Looking Backward: Gay Purr-ee (1962)

9 May

This Gay Purr-ee post seems inadvertently linked to the previous post (The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T) but I swear that’s an accident.

So, clearly the entire reason this exists is the sequence wherein Chuck Jones displays Mewsette in the styles of various Impressionist painters. We’re clear on that, I assume? But that’s not to say it’s not a lot of fun.

a la Toulouse Lautrec

a la Toulouse Lautrec

Besides Jones, the show belongs, as far as I’m concerned, to Yip Harburg & Harold Arlen, whose lyrics and music, had this particular project happened pre-Elvis, would probably be at least moderately well known. (The plot, in musical terms, combines Gigi and Thoroughly Modern Millie, if that helps.) “The Money Cat,” “Little Drops of Rain,” and “The Horse Won’t Talk” would be at home in any stage musical of the 50s. Full disclosure insists that I mention my solemn (if that works) devotion to Harburg’s lyrics. So I may be biased, I admit.

Biased I may also be by the presence of Paul Frees (Meowrice and others), Morey Amsterdam (the Chevalier narration at the start) and Thurl Ravenscroft (whose little basso noodges in “The Money Cat” are, for some reason, one of the few things I remember about a childhood viewing).

Leaving provincial Provence

Leaving provincial Provence.

The animation is splendidly designed and conceived yet still smacks of the budgetary concerns of TV production schedules – a style that Jones and UPA still manage to do remarkable things with. The backgrounds in particular, all inspired by the Impressionists but still very late 50s/early 60s, are…I don’t know. There’s something about this watercolory “limited animation” era that gives me a nostalgia that one should only have if one was there. The same is true of a certain kind of album cover art of the same period that shares a bit of this aesthetic. You know the type I mean.

My one qualm is Mort Lindsey’s scoring, which sounds a lot like the second rate Milt Franklyn/William Lava scores of post-Carl Stalling Warner Brothers cartoons. (Oh, how perfect this would’ve been with Stalling caressing the gags instead of punching them on the nose. Let’s close our eyes and listen, shall we?)

But that’s hardly fair. I’ll focus instead on Meowrice’s handlebar whiskers when he first sees Mewsette post-makeover. And we’ll come to an average of not-perfect-but-quite-fun.

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