90 Day Wondering 90 Day Wondering

“90 Day Wondering” By Chuck Jones

The post about the 1955 Chuck Jones short A Hitch in Time was well received, so let’s complete the story. Jones made at least two more military propaganda films following that one—90 Day Wondering in 1956 and Drafty, Isn’t It? in 1957.

The gem of the bunch may be 90 Day Wondering. I’d seen some of Maurice Noble’s layout concepts for this short when researching the book Cartoon Modern, but regretfully, hadn’t seen the short. It is an absolutely fantastic example of the ‘cartoon modern’ aesthetic, with an astounding level of craft that is far beyond the needs of the plebeian ideas expressed in the film.

The first minute of the film has an expert piece of temporal and spatial compression. We follow the main character’s ecstatic journey out of the military and back to his hometown while he runs around in a whirlwind a la the Tasmanian Devil. It’s also a great use of animated movement to illustrate the inner emotions of a character.

When the main character is finally revealed to the audience, he has arrived at his hometown of Spooner, which also happens to be Maurice Noble’s birthplace (Spooner Township, Minnesota). Noble is at his peak of layout powers in this short. He plays liberally with exaggeration of shapes in the background, perspective, pattern and color, and thinks nothing of it to key some of the backgrounds in full color while using stark white backdrops for other scenes in the film.

The main character, Ralphie, is designed with more realism than one might expect of a Warner Bros. cartoon, but that is a direct consequence of the cartoon’s purpose, which was first and foremost to convince military personnel to re-enlist. Ralphie’s realistic design also plays a nice contrast to the cartoonier characters Pete and Re-Pete, who play the role of his conscience.

It’s a thrill at this late date to discover new Chuck Jones cartoons from the Fifties. It’s also educational. Looking at Jones films that I’ve never seen allows me to be objective about their quality in a way that I can’t be about the classic Jones shorts that I’ve seen dozens of times.

This trio of military-propaganda shorts that Jones made is phenomenally impressive. Jones’s crew brings a level of expertise and professionalism to the table that is woefully lacking (dare I say, completely absent) in much of today’s cartoon animation. If anything, the films should serve as a reminder that almost any idea or concept can be enhanced by animation if the animation is entrusted to filmmakers who are passionate about the craft of visual storytelling.

  • This an example of the “good” Chuck Jones. The animation doesn’t take a backseat to the directorial poses and design, and there’s actual life and vigor to it, as opposed to the talking heads in A HITCH IN TIME. I don’t see any realism in the main character’s design, though. He looks at home with the humans in FELINE FRAME-UP, ROCKET-BYE BABY and THE MOUSE ON 57TH ST. Great analysis.

    • Julian Carter

      This cartoon was terrific.

      I also thought the animation was fantastic. Far better than “A Hitch in Time”. In that film it was clumsy and undistinguished.

  • Chuck Howell

    But everyone knows that Ralph Phillips wasn’t in the Army – he was a Group Commodore in the US Air Force, and saved the earth from alien invasion! Major continuity error there, Mr. Jones….

  • AdrianC.

    Is that Daws Butler as Ralph?

  • Ted

    What, you hadn’t seen it until now, Amid? It got released 3 months after Cartoon Modern was published. It’s good to know it’s not just me who hasn’t watched the entirety of the Golden Collections… (It was the first thing I watched on LTGCv4 since I’d owned a layout from it for about 10 years without having seen the short.)

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I like noticing the guys at “AVGeeks” put up their copy of the same film too, though obvious not in the same quality as you’ll get from the Golden Collections.

  • $330 a month? Count me in!

  • Professor Widebottom

    Thanks for indulging my love affair with Technicolor. This film looks insanely good. There’s an ambiance about the Warner cartoons, which is obviously a confluence of factors; lucky groupings of the right talent at the right time. It’s also obvious that Jones and crew, even in this “plebeian” (love that word) script, excel Disney but on their own terms. I really admire that.

  • That was great! I loved the design of the dog and BG’s by Maurice. This was my favorite Chuck Jones time period.

  • Charles M.

    I’d like to thank you Amid for sharing thus treasure trove of animation history these past few days. I enjoyed both this and A Hitch in Time. This quality of animation is what the world needs to see put refuses to even acknowledge or is even aware of its existed.

    I’ve never seriously considered going into service but I’m curious to know has military policies change much since then? With perks like those it’s pretty tempting….but, hell, what do I know?

  • All those backgrounds really come into their own when not viewed simply as stills. Great designs throughout

    join the army they said, it’s a man’s life they said….

  • Madman Mike

    Thanks for this, Amid. More articles like these, please!

  • Nice! I like the fact that they expected the audience to read.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Well this was a film they would show to servicemen anyway, not the general public.

  • James Madison

    This makes me SMILE!

  • What a beautiful cartoon.