A Year in Shorts Day 181: "Now Hear This"
Boy, it’s been a whole week since we last discussed a Chuck Jones short! And we are tackling a weird one today. How weird are we talking? Well try this- it was so weird that even Chuck Jones didn’t understand it. And if the guy who made it didn’t get it, what chance do the rest of us have? Well, that’s the sixties for you I guess. Either way, let’s take a look at Now Hear This, one of the strangest Looney Tunes you or I have ever seen!
Released in either 1962 or 1963 depending on who you ask, Now Hear This! (co-directed by Maurice Noble) is an interesting short for a variety of reasons. It doesn't really have any plot to speak of, and is instead just a series of loosely collected gags about the subject of sound. Its style of animation is nothing like the usual Warner Bros. fare, adopting more of a limited UPA style. And while I think the only people who did UPA style animation right were the people at UPA, I think Jones and his team do an admirable job with this one. It captures that UPA charm while still managing to be its own thing. The short also incorporates a lot of the abstract style that was extremely popular in 1960s animation, while still managing to maintain that chaotic level of humor one associates with the Looney Tunes shorts. It's certainly not what you'd except from a Warner Bros. cartoon, but it doesn't feel entirely out of step either. It's a rather interesting hybrid, and a must-see for anyone interested in the history of animation. Watching the old guard try and adapt to the new style is always worth checking out.
All that said, while Now Hear This might be a very interesting short, it's not a particularly funny one either. The gags are all clever, but none get a laugh out of me. This is a short built more around the visuals than the jokes. And while that's perfectly fine (and might be more up your alley), it is a rather odd departure in style for a Looney Tunes short. But of course, I suppose there's nothing wrong with breaking away from formula. It beats the hell out of another god damn Tweety short, so why complain?
Now Hear This is another one of those shorts that's rather difficult to explain, and unfortunately it's rather difficult to find, although those of you willing to turn to unusual sources that Google provides won't have too hard a time. I can't say I blame Chuck Jones for not understanding it; I don't quite understand it myself! Still, I think more of this short works than it doesn't, and one has to admire the experiment. Now Hear This was a gamble, and even if not everything about it paid off, it still managed to be a unique and interesting short nevertheless.
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