Monday, 2 April 2012

Much Ado About Jones

Chuck Jones never divested himself of the Disney cuteness. Even while he was making some really funny cartoons with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, his penchant for “aw-gee” characters kept rising to the surface in other series and in one shots. The difference between his cute characters of the late ‘30s and those of the ‘50s is mainly in the drawing style; Jones’ artists got more sophisticated.

“Much Ado About Nutting” (1953) is a cartoon with a great premise, one that Jones and writer Mike Maltese used again and again. A little squirrel becomes greedy and that’s enough for karma to kick in. And that isn’t all that Jones uses again and again.

The squirrel is yet another of Jones’ overly cute types. He has the big eyes Jones used in all his cute characters around that time. The squirrel’s head even has the same construction as Pussyfoot, the too-cute kitten, in some shots. And, like Wile E. Coyote, the squirrel looks at the camera (perhaps not coincidentally, the cartoon is structured the same way as the Roadrunner cartoons with blackouts and a longer climax gag).

The squirrel flicks its tail (on ones), no doubt as Jones tries to make the character seem as squirrel-like as possible. At the beginning it’s, well, cute. But after awhile, it just gets too cute. There’s no gag involved, so once the character’s established, there’s no reason to keep doing it. Other than the fact Jones liked cute.

Lloyd Vaughan, Ken Harris and Ben Washam are the credited animators. Maurice Noble is here with some nice layouts painted by Phil DeGuard, such as his opening panorama of a city park.


  1. I can deal with the cuteness of the early 50s Jones cartoons, because the majority also leave plenty of room for comedy at the expense of the cuteness that Mike Maltese brought to the table.

    In a way it's similar to what Avery did in the initial Screwy Squirrel cartoon, by having Screwy take the adorable Sammy Squirrel behind a tree and beat the tar out of him. Jones would never be that direct (though he does borrow Tex's 'four pawsup' gag from "Of Fox and Hounds"), but "Nuttin'" works for me because we see the ultra-cute squirrel get robbed of his cuteness, dignity and sanity as the cartoon goes on. He doesn't beat the hell out of him in five seconds like Screwy did to Sammy; it's a more drawn-out torture based on the same impulse Chuck and Mike would explore more directly in "On Froggy Evening".

    Chuck's cartoons by 1957 would never dengue to treat cuteness in so rough a manner -- in shorts like "Go Fly A Kit" ultra-cute wins out through the entire cartoon. Which actually makes the cartoon (at least to me) less lovable because it's too soft and routine a conflict (eve with a flying cat angle) to be more funny than cute.

  2. The top squirrel looks like a Ben Washam job on account of his facial construction (like a low wide valentine). Mind you, Bob Bransford could have done that -- he was Benny's assistant over part of the 1950s.