Happy 60th anniversary to one of the best cartoon shorts ever made — One Froggy Evening. Written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones, One Froggy Evening made its debut on December 31, 1955 as part of the Warner Brothers’ Merrie Melodies cartoon series.

The story (if you don’t know it already) follows a lowly construction worker who thinks he’s struck it big when he uncovers a singing frog (the first appearance of Michigan J Frog, although he was named after this short was released). The only hitch: the frog who can’t stop singing when they’re alone becomes inexplicably frog-like once others are watching. Called “the Citizen Kane of animated film” by Steven Spielberg, this classic is one of three Chuck Jones cartoons recognized by the National Film Registry (along with What’s Opera, Doc? and Duck Amuck).

 

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“Harry Warner set the tone of our day in court by observing that he had no idea where our cartoon division was, and added, ‘The only thing I know is that we make Mickey Mouse.’ We were proud to hear that and assured him that we would continue to keep Mickey at the top of his popularity. Jack Warner suggested that is would be healthiest for our future if we did so.”

— Chuck Jones, Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist

Happy Memorial Day to everyone in the US. In honor of the occasion, here is a classic Warner Bros. cartoon from one of the most popular cartoon characters throughout WWII and long after: Bugs Bunny. In Bunker Hill Bunny (1950), Revolutionary soldier Bugs and Hessian Mercenary Yosemite Sam face off during the American Revolution.

“The Cartoon…is in some respects the best medium of cinema expression. … [Cartoons] have a distinct sociological value. They exhibit man in society caught in a network of events…trying to escape the consequences. They are in fact a comment, a very witty, instructive and biting comment on the absurdities of Man and other living things seen in the light of materialism. At the same time they are human, tragic, and comic.”

— Huntly Carter (British film critic, 1930)

Private Snafu “Booby Traps” (1944) – Short Film

Given that tomorrow (November 11) is Remembrance Day (UK)/Veterans’ Day (US), it feels appropriate to post this short, a favorite among US troops during World War II. Private Snafu was a series of cartoon shorts produced by Warner Bros, by commission of the US Signal Corps, from 1943 to 1945. The humorous shorts were designed to teach troops practical lessons about staying safe through the misdoings of the eponymous Private Snafu (a popular military acronym for Situation Normal – All F*ed Up). These shorts are notable not only for the great pleasure they brought the soldiers overseas, but also because of the big talents who contributed to their creation; Frank Capra created the character, Warner Bros directors Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and Frank Tashlin all took a turn making the shorts, Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny) was the voice of Snafu, and Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) wrote the shorts along with Phil Eastman and Munro Leaf.

Booby Traps, one of twenty-six Private Snafu shorts made, is easily my favorite. The gags are still pretty great (including the bit with the piano, which would later be recycled into a Bugs vs. Daffy cartoon) and this one has worn a little more favorably than others (being war time, many of the other cartoons’ gags relied heavily on un-PC caricatures of the enemy). Most importantly, this is a great example of cartoons being used to appeal to adult audiences, and definitely has a few slightly-NSFW moments. Enjoy the cartoon!

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Halloween and “Vincent” (1982) – Short Film

Well, animation fans, Halloween is almost upon us, and I don’t know about you, but I am pretty excited. It’s the one time of year this non-artist feels a bit artistic — designing a clever costume, carving pumpkins, and decorating the house to scare (but not traumatize) the little kids who live in my neighborhood. And, best of all, October is Halloween movie month! From the best horror movies to the worst B monster/sci-fi flick, it all goes on my watch list for the next couple of weeks.

Not surprisingly, some of my favorite Halloween-y movies come from the world of animation. After all, one of the things I like best about animation is how well it interacts with, and enhances, the conventions from other genres, and the fantastical world of the horror film is a great sandbox for animation to play in. Laika’s Paranorman and Coraline, Aardman Animation’s Wallace And Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and (of course) Tim Burton’s raft of animated films are all great examples of what animation brings to the broadly-defined ‘horror’ movie genre, and are definitely on my queue for the coming weeks.

It seems only appropriate to kick things off here on 540 Feet with Vincent, Tim Burton’s 1982 short film. Created while he was still working at Disney, Vincent is a delightfully dark film about a boy named Vincent Malloy who drives himself mad emulating Vincent Price (who narrates the poem). I love the expressionist style here — it feels very similar to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in places — and it is fascinating to see the elements of this short that would later make their way into Burton’s feature films.

 

What about you, dear reader? What is your favorite animated film for Halloween? Have I forgotten something on my list? Let me know in the comments below!