Monday, 13 August 2012

Confusions of a Nutzy Smear

It’s really tough judging how good of a director at Warner Bros. Norm McCabe could have become. “Daffy’s Southern Exposure” is a funny cartoon by any standards but, more often than not, McCabe got saddled with stories that were heavy on war-time references or outright propaganda and not much else.

“Confusions of a Nutzy Spy” (copyright January 30, 1943) could have been a pretty good cartoon but it suffers because of the characters. Porky’s a clueless dope. His dog is a sneezing dope. The bad guy has a goofy German accent which hardly makes him threatening. Don Christensen gives us more of a situation than gags (other than bad puns in the opening). Oh, well, we beat the Nutzy in the end and that’s the only thing that mattered to the producers and distributors.

While Chuck Jones and Frank Tashlin get praise for experimentation, they weren’t the only Warners directors using stylised backgrounds and odd camera angles. McCabe has them here, too, thanks to layout man Dave Hilberman. And some of the animation’s pretty good, despite the fact McCabe wasn’t working with A-list animators.

Here’s a great take when the Nutzy realises the bomb-in-a-briefcase he threw away has been retrieved by Porky’s dopey dog. First, the realisation.

Then the anticipation.

Now, the big take.

McCabe engages in some smears as the Nutzy juggles the briefcase around before throwing it away.

Izzy Ellis gets credit for the animation. Cal Dalton was in the unit as well but I couldn’t tell you who else (Jack Carey?) was there.

1 comment:

  1. All of McCabe's Daffy cartoons are pretty good, even if some of the plots go a bit off-beat at times. But he really had problems with Porky (though the 'Java Jive" number from "Robinson Crusoe Jr." is great), which kind of points towards the idea that if Norm was dealing with a sharply focused character who could dominate his own cartoons, he could work pretty well with that character.

    Porky requires strong supporting characters (including Daffy) to work, but the McCabe unit just couldn't create any. And the plots of a few of Norm's one-shots almost have a Columbia feel to them, in terms of the plot just going off on its own happy-yet-unfocused way in a manner the other WB directors by 1942-43 didn't allow to happen. Tashlin's stronger focus on what he wanted allowed him to sharpen Christiensen's story for "Scrap Happy Daffy" (his only credit outside of the McCabe unit) in a way Norm might not have been able to do