April 13, 2016 posted by

Robert McKimson’s “Daffy Doodles” (1946)

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“Science is some folks’ calling
Others pilot a ship
My mission in life stated simply is…
A mustache on every lip!”

Since this cartoon was his directorial debut, this column will discuss Bob McKimson’s beginnings and career in animation. Many, if not all, of the Warners cartoons that received the “breakdown” treatment thus far belonged to him.

Born in Colorado, McKimson and his two brothers, Tom and Charles (whom later both served as artists at Warners), learned to draw from their mother Milfred, and supported their father Charles Sr.’s newspaper and printing business, including illustration work, at a young age. In 1926, McKimson’s parents sold their newspaper in Texas and moved to Los Angeles. (The family briefly re-located there in 1921, before moving back to Colorado.) After Bob graduated high school, he worked as a linotype operator in Hollywood.

In the summer of 1929, McKimson was offered a job at Disney’s as an assistant animator to Dick Lundy, while his brother Tom apprenticed under Norm Ferguson. No contemporaneous evidence proves the two McKimson brothers worked at the studio. Lundy attested their employment in later years. In spring, 1930, both Bob and Tom were offered a job at a higher salary to animate for a new studio launched by Romer Grey (son of famed author of Western novels Zane Grey.)

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Four cartoons starring Binko the Bear Cub were animated, with two ready to be processed. Besides Romer’s extravagant spending on yachts, foreign travel and hunting trips ultimately withholding animator’s salaries, the studio was unable to negotiate a distribution agreement and closed by the summer of 1931. (Only one Binko film, Hot Toe Mollie, has surfaced in recent years, which you can see on Tom Stathes’ Cartoon Roots DVD/Blu-Ray set.)

The two brothers moved over to Warners, and animated for Harman-Ising. During that time, they animated the normal amount of footage the studio required, approximately 25 to 30 feet of animation. After Bob was hospitalized from a car accident, he returned with a sharp perception, producing almost 80 feet a week without much exertion. After Harman and Ising broke their agreement with producer Leon Schlesinger in the summer of 1933, he was left to establish his own studio, and Bob remained with him. (Tom would leave with Harman and Ising over to MGM.)

After animating for various directors, McKimson was offered a chance to direct in 1937, but declined, deferring to Chuck Jones for the position. McKimson was highly respected for his work as an animator at the studio, and was promoted to head animator, in which he would oversee the consistency of the animators’ scenes to keep them “on-model.” During the early ‘40s, while McKimson animated for Bob Clampett, director Frank Tashlin left Warners around September 1944 to direct stop-motion animated films produced by John Sutherland, known as Daffy Ditties. With that, McKimson saw the opportunity of Tashlin’s absence, and transitioned from animating to directing.



The dialogue recording for this film, under the working title “Mustache Maniac”, with Mel Blanc and Robert C. Bruce (as the opening narrator) occurred on September 16, 1944—around the time Tashlin left. Another session was held on June 30, 1945—now called its unalterable title—possibly for a dialogue change or pick-up line. Daffy Doodles wasn’t his first official cartoon release for the studio, having directed The Return of Mr. Hook, intended for and shown to Navy audiences in 1945. Given the priorities and quick turnaround for the Hook film, released before McKimson’s early cartoons as a director, it could have overlapped between production of the regular theatrical shorts. Contrary to popular belief, Daffy Doodles was never slated as a Frank Tashlin project; McKimson confirmed it was his film as soon as he started directing.

McKimson inherited animators from Tashlin’s unit, including Dick Bickenbach, Art Davis and Cal Dalton. Other animators credited in the draft are Izzy Ellis, Don Williams, Anatolle Kirsanoff, and one shot (scene 44) presumably animated by Ray Patin, credited as “Ray.” The scene moves fluidly with an almost Disney flavor; Patin was a former Disney animator—one of several artists fired during the studio’s strike in 1941, after they gained approval to join the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild. By the time he worked at Warners, he had been elected as head of the Guild. The Top Cel union newsletter, and a column in Warners Club News (“What’s Cookin’?”) written by Tedd Pierce, one of the main principal writers, Patin took a leave of absence from the studio by late November, 1944. He went over to free-lance in funny animal stories for Sangor Shop, and returned to Disney’s as a story artist two years later.

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With Daffy Doodles being his first true directorial effort, McKimson and writer Warren Foster were confident in considering their opportunities with a simple premise. For instance, the opening scenes portray Daffy’s nefarious deeds as murderous, until it’s revealed a more juvenile crime— painting mustaches on various advertisements, including send-ups of Campbell’s Soup and Fisk Tires.
Daffy (as animated by Art Davis) explains his life’s purpose through accented and rhyming dialogue. In a later sequence, as Daffy hangs upside down, vandalizing a billboard, he sings an ersatz version of Bert Kalmar/Harry Ruby’s “She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter.”


The draft indicates more comedic subtext—scene 33, the after-effects of Daffy being struck on the head by policeman Porky, is modeled after vaudevillian and screen comedian Leon Errol. He starred in a series of two-reel comedies for Columbia and RKO in the ‘30s and ‘40s, where his comic trademark (also onstage) was an erratic and rubbery walk, as if he is inebriated.

Also, the last page of the draft is missing, though it isn’t entirely a loss, since it would’ve only contained the final section of the film, which is undeniably Art Davis’ work.

This is one of the few Warners cartoons where the information on orchestration dates are missing. Being a Blue Ribbon re-issue, the original cue sheet indicates that the opening cue underneath the opening titles is Sunny Skylar’s “All The Time.” Click the video embed at right to imagine what it might have sounded like – utilizing an instance where Carl Stalling used it for the opening titles of Art Davis’ Bone Sweet Bone (1948).

Enjoy the breakdown video, ya crazies!

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(Thanks to Michael Barrier, Keith Scott, Frank Young, Thad Komorowski and Yowp for their help.)


  • Who are those identical guys in the jury box?

    • Jerry Colonna caricatures in jury box.

    • That’s ’40s comedian Jerry Colonna.

    • About two dozen Jerry Colonnas! (All voiced by Blanc..)

  • Love the opening where Mel Blanc did his “BWA-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” “Evil Laughter” (which I can do a very good impersonation of it) that still send chills down a person’s spines as well as the courtroom scene where there was a jury that are clones of Jerry Collonna (who Mel Blanc does a great impersonation of).
    Also Robert C. Bruce did the voice over narrator on many of the Loony Tunes/Merrie Melodies travelogue and newsreel parodies.

    • I can also do a very good imitation of the laughter,too, (or so I think!).

  • Art Davis’ animation – its posing and movement – shows a heavy Tashlin influence, but the hand gesture Daffy makes while announcing his “mission” is pure McKimson, and reappears in many scenes in Bob’s cartoons, regardless of character or animator.

    I see Izzy Ellis stuck around in McKimson’s unit for a short while before filling the gap left by McKimson in Clampett’s unit. His poses have his recognisable geometric shapes and right-angles on characters’ (particularly Daffy’s) bodies and limbs.

    Don Williams gets only one brief shot here, without his characteristic “wipe” effects. I guess this was the first scene he animated upon his arrival (return) at the studio.

    Kirsanoff gets mostly long-shots, except one nice medium close-up of Daffy on the trapeze. Was he still an assistant animator, being given a few try-out scenes?

  • I see Art’s name has been written over Ray’s for a couple of scenes. Ray must have left the studio before he could animate them.

  • One scene that is really impressive, seen about five minutes in, is when Porky’s chasing Daffy on the ledge, and the background keeps rotating around them.

  • “With that, McKimson saw the opportunity of Tashlin’s absence, and transitioned from animating to directing.”

    Hmm….. not sure that’s entirely accurate. It’d have to try and look for a reference, but I’m pretty sure Martha Sigall claimed that even when Tashlin left, McKimson still felt he wasn’t ready to become a director, and the promotion was kinda forced on him.

    • I thought Sigall left Warners in ’43, to work at MGM. Unless she talked to him in private, here’s a quote from McKimson during his interview with Mike Barrier:

      “I felt that I could do the job as well as anyone else there, and I had the proper experience, so when Tash [Frank Tashlin] left, everybody and his brother was saying, ‘I’m going to take Tash’s place,’ so I went to Eddie Selzer and asked him if Tash was leaving. He said yes, and I said it was about time that I took it over. He said, ‘Fine, do you want it?’ I said sure, and he said, ‘Well, somebody told me you didn’t want it.’ I said, ‘Well, certainly.’ That’s all there was to it, and I took it over.”

  • I find it interesting that the scene footage lengths end in 0 or 8 most often. I bet if you took readings on cartoons made in the last three decades, or more, you’d never see this kind of uniformity. It speaks once again to how music, or the plans to have music be integrated, played such an important role in the direction of the cartoons. When I see these assignment sheets I am truly in awe that they have somehow survived the passage of time, and very grateful too.

  • I’ve got an MP3 of “All the Time,” performed by Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra, but I don’t suppose that does anyone any good.

    • Are you kiddin’?! I’d love to hear that!

  • As a longtime resident of New York City, one of the touches I like in the cartoon is that (at approximately 2.28) they get the traditional Interborough Rapid Transit uptown entrance exactly right. (Compare:

    Immediately following that is one of the truly great usages of “Forty-Second Street” by Stalling, an extended, jazzy version.

  • I’m glad someone mentioned the impressive scene of Porky chasing Daffy on the building ledge, with the building actually rotating or seemingly rotating. I wonder if that scene was animated by Ray Patton. It seems like something that would have happened in an old MICKEY MOUSE cartoon, something that almost seemed like multi-plane camera use. I also like the scene in which Daffy threatens to jump; once Porky feels that Daffy has lept to his death, Porky looks over the edge, only to have Daffy paint a quick mustache on his face…and Porky leans into the camera, angrily snarling in a whisper, “I hate that d-d-d-d-duck!!” Always cracks me up every time I saw and now hear it! I wish the cartoon had made it to one of the GOLDEN COLLECTION sets because it deserved its own commentary.

  • The final shot mentioned on the draft (before the missing page breaking down the trial sequence) seems to have been cut. It would appear to be a shot of a newspaper saying “Mustache Fiend Caught!” or something along those lines.

  • Re the chase on the building ledge scene, I always especially liked the fourth-wall gag where Porky loses his balance, and Daffy pulls him to safety, then turns to the camera, saying, “Very sporting of the little black duck!”

  • One of my favorite Daffy cartoons. A shame it didn’t make it to the Golden Collection DVDs.

    She was an acrobat’s daughter
    She swung by her teeth from a noose
    But one matinee her bridgework gave way
    And she flew through the air like a goose!

  • I love that crisp shot you have of the background painting of the ads…in the actual film, you never actually see that the tin can is lableled “Shambles” soup!

  • What I love about McKimson’s cartoons is that they are almost like three stooges shorts or live action short subjects cast with the looney tune characters.

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