Monday 26 December 2011

Special Appearance by Bob Clampett

Weak. Unfunny. Embarrassingly bad. Which of those terms best describes the work of director Jack King at the Leon Schlesinger studio?

Perhaps all of them.

Take his 1935 short ‘A Cartoonist’s Nightmare.’ Is there even a gag in it? It truly stinks. The most interesting thing in the whole cartoon is the cameo appearance by Bob Clampett in animated form.

The rotund chap looks like Tubby Millar, missing his bristle moustache. Don’t know who the big-nose guy is.

There’s also what I suspect is a Clampett influence in a fun background drawing of the ramshackle cartoon studio. The plant on the left could easily fit in Clampett’s Wackyland (as in “Porky in”, made a few years later).

Fortunately, Tex Avery soon arrived to rescue the studio from inanity and it wasn’t too long (and thanks to other talented people, including Clampett) that Warners released the funniest cartoons ever made. King scurried back to Disney where he wasn’t entrusted with directing features.

Don Williams and Paul J. Smith have animation credits in this pointless mess.


  1. Well Jack King later became probably the best Donald Duck director ever. Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett also animated on that short according to Jerry Beck in the commentary for this short.

  2. This was nothing compared to the merry Merrie Melodies of 1934...

  3. It seemed as if having gone to a "funny animal" character for the first time as the star of the Looney Tunes series, King was trying to come up with some sort of "comedy/drama" equivalent to the adventure stories they were doing with Mickey over at the Disney studio, with a bit more of a fantasy angle than you could put into Buddy (and as dull as this short is, it's still better than the stupefyingly boring "Buddy Steps Out" that came right before it).

    Even King's later efforts with Porky tended to focus on more of an comedy action-adventure plot line than what Avery would almost immediately begin turning out. The CA-A stories might work if you gave a damn about the character and had better animation and writing to put it over; in late '35 Warners couldn't do it.

    I kind of give Jack a tiny pass on "Nightmare" because it was the first cartoon in the series, but even by mid-36 when Avery had been at the studio less than a year, it was obvious which unit's cartoons were both more original and better, which may be why Leon (or Henry) decided to jump the fledgling unit into the No. 2 spot behind Friz almost immediately and have Avery instead of King help out on the color Merrie Melodies (and it's a wonder that this was the body of work that led Disney to rehire Jack and put him in charge of the Donald Duck series, though it does go towards explaining why Warners overtook Disney as short time later as the No. 1 studio for short subject cartoons -- Jack fared far better with Donald than he did with Beans, but you still could never mistake his shorts at Disney for "Warner Brothers rowdyism").

  4. Steve, this cartoon might be a tangible example of why Jones and Clampett weren't happy with the unit they were in, according to Avery.
    One wonders if King decided to use the bad guys from earlier lousy cartoons to see if one would click to be used in future releases.

  5. I don't know, apologies to Yowp, but I've liked part of this, Buddy isn't used, some man who may be the first voice Bob Bruce ever did, is the star.

    It has "Teddy Bear's Picnic" rewritten as "For now you are in Our Clutches" as the bad guys's theme.:) But Jack King just wasn't strong, if at all, comedy, as J.Lee said.

    ----Steve/Happy New Year..

  6. the "big nosed" guy looks like it could be Ben Hardaway.