She’s a Dog…Or Is She?

Tex Avery’s “Wags to Riches” has a juxtaposition scene by Mike Lah where Spike shows opposing attributes listed by an executor (voiced by Pat McGeehan) as qualifications to inherit his late master’s estate. He’s clean-minded. But with an eye for beauty.

Lest you think there’s interspecies lust going on here, here’s Johnny Johnsen’s background drawing. The babe has a dog face that you don’t see when Spike is in the scene.

Late word: Thad Komorowski passed on a note that he doesn’t see a dog face. Upon closer inspection, he’s probably right and it’s just heavy makeup on the left eye instead of an oval black dog-nose. Oh, well, the sequence is funny anyway.

Grant Simmons, Walt Clinton and Bobe Cannon also animated this cartoon.

A Sign of Tex Avery

Phoney title card introductions and explanatory signs were all part of Tex Avery’s comedy arsenal during his directorial career. We get both in “The Early Bird Dood It,” Avery’s first cartoon at MGM.

Here’s the introduction sign, reminiscent of the kind of thing he did at Warner Bros. (Scott Bradley plays “Here Comes the Bride” in the background).

Avery opens the cartoon with a slow pan over a background. There’s no music or dialogue. Finally the camera stops for a sign commenting on the action so far.

The worm in the picture pulls down a window shade with a title on it. Naturally, it rolls up again and the scene has changed.

And that’s followed by another explanatory sign.

Foul language is not permitted in cartoons, we’re informed.

A fun little gag (which Avery used in other cartoons) is when the chase stops for a drink. I really like how the bar is shaped like a beer keg. The bird puts out a sign informing us the cartoon is momentarily on hold, then puts out another sign when the break is finished. One of the great things about the early ‘40s MGM cartoons is checking out the different drawings of characters slipping and sliding around before they take off out of the frame (Tom does this in the Tom and Jerry cartoons). But eventually, Tex realised it slowed down the chase, making it take longer to get to the next gag, so he eliminated all those drawings.

A flurry of street sign gag follows. The bird and the worm race past a sign saying “SLOW.” So they back up and run past the sign again slowly, picking up speed when the next sign allows them to.

The cat races past the bird, we hear a screech, and the camera shakes as it pans across a background drawing littered with road signs.

Then the camera pans down the cliff to the lake below.

Another sign leads the bird and cat off another cliff.

Ah, but the worm gets eaten by the bird and the bird gets eaten by the cat. The cat closes the cartoon with another sign that Avery used again.

Rich Hogan was Avery’s writer. Animation credits go to Irv Spence, Preston Blair, Ed Love and Ray Abrams.

Disney’s Phineas and Ferb Animated Cartoon Series

If you do not have a small child between the ages of 6 and 11, it’s likely you have never heard of Phineas and Ferb, an animated series about two stepbrothers that air on the Disney Channel.
Disney is giving its offbeat ‘Phineas and Ferb’ cartoon the full marketing treatment, with a full line of merchandise and a movie in the works. As Disney Channel prepared to launch the cartoon series “Phineas and Ferb,” one top company executive thought the hard, geometric shapes of the characters’ heads represented too radical a departure from Disney’s round faced animation tradition.

But talk of forcing the creators to soften the edges of Phineas’ isosceles dome to make him and the other angular characters less jarring was quelled.

“I said ‘no,’ ” said Disney Channel Entertainment President Gary Marsh.”This is what I love about this show. It is different, and driven by someone’s unique vision as opposed to compacted by a committee.”