Friday, 2 October 2015

Piano Landing

A bank robber tells Woody Woodpecker to keep playing while he hides in a piano in Convict Concerto (1954). The piano, Woody, the con and an incompetent copy incredibly drop from the sky into a prison yard. Lantz cartoons in the first part of the ‘50s featured thick ink lines on teeny characters at times.

The piano and characters all land in time to the music, with the force of the landing bouncing things back into mid-air.

Cut to a close-up. The shots match.

And like the spirit of Bugs Hardaway was hovering over writer Hugh Harman, the cartoon ends with a character going insane. Some of Woody’s expressions as the camera fades out (he’s still playing the unattached keys but is getting piano music out of them anyway).

The soundtrack features Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, a favourite of animation directors. It is featured in Bars and Stripes (Mintz/Columbia, 1931), Dipsy Gypsy (George Pal/Paramount, 1941), Rhapsody in Rivets (Warners, 1941), Rhapsody Rabbit (Warners, 1946), The Cat Concerto (MGM, 1947) and The Magic Fluke (UPA/Columbia, 1949).

Ray Abrams, Don Patterson and Herman Cohen are the credited animators on this one. Patterson is also supposedly the director. Why he wouldn’t get screen credit, I don’t know, as he did elsewhere when he directed and animated. The Lantz studio was in a state of flux around the time this short would have gone into production. Mike Maltese had just arrived at the studio to write and Tex Avery was on his way to direct. Not only was Don Patterson demoted, the directing team of his brother Ray and Grant Simmons was about to leave, or had left, Lantz to open their open commercial studio. (The assumption is false that they made cartoons for Lantz under Grantray-Lawrence; the studio didn’t exist at the time).

This was Harman’s only writing credit for the studio.


  1. This is an awesome cartoon, I could watch it a million times. It's got great pacing, visually it's energetic and the rendition of the Hungarian Dances No.2 is also pretty good. The scene where Woody starts examining his options about calling the police and the shot where he sees himself under a blanket in the morgue always gets an out-loud laugh from me! :D

    Why was Patterson demoted? His animation was funny as hell and his direction wasn't bad either.

    1. Larry, it's one of those questions we'll never have answered unless a Patterson interview surfaces (and apparently someone has one in his archive).

  2. "Hungarian Rhapsody No.2" was used in a number of Hanna-Barbera cartoons as chase music.>!

  3. The Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 was also used in "A Car-Tune Portrait" (1937), "Philharmaniacs" (1953), and "The Animal Fair" (1959). (And more recently, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.)

    (Also, though it isn't a cartoon, Harpo plays the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 on the harp in A Night in Casablanca. According to Sogturtle, Frank Tashlin was an uncredited writer on this film, so I wonder if the choice of that piece of music was Tashlin's idea?)