Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dangerous Dan McFoo

Some months back I purchased an Errol Flynn box set (it's also available at the TCM Shop) for a couple of the movies. I watched Dodge City this morning, and will probably review it later in the week. One of the extras on the Dodge City DVD was a Merrie Melodies short called Dangerous Dan McFoo.

The first thing to notice is that this was directed by Tex Avery, who directed cartoons at Warner Bros. before Chuck Jones came along and Tex left for MGM. Because of this, there are none of the Looney Tunes characters and the cartoon as a very different visual look from the Chuck Jones cartoons at Warner Bros. The action as set at some saloon in the northern part of the Old West in the dead of winter, where it's snowing heavily. Dan, voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan, sounds a lot like Elmer Fudd, in no small part because it was Bryan who voiced Elmer Fudd up until his death and Mel Blanc's taking over the part. Dan, and most of the rest of the characters, look like dogs.

As for Dan, he's a little short guy, in love with Sue. Then another guy (unnamed, but voiced by Mel Blanc) comes into the saloon, sees Sue, and imagines her as Warner Bros. contract player Bette Davis. This is, in fact, a photo of Bette cropped onto the character's head, and not an animator's representation of Bette, which is another interesting thing. The ne guy challenges Dan for Sue's hand; Sue obviously supports Dan. This being a one-reel animated short, that's pretty much all there is.

Dangerous Dan McFoo was released in 1939, the same year as Dodge City. The cartoon, predating Looney Tunes, very much has the feel of other 1930s cartoons. It's very staid; in fact I think it was the introduction of the Looney Tunes characters that resulted in cartoon characters being more manic and wisecracking. That makes it feel old-fashioned, but even the Disney cartoons of the era -- including the ones with Mickey Mouse and the other recognizable characters -- seem genteel by later standards. The visual look, as I mentioned above, is also not like what you're probably used to since for the most part we grew up with post-war Looney Tunes cartoons on TV. It's really jarring to hear Elmer Fudd's voice coming out of Dan.

I'm glad, however, that Dangerous Dan McFoo was on this DVD. It's a look at an era of animation we don't get to see all that much.

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