Friday, 24 May 2013

Not That Screwy Squirrel

Two cartoon directors in Hollywood got screwed. One was Don Patterson, who showed his capabilities at the cost-conscious Walter Lantz studio, but never got another shot at directing after Tex Avery arrived. The other was Art Davis, whose unit was deemed superfluous and decimated at Warner Bros. Davis had a couple of good animators, two great storymen (who developed after they left the studio), and was able to revive a virtually dead Porky Pig and turn him back into an amusing character.

One of Davis’ lesser-known delights is “Porky Chops” where the pig takes on a heckling squirrel from Flatbush. It’s the cartoon where the squirrel removes the blade from Porky’s axe, and the pig responds with the line “Gee, you don’t have to fly off the handle like that.”

Here are a couple of drawings from one of the takes.

There’s even a better take by the squirrel later in the cartoon. It’ll appear in a future post.

Artie, you got screwed.

The credited animators are Emery Hawkins, Bill Melendez, Don Williams and Basil Davidovich.


  1. At least in Artie's case, the cut was understandable, if unfair -- studio cutbacks in the late 40s were all over the place, not just at Warners, and McKimson both had seniority over Davis and hadn't really hit his first 'rut' period of weak cartoons yet. But I never will figure out what the heck Walter Lantz was thinking when he demoted Don Patterson and kept Paul J. Smith as director.

  2. I've never seen that cartoon before and I'm a huge Art Davis fan! Such an underrated director too. Do you think this cartoon has been posted anywhere?

  3. Never mind, I found it.

    I was watching "The Little Match Girl" the other day and I never realized that Art Davis was also very versatile as a director. I wonder what other kinds of cartoons he did that I'm not familiar with.

    Strange thing about Paul J. Smith was that his cartoons were great at first and then they start to slowly decline and descend into formula and blandness. I don't get what happened. Lantz must have been too cheap to realize how superior and more creative Don Patterosn was as a director.

    I can sort of understand why this happened at Famous Studios. Seymour Kneitel, while a talented and skilled cartoonist, was trying to be the East Coast's Hanna-Barbera and resorted to keeping the cartoons cheaper to please the suits at Paramount, or at least that's how I interpret that. Early Famous stuff (1942-1951) is great! Post Sam Buchwald cartoons really show a decline until the late 1950s.

  4. Now that I'm seeing this cartoon again, I realized that I might have saw it once but it remains one of those Looney Tunes that people don't talk about as often as they should. The whole animation and the timing style can speak for themselves and summarize why I love Art Davis cartoons so much! It was just really distinct and different than what was being done at Warners at the time and I think it's perfect for animation students and cartoonists to study and learn from. It's a shame that he didn't direct more cartoons at WB through the 50s to see what he might have been able to do.

  5. I think Smith was lucky just after he started directing to have Michael Maltese dumped in his lap for several months as his writer. He did do some good cartoons in his first few years as director, but (to me at least) the good ones are more story-driven, while Patterson got more humor out of the visual images -- which he had to, since there was very limited dialogue in a lot of the early-to-mid-50s Woody cartoons. Smith's Maw and Paw shorts and even his early Woodys tend to be talk=fests by comparison, even if the dialogue was funny.

    Once you get past "Niagara Fools", I can't think of a single Smith cartoon that had a truly well-timed and funny visual gag. In contrast, I can still laugh at Artie's visuals all the way up to 1971's "Pink Tuba Dore".

  6. J Lee, that seems like a plausible explanation of what happened and proof that not all decent animators make good directors. I can't believe I saw Paul Smith's name credited on Bob Clampett's "It's a Grand Old Nag." You'd think a guy who's worked with Culhane, Clampett, Lundy and others would have better directing sensibilities in his own work.

  7. And that pretty much conIdes with Les Kline (MOSTLY for Alex Lovy's return) returning at the studio and turning out amateurish-looking crap that makes Jim Tyer's Terrytoons disortion seem extremely "DISNEY" ON-Model by comparison!.

    It's a shame Don Patterson never returned to directing, if anything it should have been Paul J Smith the one to never do anything past Arts and Flowers!.

    And also regardless of being related to the Fleischers and whatnot, i think it would have been FAR more better if Knietel just STAYED an Animation Director rather than a studio head, and given from Ginny Maholey's GREAT blog on her talented detailed father, it's quite true in the 1950s onward that Kneitel must have not liked the job as a studio head at Famous after all and really wanted to return back to animating, he did get that chance at the last half of the Popeye TV pilot "Hits and Missiles" and really, it was actually beginning in 1956 that the Paramount studio heads began to get in the way once the Famous Studios was completely turned into a cartoon unit directly on the Paramount lot, and nothing was kind to the poor guy, you can tell they fired Izzy Sparber before he died and never filed a replacement for him, and they've must've given Dave Tendlar a pink slip after doing Grateful Gus and had him pushed into Terrytoons in the Gene Deitch era & never bothered to pick a replacement because all the other eligible animators were completely gone at that point!.

    If anything, they just let poor Knietel flounder, running EVERYTHING with hands tied behind backs and outrageous deadlines and HUGE workloads!, not to mention the studio's business politics, no wonder his second heart attack was SO fatal, one man can't run EVERYTHING, if the Paramount suits were nicer, than Howard Post would've came much earlier and gave Knietel a much easier job running the studio.

    You can tell by the several screwy rodent characters in Art Davis' wonderful stuff in the mid-late 40s that he would obviously have been a primo Bugs Bunny director and he did really strong contributions to the character once Frank Tashlin briefly took Bob Clampett's place (not talking unit wise and there must have been something wrong with the Big Snooze, THAT must've been started before Mr. Leon retired from the Termite Terrace and sold it to the Warner Bros for good.) in handling Bugs Bunny in the 44-45 red season, among what Davis did was animating the new Bugs on top of the shield, which was used from 1944 to 1947, when the Bugs head returned permanently! (ouch, another dump for poor Artie, especially when his unit was shut down in 1948).

    Bob McKimson was a great artist and a dead-on animator, and he still had his strong period up and running, either I. Freleng snatching Warren Foster hurt him or Cornett Wood and the rest of the zany Tashlin-Clampett animators (save Rod Scribner) leaving did?

    He not just deteriorated as a director, but also his art got clunkier, stiffer and noticeably cruder, although this hit him first, this also began to affect Chuck Jones and even Freleng.

    Yours truly, Asim.

  8. I'll never forget meeting Art Davis many years ago and complementing animation I'd seen in his Warner cartoons with a lot of beautifully painted dry brush blurs, and asking him who did those scenes. Art Davis (in a wheel chair) didn't remember who did that animation, all he said was "Sounds like a good idea!" Later on, I found that it was Don Williams who had that unique approach.
    Toward the end of the Lantz studio, 1968 to 1972, Paul Smith's eyesight declined to the point where he was legally blind! His daughter actually filled out the exposure sheets for him. Imagine how loyal to Smith that Walter Lantz was. We'll never see that kind of employer/employee relationship in animation again. I applied to the Lantz studio several times for work in the early 1970s and was told, "You'll have to wait until these guys DIE before we'll ever hire YOU!" Lantz once said this about his animators, "I'd have to shoot 'em to get rid of 'em." What a guy! Mark Kausler

  9. Awesome, Mr. Kausler, NOW it is true that Smith's daughter REALLY did do his exposure sheets, and they sure weren't really nice to you (in fact they were very MEAN to YOU! and quite rude too.) keeping you away from the studio for work and i've also noticed that Les Kline either got fired or just quit in the middle of The Bungling Builder, because in the middle of his scenes Virgil Ross quickly replaced him for the rest of 1970-1971, and i've also noticed in How to Trap a Woodpecker that Kline was already gone and Virgil Ross literally redid some of his scenes in order to make it less repulsive, and the Lantz I KNOW was not just a generous person in fact obviously he was an actual art teacher to me, when he taught me how to draw Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda et al, it all made sense and at the time you know what he actually taught me?

    He taught me some REAL legit construction to my drawings at the time and i quickly applied those to my hand, and right now at this writing i'm 73% to my REAL true self and i'd also like to mention, even if he is 'dead' as of this writing, every time i come to the after-school art studio he is still QUIETLY teaching me, but this time i don't even know it!

    It must've been a great pleasure to meet Arthur Davis, and OUCH! he was in a wheelchair when you met him?
    what happend, did he suddenly lose his ability to walk or was it serious age that crippled him to painful stiff limited non-movement?, anyway as a bonus he is both older than McKimson and he has even outlasted him, to 2000!.

    When i studied the animation in the Woody Woodpecker cartoons, I knew Emery Hawkins' stuff was pure genius and how great and talented he was, as you've mentioned Don Williams (he isn't too far behind either), in the Art Davis directed stuff like Odor of the Day, his stuff was very fluid and had a slick, angular, stylized art-style, and that certainly fitted in the Termite Terrace staple as did Hawkins with Daffy Duck and Woody Woodpecker!.

    Yours truly, Asim!.

  10. Holy mackarel, Mr. Kausler! Thanks for sharing that story. I think I have read elsewhere that Smith's daughter eventually had to do his exposure sheets for him. While that still doesn't change my opinion of those later cartoons, one does really have to appreciate that sense of employer loyalty that isn't really seen as often in the animation business as it was then.

  11. I HUGELY enjoy Art Davis Warner cartoons,myself. Porky Chops is excellent, especially that take on the last picture.SC