Now here’s a bona-fide laugh riot from the McKimson unit!
Birth of a Notion was one of the last cartoons Bob Clampett was slated to direct in early 1945 before ultimately leaving the studio, as Thad Komorowski had already explained in further detail here. Being McKimson’s second Daffy cartoon, he not only inhibits Clampett’s trademark zaniness, but also a conniving, selfish side. Daffy’s ersatz death throes from the effects of the “poisoned” bone are screwy but the self-conscious histrionics have a slight touch of McKimson. Rod Scribner’s uninhibited animation in this cartoon feels entirely at home as a Clampett-directed effort. Scene 6, with Leopold thankfully shaking Daffy’s hand, has some hysterical drawings that are definitely worth freeze-framing. When Scribner returned around March 1948, McKimson clamped down on his artists to minimize their animation, but Rod’s wild methods often prevailed.
Interesting to see that a mad scientist resembling Peter Lorre was revived for this cartoon. Existing storyboards from Chuck Jones’ Hair-Raising Hare, released a year earlier, reveals a typical mad scientist, whom would later be transformed into Lorre, but it seems Clampett and storyman Warren Foster had Lorre in mind for the part. Whereas the Lorre mad scientist in Hare-Raising Hare (voiced by Mel Blanc) played a small part, newly discovered voice talent Stan Freberg greatly expands it, reminiscent of Lorre’s peculiar roles in Mad Love and Stranger from the Third Floor.
Notion was also one of the last titles animator Dick Bickenbach worked on before migrating as an animator (later promoted to layout artist) for the Hanna-Barbera unit at MGM. His scenes of Leopold’s silly dance, his master snapping the baseball bat into many pieces and Daffy socking Lorre are nicely drawn and well-executed.
Something I only noticed recently was a nice layout touch in the first scene mentioned, where Daffy walks away to the right into the hallway, and around to an open door. There are no shortcuts in the animation before Daffy is out of view and even anticipates his first plan to get rid of Lorre.
Larry Tremblay revealed many years ago that the way to decipher Cal Dalton’s animation is to see how the characters become plumper than the other animators. Note the difference between how Daffy and Leopold look in scene 10 (by Kirsanoff, above left) and 10A (by Dalton, above right). They both seemed to have gained weight as soon as they entered the house.
I should add that there is another artist credited as “Fred” in this draft. Mark Kausler provided audio commentary for this cartoon with footnotes from this draft, and mentions artist Fred Jones working on this cartoon (Jones is seen on-screen drawing Porky at the start of Freleng’s 1940 Looney Tune, You Ought To Be in Pictures.) I originally thought the credit was intended for Fred Abranz rather than Jones, but a closer look at the draft reveals the latter name on the listing for scene 26. Jones’ name is credited on three 1946-47 Donald Duck cartoons (Lighthouse Keeping, Straight Shooters, Crazy with the Heat) for Disney. Dave Smith of the Disney Archives said Jones was “hired in October 1942, left in February 1947.”
Alberto Becattini notes that Jones worked at Schlesinger’s from 1936-40; Abranz’s career at the studio lasted from 1941-49, so the credit is intriguing but perplexing. Was Fred Jones moonlighting for this cartoon (and for the McKimson unit?) Would this mean the “Fred” from Hot Cross Bunny would be Fred Jones and not Fred Abranz? If the first question is accurate, Jones’ drawing adheres to the McKimson style quite perfectly for a temp assignment. Hopefully, light can be shed on this, but a wise man once said, research of this extent is endless.
Enjoy this latest breakdown video, you mad, impetuous boy, you!