Director: Dick Lundy
Date: March 25, 1949
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Buzz Buzzard
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Drooler's Delight © Walter LantzWoody wants to go and buy a ‘drooler’s delight’ (a large sorbet), but Buzz Buzzard steals his quarter.

The rest of the cartoon consists of Woody and Buzz fighting for it, with mildly amusing results.

‘Drooler’s Delight’ was to be Dick Lundy’s last cartoon at Walter Lantz. After a squabble with his distributor, Universal, and a short fling with United Artists, Walter Lantz was forced to close down his studio in 1948, and Lundy was left on the street. In May 1950 he replaced Tex Avery at MGM, who had left for a sabbatical. At MGM Lundy directed one Droopy cartoon and revived the Barney Bear series.

Lantz meanwhile was able to reopen his studio in 1950. But because he had to watch his budgets more than ever, the quality of the cartoons would rarely match that of his 1940’s output.

Watch ‘Drooler’s Delight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Dick Lundy
Date: August 27, 1948
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Buzz Buzzard
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Wet Blanket Policy © Walter LantzWet Blanket Policy’ uses exactly the same idea as Dick Lundy’s last Donald Duck short, ‘Flying Jalopy’ (1943).

The cartoon even uses the same adversary in Buzz Buzzard, a swindler who makes Woody sign an insurance contract that will give Buzz a $10,000 when Woody dies (in the original Donald Duck cartoon the character was called Ben Buzzard).This leads to a fast and very murderous chase sequence full of nonsense.

Penned by Warner Bros. alumnus Ben Hardaway and Heck Allen, who had collaborated with Tex Avery at MGM, ‘Wet Blanket Policy’ is one of Woody’s wildest cartoons. Unfortunately, it’s also the first in which Woody’s proportions start to waver. At one point he’s particularly tiny. This unsteady sizing of Woody would become a particular problem of the cartoons of the 1950’s. Buzz Buzzard, however, proved to be a strong adversary for Woody, and became Woody’s antagonist in many of the following Woody Woodpecker cartoons.

Watch ‘Wet Blanket Policy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack Hannah
Date: May 21, 1948
Stars: Donald Duck, Daisy Duck
Rating: ★★
Review:

Donald's Dream Voice © Walt DisneyDonald is a travelling salesman trying to sell brushes, but nobody understands him.

He then discovers Ajax voice pills, which give him a smooth voice. Soon he sells all his brushes, and he dreams of asking Daisy to marry him, but the pills only work for a short while and soon only one is left…

Like ‘Donald’s Dilemma‘ from 1947, ‘Donald’s Dream Voice’ is built around a strong idea around Donald’s voice. Unfortunately, in both cartoons the idea is funnier than the execution. In ‘Donald’s Dream Voice’ much time is wasted on Donald trying to retrieve his last pill.

Watch ‘Donald’s Dream Voice’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: May 1, 1948
Stars: Woody Woodpecker (cameo)
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Pixie Picnic © Walter Lantz‘Pixie Picnic’ was the last of only three Musical Miniatures, cartoons based on classical music. 

In this cartoon we watch an orchestra of pixies playing the overture to ‘La gazza ladra’ by Gioacchino Rossini.

The pixies are extraordinarily dwarf-like, and resemble the seven dwarfs from Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) a lot. This is no wonder, as one of those dwarfs’ key-animators and designers, Fred Moore, is also one of the animators of ‘Pixie Picnic’. Thanks to Moore the animation of this cartoon is very Disney-like and belongs to the best ever produced by the Lantz studio.

Unfortunately for Lantz, this was the last of only three cartoons Moore animated for his studio (the other two being ‘The Mad Hatter’ and ‘Banquet Busters’ from earlier that year). After that Moore returned to Disney, where he stayed until his premature death in 1952.

‘Pixie Picnic’ is beautifully animated, but it’s rather disappointing otherwise: the story makes no sense, and the gags come along almost randomly. Moreover, the cartoon suffers from a sloppy timing. The result is a well-animated, yet only moderately funny cartoon.

Watch ‘Pixie Picnic’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: June 16, 1947
Stars: Wally Walrus
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Overture to William Tell © Walter Lantz‘Overture to William Tell’ was the second of three Musical Miniatures, a short-lived series similar to ‘Swing Symphonies’, but based on classical music instead of jazz.

In this one Wally Walrus stars in his very own cartoon as a conductor conducting an extraordinarily sleepy orchestra in a concert hall. The main gag involves a horsefly, which looks like a miniature horse with wings.

‘Overture to William Tell’ is better than the erratic ‘Musical Moments from Chopin‘, the first of the Musical Miniatures. But still it’s only moderately inspired, and pales when compared to that other concert cartoon using the same music by Gioacchino Rossini, ‘The Band Concert‘ (1935).

Watch ‘Overture to William Tell’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://tu.tv/videos/overture-to-william-tell-1947-walter-l

Director: Friz Freleng
Date: May 8, 1948
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Buccaneer Bunny © Warner BrothersAlready in his third cartoon Yosemite Sam is used outside his original Western setting, and changed into a timeless adversary of Bugs Bunny.

In ‘Buccaneer Bunny’ he’s a 18th century pirate called Seagoin’ Sam. This idea of Sam as a timeless foe was a masterstroke, and in the following years, Sam would be Bugs Bunny’s nemesis in a wide variety of settings, like the American war of independence, the Sahara desert, ancient Rome and the middle ages.

‘Buccaneer Bunny’ is a wonderful start of this series, consisting of wonderful gags, including a beautifully timed multiple door gag. Bugs Bunny also does a great Charles Laughton parody, disguising as captain Bligh, as portrayed by Laughton in ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ (1935).

Watch ‘Buccaneer Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 49
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rabbit Punch
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bugs Bunny Rides Again

Director: Jack Hannah
Date: November 28, 1947
Stars: Donald Duck, Chip and Dale
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Chip an' Dale © Walt DisneyAfter two early appearances (‘Private Pluto‘ from 1943 and ‘Squatter’s Rights‘ from 1946) ‘Chip ‘n Dale’ marks the true debut of those lovable two little chipmunks, Chip and Dale.

In this cartoon they are named for the first time, and it’s also the first cartoon in which they are two distinct characters, although Dale still lacks his characteristic red nose here. Here they’re teamed against Donald Duck for the first time, their former adversary being Pluto. The short marks the beginning of a series of twenty cartoons, only ending in 1956, at the very end of the era of Disney shorts.

The story of ‘Chip an’ Dale’ provides the blueprint for the series: Donald wants to chop some wood for his winter cottage, and chops down the dead tree in which Chip and Dale live with their storage of nuts. In the subsequent scenes the lively duo tries to prevent Donald from burning up their tree and to get it back. The result is a cartoon of excellent comedy, not only between the chipmunks and Donald, but also between the two little critters themselves.

Watch ‘Chip an’ Dale’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack Hannah
Date: August 22, 1947
Stars: Donald Duck, Bootle Beetle
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Bootle Beetle © Walt DisneyIn the postwar era Jack Hannah introduced three adversaries of Donald Duck: Bootle Beetle, Chip ‘n Dale*, and a little bee. Bootle Beetle, a little insect, was the first and surely the cutest of the lot.

In his first film Bootle Beetle, who resembles Jiminy Cricket a little, is introduced here as a rare species. In fact, we’re watching two Bootle Beetles, with the elderly one telling a younger one about his meeting with bug collector Donald Duck, who, in some scenes, is depicted as an enormous giant. These scenes with a humongous Donald are the highlights of a cute and gently cartoon, which is unfortunately low on gags.

Bootle Beetle would return in two 1949 Donald Duck cartoons, ‘Sea Salts’  and ‘The Greener Yard’. The little insect never became funny, and Hannah dropped him as Donald’s adversary after these three cartoons. His last role was as a narrator in ‘Morris, the Midget Moose‘ (1950).

Watch ‘Bootle Beetle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

* Chip ‘n Dale actually made their debut in the war short ‘Private Pluto‘ (1943), directed by Clyde Geronimi, but it was Hannah who turned the two chipmunks into two different characters and made them opponents of Donald Duck.

Director: Paul Grimault
Date: 1947
Rating:  ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Le petit soldat © Paul GrimaultOne of the most poetic animation films ever made, ‘le petit soldat’ is a very inspired re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale of the steadfast tin soldier.

In this version, written by poet Jacques Prévert and undoubtedly inspired by the recent experiences of World War II, the soldier is actually an acrobat doll who gets drafted by a humming-top into an unexplained war.

In his absence, Jack-in-the-box tries to seduce his love, a ballerina doll. And when our little soldier finally returns from the battlefield, injured, Jack tries to kill him by taking his heartformed winding key away and in an attempt to drown him into an icy river. Fortunately, in a dramatic climax, the ballerina saves her love from drowning, while the villain gets stuck in a gin-trap.

‘Le petit soldat’ is entirely told in pantomime and a great improvement upon ‘La flûte magique‘, Grimault’s film from the previous year: its storytelling is better, its settings more dramatic, its characterization more convincing, and its animation more sophisticated. Indeed, this beautiful short about triumphant love arguably is Grimault’s masterpiece, even topping his beautiful, but uneven feature film ‘Le roi et l’oiseau’ (1952/1980), which is also based on a Jacques Prévert story.

Watch ‘Le petit soldat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

Director: Paul Grimault
Date: 1946
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

La flûte magique © Paul GrimaultIn this sweet little film, a boy-like minstrel and his misshapen dog disturb a nobleman in a castle.

The nobleman destroys the minstrel’s lute, whereupon a little bird gives the boy a magical flute, which makes alle people dance, including the evil nobleman and his birdlike soldiers.

This pantomime story is elaborately animated, but its designs belong more to the thirties than to the forties, and its story is hampered by uneven timing.

The idea of a flute making people dance was reused twelve years later by Belgian comic artist Peyo in his ‘La flûte à six schtroumpfs’ introducing his famous creations, the smurfs. This was also made into an animation film in 1976.

Watch ‘La flûte magique’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack King
Date: July 11 1947
Stars: Donald Duck, Daisy Duck
Rating: ★★
Review:

Donald's Dilemma © Walt DisneyDaisy tells an off-screen psychiatrist that a flower pot has changed her boyfriend Donald into a crooner with a beautiful, Frank Sinatra-like voice.

We hear Donald singing ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ from ‘Pinocchio’ (1940), and watch him becoming world famous instantly. Unfortunately he forgets about Daisy’s existence, as well.

This cartoon is actually about Daisy, who for the first time gets star billing. Despite its great premise, the cartoon is hampered by Daisy’s jabbering voice over, its sparsity of gags and an all too predictable finale. Like Donald’s other voice cartoon, ‘Donald’s Dream Voice‘ (1948), the idea is way stronger than the execution.

Watch ‘Donald’s Dilemma’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack Hannah
Date: June 20 1947
Stars: Donald Duck, The Aracuan Bird
Rating:  ★★★★★
Review:

Clown of the Jungle © Walt Disney‘Clown of the Jungle’ reintroduces the Aracuan bird from ‘The Three Caballeros‘ (1944), now hindering Donald’s attempts to photograph birds.

The Aracuan bird is a surreal character, defying all laws of nature. For example, it can cycle in mid-air, duplicate itself and draw a door on a rock, and enter it. These abilities are very rare for a Disney character, and there’s no doubt that the Aracuan bird was inspired by the more absurd humor from the Warner Brothers and Tex Avery’s MGM cartoons.

Director Jack Hannah handles this type of humor remarkably well, delivering the gags in a fast pace and with an excellent timing, making ‘Clown of the Jungle’ not only the most surreal, but also one of the wildest and funniest Disney cartoons from the postwar era.

Being such a wonderful character, The Aracuan bird would return once more the following year, in the sequence ‘Blame it on the Samba‘ from ‘Melody Time‘ (1948). Unfortunately, the character remained alone in its zaniness within the Disney canon, and other Disney postwar cartoons remained much more conventional.

Watch ‘Clown of the Jungle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: July 12, 1947
Stars: Foghorn Leghorn, Henery Hawk, Sylvester
Rating:  ★★★½
Review:

Crowing Pains © Warner Brothers‘Crowing Pains’ is Foghorn Leghorn’s second cartoon, and it immediately starts where the first (‘Walky Talky Hawky‘, from the previous year) left off: Henery Hawk wants to catch a chicken, and Foghorn Leghorn tricks him by pointing out somebody else as a chicken. This time it’s Sylvester, in an early appearance.

The cartoon is full of Warren Foster-penned nonsense, but the interplay between the four characters (the barnyard dog is also involved) doesn’t develop very well, and seems an early forerunner of the odd pairings of characters of some Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1960’s. Unlike those, however, ‘Crowing Pains’ remains an enjoyable cartoon, albeit not among McKimson’s most inspired shorts.

Watch ‘Crowing Pains’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: April 12, 1947
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Birth of a Notion © Warner BrothersDaffy Duck tricks a dog called Leopold with a ‘poisoned bone’ to let him stay at his house during the winter.

Unfortunately, the dog’s owner is an evil scientist (a caricature of Peter Lorre) who happens to be looking for a duck’s wishbone. This leads to a wild chase full of pretty weird gags and off-beat dialogue penned by Warren Foster.

‘Birth of a Nation’ is the second of two Warner Bros. cartoons featuring Peter Lorre as a mad scientist, the other being ‘Hair-Raising Hare’ from 1946.

Watch ‘Birth of a Notion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: June 9, 1947
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

Coo-Coo Bird © Walter LantzWoody wants to get up early, at 5:00 Am, but he’s kept awake all night, especially by an annoying cuckoo clock.

‘Coo-Coo Bird’ is the second and the better of two Woody Woodpecker cartoons of 1947 about sleeplessness, the other one being ‘Smoked Hams’. In his struggle with inanimate things, Woody resembles Donald Duck a lot in this cartoon, not too surprising as Donald Duck was well-known to director Dick Lundy, who co-created that character. ‘Coo-Coo Bird’ even anticipates a very similar Donald Duck cartoon called ‘Drip Dippy Donald’ (1948) in which Donald is kept awake by a dripping tap.

Watch ‘Coo-Coo Bird’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.funniermoments.com/watch.php?vid=589b3725a

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: February 24, 1947
Stars: Andy Panda, Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★
Review:

Musical Moments from Chopin © Walter LantzWhen James Culhane left Walter Lantz, Dick Lundy remained Lantz’s sole director, until he left too at the end of the decade.

Being a more gentle director than Culhane, Lundy conceived a short-lived series of Musical Moments, in which classical music was the driving force. ‘Musical Moments from Chopin’ is the first of three, in which Woody Woodpecker joins Andy Panda in a piano recital of Frédéric Chopin tunes at a barnyard concert.

Unfortunately, the result is a very uneven cartoon: there’s practically no conflict between Woody and Andy, the driving force of such wonderful piano concert cartoons like ‘Rhapsody Rabbit‘ (1946) and ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947). Even worse, Lundy wastes a lot of time on gags involving the audience. In the end it’s a drunken horse who ends the concert by starting a fire.

Both the animals in the audience and the anthropomorphic flames have an old-fashioned 1930’s-look. The complete cartoon is remarkably slow and unfunny, and pales when compared to its contemporary concert cartoons.

Watch ‘Musical Moments from Chopin’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Ted Berman, Richard Rich & Art Stevens
Release Date: July 10, 1981
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Fox and the Hound © Walt Disney‘The Fox and the Hound’ tells about a young adopted fox called Tod and a young hound dog called Copper, who become friends, but later enemies, partly due to their nature.

‘The Fox and the Hound’ was the feature in which the last of the nine old men, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, passed on their knowledge and their legacy to a younger generation of animators. In this respect it’s the most transitional film in Disney history. And unfortunately, it shows, because it’s neither an old classic, nor does it have the spirit of a film by young Turks, despite most of the animation being nothing less than great.

On the contrary, the end product is a tame, slow moving and rather tiresome movie more belonging to a time long past than to the 1980’s, the decade in which it was made. Its main flaws are in storytelling: none of the actions of the protagonists are very well motivated, the villains are hardly threatening and a lot of screen time is spent on the totally non-related antics of a sparrow called Dinky and a loony, rather annoying woodpecker called Boomer trying to catch a caterpillar. These birds, like the friendly old female owl Big Mama (voiced by black jazz singer Pearl Bailey), do nothing more than watching the main action.

The songs do not propel the action forward, either, but tend to drag the film down. And in the scenes in which Tod tries to survive in the forest, it becomes very difficult to see him interact with birds and furry animals. How he’s going to survive in the forest without killing animals remains unexplained. Finally, at the end of the film, a bear appears out of nowhere, like a deus ex machina, to be the sole reuniter of the two friends.

In fact, the only appeal of ‘The Fox and the Hound’ are the quality of the animation itself, and the film’s beautiful backgrounds. Because of its out-of-time setting the film can be regarded timeless, but a timeless classic it ain’t.

Watch the fight scene from ‘The Fox and the Hound’ and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 31, 1967
Rating: ★★★
Review:

he Bear That Wasn't © MGMEven though not entirely successful, ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ is a beautiful, highly stylized film, which uses some avant-garde techniques to tell its story, which makes it one of the most daring of the MGM cartoons, comparable to independent cartoons from the era.

Based on the children’s book by Jones’s former Warner Brothers colleague Frank Tashlin, ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ tells the story of a bear who ends up in a factory after hibernation, and who’s told he’s not a bear, but “a silly man who needs a shave and who wears a fur coat” so many times, he comes to believe it himself.

Jones quite faithfully retells Tashlin’s simple, but deep story, but the cartoon is hampered by bad sound design, canned music and a theme song that never really develops. Moreover, it features a lot of smoking, which distracts the viewer from the main subject. Despite being billed as a producer Frank Tashlin was not involved in the film, at all, and he reportedly hated the film…

Watch ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Jill Culton, Roger Allers & Anthony Stacchi
Release Date: September 29, 2006
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Open Season © Sony PicturesWith ‘Open Season’ Sony Pictures joined the American computer animated feature pool, being the fourth major company to do so. And because in this world American animation films from the same year share the same features, ‘Open Season’ is about forest animals living near the civilized world, just like Dreamworks’s ‘Over The Hedge‘.

The story of ‘Open Season’ (a domesticated bear called Boog is left in the wild and tries to find his way back home) is fairly original (although similar to ‘Cars’), but like its setting, its execution is not. Like ‘Shrek’ (2001) and ‘Ice Age‘ (2002) it’s a buddy film full of fast-talking, wisecracking animals, with the sap deer Elliott (voiced by Ashton Kutcher) being all too similar to Donkey in ‘Shrek’.

Moreover, some scenes are rather formulaic, like the break-up scene after the waterfall ride (see also ‘Shrek’, ‘Monsters Inc.‘), the ‘we-can-do-this-together-scene’ (see ‘A Bug’s Life’, ‘Robots‘), and the almost obligate near-death of Elliott in the end, which goes all the way back to Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ (1967).

The film’s designs are okay, and are more akin to Dreamworks and Blue Sky than to Pixar. The studio’s the animation is mostly of a high standard, if not inventive. The effect animation is adequate, with convincing lights, waters and smokes. Especially the furs look good, but the human hairs are very bad, and in one scene one can watch some very unrealistically animated bank notes flying around.

In the end, ‘Open Season’ is an entertaining film, but too standard to be a classic. Its foremost selling-point may be that it is one of those rare animated features in which the main protagonist (Boog) is voiced by an Afro-American (Martin Lawrence). After this modest start Sony Animation would do better with its next feature, ‘Surf’s Up’ (2007), with its ‘documentary’ style. But the company really hit its stride with ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ (2009) with its overtly cartoony animation approach.

Meanwhile the reuse of formulaic story building blocks like the ones in ‘Open Season’ came to hamper more and more American computer animated features, with Disney’s ‘Planes’ (2013) as the ultimate low-point, as it consists of nothing but cliches…

Watch the tailer for ‘Open Season’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick
Release Date: May 19, 2006
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Over The Hedge © DreamworksBased on a comic strip, ‘Over the Hedge’, Dreamworks’s sixth computer animated feature, is a charming, if unassuming film, which belongs to the better half of the Dreamworks features, if barely so.

Unlike the unappealing movie ‘Shark Tale’ (2004) for example, all the actions of the characters have their origin in real animal behavior: they hibernate, they forage and they’re threatened by a human environment to which they have to adapt.

The film’s story is original in that it’s not found in the comic strip on which the movie is based. However, at the same time the story is not too original as it contains some standard, almost obligatory scenes, a feature that hampered more and more American animated feature films from 2005 on.

Nevertheless, the film’s story is well executed: the storytelling is lean, the contrast between the two likable protagonists, the brazen raccoon RJ and the cautious turtle Verne, is well-played, as are the two villains: the mafia-like bear Vincent and the Verminator. Even the side-characters are developed enough to like and to care for them (unlike the many personas in Blue Sky’s ‘Robots‘ (2005), for example).

Even though it contains some very realistic effects, like the animation of fur, the animation generally is not very lifelike, and more akin to the jerky animation of Tex Avery films than to the flow of Disney. Especially, the animation of the ADHD-squirrel Hammy is frantic. This character is also responsible for the highlight of the film, in which Hammy, on caffeine, has sped so much that he sees the world practically motionless.

‘Over The Hedge’ is by no means a classic, but it’s entertaining and well-told. In the world of American computer animated features this is already a plus.

Watch the tailer for ‘Over the Hedge’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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