Saturday, April 22, 2006

Friz Vs. Clampett on Timing (Pt. 1)

God bless Friz Freleng. He is in no way my all-time favorite director at Warner Bros. (a topic heavily debated recently, my personal favorite will always remain Jones, followed very closely by Clampett), but he was probably one of the most solid directors to ever work in the industry. Very, very few directors can be claimed to have consistency in delivering a well-done and overall enjoyable product for their entire career, and Friz is most certainly one of them.

What I think he did best, and this is why I admire his work, was timing. His sense of it was unique, because he knew HOW to deliver the punchline and to get the biggest laughs from all members of the audience. It's nowhere near as razor-sharp as Clampett's, whose timing I do prefer, but Clampett was brilliant as well, and brilliance doesn't appeal to all people.

Case in point. I have been to several unbiased (and unsupported by Warners) screenings. One I remember fondly was one of Reg Hartt's in Toronto. Only my father and I and a few others (two were a couple whose idea of a night at the movies was a six-pack of beer and watching Warner Bros. Cartoons... my kind of people!) were in attendance.

Reg played a lot of great ones, the best from all the directors. These other people, none of whom were very scholarly animation wise, laughed their asses off at I TAW A PUTTY TAT, HIGH DIVING HARE, RABBIT'S KIN, AWFUL ORPHAN, and BULLY FOR BUGS. I was amazed that not even the booze made them find brilliant shorts like THE GREAT PIGGY BANK ROBBERY, TIN PAN ALLEY CATS, or THE BIG SNOOZE remotely entertaining.

I think now is a good time to compare Friz's timing to Clampett's.

This first scene is from Clampett's first Tweety carton, A TALE OF TWO KITTIES. One I know everyone has seen due to its presence on endless amounts of public domain tapes. This scene exemplifies why I love Clampett. The timing is razor sharp, it's violent, funny, and is drawn hilariously.

Virgil Ross animated Babbit and Catstello in the opening part of this scene. Rev Chaney (another uncredited WB animator) picks up with the shot of Catstello being shot up in the air. Bob McKimson's perfect construction shows up as soon as Catstello finds Tweety in the nest (I love that expression of dopiness!). Rod Scribner picks up with the actual explosion.

Special thanks to Mark Mayerson for double-checking the actual draft of this thing.

Friz reworked this scene for one of his own Tweety pictures, BAD OL' PUTTY TAT, another short I'm sure everyone's seen. Tweety, by this time, has been toned down since the initial Clampett shorts, but he is still more aggressive than he would be in later pictures (when they turned him into what Clampett were making fun of originally). Virgil Ross animates Sylvester coming on screen with the equipment, Manny Perez handles the rest of the scene (thanks to Bart Kasper for helping me, I'm not familiar with Friz animators at all).

Despite the scenes actually having a similar running time, Friz's take on this gag removes all the edge off of it. The speed is also toned down to help the audience register what's going on. I'm honestly not sure which one would get more laughs from a general audience, as playing them in chronological order, or in the same block, would just make them think “Hey didn't we just SEE this cartoon?”

I personally think the gag is funnier in Clampett's short. But the rest of Friz's film is not without merit (I love the ending with Tweety ramming Sylvester into the brick wall). Friz will come off a lot better (though I personally think he came off OK here) when I compare two other Friz and Clampett shorts.

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