Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"A Tale Of Film Studio Responsibility"

An incandescent comedic image, once seen, is never forgotten.  At least not by me.

A couple of posts back, I recounted for your enjoyment an unforgettable picture gracing the cover of a children’s book from my rapidly receding childhood.  This reminded me of a similar epiphany concerning another visual that drove me into paroxysms of rapturous reverie and awe-stricken wonderment.  (Or something less flowery.)

I have written about this before.  Rather than retelling it, I would link you to that earlier post.  If I knew how to link, which, embarrassingly, I do not.  (Though I can embed Youtube videos, which is ostensibly more difficult, so go figure.)  People have shown how to link, but it doesn’t seem to stick.  “Woe to the accurse-ed who dwelleth in the techno-world beyond his own understanding.”  (Ezekiel –2:… No, I’m making it up.)

Unable to reproduce it, I shall retell the story, in hopes that those who have already heard it did not feel it was worth remembering and will as a result find it new and perhaps not worth remembering a second time opening the door to a yet third retelling down the line. 

“Indifference is the Mother of repetition.”

“Bartlett’s” called.  Not even close.

Thank you. 

The fact is, even if I did know how to link, doing so would require my recalling the title of the relevant post in question.  Which, once again – embarrassingly – I do not.  Falling victim to my sitcom writing indoctrination, where the show runners I worked for insisted upon ingenious “play-on-words” episode titles that the audience would never see because they were only written on the covers of the scripts for the edification of I don’t know who – the set decorators?  They didn’t care. – I have outsmarted myself by entitling many of my blog posts in such a “too clever by half” manner, that I am now unable to decipher what they mean, leaving me totally in the dark as to what the blog posts beneath those indecipherable titles are about. 

Aren’t I the crafty one?

This brings to mind the great W.C. Fields who, having grown up in poverty, once wealthy, opened numerous bank accounts throughout the country, so that, wherever he was, he would always have money.  Unfortunately, instead of registering them in his own name, Fields opened the hundreds of cross-country accounts using fictitious monikers, such as “Ludovic Fishpond” and “Cholmonley Frampton-Blythe”, names he was, subsequently, unable to remember. 

Not dissimilar to my post-title debacle.  I find it encouraging to have made the same mistake as a genius.  It gives me a somewhat twisted sense of elevation.

Okay, so here we go again.

The memorable image was discovered in a Woody Woodpecker comic book when I was twelve.  I believe it was at camp at the time, as I recall that the comic book’s pages were damp.  Everything at camp was damp.  You picked up a piece of Kleenex, and it felt already blown into.

What stays with me from that comic book were three consecutive panels, escalating to a sublime comedic payoff. 

The situation is, Woody Woodpecker is skiing uncontrollably down a hill.  (This is already a fantasy, because woodpeckers traditionally do not ski.  Wood skis?  They’d just eat them.)

The first panel – “The Setup”, if you will – shows Woody Woodpecker, finding himself careening towards a giant tree directly in his path.

The second panel – call it the “Calamitous Expectation” – is a close-up of Woody’s Woodpecker’s face, his panic-dilated eyes anticipating the inevitable – unquestionably life-ending –


The third and final panel – “The Resolution” – shows Woody Woodpecker, stopped further down the hill, looking upward, and seeing, tracked in the snow, one ski tread arcing around the tree on one side, and the other ski tread arcing around tree on the other.  His reaction is stupifying incredulity, as in,


Woody Woodpecker has been spared by a comic book writer’s imagination.  He seems to have safely skied right through a tree!

I could not take my eyes off that third panel.  Once again, I am thinking, perhaps as only a future writer would,

“How did they ever think that up?”

Like a trailblazing scientist, somebody relegated Reality to the bench, and made an innovative leap, yielding a transformational breakthrough that had never existed before.  When executed successfully, such scientists are prominent contenders for the Nobel Prize.

If there were a Nobel Prize for comic book writing – and if it were my call, there would be – the mind behind of that “out-of-the-box” comedic triptych deserves serious consideration for Stockholm’s preeminent honor.

Walter Lantz (Woody Woodpecker’s creator) – Einstein welcomes you to the club!

No comments: