Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wackyland Redux

I continue to think about Porky in Wackyland and have decided to make another post about it. I missed something important in my earlier post and want to amend that analysis. There’s an extended gag involving a three-headed creature that comes in the middle of the cartoon. It deserves a close look.

Three Stooges in Wackyland

I’d argued that Wackyland has six major sequences:
1) Title sequence
2) Porky takes us to Wackyland
3) Audience immersed in Wackyland wackiness
4) Porky finds the do-do
5) Porky chases the do-do
6) Porky captures the do-do
I’m now inclined to think there are seven major sequences. There’s a segment at the end of the third sequence involving a Three Stooges gag that really needs to be separated out as an independent sequence. It’s musically distinct from what came before and takes place against a different background. That sequence runs about 28 seconds or so, from 3:35 to 4:03.

So the third sequence in the earlier analysis now becomes two sequences (3 & 4), for a total of seven:
1) Title sequence
2) Porky takes us to Wackyland
3) Flower-to-Flower: Wackyland on Parade
4) Three Stooges pawn sign
5) Porky finds the do-do
6) Porky chases the do-do
7) Porky captures the do-do
Let’s start with sequence 3, which I’ve renamed “Flower-to-Flower: Wackyland on Parade.” As I indicated in the earlier post, it starts with this flower-character:

Wacky nose flute

First the character is playing a pastoral melody through its nose; then it shifts to a drum solo as the music shifts gear to big-band jazz. Porky’s no longer on screen. For about a minute the action become very busy, wild music and lots of stuff on screen. There’s no central character or action to follow, but Porky reappears about halfway through the sequence as a peripheral character who reacts to what’s going on around him. He then disappears and the flower creature reappears, again playing a drum solo. The solo ends as the creature bashes himself in the head and ‘folds’ into the flower, which then withdraws into the ground:

Wacky man-flower fold 2

That’s the end of this sequence, which is clearly marked by the flower creature at the beginning and the end. There’s more happening in this sequence than one can parse in one viewing; it’s too complex and chaotic.

There’s an immediate segue, including slow moody music, to this:

Notice the igloo in front and the distinctive rising-sun/fan pattern in the background. That’s new. The three characters, obviously modeled on the Three Stooges, are arguing among themselves in gibberish. They move to the left and we can see that it’s only one character, but with three heads:

Wacky 3-in-one

Notice the broad shoulders above the narrow waist, very masculine, and short skirt over the bloomers with the frilly bottom hems, very feminine. The character bends forward and a little light bulb character comes forward to interpret their gibberish:

wacky pawn

“He says his mama was scared by a pawn broker’s sign.” The light bulb character leaves and the Stooges character stands upright and continues to babble while the arms poke at eyes and noses in typical Stooges fashion.

What, if anything, do we make of this? The scene lasts a bit over thirty seconds, which is quite a lot in a seven-minute cartoon. And the scene is planted just after the halfway point in a story about Porky and a do-do and yet neither Porky nor the do-do is in sight.

Strange, very strange.

Self in Conflict

What we’re seeing in the Stooges scene is a very odd character that’s fighting with itself. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a character fighting with itself. There are two of them in the preceding Flower-to-Flower sequence.

First we have this fellow:

Wacky let me out

He’s yelling, “Let me out.” But who’s keeping him behind bars? He’s the one holding the bars that imprison him. Then after Porky’s reappeared, we have a scene that starts like this:

Wacky scrappy

Notice the scuffle at the right rear. It will move forward and surround Porky:

Wacky cats&dogs 1

And then we see that what we’d thought was two or three animals turns out to be this odd creature, a combination cat and dog:

Wacky cats&dogs 2

No wonder they’re scrapping. Tradition has it that cats and dogs are natural enemies.

After they’ve rested a second or three they take up their fight again as they move to the left, taking Porky with them. The cat-dog continues to the left, leaving Porky on the ground. Now the flower-creature returns on the drum solo and ends the Flower-to-Flower sequence.

The important point, then, is that when Three-Stooges-in-One shows up, he’s the third instance of the theme of self-conflict. That’s no accident. But just what one makes of it, I don’t know, other than to observe that everyone experiences inner conflict of one sort or another.

Mama was Scared

And then there’s that line about mama being scared by a pawn broker’s sign. The visual reference is obvious. When the creature bends forward its heads are hung low; they assume the form of the pawn broker’s triple ball, which may have been particularly salient during the Depression, when this cartoon was made. The triple ball, of course, is an inanimate object while this creature, whatever it is, is a living being. And we’re told that the resemblance is not fortuitous; rather, the being looks like that because its mother was somehow influenced by a sign.

There’s a logic here, but I don’t know what it is. Perhaps the idea is to multiply incongruities so that Porky’s final confrontation with the do-do, and subsequent chase, seems refreshingly sensible. Perhaps, but only perhaps.

Perhaps another time.


  1. Very interesting! Perhaps Clampett while developing the story was subconsciously thinking about these things. It does give a certain structure to the film.

  2. Clampett was the Robin Williams of his day in that his mind was a fast moving spigot that let it flow. This was a good thing.