Gather ‘round, folks! It’s a Bugs Bunny jungle “pitcher”!
Precarious journeys in a mysterious jungle proved successful in newsprint and screen throughout the first half of the 20th century, as made popular by Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan of the Apes. Many adventures featuring such characters as Jungle Jim, Bomba the Jungle Boy and Congo Bill followed in its wake. The tropical wilderness, supplied by layout artist Cornett Wood and background artist Richard Thomas, is one of the many standout elements in this cartoon. The layout in scene 34, in particular, is visually striking.
By the time Gorilla’s story work commenced in late 1945, with voice recording held on January 19, 1946, the post-war baby boom emerged into American society. An impressive amount of children were born over the next three years — a considerable difference from the birth rates from the previous decade. Mrs. Gorilla’s depression over her incomplete family, and the dark twinge in the story where she contemplates suicide by a nearby river, could easily allude to these specific events. Her “gruesome” husband, repulsed with the notion of having children, certainly doesn’t help matters.
Bugs’ design is remarkably different in this cartoon. This new design, with its small cranium, slight pot-belly and big jowls, appeared up until 1950’s Hurdy-Gurdy Hare. Though several animation lovers have rebuked it, this Bugs has its share of fans. Female staffer Jean Blanchard designed this plump version of Bugs, and her scheme undeniably benefited the joyously obnoxious nature of Bob McKimson’s ‘40s cartoons. Blanchard left the studio around 1947, and later worked at MGM. She also drew caricatures of the staff for the in-house Warner Club News magazine. One big question about her career at the studio — did Blanchard animate for the McKimson unit? It remains a mystery for now.
McKimson’s brother Charles – credited as “Chuck” in the draft, started at Warners in 1937, in Tex Avery’s unit, but left the studio to serve in the Army Signal Corps during WWII. He returned around 1946 and was naturally assigned to his brother’s crew. Chuck’s drawing/animation is very similar to his brother’s and he was often assigned close-ups in the McKimson cartoons. While he animated at Warners, Chuck – under the pseudonym “Al McKimson” — drew the syndicated Roy Rogers comic strip from 1949-53, with his brother Tom and background artist Pete Alvarado.
When Warners briefly closed its animation division in the wake of the 3-D craze in 1953, Chuck joined Dell Publishing and became an art director for their comics and coloring books. He left in 1960 to work as an animation director for Calvin and the Colonel (1961-62), an offshoot of the Amos n’ Andy radio/television program that only ran for one season. After Calvin’s cancellation, Chuck created title sequences for features and television programs at Pacific Title.
Manny Gould’s expansive animation is easily the strongest work in Gorilla. His knack for comedic acting used broad arm gestures (instigated by McKimson’s direction), and foreshortening characters directly toward the camera. First named Emmanuel Goldman, Gould began his animation career at Fleischer’s Inkwell studio, alongside Dick Huemer, Burt Gillett, Sid Marcus and Ben Harrison. Fleischer accused them of infringement of the “secret process” used in producing the series, so they left and formed Associated Animators – not to be confused with the early union created by John Terry and Bill Nolan to fight the Bray/Hurd cel patent — animating on cartoons starring Mutt and Jeff, released from 1925-26.In 1927, Gould and Harrison supervised the Paramount Krazy Kat studio in Manhattan after Bill Nolan was dropped from the series. The two animated/directed under producer Charles Mintz for several years and moved to the West Coast after the studio changed distributors from Paramount to Columbia. Gould and Harrison, along with Marcus and Huemer, left Mintz over a salary dispute around 1933. All but Huemer eventually returned. Gould continued to direct under Mintz and Screen Gems, but was fired during the big 1941 layoff that occurred while the studio was being reorganized.
Gould went over to Warners, first animating under Bob Clampett and then in McKimson’s unit. He left in 1947 to work with Jerry Fairbanks on Paramount’s Speaking of Animals series. After a large gap in the ‘50s, Gould’s credits resurface around the late ‘60s, when he animated on Ed Graham’s Linus the Lion Hearted television series. He spent a majority of his career at DePatie-Freleng, where he frequently animated his scenes at home, since he suffered from cancer. Gould also worked on Ralph Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic, Abe Levitow’s B.C. Thanksgiving special and the late Bob Taylor’s Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. It is unclear as to his views over his shift from supervisory role to regular animator in the later years, since he passed away the week Milt Gray intended to interview him in 1975.
John Carey’s scenes in the cartoon suffer from shoddy clean-up/inking, but his scene 11, with Bugs’ reaction to suddenly being high up in a tree, has some unique and funny drawings. Scene 31, where Gruesome lets go of a tree limb during a take, while anticipating a fall before the next dissolve, is hysterical. Carey started his career at Ub Iwerks’ studio and was part of the group of artists that switched over to the “Katz unit” for Bob Clampett. Schelesinger signed his contract on June 21, 1937. He animated for Clampett and Norm McCabe until he left for his service in the Navy during World War II. He returned to Warners in the mid-‘40s, animating in the McKimson unit, but left in the early ‘50s to become an artist for Dell Comics. Carey drew licensed Warners and Lantz characters, and moved onto Hanna-Barbera and Disney stories in the ‘60s. Later, he illustrated many Winnie the Pooh stories written by Vic Lockman, until his 1984 retirement.
Anatolle Kirsanoff and Izzy Ellis are uncredited for their Gorilla animation. Kirsanoff is given four scenes in the cartoon, but Ellis has a considerable amount of footage. Ellis is credited in later McKimson productions (Daffy Duck Slept Here and Hop, Look and Listen, released in ’48), but he might have left Warners by the time either of those two were in production ─ hence the lack of credit. There is a credited “Fred” in the draft for this cartoon that is finally confirmed as Fred Abranz, not Fred Jones as was previously thought in Birth of a Notion.
To reiterate, Fred Jones left Disney on February 1947, after Gorilla finished animation, so it seems more likely that Abranz was the one standard “Fred” in the McKimson unit. Michael Barrier’s copy of the Notion draft does not include the “Fred Jones” notation like the copy embedded in the breakdown posted in April. That information was relayed from the late Martha Sigall who thought Jones was the credited “Fred”. Further evidence has surfaced that Abranz was also one of the many staffers shown on a Christmas-greetings page by the cartoon department in the January 1945 issue of Warners Club News.
Abranz spent most of his career as an assistant animator, but briefly animated at Warners, which might have led to his absence in the main credits. He claimed that he found animation to be too demanding, and felt more comfortable as an assistant. Abranz’s work as a regular animator was more than competent, as previously seen in Birth Of A Notion and Hot Cross Bunny. The cycle of Gruesome angrily pounding his chest in scene 23 — reprised with slower exposures in sc. 27 — is wonderful.
Like Chuck and Carey, he left the studio around 1950 to become a staff artist for Western Publishing’s Dell Comics, illustrating stories and Little Golden Books with the Warners characters. Abranz also drew comics for Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda, as well as Disney’s Little Hiawatha and Big Bad Wolf. At first, he served as a penciller, letterer and inker on his comic pages, but grew tired of the second half of the process and eventually did only the drawing. Near the end of his career at Dell, he wrote his own comic stories. In the early ‘60s, he focused on the Hanna-Barbera characters, but as the story format decreased in page length, he moved on to become an artist for Disney’s comics intended for overseas publications. Abranz continued to work for Western, drawing stories for Little Monsters and The Cave Kids, until he retired from comics in 1967, returning to animation. Abranz served as an assistant animator, in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, for Ralph Bakshi, Ruby/Spears and Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes revival features.
Carl Stalling’s scoring session for Gorilla was held in late January 1947. It’s ambiguous as to the delay from its January 3, 1948 release, unless there was a backlog of completed productions. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to notice the gestation that different Warners cartoons endured. This cartoon houses arguably one of Stalling’s finest musical soundtracks for the studio. His usage of Raymond Scott’s Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals during the climatic chase between Bugs and Gruesome is marvelously frenetic. Besides the jaunty snatches of Congo, a trademark Stalling jungle favorite and Hey Doc, which plays when Bugs chatters like an ape for his new gruesome “daddy,” the music serves another type of mood and emotion throughout Gorilla. For instance, Ivanovicki’s Romanian waltz Danube Waves plays in the underscore during Mrs. Gorilla’s melancholic state. Even Bugs’ renditions of Trade Winds and Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat, two hit songs from the early ‘40s, are a lovely treat in this cartoon.
Quit monkeying around and enjoy the breakdown video!
(Thanks to Michael Barrier, Milt Gray, Keith Scott, Yowp and Mark Kausler for their help.)