181. The Barber of Seville – James Culhane

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SUMMARY: Woody Woodpecker takes over a barber’s shop leading to an operatic battle with a customer and a cutthroat razor.

WHY IT’S HERE: Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker cartoons, though popular, are largely quite ugly and unfunny affairs. I loved them as a child but from an adult perspective they pale significantly next to the cartoons from Disney, Warner Bros. and MGM. Nevertheless, the Woody series has its highlights and ‘The Barber of Seville’ is generally recognised as the crowning glory of Woody’s career. Although it lapses occasionally into the clunky animation that plagued the series, ‘The Barber of Seville’ is an inventively realised cartoon which uses the famous ‘Figaro’ sequence from the titular opera for a wild and somewhat disturbing quickfire sequence in which Woody attacks his terrified customer with a cutthroat razor. The animation here is extremely fast and well synchronised with the music, prefiguring Chuck Jones’s definitive use of the same music in 1950’s ‘Rabbit of Seville’. ‘The Barber of Seville’ also typifies what a strange and unappealing character Woody was. His unmotivated mayhem recalls early Daffy Duck in such terrifyingly chaotic outings as ‘The Daffy Doc’, but Woody is uglier and unpredictable in a way that suggests inconsistent writing rather than a well-shaped anarchic character. Still, ‘The Barber of Seville’ is a notably enjoyable and amusing cartoon that stands head and shoulders above most of its star’s other outings.

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