Sunday, September 07, 2008

Spout Mavens Disc #14, Part 9 of 13: Shorts! Volume 3 - Clay Pride: Being Clay in America (2001)

Director: Jonathan Watts & David Karlsberg
U.S., 5 minutes, color animated
Cinema 4 Rating: 7

At least the filmmakers admit that their project is built upon a one-joke premise.

What producer/co-director David Karlsberg doesn’t really declare, perhaps out of a humility rarely found in filmmakers, is how well-sustained that one joke turns out to be. Granted, Clay Pride: Being Clay in America, yet another film on the Shorts! Volume 3 DVD collection, only runs a mere 5 minutes. But even with one joke, once you acknowledge that delivering humor in stop-motion clay animation is a good deal harder than telling the same type of joke with live-action – timing, the mainstay of all successful humor, is even tougher to achieve when you can only film your “actors” a split second at a time, frame by laborious frame – then you will be astounded by the overall effect and feel of this film.

On the commentary, Karlsberg also admits that the animation in Clay Pride is not necessarily that ambitious either, which is true, but as always, it ain’t what you got, but how well you use it. Karlsberg and creator/co-director/writer Jonathan Watts don’t go for obvious jokes here. They let the absurdity of the situation itself carry the film. The conceit, that clay-animated characters exist in a world with the “normals” in a manner directly parallel in which those of the homosexual affiliation exist within our world, is really primarily based around childlike pun play, simply replacing a letter with another pair of letters, like someone calling me “dick” or “prick” in the manner of the brute which has followed me about for much of my life. (I usually tell them, since my name does not contain a “c,” that their rhyme-play makes little sense, except in some foreign tongue, as if ordering Thai food or categorizing tiny and adorable African antelopes.)

But by embracing this entry-level pun, Watts (who apparently created this world first in a short film made in high school) pours his simple joke into what could pass, were it filmed for real in its parallel existence, for a rather somber documentary on intolerance and societal homophobia. Most of what is said by the characters – except for a timely cameo in the shadows by a certain slanty-headed green clayboy of great renown – is pretty straightforward and not much different from that which might be said in a parallel documentary on gay bashing in our society, with all of the humor gliding slyly off the premise that we are talking about clay-animated characters instead. There are no real sight gags here – a couple of jokey name references on signs is all – mainly, the film gets by on an easy assurance by the filmmakers that the strength of their premise carries that “one joke” through satisfactorily to the end. Which it does… mostly.

Forgive me this one reflection, but there is something about the premise that confuses me a little. If being clay is roughly parallel in that imaginary world to being gay in ours, does this mean that the clay characters are actually gay? If so, are there no “straight” clay animated characters? We see them in dance clubs and at confrontational meetings, and while there is little in the way of outwardly stereotypical “gay” behavior, the overall impression is that this is so. It is a little sad that the film doesn't (or perhaps, due to budgetary reasons, is unable to) show the clays within the world of the normals outright, interacting with their oppressors. Are they tiny compared to the rest of their world, or would we see a clay figure marching in a parade while redneck buffoons of equal size spit at them from the sidewalks. And what would those rednecks do when der Golem showed up to rend them asunder?

Golem joke aside, I’m very glad that Clay Pride remains a mostly subtle exercise, and doesn’t have Davey going doggy-style on Goliath or Gumby getting some Pokey. Such antics are perhaps better suited to the likes of Robot Chicken. But the subtlety does leave me wondering about their world. And is the repression towards “clays” in that world is more of a sexual thing than the makeup of their bodies? Because of this, is it racism or sexism? Or does it matter? Aren’t they both equally vile, and if combined in an attack, even more vile?

Tolerance, my friends, tolerance is the only way, clays or otherwise. Clay Pride succeeds admirably in this message, despite the slight doubting within my briefly pondered side-trip. Would it were so that all such films were so intently fixed upon their target.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Spout Mavens Disc #14, Part 5 of 13: Shorts! Volume 3 - Seventeen (2003)

Director: Hisko Hulsing
Netherlands, 12:00, color animated
Cinema 4 Rating: 7

At what level do we begin to recognize our own failure? If we start out with imperial ambitions, is everything else short of controlling the world considered to be a failure? Since most of us will never, or should never, wish for such power, I guess we all have to just be thankful for whatever success we might achieve, and accept our fate from there.

I worked at my previous job for 22 years. I won't go into the details of the five Ws and an H of the situation -- I have discussed these matters elsewhere in bits and pieces on the Cinema 4 Pylon, and if you are actually interested, for whatever reason, I suggest you delve into it there. My need to bring up the length of my stay at that particular hovel of a business was merely to impart the message that 22 years at any one place, home or business, is far too long a span. I started young, full of piss and vinegar, but not quite enough to make me burn the place down and move onward. I despised about 90 percent of the people, employees or customers, with whom I came into contact, and there were certain sections of the business where the workers were little more than savage animals in my eyes. I always felt that anytime soon, something would happen where I would be rid of them and their brutish ways. Either I would leave them behind as I sped towards better times, or they would die the deaths that they so richly deserved for their callowness and their uncaring attitudes towards everything except for the most base forms of human endeavor.

And then, almost imperceptibly, with the faucet slowly dripping away my youth, I found myself stuck. I could not leave the job due to my own fears, my own uncertainty for the future, and I accepted a fate where even a horrid career is better than a world without a clear destination ahead. And even after the worst moments -- those times where I swore I had had enough and would rather kill them all and face the most severe prison sentence ever than work one more day in that pit of damnation -- I found myself punching the clock again. And again. And after so many years, I found myself not warming to those whom I previously despised, but becoming instead enough like them where I could no longer hold myself to a loftier ideal. Soon, I stopped resisting their idiocies and fell into line alongside them. I had become the others.

It has been said for eons that our world is largely run, in nearly every aspect, by fear. Fear can keep us running when we both shouldn't, and fear can also keep from running when we should. Its not so much about overcoming our fears, as it is about coming to an understanding with them, figuring out when they are truly justified or when they are pure shite. My own fear of the future overrode my fear of being trapped in a lifeless hell, and for a long time, I was a horrible person for it. While I won't rule out that there were outside agents that allowed me to come to grips with my fears, in the end, I was the one who had to walk away and start over. I stopped the stagnation at 22 years, and set up elsewhere. No longer do I feel like one of those others that I found so despicable.

In Hisko Hulsing's superbly creepy animated short, Seventeen -- one of 16 films on the Shorts! Volume 3 DVD collection -- we meet a young man named Harry, almost the age I was when I began my 22-year run, in a similar situation. His afternoons are marked by his labors on a roofing job, far above the streets of a village surrounded by patchwork fields. He is surrounded at his job by workers almost exactly of the Cro-Magnon set, and they booze and prank each other to the point that little work seems to actually get done. He strains to shut out the ruffians, and distracts his attention by peering at a woman in the building adjacent to the worksite, who strips slowly and coyly catches Harry's eye as he sits numbly on the edge of the building, several stories above the ground. In fact, the woman is a prostitute, and soon her madam will catch onto Harry's spying and shut the curtains on his afternoon of naive peeping. Harry doesn't see her as a whore, but merely as a target for his youthfully urgent affection, and as he spies, he is dreamy eyed and wistful, completely forgetting his co-workers.

They have not forgotten him, however, and they catch him unaware, lost in his love at first sight daydreams. One of the ruffians grabs Harry's ponytail and pretends to shove him off the roof. Soon, they are attacking some nearby laundry on a drying line, dressing the young lad up in women's clothing, and even after fitting the dress over his head, we see from Harry's point of view that he imagines one of the men, in a hirsute, sweat-laden and frightening closeup, is looking at the innocent, comparatively waiflike and pony-tailed Harry in a lustful, drooling manner. It is but a small harbinger of the horrors to come for Harry, who will now spend the remainder of the film locked in a battle with his delusions -- drunken and real -- interpreting the actions of the citizenry of the village as increasingly aggressive and conspiratorial towards himself.

Obsessed by the beautiful prostitute, Harry attempts to buy a drink for her at a local carnival, but he lingers too long in doubt, and her time is taken by some of his co-workers. Later, he will awaken in a deeply drunken state and wander into a scene where two of those men are having sex with her, and he will not recognize the fact, as she checks her watch in uncaring boredom, that she is literally on the clock. He will only hear her false moaning as screams of agony, and will imagine she is being doubly raped. He will launch himself at the attackers, but he will embarrassingly end up only in sending her sprawling backwards into a mud puddle with his crotch landing on her face, and her potential johns, a winding string of whom are seen waiting around the side of the building and onward, will not take this lightly at all. Interrupted from their pleasures, the men will, in Harry's eyes, and thus ours, transform very nearly into zombies or at least creatures of some arcane night, and shamble after the boy until he is driven from town.

From here, Harry will meet many others who will come at him first as the gentle and friendly, and through our hero's nightmare eye, will reveal themselves as nothing more than hostiles. Women who would grant him sensual release will turn into harpies, those harpies would take on the face of a co-worker, those co-workers will join the rest of the citizenry in ritual sacrifice for a secret blood cult, and good Samaritans will always wish for something craven in return. The images fly fast, and every tiny thing skews threatening to the lad. A carnival which promises joy during the day becomes a bestial thing by night -- this is no profound statement the film is granting us, as we all naturally understand the dark side of such places. But it works remarkably well here, with zigzagging angles and monstrous shadows closing on Harry as he seeks an escape from his ceaseless, mostly self-imposed travails. The film, reflecting his rampant fears, will get the better of him.

The background paintings used to achieve these affects are rough but always lush in their hue and invention. The depth achieved in some of the pieces truly astounds, and despite how savage the film may seem content-wise, it is always stunningly gorgeous and composed. I must profess that even I, one who doesn't flinch at very much initially in any film, was taken aback somewhat by the carnality of the film. Not that I couldn't handle it, but after the comparative mellowness of the previous films on the disc, I wasn't expecting such brutality and menace, let alone the nudity and sex quotient. At times, the content is so grimy that one almost wishes to wash it away with a freakishly innocent episode of The Wiggles.

But it is all for purpose -- this is no gratuitous exercise in filth, but rather a very well-turned examination into stagnation and personal inertia. Harry himself will go back to his roofing job, day after day, slowly sucking into the world he despises and interprets as hostile. He will grow sloppier and unshaven, and his dreams will fade ever deeper into the back of his head as he surrenders only to the daily pleasures, which will fatten his body and weaken his resolve. He will likely even join the line of grunting Neanderthals lined up around the building waiting for a quickie release from a bored sex worker. He will become what he hates, and he will be unrecognizable from those whom he despises.

Hopefully after 22 years of this, he will truly wake up...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Poultry Pirates (1938)

Director: Isadore [Friz] Freleng
MGM, 0:09, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: 5

Is it all that pent-up frustration over having two highly prolific brats within his household that causes der Captain to go all hellfire crazy on the behinds of a quintet of garden-rustling chickens?

Released from his torturous home life for at least this entry in MGM’s not entirely successful (but not entirely unworthy or uninteresting) series of adventures featuring The Captain and the Kids (also known as the Katzenjammers in their complicated history), 1938’s Poultry Pirates sees der Captain in a solo adventure wherein he must deal with a passel of ornery birds who are trying to overrun his immaculately kept vegetable garden. Naturally, the extremely short-fused Captain will blow his top with every single transgression upon his property or person, and much in the way regarding slapstick inanity will occur.

Directed by Friz Freleng during a brief respite from his Warner Bros. work (and credited here as “Isadore”), Poultry Pirates could just as easily be an adventure for any short-tempered cartoon blowhard, and never really separates itself from other similarly-styled scenarios, except for a couple of lines featuring der Captain’s usual mangled dialogue shtick. One could easily take Donald Duck or Porky Pig and drop them into this storyline (in fact, they pretty much had), and you would never tell the difference, apart from the different voices and looks of the characters themselves.

Basically, the film is a series of gags featuring chickens stealing der Captain’s vegetables, and with der Captain going nuts trying to stop them. At the beginning of the film, der Captain is almost instantly revealed as a chicken-beater of the first order. Five hens stick their scrawny little necks through a horizontal line of holes in a fence, but every time they reach out to grab something, der Captain peers around the corner to make them backtrack through the holes. After a couple of attempts, the hens are left to themselves as der Captain takes a new tack: sneak up behind them with a large board. He smacks all five hens across their bottoms, and they scatter out of the yard. In the vaudevillian-style, German immigrant shtick that served der Captain so well over the course of a century (and, oddly, in two opposing comic strips), he bellows, “Dat will teach you to keep from the garden out!”

Worn out from his battle, der Captain sits down to continue his garden guarding. At the point that he falls asleep, a heretofore unseen duck (it’s hard not to think of Daffy upon first seeing him, though there is nothing really Daffy-like about him except for his pesky attitude) sneaks past der Captain and steals a huge tomato from the garden. Slurping out the insides of the fruit, the duck then spits them out, acting very disgusted in the process. He marches up to der Captain and wakes him up. “Hey!,” he quacks in a semi-wiseguy voice, “Did you raise this to-mat-uh?” The duck wings the open tomato straight into the eyes of der Captain, splatting him messily. As the duck strides off, he mutters lowly, “What are you trying to do? Poison people?” Smacking the bird with the board fails several times, and then the duck zips inside der Captain's sleeve. There then occurs a chase through der Captain’s clothing, with the duck darting in and out of numerous articles, before zipping away towards an open shed. Der Captain follows the bird, but once inside, the duck sneaks through a hole and locks der Captain inside.

The duck lets all of the other fowl into the garden, and the mass of birds begin to level the place. Rows of plants are devoured in nearly perfect unison, except for one sloppy hen who is reprimanded by her cohorts. One hen eats corn with the usual typewriter-return gag (is there really any better way to eat corn on the cob in a cartoon?) Another hen is seen pecking away at a gigantic pumpkin, and she backs away to reveal a marvelous example of a jack-‘o-lantern. Oops! Not quite marvelous enough apparently for her, so she goes back in to peck perfect the smile, as any true artist would do. Tiny little chicks stack up on one another precariously to wrest far larger tomatoes from their stems, each orb dangerously being schlepped down the pile of chicks to be carried away awkwardly.

Der Captain, who has been trying to escape by pounding on the door, inadvertently succeeds in knocking down all of the walls around him – only he isn’t aware of it. He pulls furiously at the doorknob, yelling the entire time. Finally, he rears up several feet, beyond where the back wall had lain just moments before, and never noticing the damage peripherally, he charges forward to knock down the still standing doorway. He rumbles to his home, and comes back outside with a shotgun in his arms. Seeing the rampaging brood in front of him, he levels the gun at the lot, fires a shot over their heads, and orders them to return their stolen goods. They oblige, but the duck is holding out on der Captain. The duck pulls a tomato out from under his wing and hands it back under further orders from der Captain. Instantly, all of the chickens charge the unsuspecting oaf, and in a great flurry of activity and dust, they make off with the vegetables again. Except for the tomato. That remains with der Captain – until the duck zips back in and snags it anew. But he isn’t here to eat it. Oh, no... he merely takes the opportunity to steal it so he may splat der Captain once more in the face!

Meanwhile, one of the tiny chicks is shown laboriously attempting to carry off one of the far bigger tomatoes. Der Captain stands over the little bird and glares at him shamefully. The chick puts the tomato back, but is then picked up by der Captain and placed over – rather, atop – his enormous knee. Der Captain spanks him lightly a couple of times, and then gently places him back on the ground. The chick marches off with a sore, throbbin rear, and immediately tells the nearest rooster of the attack upon his personage, being very careful to demonstrate through singsong chirping and exaggerated pantomime the horrid actions of the hostile man, as well as imparting what an angel the little chick has been throughout the incident. (A halo magically appears over his noggin in the telling.) The rooster then tattles to another slightly bigger rooster… and so on… and so on… until the news has reached the ear of the largest rooster of them all. A rooster who stands head to head with der Captain when they eventually meet to do battle.

The rooster is more than a match for the der Captain, but many of the short gags fall flat in what should be a more dynamic sequence, and the fight is tragically ordinary. It is amusing when der Captain removes his coat, only to have the rooster remove his entire draft of feathers, revealing a naval tattoo. Der Captain meekly tries to stop the whole affair there by putting his coat back on, but the rooster will have none of it, and removes it every time der Captain attempts it again. The pair circle each other, with der Captain adopting the stance of his fowl opponent, acting for all the world like another chicken. And then der Captain is satisfactorily whupped in the course of the melee, including a series of clever shots where his face basically becomes Silly Putty, contorting with each blow from the bird's fists. Just at the most dire moment for the big blowhard (der Captain, I mean), he awakens from the dream he has been engaged in since he fell asleep on the watch -- and hopping madly on his chest is a normal-sized (though still relatively huge) rooster!

Der Captain gets outraged and goes after the bird, but with a mighty leap, he only succeeds in knocking down one of the boards in his garden fence... and then the adjacent board falls, and like so many dominoes, his entire garden fence lies in ruins. The birds converge on the now unguarded domain, and while der Captain lies defeated amongst the pile of boards, the little chick with the wounded rear marches up and kicks dirt in der Captain's face. Even without Hans und Fritz around to annoy him, children still get the best of him.

The solo adventures of der Captain really don't work that well, and one wishes that the remainder of the regulars (perhaps minus Mama) made an appearance here, if only fleetingly. Der Captain just really isn't strong or interesting enough a character to carry a film himself, and perhaps it was wise on Freleng's part to let the animals lead half of the film, even if the action is merely pedestrian. The most interesting part -- the duck -- is never used again after the second "Splat!," and so the viewer is left hanging waiting for the needed third part of the joke.

And still, there is the question of all that residual anger in der Captain. The film starts mid-theft, and our boy is already armed and ready to attack. Did he go into the garden ready to take out his frustrations on whatever crossed his path? What have those boys led him to? Was he keeping the garden to help soothe his nerves outside of his often tempestuous home setting? So many unanswered questions, and ones that are really unnecessary to watching the film itself. One thing's for sure: der Captain doesn't hesitate for a second to level violence upon the garden robbers. Even his most gentle act of the short is considered an act of child abuse in most circles. This might get looked at askance in this day and age, considering that it is basically man vs. animals, and rather defenseless ones at that.

I must point out that I did eat a chicken sandwich while writing this, so I guess I am just as bad as der Captain...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Shark Film Office Special Edition: Goggle-Fishing Bear (1949)

Goggle-Fishing Bear (1949)
Directors: Preston Blair and Michael Lah
TC4P Rating: 5/9
Shark appearance: cartoon shark (undefinable species), able to roar and growl, no sense of humor.

So, who has it worse? Sharks in the movies -- where they are employed mainly to threaten the lives of the (usually) human characters in the film, or at the very least, imply that said characters are in mortal danger -- or sharks in cartoons?

Certainly, the answers is "in the movies," since sharks almost always end up dying onscreen for their sins, and in some films (in the dark, olden days of the industry), really dying for our entertainment. Their menace is perceived as far more real, naturally, and the potential harm to the reputation of sharks in the real world is that much more immense.

Cartoon sharks, on the other hand, not being flesh and blood, have a cakewalk. Or is that "cake-swim"? Sure, they show up, flash their pearlies, frighten the protagonist(s) and generally have a fine, evil time of it as the contracted villain of the piece. They do what is expected of any shark in a film: be evil, get your comeuppance, end of story. Except cartoon sharks, given that they are in a piece where death is a rare (if ever) occurrence, don't get blown to smithereens (as a final blow, that is) or get a bullet through the head or get harpooned or electrocuted or spear-gunned. Cartoon sharks, though actually one of the rarer species on earth, most often survive their appearances in their films. The twist is that they often face a different sort of living death...

In Goggle-Fishing Bear, an MGM short from 1949, the shark in question literally and ultimately becomes the butt of the joke. Accompanied by the usual compliment of lush backgrounds, detailed closeups and sharp character work that was a hallmark at MGM in the '40s, ursine dope Barney Bear takes to his rowboat for a spot of fishing relaxation. Of course, anyone even remotely familiar with poor ol' Barney, or cartoons in general, knows that relaxation is definitely not in the cards. Even if he had opted to stay home and actually play cards instead, relaxation would not be ready to be paired with the misbegotten Barney. In much the same manner that sharks have their place to play in cartoons, so is Barney burdened with the yoke of playing the eternal lummox.

The opening third of the short concerns Barney's attempts at enjoying a day trident-fishing off his outboard motor boat as being initially thwarted by the intrusion of a typically cute sea lion pup (not a seal, though people will immediately see him and shout, like a small child would in delight, "seal!). The pup gives Barney the sort of hard time that one expects, but these frustrations immediately cease once the third character of the film is introduced: the shark.

His entrance is grand, far grander than the film itself deserves. As Barney and the sea lion pup go through their cutesy struggles with one another, at the point where the pup has been so fully shunned by the bear that he mopes away sadly on his own, a huge, looming shadow falls over him. The pup glances off to see what is causing the circling shadow, and as he does, a huge green and yellow shark turns about and makes a beeline for the pup. Panic ensues, but the pup retains just enough of his senses to try and warn his would-be playmate, Barney, of the impending doom. He zips between the bear's legs, sending the ursine spinning about and accidentally releasing the fish Barney has just caught. The pup barks madly in desperation. Barney is so annoyed by the pup by now that he ignores its warnings, and continues back to his trident-fishing. As the shark continues drifting forwards, closer and closer, the pup has no choice but to give up on his friend, scream frantically and head for the hills. Or the boat. Whatever the case may be.  

So, now I ask, which is of more murderous intent? The natural hunger that continues the great "Chain of Life," wherein a shark might instinctually seek out his prey, or a bear seeking to vent a few holes in a wholly innocent sea lion pup's head with a trident? When the shark pulls up and bumps Barney Bear in the bottom twice, the bear, believing it to be more goading from the pup, doesn't hesitate to stab his trident several times over into the snout of the shark. It slowly dawns on Barney what he has just done, and he steps away from the giant shark and acts sheepishly. The shark, angered, pulls forward and roars tremendously, its jaws fully open to allow its breath and sound waves to crash over Barney. The bear stands calmly and smartly shows the trident to the shark as if to display that it couldn't possibly do any harm, and then jabs himself in the chest as an example. Of course, it hurts Barney, and as a last desperate measure, Barney thrusts the trident over the shark's snout, pins it to the ocean floor, and makes a break for the boat, where the sea lion is already waiting to escape.

Being more than a match for a mere trident, the shark dispenses with the tool and snaps sharply onto the tips of Barney's flippers. The flippers stretch out to ridiculous lengths as Barney frantically swims for the surface. He reaches the boat, and the seal grabs his hands to pull him aboard. The boat tips upward with the weight of the bear, and when Barney grabs the slats serving as seats in the tiny craft, the boards are ripped out, and Barney zips back underwater and towards the waiting jaws of the massive shark. The fish takes a huge snap at Barney's backside, and scrapes off the poor bear's swimsuit and fur in the process, leaving Barney either bare-bottomed or bear-bottomed -- take your pick. Barney hides amongst some underwater weeds, and uses his trident to pull off a hastily improvised impersonation of King Neptune. He halts the shark with one steady hand, and then points away from him. The shark departs, but as Barney runs off in the opposite direction, the shark immediately turns about. There follows a series of snaps as Barney's person, but each snap is thwarted by the fact that Barney is running on a series of underwater moguls, and so he goes up and down with each attempted bite.

The shark swims far ahead, rests on the bottom, and opens his jaws wide like a cave. Naturally, Barney runs right in with his momentum, and the shark closes his mouth in triumph. Barney continues to run, and the shape of his body is seen walking to the end of the shark's tail. Barney realizes his mistake and turns around to run the other way. He smashes right through the teeth of the shark, leaving a silhouette of his body in the remainder of the shark's surprised grin. Barney finds a small rock and somehow manages to hide his own massive body underneath it. The rock sprouts eyes all of a sudden, but they aren't Barney's. As the shark pulls up to investigate, we find that the rock is actually an octopus, which screams at the sight of the monstrous fish and stretches up on its six legs (yes, this octopus only has six legs, not eight) in fright. It zips away, leaving an unaware Barney at the mercy of the shark.

Luckily, the sea lion pup comes to the rescue. As the shark closes its teeth in on the bear, the pup zooms into the shark's mouth and holds the jaws agape. As part of the struggle between pinniped and shark, the fish's teeth are shown to prod Barney in the rear, and the bear turns his head, presumably in anticipation of his own demise. Instead, he espies the brave little pup, straining mightily to keep the shark's jaws from snapping his would-be pal to pieces. Barney turns tail and exits the scene, only to return -- in a reminder of precisely why one indulges their mind with cartoon logic in the first place -- with a highly convenient car jack. He jams the jack in the shark's mouth and cranks it upward. The pup is no where to be seen, until it peeks out from underneath the huge tongue of the shark. The bear grabs the pup just as the shark breaks through the jack's resistance and slams its jaws shut.

Barney and the sea lion make their escape, the bear literally running upward through the water to the surface, with the shark close behind. Perhaps a bit too close for the pup's comfort, as once he sees the shark breathing hot on their necks, jumps out of Barney's grip and carries the bear himself all the way to the boat, finishing the effort with a massive leap far beyond what one expects from a tiny little sea lion pup encumbered by the weight of a portly ursine. They start the outboard engine and take off, but the shark soon catches up and uses his dorsal fin to saw the boat in twain. Barney pulls the halved pieces back together, but they sink immediately. The pup starts to bail water out, which is truly an impossible task if one is already completely underwater. But -- via that sweet cartoon logic again -- he manages to succeed. The boat pops back on the surface, somehow completely intact. The shark, not to be outdone, spins his tail section into a propeller and launches himself towards the boat like a torpedo. He strikes the boat full on, and a massive explosion ensues. Barney, the pup, the anchor and the myriad pieces of the wrecked boat fly upward, and then start to fall back to the surface of the water. The shark pops out and strikes his best pre-Jaws, mouth-agape, waiting-for-his-prey pose, a hungry smile formed on his cruel face.

But, did you really think that Barney Bear and an innocent and playful sea lion pup would really get devoured in a cartoon from 1949? In the days of "the code," would what is recognizable as evil by the bulk of the public at that time go unpunished? Of course not, and the shark receives his due according to this absurdly moral center: a faceful of anchor, a wrapping by the anchor line, and a newly outfitted yacht body courtesy of the remaining pieces of the boat, mysteriously nailed and perfectly aligned along the shark's back. The pup comes out wearing Barney's diving set and sporting the trident, which he pokes into the shark's rear, causing the fish to emit an anguished "Ooh!" Barney decides it would be fun to pantomime driving their new craft while the pup tortures the shark with a series of jabs to the rear. As they float off into the island sunset, the sharks cries are heard over and over again: "Oh!" "Ooh!" "Oh!"

As I said, our boy has become the butt of the joke. Maybe it would be better to get spear-gunned.

RTJ