Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Pretty Darn Long, Isn’t It?

Tex Avery relied on background painter Johnny Johnsen to set up a lot of his cartoons. Even at Warners, Tex would open with a languid left-to-right pan over one of Johnny’s fine drawings, sometimes done in oils.

In ‘Red Hot Rangers’ at MGM, Avery decided to use the opening shot as a gag rather than to set a mood of calm (such as in the 1941 Warners’ cartoon ‘Of Fox and Hounds’). We see scenic Jello-stone National Park and as the camera moves along, the “No Smoking” signs get progressively, and more ridiculously, bigger and dominating. And it just keeps going and going, with Scott Bradley’s peaceful and serene strings and woodwinds in the background. Almost 30 seconds worth.

I’d love to snip together another great background but there’s no clear shot of all of it, so you’re going to only get the two ends instead. There’s a highway in the foreground connecting the two frames below. The snow’s disappeared from the mountains.

Here’s one more. Sure is a change from the flat settings Avery used just a few years later.

For cartoon fans that don’t know, Jellostone was also featured in the Bob Clampett cartoon ‘Wabbit Twouble’ (1941), with another great opening pan over a Johnny Johnsen background. Johnsen soon left Warners to rejoin Avery at MGM.


  1. I've always wondered if Johnsen was somehow able to take his establishing shot background with him from Warners to MGM (or more likely, take it home from Schlesingers in 1940 and bring it in to Metro in 1949), since he and Tex liked to so much they re-used the same opening for "Outfoxed" nearly a decade later. The signs outside the lodge are different, but as far as the rest of the painting, that's a pretty detailed background to recreate just from memory a decade down the line.

  2. I wouldn't be surprised if Tex didn't keep a copy of the layout, considering several of his long MGM layouts with background details have been published.