Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Number One Dog Nightmare

Sometimes, there’s no justice in this world. It crashes down around you. That’s the message in Chuck Jones’ “Fresh Airedale” (1945).

The sociopathic Shep wins all throughout the cartoon except during one scene when he has a nightmare sparked by jealousy. Before going to bed, he reads that a black Scottish terrier is the Number One Dog, not him. Jones gets to use his sense of stylisation to advance the plot instead of just showing off.



The pictures of the Scotty and Shep on posters turn into a 1 and a 2, with the one chasing the 2.



Ones turn into Scottish terriers. The transformation of numbers into living characters is reminiscent of the Ralph Phillips cartoon “From A to Z-Z-Z-Z” (1953), also directed by Jones.



And the abbreviation for “number” fills the screen in little jagged trails, as Mel Blanc’s echoing voice repeats the words “Number One Dog.”

Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald’s “Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies” lists the animators as Ben Washam, Ken Harris and Lloyd Vaughan. It doesn’t mention who laid out the nightmare sequence, but Mike Barrier’s “Hollywood Cartoons” states that Earl Klein took over layout in the Jones unit in early 1944 so I suspect he’s responsible for this cartoon, with Bob Gribbroek painting the backgrounds. A great little sequence in a great little cartoon.

4 comments:

  1. I wish this cartoon had gotten a little more critical love 25-30 years ago when more of its creators were still alive, since the timeline of it somehow morphing from "A Jolly Good Fala" never seems to have been fully explained (other than the White House in Washington being redesigned in the background as a Main Line Philadelphia mansion). But it does come across as one of the first cartoons where you really see Maltese's love of head games mesh with Jones' interest in doing more abstract designs.

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  2. I just resaw this cartoon recently on vol. 6 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and was surprised at how great it was – I remembered the cynicism but didn't remember how impressive it was visually (perhaps because the print I had seen was the crappy one they used to show on Cartoon Network). This immediately went to the top 5 in my Chuck Jones.

    In the scene you're analyzing, I especially like the visual/verbal analogy: just as the number "1" changes into a Scottish terrier, the abbreviation "No" seems to change into the cry "NO", filling the entire screen right before Shep embarks on his journey to put an end to Champ/Fala.

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  3. hello may i have name of this episode number 1 dog

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  4. The episode's name is at the top of the post. It is "Fresh Airedale."

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