Thursday, 3 March 2016

"3-D House Of Ducks"

On the last day of grade five, I was devastated upon learning that I would not be in the same class as my friends. When I was outside I saw Mr. McDonald, Ian's father waiting for him. I smiled politely not to reveal my disappointment over what had happened. My motive this semester in being studious was that I could be with my friends. I was completely crushed, but my mother was able to fix it that I would be with them. Once it was confirmed that I was in Mr. Pugh’s class, I immediately dialed Ian to let him know of the good news.

One day I had to run some errands with my father at “Northland Mall”. I went inside “Comic-Kazi” to see if by chance they had back issues from the Gladstone II era. The clerk told me there were no back issues, but he would take a look at the stock room to see if there were any. When he came back, he held a copy of “Maharajah Donald”, which was this year’s “Free Comic Book Day” offering. He told me there was a spare issue leftover. I asked him how much the price was? He told me it was - free. Then I had to clarify what he meant by - free - as I was dumbfounded that he gave it to me.

This was the first I discovered of the then-new publisher, Gemstone Publishing, having acquired the Disney comics license. Be still, my beating heart I had a ransom list of Carl Barks’ stories for reprinting. (Look at us now with Fantagraphics reprinting Carl Barks and IDW printing current Disney comics!) We went to the Nose Hill branch of the Calgary Public Library. When I was looking for an animation-related book, I was stopped in my tracks by one on the shelf – “Donald Duck: 50 Years of Frustration”. What ducky surprises I had that day! I imagined this was might have felt like to be on a streak of good luck, like Gladstone Gander. During that month, I was mesmerized by the facts that were printed here. I appreciated how well the book covered his life in animation and comic-books. The smattering of photographs of animation-director Jack Hannah, voice artist "Ducky" Nash, and Carl Barks was icing on the cake. This was LONG before the days of YouTube, where one could type in the cartoon you had never seen. I was in heaven as I saw stills from many Donald shorts. I spent many days drawing many pictures from here.

The following week, Ian called me over to his house. Ian skateboarded around the block while I rollerbladed. Then we played Nickey-Nickey-Nine Doors. Ian, the instigator of the game was having the time of his life watching me as I went door to door. I was fretting about getting caught by the time the homeowner arrived at the door. There was one house with a staircase; I was worried of falling flat on my face while walking hurriedly down the steps as I wore my rollerblades.

Early one day the DUCKTALES episode “Attack of The Metal Mites”. It was great seeing how Fenton without his Gizmoduck suit removed the metal mites by using his intelligence. I had wanted to see what I believed to be was the final episode of the show.

Later that day while I was channel surfing, I stopped at one channel showing a clip of Donald lighting his pile of leaves ("The New Neighbor", 1952). That clip was one of plenty excerpted in the special "DOWN AND OUT WITH DONALD". Thankfully I had a spare video to record it. The “duck-umentary” was similar in the vein of 60-Mintues tracing the life of Donald after a career-ending incident.

I was giddy when it was airing on the Family Channel that I called my dad at the office to tell him of the news. Among the artists whose music aided to the soundtrack of this special were: “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt was over a montage of clips showing his breakup with Daisy, Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5” played over clips of him trying new careers, Steppenwolf’s blaring hit “Born To Be Wild” went over old clips of him vacationing, and lastly Weird Al’s farcical song “I Want a New Duck” coincided with his temper under control.
The selection of clips to the songs lyrics was appropriate. The lyrics from "Nine To Five" - "..Yawnin', stretchin', try to come to life" complement the bleary-eyed Donald. His comatose expression is what comes to mind when I wake up early. 
I identified most of the cartoons that were excerpted in the special. The “duck-umentary” cleverly intertwined clips from old Donald shorts sometimes with new voice over. For example, when he was returning from his vacation, he heard one radio announcer (Paul Frees) about him heading into parts unknown; he switched to another station I heard the nasal tones of Harry Shearer using a voice that he used for the irritating radio hosts on THE SIMPSONS.
Another set of lyrics, "They just use your mind and you never get the credit" perfectly accompanied the scene from "How To Have An Accident At Work" (1959).
 Donald's mind blanking out, with his shrunken pupils, encapsulates when I would lose focus in elementary school.
I recognized Stan Freberg was the narrator, as he employed the same voice on Disney’s “The Wuzzles”. He was perfect as narrator, as he had quips throughout the special about Donald’s behavior. “Donald had survived the greatest challenge of his career, never again will he lose his temper, and if you believe that you will believe a duck can talk. Not that clearly mind you but that’s the way it is.”

Spencer invited me to join him, his sister Megan, and his cousin Matt to “Calaway Park”. It was a very enjoyable time waiting in line for the rides. I recall pointing out a roof covered in pieces of gum. On the way back my mom took me to the Dalhousie branch of the now defunct Roger’s Video. I picked up “Cartoon Classics: Chip N’ Dale” so I could finally view the cartoon “Trailer Horn”. The music, in the beginning, was serene when Chip and Dale were sleeping. Donald repeatedly blasted the chipmunks with his horn was amusing.
I joined my mother and our neighbor for a walk to the library.  I preferred to ride on my scooter to there. Initially, it was relaxing, but as I descended the steepness of the slope made it extremely nerve wrecking. Had I passed through the difficult part of my excursion? Not by a long shot my friends. What lay ahead was gravel that aided in scraping my knee on the asphalt. I limped all the way back home. Later I went with my mom to “Roger’s Video” and rented “Cartoon Classics: Donald & Daisy”. I was exhausted from that event I went to bed early.

The first thing I did when I woke up was to view the video. In “Donald’s Double Trouble” the animation of Donald in the telephone booth exploding on the other end, as Daisy slammed the telephone was animated very well. It symbolized how explosive their relationship was at that time. Donald’s doppelganger eyes bulged upon seeing Daisy’s picture, reminded me of the wild “takes” that characters in Tex Avery’s cartoons exhibited. Donald’s repulsed reaction increasingly grew each time Daisy advanced on his double was coupled by a ringing sound effect, which effectively conveyed his infuriation. The ending of him hugging his double on the “Tunnel Of Love” was hilarious, but a bit racy. My sister joined me towards the end of the cartoon she remembered seeing it in her childhood. The short was followed by an interstial of Daisy showing Jiminy Cricket Donald’s diary, which led to the eponymous short. I found it odd hearing Russi Taylor voicing Daisy then it switched to June Foray voicing her.  
An example of one of the bridging sequences repurposed with new voice over. 
It was one of the more “adult” Disney cartoon I recall viewing. It was odd hearing Donald’s narrative voice being sophisticated and articulate.  Daisy in contrast to her earlier appearances was redesigned with her hair in a stylish bun, her color was peach, and she seemed bustier.
From "Donald's Diary" (1954) a smoking (!) Daisy with her lingerie scattered over the partition door was one of many scenes that seemed odd to a twelve-year-old me. 
Later she introduces him to her brothers, who suspiciously looked like Hewy, Dewy, and Louie. I could not discern if they were to be new characters or Donald’s nephews. The color palate for the 1950s backgrounds looked stunning. Donald’s closing thoughts are among his most eloquent: “I was born when I kissed her and died when we parted… but I lived for a little while.”
The beige skies, the hues of read, and charcoal grey contrast each other.  The architecture behind her captures the era of fifties San Fransisco. 
Many of the modern-esque backgrounds of Ralph Huttlett. The subdued color choice in this scene add to the romantic mood. 
I did not understand the satire of a married life; as a result, many jokes passed over my head for example: When Donald and Daisy carved their initials in a tree. The camera pulls back to reveal that her previous boyfriends have etched their names on the opposite side of the tree. Daisy noticed that her engagement ring changed color. Who can’t forget the scene when he sees her bride with curlers drinking coffee? As the flavor of wine enhances with age, this cartoon appealed to me once I turned thirteen.

The series get well cards I dew for my grandmother.
I drew a series of get well cards for my grandmother, who underwent a hip replacement. I gave the drawings to my mother when she was going to visit her. When my mom was not at home it was a lot of fun. I would wake up late in the afternoon, have breakfast, go through my math questions, surf on the Internet on websites about Carl Barks, and read comics.
The first drawing while my mother was away. Based on a Donald Duck pillow I had.
One morning I was chipper I woke up early, then I tried to solve some math questions, and did some drawings of Donald.  While I was waiting for my dad to wake up I watched “Sing Yourself Silly!” one of my SESAME STREET videocassettes. Ernie singing “The Honker Duckie Dinger Jamboree” and  “Put Down The Duckie” was just as ducky when I was three. The later song was impressive for the celebrities included in the montage; among them were Paul Simon, John Candy as Yosh Shmenge, and Andrea Martin as Edith Prickley. Later in the day we were sketching, he showed me his renditions of Batman complete with a square jaw and a perfect Gyro Gearlose in pastel. His method of drawing was drawing an outline then breaking the face into four quadrants.
As a three year old, I wondered who this bizarre man twirling the clarinet was. Who could imagine that I would encounter a person relate to him. Listen to Yosh Shmenge!
The following week to keep me occupied on Saturday when my sister and dad would be out. I went with my dad to “Blockbuster” and checked out a Three Stooges tape entitled “Dizzy Doctors. I was tempted to watch it immediately, but my dad suggested that I wait until tomorrow. Instead, we viewed another installment in Blake Edward’s canon of Pink Panther films “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976). 
The relations between Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) and former Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) are tense. Peter Seller's exaggeration of Clouseau's French accent was mirthful. 
I was eager to view “Goofs and Saddles” one of the shorts on that videocassette, as I had seen a snippet from the short of Curly in the bandwagon when it was included in the compilation “Stop, Look, and Laugh” (1960). Those boys looked “mighty purty” with their long hair and mustaches. The boys attempt to cheat during the poker game was fun. The highlight was when Moe and Curly who each had two aces and attempted to pass cards to each other, only they each hand each other their own aces! The climax was exciting as they escaped from Longhorn Pete’s saloon; I vividly recall Moe and Larry jumping from the window onto the covered wagon.

The dollar signs on Curly's apparel reminded me of you know. 
One of the highlights was when Ian would return from his cabin in Invemere, B.C. We took turns arranging a sleepover at each other’s house. When we were deciding which film we should view, I already had in it mind based on a conversation in grade three. When we had not known one and other closely, I brought up the topic about who his favorite comedy teams were. I asked him if he had ever seen The Three Stooges? He replied that they were one of his favorites. As I recalled the events of a Stooge short, “Tassels In The Air”, he interjected the scenes he found to be humorous. Especially Curly’s wild expression whenever he saw tassels, and how Moe and Larry would calm him with a brush. He later told me that he was related to John Candy. I raved about how it was awesome to have had him as a relative. Had I known of John Candy’s sycophantic character William B. Williams that he played on “SCTV”, I would have clapped my hands and have laughed cheaply. Come time to when we were planning our sleepover, the question about what film to watch came up. I suggested Mel Brooks’ film “SpaceBalls” (1987) because I knew he would enjoy it as much as I did. Once I mentioned that it stared Mr. Candy he was inclined.
A slight addendum, a couple of years when I religiously watched The Three Stooges on the weekends, (or as I called it "Stooge Saturday and Sunday") "SCTV" would precede it. I always liked the fast opening that would show a clip of the cast member, then shrink to reveal four squares with the characters he/she played. When I heard that theme, with televisions being tossed about, it was a signal that I was half-an-hour away from the slap-stick antics of The Three Stooges. 

From watching the opening I was aware that John Candy was a regular on the show, although I never paid attention to the characters he played. During my conversation with Ian, this screenshot was in my mind as I relayed the credits of his relative to him. 
On the way to his house, my sister and I were listening to Petula Clark’s hit, “Downtown” in the car. I could not help but recall Groundskeeper Willie’s off-key rendition in “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”. As we passed “Marion Carson Elementary” I pretended as if I was revisiting it after a long period, as Uncle Scrooge did in the DUCKTALES episode, “Back To The Klondike” I always enjoyed being in the company of Ian’s family. His mother, sister, and father exuded warmth once you entered. It was a glorious time once I dropped my duffel bag into his room. I was skittish about taking the upper bunk bed as I had a fear of it collapsing, as I had seen the repercussions once Curly lied down. Ian was beaming with enthusiasm about the television that was in the basement was now in his room. He showed me the VHS releases of “Bart The General” and “Bart The Daredevil”. We were two pals without a care in the world.
The home where my late friend, Ian McDonald resided. Many's the time we would walk back from school to here. It was always filled with many merry moments. In my minds eye, I can see the arrangement of all of the rooms.
First we went to his backyard, bounced on his trampoline yelling “Tramp-amp-oline” as Homer referred to it. Then we took turns swinging from a tree and landing on the trampoline.  Once we were exhausted, we headed to Ian’s room where we watched “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”, the very episode I had in mind earlier today. I can never forget watching it on his television with dials to the side. When I listen to “Baby On Board” it opens a flood of memories.
Bounce after bounce propelled to enormous heights of ecstasy. The panel from "The Unsafe Safe" (1960) by Carl Barks is what I pictured when I rebounded from the trampoline. I imagined that this must have been what Uncle Scrooge experienced.
After a scrumptious super of our favorite meal, Macaroni and Cheese, we then went to Roger’s Video to look at what another film to rent.  Back when VHS had not been yet phased out it was neat to see the array of titles down the aisles. When we came back we started our movie night. On the videocassette where I taped “SpaceBalls” the DUCKTALES episode “Robot Robbers” preceded it. Towards the end of the episode, Ian told me that Flintheart Glomgold reminded me of him. I was surprised as he was the most despicable of Carl Barks’ creations.
This was the exact point where Ian told me that Flintheart Glomgold reminded him of me. I was touched by his enthusiasm for my interest. Isn't it funny, how I think of him when I watch this scene in particular.
We snacked on popcorn and drank Coca-Cola while viewing “Spaceballs”. The both of us delighted in Mel Brooks’ spark of humor, from the many meta-references in his film (Dark Helmet obtaining a bootleg copy of the film to find out what to do next), Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) using “the Schwartz” to crush their testicles, the many expletives uttered by many of the characters. Early in the film, Lonestar and Barf owe a debt to the major gangster, Pizza the Hutt. We liked how the villain's name was an allusion to our favorite dining place. Pizza the Hutt's costume was believable with the gooey cheese and the steaming toppings. The rapport between Barf (John Candy) and Lonestar (Bill Pullman) echoed that of our friendship. The final scene of Dark Helmet, Colonel Sandurz, and President Skroob leaving the escape pod elicited chuckles until our stomachs ached. In typical Mel Brooks fashion, it was complete anarchy with everyone running for the Escape Pods in the film's climax — the orchestra, a variety of circus freaks, and even a bear.
John Candy's sincerity radiated with such lines as " I'm a mog: half man, half dog. I'm my own best friend! "
The next day Ian’s aunt took us to the science center. On the way there we had an interesting conversation about which comedians were Canadian. She asked us if we were familiar with Jane Goodal, as we were going to watch a documentary on her. Ian said that Jane Goodal was known for her exploiting monkeys in order to unearth diamonds. She asked him where he had learned that from, he said it was from an episode (“Simpsons Safari”) of THE SIMPSONS where the family won a trip to Africa. We were all laughing as he described what happened. It was tremendous fun playing around the various exhibitions over there such as building Lego cars and racing them, a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption that allowed you to control where a ball would land. I admired how hospitable Ian’s family treated me when I stayed over at their house. It was a fun couple of days spending with him.

What happened on the faithful day of Monday, September 1? I was treated to a meal of teriyaki chicken that was on the BBQ prepared by my father, served by a side of rainbow tortellini smothered with a rich alfredo sauce that my sister made.

That night, from the Abbeville book of Uncle Scrooge stories, we read out loud together – “McDuck Of Arabia” (1965). It was one of the Uncle Scrooge stories in his collection. There was agitation when the Hassan Ben Jaild threatened Huey with his weapons. I always liked how ingenious Huey was arranging the rocks in the shape of an arrow when he was kidnapped.
I liked the movement in the first panel of Hassan twirling his revolver. In the second panel of him drawing out a sword with the "toing" sound effect adds to the ominous nature. 
In the second tier, Huey's anxiousness and the shading behind him convey his plight.
We thought the Junior Woodchucks was an appropriate organization for Donald’s nephews, as their resourcefulness was utilized. In this story, it was demonstrated by Dewey and Louie in collaboration with the Arab division of the JWs, named, the Desert Patrol Six Four Six rescue the kidnapped ducks. We liked the witty name of the villain – Sheikh Hassan Ben Jaild. Carl Barks design of the sneering pig villain with – snout and beard worked well with Hasan Ben Jaild’s unscrupulousness.
Two years later I had the pleasure of briefly experiencing a sandstorm in Kuwait, I could relate to the one  Don and Scrooge were in.  
Carl Barks’ drawing was stellar as ever. His expressions for the dehydrated Ducks as they cross the desert made me feel what I was like as Uncle Scrooge and Donald crossed the “three-hundred miles of emptiness”. The portrayal of a full-scale assault of Uncle Scrooge and the Bir Shebans made me feel is if I were there. Not a bad way to end Labour Day on.
Uncle Scrooge's caption made me imagine the glittering surface of the land of Bir Sheba.
Seeing Sheikh Arrabi mentioning the deity, I worship Allah was cool. It made me appreciate the lengths Carl Barks  devoted into researching his stories.

The following morning as my dad was leaving for work, I mentioned second bottom tier, where Uncle Scrooge would not sacrifice five cents when they could drink for free at the hotel.  It got a chuckle from the both of us.
As I went to bed that night, I lay awake for most of the night thinking what wonders of the school year were in store. I also thought about how I was anxious the previous year when I looked at the class list and found out I was not in the same class as my friends. As I couldn't sleep that night I would talk to my dad about the supporting characters in Disney comics (i.e. Daisy Duck). It reminded me of SESAME STREET where Ernie would keep Bert awake at night.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

"My Favourite Duck"

One afternoon at "Marion Carson Elementary" I had a minor scuffle with a student during a soccer game. When I came back from school I felt a sense of melancholia. Later I went to the “Nose Hill Library” with my father. I was browsing for a book about my favorite comic book artist, Carl Barks. Unable to locate what I wanted, I went to the information counter and asked the woman if there were any books on Carl Barks. She was not knowledgeable about comic books, however she redirected my query to Joey one of her associates who was on an expert on that field. 

Immediately we struck up an enlightening conversation about Carl Barks, that I recall to this day. He had told me how Barks’ identity remained a mystery to his readers. However many readers recognized Barks’ work and drawing style, and began to call him the “Good Duck Artist”. One way I could verify that it was his story, was how his wife Gare Barks, when lettering his stories would leave the circle on exclamation marks closed. We talked about how both Don and the nephews differed from the cartoons and the comics. He could not stand how the character was constantly squawking and there was no rationale to his anger. It was very difficult to understand him and the nephews. We had talked about Paul Murry's creation of Super Goof who would eat goobers to attain his powers. How adventurous Mickey Mouse was in Floyd Gottferdson's comic strips. He told me about non related comic book series i.e. Marge’s “Little Lulu and Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”.

My knowledge of the creations Carl Barks was known for lacked. I assumed he had created, Donald’s nephews, Daisy Duck, Grandma Duck, and Ludwig Von Drake. He told me that comic strip artist Al Taliaferro was responsible for their creations, but he was not sure about Ludwig. One of his goofs was in certain comic book panels, was to draw a fourth nephew. We came up with names for him like Phooey and Ratatouille was a suggestion that we both chuckled at. He asked if I read the infamous “Square Eggs Story”. It was a comic that I was not familiar with. Before the library was closing, Joey asked if I could wait for him while he went to the workroom. I waited at the counter feeling happy at how I had a friend who shared a mutual interest. He returned with a light blue hardcover book, which was … volume 3, set 1 of “The Carl Barks Library”. He asked if I would like to borrow it for sometime. I was surprised that he had trusted ME a person that he recently met.

Right then and there I pictured this scene from "Moaning Lisa" of Lisa hearing the soothing tones of a saxophone.
I gravitated to how it must feel of meeting a friend who shares  a mutual interest.  
The diverse elements that collate in creating a cool comic-book cover. 
I was bursting over with euphoria, similarly as how Uncle Scrooge would feel when swimming through his money as I held that book. The front of the book reprinted Carl Bark’s splendid cover for “Lost In The Andes” (FC#223) I liked how Donald’s pose with him holding one of the square eggs. Hewy, Dewy, and Louie look excited about their discovery. The vibrant coloring from Donald’s sky blue shirt to the nephews yellow and red added to the aesthetics. Barks simple yet effective covers pique the reader’s interest in the story.

On the way home, when I skimmed through the book I found it odd that the comics were printed in black and white. Before each story, the cover that originally accompanied it, was reproduced on a glossy paper, usually one of Carl Barks’ paintings was on the reverse side. I vividly recall how it was a treat seeing the covers for the first time.

I previously read “Christmas on Bear Mountain” (FC#178) in Abeville Press’ compilation of Uncle Scrooge stories. I compared the two versions side by side; I discovered that several panels were removed in Abeville Press’ Scrooge book. For the first time I saw how the story was originally presented. When I went to bed I would have read most of it if it were not for school the next day.

Having not finished the book I took it with me to school that day. We were forced to stay inside during recess due to it raining heavily. Many of my peers complained about staying indoors for recess, but it did not bother me one bit. I soaked in the artistry of “the Good Artist” while others were playing. “The Old Castle’s Secret” was a tale that suited the somber weather that day. The ethereal elements from the abandoned castle with dark halls, the old McDuck cemetery, the misty moors, and the threating “ghost” matched the ambience of the rainy weather that day. It was printed in black and white; The shading of the castle’s bricks added to the moodiness.

The order in which the stories were printed was commendable. Everywhere Don, the nephews, and Uncle Scrooge trekked to they were calling me for a new adventure. Who could resist it? Except for being paid 30 cents an hour.I was intrigued with the concept of square eggs. What would they feel like?  When I arrived home from school I read “Lost In The Andes”.

The Plainawfulians spoke English with a heavy Southern Accent was written very well. The design of the little square chicks was cute. The nephew’s description of the square chicks soft as sole leather made me feel as if I held them. After all he endured it was revealed that the roosters used for breeding were both male. Defeat was written all over him with his slumped shoulder, and a tear from his cheek. The riled expression on his face was priceless when the chef asked mentioned “Ham and Eggs? Cheese Omelete? Roast Chicken?” It was clever of Carl Barks of having a police car proceeding to the diner. Instead of illustrating the aftermath he wreaked upon the diner, he left it up to the reader’s imagination of what may have occurred. There were supplementary materials like a storyboard from an unproduced cartoon about square eggs.

As I read this on a rainy day I imagined what it would be like stumbling your way amidst the fog.  The thin lines as the fog and the Ducks in silhouette adds to the mysteriousness.  
The perspective as the Ducks gaze on the hamlet (egglett) of Plainawful is impressive.
A series of humorous one-page Donald gags followed the story. One where he undergoes an extreme physical regimen that allows him to fit into his tuxedo. To indicate the rapid pace he worked out, he drew a series of swirls amongst the bodybuilding arsenal, as he exclaims “Three more days of this I can squeeze my middle through a doughnut!” When Daisy asked him how the tuxedo fits. “It fits like a dream, toots – my waist that is.” In the last panel, we see him wear a tuxedo that is now too broad for his shoulders.  

After reading I was inspired to recreate the drawing of Donald as seen below. In order to verify the accuracy of the length of his bill from his face, I looked back and forth between the cover and what I was drawing. I was satisfied by how similar it appeared. I went over the blue pencil drawing with pastels. I remember the pride that sent me racing upstairs to show my mother the final work. 
My first attempt of drawing Donald Duck. I made sure to capture the small details as the wrinkles in his bowtie. 
“The Golden Christmas Tree” was a “tree-mendous” story of Hewy, Dewy, and Louie wanting a golden Christmas tree. Testosterone trickled through me when I viewed Donald cross the chasm using a snowball. I was invested in the safety of the kids when the witch had them. Carl Barks development of Donald into a complex personality was impressive. He has always appealed to me for how his emotions would momentarily change. For example, initially he was doubtful and scared from being under the clutches of the witch. Upon retreating from her cabin, he realizes how he has not thwarted the witch, and his nephews are still in danger. He was resolutely determined in rescuing the kids. It was an interesting dynamic between the characters as in the cartoons they quarrelled. The sequence where he had a battle with the witch was clever.
Notice how Donald is not distracted by the advances of the Witch as a snitching siren.  As archaic as his response is in the upper right corner it was a good line. 
It was a fine time where my love for the Disney Ducks was flowering. There was no looking back once I had crossed the infamous… “Duck Zone”. I could not get enough of the Duck be it in the cartoons and comics. I borrowed a book on Disney short subjects that I religiously looked at. It was a treat to see pictures of cartoons that I never saw before. I was making one of my archeological discoveries in the basement, where by chance I would unearth a recording of a Disney cartoon. Ho! What luck! As I found “The Mad Hermit Of Chimney Butte” an installment of “Walt Disney Presents”. The eponymous Hermit (Donald Duck) has cut of all ties of human existence, due to his inability of finding peace and quiet (as depicted with clips from earlier cartoons). The cartoons included in this special were a treat, as I saw many of them for the first time. Of the shorts showcased here "Beezy Bear" and "Hook, Lion, and Stinker" were memorable.  
"Slide Donald Slide" (1949) another in a series of battles between Donald and Spike the Bee was included. Spike the Bee locking Donald in his shower allowing him the opportunity of listening to classical music.
Him conducting the classic music to Donald's squawking as he tries to unlock the door was funny.
Of the shorts excerpted “Beezy Bear” was a honey of a cartoon. There were many mirth-inducing moments among them, Humphrey’s anguish while he witnessed Donald tasting the honey. The vocals expressions provided by sound-effects man Jimmy McDonald enhanced his suffering. 
"Oh boy.. oh boy.. 100% pure" exclaims Donald as he is delighted by the sweetness of the honey. A year later, when I would have pancakes for breakfast I drizzled honey and whipped cream on them, as it would not seem odd that I would quote this line. 
One of his attempts of crossing the barbed wire fence was using a sign for a fencepost, to gain access without being unscathed. He then threatened the bees through a series of grunting sounds; meanwhile the Ranger removed the fencepost. When the bees were chasing our bruin he attempted to dive underneath the fencepost, only to be distressed that it no longer existed. The figure, the frazzled face, and the skidding sound effects as he prevented breaking through the barrier were well executed by the animator. The aftermath of this scheme proved to be unsuccessful as a tuft of fur was snagged onto the broken barb fence, the Ranger placed it on his head was hysterical. Lastly Humphrey acted as a snake charmer using a hose in order to acquire the sticky substance from far away, however Donald’s observation of it disappearing caused him to suck from the other end of the hose. I was impressed by the synchronization of the music to the rate of the honey travelling through the tube.
“Hook, Lion, and Stinker” followed it, where Louie the Mountain Lion and his cub as they attempted to purloin the fish Donald caught. It was good seeing Donald having the upper hand in thwarting of the mountain lions in each of their schemes. For instance, he saw Louie's paw reach out of the window for the fish only to move it and instead to grab a flaming lump of coal from the stove. The cartoon showcased  Donald to exclaim my favorite catchphrases of his "Oh, yeah!" when he discover the cub stealing his fish, and "So!" when he hears them knocking on the door. The unforgettable running gag of Louie the Lion’s son plucking pellets from his posterior much to his discomfort was amusing. The metallic clinking sound as his son put the pellet in a bowl enhanced it. 

 It was interesting seeing Walt interacting with one of his creations.
Preceding it was an episode of “The Woody Woodpecker Show” consisting of “Robin Hoody Woody”, “Rock-A-Bye Gator”, and many others. From watching the credits I became aware of voice artist Daws Butler, a regular player in the Walter Lantz cartoons. He did a great job supplying a haughty British voice for the Sheriff of Nottingham. A line that delighted me was the Sherriff exclaiming, “I hate blackbirds pie!” as he shooed away the blackbirds that were fleeing from his mouth.
In “Rock-A-Bye Gator” a running gag was when Woody would play “Rock A Bye Baby” to surrender him into sleep. A clever gag was when he used semaphores to conduct the song to render Gabby Gator sleepy.  “I’ve been tricked,” he says before dozing.  I laughed my head off, when Woody accidentally mentioned a word that rhymed with food (“Now he’s in a sleeping mood.) would arouse him (“Did you say food?). Laverne Harding’s model of Woody Woodpecker was appealing. He looked cute with his small stature and his topknot facing upward.  I deduced that Daws also voiced Huckleberry Hound, as the voice he provided for Gabby Gator was in an almost similar register. I would be seen at either home or school mimicking Woody’s laugh and pretending to peck people.
When I saw his name listed  as director in the credits of "The Mad Hermit of Chmney Butte", immediately I saw his name as director of "Rock-A-Bye Gator". I was surprised that he was "that guy" who directed the Donald Duck cartoons. The first individual in animation I identified, you could call him a "Jack Hannah" of all trades.
A zany gag after Donald reaches the top of the branch where the Aracuan is he hits him with a mallet, then
inserts a cigar that once is lighted skyrockets him down.
On another day I found “CLOWN OF THE JUNGLE” (1947) a fascinating Donald entry, as it was unlike any Disney cartoon I had seen. My curiosity had been kindled after having seen a snapshot of this cartoon from a book on Disney short subjects. My father told me that this cartoon was hardly ever aired on T.V. The zany Aracuan Bird irritated Donald as he interfered in his photographic attempts made for an interesting pairing.The gags had an air of Tex Avery diffused through them, for instance when he repeatedly extended the legs of a camera tripod to see the Aracuan Bird on a tree branch. One scene of his prey painting a door onto a rock with Donald ramming towards it echoed a gag used frequently in a Warner Bros. cartoon. 
How I loved the song of the Aracuan Bird provided by Pinto Clovig. The animation of him going through a series of hysterics before being obliterated was done well.
The music added to the frantic efforts of Donald taking a picture of his prey. Donald with his incisors out annihilating the Aracuan Bird with his machine gun was an intricate display of his primitive instinct. Donald appeared to have been elated by his demise was short-lived, as he discovers him unscathed by the blasts. The shock was too intense for him that he acted like the Aracuan. It seemed frightening at first seeing him fumbling his lips, popping in and out, and running in circles but was amusing in later viewings.  The ending of the straight character replicating the zany behaviour of his foe had Tex Avery written all over.  

Around this period I was among several students as announcer reading the events occurring in our school. It was a great time when I was one of the students in charge of deciding what music to play before starting the announcements. Most of them complained about playing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” repeatedly to Mr. Stewart, the vice principal. He suggested that they follow my lead of selecting their favorite artist then asking for his approval of it being played. It was awesome playing a snippet of Jean Michel Jarre an artist in the electronic genre, and The Carpenters. I would read a brief blurb about the artist after playing their song. My friends Ian and Spencer were thrilled to hear my voice on the speaker.

A Father's Day card made by yours truly. If I had more time to scour for images I would have selected better comic book covers.  

Thursday, 16 July 2015

"Tales From the Barkside"

A massive apology for those were excited in viewing the second part of my blog post last year. This was scheduled for publication the following week, however due to personal reasons I was disillusioned in continuing it. I feel terrible for the late Chris Barat not having seen this entry, as he would have been fond of it. I regret not having commented as regularly on his blog, as I was shy in posting on his comment board. His comment on my last post "It seems that you got just as much, if not more, inspiration from the DUCKTALES version of Scrooge as you did from the classic comics version! That's what I like to see!" remains a catalyst in conveying my experiences. This goes out to you, Chris wherever you are. Now on with the post. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

"A Taste of Hanna-Barbera"


As a child in elementary school, I enjoyed Sundays as “Snooper and Blabber”, and “Snagglepuss” cartoons would air. I adored Snagglepuss’ catchphrase, “Exit, Stage Left”, he exclaimed when leaving an uncomfortable situation. The pose with his arms in level with his shoulder and his feet in the air is perfect as he delivered those words was perfect.
I was in my chemistry teacher’s class when we were marking a take-home test. There were st
udents who had not finished the test. In deciding what to do, she mentioned while shooing away the students, “I don’t care if you Exit Stage Left! Whatever you have to do just go. “ It evoked a smile, as I adored the reference. Possibly I was the only one who caught it!

In high school when we would be studying a Shakespearean play; I saw the stage direction “Exit Stage Left”. I became aware that Mike Maltese’s inspiration for the mountain lion was Shakespeare. When I read a line in a Shakespeare play that seemed familiar; I would say to myself didn’t Snagglepuss utter that particular dialogue?

Mike Maltese had cut his teeth, his tongue even at “Elizabethan” prose in earlier cartoons “Rabbit Hood” and “Robin Hood Daffy”. In the later short, Daffy Duck pretending to be Robin Hood exclaims “Look no further, good friar, for I am he for whomst thou seekest. I am Robin Hood.” I always enjoyed the archaic terms he sprinkles when talking. How he inserts the word, even. The beginning of “Charge The Lion” shows how colourful Maltese's dialogue is.

Snagglepuss:"$15 reward capture for Snagglepuss. Wanted for attempted sheep stealing. Description: not too bright. Not too bright? Where do they get that stuff. Why, I was so bright, my mother called me Sunny. Let's see how bright they are when they look for a lion with a big black mustache. Not bad. It makes me look distingue. Handsome even."
Hunter:"Stick the up, Snagglepuss."
Snagglepuss:"Stick them up, indeed. What makes you think I'm the one you seeketh."
Hunter: "Well, you don't look very bright to me. "
Snagglepuss:"Is that so? Look at the mustache.Do I bear a resemblance to that stupid-looking lion. Remotest,even"
Hunter (draws a moustache): "Now you do!"
Snagglepuss: "Exit, mustache and all, stage left."
In his first appearance “Lamb Chopped”, Quick Draw says, “I’ll teach you to steal sheeps.” The mountain lion responds, “Really my friend, that’s not ‘ne-cess-ararry’. I already know how. Stealing sheeps is my destiny.” I adore the effrontery he has to respond to Quick Draw’s rhetorical question. Animator Ken Muse raises the character’s eyebrows and his eyelids are half open adds to the smugness. I am more amazed at how Daws Butler can keep the conversation between the two. As an antagonist he was always in control of the situation. When he received his own series, his theatrical tendcies were accentuated; He would be a victim of circumstance. Occasionally, he would steal sheep.
Alliteration being one of the literary devices I like to use in my writing. Mike Maltese’s employment of alliteration adds to the humor of the scene. In the first entry of his series, “Major Operation”, Snagglepuss in a cage relates to Major Minor. The tête-à-tête between him and his adversary Major Minor is displayed. It would be an excellent opportunity for Mike to seize the scene with his wonderful word play.

Snagglepuss: “I was captured in Cambodia while cavorting with a Cambodian.”
Major Minor: "But didn't I shoot you in the Mato Grosso?"
Snagglepuss:"Negative. I beleive you got me below the equator, or was it in the left clavicle?"


"He’s the boss, he’s a pip, he’s the championship" as the theme song succinctly describe him to a tee.  A “T.C”, even as a certain mountain lion would phrase.

As a “single-digiter” this video attracted me to this fabulous feline. The vest he donned on added to his flair as a smooth operator. The purple vest was a strong contrast to his yellow fur. All animals in the “Hanna-Barbara” universe wear assorted accoutrements (Hats, bowtie, bandana, collars, sweaters, and a vest) I thought it added to the aesthetics of the characters, instead of acting as a shortcut of animating the head. I was captivated hearing the cadence provided by Arnold Stang.  The “Biko-esque” voice suited him, especially when pitching ideas to his fellow feline or avoiding punishment from Officer Dibble. 
Out of all “Hanna-Barbera” creations, none is more talented at the power of persuasion than him.  (You could argue a case about who would be more convincing at the craft between Hokey Wolf and him. I will let you concoct at conclusion.) As demonstrated in “The Case Of The Absent Anteater”, Officer Dibble in his latest attempt of catching T.C. breaking a rule. He disguises himself, while spying on him and Benny The Ball breaking into a dog shelter, in order to obtain their anteater. Officer Mahoney arrives on the scene ready to arrest the perpetrators. Officer Dibble demands that Mahoney arrest them for. 

Mahoney: "What dog? That's the missing anteater. There's a reward out for him"

Top Cat: "True. And I want you to share it. Here, boys. Live it up a little."  
Dibble: "Trying to bribe us? It ain't going to work. Take them in, Mahoney."
Top Cat:"You heard him, Mahoney. Slap the cuffs on these innocent wrists."
Dibble: "Pay no attention, Mahoney. He's a master at snow jobs." 
Top Cat:"Thank you. As I was saying, you can depend on me. Nary a word about this regrettable incident. Your, secret is safe." 
Mahoney: "Secret? What secret?"
Top Cat:"Oh, yes. I don't blame you for covering up. Benny, can't you see it in tomorrow's headlines. Two patrolmen caught with hot anteater."
Dibble:"What are you talking about? You gave him to me!"
Top Cat:"That's what I'll tell them when they grill me at headquarters The hot lights, the harsh voices. I'll try not to crack."
Dibble:"Now, wait a minute, T.C."
Top Cat:"That's right. You've always wanted to meet the Commissioner. It should be a colourful ceremony. The Commisioner stripping you of your uniform before a nationwide TV audience. What a rating you'll have"
Dibble:"No, T.C. no! Look, give me another chance."
Mahoney: "Yeah. He didn't mean any harm."
Top Cat: "But when I think of the times I wanted to use his police telephone the countless rebuffs"
Dibble:"You can use it whenever, you like, T.C. In fact, I'll have an extension put in your trash can."
Top Cat:"No, no. I couldn't let you, Dibble. Make it one of those color phones. Yellow, that goes with my eyes."  

Dibble: "Yellow? Sure thing. Good."
Top Cat:"Be sure it has one of those little lights in the dial. Very chic. Come Benny, we need our shuteye."
Mahoney:"But what do we do with this anteater. The zoo is closed for the night."
Top Cat:":"So it is. Play a little ball with him. Take him to an all-night movie.The hours will pass. Good evening, gentleman" 
Mahoney:"What happened? Where did we go wrong?"
Dibble:"It's no use. Don't try to figure it out. Top Cat just ain't human."
Under the feline's persuasive charm, no one can escape it. I like his body language, with his arms crossed.

He relies on his ingenuity in inventing the latest scheme or improving his way of living for him and his crew. In “The Long Hot Winter” sees Top Cat and his friends freezing in the alley. He researches an old statute in order for his companions to spend the winter in in Dibble’s abode. 

One of his ploys in securing Dibble’s domicile is by phoning the press. Hokey Wolf in “Tricks and Treats” would employ a similar tactic. He feigns fracturing of his tibia in an animal trap. 
He threatens to sue Farmer Smith for cruelty to animals, especially during “Be Kind To Animals Week”. He proposes to stay at the farmer’s house until his condition improves. While the farmer’s away, Hokey and Ding-Boy raid the fridge for goodies. Hokey then calls the humane society protecting his position in Farmer Smith’s house. It is an interesting approach to a similar set up. How they both feel fresh.

There are moments where Top Cat has demonstrated moments of tenderness. In "T.C. Minds The Baby" when foraging for food in the city. They come across a "pic-a-nic" basket, therein lies, a baby, on the stoop of an abandoned building. They first try dumping him in old Man McGuilicutty's homes, but change their mind. Top Cat decides to drop him off at the orphanage. Benny the Ball explains how despite being taken care of, there is a lack of love. Finally, they convince him in letting the baby be apart of their group, in order to take care of him. 
In "Dibble's Birthday" he considers hocking all the presents that his friends obtained for Officer Dibble's birthdayInitially, he is reluctant of giving away all the presents, until he receives the disapproval from his members that he warms up to the idea.
Despite the troubles that T.C. and his crew cause Officer Dibble, they tolerate each other. In "Farewell Officer Dibble", when Officer Dibble has been replaced by, Charlie, the police commissioners nephew, who turns out to less lenient for T.C and his gang. They device a scheme that will secure Dibble his position. 
I always wish I had the smooth-talking charm T.C posses; In reality I am more like Huckleberry Hound. (One of my favorite shows outside of the “Hanna Barbera” productions is “The A-Team”. One of the members Faceman uses his “gift of the gab” in procuring whatever items the team needs. It is reminiscent of the cons that T.C. devises.