Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Sittin' On A Back Yard Fence" (1933)

As long as we're on the subject of rare cartoons, I think it's appropriate to point out another really obscure one that deserves more attention.

First a brief history lesson. After creating and sustaining the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for over 3 years, Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising left producer Leon Schlesinger and his studio. They moved off to MGM, taking their star creation, Bosko, and lead animator, Friz Freleng, with them.

Searching for a quick way to get things back on track, Schlesinger turned to animators Tom Palmer, Earl Duvall and Jack King. Since they couldn't use Bosko, Palmer and Duvall came up with Buddy and debuted him in "Buddy's Day Out" (1933). The cartoon got sent back to Schlesinger by Warner Bros., and Palmer got the axe. Duvall managed to crank out three more Buddy films, which weren't bad, but not quite what Schlesinger and Warner Bros. had in mind. Schlesinger re-hired Freleng away from Harman and Ising shortly afterward. Duvall never appeared in the credits of a Warner cartoon again, and I think it was the end of his animation career.

Duvall will forever be associated with Buddy, But in addition to his Buddy cartoons, Duvall also directed two one-shot Merrie Melodies. His first, "Sittin' On A Back Yard Fence", is a standout. It's just as entertaining as the final Harman/Ising cartoons, a nice breather from Buddy, and has great music and animation. Unlike most of the Merrie Melodies, this one has a little bit more plot to it, and a better-than-usual attempt at interesting characters. There are some striking similarities between this and some of Bob Clampett's cat cartoons, particularly "Hep Cat" and "Gruesome Twosome", and this is a full decade prior! The cartoon opens as usual for the 30's...with a song. But unlike most, the song is key to the cats-in-a-love-tiangle plot and provides a nice backdrop for the "objects come to life" interludes. There's a great chase toward the end, between the cats and a bulldog...and some impressive animation of the cats getting tangled up in a rolling pin careening along the power lines, complete with some nifty camera angles. It sure beats the hell out of Duvall's boring second MM effort, "Honeymoon Hotel".

Because it's a musical, and so rarely seen, it didn't seem right to do a commentary over it. So here it is: In my opinion, Earl Duvall's best cartoon. "Sittin on a Back Yard Fence".

4 comments:

Lazlo25 said...

Since you thought it didn't seem right to do a commentary over "Sittin' on a Back Yard Fence", do you think I could do a commentary over that cartoon?

Anonymous said...

Des any one know who animated what in this cartoon?

Anonymous said...

Jack King animates the man whose nose enlarges when he snores and the cat singing Am I Blue.

Peter Gray said...

very funny cartoon..love the rolling pin on the telephone wire angles....very funny at the end with the baby kittens...rasp!! What a great cartoon.thanks for uploading it...

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