In light of the incredible amount of snow the East Coast has received, and other upcoming events, here’s a special column for Groundhog Day in this week’s breakdown!
By the time the story for this cartoon was finalized in early 1945, the working title was simply Grover Groundhog. The first dialogue recording with Mel Blanc and Stan Freberg occurred on March 17, 1945. Bob Clampett left Warners in May of that year, but it’s unclear if he was the intended director, or if Bob McKimson was involved, in that capacity, from the beginning. The first recording session was likely an audition for then-newcomer Freberg; he returned on March 31 to record the Walter Winchell voice emitting from Grover Groundhog’s radio. The dialogue recording for Chuck Jones’ Roughly Squeaking (1946) occurred on the same day, indicating that dialogue for two or three cartoons, under different directors, were occasionally scheduled for the convenience of booking outside talent.
Mel Blanc recorded Grover’s performance of “A Groundhog’s Shadow” while Freberg provided his speaking voice. The animation of the sequence is mostly split between Art Davis and Rod Scribner. After Clampett’s departure, Davis took his directing chair and inherited most of his animators. However, Scribner joined McKimson’s unit, and finished the section where Davis left off. The changes between the two are quite obvious; the drawing/movement become relatively looser–and more inventive, as Grover’s body moves at a different level than his head as he sings (before wearing specific seasonal clothing)–under Scribner.
Presumably because of the transition between the two units, nine artists are credited on the draft, more than the usual for McKimson’s crew. Former Clampett animator Manny Gould is only credited on scene 22A, where Grover tells a sob story to Porky Pig’s dog Mandrake, wearing earmuffs, into a microphone. Don Williams is only credited for scene 24, where Porky smacks a squirt gun out of Mandrake’s hand. Williams would later move to Davis’ unit.
Anatolle Kirsanoff, an animator uncredited for his work on-screen, is given a substantial amount of character animation here–unlike the transitional scenes assigned to him for Gorilla My Dreams and Acrobatty Bunny. Scribner’s animation is much like his work for Clampett; Dick Bickenbach’s work stands out as well. In scene 15, Grover easily spooks Mandrake; his reaction has some wonderfully spastic drawings. Porky’s shock towards Mandrake in scene 28, thinking he has eaten poor Grover, is nicely acted, aided by Blanc’s performance.
Blanc arrived back to record unknown pick-up dialogue on June 29, 1946. By that time, the cartoon became known as One Meat Brawl, a send-up of the novelty song “One Meat Ball” (by Hy Zaret/Lou Singer). The title also suggests the post-war meat shortage, due to wartime rationing, which Grover mentions to the audience after discovering his adoring Groundhog Day audience are, in fact, merciless hunters. The musical score was held July 6, 1946, with arranger Milt Franklyn present. Carl Stalling uses a gentle rendition of “It Had to Be You” to underscore Grover’s absurd sob stories, among them having a wife with 72 of his own offspring. One Meat Brawl was released to theaters on January 18, 1947, almost two years after the story was completed.
The film elements for the opening titles of this cartoon are missing; instead this version is a re-issued “Blue Ribbon” title. However, the original cue sheet for One Meat Brawl indicate the song “Chittlin’ Switch” (Lucky Millinder/Barbera Belle/Anita Leonard) was used underneath the opening titles. Carl Stalling would use the song again under the titles for Jones’ Feed the Kitty (1952).
Enjoy this week’s breakdown video!
(Thanks to Mark Kausler, Keith Scott, Michael Barrier and Andrew Gilmore for their help.)