so it's up to them to replace the bulb and keep the bird from breaking it. The whole cartoon is then basically a series of gags of George and Junior (well, mostly George) getting badly injured in their numerous, unsuccessful attempts to keep the lights on.

As stated earlier, this isn't a bad cartoon. The gags themselves are the standard stuff you expect from a Pat Ventura cartoon, but the reason this short works better than "Out and About" is that here, there's actually a reason for both sides to go against each other. The Bird wants to sleep, while G&J are simply doing their jobs.We obviously side with G&J, but we don't feel too bad when something bad happens to them, because it's either the Bird fighting back, or a plan backfiring because of Junior's own stupidity. In the end, G&J end badly injured and the Bird has to leave for a better home since he can't stand all the ruckus. No one wins, but for this short, it's a fitting end.

There are some gags here that work, like the whole scene with the cannon as it features some great animation and wild takes. There are a few others that aren't as good, like the part where George loses his nose and Junior tries to fix it by pumping it like a balloon. It's a bit on the gross side, even with the limited animation, but it's not TOO bad, and it's probably my least favorite moment in the short, so overall it's okay.

Pat Ventura also brings back the "Bend over, Junior" jokes from the original shorts (and really the only thing that connects to the Tex Avery cartoons). They're actually pretty well executed, specially the third one, which I'll get to in the screenshots section.

Special mention to John Rubinow and Tony Pope, who both do a very good job at voicing the title characters. At some points they sound very similar to Dick Nelson (who voiced both characters in the original shorts), but still giving the characters their own touch. They're not exactly like the originals, but they certainly do fit.

I'll definitely say "Look Out Below" is one of the best shorts so far. It's not perfect, but it's definitely a fun experience all the way through. Even if you are among the crowd that believe that the classic stuff from the 30s-50s era are sacred cows that shouldn't be touched, then maybe you should avoid this cartoon, but even then, it's a good cartoon on its own merits. Watch it with an open mind.

There's some good animation when the bird first smashes the light bulb. What I'm not a fan of is the music here is taken note by note from the opening scene from "Short Orders". It still fits, but it feels like cheating.

I love the looped animation of George spitting as he snores while taking a nap.

Now that's a big alarm. Something really bad must be going on.

Classic joke. Junior pops out of the small elevator carrying a loooooong ladder that obviously wouldn't fit in. George appears next carrying the other end.

Nice motions as George tries holding the shaking ladder while Junior climbs.

Funny, dumb expression on Junior as he ponders how to put the bulb on the socket.

Two nice expressions on the Bird. I love the first one in particular.

This entire scene is great. After the Bird pushes G&J down the building there are some great wild takes to go along. The second image really needs to be seen in motion.

Bend Over #1: Pretty standard.

Wow, George doesn't brush his teeth often.

"When I see the Bird, I light the fuse" Junior's expression here is hilarious.

This also needs to be seen in motion, but man, the animation here is amazing. This is another case of me not noticing certain expression until watching the scenes frame by frame.

Another hilarious expression on Junior.

Bend Over #2: George kicks Junior and his insides go through his mouth. Pretty gross.

Another great bit of animation is when George's nose explodes from the stick of dynamite.

Bend Over #3: This one is the best bit of the cartoon. First, George slooooooowly pulls down Junior's fur (a bug pops out) and gets a huge shoe ready (there's a realistic close-up here ala Ren & Stimpy). After that, and in a REALLY quick motion, he puts the shoe on and kicks Junior. The timing with the music is impeccable.

Two more great expressions on George as he falls to his doom and his butt catches on fire.

Bend Over #4: George simply kicks Junior from down the hole, but Junior's reaction is funny.

Well, I guess George got to let go his rage in some way.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sledgehammer O'Possum in: "Out and About"

Created, Written and Directed by: Pat Ventura
Layout Artists: Mark Kausler, Robert Ramirez, Julian Chaney
Background Stylist: Kathryn Yesla
Music: Peter Lurye
Voices: Faizon Love, Larry B. Scott
Produced in Association with: Fil-Cartoons, Inc., Philippines

This review probably won't be too long, as most of the talk will be done in the screenshots section. Pat Ventura is back with different characters and setup, but wackier and considerably more violent. In fact, this might very well be the most violent WAC short in the entire series. I'm not even going to bother dedicating a paragraph to summarize the plot, because all this cartoon is about is a possum (Sledgehammer O'Possum, who from now on will be referred as SH) physically abusing a dog (Dogg) in every way possible. He steals his lunch, hits him repeatedly in the head, makes him explode, fills his head with bees, and runs him over with a train.

And that's it. There's not much else to say about this short, other than the fact it's quite polarizing. I know several people who list it among their favorites, while others who can't stand the sight of it, and for good reason. It's quite disturbing seeing Dogg getting so horribly abused and bruised for seven straight minutes. He doesn't deserve any of it, and SH gets absolutely no comeuppance at the end. By all intents and purposes, I should absolutely hate this short... but I don't hate it. I mentioned in the "Short Orders" review that the vomit scene in that short wasn't as disgusting as it looked due to the limited animation and not-too-graphic style. That applies to this short as well, but in a much higher quantity.

If there is one thing Pat Ventura does great, is making his cartoons interesting to look at, and that is pretty much why this cartoon works. The poses, the wild takes, and the great timing of the gags are top notch, and once the cartoon starts going, it doesn't stop until the very end. It doesn't matter if Dogg gets beaten over and over again, you just don't care, because it's really the visuals that matter. I also need to mention Peter Lurye's score, which makes great use of classic music and is beautifully timed to the jokes.

Now, my review may look I'm overpraising the short, but I'm not. This cartoon really isn't meant for everyone, and I can clearly understand why people say they don't like it. As much as I love the timing and expressions in"Out and About", the cartoon is still nothing but an animal suffering physical violence for seven minutes. If you can appreciate a cartoon purely for its visuals, then definitely give this a shot, but if you can't stand cartoon characters being beaten all over the place without the villain suffering any sort of comeuppance, then stay far, FAR away from this short.

Nice use of squash and stretch when SH spots Dogg and his hot dog.

This is weird, but when SH steals Dogg's hot dog he moves his lips as he's saying something, but no words come out. I do recall that the Spanish dub added a line here ("Gimme that!" in Spanish), but no English version I've come across has any dialogue here.

Not sure why Dogg is so happy to give SH the mustard. He never asks for his lunch back.

Fun expressions here.

Nice animation in this scene as well. Dogg's expression in the first screenshot is my favorite.

There's kind of an interesting running gag here, with SH laughing with a different sound effect every time. Here he uses canned laughter.


Great, great, GREAT timing with Dogg chasing SH, but SH stopping him by pulling the front trunk of his car open.

I like Dogg's expression when SH passes him the fridge.

Another gag with amazing timing. I love the way Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" and Rossini's "Barber of Seville" are used here.

Clever joke with SH using the letters in "HA HA" to hit Dogg repeatedly in the head.

Another fun expression on Dogg when he thinks he killed SH.

Woah, GREAT wild take.

Fun little moment with SH pointing out the size of Dogg's club, followed by Dogg shockingly realizing this, complete with party horn sound effect.

SH then pulls out his own club and proceeds to beat Dogg in the head multiple times at the rhythm of Chopin's "Funeral March". Dogg asking SH what's he going to do with that club is hilarious.

The entire headless scene is pretty good, with some really great animation in certain spots. I do like it at the end when Dogg falls on his head gets it back, bouncing repeatedly until it sticks back.

The beehive scene is quite possibly the most disturbing scene in all of WAC. Just trying to imagine it gives me chills. Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody N°2" is put to great use here.

Poor Dogg. He went through all that abuse for the sake of the audience. His brain flying away is a nice touch.