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.)
I loooooove this cartoon! Especially the scenes where Grover Groundhog was duping the dog by telling him “Sob Stories” and the dog falling for it!
The sob stories which get progressively more absurd… and example of McKimson’s fondness for comic dialogue, most notably found in his Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. 🙂
Those by far the best scenes in that cartoon. BTW Regarding Spectre’s comment about Foghorn Leghorn, the ol’ beagle in those cartoons is Mandrake! Freberg’s great as the groundhog..
Yeah, the standard McKimsonian dog, based on a design he used even before he became a director! (Check out Porky’s dog in “Corny Concerto” – but only in the scenes McKimson animated!
“Mandrake” also appears as Porky’s hunting dog in “Daffy Duck Hunt”, not quite as soft-hearted as he does in “One Meat Brawl” but with more of a conscience than in his role as the Barnyard Dawg.
Very interesting! Had no idea there was a surviving draft for this cartoon – I have seen one or two guesswork breakdowns and was a bit sceptical that Manny Gould actually worked on it (as he appears to have stayed in Clampett’s unit when Art Davis took over, and worked on Art’s first few cartoons) but I see here he worked on one scene.
I wonder if Anatole Kirsanoff or Fred Abranz ever received screen credit on any shorts that were later Blue Ribboned?
If Mel Blanc was perfectly able to do the groundhog’s voice for the song, why bother to hire Stan Freberg to do his speaking voice?
I suppose that’s one question we’ll remain unsolved. I suppose since they were auditioning Freberg anyway, they must had liked his delivery for Grover and kept it in without the need for Mel to redo those lines, saving them the trouble and time for another session.
UPDATE: I noticed an error in the video, and I try my hardest to avoid these. The draft indicates Fred Abranz animates the shadow boxing, and the final reveal is by Dalton. (Dalton does not animate both, as the video indicates.)
Not “Porky Pig in One Meat Brawl (1947)”?
and introducing: Grover Groundhog. 😉
More and more I’m starting to think Anatole Kirsanoff was shafted at WB. I mean he animated half* the freaking cartoon and he doesn’t receive screen credit? Doubly a shame since his work is usually pretty enjoyable. *(fraction may not be accurate, but you get the idea)
Interesting how the animation abruptly switches from Art Davis to Rod Scribner during the opening song. I honestly like Davis’s animation better than Scribner’s here, but I’m probably in the minority.
Devon, do you plan on doing any breakdowns for Chuck Jones cartoons? I find those are difficult to break down who animated what, at least compared to Friz’s and McKimson’s shorts.
Chuck drafts are hard to come by at the moment. Please be patient.
My brother, now 61, will invariably say, as Feb. 2 approaches (in Stan Freberg’s Walter Winchell voice) “Today, [PAUSE ] is Groundhog Day!” So this cartoon has made its mark on my family history!
I’m wondering why this cartoon was switched from the Davis unit to be finished by Mckimson’s unit. Also surprising for me is that Mandrake (a.k.a. Barnyard Dog) is first seen in a Davis cartoon, not a McKimson cartoon. Because of the late release date and the appearance of Mandrake, I would never have thought this cartoon was begun so early.
Anatolle Kirsanoff’s scenes are real standouts for such an unknown animator! I love the wind effect he did on Porky while Mandrake runs past him.
Thanks for the wonderful post!
Davis was never slated to direct this cartoon; he started directing in the middle of production.
Anatolle Kirsanoff was almost assuredly Manny Gould’s assistant. His work has direct similarities to Gould’s and I have to think that although he was assigned the scenes mentioned, they were done under the supervision of Gould. I can think of no other explanation why Kirsanoff or Fred Abranz for that matter were not given screen credit. They were probably working ahead on a cartoon because their animators were otherwise unavailable.
Not much to this theory. Kirsanoff was working at Schlesinger’s at least a full year before Gould arrived and animated for Tashlin. Who can say for sure why he never got a screen credit? Or how it worked at the studio in general? Before the single “rotating” animator credit practice stopped, Ben Washam almost never got screen credit, and there are many cartoons where Pete Burness went uncredited despite doing more footage than the others that were. Stinks so little documentation survives.
Remember that a lot of the original credits for the mid-40s are missing. Ben Washam may have been credited more often than we know about. And we *do* know that George Cannata received his solitary screen credit on “Swooner Crooner” before it was Blur Ribboned, maybe Kirsanoff or Abranz received a screen credit on the original release of “One Meat Brawl” or “Birth of a Notion”?
Thanks for the link to the actual musical number, “Chitlin’ Switch”; I never know whether the scorings for the titles to some Warner Brothers cartoons are Stalling originals or actual jazz or popular songs of the day. Wow, so this cartoon didn’t see the light of day until two years after its completion? I wonder why that was. Given the amount of animation created at Warner Brothers during any given year, I guess there are always one or two ideas that are left “on the back burner” whenever the guys had an over-abundance of ideas. Sure wish that MGM did things that way, too, because I’m always intrigued by titles that are listed in MGM documents but didn’t ever see release.
You’ve got some of this mixed up. “One Meat Brawl” was assuredly always a McKimson cartoon. That’s exactly WHY the Davis animation stops and Scribner’s starts. Clampett had left, and Davis got his unit. Scribner didn’t want to be in Davis’s unit, so he went to McKimson’s (before checking out with TB shortly after). Same goes for Gould, who lasted a little longer (he has screen credit on “Mouse Menace”) before switching to McKimson.
It’s safe to say Clampett’s leaving caused a bit of disarray, and the high number of animators on this cartoon is probably due to the fact that they weren’t sure of who would go in whose unit yet, and this was a way to keep everyone busy. If the cartoon originated with Clampett, he wasn’t involved with anything more than just the germ idea. (Which in the Bob Clampett universe becomes something much more than it really is so easily… Like having the idea to pair Tweety and Sylvester, and getting the title for the cartoon from Carl Stalling, gives him some real claim to Warners’ first Oscar.)
As close as I can tell, this is what happened:
When Frank Tashlin left the studio, Bob McKimson was promoted out of the Clampett unit to take his place, and he inherited Tashlin’s crew of Art Davis, Cal Dalton, Richard Bickenbach and Izzy Ellis (as credited on “Hare Remover”) plus the uncredited Anatolle Kirsanoff.
To plug the gap left by McKimson’s departure, Izzy Ellis moved over to Clampett’s unit alongside the remaining Rod Scribner, Manny Gould and (J.)C. Melendez (as credited on “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” etc.) Meanwhile in McKimson’s unit, Davis, Dalton, Bickenbach and Kirsanoff were joined by Don Williams (unless he had already been an uncredited animator under Tashlin), as listed on the “Acrobatty Bunny” draft. Fred Abranz joined McKimson’s crew shortly after – I think he was promoted from assistant animator.
Then, of course, Bob Clampett left, and Art Davis was promoted out of McKimson’s unit to take over, meaning he left the production of McKimson’s “One Meat Brawl” after only animating part of a scene. He took Don Williams with him (hence why Williams doesn’t animate much on “Brawl” either). Rod Scribner and Izzy Ellis left the ex-Clampett unit and joined McKimson’s.
So, Manny Gould and J.C. Melendez remained in the former-Clampett-now-Davis unit (with Manny briefly loaned to McKimson to animate one scene, according to this draft), now joined by Don Williams, while Dalton, Bickenbach, Kirsanoff and Abranz remained in the McKimson unit, now joined by Scribner and Ellis.
This looks like there were twice as many animators in McKimson’s unit than Davis’, maybe Davis had a couple of other animators working for him with no (surviving?) credits like how McKimson had Kirsanoff and Abranz. Anyhow, Cal Dalton apparently got screen credit on Davis’ “The Goofy Gophers” alongside Gould, Melendez and Williams so he must have switched over after animating on McKimson’s “Birth of a Notion”, then left the studio entirely.
Then of course after working on three (?) Davis cartoons, Manny Gould moved to the McKimson unit full-time.
This is really a fine cartoon–a sterling example of the energy and visual-verbal wit of the mid-decade WB cartoon studio. Despite its patchwork origins, it’s top quality work by all involved. “No polo ponies” has been a favorite line for decades. It’s enlightening to see who did what—as it is in every installment of this column. There are unsung heroes in the WB animation department, to be sure!
A Very Good Porky Pig Cartoon with Grover Grounhog, Porky Pig, The Farmyard Dog from Foghorn Leghorn’s Cartoons!