What About Thad?

Thad Komorowski's blog

Clampett Cheats

with 39 comments

The idea that reusing footage/animation can be a sign of creative laziness offends a great number of people. In most cases it is not, and a common and accepted practice when money and time are a factor. But with two directors, reuse seems to be a creative decision, and it happens with the favorite films of the most savage subsets of animation fans.

One is of course the later Disney fans, who are aghast that anyone could call the animation in the Woolie Reitherman directed features anything short of brilliant. Reitherman was a great animator, sure, but he sure as hell wasn’t that good of a director, and budgets had nothing to do with the blatant recycling of animation (not to mention character designs) from earlier films. When any of the old timers I know tell me of their days at Disney’s during this era, it’s always about how it was the most comfortable work environment they ever worked in. So I can’t see how the blame of the film’s failures (and there are many, many) can be passed elsewhere when it’s plain that it’s primarily the fault of who’s credited as director.

The other hostile subset is of course the Bob Clampett clan, which functions like just about any church in the southern United States: point out one flaw in Bob’s cartoons, and you’re a Son of Sodom, trying to destabilize the natural order.

Going over the studio’s filmography, Clampett was primarily the only director at Warners to reuse animation on a regular basis. (Only Friz Freleng surpasses him in reuses, which to be expected given that most of them happened when Freleng was directing in the early 30s, when it was a common practice at all studios to reuse animation to save money in the Depression.) One common fact shared in a lot of the Warner animator interviews is that Clampett was always a cartoon or two behind for the studio. Keeping that in mind, it wasn’t laziness, just hacking out to play catch-up. If budget was the villain, the other directors would have reused as often too.

There didn’t seem to be a scene in the Warner catalog that Clampett couldn’t reuse, whether it be redrawing a big-lipped Stepin Fetchit as Elmer Fudd, tracing over a Harman-Ising fowl couple with Daffy and his wife, or just dropping in badly traced footage from one of Freleng’s late 30s pictures without caring about continuity (about the most polar opposite cartoon you can think of compared with Bob Clampett).

In his defense, sloppy reuse and editing aside, Clampett’s cartoons are some of the funniest, most beautifully animated, and just plain best ones anywhere. Then again, you can say that for just about any of the directors. Without the sloppy reuse and editing.

And spare the argument that these weren’t meant to be looked at like this, that general audiences wouldn’t be looking for these kinds of things. If we were just average joe’s, we wouldn’t be talking about these cartoons on the Internet. It seems technical analysis of these things is only welcome when it’s positive.

Written by Thad

March 25th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Posted in classic animation

39 Responses to 'Clampett Cheats'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Clampett Cheats'.

  1. Yeah Clampett is certaintly guilty of re-using animation alot because of constantly missing deadlines. The worst instance I saw was Tin Pan Alley Cats, now that was REALLY fuckin’ lazy.

    “Then again, you can say that for just about any of the directors.”

    But he comes out on top. :P

    Ricardo Cantoral

    25 Mar 09 at 9:04 pm

  2. This is a really good video. I never would have noticed many of these.

    Mike Matei

    25 Mar 09 at 10:21 pm

  3. Wow, someone has a bug up his ass.


    People who live in glass houses …

    Here’s a bunch of cheap, lazy, reuse cartoons:

    Famous Cartoons.

    Most repetitive, boring, lazy ass cartoons ever . Who cares if they reused animation (I’m sure they did, but what normal person could sit through them all to pick it out ?) , the plots and gags were re-used over and over .

    A cowardly douche from Herndon, Virginia.

  4. It’s a damn good thing we have people like Thad who analyze them in such depth. You can learn more from this blog and this video then going to some art schools. I’ve read a lot of moronic comments by people on this blog, but yours just may take the cake. You obviously have no clue what you’re talking about whatsoever and just proved to every single person on here (Clampett fan or not) that you’re a complete fool.

    Mike Matei

    25 Mar 09 at 10:38 pm

  5. “And spare the argument that these weren’t meant to be looked at like this, that general audiences wouldn’t be looking for these kinds of things. If we were just average joe’s, we wouldn’t be talking about these cartoons on the Internet.”

    This should be flung in the face of anyone who shuts down criticism of Family Guy because average joe’s think its funny.


    25 Mar 09 at 11:29 pm

  6. A masterpiece, thanks!

    Andrea Ippoliti

    26 Mar 09 at 6:03 am

  7. ^Good to know, Kevin. I’ll remember next time when I’m about to defend Family Guy that I’m on the internet and that FG is the anti-christ.

    Anyway, I’ve always thought something was amiss in “The Big Snooze” long before I even knew there was a cartoon called “All This and Rabbits Stew”. Elmer’s big clown shoes are a dead giveaway that something is up.

    Mike Russo

    26 Mar 09 at 7:43 am

  8. I remember a certain other Clampettologist blogger who either defended or excused Clampett’s habit of reuse by saying that “he took it and did it better”, but it was moreso when he reused from another director. Oh, that silly other blogger.

    David Germain

    26 Mar 09 at 7:57 am

  9. This proves it! Porky and Elmer are negative racial stereotypes and should be banned! ;)

    This is really a fascinating compilation and I applaud Thad for all the work that went into selection, editing and mixing this.

    The attitude making theatrical cartoons was logical. “Hey, that got a laugh. Let’s do it again.” Gags got used again. Characters got used again. Background melodies got used again. Plots got used again. So why not use funny animation or layouts again if they’re good to begin with and re-used well?

    The average movie viiewer of the 40s or 50s may not even have noticed the specific animation re-use; they might have seen a cartoon once or twice over the course of several months in a darkened public place with distractions around them.

    Jim B.

    26 Mar 09 at 9:10 am

  10. Oh hell, I might as well throw in this link from the web’s No. 2 Clampett acolyte, which was also posted this week, and doesn’t go directly to trying to defend rampant re-use of previous work, but sort of does in a roundabout manner (i.e. — If they were going to directly defend Bob for all the reused animation from his and other people’s cartoons, this would probably be the template).

    J Lee

    26 Mar 09 at 9:26 am

  11. Blasphemer. Seriously though, I knew he reused a lot of animation but never thought it was this much.

    As for the Famous Studios comparison, I seriously doubt anyone is touting those cartoons like they do Clampett’s. I haven’t heard anyone call Seymour Kneitel a genius.

    Kevin Langley

    26 Mar 09 at 10:06 am

  12. That’s tellin’ ‘em, Dewey! Keep up the good work! You are a true patriot.

  13. Great video! Two thumbs up. I never really noticed a lot of this stuff. I definitely noticed “Tin Pan Alley Cats” and “The Big Snooze”, but I never noticed that one bit stolen from “Baby Bottleneck”.

    However, you didn’t show anything from “Bacall to Arms”, although that was just blatant outright stealing by that point.

    Eric Noble

    26 Mar 09 at 1:12 pm

  14. It was a labor saving device, plain and simple. Leon’s budgets were pretty meager compared to MGM and Disney, and I’m sure any effort to save a buck or two was probably encouraged. At first blush, it would seem the lifted stuff from “All This and Rabbit Stew” is the worst offender, but on reflection it use makes perfect sense: in order to get the cartoon started, you need a bit that’s just long enough and just familiar enough to make it feel like an average Bugs Bunny cartoon (as if there ever was such a thing) The opening bit isn’t important, it just helps set up the premise of the cartoon. As for some of the musical stuff, I’m sure somebody just said, look this older stuff looks pretty good, why reinvent the wheel? We got plenty of other scenes to worry about.

    In the case of Disney, however, I agree with you, Thad, I find the whole practice deplorable. I even cringe when I see” Lady and the Tramp” character designs reused in “101 Dalmatians” (would it have KILLED them to come up with a few new dog designs?) Or in “Robin Hood” were they try to make an entire movie out of recycled footage. Rexeroxed new footage too, as in the cases where they just reduced the size of a walk cycle and “shot” it from “farther away” or flopping identical guards to fill up the scene.

    John A

    26 Mar 09 at 1:51 pm

  15. 3:32 – The inspiration of Nickelodeon’s CatDog? ;)

    Love the collage. I dare anyone to link this on that certain someone’s blog (or not).

    Some of the reuse are hilarious.

    Charles Brubaker

    26 Mar 09 at 2:05 pm

  16. Heh.

    Reusing of all this was so sloppily done, that the same cel shooting error between the dancing Aunt Emma from “September In The Rain” and the dancing Afro-cat woman from “Tin Pan Alley Cats” have the exact same animation jerk in the same spot….

    Whereas I’m sure the first time it was shot, it was a cel order error… but the reuse of it was redrawn with that same error…. now THAT was lazy….


    26 Mar 09 at 3:15 pm

  17. By the way, the log gag was used SO many times……

    Andrea Ippoliti

    26 Mar 09 at 3:21 pm

  18. Great video, Thad! I’m not defending Clampett in any way by saying this, but I DO happen to think that the reused Wackyland footage from Tin Pan Alley Cats is more pleasing to the eye. Gotta love those BGs…


    26 Mar 09 at 4:12 pm

  19. Milt Gray would say Bob Clampett re-using animation so much would be Chuck Jones’ fault.

    Ricardo Cantoral

    26 Mar 09 at 5:33 pm

  20. John A. makes a point though the other directors never re-used as much animation.

    Ricardo Cantoral

    26 Mar 09 at 5:38 pm

  21. I noticed the same thing, Larry T.

    Did anyone else jump 10 feet in the air when cartoon Hugh Herbert suddenly appeared, or was that just me?


    26 Mar 09 at 6:52 pm

  22. Meh who cares, they’re still funny. Besides, comics tour with basically the same material for a year, in some cases. Musicians play a lot of concerts, with the same album. I don’t see how this is different, or less excusable.


    26 Mar 09 at 9:42 pm

  23. Thad, this is an absolute masterpiece!

    It make me want to lift someone else’s comments and put my name to them!

    Or, does that only work if I lift my own comments and attach them to another blog post?

    Joe Torcivia

    26 Mar 09 at 9:44 pm

  24. What are the music samplings from?


    27 Mar 09 at 1:16 am

  25. They’re from various Raymond Scott compositions. “Powerhouse”, “Huckleberry Duck”, “The Toy Trumpet”, and “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals”.

    Scott (whose real name was Harry Warnow) didn’t compose specifically for cartoons but his 1930’s jazz compositions were favorites of Carl Stalling and were quoted in MANY Warner Bros. cartoon scores. “Powerhouse” is heard during the opening titles of “The Hasty Hare” and the scene with Bugs chasing the Gremlin into the plane in “Falling Hare”, “Huckleberry Duck” plays during the opening of “Canned Feud”, “Toy Trumpet” plays during the titles of “Daffy the Commando” and “Rebel Rabbit”, and “Dinner Music [.....] Hungry Cannibals” can be heard as Gruesome Gorilla chases Bugs through the jungle in “Gorilla My Dreams” and as Bugs splatters nightmare paint over Elmer’s dream in “The Big Snooze”.

    Matt Yorston

    27 Mar 09 at 11:22 am

  26. Well Joe, if you take someone elses’ words or drawings and sign your own name to it- that’s stealing. All the work in these cartoons are property of the Warner Bros. cartoon studio and since animation is largely a collaborative effort, lifting someone else’s scene in the process of getting the job done is a different thing entirely. The artists involved were all part of a team and I’m sure in most cases the work was lifted with the original artist’s knowledge. If that wasn’t the case, refer back to my original statement that all artwork was property of Warners and theirs to do as they please.

    Now, it would be a different matter if someone from one studio stole artwork from another studio and used it without properly compensating the source, that would be out and out theft.

    Anybody not affiliated with Warners that takes this work TODAY and retraces it to use for their own film, (any film not condoned by the owners of the aforementioned work for the express purpose of producing a profit) is simply at best a plagiarist and at worst a low down dirty skunk.

    John A

    27 Mar 09 at 12:06 pm

  27. Wicked vid, Thad! That must have been a lotta woik.

    I didn’t know that Woolie was not strapped by budget. I was under the impression that was the case. Ah well, I guess he just wanted to get the hell out of the studio by 5 pm…I’d better pick up some more of Didier Ghez’s books and see if I can find sumthin sumthin on it, too. I always felt a bit let down by Disney’s ‘Robin Hood’, looking at it from an animation/design POV – but it was a favourite of mine as a kid anyway. I can feel for Clampett if he was constantly behind – it can get ugly behind the 8-ball. I guess he was blowing too much time trying to get his guys to push for new stuff in their animation…?


    27 Mar 09 at 4:35 pm

  28. Excellent video. When I was kid and used to watch these older cartoons, I used to think that they all seemed the same, it’s deja vu all over again!


    29 Mar 09 at 10:53 am

  29. I think even any casual fan can view “Tin Pan Alley Cats” and realize that something is amiss in the jazz club scene. I haven’t even seen “September in the Rain” and the recycled animation still sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

    Still, I don’t think any less of Clampett for it. I always knew he had a tendency to cut a corner here and there, but the new animation in his cartoons greatly outnumbers the old, and it’s a pleasure to look at, especially in his later films.

    I think “Bacall to Arms” is a more interesting case of animation reuse. I know it was one of the last cartoons from his unit to be in production as Clampett was heading out the door, and that Art Davis probably handled a good chunk of it as he was taking the unit’s reins – and the cartoon is fairly infamous for being released more or less incomplete, with sloppy edits galore. Was the blatant use of “She Was an Acrobat’s Daugher” footage Clampett’s decision, or was it just there to fill out the uncompleted portions of the film?


    29 Mar 09 at 12:02 pm

  30. You have to remember these cartoons were shown for a short time and then put in storage after their original run. As years passed by the directors probably thought if a gag was good use it again years later. Some were redone for color cartoons which gave them a bit of a new look. If you look at the early H&B TV cartoons the writers would reuse gags that probably weren’t seen for years also. I remember when I was a kid I saw a Huckleberry Hound or Yogi Bear cartoon that reused a lot of gags I first saw in WB Bugs Bunny Cartoons. Deadlines can really be headache and sometimes you need to fall back on older stuff that’ll fit the cartoon you’re currently working on to beat the clock. I have recently seen an edited collection of Disney reuse that is amazingly cut together from one cartoon into the next.

    Here’s a couple that shows a side by side comparison:

    As the years go by and deadlines get shorter its harder to be original when they don’t give you time to think. That’s the part that gets cut out of the budget and dealine first. It sure is getting tougher to be creative in the commercial animation world.

  31. >>“In his defense, sloppy reuse and editing aside, Clampett’s cartoons are some of the funniest, most beautifully animated, and just plain best ones anywhere.”<>“Then again, you can say that for just about any of the directors.”<<

    Well, for me, this isn’t so true. In my opinion Clampett, Jones, Avery and Tashlin are the great cartoon directors. They may have had weaknesses, but their cartoons were expertly done.

    Davis has some great animation in his cartoons, second only to Clampett, but his cartoons weren’t as funny or subversive as Clampett’s. Perhaps if Davis had a longer career as a director while at Warners he would have grown in his role.

    Freleng’s cartoons have some sloppy animation, even in the 40’s when it was fuller. In the 50’s the his animation became stiffer, and the cartoons in general a little more pedestrian and formulaic (with a few exceptions like Birds Anonymous and Three Little Bops).

    McKimson fares the worst in this comparison. He started out strong for a few years in the late ’40’s, but his cartoons quickly became mediocre, and the animation dull and literal.

    Mark Colangelo

    29 Mar 09 at 4:31 pm

  32. this video must have been takes several hours to compile!

  33. Gees, I never regarded my enjoyment of Bob Clampett cartoons as a religious experience. . . although those surreal, bizarre and naughty Pre-Code movies I like just might qualify.

    Personally, I LOVE cheater cartoons! While I consider Clampett’s cheaters fun and inventive, the one that floors me every time is Frank Tashlin’s Speaking Of The Weather. The ingenious use of re-used animation from 1933-1935 Merrie Melodies and (shudder) Buddy cartoons in this – an infinitely snappier film than the groaners from those early Schlesinger Studio years – is amazing. Friz Freleng produced tons of footage used in everyone else’s cheaters, but I’m hard pressed to recall him making one.

    As you know, the Fleischer Studio also contributed quite a few fabulous cheaters – Betty Boop’s Rise To Fame, The Adventures Of Popeye, Customers Wanted, etc. – but nothing on the level of Speaking Of The Weather, Tin Pan Alley Cats or Bacall To Arms.

    If you took all the Columbia LIL’ ABNERS, cut ‘em up, threw the clips in a barrel, shook it madly, poured the snippets back out and re-edited the footage like a William S. Burroughs/Brion Gyson “cut-up”, the result would have been better than any of the released cartoons or TANGLED TRAVELS.

    Paul Etcheverry

    30 Mar 09 at 10:19 pm

  34. Oops – I’m wrong about Friz. Forgot all about Freleng’s TOY TOWN HALL, which is constructed almost entirely from stuff from his earlier cartoons. . . not to mention his re-use of footage from THOSE BEAUTIFUL DAMES in numerous cartoons.

    Paul Etcheverry

    30 Mar 09 at 10:25 pm

  35. Friz did at least one cartoon made up from clips from other cartoons: “His Hair Raising Tales”, that used scenes from his “Baseball Bugs”, Clampett’s “Falling Hare” and Jones’ “Rabbit Punch” and “Haredevil Hare”. It does redeem itself with an excellent punchline at the end (“And I suppose you don’t believe I was run over by a streetcar, either.”)

    John A

    31 Mar 09 at 1:28 pm

  36. The “Run over by a streetcar” end punchline was technically re-used from an earlier Friz short, “The Trial of Mr. Wolf” [1941].

    Matt Yorston

    31 Mar 09 at 3:07 pm

  37. I’ve never heard any Disney afficionados defend or be bothered by any discussion of the obvious reuse in the Woolie-directed features. For that matter I’ve never heard any of them take it upon themselves to defend Woolie’s directorial honor period. Usually the pros & fans I’ve known for the past 30 years have called some of those films guilty pleasures, or sid that they love things like The Aristocats or Robin Hood mostly because they first saw them as kids(and whatever their other faults, there is great character animation in all those films, imho–even though they as a whole are far from great). No harm in that. Hell, even Milt was very vocal about how wanting he found the latter-day features.

    So anyway, stuff like this is always of interest to animation fans-of which I’m one-and I’ve yet to hear it hotly defended/contested by anybody. Maybe I don’t read the right blogs? Is there a controversy about it?


    1 Apr 09 at 5:43 pm

  38. Go to Mark Mayerson’s blog entry titled “Reitherman Reruns” to see the Disneyphiles in action. Notice how most of them post anonymously.


    1 Apr 09 at 6:38 pm

  39. Mark closed that thread now, it was pretty much my fault.

Leave a Reply