Friday, August 30, 2013

Pfish & Chip in: "Short Pfuse"

Directed by: Butch Hartman
Created and Written by: Butch Hartman, Michael Rann, Eugene Mattos
Layout Designer: Bill Proctor
Background Stylists: Tim Maloney, Leonard Robledo
Music: Bill Fulton
Voices: Butch Hartman, Bob Picardo, Jeff Bennett, Pat Fraley, Steven Calabro
Song "I'm Pfish - I'm Chip": Music by Joseph Rozum, Lyrics by Butch Hartman, Michael Rann, Eugene Mattos
Produced in Association with: Delaney and Friends Productions, Canada and Fil-Cartoons, Inc., Philippines.

(First things first: Big apologies for taking so long to update the blog for this entry. I searched every corner of the Internet for a good quality video of this short in order to take some decent screenshots, with no luck. I had to settle for some off-screen recording, rendering the screenshot quality of this entry really bad. Apologies for that as well.)

Okay, so after two shorts that were heavily focused on story and character, we move to one of the zaniest shorts in the run, where the entire premise is built upon explosions. Lots and lots and lots of explosions. This cartoon is pretty insane, borrowing part of its plot from a Tex Avery cartoon and several of its gags from other classic Looney Tunes stuff. However, at no point the short feels like a rip-off or plagiarism, since the setup and characters it uses definitely give this cartoon its own identity, resulting in a great homage to the classics.

Bomb Squad duo Pfish and Chip must defuse a bomb planted by the Mad Bomber, and when they fail to do so, they're lectured by their Chief, who decides to take a nap and now our two main characters must ensure isn't disturbed by any noise. I'm sure you can tell where this is going, as from this point on, the cartoon is basically a collection of jokes of Pfish and Chip having to get rid of several bombs the Mad Bomber sets all over the place, while making sure the Chief doesn't wake up. After numerous attempts, the short ends with a musical number, and the Chief finally wakes up.

Right off the bat you can tell the main influence of this short is the Tex Avery classic "Rock-a-Bye Bear", which is where pretty much the whole "Make sure the boss doesn't wake up" plot comes from. To be honest, I'm not sure why they felt they had to add this part of the story. In the Tex Avery original, it made sense since the whole cartoon was built around that. This short, however, is supposed to revolve around Pfish and Chip trying to stop the Mad Bomber, so the entire "Chief takes a nap" thing feels tacked on. It could have been taken out entirely and most, if not all of the gags would have worked just fine. Heck, during certain scenes, several bombs explode and the Chief is not even addressed, so you kinda forget this part of the plot is even there.

Besides that, there isn't much bad to say about the short. It's a great collection of explosion gags, and the fast pacing and great timing really makes everything shine. The gags come one right after the other, with the cartoon taking no breaks in between, and this is all combined with very good animation and some truly great facial expressions. This stuff, specially the latter, adds a lot to the execution of the jokes, because they make visually pleasant something that may sound cliché on paper. Look no further than the scenes involving the baby made out of explosives and the pizza delivery scene, which seem like obvious jokes, but Chip's reaction in the end totally sells those scenes.

There are some amazing shots in this cartoon, too. The opening scene is a great setup, with a vast establishing shot of the Big City and then zoom to our main duo at work. It does a good job at setting the mood of things to come, and also establishes the premise of the series and the two main characters. Another great scene is the one where several "side effect bombs" start going off, causing Pfish and Chip to transform into various "forms". It may look a bit like padding, but the constant, and sometimes unexpected changes keep the entire sequence interesting.

Oh, and the musical number. Yeah, we have one of those here. It's a really amazing montage, with a catchy song and gorgeous animation (easily the best of the whole cartoon). It's out of nowhere, but it does give the short a unique touch, as musical numbers certainly weren't common occurrences through WAC. I don't think there's another one until "Zoonatiks", and we don't see that short until very late in the run.

Perhaps the only other thing in this short I'm not a fan of is Chip's voice. It's not awful, mind you, but being voiced by Butch Hartman, it definitely feels like one of those cases where the only the creator can picture the right voice in his head, so he might as well voice the character. This is obviously not an uncommon practice, going all the way to Walt Disney voicing Mickey Mouse, and I've seen this being pulled nicely by other creators like John Kricfalusi, Seth McFarlane, and J.G. Quintel. Here, however, there are a lot of scenes where Chip's voice comes out unintelligible, with several pauses between words and a weird accent that sounds like gibberish (I'm still not 100% sure what his solo during the song is supposed to say). It's particularly notorious when contrasted to Bob Picardo's Pfish, who sounds as polite as you could get, and I understand this was probably the intention, but I still have a hard time figuring out several of Chip's lines. It's not terrible, but I feel they could have hired a more experienced VA to do the voice.

Despite a couple of isolated flaws, "Short Pfuse" is still a great cartoon. Good animation, good jokes, fun characters, it's an overall nice package that makes a great short. It's one of the more memorable shorts out of the ones that didn't become series, so the fact it didn't become one is quite a shame. We'll see Pfish and Chip later in the WAC run, but after that, that will be it for these characters.

And with that, this blog is 25% done.

I like the opening with Pfish and Chip trying to disarm a big bomb, with Chip asking for all kind of bizarre tools, ending with a duck. Like, what it's supposed to do? It does set up that this is a pretty absurd short, so it works in that context.

A job well done. I like that as Chip gives the thumbs-up, the stock sound for closing the Windows OS plays.


I like the picture of Pfish and Chip in the newspaper headline. They look so pathetic it's funny.

The Chief is not pleased. Pretty good animation in this scene.

Also like the part where Chip mocks Pfish by repeating his last line ("Think happy thoughts").

Great reaction here as the Mad Bomber replaces his coffee with a grenade.

Another good joke with Chip running with the bomb earmuffs, but having to stop when a traffic light tells him so. I love how he calmly stands there as the Mad Bomber walks by, Broadway style.

Side note, but why, oh, why does Chip wear bunny slippers? That's a really... random design choice.

The gag with the dynamite baby is kinda obvious, but Chip's expression in the end is what sells it. I love how long the last shot lingers before the baby explodes.

Another great expression with Chip realizing the bucket is a bomb.

Didn't mention this in the review, but the scene with Zoid the robot also has some nice animation.

The scene with the numerous bombs with side effects is probably what's most remembered about this short. Some of my favorites:

"Blues Bomb..."

Interesting that during Elvis Bomb, Chip's lines are done by Jeff Bennett, doing his Johnny Bravo voice.

Clown Bomb is probably a hint to the second Pfish and Chip short.

"Word to your mother"

Of course, Chicken Bomb.

And... Static Bomb. Heh.

This is probably my favorite shot of the scene where Chip snaps and tries to wake up the Chief. Looks a lot better in motion.

This is fantastic. After setting up the whole room with bombs, Chip asks Pfish for a match, when he simply responds "I don't smoke", Chip picks him and lights his head like a match. Easily the best gag of the cartoon.

As I mentioned, the musical numbers is great, and it definitely has the best animation of the whole cartoon. The timing with the music is all brilliantly directed.

And of course, we end with a joke like this one.