February 24, 2016 posted by

Robert McKimson’s “The Foghorn Leghorn” (1948)

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The last installment of Foghorn February spotlights one of the rooster’s most bombastic cartoons!

In his third cartoon, The Foghorn Leghorn names the barnyard rooster, though he isn’t specifically called such on-screen. Production for Rootin’ Tootin’ Rooster — the working title after its story was approved — began in summer 1946; by this time, the immense popularity of the radio character Senator Claghorn was rife with potential for a feature film titled It’s a Joke, Son! The film’s shooting schedule and dialogue recording for The Foghorn Leghorn coincided, occurring in late July and early August 1946. As mentioned in an earlier post, a few weeks later, in August 1946, Walky Talky Hawky was released to theaters.

Foghorn Leghorn-preliminary-600Foghorn’s presence is more distinct here than in his earlier appearances, and is especially pronounced in Cornett Wood’s clever layouts. In scene 22 (animated in Pete Burness’ ‘bouncy’ style), Foghorn is shown in a low angle, seen from Henery Hawk’s minuscule perspective; the next shot is a high angle of the annoyed chicken hawk impatiently listening to Foghorn’s ramblings. In another low angle shot, in scene 32, both characters occupy the same space, as Foghorn rears back with laughter and bends forward, explaining he really is a chicken to Henery. Scene 39 (animated by Phil DeLara) uses an intriguingly oblique angle as Foghorn climbs the ladder to escape the dog.

Though Manny Gould isn’t assigned much footage in The Foghorn Leghorn, his vitality as an animator is striking. Gould animates a superb sequence, in scene 17, where Foghorn admonishes Paw Chickenhawk, repeatedly bumping into him with his paunch. He also handles Foghorn’s overzealous crowing (with some impressive dry-brush work), after he rigs a contrived sunset in scene 36. Some of the other animators have their highlights, as well; in scene 42, the dog has taken enough unintentional abuse from Foghorn (in other entries, it’s often deliberate). As animated by John Carey, the dog repeatedly picks him up and throws him to the ground.

Foghorn Leghorn-lobby2-600Phil DeLara’s animation in this cartoon is wonderfully energetic; much of it contains extreme smear drawings. DeLara’s scenes of Paw Chickenhawk maniacally cackling and wringing his hands (scene 9), along with the scared reactions of the hens, are marvelous. He is also credited for Foghorn’s large take and frantically climbing up the ladder in scene 38A, and a great piece of acting, as Henery backs away from Foghorn before subduing him with a shovel, in scene 44.

According to a short bio in the January 1939 issue of the Exposure Sheet, the Schlesinger in-house newsletter, De Lara contributed cartoons to The Junior Times, an insert for young cartoonists in the Los Angeles Times. (Bob Clampett, Cal Dalton and Frank Tipper also contributed to the insert as teenagers.) De Lara eventually became a staff member at the Times, engraving photographs and as a lithographer.

He joined Warners in the mid-‘30s as an in-betweener and became an animator for Chuck Jones in the early ‘40s, with a lone screen credit for 1941’s Saddle Silly. He left the studio to serve in the Army around 1943. By the time The Foghorn Leghorn was in production, De Lara returned to animate for McKimson. Around late 1950, while he continued to animate, De Lara drew “funny animal” stories for Dell Comics on the Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies Comics. Later, he went into illustration work full-time, drawing comic book stories and coloring books with Lantz, MGM, Disney, Hanna-Barbera and DePatie/Freleng characters until his death in 1973.

Paw-Chickenhawk-600The draft for this cartoon indicates there was another working title, The Fowl Bawls, crossed out for the film’s definitive title. The reveal of Henery carrying the dog out of the doghouse (after scene 28) isn’t listed in the draft, but is credited to Charles McKimson, based on the solidity of his drawing/animation. The brief shot of the dog holding the watermelon after scene 38A is also absent, presumably meaning it was added after animation was completed. Without it, as implied in the draft, the payoff would’ve been more effective, if not stronger. Scene 40A in the draft lists Foghorn’s take after seeing Henery near the doghouse, with a firecracker in his hand. However, it doesn’t imply Foghorn’s superfluous line of dialogue (“Don’t do it! I’ll get blamed for it!”), running after him, as it does in the finished film.

Hope you’ve all enjoyed Foghorn February! Given the availability of McKimson drafts, will there be another installment? Mmmmm…it’s a possibility!

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(Thanks to Michael Barrier, Keith Scott, Jerry Beck, Yowp and Paul Bussolini for their help.)


  • Here’s the movie IT’S A JOKE, SON! with Kenny Delmar as Senator Claghorn:

    • Thanks for that link. This is one of those films I’ve heard about but never saw. Not bad as the origin story of “Senator” Claghorn and I was surprised to see the actress who played W.C. Field’s daughter (Una Merkel) in 1940’s THE BANK DICK turning up as Claghorn’s middle-aged wife in 1947. She may have partaken of one too many purple bark sarsaparillas in her youth. Several other familiar faces in there too.

  • Aw, the month’s already over? Well, I hope you have something big planned for next month……

  • FOGHORN LEGHORN cartoons are almost always known for good lines of dialogue, but I liked Foggy during these early years with all the bombastic “hand” waving. That “loud-mouthed schnook should have been featured more throughout the GOLDEN COLLECTION sets or at least have gotten his own DVD that features all or most of his earlier cartoons, along with more “friends” and barnyard one shots, and Warner Brothers had some of the best barnyard one shots.

  • This one probably has the most unusual camera angles of all the cartoons during this period, when McKimson was experimenting with odd farmings and perspective shots (which may explain the added shot of Barnyard Dog holding the watermelon — Foggy almost looks like he’s going downwards on the ladder due to the angle Bob uses, so audiences trying to figure that out might have missed just exactly what he jammed his head into without the added insert).

  • “Some days, it just don’t pay to get out of bed.” One of the funniest lines in Looney Tunes history.

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