998 (133). Tale of Tales (1979, Yuriy Norshteyn)

Screened February 8, 2010 on veoh (see embedded video after the break) TSPDT #992  IMDb Wiki


First off, I want to encourage everyone in New York City to take advantage of an opportunity that I will sorely miss: an in-person appearance (alternative link to event) by  Yuriy Norshteyn. This legendary 68-year old Russian animator rarely comes to the US; he may very well be traveling to raise funds for his first feature film The Overcoat, which he has been working on for nearly 30 years. In any case, please go in my place, as I will be on a flight to Berlin as he makes his appearance at the SVA Theater:

Monday, February 15: School of Visual Arts Theater (333 W. 23rd Street, between 8th/9th Ave.) This event is billed only as a Q&A so be aware that there may not be a screening. No price is indicated so I’m also assuming it’s free.

To be honest, I am a recent convert to Norstein, like, as of this week. He has been touted on this site before, as one of the 100 Most Important Directors of Animated Shorts, as voted on by my colleagues at IMDb. Still, when Tale of Tales appeared for the first time on the TSPDT 1000 upon its most recent update, I had never heard of the film, despite it being voted the greatest animated film of all time at polls conducted by two animation film festivals.

So I won't pretend to be an expert on this film when I've been acquainted with its filmmaker for all of a week, and when there is already a book length study by animation scholar Claire Kitson available, which I will seek out. I will only say that I've seen this half-hour masterpiece four times in four days, and it feels like it's stayed with me for four years. It's as if Norshteyn sat with these images all his life, drawing them with such lucidity and palpable depth of feeling, that they make even the untold hours of ingenuity and laborious craft behind Pixar films feel relatively disposable. It summons a concept of the fermented image: a vision that has stayed with a person for as long as they've been breathing, and perhaps beyond that, like the wolf that lurks throughout the film, a folkloric figure as old as Russian blood.


It's a vision that nurtures, like the suckling breast that satiates the infant who sees the wolf just as its eyes pull into sleep.


The whole film seems to be a drunken/lucid suckling of images, images that have nourished a lifetime of sublime melancholy and wonder, reflected in so much of what's on screen. And the way each image is rendered with a delicacy verging on dissolution conveys a yearning for that same image, as fragile as the decaying memorabilia of one's childhood:


or one's memory rendered through a ghostly gauze - such as these tangoing couples about to be severed by the War raging around them...


Another recurring motif feels slightly more contemporary (with sharper lines, brighter hues and more fashionable clothing), involving an apple-loving boy who fancies himself feeding crows in the tree boughs as his parents loiter on a bench below:



The film cycles through these visuals in such a way that the repetition invokes instant affection and nostalgia, as with films by Duras or Wong Kar-wai. The wolf figures as the protagonist, the only one who seems to traverse from one zone of memory to another, often by crossing through forests that at times give the only acknowledgment of late 20th century modernity:


But his experiences of the hopscotching bull, the dancing phantoms, even the snowbound family, are all mediated by some sort of illuminated threshold: an entrancing fire on the hearth, or light raptruously emanating from a doorway or from a manuscript, as if these visions are liminal states into which he is lulled repeatedly. But it still doesn't account for other images that seem to inhabit an interzone apart from the more sharply defined worlds, an eden blanketed in Tarkovskian dampness and mist:



And all these visuals still don't account for images that I didn't capture because they only make sense in motion: soldiers marching into a swallowing blackness; windows boarded up without hands or hammers; a pile of wood suddenly combusting; a tablecloth that seems to billow under the breezes of history. Or the sounds: a record skipping as men disappear from their lovers' embrace; the wolf blowing on his hands as he tries to handle a hot potato. And the lullaby that begins the film and tips the film's hand as a lullaby to all of us, whisking us to a world of beauty whose liquid lucidity can only exist in sleep, except when an artist is somehow able to extract these moments from a lifetime of dreaming. Again, it would be a privilege to meet such a person.


Watch Tale of Tales on Veoh

The following citations were counted towards the placement of Tale of Tales among the top 1000 films according to They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

Doug Cummings, One-Line Review (2009) John Davies, One-Line Review (2009) Keith Griffiths, Time Out (1995) Annecy Festival, 100 Films for a Century of Animation (2006) Cinematheque Quebecoise, FIAF: Film History (1995) Film: The Critic's Choice, 150 Masterpieces of World Cinema-The Art of the Impossible (2001) Olympiad, The Champions of Animation (1984)


Despite its simple beauty, "Tale" was not made with children in mind. In the sequence imagining the huge losses Russia experienced in World War II, couples dance to the famous tango "Weary Sun." Every time the old record skips, one man disappears from the frame and then the women dance alone.

Norstein says "Tale of Tales" is a film about the way memory is conjured up. He says the role of the artist is to allow people to "experience life yet unlived. This is the most significant thing we can get from art."

Fans like to watch the film again and again. "I have seen it many times," says Yulia Zotova, 42, who attended the exhibit of Norstein's work in Moscow. " 'Tale of Tales' evokes these emotions in me. I've always been fascinated with the character Little Wolf because he's a symbol of wisdom and love. My impression is that spiritually we are searching for this wisdom and this love and we find it in his films."

In the last quarter of a century, the film has inspired filmmakers, animators and writers. In June 2002, the Zagreb International Animation Festival published the results of a poll of animators to establish the best animated film of all time. It was "Tale of Tales." A 1984 poll of animators came up with same result.

- Peter Finn, The Washington Post


Norstein’s initial script treatment for Tale of Tales was approved by the Soviets but he summarily dismissed it, producing a much more ambiguous and emotionally complex piece than was originally planned. Tale of Tales juxtaposes images of innocence and gaiety with images of war and vanishing soldiers, nostalgic visions of childhood with an alcoholic parent chugging a bottle of vodka. The Soviet film authorities, baffled by the film’s poetry, deemed it subversive for its lack of social realism, and demanded that Norstein make extensive changes. He refused, and luckily, had just been awarded a State honor that made it virtually impossible for the authorities to enforce their demands or suppress the work.

- Doug Cummings, Film Journey


Tale of Tales is laminated with enchantment. Layer by layer. A suckling baby is sung a lullaby, wooing it to sleep lest the little grey fox abduct him to take him into the scary woods where a green apple glows wet with rain.

The little grey fox is maligned. He is sweet, clever and curious. He flirts with himself in shiny hubcaps. The exhaust fumes of cars make him sneeze and his sneeze startles birds into flight. A hot potato burns his paws. A young girl jumps rope with a steer that, every now and then, likes to take its turn. A poet anguishes over what to envision, what to say. Women and men dance underneath a streetlight and each time the record skips another husband / father / son is lost to the ravages of war. A one-legged veteran plays a sad concertina. A fish floats in the sky catching the attention of an idle cat who, by caterwauling, teaches the poet how to orate. A boy imagines himself befriending winter birds on a tree limb above him. Is the baby dreaming all of this? Is this where the lullaby has taken him? Is this where it has taken us? Whimsical and poignant, Tale of Tales masterfully purveys a deep realm where images are deftly woven into feelings.

- Michael Guillen, The Evening Class


Like Tarkovsky’s The Mirror, figuring out a specific meaning for each scene is difficult if not impossible and useless. Norstein, like Tarkovsky a few years before him, is delving into his own memories and displaying the results (...) Thus, it could be said that the only one who truly understands Tale of Tales is Norstein. What keeps me from embracing this criticism is that, impermeability notwithstanding, I was constantly occupied with emotions and ideas throughout the film’s duration. Does it matter that I don’t understand every scene? Am I supposed to? I don’t think so. This film is going more for rhythms and moods, different drawing styles alternating between each other, each suggesting a different reality: there’s the parent storyline of the little wolf; there’s the poignant visual poem about the effects of wartime on civilians; there’s the aside to the apple-loving boy and his alcoholic father; and finally there’s that bit with minotaurs, jumping ropes, and harps. These sections weave together and combine. Memory and dreams emerge from the fantasy of the little wolf. We navigate each reality, notice melancholy patterns: departures, time lapses, destruction, burning, death, and other natural cycles. Free association takes us to random places, but there seems to be a structure, an emotional core. I have only seen Tale of Tales once. These kinds of films have a way of being new with every return. You find currents and threads that had been invisible during the introductory voyage.

- Elevator to Alphaville


Voted as the best animated film of all time by animators and critics at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival, Yuri Norstein's Tale of Tales, is a personal, and often profound, statement of atavistic recollection. Norstein uses the animated form to recall primal and ancestral sources of human feeling and experience. Fusing folk-tale, memory and personal symbolism, Norstein achieves associative relations which move beyond the realms of standard representations of time and space, privileging the psychological and emotional as the focusing agents in relating images, rather than using orthodox modes of story-telling. As Norstein himself suggests, 'The sanctity of the image, or rather its construction, seems to move in gradually from all sides; the elements that coagulate create the image'.

Whilst the workings of an artist like Norstein may, in the first instance, seem impenetrable to the viewer, it is important to recognize that such methodologies foreground the idea of image-making as a tension between conscious and unconscious experience. This may be understood as a process which accepts and includes images which emerge from a number of sources and which seem at first to have no particular relationship. Further, such images, whether they are perceived constructions of real physical space, fragmentary recollections of dreams, half-remembered visions, hallucinations and fantasies, or pictures without past or purpose conjured in the mind, are not forced into a coherent story, though they do possess their own narrative which informs the relational conception of the film. The images possess an ontological equivalence, and in being valued as equally valid and important whatever their source, occupy a narrative space which refuses to categorise any one character or event as its presiding or dominant element. Tale of Tales refuses all obvious signposts of plot, preferring instead a system of leitmotifs, recurring images that play out their own subtle differences and developments as part of a wider scheme of recollection. It may be useful to stress that Norstein's work is recollection; a gathering of images which define the psyche and the act of memory as an act of creativity. As Mikhail Yampolsky has noted, 'What confronts us is not simply a film about memory, but a film built like memory itself, which imitates in its spatial composition the structural texture of our consciousness.'

Animation is especially suited to the process of associative linking, both as a methodology by which to create image systems, and as a mechanism by which to understand them. Understanding these images only comes from an active participation in the images as the repository of meaning in their own right, and not necessarily, in direct connection to other images. Norstein and Tarkovsky create works which ultimately require the viewer to empathise as well as analyse, and this dimension of feeling - what Norstein calls the 'spinal cord' of emotional recognition - is the quality which lyricises the image. The 'deductions' that are made possible by this kind of involvement are those which relate the personal to the universal. Norstein essentially engages with his childhood during the war, and through the accumulation of the everyday details and events (real and imagined) of his past life, given special emphasis by the selectivity of memory, he creates a text which elevates the expression of the psyche's own sense of history to the level of poetic insight and spiritual epiphany.

- Paul Wells, Understanding Animation. Routledge, 1998. Pages 93, 94

Widely acclaimed as the best animated film of all time, Tale of Tales is a poetic amalgam of Yuri Norstein's memories of his past and hopes and fears for the future: his post-war childhood, remnants of the personal tragedies of war, the little wolf character in the lullaby his mother used to sing, the neighbors in his crowded communal flat, the tango played in the park on summer evenings, and the small working-class boy's longing to emerge from the dark central corridor of the kommunalka into a luminous world of art and poetry. In Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator's Journey, Clare Kitson examines the passage of these motifs into the film and delves into later influences that also affected its genesis. More than merely a study of one animated film or a biography of its creator, Kitson's investigation encompasses the Soviet culture from which this landmark film emerged and sheds light on creative influences that shaped the work of this acclaimed filmmaker.

- From jacket description of Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: an Animator's Journey, by Claire Kitson. University of Indiana Press, 2005



IMDb Wiki

Yuri Norstein, who has been working for years under the veteran Russian animator Ivan Ivanov-Vano, has emerged as one of the world's leading animators. His film, The Tale of Tales , was considered the most artistic production to come out of Eastern Europe in years. The success of this film, as well as others such as Hedgehog in the Mist The Vixen and the Hare , and The Heron and the Crane , is due to his unique style of multidimensional figures and backgrounds that have depth, roundness, and shading, giving a visual quality to his scenes seldom seen in other films. His humor is full of human observation, contrasting emotion over a broad scale from gaiety and laughter to sadness and disappointment. The fact that these moods are happening to animals and birds with their own particular environment provides an element of magic, and once again proves that the art of animation can bridge the biological barrier between human and animal worlds.

Norstein considers animation to be a new field of art, but underestimated, its artistic plasticity and social significance not having been explored so far. According to him its principles are taken from life, avoiding a documentary approach in describing a social situation. Aristotle said, "art, above all teachers, allows people to enjoy life." This principle still holds. Norstein takes his own material from an ordinary situation and develops it in his own particular way. His material consists of human emotions: joy, tears, love, and all levels of emotion within the experiences of life. Norstein, apart from being a filmmaker, is also a good painter and brilliant illustrator, which explains the high visual quality of his backgrounds and the expressions of his characters. He has a close relationship with his young children and closely considers their reactions before making a film. He thinks that only those who understand children's psychology should make a film for them. If one has sympathy with them and can play with them, one is able to look at the world through their minds and eyes.

On the question of visual quality, he thinks that animated film directors should be interested in fine arts, especially painting, since films have a dual objective: the creation of a new and original setting and a defined dramatic action within the setting. The spectator should be able to adapt to such a background and participate in the film on the terms present in the subject. Norstein recognizes that a film is composed of various elements. It contains myth, fantasy, cosmographic ideas, sound, absolute realism, and naturalism. The combined quality of these elements could be of great value, lifting animation above all other media, but so far he has not seen any film, short or long, able to make full use of such total potentialities. He holds that a feature-length film should not only tell a story but present the richness of human life, make full use of the specific properties of animation, and look for its own way of development.

John Halas, Film Reference.com

Norstein was born during World War II and spent his childhood in the northern suburbs of Moscow. Though Stalin’s reign of terror softened a bit in the postwar era, anti-Semitism and intense cultural control remained, constraining the young Norstein on many occasions. Luckily, his entry to adulthood coincided with the Soviet Thaw during the more liberal Khrushchev era of the late-’50s, which saw an influx of foreign art and an openness to experimentation. Films such as The Cranes Are Flying (1957), Ballad of a Soldier (1959), and Destiny of a Man (1959) were being produced which invigorated the cinematic milieu. (Unfortunately, history would reverse this opportunity when Russian resources dried up duringglasnost at the height of Norstein’s acclaim; he’s still trying to finish The Overcoat, a film he began in 1981 with his wife and longtime collaborator, Francesca Yarbusova.)

Norstein studied at the Soyuzmultfilm animation studio, which began producing a small but sophisticated body of work that appealed to adults as well as children in the ’60s. For years, he worked as an unassuming animator until he began directing his own films during the less-hospitable Brezhnev era of the ’70s, known for banning art and artists that weren’t deemed properly Social Realist. “In one word,” Norstein says, “[the era] was stuffy. We didn’t have enough air. But the strange thing is that when a lot of things outside you are closed off, you go inside yourself and find the freedom you need.” Norstein developed a highly complex and nuanced style of multiplane animation using paper cutouts on layers of glass; it produced the internationally venerated works The Fox and the Hare(1973), The Heron and the Crane (1974), and Hedgehog in the Fog (1975). (All of these films are available on DVD in the Masters of Russian Animation series.)

Glasnost and the collapse of the Soviet Union kept Norstein out-of-work for many years, but he was finally able to travel, and has spent the last couple decades lecturing and attending tributes to his career. He also continues producing The Overcoat (his first full-length feature) and occasionally provides short pieces for commercials and title sequences for Russian and Japanese television. Fervently in love with his homeland, Norstein has rejected several international offers to finish The Overcoat abroad, choosing instead to develop the film little by little, year after year, in the country of his birth. Let us hope the film materializes fully formed one day soon.

- Doug Cummings, Film Journey

See also Cummings' report of Norstein's visit and talk at the University of Southern Calfornia, Los Angeles

The nerve center of Norstein's life -- both as a filmmaker and as the husband of artist and collaborator Francesca Yarbusova -- is their studio. Drawings of little gray men scratching backs, scratching noses and picking up spoons cover the walls. Yarbusova draws the figures and imbues them with a haunting beauty and sense of loss.

"We are tied together and we are interdependent," Norstein says, sitting in his merrily cluttered kitchen, the walls covered with photos, sketches, an icon, bric-a-brac and shelving spilling over with videos. "I draw all the compositions, but this is the dry soil which must then be filled with feeling. We have scandals and rows. But now her work is on display and she says to me, 'It is all you -- you were guiding me.' "

"Francesca participates in the movies as much as Norstein," Bossart says. "The two of them are one artist. He couldn't exist without her."

- Peter Finn, The Washington Post

100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films

<i>Fantasmagorie (1908)</i> by Émile Cohl 100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films:  Background

This list of 100 important directors of animated short films was assembled in late 2008 to serve as a complement to “Brief Encounters,” a proposed list of 250 great short films (both animated and live-action) which was to be developed by the folks at the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? website.  Unfortunately, that 250-film list is in limbo, leaving our list without a home.

The “100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films” list is not intended to be comprehensive.  These are simply 100 directors whom we feel are important and deserving of increased recognition by film lovers.  For each director, we selected three “highly recommended” movies.  In addition, we included a category of “TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts” to highlight any of these directors’ films which were tentatively slated to place on the abandoned Brief Encounters list.

This project was facilitated by Lee Price (lee-109) on the IMDb Classic Film message board.  Project team:  Lee Price, Robert Reynolds (Illtdesq), Jorge Didaco (jdidaco), Bill Kamberger (bkamberger), and Rob Tomshany (RobT-2), with additional input from animation fans on the IMDb Classic Film message board.


100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films:  The List

Mikhail Aldashin 1958 – Born Tuapse, USSR Key production country:  Russia Highly recommended:  The Other Side (1993), Christmas (1997), Bukashki (2002)

Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker Alexander Alexeieff (1901 – 1982);  Claire Parker (1906 – 1981) Alexander Alexeieff born Kazan, Russia;  Claire Parker born Boston, Massachusetts Key production country:  France Highly recommended:  Night on Bald Mountain (1933), En Passant (1943), The Nose (1963)

Tex Avery 1908 – 1980 Born  Taylor, Texas Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Blitz Wolf (1942), Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), King-Size Canary (1947), The Cat That Hated People (1948) Other highly recommended shorts:  Lucky Ducky (1948), Bad Luck Blackie (1949), The Legend of Rockabye Point (1955)

Frédéric Back 1924 – Born Saarbrücken, Germany Key production country:  Canada TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Crac (1981) Other highly recommended shorts:  All Nothing (1980), The Man Who Planted Trees (1987), The Mighty River (1993)

Joseph Barbera and William Hanna Joseph Barbera (1911 – 2006);  William Hanna (1910 – 2001) Joseph Barbera born New York City, New York;  William Hanna born Melrose, New Mexico Key production country: USA Highly recommended:  The Night Before Christmas (1941), Mouse in Manhattan (1945), The Cat Concerto (1947)

Garry Bardin 1941 – Born Chkalov, Soviet Union Key production country:  Soviet Union Highly recommended:  The Coiling Prankster/Fioritures (1988), Grey Wolf & Little Red Riding Hood (1990), Adagio (2000)

Jirí Barta 1948 – Born Prague, Czechoslovakia Key production country:  Czechoslovakia Highly recommended:  The Vanished World of Gloves (1982), The Last Theft (1987), The Club of the Laid Off (1989)

Walerian Borowczyk 1923 – 2006 Born Kwilcz, Poland Key production country:  France TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Les Jeux des Anges (1964), Rosalie (1966), Dom/House (1958), Les Astronautes (1959) Highly recommended:  The Concert of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal (1962), Renaissance (1963), Scherzo Infernal (1984)

Charley Bowers 1877 – 1946 Born Paterson, New Jersey Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Now You Tell One (1926) Highly recommended:  Egged On (1926), There It Is (1928), It's a Bird (1930)

Bruno Bozzetto 1933 – Born Milan, Italy Key production country:  Italy Highly recommended:  Life in a Tin (1967), Baeus (1987), Grasshoppers (1990)

<i>At the Ends of the Earth</i> (1999) directed by Konstantin Bronzit

Konstantin Bronzit 1965 – Born Leningrad, USSR Key production country:  Russia Highly recommended:  At the Ends of the Earth (1999), The Goddess (2003), Lavatory-Lovestory (2007)

Robert Cannon 1909 – 1964 Born Ohio, USA Key production country: USA Highly recommended:  Gerald McBoing Boing (1951), Christopher Crumpet (1953), The Jaywalker (1956)

Ivo Caprino 1920 – 2001 Born Oslo, Norway Key production country:  Norway Highly recommended:  Karius og Baktus (1954), The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1955), The Seventh Father in the House (1966) Robert Clampett 1913 – 1984 Born Detroit, Michigan, USA Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Porky in Wackyland (1938) Highly recommended:  A Corny Concerto (1943), Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943), The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946)

Émile Cohl 1857 – 1938 Born Paris, France Key production country:  France Highly recommended:  Fantasmagorie (1908), The Automatic Moving Company (1910), The Hasher's Delirium (1910)

Richard Condie 1942 – Born Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  Getting Started (1979), The Big Snit (1985), The Apprentice (1991)

Arthur Davis 1905 – 2000 Born Yonkers, New York, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  The Little Match Girl (1937), Dough-Ray Meow (1948), Bowery Bugs (1949)

Walt Disney 1901 – 1966 Born Chicago, Illinois, USA Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Steamboat Willie (1928) Highly recommended:  Alice's Wonderland (1923), Plane Crazy (1928), The Skeleton Dance (1929)

Borivoj Dovnikovic 1930 – Born Osijek, Croatia, Yugoslavia Key production country:  Yugoslavia Highly recommended:  Curiosity (1966), Krek (1968), An Exciting Love Story (1989)

Paul Driessen 1940 – Born Nijmegen, Gelderland, Netherlands Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  Cat's Cradle (1974), Spotting a Cow (1984), The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg (2000)

Michael Dudok de Wit 1953 – Born Abcoude, Utrecht, Netherlands Key production country:  Netherlands Highly recommended:  The Monk and the Fish (1994), Father and Daughter (2000), The Aroma of Tea (2006)

Piotr Dumala 1956 – Born Warsw, Poland Key production country:  Poland Highly recommended:  Walls (1988), Wolnosc nogi (1989), Franz Kafka (1992)

David Fine and Alison Snowden David Fine (1955 - );  Alison Snowden (1958 - ) Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  Second Class Mail (1985), George and Rosemary (1987), Bob's Birthday (1993)

Hans Fischerkosen 1896 – 1973 Born Bad Kösen/Saale, Germany Key production country:  Germany Highly recommended:  Das Blaue Wunder (1935), Weatherbeaten Melody (1943), The Snowman (1944)

Oskar Fischinger 1900 – 1967 Born Gelnhausen, Germany Key production country:  Germany TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Motion Painting No. 1 (1947) Highly recommended:  Studie Nr. 7 (1931), Komposition in Blau (1935), Allegretto (1936)

Dave Fleischer 1894 – 1979 Born New York City, New York, USA Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Out of the Inkwell (1918), Snow-White (1933) Highly recommended:  Ko-Ko's Earth Control (1928), Bimbo's Initiation (1931), Minnie The Moocher (1932)

<i>High Diving Hare</i> (1949) directed by Friz Freleng

Friz Freleng 1905 – 1995 Born Kansas City, Missouri, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Rhapsody In Rivets (1941), Pigs in a Polka (1943), High Diving Hare (1949)

Clyde Geronimi 1901 – 1989 Born Italy Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Lend a Paw (1941), Education For Death (1943), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1958)

Burt Gillett 1891 – 1971 Born Elmira, New York, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Flowers and Trees (1932), Three Little Pigs (1933), Lonesome Ghosts (1937)

Bob Godfrey 1921 – Born West Maitland, New South Wales, Australia Key production country:  UK Highly recommended:  Do-It-Yourself Cartoon Kit (1961), Kama Sutra Rides Again (1972), Great (1975)

Paul Grimault 1905 – 1994 Born Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France Key production country:  France Highly recommended:  The Scarecrow (1943), The Little Soldier (1947), Le Chien Melomane (1973)

John Halas and Joy Batchelor John Halas (1912 – 1995);  Joy Batchelor (1914 – 1991) John Halas born Budapest, Austria-Hungary;  Joy Batchelor born Watford, Hertfordshire, England, UK Key production country:  UK Highly recommended:  The Owl and the Pussycat (1952)The Christmas Visitor (1959), Automania 2000 (1964)

David Hand 1900 – 1986 Born Plainfield, New Jersey, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Who Killed Cock Robin? (1935), Three Orphan Kittens (1935), Thru the Mirror (1936)

Jack Hannah 1913 – 1994 Born Arizona, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Lambert The Sheepish Lion (1952), The New Neighbor (1953), In The Bag (1956)

<i>Peace on Earth</i> (1939) directed by Hugh Harman

Hugh Harman 1903 – 1982 Born Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Tale of the Vienna Woods (1934), The Old Mill Pond (1936), Peace on Earth (1939)

Pierre Hébert 1944 – Born Montréal, Québec, Canada Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  Op Hop - Hop Op (1966), Around Perception (1968), Memories of War (1983)

Don Hertzfeldt 1976 – Born Fremont, California, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Genre (1996), Rejected (2000), The Meaning of Life (2005)

Co Hoedeman 1940 – Born Netherlands Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  Tchou-Tchou (1972), The Sand Castle (1977), Ludovic - The Snow Gift (1998)

<i>Moonbird</i> (1959) directed by John and Faith Hubley

John & Faith Hubley John Hubley (1914 – 1977);  Faith Hubley (1924 – 2001) John Hubley born Marinette, Wisconsin, USA;  Faith Hubley born New York City, New York, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Rooty Toot Toot (1951), The Tender Game (1958), Moonbird (1959)

Rudolf Ising 1903 – 1992 Born Kansas City, Missouri, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  The Calico Dragon (1935), Dance of the Weed (1941), The Bear and the Beavers (1942)

Ivan Ivanov-Vano 1900 – 1987 Born Russia Key production country:  USSR Highly recommended:  Black and White (1932), The Battle of Kerzhenets (co-directed with Yuriy Norshteyn) (1971), Ave Maria (1972)

Ub Iwerks 1901 – 1971 Born Kansas City, Missouri, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Hell's Bells (1929), The Cuckoo Murder Case (1930), Balloon Land (1935)

Wilfred Jackson 1906 – 1988 Born Chicago, Illinois, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  The Band Concert (1935), The Country Cousin (1936), The Old Mill (1937)

Chuck Jones 1912 – 2002 Born Spokane, Washington, USA Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Bully for Bugs (1953), Duck Amuck (1953), One Froggy Evening (1955), What's Opera, Doc? (1957) Highly recommended:  Rabbit of Seville (1950), Feed the Kitty (1952), Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century (1953)

Piotr Kamler 1936 – Born Warsaw, Poland Key production country:  France Le Labyrinthe (1969), Coeur de secours (1973), Le Pas (1975)

<i>Dojoji Temple</i> (1976) directed by Kihachiro Kawamoto

Kihachiro Kawamoto 1925 – Born Tokyo, Japan Key production country:  Japan Highly recommended:  Dojoji Temple (1976), House of Flame (1979), Sleeping Beauty (1990)

William Kentridge 1955 – Born South Africa Key production country:  South Africa Highly recommended:  Felix in Exile (1994), History of the Main Complaint (1996), Automatic Writing (2003)

Fyodor Khitruk 1917 – Born Tver, USSR Key production country:  USSR Highly recommended:  Film, Film, Film (1968), Vinni Pukh (1969), Ostrov/The Island (1973)

Nikolai Khodataev Key production country:  USSR Highly recommended:  Interplanetary Revolution (1924), China In Flames (1925), We'll Keep Our Eyes Peeled (1927)

Andrey Khrzhanovskiy 1939 – Born Moscow, USSR Key production country:  USSR Highly recommended:  The Glass Harmonica (1968), Armoire (1970), Butterfly (1972)

Jack King 1895 – 1958 Born Alabama, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940), Truant Officer Donald (1941), Donald's Snow Fight (1942)

Jack Kinney 1908 – 1992 Born Utah, USA Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Der Fuehrer's Face (1942) Highly recommended:  How to Swim (1942), How to Play Football (1944), Goofy Gymnastics (1949)

Igor Kovalyov 1963 – Kiev, Ukraine, USSR Key production country:  Russia Highly recommended:  Investigation is Held by the Koloboks (1986), Hen, His Wife (1990), Andrey Svislotskiy (1992)

Jerzy Kucia 1942 – Born Soltysy, Poland Key production country:  Poland Highly recommended:  Reflections (1979), Across the Field (1992), Tuning the Instruments (2000)

<i>La Demoiselle et le violoncelliste</i> (1965) directed by Jean-François Laguionie

Jean-François Laguionie 1939 – Born Besançon, Doubs, France Key production country:  France La Demoiselle et le violoncelliste (1965), Le Masque du diable (1976), La Traversée de l'Atlantique à la rame (1978)

René Laloux 1929 – 2004 Born Paris, France Key production country:  France Highly recommended:  Les Temps Morts (1964), Les Escargots (1965), How Wang-Fo Was Saved (1987)

Walter Lantz 1899 – 1994 Born New Rochelle, New York, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Knock Knock (1940), The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company "B" (1941), The Hams That Couldn't Be Cured (1942)

John Lasseter 1957 – Hollywood, California, USA Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Knick Knack (1989) Highly recommended:  Luxo, Jr. (1986), Red's Dream (1987), Tin Toy (1988)

Caroline Leaf 1946 – Born Seattle, Washington, USA Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  The Street (1976), The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa (1977), Two Sisters (1990)

Jan Lenica 1928 – 2001 Born Poznan, Poland Key production country:  Poland Highly recommended:  Nowy Janko Muzykant/New Janko the Musician (1961), Labirynt (1963), 'A' (1965)

Emanuele Luzzati and Giulio Gianini Emanuele Luzzati (1921 – 2007);  Giulio Gianini (1927 - ) Emanuele Luzzati born Genoa, Italy;  Giulio Gianini born Rome, Italy Key production country:  Italy Highly recommended:  The Thieving Magpie (1964), Alì Babà (1970), Pulcinella (1973)

Len Lye 1901 – 1980 Born Christchurch, New Zealand Key production country:  UK TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Rainbow Dance (1936), Trade Tattoo (1937), Free Radicals (1958) Highly recommended:  A Colour Box (1935), Colour Flight (1937), Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1940)

Kenzô Masaoka 1898 – 1988 Born Suita, Osaka, Japan Key production country:  Japan Highly recommended:  Nonsense Story, Volume 1: Monkey Island (1931), A Song of the Chagama Family (1935), The Spider and the Tulip (1943)

Winsor McCay 1871 – 1934 Born Spring Lake, Michigan, USA Key production country:  USA TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) Highly recommended:  Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the NY Herald and His Moving Comics (1911), The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918), Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: The Flying House (1921)

Robert McKimson 1910 – 1977 Born Denver, Colorado, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Walky Talky Hawky (1946), A-Lad-In His Lamp (1948), Hillbilly Hare (1950)

Norman McLaren 1914 – 1987 Born Stirling, Scotland, UK Key production country:  Canada TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Dots (1940), C'est l'aviron (1944), The Young Grey Hen (1947), Begone Dull Care (1949), Neighbours (1952), Pas de deux (1968) Highly recommended:  Blinkity Blank (1955), A Chairy Tale (1957), Le Merle/The Blackbird (1958)

Otto Messmer 1892 – 1983 Born Union City, New Jersey, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Felix In Hollywood (1923), Felix the Cat Dines and Pines (1927), Comicalamities (1928)

Eduard Nazarov 1941 – Born Moscow, USSR Key production country:  USSR Highly recommended:  There Once Was a Dog (1982), Travels of an Ant (1983), Martinko (1987)

<i>Hedgehog in the Fog</i> (1975) directed by Yuriy Norshteyn

Yuriy Norshteyn 1941 – Born Andreyevka, Penza, USSR Key production country:  USSR TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), Tale of Tales (1979) Highly recommended:  Seasons (co-directed with Ivan Ivanov-Vano) (1969), The Fox and the Hare (1973), Heron and Crane (1974)

Willis O'Brien 1886 – 1962 Born Oakland, California, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (1915), Prehistoric Poultry (1916), The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918)

George Pal 1908 – 1980 Born Cegled, Austria-Hungary Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Tulips Shall Grow (1942), John Henry and the Inky Poo (1946), Tubby the Tuba (1947)

Nick Park 1958 – Born Preston, Lancashire, England, UK Key production country:  UK TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  The Wrong Trousers (1993) Highly recommended:  Creature Comforts (1989), A Grand Day Out (1989), A Close Shave (1995)

Priit Pärn 1946 – Born Tallinn, Estonia Key production country:  Estonia Highly recommended:  Breakfast on the Grass (1987), Hotell E (1992), 1895 (1995)

<i>The Bead Game</i> (1977) directed by Ishu Patel

Ishu Patel 1942 – Born Gujarat, India Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  The Bead Game (1977), Afterlife (1978), Paradise (1984)

Michaela Pavlátová 1961 – Born Prague, Czechoslovakia Key production country:  Czech Republic Reci, Reci, Reci (1991), Repete (1995), The Carnival of Animals (2006)

Aleksandr Petrov 1957 – Born Prechistoye, Yaroslavl province, USSR Key production country:  USSR Highly recommended:  The Cow (1989), The Old Man and the Sea (1999), My Love (2006)

Bill Plympton 1946 – Born Portland, Oregon, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Your Face (1987), 25 Ways To Quit Smoking (1989), Guard Dog (2004)

Bretislav Pojar 1923 – Born Susice, Czechoslovakia Key production country:  Czechoslovakia Highly recommended:  The Lion and the Song (1959), 'E' (1981), Nightangel (1986)

Barry Purves Key production country:  UK Highly recommended:  Next (1989), Screen Play (1992), Achilles (1995)

Stephen and Timothy Quay Stephen Quay (1947 – );  Timothy Quay (1947 – Stephen and Timothy Quay born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Key production country:  UK TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Street of Crocodiles (1986) Highly recommended:  Gilgamesh, or This Unnameable Little Broom (1985), Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1988), In Absentia (2000)

Joanna Quinn 1962 – Born Birmingham, England, UK Key production country:  UK Highly recommended:  Girl's Night Out (1987), Britannia (1993), Dreams and Desires (2006)

Lotte Reiniger 1899 – 1981 Born Berlin, Germany Key production country:  Germany TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Papageno (1935) Highly recommended:  Cinderella (1922), The Little Chimney Sweep (1954), Hansel and Gretel (1955)

Wolfgang Reitherman 1909 – 1985 Born Munich, Germany Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  The Truth About Mother Goose (1957), Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968)

Walter Ruttmann 1887 – 1941 Born Frankfurt-on-Main, Germany Key production country:  Germany TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Melody of the World (1929) Highly recommended:  Opus II (1921), Opus III (1924), Opus IV (1925)

Zbigniew Rybczynski 1949 – Born Lodz, Poland Key production country:  Poland Highly recommended:  Soup (1975), Tango (1981), The Fourth Dimension (1988)

Georges Schwizgebel 1944 – Born Bern, Switzerland Key production country: Switzerland Highly recommended:  78 Tours (1985), La Course à l'abîme (1992), L'Homme sans ombre (2004)

Garik Seko 1935 – 1994 Born Tbilisi, Georgian SSR, USSR Key production country:  Czechoslovakia Highly recommended:  Faust's House (1977), Ex Libris (1982), My Kamarad Tika (1987)

<i>Harpya</i> (1979) directed by Raoul Servais

Raoul Servais 1928 – Born Oostende, Belgium Key production country:  Belgium Highly recommended:  Sirene (1968), Harpya (1979), Atraksion (2001)

Ben Sharpsteen 1895 – 1980 Born Sonoma County, California, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Mickey's Service Station (1935), Clock Cleaners (1937), Mickey's Trailer (1938)

Harry Smith 1923 – 1991 Born Portland, Oregon, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Number 5: Circular Tensions: Homage to Oskar Fischinger (1949), Number 7 (1951), Number 10 (1956)

Wladyslaw Starewicz 1882 – 1965 Born Wilno, Poland, Russian Empire Key production country:  France TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  The Cameraman's Revenge (1912), Fétiche (1934) Highly recommended:  The Insect's Christmas (1913), The Frog Who Wanted to be King (1923), The Voice of the Nightingale (1923)

Jan Svankmajer 1934 – Born Prague, Czechoslovakia Key production country:  Czechoslovakia TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts:  Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), A Quiet Week in the House (1969) Highly recommended:  Darkness/Light/Darkness (1989), Down to the Cellar (1983), Jídlo/Food (1992)

Frank Tashlin 1913 – 1972 Born Weehawken, New Jersey, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Have You Got Any Castles? (1938), Porky Pig's Feat (1943), Swooner Crooner (1944)

Osamu Tezuka 1928 – 1989 Born Toyonaka, Japan Key production country:  Japan Highly recommended:  Mermaid (1964), Jumping (1984), Legend of the Forest (1987)

Wendy Tilby 1960 – Born Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  Tables of Contents (1986), Strings (1991), When the Day Breaks (1999)

Jirí Trnka 1912 – 1969 Born Pilsen, Austria-Hungary Key production country:  Czechoslovakia Highly recommended:  The Story of the Bass Cello (1949), The Cybernetic Grandma (1962), Ruka/The Hand (1965)

Will Vinton 1948 – Born McMinnville, Oregon, USA Key production country:  USA Highly recommended:  Closed Mondays (1974), The Creation (1981), The Great Cognito (1982)

Dusan Vukotic 1927 – 1998 Born Bileca, Montenegro Key production country:  Yugoslavia Piccolo (1959), Surogat/Ersatz (1961), Inga/The Game (1962)

<i>Where Is Mama?</i> (1960) directed by Te Wei

Te Wei 1915 – Born Shanghai, China Key production country:  China Highly recommended:  Where Is Mama? (1960), The Cowboy's Flute (1963), Feeling from Mountain and Water (1988)

John Weldon 1945 – Born Belleville, Ontario, Canada Key production country:  Canada Highly recommended:  Special Delivery (1978), To Be (1990), The Lump (1991)

Best of the Decade Derby: Looney Tunes: Back in Action liveblog with Keith Uhlich

In searching for the ten best films of the decade, I've taken a special interest in two genres that I feel are routinely given short shrift when generally thinking about the "best" films: animation and comedy. So I was happy to follow the recommendation of Keith Uhlich to watch Looney Tunes: Back in Action as part of the Best of the Decade Derby. Keith assures me that this film is highly likely to make his own top ten list (I think I know Keith well enough to predict what his list will look like: A.I., Five, Generation Kill, The House of Mirth, Inland Empire, Miami Vice, The New World...). It was fun listening to Keith take on a personal tour through Looney Tunes, especially after having watched The Incredibles, two films that seem diametrically opposed in their philosophies towards form, structure and sensibility in mainstream feature animation, as different as, say, the classic era of Warner Bros. vs. Disney. Given that I've been increasingly seduced by classical Hollywood form and craft (something that my re-watching of The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein shook me out of, at least momentarily), it was good for Keith to remind me of how when I was a kid I preferred the manic anarchy of Warner Bros. over the impeccable prettiness of Disney. This opposition was definitely on Joe Dante's mind when he made this film, as Keith's liveblog comments (with my occasional interjections) bear out:

Keith in blue (me in black):


Man, this DVD menu is shoddy. It reflects Warner Brothers corporate attitude towards their properties - they're just out to cash in and make a quick buck, which Joe Dante makes as his target. This film was posited as Joe Dante's retort to Space Jam. Once Looney Tunes became corporatized by WB, which Space Jam epitomizes, the anarchic spirit of the original was lost, and that's what Dante is trying to recapture.

Another thing this film is about Bugs and Daffy as polar opposites.  When we think about Looney Tunes, we think about Bugs Bunny and how cool he is and how he always wins in the end. This film is interesting because it's more from the POV of Daffy, the perennial loser, which I think Dante identified with. And here I should bring up Mel Blanc. One special thing about Blanc is that he did both Bugs and Daffy, which is a really interesting duality. It's interesting that he was able to capture the god like omnipotence of Bugs and the patheticness of Daffy just through minor modulations of his voice.

After Mel Blanc died in the 90s it's no longer Blanc doing the voices, and I always felt there was something lacking in the replacement artists doing the voiceovers, there was always something off about them. But I think why it works here and why I don't miss Mel Blanc's voice in Looney Tunes: Back in Action is because of the timing. The tempo of this film is sped up and manic just like the old Looney Tunes. If you notice in recent Looney Tunes productions you notice that characters speak at normal speed and things are toned down. So Dante is trying to redress that as well.

Also, what amazes me about this film is that it plays like a grand anarchic tour through 20th century animation, fine art, music and culture at large. You really have to scour every single shot. And a lot of this should be credited not only to Dante but to animation director Eric Goldberg.


0:01 - They were originally supposed to begin with a Batman parody but I'm glad they didn't. Instead they jump into a reenactment of an old Looney Tunes cartoon, and they comment on it critically, with this quick montage of Daffy getting his head blasted over and over.

0:02 - This is Jenna Elfman's best role. And I love how these two identical twin actors play the Warner brothers. And this shot of the shelf with the Lethal Weapon Babies sequel poster on the one side and the Maltese Falcon on the other. Dante is just throwing one thing at you after another. And with this kung fu demonstration, it shows Daffy has to overcompensate for everything, whereas Bugs can shut Daffy down with just the flick of his finger.

0:03 - Look at this box of Daffy's. There's a picture of Daffy with Nixon and a Bugs voodoo doll. It's on the screen for just a second but it has so much going on.

0:04 - Brendan Fraser's character gets developed through an interesting way here. He's talking to Dick Miller and in the background is a billboard of Timothy Dalton in an action hero movie. And Dick Miller points at the billboard to identify Dalton as Fraser's father. In a way it's Dante saying that these screens and these images are our father, they are what we're raised on. At least it's true for him.

0:05 - This chase is just amazing.

KBL - It's really good at taking the anarchy of the animation into live action.

0:06 - I love the idea of Roger Corman directing a Batman movie.

0:07 - And here's where Dante's anti-corporate anarchy sets in with the Batmobile knocking down the WB water tower. And this dig at Finding Nemo is where I fell in love with the movie.

0:08 - This moment here is great because you see Dick Miller dressing down Brendan Fraser. And then the camera pulls out and you can see Miller stepping down from an apple box. You can barely see it. And that's what I love about this film, that Dante isn't waving all the things he's doing in your face. You get to pick them out yourself.

0:10 - In this dialogue Bugs is resisting his being commodified, so he's taking Dante's lead as well.

0:10 - This is kind of the 60s spy section. You see a portrait of Timothy Dalton who plays Fraser's dad, and he's playing a version of himself, a spy movie actor.

0:12 - This delusional rant by Daffy just nails his schizophrenia. And the film really takes off from that spirit.

0:13 - Here at the end of Dalton's message, and the earlier meet-cute between Fraser and Elfman, there's a moment when the film threatens to verge into sentiment, but Dante very quickly pulls out of that.

0:14 - This audio of the sputtering car (which by the way is a Gremlin, get it?) is from a vintage Mel Blanc recording, a nice touch.

0:17 - This is pure Frank Tashlin, the use of the split screen being pushed back and forth.

Now one of the problems that people have with this film is Steve Martin's performance, which we're about to see.

KBL: What problem do people have with Martin here?

It's him doing his wild and crazy guy schtick. It's very broad and Jerry Lewisy.

In this board meeting you get some random cameos - you get Mary Woronoff from the Warhol movies, you get Ron Perelman. I love how Dante is taking this big corporate Hollywood budget and lampooning it so broadly.

0:21 – This scene is a pure psycho parody, complete with a meta reference to the behind the scenes details.

KBL: It’s an example of Dante commenting on pop culture from multiple perspectives in just a matter of seconds.

"Why do you torture me" and this whole film is an act on torture on Jenna Elfman - she's like a live action version of Daffy Duck.

Meanwhile Bugs is so carefree, that's what I love about him. But there's also something distancing about his power that we can't relate to.

It's just perfect that Bugs tells Jenna Elfman that she has no soul. Too true.

0:24 - And just the endless resourcefulness of Bugs - this is what Space Jam got wrong. Like Matt Zoller Seitz said, why would the Looney Tunes characters need Michael Jordan's help?

0:25 - This Yosemite Sam casino - for a second I have to do a double take, because I was convinced that there is a Yosemite Sam casino in Vegas. It's another case of the film showing all the ways that corporate entertainment can cash out on its properties.

0:27 - This movie treats Heather Locklear like a cartoon, which is just perfect.

0:28 – Look at this shot. Even when he's focusing on plot, Dante is always trying to refocus your attention on different parts of the screen.

"How many galoshes did it take to make that luscious number?" That's my favorite line.

0:29 - The interaction between the human and the animated characters is so effortless and transparent. It's different than in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which kind of wears its effort on its sleeve - you can see them always commenting on the fact that the animators had to do all this work.

0:30 - I think this action sequence is amazing because you get all these different layers and depth to the set. And again, the interaction of live and animation is effortless.


0:31 - And here's Nasty Canasta in a cameo. And a “Dogs Playing Poker” shot with all the Looney Tunes dog characters. Dante seems like he wants to include about as many Looney Tunes characters as possible.

0:32 - And there's this great stop-on-a-dime rhythm throughout the movie. We have Yosemite Sam busting into the casino in a fury, but then taking a quick moment to kiss a rug with his picture.

0:33 - And here we have a NASCAR appearance, which is another way for Dante to acknowledge how everything is being commercialized and commoditized. And he uses this car to wreak havoc on half of Las Vegas. Like with the Batmobile, he’s turning commercialism against itself.

0:34 - "You, me, her, him" again the timing is everything in this.

0:36 - this is such a random gag – “Mother!” It's just moving everywhere.

0:38 – Again, another case of the movie jamming our expectations of where conventional cues are supposed to take us. Here the scene is fading to black, but Jenna Elfman says "but it doesn't work that way" and it comes back from the black.

0:38 - Now we have this scene with the two couples. And Jenna is feeling nostalgic for Dalton. But then Dante says let’s go back to Bugs and Daffy. He never wants to get too comfortable with the human characters.

KBL: Which is really challenging, and maybe why people couldn’t latch on to the movie so well, unlike with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Where you identify mainly with Bob Hoskins and you see the cartoon world through his eyes. Here you don’t have that ground to stand on.

0:39 – Here Dante shows how deft he can be with his character development – he let’s Daffy drop this quick line to Bugs: "You just munch on your carrot and people love you" and just like that Dante moves on.

This movie feels like a Technicolor movie even though it wasn't shot on it. This shot of Jenna Elfman in a pink dress walking across the desert is just gorgeous.

0:40 - And this Wal-Mart reference is just fabulous. "Nice of Wal-mart to provide us these Wal-Mart beverages in exchange for us mentioning Wal-mart so many times." That's Dante having his cake and eating it too.

0:42 - And now we're in the Wile E Coyote / Road Runner segment, and it's flawless.

KBL: And updated to a 21st century world. I love how Wile E Coyote orders his anti-Road Runner contraptions from the ACME website.

How many comedies, animated or otherwise, use the screen in so many ways like this?

0:44 - Now we're in the sci-fi section of the movie. I think is the section closest to Dante's heart. Here’s Robby the Robot and Joan Cusack as Robby's mother. And Cusack’s line delivery here is priceless: "I've known you ever since you were... that doesn't make sense does it?"

KBL: Elfman: "I can't go back to LA with duck soup." There’s a double entendre in there – Today’s Hollywood couldn’t handle the Marx Brothers.

Dante is just cramming all these references to sci-fi movies here: Marvin the Martian, the Dalleks, even Kevin McCarthy from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.


0:47 - This is a quintessential Steve Martin delivery.

0:48 - Did you notice how they painted in the reflection of Bugs walking past the jar containing Marvin the Martian? It’s amazing that they took the care to do that, even though most people probably wouldn’t notice it.

And here’s a mention of giant ants and you hear the ant sound effects from "Them" in the background. And this tape labeled "Moon Landing Dress Rehearsal" – ha!

0:49 - This Peter Graves Mission Impossible mission debrief animation -  I think it has the style of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which had its own anarchic qualities.

0:53 – So here’s the transition to the Paris/ Louvre sequence – Someone asks, "How do we get there?" And Bugs picks up a corner of the screen and pulls it like a drape, and instantly we're in Paris. This is Dante's way of looking at the world -  it’s all screens, planes and images.

0:54 - It's a Paris of the imagination - classic post-war American in Paris era stock footage, a shot of the Louvre with Madeline and her children walking across it.

0:55 - Even the critics against this film admire this Louvre segment. It's really a Louvre of possibilities, where it jumps into through all these immortal works of art and plays with them. And Goldberg animates the Looney Tunes characters in the style of each painting.

KBL: And there's a connection between the Looney Tunes aesthetic to each of these works being referenced - Dali's surrealism, Munch's emotional expressionism, Toulouse Lautrec's festive energy - these are all spiritual predecessors to Looney Tunes. And the music is the perfect match - Mussorgsky's “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Here’s Georges Seurat doing a cameo – and look at how he reacts to the Looney Tunes characters romping through his landscape. I love Elmer Fudd's gunshots here - the way it blasts the paint off the canvas.

0:58 - Here it just goes into overdrive. All these Looney Tunes characters dressed up as famous figures in paintings: Picasso's guitarist, Whistler's mother, Breughel’s hunter, the Vermeer’s girl with the pearl earring, I can’t even identify the rest.

KBL: And at the end Bugs has reconstructed himself fully while Daffy is using a paint by numbers dot technique to redraw himself. Ever the divide between them.

Here's a Jerry Lewis poster and the red balloon - the Paris references keep piling up. And here with these production values of this action sequence are incredible - you wonder why Warner Brothers put so much money. Dante had already screwed them with Gremlins 2, so he must have done something to get back on this project. But still this film bombed big time.

1:03 - Brendan Fraser did the voice of the Tasmanian Devil.

1:04 -Now we're in the Africa sequence. This was supposed to be the climax of the film.

Coming up is a gag that Charles Taylor criticized as why the movie doesn't work. When Tweety bird cries out "Cry Freedom" - He thought it should have been more of a comment on African politics, but Dante treats everything as a gag. I mean look here, he follows it up with an elephant ass gag.

KBL: It feels almost profound - everything gets mixed up into a neverending stream of phenomena, and they’re happening too fast for you to get hung up on any one of them.

1:08 - The humans are largely at the mercy of the animated characters.

KBL: Again, that's also an inversion of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where the humans are the dominant class.

1:11 - The way this ends is crazy, the WWE wrestler Goldberg unveils himself as a Tasmanian She-devil and gets married to the Tasmanian Devil.

1:13 - And now this Martian sequence which is a total digression from what happened before. I think this got added in the final stages of post-production, and seems like it was just improvised.

1:14 - This is classic Looney Tunes, this assaultive comedy.

1:17 - The carrot lightsaber – genius.

1:18 - Now Dante is indulging in some of the cross cutting of Star Wars.

1:19 - And even with the heroic rescue, Dante ends the scene with Wile E. Coyote getting blown away - his sympathies lie with them.

1:20 - And because this is Joe Dante's picture, Daffy finally gets to become a hero.

And of course the corporate executive is reduced to a monkey.

1:21 - Here's the sentimental piece - but what's that out the window? Again, Dante can't resist any chance to destroy corporate space.

And the credits - this Junior Senior track works because like the movie it keeps encouraging to have fun and it pounds it into you.