Somebody needs to do a visual reference to old Looney Tunes sight gags. They need to be named, catalogued, and preserved, if only to make the point I’m about to make easier. Friz Freleng had this one sight gag that I’ve always called Five Doors; it must have been a particular favorite, because he used it at least three times that I can remember, but he first used it in Little Red Riding Rabbit. All togther now: “Hey Grandma, I brought a little bunny rabbit for ya TA HAVE!”
Five Doors consists of Bugs and the Big Bad Wolf (or, in later cartoons, Yosemite Sam, or Tweety and Sylvester’s fingers, “walking” at the end of his arm) chasing each other in and out of five doors, three of which are at the top of a set of stairs, and two below. The music rises and falls as they run up and down the stairs, in and out of the various rooms (and just because Bugs runs into door #2 doesn’t mean he won’t come out of door #5 on a different floor).
What always struck me about Five Doors is how extravagant it was; it’s well known that the Schlesinger/Warners animators had to bring in their cartoons to within eight frames of exactly six minutes. There was no editing, no fat to trim, every single one of 8640 frames had to move the story forward. And Five Doors took upwards of 25 seconds of screen time, at the end of which, the characters were essentially right where they started. So how did Freleng justify it? It was a luxury — sometimes, you just have to put in 25 seconds of well-timed music and animation that doesn’t particularly serve the story. It’s just icing on the funny cake.
Paul Taylor does something similar in today’s Wapsi Square. There’s been literally weeks worth of his dark storyline, with dead gods and the end of the world and portents of danger. He’s been doling out the hints of what’s going on at a furious and satisfying rate. But sometimes, you have to put all that aside for a day, and draw a big ol’ wide panel of hot girls dancing. Five Doors is funny and all, but this just might be better. Plus, in the midst of all the dark exposition: Porky Pig reference!