Porky in Wackyland

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 13, 2015

This pioneering WB cartoon/Bob Clampett picture is a Lewis Carroll narrative, containing reference and homage, as well as traces of a more integral, actual ancestry. Porky is operating a patently toy airplane. Direct address is all over the place. Dark/Darker/Darkest Africa. Wackyland’s borders are all zig-zag. Are they artificial? Is it all in the mind? Abundance! The effeminate monster, the moon/sun/street lamp, the flower sprite that plays its nose and then the jazz drums. Here they update the mythical, using a modern idiom to segue into modern décor. The narrative and visual strategies were modernist already. “Let me out of here!” An Al Jolson duck crosses the frame. A cat/dog, fighting. A three-headed monster has more or less Three Stooge faces.

Now things really escalate. The dodo sign turns into a literal rabbit hole, and the entry thereto signals that all the rational bets and reassurances are off. The multiple doors, the rising curtain—this is no longer just casually or recreationally modernist. The production collective is consciously pushing limits, and doing it very intelligently too. The dodo draws an unreliable door—Crockett Johnson’s (later) Harold, but here with some remarkable and bracing malice or danger. Here’s a deceptive bit of visual perspective. These are really virtuosic parodies of painterly convention! On the second track commentary Beck and Friedwald mention that the chase plot is basically a McGuffin. This dodo is obviously not governed by any of the rules of physics or perspective. Bugs will do that. Here, now, unhingement! (That is one huge panning shot.)