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“Happy Feet” and “Putty Tat” talkback

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times said it’s “Lighter in mood, softer in political outlook and less narratively ambitious than the first”. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times was similarly luke warm, saying “Seeing thousands of penguins dance with Rockettes-like precision is still a kick, but coherent storytelling goes missing.” Happy Feet Two opens this weekend. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d be curious to know what you think.

More importantly, the film opens with a new 3-minute three-dimensional CG Looney Tunes short, I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat, with voices by Mel Blanc (from a 1951 recording) and June Foray. I have seen this short and think it’s great tribute to Blanc – and perhaps the most visually spectacular of the modern day Looney Tunes. (I’ll be posting an interview with director Matt O’Callaghan next week). If you’ve seen this, let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Comments accepted on Happy Feet Two and/or I Tawt I Taw A Putty Tat only if you’ve seen the films (all other comments will be deleted).

  • Ethan

    Personally I loved it, must be one of the few I guess, it’s another George Miller masterpiece. A wonderful far-reaching existentialist script, with plenty of awkward and uncomfortable moments as usual. The “Sven-thinking” idea was amazing, it will make the most obtuse people either rethink their beliefs, or curse the film in denial. Once again if you appreciated his previous films you’ll love this one, specially if you have young children. Surely many will hate it and I am curious to read what the negative reviews are about and which ideas turned them off.

    Technically the greatest particle and atmospheric effects I’ve ever seen, it’s unbelievable, I have no idea how the heck they pulled that off, parts of it looked like a day-per-frame simulation nightmare. Crowds were equally impressive, animation and lighting were also great. Voice acting was mostly fitting, Pink lived up to the delicate challenge of replacing Brittany Murphy, a beautiful voice and she even soloed with zero support and her voice really made the scene. Score was what I expected from John Powell, it was superb.

    Unrelated, the Looney Tunes short was super cool!

  • Amy

    If you saw the first Happy Feet, you’ve seen the sequel. There’s no limit to what the computer can do. If only the film could make me care.

    It didn’t.

    • Ethan

      The computer cannot do anything by itself. Just like the pencil cannot do anything by itself.

      • Amy

        You THINK?

      • Ethan

        Yes, I do! And I often hit the limits of “the computer”, we who use “the computer” are constantly trying to work around it’s limits.

        I also think you haven’t seen the film. Your “meh” comment is completely void of substance. So is your second “duh” comment.

      • arran

        i don’t think i’ve ever been on a messagboard that is free from unnecessary bickering

  • I Tawt I Taw Putty Tat is great. It’s amazing how just the addition of Mel Blanc’s voice makes it feel so much closer to the originals than any other recent Looney Tunes work.

    • Snagglepuss

      You’re… you’re right! I’m taken a back! Never considered how essential he was to making this work even now! It’s kind of how Elmer Fudd never quite felt right when he did his voice either!

      Muppets work okay with new people though… hmm…

  • Gerard de Souza

    Yes, the new Tweety & Sly animation looks very entertaining. Great idea to use those old kid records.

  • D

    Happy Feet 2 felt every bit as generic and contrived as the first. The only difference the animation got more produced and the cast cluttered with big names. Happy Feet 2 is an animated cash grab if I’ve ever seen one. The Putty Tat short was pretty cool though. They did a great job of maintaining the feel of the old cartoons and the post-production, sound design and even some of the directorial work was really good. However call me crazy but I still prefer the old hand-drawn Sylvester and Tweety over the CG ones, it was still a good short though.

    • There is nothing in the world to qualify you as “crazy” just because you like great art, animated or in a frame. Our society, though, HAS gone crazy in its’ obsession with CGI. I am a long time traditional animator, who also uses Digicel Flipbook happily to color, edit,& composite my drawings. I’m a college teacher, too. I ask students, and people in general ALL THE TIME about this subject. Strangely enough, NO ONE EVER says that they prefer CGI and ALL OF THEM love hand-drawn animation. So, you belong to a huge, unofficial fan club. What’s there not to like in these classic cartoons; they are jewels, they are wonderful.

  • animus

    “Putty Tat” was great– one of the few pieces of computer animation that captures a real sense of flamboyant fun in the performance, just like the old guys were into. Other attempts to ressurrect Looney Toons are pale imitations of the originals.

    • Funkybat

      I’m sorry, but I just can’t get used to the 3D Looney Tunes shorts. I’ve seen the Road Runner ones, and after seeing this latest one, I have to say I just can’t picture it ever working for me.

      The animation in “Puddy Tat” worked better than in the Road Runner ones, but it still felt like the camera effects were over-done, probably because of the demand to give audiences with 3D glasses “wow shots.” Well, this kind of thing may be well and good for characters designed originally for 3D CGI worlds, but it just feels out of character for the Looney Tunes. It kind of made sense in the Road Runner cartoons, which features such extreme perspectives. Chuck Jones used those in the original shorts, but the abstraction via 2D draftsmanship gave it a more appealing quality. The Tweety & Sylvester shorts didn’t use such extreme camera angles, and it just feels jarring and unnecessary when it comes to getting the gags across to the audience. It doesn’t make it any funnier or “cartoony” to me.

      I actually prefer the somewhat overanimated but still hand-drawn Looney Tunes of “Space Jam” and “Back in Action” to the ones seen here. About the only thing I can credit these 3D cartoons for is that they follow the traditional plots and characterizations of the characters, as opposed to giving us sitcommy “radio play” dialogue-driven cartoons ostensibly featuring the “original Looney Tunes.”

      • Jorge Garrido

        Don’t you think following “traditional plots” and ESPECIALLY the “characterizations of the characters” is FAR more important than the medium for the Looney Tunes?

        I LOVE the animation in the new shorts but not the camera angles.

      • Funkybat

        The characterization and plot are important, to be sure, but I dislike having to choose between 2D drawings accompanying out-of-character characters, and in-character characters over-rendered in 3D. I don’t yearn to see Sylvester’s fur rendered as realistically as Sully in Monsters Inc., or the knit of the bunjee cord Wile E. Coyote is using to try to snag the Road Runner. It is entirely too distracting, IMHO, and takes away from the entertainment value of the cartoons.

        I will say that it’s amazing to see how well they have pushed the boundaries of 3D CGI to mimic traditional cartoons, between “Tangled” and the recent Looney Tunes shorts, I’d say they have pretty much nailed most of the stuff that was “missing” from 3D cartoon motion and posing compared to 3D. I think if the Looney Tunes shorts were done in something more akin to cel-shading, and the “computer-y” camera angles were toned down, they would be much better cartoons even if everything else were left as is action-wise.

  • Shawn Stone

    “Puddy Tat” (in 3D) is good fun. The Mel Blanc song doubles as a “welcome back” to longtime fans and an introduction to the characters for kids.

    I wished I’d seen it with a bigger audience–well, any kind of audience, there were maybe 25 people (adults and kids) in a large mall stadium style-auditorium this afternoon–to see how it would have played to a crowd.

    “Happy Feet Two” was pretty to look at. The krill were more interesting than the penguins. The voice talent ranged from great to terrible. I wouldn’t have bothered if Tweety & Sylvester hadn’t opened the program, so to speak.

  • Trevor

    The team at ReelFX have done it again with “Putty Tat!” Awesome job to all involved!

  • Austen Davis

    Happy Feet Two wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t anything to get worked up about. There are a lot of moments with baby penguins and seals that will make you go “Awwww” though, and the krill duo, Will and Bill just steal the spot light. Again, wasn’t anything spectacular, but it definatly could have been a lot worse.

    I absolutely loved the new Sylvester and Tweety short. Like last years Road Runner shorts, they did an amazing job transitioning the Looney Tunes style of animation and slapstick into CGI. And the background are bright and colorful, probably the closest they’ll get to recapturing Frieling’s stylized backgrounds.

  • The big treat in the 3D Tweety cartoon is that Sylvester’s spit comes at you several times in 3D. Other than that, the film is horrendous. You can imagine the yellow-colored 45rpm record the soundtrack was lifted from. It all has echo and couldn’t be worse. Well, actually, I guess it could be, but it’s not good. (Though you can see all of Sylvester’s hair now- the advantage to cgi.)

    • John A

      I agree with your last comment. If someone were to ask the general public what could ever improve the original WB characters, I’m pretty sure their first answer wouldn’t be “Texture, I want them to look all fuzzy”

  • Kyle Maloney

    Gimmicky extreme camera angles aside, I think these new 3D looney tunes look great. Never before did I think they could capture the organic feel of hand drawn animation, but I honestly think they pull it off with these. Not saying its superior or anything to the old stuff, They both have their own feel and appeal, and CG is getting more and more refined as of late. Just look at what can be accomplished when you don’t rely on motion capture. The new types of deformations their getting out of these rigs is just awesome.

    Shame they never attach these Looney Tunes to anything I’d be remotely interested in.

  • David Breneman

    I know this won’t get posted because I haven’t seen the Puddy Tat film. But I do have the Capitol Records release of the song (in both 78 and 45) and what I heard in the video clip doesn’t sound like the same recording. Sure, it’s buried under a ton of sound effects and added-in orchestral “sweetening”, but the original score by Billy May’s orchestra seems to be nowhere in evidence. Did they pull off the vocals and re-score it? Too bad, because although May is no Stalling, the orchestra in this song provides a lot of punch and punctuation to the song that’s missing from what I heard in the clip. Maybe someone can look into that?

    • Eric Graf

      It’s definitely the original vocal track from the Capitol record, and the Billy May orchestra is audible (though not predominant) in the clip attached to this post. The technology still doesn’t exist to separate a vocal from an instrumental backing track in a mono recording, without extreme quality loss.

      Or at least I thought it didn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hear any sign of the original orchestration when Tweety was singing. On the record, the level on the orchestra drops WAY back when Tweety is singing, and I suppose between that and the high pitch of the sped-up vocals, they were able to filter, chop, and cover until the original orchestration was inaudible. Regardless of how they did it, I was very impressed.

      The Capitol record certainly does have punch, but it’s also an extremely dated sound … mono, heavily compressed and with no reverb (natural or otherwise) at all. It would’ve come out thin and flat-sounding on a modern theatrical sound system. However, I agree that the new version goes too far in the other direction … very boomy and immersive but severely lacking in the punch department.

  • Can’t really comment on “Puddy Tat” but in the short clip I saw, the animation does have a kind of “handdrawn” feel to it. Not bad. However, sorry man, the peach-fuzz texture (especially on the hands ) is just creepy and is distracting.

    Isn’t the point of caricature is to allow a departure from realism??

  • JC

    “Puddy Tat” – All these shorts seem to be animated to move and ‘excite’ like the intro to the Roger Rabbit Movie.

    Friz had a lot of the violent punch lines off screen, the cupboard falling on Sylvester just seems like a Roger Rabbit sequence to me.

  • BT

    I think Happy Feet Two is the weakest of George Miller’s four animal films (I’m including Babe, although he didn’t direct it). It’s less focused than the first Happy Feet and not as dramatic of a re-invention as the second Babe, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

    It’s funny to see critics like the one quoted above talking about the musical numbers as the only good part. That aspect never quite clicked with me in either movie, but the drama of what the characters go through and all the ideas and subtext are what interest me. Miller expands on his themes of interconnectedness (the food chain from krill to elephant seals working together at the climax), individuality (Erik not fitting in with the new penguin status quo of dancing; Bill and Will leaving the swarm), compassion and self-sacrifice (Mumble saving the elephant seal, reminiscent of Babe saving the pitbull in Pig in the City), even his theme of animals finding out that humans eat animals.

    I love how the smallest interaction of the human world into theirs is always monumental. Some nice people rescue an injured puffin, he becomes a superstar to the penguins. Their habitat is starting to thaw, so they think he has super powers.

    There are several great scenes: the whole initial encounter between Mumble and Brian, especially the horrifying reveal that the seemingly doomed seal has two adorable kids watching; Erik’s weirdly moving opera number (I was so relieved that he got to have something of his own); the seals stampeding to the “Rawhide” theme; the humans playing guitar for Lovelace and laughing at his reaction.

    It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s got a lot going on and not just the shiny surface. Although I also liked that.

    Unfortunately the Sylvester and Tweety short didn’t do it for me. I appreciate the care they put into re-creating the old school Looney Tunes feel in three-dimensions, and I really want to like it, but the characters just look so gross and creepy with all that fuzz all over them. Even Tweety is covered entirely in fur. I always thought he was a bird.

  • Nathan

    They may not have been able to afford the Billy May orchestral effects and just made a buyout for the Mel Blanc vocals. And a buyout it would be. These Capitol kiddie records were cut long before there were any residuals to speak of. WB is lucky that Mel was so prolific in his prime.

  • plastic bottle

    “Seeing thousands of penguins dance with Rockettes-like precision is still a kick, but coherent storytelling goes missing.”

    I wasn’t aware it was ever “a kick”.

    • Yup, it is. If you’re a fan of movie dance in general, it gets your blood going.

  • I like to end things on a positive note, so I’ll cover the stuff I didn’t like first.


    * As many have pointed out, the narrative was un-focused and, quite frankly, all over the place. More of a movie-geek thought, but: I found it very difficult to feel where I was in the story arc at any given time. The “rhythm” (no pun intended) of dramatic bits to comedic bits and action to quiet seemed “off” somehow throughout.

    * Some of the dialogue was teeth-gritting dumb. Just so.

    * Will and Bill the krill were wonderful characters and a lot of fun, but (as some critics have said) they were so much so they felt like invaders from another movie. They probably should have had their own project developed and not taken up so much screen time in this one.

    * Bodily fluid jokes. George, seriously…?

    And now, the Pros:

    * Stealing a term a friend of mine used for “Rango”, this film was Texture Porn. The rendering of surfaces, on both objects and living things, was phenomenal. And the detail was even better, no matter how close it got. Every time they zoomed in on feathers, or fur, or snow… I got the chills, and not the cold kind!

    * The mo-cap’d humans actually went further out of the Uncanny Valley and into looking like, well, humans than anything I’d ever seen on screen.

    * The music and songs were, once again, pretty neat. I actually liked the show-stopper “Bridge of Light” song.

    All in all the film pales in comparison to the original, but what wouldn’t? It’s a worthy film to go see.

    • BT

      I believe the humans in the movie are live action, like in the first one. But they integrated it better in this one, I thought it worked really well.

      I’ve seen a lot of comments about the krill storyline being separate from the rest, but I think it’s brilliant because it ties in more thematically than narratively. It’s all about one character questioning the status quo and trying to find his place in a world he feels he doesn’t belong. And of course it’s a part of the theme of the interconnectedness of the whole eco-system, with the krill’s imitation of the penguins’ “happy feet” ultimately being the tiny vibration needed to save the day.

      They’re like a deeply philosophical version of the squirrel in Ice Age.

      Incidentally, I loved how the camera would come down to the level of the krill and the snow would be giant ice crystals from their perspective.

  • Dario

    About the Looney Tunes short: 3D animation is great, but when Sylvester’s head comes too close to the camera, his slight movements are so real that you could think there’s someone under the costume. I mean, it was stylized, but MAYBE they should have gone further with that. For instance, I remember Roger Rabbit in CG and that looked really, really good.

  • Ethan

    The krills are important.

    *major spoilers*

    The film starts with a single drop of water sending a gigantic section of ice to drift. Narration told us to follow that thought. A single krill changes the lives of the trillion antarctic population by changing their point of view. A krill made the giant pack ice finally break and saved the penguins. In the end, the impact of the last stomp from the krill is a great closure for the first drop of water which caused all of this in the first place. They took us to extremes, drop of water versus island of ice, krill versus whale, and came back to a more reasonable scale of small penguin versus large elephant seal in the central plot. Which incidentally was also kid versus adult, and commoner versus king in that scene.

    Some parallels between krills and penguins I can remember:

    First, Krills in the swarm cannot see outside of it and were being killed randomly. The penguins were stuck inside the ice walls being attacked by the skuas and unable to hide.

    Second, two krills took a step back outside the swarm, saw the dangers of the predators, and found the help they needed (the pack ice). The penguins outside the walls went out to find a solution and got the help they needed. A key solution to these problems was being outside of the box. Seeing the big picture.

    Third, a krill refused it’s status as a passive prey, despite being small, despite the danger of confronting the problem. On the penguin side, Brian broke his promise and told Mumble to fck off because he’s bigger than him. Erik refused that and decided to confront Brian about it, “..and the kings are all fools, where is the honor?”.

    Fourth, the krill who didn’t accept to be a prey tried to be a predator. The trapped penguins, being attacked by birds, wanted to be birds by jumping off cliffs. That was foreshadowed when Brian fell in his trap “I could grow a pair of wings”.

  • Brandon

    Happy Feet Two had a terrible plot. They’re trapped on a mountain, they’re trying to get off…. gee why don’t they just WALK DOWN THE TRAILS ON THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN?!!!

    I love the new Tweety short! A huge step up from Museum Scream in 2003!

    I’m glad I’m not the only person who thought the music score sounded a little different from the capitol record, but Blanc’s vocals sound exact.

    Would be interesting to hear Noel Blanc’s thoughts on these new shorts.

    • Ethan

      They were trapped in a valley blocked by unclimbable ice cliffs. The mountain you saw was inside those ice walls.

  • Gerard

    According to the Looney Tunes website, “this 3D cartoon short seamlessly blends state-of-the-art CG animation with Blanc’s newly remixed, remastered, and re-orchestrated soundtrack song.” I guess that clarifies those who were wondering why it sounded different.

    Source: http://thatsallfolks.com/

    Personally, I loved the short. Since then, I’ve always wanted to see the Looney Tunes in CGI and with texture. I don’t find them distracting. If I had time, I would look closely at every detail.

    On Happy Feet 2, I enjoyed the film. I was tapping my feet to some songs and I sang along to Under Pressure. I was surprised because the line outside for Happy Feet 2 was really long. And the theater was full. There were also lots of teenagers. I loved the 3D. I liked the story a bit. But all in all, the movie was wonderful. A must-watch for all ages.

  • I’m surprised at the positive reaction Happy Feet Two’s gotten here, considering the heat that the first one received, way back when. Not that that’s a bad thing – on the contrary, it’s refreshing!

    I agree with a lot of what Ethan and BT are saying, and I’m particularly disappointed that this is a film whose low RT rating is due purely to about fifteen reviews that all begin and progress in exactly the same way: “Hey, those penguins are singing pop songs. What is our culture coming to, right guys?”

    While the film is kind of an uneven jumble in terms of structure – especially in comparison to the first one, which is kind of a masterwork of emotional and narrative orchestration – it more than makes up for its own short-comings; there’s actually a fair bit there that expands on the kind of existential groundwork that Miller laid down in that first film, to an astonishing degree, with the entirety of the Sven-think and krill subplots being devoted to this.

    And, it even begins to go farther down the path of a downright epic drama, with its narrative reliance on the survival of the penguin colony as the world crashes down around their ears – the second half is basically entirely about how this community tries to keep together in the face of starvation and vulnerability to birds of prey, and the changes of the environment itself.

    What’s intriguing is how palpable Miller makes this stuff – death is this prevalent thing all throughout, from the elephant seal in the chasm sequence down to Mumble and his son arguing about the fate of the colony as the aurora streams around them in the sky. From the very start of the film we’re made known as to the shift and flux that this world is in the middle of, and all of the characters are defined basically by their reactions to it – either evolve or die, basically.

    It’s thrilling stuff, and what’s great is that not only is all of this stuff explicitly stated without any mucking about – the thematic ballsiness of that first film still remains in full measure – but that Miller still manages to make this a true family film by inserting Erik’s story within all of it. He goes for broke and eats his cake too by having all of this thematic and narrative depth take place while somehow not alienating children or the oldies; the children relate to him and the basic outsider element of his own story, and as they grow older they begin to become aware of the rest of the narrative context that defines the story. It’s astonishing how well he’s pulled this double-act off, both here and with the first one, and it’s to be admired.

    That’s what great about these two films, even if this one isn’t the go-for-broke that the first one was. They’re right between the violent Mad Max films and the pastel children’s story-books that the Babe movies were; they’re family films, in the truest sense, for the eight and the eighty year olds.

    Also, it’s weird how not one reviewer has realized not only what Ethan was saying about the krill but also that they’re kind of like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in a narrative sense. They only impact the narrative peripherally, but their outlook is meant to give us another perspective on the world of the story around us.

  • Tough Wuck Puddy better wot next time I suppose I think!