Thursday, July 25, 2013

O. Ratz with Dave D. Fly in: "Rat in a Hot Tin Can"

Written and Directed by: Jerry Reynolds
Created by: Jerry Reynolds and Russ Harris
Animation by: Charlie Cooper, Andy Kuhn, Kyle Hayworth
Backgrounds Stylist: Andy Friz
Music: Jerry Reynolds
Voices: Harvey Korman, Marvin Kaplan, Nancy Dussault
Produced in Association with: Perennial Pictures Film Corporation, Indianapolis, Indiana.

So we move from a story-focused cartoon to another one, but this time, we exchange the 4th wall breaking jokes and inter-galactic setting for more character interaction and a more down-to-Earth plot and location. Add in some good use of humor, nice character animation, and absolutely wonderful voice acting, and you get a really good cartoon, and one of the best WAC shorts so far.

The premise here is our title characters trying out numerous ways to survive through a very cold winter. They try numerous ways to keep themselves warm, including trying to enter a shelter for the homeless, getting a blanket from a three-story clothesline, and trying to power up an electric heater. All of them end in failure, and our main characters have to find another place to spend the winter (much against their will).

There's actually a very nice feel to this cartoon. I've compared stuff to Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, and Jay Ward before, and if I had to do that with this short, I'll say this one is more like... DePatie-Freleng. The backgrounds seem quite inspired by Pink Panther cartoons, and it's great that despite being a winter setting, they manage to make them very colorful, with lots of details and eye candy to check out. The scene at the beginning inside O. Ratz's trash can has lots of objects that are fun to point out, including a newspaper with a rather interesting headline.

But what really shines about this short is the absolutely brilliant voice acting. Harvey Korman is great as O. Ratz, giving him a hilarious British gentleman accent, which is evident from the first moment he speaks ("My mother did not raise me to spend the winter in a garbage can"). It's a voice that fits perfectly with his character. Even better are his interactions with Dave, with a lot of the short's highlights being the conversations between the two ("Because I was born a humble rodent am I forced to wander these cruel street forever?" "Forever? Just a minute ago you said you wouldn't live through the night." "Either way, it ain't pretty."). It's also amazing how likable O. Ratz is, despite all the bad stuff that happens to him through the cartoon. He's just trying to survive, so you do sympathize with him, but his somewhat jerky attitude towards Dave also lets us laugh when something bad happens to him.

Perhaps the only thing about the short that's rather hit-or-miss is the humor. There are some really funny moments like O. Ratz getting an extension cord for his heater, but there are several scenes that end with O. Ratz getting run over by either a vehicle or a crowd of people. I guess it's supposed to be a running gag, but at the same time it feels like they forgot to add in a punchline and they just threw that joke in for lack of anything better.

All in all, O. Ratz is definitely among the best ones so far. It has a funny and likable duo for the main characters, it's well laid out and animated, and has some of the best dialogue and voice acting we've seen so far, definitely placing this short among the ones that deserve to be seen. It's too bad nothing ever came out of this short, but I guess that cements it as a really memorable one-shot.

Heh. That's actually pretty clever.

Some good animation with O. Ratz pulling the fly swatter and almost getting Dave. Also, check out the stuff he keeps around. A pizza box, newspapers, and a jar of something I prefer to think it's honey. I wonder what "GLO CUP" is, maybe one of those cups that glow in the dark? A bit desperate for a source of light.

I do like the part where O. Ratz gets his tongue stuck in the trash can's wall, followed by Dave pulling it off-screen and O. Ratz screaming. Also, check the newspaper headline "Mayor Vows to Wipeout Rats". Why would O. Ratz keep a newspaper with such a headline around?

Nice running animation on O. Ratz with the repeated feet.

More great dialogue. "Frankly I'm surprised street people are so sensitive to rodents." "Oh, shut up."

More great animation as O. Ratz climbs the drain. Also like how his plan fails by trying to jump to the roof but falling inside the drain instead.

This looks kinda painful. They could have tried adding some cracks to the brick wall, because as it is I feel disturbed imagining how O. Ratz's fingers and toes would end after this.

"'Why don't you just take the stairs to the roof?' Stupid fly, think of that before I got a brain concussion." I love how O. Ratz says the first line mocking Dave's voice, as for the rest of the line, well, you didn't think of it either, didn't you, O. Ratz?

Some nice squash-and-stretch as O. Ratz walks through the clothesline.

More great dialogue: "Your blanket seems to be frozen stiff." "Either that, or they used a cheap fabric softener."

For some reason I really like how this scene plays. It's not particularly funny, but there's a nice, warm feel to it that's really well executed. It seems O. Ratz finally will catch a break, but too bad it won't last long.

This is a great shot, as it shows the moment of defeat really well. Although they kinda overkill it with O. Ratz getting run by a car in the next shot. I think it would have worked better if they had just fade out on the screenshot above.

Some more good animation when O. Ratz trips on the heater buried in the snow. Also, this part is a great example of the colorful backgrounds despite the snowy setting.

I love the part where O. Ratz tries to pull an extension cord from a house, only to find out it's a mess of a tangled wire and he only makes things worse when trying to untangle it. The last shot above is hilarious.

And of course, Dave gives the wire a couple of gentle pulls and it gets miraculously fixed off-screen. It's absurd, but hilarious absurd.

I almost want to call this a "Getting crap past the radar" moment. There's no way any kids cartoon this day will get away with someone trying to put out an electric generated fire with a water hose. Great effects on O. Ratz getting electrocuted, too.

"Well, I hope that at least we're headed towards a warmer climate" "Don't count on it. I think I see penguins down there." Farewell, O. Ratz and Dave. Even if you didn't get a second outing, I hope you found some cozy cabin in the South Pole.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Adventures of Captain Buzz Cheeply in: "A Clean Getaway"

Created, Written and Directed by: Meinert Hansen
Layout Design: David E. Merritt
Background Design: Brian Anderson, David E. Merritt
Animation: Jean Lacombe, Mario Lord, Richard Vallerand
Music: Charles Guerin
Voices: Richard M. Dumont, Rick Jones, Paul Zakaib, George Morris
Production in Association with: Buzz Image Group Inc., Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Most of what we've seen so far in WAC has been heavily influenced by Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera, relying heavily on slapstick humor and visual gags. But along comes this cartoon, which despite its sci-fi setting, it's mostly centered on verbal humor and 4th wall-breaking jokes, borrowing lots of trademarks from Jay Ward cartoons such as George of the Jungle and Rocky and Bullwinkle. It's certainly not a bad thing, and I'm definitely not downplaying the previous shorts, but when compared to any of those, this cartoon is a real breath of fresh air as it not only tries to stand out, but succeeds at it too.

Captain Buzz Cheeply and his robot cadet Slide crash into a planet populated by Blubnoids, a race whose heads evolved faster than their brains. When the Blubnoids get a hold of Slide in order to transfer all his data to their brains and thus become a super race, Buzz must save his aluminum buddy, but not before taking care of his dirty laundry (literally). Fortunately for our heroes and the universe, Slide's database is nothing but useless movie trivia, foiling the Blubnoids' plan.

I'll start by saying that there's a lot going on in this short. In fact, I'm surprised they were able to condense it all into seven minutes and still have the cartoon not feel rushed. We have Buzz handling the two plots with him trying to find a place to do his laundry as well as having to rescue Slide, all this while checking on Slide and the Blubnoids. For its running time, it's pretty well streamlined, and the short never drags or gets boring. The constant jokes and witty dialogue certainly keep the viewer interested, and they're what pretty much move the whole cartoon. I could list a lot of them, but some of the most memorable moments in this cartoon are the 4th wall breaking jokes. The "Is this the end of our heroes?" card right at the start, the constant butt-ins by the Narrator (and Buzz later telling him to shut up), and of course, the scene where Buzz has to buy a replacement spaceship, which is easily one of the best 4th wall breaking jokes in history.

Perhaps the one downside to this cartoon is the animation. It's certainly not terrible, but there are several moments that seem like shortcuts were taken, like in most conversation scenes, when one character is talking, everyone else is standing perfectly still or barely moving. There are some nice expressions and poses here and there, but if it wasn't for the fact the dialogue and humor is very good here, this would be a pretty boring short.

The characters are funny and likable for the most part. I do like how Buzz puts personal hygiene over everything (even saving his robot teammate), and I also like how the Blubnoids are all identical, even to the voice (Paul Zakaib voices all of them) and the clothes they wear. There are subtle differences, like a high-class Blubnoid who wears a propeller-belt on his head to keep it from falling. Clever stuff.

As for Slide, I feel I should dedicate a whole paragraph to him. Slide is awesome. I love his design and voice, but specially how he manages to connect everything to some movie or TV show. I mean, he's a robot whose entire database is composed of movie and TV trivia. Is there any sort of geek out there who wouldn't love to have a sentient robotic version of TVTropes? It's like they were totally aiming it at the Internet crowd (who was in its early stages back then), but man, I just love that robot.

I will go more in detail on certain scenes and jokes in the screenshots section, but I can definitely say "A Clean Getaway" is among the good WAC shorts. It may not be an absolute masterpiece, but even its biggest drawback is nothing terrible. It's a fun ride from beginning to end, with funny characters and great use of humor, and still manages to tell an entertaining and clever story. Definitely give it a watch.

I have to wonder just how long has Buzz been wandering in space to accumulate so much dirty laundry.

After Buzz asks Slide what's going on in the spaceship, Slide says it could be like what happened in an episode of Star Trek before Buzz stops him and plugs him into the Robot Input (which seems to give Slide a better view of what's going on)

There's something stuck in the reactor. Should have seen coming it was something like this.

I do love the expressions here when Slide announces there's only two seconds before a total blackout, followed by the spaceship abruptly stopping and falling to the nearest planet.

The Narrator reads the above message, followed by Buzz saying "No...". Classic 4th wall breaking stuff.

I do like the fake out with the close-up of the wheels, followed by the rather dull reveal of the Blubnoids. It's actually pretty funny on execution, since you don't expect a group of guys that look like THAT.

Great expression on Slide here.

Fun moment when Buzz sells Slide for 50 bucks. Buzz looks like he made the best deal ever, but Slide is all "That's what I'm worth to you, you jerk?!"

Didn't talk about this in the review proper, but this cartoon probably holds the record for the most mentions of beer in anything Cartoon Network ever did (not counting Adult Swim, obviously). There's no way they could get away with a running gag like this one nowadays.

As mentioned, I love the scene where Buzz buys a spaceship, easily the best joke in the cartoon. All he can afford with the 50 bucks he got earlier is a ship so bad you can see the strings that keep it up. It's a great 4th wall joke, and to add to it, Buzz's expression when the strings break is priceless.

After Buzz gets another spaceship from the high-class Blubnoid, I love how the Beer & TV running gag even shows up in the spaceship's dashboard. If any of my faithful readers ever gifts me a car, make sure it has those buttons.

Some good dissolving animation as Buzz travels in the lightning-fast spaceship.

I'm not sure what causes the washing machine to explode when Buzz crams the laundry in. Guess there were too much toxic waste in those clothes. I do love his reaction after the explosion, though.

Hard to tell in pictures, but the animation on Buzz's arm when he's cutting the ropes on Slide is pretty interesting.

A couple of shots with great expressions on Buzz.

Perhaps the best bit of animation in the whole cartoon is the part where Buzz realizes the thing he's wearing to disguise as a Blubnoid is a bomb, so he instinctively hides inside Slide. Very fluid AND expressive. 

I do love the twist at the end where all the data the Blubnoids absorbed from Slide turns out to be useless movie trivia. As Slide states, they'll spend decades arguing about TV and movie crap nobody cares about. Ladies and gentlemen, Internet Forums before they became popular.