SUMMARY: Porky Pig and a gang of forest animals conspire to teach the evil Jean Baptiste a lesson about the folly of animal cruelty.
WHY IT’S HERE: Many of the great Warner Bros. cartoons seemed to suggest a humane, anti-hunting message. Elmer Fudd, the greatest dupe of them all, was frequently a hunter and in almost every hunting picture, regardless of who played the hunter, the prey came out on top. Frank Tashlin’s ‘Porky in the North Woods’ makes this anti-hunting angle explicit, casting Porky as the owner of a stretch of forest in which animal cruelty of any kind is forbidden. Enter Jean Batiste, a hunter who is determined to ignore this. In a typically brilliant, cinematic approach, Tashlin only shows Batiste is shadow for the first half of the cartoon, making him all the more threatening. When he finally puts in a proper appearance, he brutalises Porky in quite an extreme way, all of which makes his inevitable comeuppance all the more satisfying.
A beautiful, strongly ethical cartoon, ‘Porky in the North Woods’ occasionally suffers from overly cute characters, chiefly the irritating beavers. I’ve loved beavers all my life, they’ve always been one of my favourite animals, yet ‘Porky in the North Woods’ occasionally makes me want to kill beavers! It’s a shame because, when they’re not talking in their grating childlike voices, the beaver characters have some fantastic moments such as their war over an apple. Another element which is often cited as a flaw in ‘Porky in the North Woods’ is Tashlin’s very quick cuts between scenes but I actually find this technique exhilarating. Probably used mainly because Tashlin had too many ideas for a mere seven minutes, these cuts increase the already occasionally frantic pace, making ‘Porky in the North Woods’ a thrillingly hectic cartoon.