SUMMARY: A masterfully slow-paced, character-based take on the standard cat vs bird setup.
WHY IT’S HERE: Frank Tashlin’s ‘Puss ‘n’ Booty’ is perhaps the great underrated director’s most perfect cartoon. The last black and white Looney Tune, ‘Puss ‘n’ Booty’ opens with a fairly standard setup that you might expect to see in a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon. What separates it from that repetitive series is this cartoon’s refusal to just cut straight to the easy gags. Instead, ‘Puss ‘n’ Booty’ is very much a character piece and dedicates a good portion of its running time to sequences which would have been summarised in a couple of shots in a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon. After Rudolf the cat has hiccupped feathers, thereby letting the audience know what has happened, Tashlin refuses to leave it at that and cut to the main story, instead initiating a tremendous bit of character comedy as Rudolf pretends to be devastated and searches everywhere for his missing “friend”. The following sequence is even more masterful as Rudolf anxiously awaits the delivery of a new canary, pacing backwards and forwards on the garden wall and frantically waving down every passing vehicle.
This long build up to the arrival of the cartoon’s second main character would have been reason enough to hail ‘Puss ‘n’ Booty’ as a masterpiece but Tashlin sustains the brilliance. Instead of resorting to a series of spot gags as Rudolf tries to eat the canary, Tashlin keeps the emphasis on character and the jokes themselves are conspicuously kept low-key so that we can continue to focus on the character’s priceless reactions. There’s an air of real threat that is absent in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, as the canary battles for his life. These scenes are also spectacular, particularly the beautifully directed night-time shots. It all culminates in one of the best and strangest final gags in cartoon history. Despite initially appearing to be just another cat and bird cartoon, ‘Puss ‘n’ Booty’ quickly establishes itself as something very different. It’s a genuine triumph, an unsung classic that I still consider one of the most perfect films of animation’s golden age.