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What's Cooking, Doc?

1943. Warner Brothers. Directed by Bob Clampett

Bob Clampett's "What's Cooking, Doc?" is an extravaganza of sampling. It's a collage, probably quickly made, with little original animation (kind of like those "Simpsons" anniversay shows).

It begins with a Hollywood travelogue. We see Graumann's Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Trocadero night club, all in picture-postcard tinted photographs. Then equally old-fashioned looking movie footage shows us crowds arriving for Oscar night and then seated at banquet tables inside. Finally our first bit of animation: a close-up of Bugs Bunny at his table. He greets off-screen passers-by: "Hey, Cecil B! Whatchya doin', Bing?" and transforms himself into caricatures of Crosby, Katharine Hepburn, Edward G. Robinson, etc. It develops that Bugs expects to win the Oscar. When James Cagney gets the award instead, an indignant Bugs appeals to us to decide for ourselves. He hangs a sheet to serve as a movie screen and hurls a bunch of film cans ("Some of my best scenes...") up toward where the projectionist would be. The first film up is something entitled "Stag Reel," but Bugs soon gets the right reel threaded up: a bit of a Bugs cartoon called "Little Hiawatha" (my daughter tells me she has seen the whole thing on TV many times). When it's over, rotoscoped silhouettes of "audience members" rise up to throw rotten vegetables at Bugs. He eventually he gets a gag Oscar that happens to be gay (I'm serious).

So here we have still photos, live-action footage, pre-existing animation, new animation, and some odd photo-montages of movie-star pin-ups. Whatever this mixed-media creation is, it's far from a conventional cartoon. Even the fact that it seems cheaply thrown together to exploit Oscar season is part of the pop art fun.



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copyright ©2005 Barbara Bernstein