Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Not All Beer and Skittles

Ernie Nordli was Chuck Jones’ designer when Maurice Noble left the Warner Bros. studio for John Sutherland in early 1953. Noble came up with some lovely space settings in “Duck Dodgers and the 24 ½ Century.” Nordli’s attempt at doing the same thing came in “Rocket Squad,” released in 1956. This was the first cartoon put into production when Jones’ unit returned on January 1954 after the studio’s six-month closure; it was written by Tedd Pierce, who had returned to the studio from UPA.

Phil De Guard constructed these backgrounds. Nordli’s designs are great but they seem a little more solid than Noble’s work on “Dodgers.” Maybe it’s because of the colours.

Pierce’s story takes a parody of the title of “Racket Squad” and puts it into a parody of “Dragnet” (Pierce wrote a number of TV parodies for Bob McKimson when he was moved back into the “guys-nobody-else-will-take unit”). Comparisons with Mike Maltese’s earlier Buck Rogers parody in “Duck Dodgers” are inevitable. Still, Porky’s sidekickish observation that “a cih-cuh-cop’s life isn’t all buh-bee-buh-beer and skittles, you know,” is one of the better lines in a ‘50s Pierce story.


  1. It's hard to describe exactly WHY Noble's stuff is better - at least for me - but it is. If this had been released in a "Maurice-less" universe I would be raving about how these backgrounds, especially when compared to 98% of everything else out there. Actually, even in our "Noble" universe, they are still great. I especially like the abstractness of the all tube pic in the middle of the pics.Still, Noble is the gold standard. WHY is that? Entire books have been written on his work, but for me it's perspective, color, geometry, whimsy and an amazing cinematographic feel that permeates his art.

  2. Nordli's best work for Jones is probably the layouts for Witch Hazel's house in "Broomstick Bunny", which expand on Noble's layouts from Hazel's first appearance (as does Pierce's story over Maltese's original Hansel & Gretel parody in "Bewitched Bunny" -- the Maltese-Noble work with Jones was superior, but the efforts by Pierce and Nordli were more than just beer and skittles).