Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Real Bluebeard is...

I like Art Davis. He handled Daffy Duck really well and Porky Pig’s star briefly re-shone under his direction. One of the best Davis cartoons was the last one his unit produced—‘Bye Bye Bluebeard’ (1949).

There’s plenty of chase action going on but my favourite gag involves next-to-no animation and some great timing. It’s a pan up Bluebeard’s body as Porky comes to realise he’s the real Bluebeard as described on the radio. The blinking ‘11’ is a great capper.

Davis’ timing couldn’t be finer in the sequence where the little mouse shoves pies in Bluebeard’s face. There are some great fright gags, like Porky popping out of his own skin. There’s a bit of silly dialogue (“unsanitary rodent,” Porky mutters about the mouse). And I like the layout of a squirming Porky tied to a chair in the foreground with a shadow of Bluebeard and guillotine construction in the background.

The credited animators are Bill Melendez, Emery Hawkins, Don Williams and Basil Davidovich. Sid Marcus, who had just been hired by the studio, came up with the story. Don Smith handled the layouts and Phil DeGuard the background art.

After this cartoon, Marcus, Melendez and Hawkins moved into the Bob McKimson unit (Hawkins was borrowed by Chuck Jones for a couple of cartoons), DeGuard went to work for Jones, while Williams, Davidovich and Smith left the studio; I presume they worked at the commercial houses for awhile.

In a way, it may be good for Davis’ reputation that his unit was folded when it happened. The ‘50s weren’t kind to McKimson, who put some great cartoons on the screen in the late ‘40s. Friz Freleng started to become less interesting (the stylised, blockheaded characters didn’t help) and Jones decided to change the personality of several characters and not really for the better in some cartoons (flouncy Bugs, fall guy Daffy, subordinate straight man Porky). It’s quite conceivable Davis’ work could have gone down hill, too. Instead, his unit ended on a high note.


  1. The Art Davis directed shorts are some of my favorites and really underrated. Great animators, especially Hawkins.

  2. One of my favorite modern images of Porky was his heart pounding nearly out of his chest – and his turning completely white and fainting, in this cartoon. The swooning sound effect helped a lot, too. Kudos to Treg Brown, the Stalling/Franklyn team, or both.

    And, Davis continued the “great” (quotes mine) Clampett tradition of giving Porky almost nothing to do in his own cartoons – as it became “The Mouse and Bluebeard Show”.

  3. Yowp says...
    "I like Art Davis."

    I do, too. His cartoons actually really had the studio feel even though it often seemed like: Paramount, Walter Lantz, and others seeping in. He seemed to have a grip on how to use the famed characters.

    Steve J.Carras

  4. Although the last cartoon produced by the Davis unit (from what I've read) was his lone Bugs Bunny endeavor, Bowery Bugs - whose release preceded this swan-song.