Sunday, July 17, 2016

Drinking Bird: The Motion Picture

For those of you who didn't have a lot of CDs, and you bought "The Carl Stalling Project" on CD twenty years ago, this one is clearly for you.  Okay, sure, it's not What's Opera, Doc? or another one of the greats... in fact, it's probably kinda mediocre, but even so, Carl Stalling worked hard to bring it to life through his music.  We heard him directing the orchestra on this one, and it's called Putty Tat Trouble.


...hmm!  Seems that Friz was building a template, don't it?  We start with the same song as Canary Row... it's cute, of course, and all that... but it's still the same one.  Reminds me of that song they keep playing on the radio.  It's by a group called "X Ambassadors" and it's called "Unsteady."  I heard they spent 30 seconds in the studio recording the vocals, and just repeated them over and over and over again.  Oh, they're going to loooooove performing it live.
First scene: outdoors, winter time.  Must be one of those New York neighborhoods that... Friz never grew up in.  Well, who did, then?  Mel Blanc?  No, he's from Frisco.  Apparently, Looney Tunes screenwriter Michael Maltese did.  Boy, he must've been a wicked bastid.  We zoom in on the lone tall tree in the courtyard.  It's got a nest in it!  I've never actually seen Tweety build a nest before.
And so, we have Tweety alone against the elements, forced to dig the snow out of his nest his own self.  There's no Granny's hearth to warm him this time... but Sylvester does!  He wipes the ice off the window and looks out at the nest in the courtyard.  I guess he can see the little shovelfuls of snow getting pitched out of it to know that there's excitement to be had out of doors.  He's had his fill of cat food for now; only a fresh kill will slake his blood lust.
Now, we've seen this cartoon before, so what to do differently?  Well, we panned to Stage Left to find Sylvester waiting, so it's time now to pan to Stage Right.  A second cat, believe it or not, now has designs on Tweety and... GAH!  What an uggo!  Who is this orange interloper with mismatched eyes?  Oh, this is so based on someone that Maltese ran afoul of in New York.  Alas, the IMDb Trivia page for Putty Tat Trouble gives us no quarter.
And so, both cats scratch at the front door and get let out by their humans.  The humans are housewives (single?!!) voiced by Bea Benaderet, the internet tells us.  She does her Mama Bear voice that she did in The Bee-Deviled Bruin for the red cat, amongst others, then a normal voice for Sylvester.
And so, once both cats are out in the cold, this gruesome twosome make their way out to the tree, one not aware of the other.  Then they both climb to the top, still unawares.  But they do have the wherewithal to take a closer look at Tweety one at a time.  Sylvester goes first, and he gets a face full of snow.  Tweety's still shoveling, you see.  Tweety's spidey sense tingles, and he looks over.  Sylvester sees Tweety look at him, and he ducks down below the nest's edge.  Now, if you have a problem with this plot device, as I kind of do, well... you should probably bail out now and save yourself a whole lot of trouble.  Yes, this kind of thing wouldn't happen in nature, but let's look at it this way... Tweety's a big star, and the cats know that.  Also, it's still only the First Act and what not.  This was before Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho came along and changed the rules about movie stars.  These cartoon cats, therefore, play ball and they help make a logical situation for Tweety to utter his epic, iconic, game-changing catch phrase that surely appears on custom mugs and T-shirts the world over... "I tot I taw a putty tat!" and the follow-up "I DID!  I DID taw a putty tat!" ...oh, right, and, in this case, "I tot I taw ANOTHER putty tat!"  I'm assuming the mugs and T-shirts are spelled correctly... forgive me, it's "tawt" instead of "tot."  Coins?  Lunch boxes?  eBay blows my mind.  No point in putting hyperlinks to specific items, right?  They all go like hotcakes into the night.


The plot devices just keep on coming, folks.  Both cats raise a paw.  It looks like Tweety's number is finally up.  AND THEN... both cats grab a hold of Tweety's nest and make the long climb back down the tree.  First of all... any cat owner will tell you that there's no way a cat's climbing BACK DOWN a tree once it climbs up.  That's where the Fire Department comes in.  And second... they're just trying to pad this thing out to one reel length (about eight minutes), and frankly, they're not doing a very good job of it.  Why on God's green earth would any cat care about stealing a bird's nest?  But okay, that's the plot we're given, so I guess we must therefore just go with it.  Swardson/Sandler 2016!
The cats make it to ground level at 1:39, and they make a bigger jump than Super Mario before they take off running... interesting!  The things these animators and filmmakers come up with to make their works in progress less boring.
And so, both cats take off to their respective domiciles, still unaware of who exactly was holding the other end of that nest.  Now I'm really interested to know how Tweety built this nest, for you see, folks, he obviously got twigs from a tree near the rubber factory.  The nest gets stretched out way way farther than any bird's nest would in real life.  It's not exactly an infinitely-stretching nest, it just seems like it.  It eventually snaps back, and the two cats smack into one another.  I'm assuming Tweety either a) gets pushed out of the way in the nick of time an instant before the two cats hit each other, or b) Tweety's the Highlander, and possesses infinite strength, can breathe under water, get stabbed in a duel, what have you.  And yet, beheading is the Achilles' Heel.  Go fugire.
And then, at about 1:47... FINALLY.  The cats become unstunned, and they finally notice one another.  They get those little stink lines around their heads... or whatever you call them.  You know, the expression lines.  I'm making kind of a big deal about them now, because they hang around a little too long... don't you think?  Usually they disappear about as quickly as they appear.  Maybe it's a fluke, maybe it was directed that way... mind you, these lines used to have huge parts!  Recall the Krazy Kat cartoon where the mouse looks at a brick... I think that's the one.  There used to be long lines of dashes pointing at stuff.  All over the place.  They're all but gone now.  I can't remember the last time one was used.  Not even in that Yolanda Be Cool fake retro thing!  Can you believe that?  In this day and age and what not?  They don't play that at the gym anymore; it makes me sad.
Anyway, a kind of tug of war breaks out between the black and red ants... I mean, cats.  Reminds me of the tug of war between Elmer Fudd and Bugs' arm in ... Fresh Hare!  Took me a while to find it.  AND THEN... inner sanctum violated.  Sly runs to his very doorstep and furiously pounds on the door.  The red cat follows him with a blunt instrument to hit him upon the head with.  To his very doorstep!  Tastefully, the filmmakers don't actually show us the moment where Sly gets knocked upon the head, but Sly's human opens the door to find Sylvester lying there, bump upon head, stars swirling around it.  "AAHHH!!!!" she cries, no thanks to the Closed Captioning.
But this too shall pass, and Sly quickly regains consciousness, looks over with furrowed cat brow, gets up and chases that darned red cat down the steps.  First the red cat goes down the steps, then Sylvester, following pretty much the same path... you know, to make it easier on the animators.
The red cat now madly tries to make for his respective doorstep... I'm assuming, even though he's going Stage Left.  Sly follows with a caveman's club and returns the favour.  Sly's now got the little yellow quarry in paws, and the red cat follows... with a damn can on its head!  Love it.  He runs into the tree in the courtyard, and damn near makes himself one canned cat, brought to you by Whole Foods, tee hee hee... Add this to the list which includes Raising Arizona, Little Nicky, Three Fugitives, the beginning of Superman III, and Nuns on the Run where people unwittingly run into trees or posts.  The camera can't see it, so they too can't see it.
Sly keeps running, and in his zeal he runs afoul of an open basement.  Down the steps he falls, thereby creating more work for the sound effects team.  This all somehow reminds me of Extinct Pink, which had yet to be made, and which featured four pursuants instead of just two.
Next scene: indoors, even if it is the cold basement, with those outer doors open.  Tweety takes pity on "the poor ol' putty tat."  WHEN SUDDENLY... Tweety looks over and sees a "drinking bird."  Now, according to the universally trusted yet reviled Wikipedia... I mean, hey!  When's the last time you contributed to them?  Get your credit card ya-yas out, Baron von Cheapskates!... these "drinking birds" are also called "dipping birds" or "insatiable birdies."  (Note: NO ONE refers to them as "insatiable birdies.")  This is the kind of stuff that filmmakers dream about.  For one, it surely inspired Sam Raimi's bomb that turns Dr. Peyton Place Westlake into Darkman in 1990's Darkman.  For two, I keep going back to how Bob and Doug McKenzie were so smitten with the idea of a mouse in a beer bottle, not only did they pick it as one of their topics, but they also centered their only movie around it... okay, not completely, but still.  There's also the Macbeth or Hamlet-type sideplot, but never mind.
Tweety goes up and talks to the yellow drinking bird, sitting there on the edge of a glass.  "What's the matter?  The putty tat got your tongue?" says Tweety.  But the bird just keeps drinking, then popping back up, shaking back and forth... oh, you Hipsters out there will just never guess in a million years what's going to happen to that drinking bird.  Never in a million years.  But you Hipsters out there might like this touch: Tweety asks the drinking bird for a drink.  The bird drinks, then pops back up, shaking back and forth.  Tweety mistakes this for a nod of approval and says "Thank you!" then starts drinking from the glass as well.  Lol.  And hey, when in Rome... Tweety does the back and forth oil derrick-like shake as well.  Now that's out of respect, Henry Hill.  That's out of respect.
Next scene: Sylvester comes to, sees Tweety, and starts sneaking over to him.  That is, until the red cat taps Sly on the shoulder.  Sly turns around and sees the red cat.  Well, let me put it this way...

See the Red Cat.
See the angry Red Cat.
See the angry Red Cat with a mallet.
See the angry Red Cat raise the mallet up.
See the angry Red Cat bring the mallet down upon Sylvester's head.

Hypnotism, folks.  Works like a charm every time.  It's how the big Orange Cat's going to win the presidency for the Republicans this year.  Oh Lord, save me from his one-dimensional TV surrogates; I really just can't take it anymore.  Next scene: Tweety looks over at the sparring cats, even though it wasn't much of a contest.  Tweety takes off, and only verbally warns his new-fangled drinking buddy.  Oh, sure, Tweety comes off looking like a bit of a dick Richard here, but it's all for the greater good, folks.  Now comes the big payoff.  The Red Cat grabs that yellow drinking bird, eats it, and ... well, your Hipster friend will know what happens.  Of course, good luck getting them away from that mirror so they can check their moustaches and bald heads.  Forget weeds in the garden; what about all those weeds on the top of your head, Hipsters?  That's the stuff that really needs to be uprooted.  Well, I sure hate to spoil the half-surprise, folks, but let me just say that even a cat as slow as Sylvester can now get the better of his new red mate.  Which he does.
With plenty of confidence to spare (wow!  Where'd all that come from?) Sylvester now sneaks over.  Now, if you're Biff Tannen, you're probably saying to yourself, "Why are you sneaking over there, old man?  Both birds are gone!  Deerrrrr!!!"  And you'd be right.  And yet... Sly lifts up the empty tomato can and finds Tweety!  Dayamn... cold-blooded, y'all.  "Those putty tats will never find me in here!" says Tweety, wing-hands over eyes.  Sly grabs Tweety and pops him into his mouth... dayamn.  More cold-blooded.  I've never seen Sylvester act so fast... okay, maybe one other time.  You know, the one where Tweety starts punching Sly's uvula like a punching bag.  I'm sure it's on the DVDs here someplace.
Anyway, the Red Cat comes to.  See, the Red Cat should be thanking Slyvester... Sylvester for neutralizing that drinking bird, but no!  Tweety's just too valuable an item.  The red cat grabs Sylvester's throat, and Sly's mouth opens like a cash register.  It makes a little ding sound and everything!  Note to all the kids out there: your younger brother or sister's throat will not do that, so don't try it.
Next: close-up of Tweety, standing on Sylvester's tongue.  Tweety says "Wha-happan?"  Tweety looks over at the Red Cat.  Next scene: an extreme close-up of the Red Cat's ugly mugh.  Sheesh.  Thereby inspiring Nelson Muntz of "The Simpsons" fame.
AND NOW... at 4:25, the part that any of you who owned "The Carl Stalling Project" on CD and listened to track 1 a few times... this part's for you.  The Red Cat gets Tweety back and starts running up the steps... hmm!  I guess the music fits the scene, right?  RIIIGHT?!!!!!  Okay, so they're not all timeless classics.  You've got to expect that once in a while!
The red cat tiptoes up the steps like a football player confidently striding towards the goal line just before kneeling and praying... too bad they don't have the ball!  Sly tries to hit the cat but misses every time.  The red cat closes the door behind it, just before another giant serving pan hits the door.  Now, kids, time to remember your Bible: "Pride goeth before a fall."  In the red cat's case, he's too busy trying to make Sylvester look foolish, instead of eating Tweety like he's supposed to.  The red cat opens the door, sticks his head in and sticks out his tongue at Sly... just before getting hit in the face with an iron.  Pow.  More violent than Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.  And I ain't talking about Donald Trump's gruesome cameo, okay?
The red cat falls down, making a child's toy squeaking noise, then slides down the stairs, carrying Tweety all the way down... thereby paying homage to Friz's earlier censored classic, Ain't That Ducky.  "Let's do that again, Putty Tat!  That was fun!" says the ever smug Tweety.
Meanwhile, the shadow of Sylvester looms large over Tweety.  "Uh oh!  There's that other putty tat!" exclaims Tweety.  Tweety, puh-leeze... it's your co-star Sylvester, okay?  He has a NAME, you know.


Tweety takes off running so fast that Sylvester can't catch him.  Let's leave that aside for now.  I suppose the important detail is the long pipe that Tweety's running next to.  For whatever reason, Tweety makes a rather long U-turn and decides to find temporary shelter inside of it.  We'll leave aside the Benjamin Franklin quote for now about those who deserve neither security nor... whatever.  It gets used too often in college applications as it is.
The red cat comes to, and we see that he's got a green pupil in his left eye after all.  Now, Sylvester's at the Stage Right end of the pipe, and he watches as Tweety runs towards Stage Left.  The red cat puts two and two together, and goes to the Stage Left end of the pipe.  The red cat puts its mouth up to the end of the pipe, which is why the pipe wasn't part of the painted background.  Sylvester sees this and grabs the single-barrel shotgun from Kit for Cat, apparently.  Of course, when this cartoon was made, single-barrel shotguns could always be readily found in basements.
Of course, there's one thing that neither cat counted on: the T section in the middle of the pipe with valve.  Tweety pops up out of the pipe, and closes the valve, I assume.  Sylvester fires the shotgun, and the bullet goes through the red cat and out of his tail.  I dare say that Friz can be credited with the originality of this gag.  Only in the cartoons, folks.  But who knows?  Maybe Disney or Krazy Kat did it first, I don't know.  Clearly I'm not the historian I should be.  I do know that Tweety probably would've been hurt by collateral fire if that valve in the T section of the pipe was open.
Now, when a cartoon cat's tail gets ruined like that, there's only one solution, and the Red Cat's on it.  The Red Cat jumps around in pain and panic a little bit, naturally, as you'd expect.  He then grabs an ashtray to stub out his tail.  You know, to stop the smoldering.  Angered, the Red Cat then grabs the standing ashtray to beat Sly about the face, neck and shoulders with it.
The two cats beat upon each other for a while, then Sylvester says "Hold it, Shnooks!  We're gettin' nowhere fast.  We gotta use stragedy."  "Duh yeah, strat-a-gee!  Like you said!" says the other cat... no, wait.  I'm thinking of A Gruesome Twosome... and it's not on my DVDs.  Un-frickin-believable.  Not even on the "Put a Bob Clampett on it" disk?  Wow.  Wow, wow and double wow, as the Hipsters say when they're about to really tear into you.  Usually over BDS stuff.  The lack of vigilance on your part and what not.
And so, the two cats beat each other over the heads until they look over and... Tweety's very slowly getting away!  Tweety leans back when running up one of the steps, thereby making M. C. Escher very proud indeed.  Next scene: the out of doors in the snow again.  I've kinda missed it! 
Tweety runs into a teeny snow bank and leaves an outline of himself in the snow, thereby referencing Fresh Hare anew.  The cats follow suit.  First the red cat into the snow, then Sylvester.  Exactly one-third of a second after Sly goes into the snow, we get a rather loud gong sound.  It's at this moment that we find that the two cats ran into a green Post Office box.  They're blue these days.  The older I get, the less I question these type of timing issues.  Seriously, though, why didn't the red cat loosen the snow around the metal external postal box instead of Sylvester?  This is why I'll never understand comedy, I suppose.  Next scene: dazed and flattened, the two cats stumble around together like an Othello game piece... you know, so we can see both sides of them.  Eventually, however, the two flattened cats pass out from all the excitement, unpeel from one another, and fall to the snowy pavement.  Just then, Tweety runs by and they both perk right up, with angry expressions on their faces like the cat half of Tom and Jerry would usually always have.
Next scene: boy, look at that little yellow fat boy run!  Tweety's running through the snow, kicking it up around him better than any human could.  Certainly better than the two cats do.  Look at that!  There's no rim, no heft to it.  Pathetic.  Now look at the snow Tweety's kicking up again.  Maybe it's a scale thing, maybe it just looks bigger because Tweety's smaller... but don't you suddenly feel like eating a whole mess of cottage cheese?  I thought so.
Next scene: okay, now we're talking.  The two cats screech to a halt, and the sound effects team finds the appropriate snow-like sound for it.  Kudos to those unsung geniuses.  Look at that big pile of white stuff in front of them.  That's what I'm talkin' 'bout.  The two cats find themselves at the edge of a frozen pond.  I'd say lake, but this is the big city we're talking about.  Damn few lakes, I'd imagine.  They look out upon the lake in horror to find a hole in the ice, with Tweety's little hat beside it.  They don't stop to consider that it all is a little too neat and must be some kind of trap... kinda like I didn't this one time when I was playing Zynga Poker and ended up giving my email and password to a phishing site like an idiot.  Man, what an idiot.  But it was fun to see my phony Zynga Poker dollars get drained out of the account!  Guess that's all they wanted from me.
And so, there they are, out on the ice.  Sylvester has a little trouble standing still, but he eventually gets there.  And he also helps pad this out to one-reel length!  The Red Cat's the more adventuresome of the two, and he goes first, reaching into the icy waters to see if he can find a teeny ice cube with Tweety inside of it.  But no sooner does the Red Cat have his arm submerged, when we all hear this teeny clicking sound.  The two cats look around to find the source of the noise.  Soon enough, they both look over to Stage Right in horror.  It's Tweety with an ice pick twice his height, cracking away at the ice.
Next scene: a wide shot.  As we can now see, Tweety's managed to crack the ice into an almost complete circle shape around the two cats.  And he's just about to finish, too... except for one little detail.  His hat.  Tweety asks the cats to pass him his hat and, smiling as big as they can under such duress, Sylvester does the honors of passing Tweety's cap over to him.  Tweety says "Thank you, Putty Tats!"... then finishes up the job at double speed.  Let's just say that the resulting reaction is almost as big as the underwater stick of dynamite in Don't Give Up the Sheep not so long ago.  Now, sure, your more right-wing friends will surely scoff and say that this outcome is laughable (in the pejorative sense) at best and criminally negligent at worst... the main thing is to always be thankful for their friendship, especially if they have good stock tips.  If they don't, dump their sorry asses now.  Yesterday.  What good are they otherwise?


Now that the rather thick ice circle has settled, we end as we began, with Tweety shoveling snow out of his nest.  Now, you might think that the two cats are gone forever in an icy urban tomb somewhere, but we pan to Stage Left to find that Sly is okay... he just needs to keep his hind legs in a tub of warm water for a while.  The other cat's in a similar state.  Neither one of them will be as eager to go outside for a while, bird or no bird.  Both cats sneeze and Tweety gives them both a fond "Gesundheit!"  As for me, I think I better read up on Crohn's...

Good double bill with: Extinct Pink or Odd Ant Out / I've Got Ants in my Plans

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan