I thought I'd do a whole post on the subject of Clampett's "Buckaroo Bugs," but I quickly realized that the cartoon is so rich that I could scarcely do justice to a whole sequence here, let alone the whole film. Maybe I'll focus in more narrowly, just on the cartooning in one of the sequences.
Clampett was lucky to have an animator, Rod Scribner, who was a terrific cartoonist as well as a brilliant animator. He could draw funny, he could move things funny, he could act a character and project a winning personality, and he had that indefinable thing that's so rare in the industry...charisma. Since Clampett had a lot of these virtues himself, the match was made in heaven.
The title card credits Manny Gould as the principal animator in this cartoon. I wish I could tell which scenes were his. I'm crediting Scribner with the animation here, because it looks like his style, but Clampett's practice of switching animators in mid-scene can make identification difficult.
Anyway, here's the cartoon, starting about a quarter of the way in. Bugs is pretending to be a bandit and has just denuded Red Hot Ryder with a magnet to the belt buckle.
Before we talk about the action, check out what's happening in the drawing above. Bugs is a big guy wearing a black mask, which is a strong graphic symbol denoting mystery and menace. Red Hot Ryder is a tiny little guy with panties and what appears to be woman's shoes (they're actually short boots).
It's a clash of opposites with big, pretending-to-be-mean Bugs attacking what looks like a poor little lady. A third element is the absurdly over-sized hat, which has a life of its own and threatens to overshadow whatever Bugs and the "lady" do.
Bugs makes like he's going to grapple with the little guy but instead comically attacks the guy's hat.
He pulls up on the hat and the little guy is pulled along with it. Look how inert the little guy is! It's funny to see a body that had a will and a structure a moment before, suddenly become a wet sack of potatoes. This is not only a funny thing to do, but it underlines the idea that gravity is attempting to hold everything down and sets up the gravity-gags to follow.
This is a good example of how exaggerated, cartooney handling -- the suddenly inert body -- makes for interesting animation possibilities. If I were an animator I'd kill to get scenes with gravity gags because they're fun and make use of the unique capabilities of animation. Don't expect to find gags like this in scripts written by non-artist writers.
BTW, the long, back part of the hat (above) is a great visual joke. Why are long, sagging things that stretch out behind us funny? Do they remind us of testicles or loaded baby diapers? I'm not sure.
Clampett was a visceral director. He did lots of gags about things that are funny for reasons that are difficult to put into words. Most other artists avoided gags like that but Clampett reveled in them. Life contains zillions of funny but hard to articulate anomalies, but among the Warner directors, only Clampett seemed to be interested in them.
Here (above) the hat as wet bed sheet (or pizza dough) is emphasized. Bugs' earnest, serious expression is a terrific contrast to the absurdity of it all.
How do you like the funny proportions in Ryder's body: a long torso, a bulbous round pelvis, then stubby little legs with girl shoes. Genius!
Bugs (above) suddenly covers Ryder with the stretched out hat.
The momentum (above) causes him to flip over.
Ryder (above) stands and flails around inside the hat.
Bugs (above) needs to run off screen to set up the next gag, but instead of going into an immediate run he instead flails around with Ryder for an instant. I had to cut frames to compress the action so you may not see the scramble here. I mention it because I like it when characters unexpectedly go in and out of synchronization with each other. You see it in Fred Astaire movies and it's devastatingly effective.
When it's time to leave bugs just leans into his run and is offstage in an instant.
More cute pantie shots (above). Notice that Ryder has stepped out of his pants while we was flailing.
He steps back into his pants, which for some inexplicable reason I find funny, and the hat brim takes over as the dominant funny element. Here the brim develops wings, sort of. I always find it funny when a comedic character has a suddenly billowing cape or a loose, blowing skirt. Maybe that's because you don't expect a fleshed-out, three-dimensional character to become, without warning, a graphic symbol.
The big, floppy brim (above) really dominates now. it's like a wet bed sheet.
Ryder (above) pushes up and it pops off.
Now it billows out (above) and settles down. Look at the oodles of energized space that's enclosed between the hat and the top of Ryder's head. Artists love stuff like this. We're constantly amazed at the efficacy of the tools at our command. Only a moment before, the scene was about how much like pizza dough the hat was. Now the scene is about the gracefulness of the falling hat and the power of unexpectedly enclosed and activated space.
Now the hat (above) goes back to its previous shape, which is delightfully drawn. Simultaneously we're reminded of how stupid-looking and funny Ryder is. This sets us up for a bunch of stupid poses that are coming shortly.
I'm just amazed at how frequently Scribner and/or Clampett change the focus of the gag within a scene. One thing is emphasized and then another, and yet the scene retains it's over-all unity of purpose.
I'd intended to comment on a the frames that follow but look how much space it's taken just to describe the few pictures we've seen so far. Clampett cartoons are so rich that you could spend hours analyzing simple actions.
I'll leave up the remaining frames without comment. Remember that I had to drop frames to compress the action.
Oops! I can't help but comment on this one (above)! Ryder puts down his guns and withdraws his hands. That doesn't sound like much, and it won't seem like much in still pictures like the one above, but when you see it in motion it's hilarious!
I associate this technique with Friz because he used it so often. He realized that the simple, understated act of picking things up and putting them down can be incredibly funny when it's done right.