Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: July 21, 1950
Stars: Pluto, Bent-Tail & Bent-Tail junior
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Pests of the West © Walt Disney‘Pests of the West’ is the second of three cartoons featuring the coyote Bent-Tail and his dopey son.

In ‘Sheep Dog‘ (1949) they’d tried to steal sheep; this time the hungry duo is after the chickens. Pluto is only the straight man in a cartoon, which is devoted to the delightful interplay between father and son.

Although not as classic as ‘The Legend of Coyote Rock’, ‘Pests of the West’ is a funny cartoon. The short is packed with gags, some being quite Tex Averyan, like the son hanging in mid air until his father knocks him down. However, its highlight is the great scene in which Pluto and Bent-Tail fight for a chicken. Paul Smith’s wonderful and jazzy soundtrack enhances all the fun.

Watch ‘Pests of the West’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 38
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Puss-Cafe
To the next Pluto cartoon: Food for Feudin’

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: October 13, 1950
Stars: Donald Duck, the bee
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Bee at the Beach © Walt DisneyThe bee and Donald compete for an empty spot on the beach in an exceptionally violent cartoon.

This short contains some good gags, but because both characters behave very unsympathetically, it is not too enjoyable. The bee, for instance, deliberately feeds Donald to a shoal of hungry sharks, which our poor hero can hardly escape. Even worse, the cartoon ends with Donald swimming into the horizon, with the sharks following after.

The sharks’ design go all the way back to ‘Peculiar Penguins‘ (1934).

Watch ‘Bee at the Beach’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 87
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Hook, Lion and Sinker
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Out on a Limb

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: September 1, 1950
Stars: Donald Duck, the mountain lion
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Hook, Lion and Sinker © Walt DisneyIn ‘Hook, Lion and Sinker’ the mountain lion from ‘Lion Around’ from eight months earlier returns.

The big cat now has a son, not unlike Bent-Tail in the Pluto short ‘Sheep Dog‘ from 1949. The comedy between father Lion and son is excellent, even though it’s less funny than that of the two coyotes, as the mountain lion’s son is clearly smarter than Bent-Tail jr. Nevertheless, ‘Hook, Lion and Sinker’ is the best of the four films featuring the mountain lion. Donald is only the straight man, with all the comedy restricted to the wonderful interplay between father and son. The two mountain lions are after Donald’s newly caught fish, but unfortunately, Donald has a gun, and he is all too glad to shoot the duo with hail…

Watch ‘Hook, Lion and Sinker’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 86
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Trailer Horn
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Bee at the Beach

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: December 13, 1949
Stars: Goofy Gophers
Rating: ★★★
Review:

A Ham in a Role © Warner Bros.Robert McKimson reuses the Goofy Gophers from the Art Davis cartoons ‘Goofy Gophers’ (1947) and ‘Two Gophers from Texas’ (1948) to play them against an anonymous dog who wants to be a Shakespearean actor.

The dog finds the gophers in his house, where they start to nag him for no reason. The humor comes from the Shakespeare quotes and the apt practical jokes the Gophers play on the dog. However, it’s the opening scene that is the most remarkable part of the film: directly after the opening titles we watch the dog being hit by a pie, only to get the ‘That’s All Folks’ caption immediately after it. Then we watch the dog leaving ‘the stage’, cartoons and broad comedy in general to follow his Shakespearean dreams. This scene anticipates a similar scene in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ (1988).

It’s a pity that the rest of the cartoon doesn’t live up to this great opening, and that McKimson didn’t use a more familiar or appealing character than this dog, which ultimately fails to impress.

Robert McKimson would return to the Gophers only once, in 1958, with ‘Gopher Broke’.

Watch ‘A Ham in a Role’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: November 19, 1949
Stars: Sylvester, Hippety Hopper
Rating: ★★
Review:

Hippety Hopper © Warner Bros‘Hippety Hopper’ introduces the kangaroo of the same name, and its only function during its entire career: being mistaken for a mouse.

The cartoon starts gloomily enough, with a misty harbor scene, where a mouse is trying to commit suicide. He’s rescued by Hippety Hopper, however, and together they face the mouse’s terror: Sylvester the cat. The mouse makes Sylvester think he can grow tall, and lets Hippety Hopper beat him out of the house. The best comedy comes from a bulldog who keeps pushing Sylvester back inside.

Hippety Hopper itself is a silent character with a friendly smile and absolutely no personality. He’s easily the least funny recurring star in the Warner Brothers cartoon catalog before the 1960s. Even in this first cartoon his appearance is tiresome. Nevertheless, he would star in twelve other cartoons, lasting even till 1964. The mouse, on the other hand, would disappear after this cartoon. No wonder: he’s designed and animated rather uglily.

Watch ‘Hippety Hopper’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: August 13, 1949
Stars: Charlie Dog, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Often an Orphan © Warner Bros.‘Often an Orphan’ is the third of four cartoons featuring Chuck Jones’s minor cartoon star Charlie Dog.

Of the quartet, this short is probably the best. Left alone at the roadside, Charlie Dog tries to become Porky Pig’s dog again, who now is a farmer in the countryside. At no point Porky is willing to take him in, despite some great acting by the deceitful mutt: highlight of the film is his playing of a weak, sick, nervous wreck, ruined by the terrors of the big city. This is arguably Charlie Dog’s all time best moment. The cartoon ends at the roadside, again, but now it’s Porky who gets left behind.

Watch ‘Often an Orphan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: March 24, 1950
Stars: Donald Duck, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Daisy Duck, cameos by Goofy, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Crazy over Daisy © Walt DisneyDespite its name and title song ‘Crazy over Daisy’ is a surprisingly typical Donald Duck vs. Chip ‘n’ Dale cartoon.

In fact, it hardly features Daisy, at all. And when Daisy finally does show up, she takes the chipmunks in, leaving Donald outside. Yet, we do see Donald being crazy over Daisy, cycling to her on his velocipede… Yes, you read this right: Donald is riding a velocipede, because this cartoon is set in the 1890s. Its opening scene even feels like a copy of the opening scene of the 1941 Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Nifty Nineties’, complete with cameos of Goofy, and Mickey and Minnie (in the same car as they appear in the earlier cartoon).

Apart from the typical bicycle, it’s unclear why this cartoon is set in this period. The interplay between Donald and the two chipmunks could have been set in any period. The most interesting fact about ‘Crazy over Daisy’ is that it contains an animated background scene, rarely seen since the early 1930s.

Watch ‘Crazy over Daisy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 84
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Lion Around
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Trailer Horn

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: January 20, 1950
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, the mountain lion
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Lion Around © Walt DisneyIn ‘Lion Around’ Huey, Dewey and Louie use a remarkably lifelike mountain lion costume to fool Donald in order to steal a pie. Unfortunately, Donald discovers the deceit, and then, off course, a real mountain lion shows up.

This story line was already formulaic by 1950, and it doesn’t lead to anything particularly funny. In fact, the highlight is the nephews’ costume itself, with its remarkable ability to stretch. This is some funny animation, unmatched by that of the ‘real’ mountain lion. Nevertheless, the real one would return later that year in ‘Hook, Lion and Sinker‘, and in two Goofy shorts: ‘Lion Down‘ (1951) and ‘Father’s Lion’ (1952).

Watch ‘Lion Around’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 83
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Toy Tinkers
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Crazy Over Daisy

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: December 16, 1949
Stars: Donald Duck, Chip ‘n’ Dale
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Toy Tinkers © Walt DisneyIn 1949 Donald Duck had to deal with three small adversaries: Bootle Beetle, the bee and Chip ‘n Dale. Of the three, Chip ‘n Dale were by far the funniest – and it’s no wonder they have become famous where the two insects have not.

‘Toy Tinkers’ is particularly inspired, using Christmas toys as props for a chase inside Donald’s living room, leading to an open war that is far removed from the Christmas spirit. Highlight, however, is the excellent animation of Dale impersonating a gentleman with a top hat and a cane.

Watch ‘Toy Tinkers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 82
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Slide, Donald, Slide
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Lion Around

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: November 25, 1949
Stars: Donald Duck, The Bee
Rating: ★★
Review:

Slide, Donald, Slide © Walt DisneyAfter his move into the Donald Duck series three months earlier in ‘Honey Harvester’, the bee returns. This time as a classical music lover competing with Donald over the radio.

While the bee wants to listen to classical music, Donald wants to listen to a world series baseball match.

The most inspired gags involve Donald and the bee reenacting the match in Donald’s garden. But the bee is hardly a funnier character than Bootle Beetle, and the cartoon never comes off: the violence remains restrained, the bee remains cute. Donald is reduced to a simply annoying character, a bully who is rightly ‘sent to the showers’.

Watch ‘Slide, Donald, Slide’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 81
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: The Greener Yard
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Toy Tinkers

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: October 14, 1949
Stars: Donald Duck,  Bootle Beetle
Rating:
Review:

The Greener Yard © Walt Disney‘The Greener Yard’ is the third cartoon starring the annoyingly unfunny Bootle Beetle.

In this short there are in fact two Bootle Beetles: an older one and his son, who doesn’t like to eat beans and who longs for greener pastures. But the older Bootle Beetle tells him how the grass always looks greener at the other side, but isn’t. He apparently has learned this lesson in Donald’s garden, where is given a hard time by Donald, his chickens and two bluebirds.

‘The Greener Yard’ is slow, boring and moralistic, and forms a low point in Donald Duck’s canon. Luckily, it was the last Donald Duck short to feature this boring insect. Nevertheless, the elderly Bootle Beetle and his younger counterpart would return to the screen one last time, in ‘Morris, the Midget Moose‘ (1950).

Watch ‘The Greener Yard’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 80
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: All in a Nutshell
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Slide, Donald, Slide

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: April 9, 1949
Stars: Droopy, the Wolf, Lina Romay
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Señor Droopy © MGM‘Señor Droopy’ is one of Tex Avery’s most classic cartoons and arguably the best bullfight cartoon of all time, another candidate being Chuck Jones’s ‘Bully for Bugs’ from 1953.

‘Señor Droopy’ is set in Mexico and features the wolf as an overconfident champion bullfighter and Droopy as his measly challenger. Both are in love with Mexican film star/singer Lina Romay, but it’s of course Droopy who wins her: the last scene shows live action footage of this forgotten film star petting our happy hero.

But it’s of course not the story that makes the short so memorable. It’s the gags, and they come in fast and plenty. The film is stuffed with Avery’s own weird logics and cosmic laws, which lead to many a hilarious situation. The best example of Avery’s unique logic may be the following gag: when the bull has vanished between two wooden doors, the wolf closes them together, then another time, but this time vertically, reducing their size by two. He continues doing so until the large doors have been reduced to a tiny cube. He then casually throws the cube behind him, which quickly unfolds to the size of the original doors, which open to reveal a stairway to a cellar, from which the bull rushes back into the arena. Seeing is believing.

‘Señor Droopy’ is not entirely flawless: the wolf’s transformation from über-confident to panic-stricken is not really convincing, and Avery reuses the road gag from ‘Wild and Woolfy‘ (1945), which makes less sense inside the arena. But who cares! The interplay between the wolf, the bull and Droopy is delightful throughout, and even a minor character like the Mexican announcer is animated with gusto.

Watch ‘Señor Droopy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.veoh.com/watch/v202445Gjy2WGzy?h1=Senor+Droopy+-+Droopy

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: June 3, 1949
Stars: Donald Duck,  Chip ‘n’ Dale
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Winter Storage © Walt DisneyIt’s 7 October, and Chip and Dale are storing acorns for the winter. Because they don’t get enough, they steal them from Donald Duck, who, as a forest ranger, has a sackful to plant new oak trees with.

‘Winter Storage’ was Chip and Dale’s fourth film, and only the second in their mature form. In this cartoon they are even better developed than in their previous entry, ‘Three for Breakfast’ (1948), and watching the interplay between the two chipmunks is a sheer delight. Donald’s role, on the other hand, is modest, and only comes alive in the finale, in a very nice fake ice hockey scene.

Watch ‘Winter Storage’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 77
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Sea Salts
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Honey Harvester

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: April 8, 1949
Stars: Donald Duck, Bootle Beetle
Rating:
Review:

Sea Salts © Walt DisneyBootle Beetle, introduced in ‘Bootle Beetle‘ from 1947, returns to tell us about his relationship with ‘the captain’, and old seafaring version of Donald Duck. He relates how he and ‘the captain’ were shipwrecked and stranded on a desert island.

Bootle Beetle never was a funny character, and this cartoon, too, suffers: Bootle beetle is simply too cute. Moreover, his relationship to Donald is never explained, nor the fact why Donald is suddenly a captain. To make things worse, the cartoon is painstakingly slow. For example, it contains a very long gag on a coconut, unfavorably reminiscent of the overlong gags of the earliest character animation-based cartoons of the mid-1930’s, like ‘Mickey Plays Papa‘ (1934) or ‘Moving Day‘ (1936).

Watch ‘Sea Salts’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 76
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Happy Birthday
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Winter Storage

Director: Mikhail Kamenetsky
Release Date: 1984
Rating: ★★
Review:

Wolf and Calf © SoyuzmultfilmMikhail Kamenetsky (1924-2006) was a director of numerous puppet films made between 1965 to 1995, almost all featuring animals.

An old wolf steals a calf to eat, but he starts to like it and to raise it like his own son. In the end, when a hungry bear, a vixen and aboar try to steal his loot, he is saved by the calf itself, which has turned into a strong bull.

‘Wolf and Calf’ is a fable-like children’s film with an old-fashioned look. The designs of the protagonists look like they have come from a 1950’s toy shop. Kamenetsky’s puppet animation is elaborate, and actually quite good, if erratic, but the film suffers from an excess of dialogue, which not always seems to correspond with the animated characters themselves.

Moreover, the film’s world is rather inconsistent, stretching its believability: the wolf, like all other animals, is highly anthropomorphic and even lives in a house, alongside humans, who are afraid of him nonetheless. The calf, on the other hand, remains on all fours, and stays an animal, even though it is able to speak.

Watch ‘Wolf and Calf’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

Director: Ideya Gagarina
Release Date: 1981
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Cabaret © SoyuzmultfilmBased on plays by Federico García Lorca, Cabaret (a better translation would be ‘farce’) is a puppet animation film, using puppets in a puppet theater.

The film is something of a musical and tells about the love between Donna Rosita and Don Cristobál. The music, by world famous composer Sofia Gubaidulina is odd and rather unconvincing in its avant-garde version of the musical genre.

The film falls into two parts: the first part looks most like an ordinary puppet play: it’s fast, hectic, humorous, and even vulgar, with a strong sense of eroticism. Halfway the film, however, the mood changes drastically. Don Cristobál gets rid of his strings and tears off his grotesque mask to reveal a more noble face. With that the film enters the second part, a dreamlike, lyrical one. Unfortunately, the narrative gets lost in this part, and in the end the film suffers from its length, from its meandering music and beautiful, but vague imagery.

‘Cabaret’ was Gagarina’s Fourth film, and her third after she had joined Soyuzmultfilm in 1976. In 1988 Gagarina and Gubaidulina would work together again on “The Cat That Walked by Itself”, a feature film based on Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’. Unfortunately she came to a tragic end, as she was murdered in her own house in 2010.

Watch ‘Cabaret’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Keith Griffiths, Quay Brothers
Airing Date: 1984
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer © Quay Brothers‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ is a documentary about the Czech master of surrealism.

It was made by the Quay Brothers with the sole purpose of being able to watch Švankmajer’s films themselves. Advertised to the BBC as a documentary on French and Czech surrealism, the film is rather highbrow, featuring artists and art historians, whose remarks are sometimes very difficult to grasp, indeed.

Unfortunately, the master himself refused to be interviewed and he is not shown at all. Luckily, Švankmajer’s strong images speak for themselves, and the documentary undoubtedly helped to raise interest in Švankmajer’s films in the West.

However, ‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ is also interesting for animation buffs itself, even for someone who has seen all Jan Švankmajer’s films, for it contains original interludes, animated by the Quay brothers, which have a very Švankmajer-like atmosphere, indeed, highlighted by the reuse of music from Švankmajer’s films. These interludes feature a Švankmajer-like teacher, made of household objects, and his apprentice, a doll, whose head is emptied in order to let him experience the world anew. These interludes a no less than wonderful and form an animation short in itself, which is both a great homage to the Czech master and a showcase of the Quay brothers’ own art.

The documentary further shows excerpts from Švankmajer’s films ‘Dimensions of a Dialogue’ (which de facto is shown in its entirety), ‘The Last Trick‘, ‘The Flat’, ‘Et Cetera‘, ‘Jabberwocky‘, ‘Historia Naturae, Suita‘, ‘The Ossuary‘, ‘Games with Stones‘, ‘Punch and Judy’, ‘Don Juan‘ and ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’.

Watch the animated interludes from ‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Michel Ocelot
Airing Date: December 21, 1983 – ?
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

La Princesse Insensible © Michel OcelotAfter the artistic successes of ‘Les trois inventeurs‘ (1979) and ‘La légende du pauvre bossu‘ (1982) Ocelot turned his skills to a gentle and entertaining television series for children.

The series, called ‘La princesse insensible’ (the insensitive princess), consists of thirteen episodes and has a very simple story line: a princess is so bored that nothing can amuse her. The king declares that when a prince manages to amuse the princess nonetheless, he will win her. In the 4 minute long episodes we watch several young princes, sorcerers in fact, trying to amuse her in her own theater, all in vain.

‘La princesse insensible’ uses a mixture of traditional and cut-out animation. Ocelot’s animation may be simple, no doubt due to a limited budget, but it’s very effective in its pantomimed action. The series’ design is elegant in its recreation of an 18th century atmosphere. The framing story is told in silhouettes, reminiscent of the work by Lotte Reiniger, but the theater scenes are in bright colors. The atmosphere is fairy-like and surreal throughout, helped by Christian Maire’s otherworldly music. In all, ‘La princesse insensible’ is a little charming series, which show Ocelot’s delicate and unique voice in the animation world.

The separate episodes of ‘La princesse insensible’ are listed below:

1. Le Prince dompteur (The Tamer Prince)
This episode tells the framing story and shows us the first prince. He has a menagerie of trained fairy tale animals: a unicorn, a three-headed dog, a Chinese dragon and a phoenix.

2. Le Prince jardinier (The Gardener Prince)
The second episode, like all following episodes of ‘La princesse insensible’, starts without the framing story. Instead the story is told in the title song. After the intro, we watch the second prince performing right away. He’s a garden prince, able to make plants and flowers grow on the bare floors and pillars of the princess’s theater. When he fails to impress the princess, he dissappears on an ever-growing tree.

3. Le Prince à transformations (The Transforming Prince)
The third prince trying to impress the insensible princess is the most interesting to animation fans. Being called the metamorphosis prince, he’s able to transform himself into all kinds of people and things. Ocelot uses some beautiful metamorphosis animation in doing so. The prince’s performance builds up to a great finale, in which the prince transforms himself into seemingly hundreds of things, which is depicted by the rapid showing of random pictures. This simple device works because we’ve seen the process of transformation just before that. It also adds a humorous touch to the fairy-like atmosphere, because many of the objects are anachronisms in the 18th century setting.

4. Le Prince sourcier (The Dowser Prince)
The fourth prince, the ‘diviner prince’, is able to sprout water everywhere, using a divining-rod, turning the princess’s theater into a fountain. One of the more fairy-like episodes of ‘la princesse insensible’, ‘Le prince sourcier’ is less impressive than the first three episodes. After these three, the diviner prince even fails to impress we viewers.

5. Le Prince qui fait semblant (The Pretender Prince)
The fifth prince trying to impress the princess is almost typically french: he’s a mime artist, miming (among others) that he plays the piano, rides a bicycle and even a motorcycle inside the princess’s theater. When he fails to impress the princess he even mimes that he commits suicide. Like ‘le prince à transformation’ this episode has an extra touch because of the anachronisms.

6. Le Prince météorologue (The Meteorologist Prince)
The sixth prince is called the weather prince, and he’s able to make clouds dancing within the princess’s theater. He also makes rain, lightning and a rainbow. When he leaves the princess unimpressed, he covers himself in snow. One of the lesser episodes of ‘la princesse insensible’, ‘le prince météorologue’ nevertheless shows Ocelot’s fantasy. When one doesn’t expect any more metreological wonder, the prince transforms the rainbow into numbers and patterns.

7. Le Prince sous-marin (The Underwater Prince)
The seventh prince arrives in a fish-like submarine inside an enormous fish-tank. Compared to the other princes, his antics are relatively believable, although he seems to have the ability to make fish forming patterns. This episode is one of the lesser entries in the series, despite the beautiful old-fashioned design of the princes’ submarine.

8. Le Prince volant (The Flying Prince)
The eight prince, the flying prince, looks like a Japanese superhero with wings. During his flight, we see more of the theater than in any other episode. Apparently there’s more public than the princess alone.

9. Le Prince décorateur (The Decorator Prince)
The decorator prince is able to turn the complete theater upside-down, to change its colors by clever lighting. When the princess is unimpressed as ever, he descends into the basements.

10. Le Prince magicien (The Magician Prince)
This prince is called the ‘magician prince’, even though many of the other princess were skilled magicians as well. The prince enters on a flying carpet and turns the pillars of the theater into palm trees, the chandelier into a beach ball and the stone ornaments into butterflies. Then he turns his own hat into a zeppelin and the furniture into a train. Enraged by the princess’s non-reaction, the prince makes everything disappear again, including the theater and himself.

11. Le Prince peintre (The Painter Prince)
The Painter prince episode, unlike the other episodes, has some false starts, as the prince repeatedly forgets something he needs to paint his enormous canvas. The painter exactly copies the theater on his canvas, then paints a happy portrait of the princess. But when she remains unimpressed, he violates his own drawings. It’s charming to see the shadows of Ocelot’s paper figure of the painter, while he’s painting the enormous canvas. It gives the series its handicraft appeal.

12. Le Prince artificier (The Artificer Prince)
The fireworks prince, like the painter prince, knows some false starts, when he has troubles preparing the fireworks in the dark. The fireworks effects are created nicely with kaleidoscope effects into beautiful abstract patterns. The prince also illuminates the theatre with neon lights. In the end the prince disappears on a rocket, after which the complete theater explodes.

13. Le Prince écolier (The Schoolboy Prince)
The last prince, ‘the schoolboy prince’ is much less skilled than the other princes, but he immediately solves the princess’s problem: she appears to be terribly nearsighted, and he helps her with his glasses. They marry, and the other princes perform for the princess once again, which leads to a sequence with highlights from the previous episodes.

 

Director: Yuri Norstein
Release Date: 1979
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tale of Tales © SoyuzmultfilmIn ‘Tale of Tales’ we’re watching a wolf cub trying to survive his loneliness in an old house, relying on his memories.

These images are altered with images of a river scene with a.o. a fisherman, his wife and his children, and a giant Picasso-like minotaur skipping rope. Two other recurring images are that of dancing wives losing their men to war, and that of a little boy eating apples in the snow.

‘Tale of Tale’s is regarded as Yuri Norstein’s masterpiece and as one of the best animation films of all time. This does not mean it is the most accessible of all films, on the contrary. ‘Tale of Tales’ is a poetic film, but a confusing one. The nostalgic images seem unrelated, and are shown in a non-linear fashion. In fact, it is very difficult to render a ‘tale’ out of the images, which are intrinsically very strong, especially those of the melancholy wolf cub and of the iconic river scene.

Most of the film is made of muddy images in sepia-tones, rendering a dreamy atmosphere. Many images return, bridged by the wolf cub character, who, alone, seems to live in the present, outside of the images of a childhood long past. There’s some vague sense of a happy childhood being shattered by war and being lost in time.

The film uses no dialogue, and even the music is timid in its evocation of mood. Some of the cut-out animation is superb, however, and the overall imagery one of great virtuosity. The end result is as beautiful as it is overlong and frustratingly incomprehensible.

Watch ‘Tale of Tales’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Eduard Nazarov
Release Date: 1979
Rating: ★★
Review:

Hunt © SoyuzmultfilmThis Soviet animation film starts when a boy enters a hunting shop.

When he looks at a photo of a hunter on top of a dead lion, his imagination starts to wander. He imagines himself in a forest, and on a Savannah, full of wildlife. When encountering the lion, he prevents the hunter from shooting. Unfortunately, he’s awoken by the shop owner.

‘Hunt’ is a silent film, told with realistic images, strong 1970s designs, and dated electronic music. The film’s opening is probably its best: we’re watching images of busy and indifferent city life, before zooming in on the boy. The film clearly celebrates life, especially in the Savannah scenes, which form a rich contrast to the dull city life images. Nevertheless, the film feels traditional and naive, and more as a product of its time than as a timeless classic.

Watch ‘Hunt’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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