When you get right down to it, all of the cartoons put out by any studio throughout animation history are merely product. Hell, any type of film put out by anybody is product. All films are put out to try and entice viewers out of their money. They are goods. They are put out for consumption by the masses. On our end of things, we like to read other reasons into their cause for being: they are there to entertain us; they are there to inform us, etc. Whatever pretensions a filmmaker might bring to a project, or whatever a producer might tell you is the reason for a projects existence, in the end, that film is being put out in theatres (or on television) to generate revenue. Flat out --- films are products put out by studios to make M-O-N-E-Y.
This does not mean, however, that films have to be soulless automatons of blind number-crunching prowess. No, far from it. Talented writers, directors, animators, musicians, designers, actors --- they can all take what begins as a studio mission to make money, and turn it into a work of art. A studio that allows its staff to play within their films, that allows them to stretch themselves, and search for something more than just profit in the medium --- well, that staff can make something beautiful out of it. Hence, Warner Bros., Disney, MGM, Fleischer and even UPA, while still keeping an eye on the ledger books, were able to afford their filmmakers the creative latitude to design and develop some of the most masterful animation in film history. Films that not only filled company coffers, but entertained viewers in a smart, fun and wonderful fashion. And some of the film turned out to be genuine works of art.
But what about a studio that has no pretensions about such things? What about when a studio has just given up on even trying to convince themselves that such a higher level even exists? What about a studio that merely heeds the bottom line, and called it quits on creativity?
You end up with Canned Dog Feud.
Canned Dog Feud, a Woody Woodpecker programmer from the Walter Lantz Studio in 1965, that is. The title could not be more appropriate, with the words "canned" and "dog" pretty much describing the thing from the outset. Woody, after running afoul of the duck that was pulling the lazy 'pecker through the air (by way of using a balloon tied to the mallard), ends up crashing in the Ozark Mountains. Predictably, two feuding hillbillies, engaged in a neverending argument over whose smelly ol' houn'dog is the better houn'dog, are there to kill the film from the outset with devastatingly unfunny dialogue. Each of the dogs, named Ol' Blue and Ol' Yeller (with hides to match), is challenged to bring in larger and larger prey, beginning with mere squirrels and mice and then moving on to a grizzly, an elephant, and a triceratops. (Yes, I said a triceratops -- one of the 'billies remarks, "Well, you don't see many of them nowadays!")
Eventually, Woody happens across their path, and once he does, the pair of 'billyhoun's are sent after him -- and to no great comic effect at all. They chase the woodpecker up and around trees, around rocks on the edge of a cliff, and underwater -- all to the physical detriment of the houn'dogs. Naturally, Woody outwits the duo by film's end, and the hillbillies are left to argue amongst themselves over who is "more plumb tuckered!"
That the hillbillies don't actually engage in any physical activity in the cartoon seems besides the point. Just watching the hackneyed chase antics of their dogs and the once vital and weird but tamed-down woodpecker has left them exhausted and weary beyond description.
They should try seeing it from my angle...
Canned Dog Feud (Walter Lantz, 1965) Dir: Paul J. Smith
Cel Bloc Rating: 4