Well, it's coming upon Tex Avery's birthday again. This coming February 26, if he were still alive, he'd be turning 110 years old. But my day of February 26 will consist of me going to work and taking my truck in to be fixed. So, that's why I'm making this post today while I managed to find the time. Without further AROOOOOOOOO....
[ahem]..... I mean, adieu...... here is Tex Avery: Art of the Premise
In many animation circles, Tex Avery is praised for his gags. "You need to analyze all of his funny gags." This is true, Tex conjured up some of the funniest and most industry-shaking gags of all time. But really, just focussing on the gags is such a superficial and rudimentary approach that does not at all cover Tex' wide range of expertise. People too often overlook that Tex Avery was a genius at creating premises too.
Anyone in this world, from professional to amateur to civilian, who has
attempted humour at any point in time knows all too well that jokes and gags are like delicate flowers. They need the exact right conditions to flourish and do well. A gag can go from 'clutching-your-ribs hilarious' to either 'mildly amusing' or 'what-the-hell-was-that' if the delicate ecosystem in which a joke exists has been altered ever so slightly. In other words, a gag itself is only as funny as the environment that it's in. This is where the premise comes in. The premise has to provide the framework for which gags can flourish.
The premise itself doesn't have to be funny of course much the same way the main support beam of a building doesn't have to be decorated to be pretty. A premise such as "a husband and wife living together" or "a cat and a mouse chasing each other" are not at all funny or uproarious by themselves. But, those very premises have showcased some very funny gags thanks in part to the sound structure of that premise as well as the equally sound structure and appeal of the characters performing the gags. (Of course, character is very much intertwined with the concept of premise so there no need to elaborate on that point here.)
That being said, there are also times when the premise of a show has been quite hilarious and even quite clever. The addition to equally clever gags to such ingenious premises would surely be the pinnacle of any entertainment culture. There have been many brilliant artists of all genres throughout the centuries who have achieved this dichotomy of excellence and Tex Avery is certainly one of them. On this blog of mine I've already talked about the brilliance of premises from Tex' filmography such as Out Foxed, Dixieland Droopy, and The Blow Out. You can read what I said about those cartoons by clicking those links. For the rest of this blog post I will highlight some of Tex' cartoons that I feel contain a very clever and ingenious premise.
|TORTOISE BEATS HARE|
I chose this one because of some of the background history around it. The character Bugs Bunny had just become a sensation with the release of A Wild Hare. So, naturally, the Warner Bros. studio were under way to producing as many Bugs Bunny cartoons as possible to meet this overwhelming demand. For Bugs' second cartoon, someone suggested placing him into the old tortoise and the hare fable. However, many of the writers, directors and whatnot could not think of a way to place the Bugs character into the fable and make it work. Seminal genius Tex Avery found a way though. The premise he came up with is that the tortoise (named Cecil here) makes a $10 bet with Bugs Bunny that he can win the race. Bugs agrees and the race is on. But, Cecil cheats by planting his lookalike turtle relatives all along the track looking as though he's somehow getting ahead. Bugs is stupefied by this and thus ends up paying Cecil the $10 which Cecil then share with his 9 other relatives. Sure, it doesn't adhere to the "formula" of Bugs being the winner, but 1)that formula hadn't been established yet and 2)who really said Bugs had to win every time anyway? The point is that the premise still works thanks to Tex Avery's genius.
|RED HOT RIDING HOOD|
|CRAZY MIXED UP PUP|
That's just a small sampling of some of the truly stand out premises that Tex Avery managed to come up with throughout his career. If there are any premises you feel I should have mentioned, feel free to post them in the comment section below.
You can also check out Frank Young's blog where he's posted so much about Tex Avery's cartoons made at Warner Bros. There's quite a bit of in-depth analysis there.
I hope you had as much fun reading this blog post as I had typing it. Although, what would be even more fun is watching the very same cartoons I talked about here. Please seek them out and watch them. You won't be disappointed.