347. Birds Anonymous – Friz Freleng

song-of-the-prairie

SUMMARY: Sylvester joins cat support group Birds Anonymous in an attempt to escape his obsession with Tweety.

WHY IT’S HERE: Friz Freleng’s ‘Birds Anonymous’ is one of the cleverest and best of the Sylvester and Tweety series of cartoons. I’m not a great fan of this series since I feel it is largely repetitive and predictable and I can’t stand the cutesy version of Tweety who usurped the wonderful original version of the character invented by Bob Clampett. ‘Birds Anonymous’ caters to both my requirements for a great Sylvester and Tweety short.

1. It breaks from the usual chase formula which often resorted to simply replaying the same gags in a different setting.

2. It throws the spotlight firmly on Sylvester, with Tweety being merely a device to move the story on.

Add to these elements a very clever concept which satirises the then fairly new institution Alcoholics Anonymous. In a wonderful, Hitchcockian opening sequence, Sylvester is stopped midway through an attempt to catch Tweety by an oddball orange cat who introduces him to a group for cats with bird addictions. From hereon in, the cartoon focuses not on Sylvester’s battle with Tweety but with his battle with himself as he tries to fight his fraying will power. The animation of Sylvester’s jittery breakdown is great but the most effective moment comes with a highly unusual sequence in which we see Sylvester endure a sleepless night through a series of completely static shots, a hauntingly effective choice. The minimalist, stylised backgrounds and bright colours also heighten the sense of growing hysteria. A far cry from the tiresome, samey chase films that dominate the Sylvester and Tweety series, ‘Birds Anonymous’ is a real classic of invention and technique and won an Academy Award for animated short subject.

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