Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Chuck Jones "From A to ZZZ" & "Boyhood Daze" (1953 & 1957)

One of the great Looney Tunes characters, inveterate (Walter Mitty-like) daydreamer Ralph Phillips, appeared in two of Chuck Jones’ films, the Oscar nominated From A to ZZZ and four years later in 1957, Boyhood Daze. In the former Ralph daydreams in the classroom, whilst the later film has him banished to the bedroom for smashing a window. But you can’t keep a good imagination down. The animation itself as one might expect from Chuck is a visual treat (see below) with a complementary script that is particularly funny. But the character is the great creation, a shy little boy who discovers greatness in his imagination. Discovered daydreaming when he should have been doing his mathematics, Ralph is ordered to solve a blackboard crammed full of number problems. Cue a series of black and white battles in which he enlists the alphabet to decimate the numbers, a situation provoking laughter from classmates and a trip out into the fresh air to post a letter for sympathetic teacher. Cue cowboys and Indians, racing through the desert to the fort to post the letter to arrive back pin-cushioned by arrows, staggering into the classroom, sinking to the ground as he delivers the valedictory: "Don’t you worry none about your rent, Miss Wallace ma’am, the money for your mortgage has gone through." Or in Boyhood Daze as his parents are crammed into the cooking bowl by hungry cannibals in the jungle: "I warned you if I ever caught you boiling parents again I’d…"One of the joys is that the invented worlds are so much that of the child: flying his aircraft against Martians he develops a technical problem, the voice on the radio straining the child’s technical vocabulary with a distinctly tentative statement of the problems he faces "and besides too your … your supersonic filament is coming loose", or the submarine has sank so many "farthings" beneath the waves, infested by the "dreaded sabre toothed shark". All this and some poor grammar for the monarch make the films amongst my favourites. "I shall return" he proclaims as he strides out of the classroom in the guise of General Douglas MacArthur at the close of From A to ZZZ. He did even after 1957 albeit rather older, though that is for another day. Sorry but the linked films are decidedly not the best quality versions.


Distorteddogma said...

This is some of the Chuck (Charles M.) Jones work that really excel. A shame that the series was not continued.
Chuck Jones influence on more established characters such as Tom and Jerry, or Bugs Bunny was less appreciated. His radical alteration of the style and content syntax of those cartoons was always a disappointment.
Be Well.

Ian Lumsden said...

Chuck Jones' influence on today's animators should be great. I try to cover the classic directors as well as the modern. Chuck is one of the greats without doubt. I hope his work is studied in the various schools of animation. (A series of posts on the university departments around the world is on its way. It's a question I shall ask.)

I also agree the series should have been continued. Ralph is a fabulous character with much to offer children and adult alike.