Monday 8 October 2012

High Diving Julian

Try this—picture the great cartoon “High Diving Hare” (1949) with a score by Bill Lava, backgrounds by Tom O’Loughlin and those late-‘50s box-head character designs that Hawley Pratt came up with. Doesn’t work as well, does it? It shows you how everything and everyone had to mesh to make a Warner Bros. cartoon, and how moving to a more representational style of drawing after the ‘40s didn’t make things as entertaining on the screen in some cases.

Friz Freleng played a winning hand with the early Bugs Bunny/Yosemite Sam cartoons. “Bugs Bunny Rides Again” may be my favourite, but this is among the tops. It features subtle but expressive animation, Friz’s perfect gag timing, a right amount of silliness and, of course, Sam always explodes and Bugs always wins. Oh, and Paul Julian provided great sets. I’ve always liked how he uses colour changes to simulates highlights.

I wish the opening background that’s panned was in someone’s collection and on-line. Here it is in three frames.

Julian plants a reference to Friz in the last one. Frizby is a magician appearing on the bill. Some more backgrounds.

And one background is used as a gag. Sam falls for it. Literally.

The cartoon was released in April 1949 but still playing in theatres as late as January 1951. Here it is on one of those Saturday matinees for kids. One Bugs and three Terrytoons. You remember The 3 Magpies, don’t you? And, yes, people couldn’t spell in 1950, either.

If you want to know more about the animators on this one, drop by HERE.


  1. Looking at Julian's backgrounds here and then his work a few years later at UPA is really impressive, because the commitment to making the backgrounds match the characters is so strong (i.e. -- other background artists tended to get recognition for straying from the Disney 'realism' school of design, but if they did any of that style beforehand, it really didn't stand out. Julian could do this, or something like the ship backgrounds for "Mutiny on the Bunny" and turn around a few years later and do "Rooty Toot Toot" and "The Tell-Tale Heart").

    Story-wise, the fun here is similar to the fun in Jones' Road Runner cartoons -- the series that would start just after this cartoon was released. We know faced with the same situation over and over again, Sam is going to fail, over and over again. The difference, of course, is in the Jones-Maltese efforts, the trick was the Coyote always had to do it to himself (to the point that in the few stray gags in the series where the Road Runner does participate, it seems both wrong and annoying). Here the fun is watching Bugs (via Friz and Tedd) come up with different ways to make Sam suffer the same fate over and over again.

    (And getting back to Paul Julian at UPA, it's also interesting to hear the Bill Lava score for "Fuddy Duddy Buddy", which is almost contemporary to this cartoon. Bigger orchestra than Warners in the 1960s, but you can still hear the telltale signs of Lava's '60s WB scores, as if he didn't have time to think through the scene, and just tossed in a few 'wacky' musical sounds to get it done faster.)

  2. Where's the spelling mistake in the poster? I can't find it.

  3. Odd that with the selection of shorts being fairly current to the time of this showing, that there's an Our Gang release from 1933 included.