Breaking the Fourth Wall

After an evening of watching Tex Avery cartoons – both his Warner Brothers and MGM work – and two documentaries about him (Portrait of Tex Avery from Turner in 1988 and the other in French, Tex Avery : un univers en folie, from 2003), I feel like I’m getting some ideas of how to loosen up my drawings some, but I’ll have to see how that plays out in the coming days in my sketchbook.

I did have one thought on how to work with the ending of the film – when Elizabeth How is hanged.  I’ve been stumped because it’s like, “GREAT! I’ve just gotten them to laugh at lighting the mare’s farts on fire, and now someone is getting killed!”  I came across a cartoon by Avery with a lethal ending, Lonesome Lenny (1946), in which the character Lenny has managed at the very end of the cartoon to kill Screwball Squirrel, who still manages to hold up a sign that says, “SAD ENDING, ISN’T IT?” just before the iris closes on the film:

The end of Tex Avery’s Lonesome Lenny,  after Lenny has killed Screwball Squirrel

I’ve poked around and looked for other examples of this, and remembered another one in Avery’s Jerky Turkey (1945), when the turkey and the Pilgrim who has been hunting him through the whole picture have finally given up their battle and taken the advice of the bear who has walked through several scenes wearing a sandwich board that reads, “Eat at Joe’s” – they decide to go eat at Joe’s – except that it turns out that “Joe” is the bear, and he eats them.  The Pilgrim holds up a sign from inside the bear’s belly, saying, “DON’T EAT AT JOE’S”:

The end of Tex Avery’s “Jerky Turkey,” after the two characters have been eaten, commenting from inside the bear’s belly.

Then there’s the end of Chuck Jones’ Gee Whiz-z-z-z (1955) where Wile E. Coyote holds up a sign, asking “HOW ABOUT ENDING THIS CARTOON BEFORE I HIT?” and then another as the iris closes, saying “THANK YOU”:

The ending of Chuck Jones’ Gee Whiz-z-z-z

As the iris closes on Gee Whiz-z-z-z

And in the (sign-less) ending of the the classic What’s Opera, Doc? (1955), when Elmer has finally killed the wabbit, a dead Bugs Bunny pops up his head momentarily before the iris closes, to ask the audience, “Well, what did you expect in a opera, a happy ending?”:

The ending of Chuck Jones’ What’s Opera, Doc? when Bugs lifts his head up momentarily to talk to the audience about the ending, before he drops his head again and the iris closes.

This is giving me some possible ideas for how to deal with the unfortunate but necessary demise of Elizabeth How in my film. She has to die, but maybe if I steal a technique like this, I can make it a little easier to bring the audience along.

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