They were putting out some very nicely animated cartoons, with good music, and they had their best hits with the greatcharacters, the Fox and the Crow. The problem is, these cartoons have very, very weak writing.
PHONEY BALONEY (1945) is a perfect example. The opening to this thing sets it up for a manhunt for an escaped wolf convict. There are some nice sight gags with the police running around town looking for him and wanted posters of the wolf whistling at a girl fixing her stocking.
But then it goes in a completely different direction! Wanted posters are put up over the Fox and Crow's windows, and when they open them, they mistake each other for the wanted criminal with a $5 K reward on his head and spend the rest of the thing trying to capture each other. So the whole first two minutes of the cartoon was meaningless! And the Fox and Crow don't even run into the wolf at all! What lousy writing!
They could come up with a funny scene once in awhile, like this hilarious number from EGG YEGG (1944). This is the best part of this otherwise lackluster cartoon. Frank Graham was great as the Fox and the Crow. This series was also the only one that benefited from dialog. People say Chuck Jones invented the talky cartoon. They are wrong. Nobody shuts the hell up in these things. You can tell they have a real problem with it if even a master like Mel Blanc sounds obnoxious in their late 30s/early 40s shorts!
Speaking of Chuck, there is one cool aspect of this cartoon. Fauntleroy is an egg researcher trying to claim Crawford's two refugee eggs of an unknown species... It winds up with a backfiring attempt on Faunt's life, and Crawford getting shot out of a cannon to the Big Dipper. The emotions are everywhere in this and many other films, and not in a good way like Clampett's shorts.
But back to Chuck... A lot of Columbia's just have really damn weird endings, and this one is no exception... Look at what the eggs hatch out to be! Don't you think they look a lot like the Road Runner or even more so the Instant Martians from HAREWAY TO THE STARS (1958)?
As I said earlier, I really love the Fox and the Crow. It's just that the shorts barely realize the potential of them. The comics really do. Here's a few scenes from one that I do think realizes their potential. It's also one of the funniest.
I have no idea who animated these scenes. But I am interested in knowing, even though I can't really differentiate any styles, except some scenes are better looking than others. I'd love to get a draft from one of the Fox & Crows. E-mail me if you can get me one. I'll pay you plenty.