Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Hanging Dog

Bob McKimson simply couldn’t make a cartoon after taking over as a director without characters running toward the camera.

Here’s an example from Crowing Pains, one of his first. Sylvester and the dog are running in the foreground as you might expect in any cartoon. Then they run into the background.

Then McKimson had them run diagonally toward and past the camera. He seems to have done this in every one of his first few cartoons.

Whether it was McKimson or his writer Warren Foster, I don’t know, but the characterisations in the early McKimson shorts were just plain weird. His Bugs Bunny was unable to tell the difference between a mechanical rabbit and a real one, and got upset over a two-cent bounty (would the Bugs you know really care?). In this cartoon, Sylvester is aggressive and sadistic. He even hangs the dog. Of course, we get more of those coming-at-the-camera shots that McKimson doted on. Random frames.

There’s lots of thrashing about in this cartoon that’s fun to stop and look at. Within a few years, the animation in the McKimson unit got pretty sedate. Budget cuts, a whole new animation crew and American society’s transition from the Let’s-Kick-Nazi-Butt-‘40s to Let’s-Have-a-Barbecue-and-Invite-the-Neighbours-‘50s likely played varying degrees of responsibility.


  1. I'm guessing McKimson was kind of struggling with the right characterizations in the early years (either that or he wanted to try a different approach).

  2. "Bob McKimson simply couldn’t make a cartoon after taking over as a director with characters running toward the camera. " Did you mean WITHOUT running toward the camera?

    I, personally, have no beef with Bugs' characterizations in these McKimson cartoons.

    Nice pictures!

  3. Bob also has a really oddball perspective gag in "The Upstanding Sitter" that required Daffy to make a left turn out of a slingshot and into the barn wall, to go along with some of the odd angled shots, such as with the ladder-climb-into-the-watermelon gag in "The Foghorn Leghorn". As with his overweight Bugs design (by Jean Blanchard), or his Sylvester with the extended muzzle, McKimson abandoned a lot of these quirky bits or designs by 1950, though some what came later could feel a bit earthbound compared to the Jones and Freleng units.

    (McKimson's Bugs in the late 1940s was also more likely to be duped at the start of the cartoon by someone or something -- the Easter Bunny, mechanical rabbit, Three Pigs, etc. -- before eventually coming out on top.)

  4. Craig, to each his own. I like some of McKimson's early Bugs cartoons but others just seem like Warren Foster was taking him in some odd direction.

    1. "To each his own." -Agreed! The first sentence scans much better, now. Keep up the good work, Mr. Yowp!