Monday, December 23, 2013

George and Junior's Christmas Spectacular

Written and Directed by: Patrick A. Ventura
Based on Characters Created by: Tex Avery
Layout Artists: Mark Kausler, Andrew Bialk, Miles Thompson
Background Stylists: Kathryn Yelsa, Jonathon Goley
Music by: Peter Lurye
Voices: John Rubinow, Tony Pope, T.K. Carter
Produced in Association with: Fil-Cartoons, Inc., Philippines

Interesting how the first characters to get a second entry at WAC are among the ones that weren't created for WAC. Here we have George and Junior's second and final outing, in a cartoon that doesn't break from the norm you'd expect from a Pat Ventura cartoon. It has a simple setup, then the whole thing rides on gags. This is also the only short in the entirety of the series that is Christmas themed, so we have a timed review to boot. Yeah, that's totally the reason why I spent so much time procrastinating with this blog. Sure.

George and Junior, now as mailmen or mail... bears, I guess, arrive at the North Pole with a letter for Santa. However, Santa has just left to deliver the yearly presents and since that letter Santa didn't get to read means some kid won't get what he wanted, Head Elf Steve appoints George and Junior to deliver the last present. All they need to do is sneak into the house and leave the present by the Christmas tree. Should be easy, if it wasn't for the fact there's a vicious dog guarding the house. After a bunch of numerous gags, most of them ending in pain for our heroes, it turns out the present was for Greta (the Dog) all along. Santa then shows up and thanks George and Junior for helping him and gives them a cute kitty as their present. Everything looks like a happy ending until the kitty turns out to be vicious as Greta.

There isn't really much to say about this short that I haven't addressed in previous Pat Ventura cartoons. The plot is set up, we get several minutes of gags, then the cartoon is over. This of course, is not necessarily a bad thing since this short does make great use of wild takes and slapstick all the way through. It starts off a bit slow, with the rather lengthy and talky sequence of Steve explaining George and Junior why they must deliver the present. A lot of it seems unnecessary and it could have been trimmed down a bit, and it doesn't help the expressions aren't particularly interesting during this point.

But it gets better as it goes along. Ventura really shows his skills at coming up with unique, over-the-top expressions and wild takes, as well as great gags to go along (He even takes a couple of traditional Tex Avery jokes and adds his own style to them). Once the action starts, the cartoon doesn't stop until it's over, giving us a very frantic short with lots of laughs to be had and interesting stuff to look at. Perhaps the one thing I don't like about this short are a couple of gags that revolve too much on toilet humor (some of which isn't really necessary in context) which could be a bit gross for some people, but outside of that, this cartoon works for the most part.

Kudos to Peter Lurye for making great use of classic Christmas tunes as part of the score of this short. In particular, the use of "Jingle Bells" as George and Junior ride the sleigh is fantastic, leading to probably the best gag in the cartoon. I'll go in detail in the screenshot section, but there's some amazing timing right there. On the voice acting, John Rubinow and Tony Pope still do a good job as the title characters, with T.K. Carter doing a serviceable job as Steve and Santa.

In the end, George and Junior's Christmas Spectacular is not spectacular by any means, but it does a good job at making the viewer laugh, plain and simple. It's pretty standard as far as Pat Ventura cartoons go, but I definitely like this one better than "Out and About" at least, and probably on the same level as "Look Out Below". Unless you really despise toilet jokes, give this one a shot. Merry Christmas!

I do like the contrast here with George freezing while Junior doesn't seem to care.

Not sure if it was necessary to introduce this character like this. It's Santa's Toy Shop at the North Pole, so it's pretty obvious this guy is supposed to be an elf.

As I said, Steve's speech at the beginning goes a bit too long. These are the only expressions I find remotely interesting.

We do follow with some great mouth movements on George. Ventura never disappoints with this stuff.

Steve snaps his fingers (with an almost explosion-like sound) and these elves slide into the screen. I swear some of these guys look familiar, specially the one on the far left.

I remember this scene was used in the promos for this cartoon, so it always stuck with me as the most remembered shot in the whole cartoon. The screenshot is here to help me remember more, I guess.

I like the sleigh taking off like a car, but there's a huge animation cheat here with the reindeers being tied one-on-one first, but in pairs while they're flying. Also the blue-nose reindeer is missing in the flying shot. He will show up again in the next shot, even.

This does lead to my favorite moment in the short, however. George & Junior arrive at the house they're supposed to and land on the roof. "Jingle Bells" has been playing through the whole scene, and as we pan to the other side of the roof where the sleigh is about to fall off the edge. Here, the verse "Dashing through the snow..." plays very slowly and with a "wah wah" tone to it, right before the sleigh with G&J and the reindeers fall to the ground. The timing is just perfect.

Now that's a really long arm.

This is great. George is calmly waiting for Junior to drop until he realizes he's about to fall on him. His expression in the first image kinda looks like something from Ren & Stimpy.

Of course, we get a "bend over" joke. The bouncing effect here (complete with bouncing ball sound) is great.

This is what I mean by toilet humor that feels unnecessary. Did they really have to add that urine puddle?

Weird how Greta imagines the people who broke in as George and Junior as robbers, even though she hasn't seen their faces yet. The joke would have worked better if they would've used a cloaked figure or something.

Another great expression, this time using extremely angled figures.

Never noticed before the toy horse Greta rides becomes "alive" when she jumps on it. Heh.

Easy joke, but I do like the animation of George and Junior after the big bell falls on top of them.

Another joke I feel went a bit too far, although it's not too bad.

Nice walking loop with George and Junior tip-toeing around the house.

Another incredibly exaggerated expression. Good stuff.

Yet another variant of "Two guys run around a hall while a third guy keeps hitting the wrong guy as they pass." Also nice attention to detail with Junior hitting George six times and thus he gets six lumps on his head.

Second and final "Bend over" gag. They sure went all out with it.

Pretty much all that was left for an exaggerated expression. DAMN.

Another cheat here with Junior sawing a hole in the roof that becomes a lot smaller in the next shot. Great expressions on George, though.

Now THIS is how you do toilet humor right. Greta's present turns out to be a hydrant, so she takes it to the bathroom and locks herself in, but quickly reopens the door to pick up a book from the nearby shelf.

I'll admit, this is probably one of my favorite Santas.

Definitely not the gift they expected. Maybe next year, guys!