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Director: Georges Schwizgebel
Release Date: 1982
After 1’40 we become the monster itself, walking through endless chambers and corridors and staircases in an almost computer animation-like long sequence of perspective animation. The rooms, initially filled with abstract shapes, become more and more complex. They contain more and more windows and human forms, and finally moving human forms, ending with multiple copies of the monster’s bride. In the end we watch the monster itself, in his depiction by Boris Karloff. he smiles at his bride, but she only screams…
This film, which is set to very nervous electronic music, is a very impressive study of perspective: we really feel we are walking. The film has a repetitive and dreamlike quality, which is enhanced by its surreal settings, reminiscent of paintings by Giorgio de Chirico.
Watch ‘Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Compiler: Marv Newland
Release Date: 1985
The short features a strange yellow fellow on high heels called Foska. All scenes start and end with this character, and most of the animators feature him in their own scenes. The result is a dazzling string of totally unrelated scenes, some funny, some weird and some totally abstract.
A few animators bring their own typical style strongly into their scenes, like Zdenko Gašparović, Sally Cruikshank and Paul Driessen, others turn to abstract patterns, like Kathy Rose, Kazurai Furuya, and Per Lygum. The latter’s contribution is an early computer animation, featuring geometrical forms only. Highlight, however, is Frank Nissen’s contribution, in which a swimming octopus transforms into a naked woman.
The complete film is an ode to the imagination of the animators and the endless possibilities of the medium.
Watch ‘Anijam’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Te Wei
Release Date: 1960
They mistake two shrimps, a goldfish, a crab, a turtle and a catfish for their mother, before their real mother finds them.
Told by a voice-over, ‘Where is Mama’ is a genuine Chinese film: it is based on an ancient Chinese fable, it is typically preoccupied with nature and water, its watercolor and ink style is based on classic Chinese painters (most obviously Qi Baishi), and it is set to a serene and leisurely speed.
The result is a film that is a bit slow, but strikingly beautiful. The short looks timelessly Chinese, but at the time of its release the film’s style was completely new and daring within the Chinese animation film world. However, it would take ca. twenty years before its influence became clear, because five years after the making of this cartoon the Shanghai Animation Studio was shut down as part of the Cultural Revolution. Only in the late seventies it would be up and running again. In the following decade ‘Where is Mama’ would be an inspiration to many Chinese animators, who would reuse several of this film’s key elements. In that decade, too, Te Wei made his own masterpiece, ‘Feeling from Mountain and Water’ (1988).
Watch ‘Where is Mama’ yourself and tell me what you think:
* this film probably is best known by its French title: ‘Les têtards à la recherche de leur maman’
Directors: John Halas & Joy Batchelor
Release Date: 1948
Luckily, the film is rather original and exciting: using a rather abstract score by Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber, it consists of associative images with a strong sense of surrealism. It loosely tells the story of man struggling to be free. Even though it has to pay its debts to Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ (1940), ‘The Magic Canvas’ surely is one of the most avant-gardistic films of its time, and a testimony of Halas & Batchelor’s animation ambitions.
Watch ‘Magic Canvas’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Lev Atamanov
Release Date: 1951
The film tells about a flute player, whose music is so vivid, it can bring a drawing of a stork to life. An evil mandarin captures the bird, demanding it to perform for him. But the stork will only dance to the flute player’s music, and when it hears this music, it flies away through the window.
This film, which uses song, seems to celebrate music and freedom and appears to be a pamphlet against oppression, which is remarkable for a film made under Stalin’s rule. The animation in this short is very good, with beautifully animated humans. The result is one of the more enjoyable Soviet films of the era.
Watch ‘The Yellow Stork’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Dmitry Babichenko
Release Date: 1950
The stag claims this to be unjust, and the two animals ask a bear to be a referee. The bear restores the initial situation to be able to judge the argument, but then runs off with the deer, leaving the wolf under the tree again.
‘The Stag and the Wolf’ is a typical Russian animation film from the early fifties, this time based on an ancient tale (it’s even found among folk tales in Cameroon, albeit with different animals). Like contemporary Soviet films, it has the distinct flavor of Russified Disney. The film pushes the limits of Soviet naturalism, especially in the backgrounds. The bear, however, is very Disney-like, and a little at odds with the particularly realistically designed stag.
Watch ‘The Stag and the Wolf’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Olga Khodatayeva
Release Date: 1950
In this short an old man, a cat and a cock are having trouble to feed all the animals who seek shelter at their place. Therefore they ask the mountain god for help, who gives them a magical little windmill, which produces endless amounts of breads out of of a few grains of corn. Unfortunately, rumor spreads, and soon the little windmill is stolen by a greedy king. But the cock flies to his palace and brings back the magical object, despite several attempts on his life.
‘The Magic Windmill’ is a gentle, if what overlong little film based on a Russian fairy-tale. It uses a naturalistic style, clearly influenced by Disney, with watercolor backgrounds, and a multiplane camera effect in its opening scene . The animal designs are an interesting mix of the Disney style and Russian illustration art. The animation, however, leaves a lot to desire. The animation of movement is awkward, with most characters moving in a slow, all too constant speed. The film uses dialogue in rhyme, but the lip synchronization with the characters is poor.
Despite these flaws, ‘The Magic Windmill’ is a film of great poetry, and one of the best of the Russian fairy tale films of the fifties. Indeed, director Khodatayeva was a veteran of soviet animation, having made films since the 1920′s.
Watch ‘The Magic Windmill’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1980
Here we see three narrow frames: the left frame (Land) depicting a sleeping man, the middle one (Air) a bird, and the right one (Sea) a couple on a boat on the ocean. The story involves several themes explored in all three frames, which at times interact but only come together in the end
Like many of Paul Driessen’s shorts ‘Te land ter zee en in de lucht’ involves morbid humor, including a running gag of an ark sinking several times. The film uses no dialogue and no music, only sound effects with very effective results.
Driessen would take the split screen technique to the max in ‘The End of the World in Four Seasons’ (1995), but the genius of ‘Te land, ter zee en in de lucht’ would only be topped by his melancholy film ‘The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg’ from 2000.
Watch ‘Te land, ter zee en in de lucht’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Georges Schwizgebel
Release Date: 1974
More important than the plot, however, is the technique of this film, which makes use of huge pixels, giving it a very digital look. Even though the man and the birds are extremely simplified, their motions are instantly recognizable. Even more remarkable is that the film contains some kind of baroque feel, amplified by Louis Couperin’s harpsichord music.
‘Le Vol d’Icare’ was Swiss animator Georges Schwizgebel’s first animated film. It doesn’t resemble his later films. In fact, it doesn’t resemble any other animation film. But it already shows Schwizgebel’s originality and virtuosity, and it can be considered his first masterpiece.
Watch ‘Le vol d’Icare’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Osvaldo Cavandoli
Release Date: 1974
Stars: La Linea
The first of all La Linea shorts defines the complete series: it consists of numerous unrelated gags around the jabbering little man Linea, who lives in a 2-dimensional world, consisting of only one white line, of which he is part.
This cheerful, but temperamental guy has some characteristics that return in every single episode: First, he talks an Italian-sounding sort of gibberish, provided by voice actor Carlo Bonomi. Second, he always walks to the left of the screen. Third, he always encounters at least one interruption of the line during his walk. Fourth, he frequently argues with his off-screen creator, of whom we only see his hand drawing things for the little guy. And Fifth, our hero has also has an intoxicating laugh, which is heard at least once.
All designs are extremely stylized, yet perfectly recognizable, and beautifully animated. The backgrounds are monochromic, changing from green to red to blue etc. All these elements make this series such a classic, even though most of the episodes are completely plotless, and only last about 2 minutes.
In this particular episode La Linea encounters a turtle, a television set, a tap and a woman. He plays golf and takes a rollercoaster ride. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s fun. Franco Godi’s music in this particular cartoon is more present than in the following ones, using a tune with voices instead of the instrumental background music of later cartoons.
Watch ‘La Linea episode 1’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: May 30, 1953
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Donald then fools them by pretending a fountain of youth has made him younger. He even uses an alligator egg to make them believe he turned into an egg again. This leads to an encounter with the mother alligator, whose not amused. In the end we watch Donald and the boys fleeing into the distance.
The backgrounds in this cartoon are extraordinarily colorful. The characters don’t really read well against these backgrounds, but their lushness is overwhelming and an extra highlight besides the gags.
Watch ‘Don’s Fountain of Youth’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: April 19, 1952
Stars: Bugs Bunny
‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is a horror cartoon featuring almost everything a horror movie should have: an evil scientist, a monster, a mummy and a robot. This story is rather awkwardly framed, however, by a story about the river flooding Bugs’s home and transporting him to and from the castle. Facing the monster Bugs repeats his manicure-tric from the earlier film, although this time he pretends to be a hair dresser. He also makes himself invisible and he makes the monster shrink.
If not as funny as ‘Hair-raising Hare’, ‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is full of clever gags. It moves at a relatively relaxed pace, which only a very confident film maker could use with such effect. In that respect, ‘Water, Water Evey Hare’ shows the mastery director Chuck Jones had achieved. He needn’t be fast and furious to be funny and he knew it.
Watch ‘Water, Water Every Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 90
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Foxy Proxy
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hasty Hare
Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: May 2, 1953
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Unfortunately, the ‘Mason Dixie Line’, the border between the North (desert) and the South (beautiful green landscape), is protected by Southerner Sam, who isn’t aware that the civil war has ended ages ago. This preposterous idea leads to great gags involving several impersonations by Bugs, a.o. of Abraham Lincoln.
Watch ‘Southern Fried Rabbit’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 98
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Upswept Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-Trimmed
Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: February 16, 1952
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Jerry helps the duckling, dressing his wounds, but he has a hard time preventing the careless duck of being shot again. This cartoon builds up to a great finale involving an anvil.
The little drake looks and behaves like Little Quacker (see ‘Little Quacker‘ from 1950), but differs in having mature feathering. In fact, this overenthusiastic, but not too clever drake leads to greater comedy than the more famous little duckling. As a result ‘Duck Doctor’ is very entertaining, and one of the more inspired of the latter day Tom & Jerry cartoons.
Watch ‘Duck Doctor’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 64
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Flying Cat
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Two Mouseketeers
Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: February 24, 1951
Stars: Tweety & Sylvester
It’s winter and Tweety is troubled by two cats (Sylvester and a red cat with a bad eye), who fight over him. Most of the comedy derives from the feud between the two, and only in the end Tweety himself comes into action, making the two cats fall into an icy pond.
With ‘Putty Tat Trouble’ Freleng returns to Tweety’s first two films, Bob Clampett’s ‘A Tale of Two Kitties’ (1942) and ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ (1945), in which also two cats fought for the little bird. Freleng’s humor is different from Bob Clampett’s, but once again, the feud works very well. Apart from Tweety’s talking, all the comedy is silent and brilliantly executed, too. This makes ‘Putty Tat Trouble’ one of the better Tweety and Sylvester cartoons.
At one scene we can see a Friz Freleng portrait in the background.
Watch ‘Putty Tat Trouble’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: October 21, 1950
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Spike
Jerry revenges himself on Tom by repeatedly framing him for stealing Spike’s bone. The cartoon ends with a wonderfully elaborate magnet gag, repeatedly tying Tom unwillingly to Spike’s bone.
Even though it’s not among Tom & Jerry’s most memorable entries, ‘The Framed Cat’ is a fun cartoon. It’s one of those rare cartoons in which Tom speaks a little. It’s also noteworthy for its backgrounds, which are more stylized than usual.
Watch ‘The Framed Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 53
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Cueball Cat
Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: August 26, 1949
Kinney’s first Goofy film in four years, ‘Tennis Racquet’ is a transitional film: together with the next Goofy short, ‘Goofy Gymnastics‘, it’s firmly rooted in the 1940′s Goofy tradition, being a sports cartoon, similar in content to ‘How to Play Football‘ (1944) and ‘Hockey Homicide‘ (1945). Moreover, in the first scene we hear one of the Goofy characters (the cartoon contains several of them) singing Goofy’s own theme song “the world owes me a living”, and in the end we can hear the typical Goofy yell, introduced in “The Art of Skiing” (1941). The short even features a slow motion gag, not seen since ‘How to swim‘ (1942).
On the other hand, it can also be seen as the first entry of Goofy’s second series, for the character has been completely redesigned. The next year this new, redesigned Goofy would turn into Mr. Geef, the everyman.
Like ‘How to Play Football’ and ‘Hockey Homicide’, ‘Tennis Racquet’ has no educational value: the cartoon consists of one frantic tennis match between two Goofy characters. It’s a fast and funny cartoon, full of silly gags. The highlight may be the running gag of the stoic gardener, who enters the game at several points, undisturbed by the frantic action around him.
Watch ‘Tennis Racquet’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: January 6, 1950
Stars: Pluto, Butch, Dinah
It seems that at the end of the Pluto series, the animators had found a new inspiration, for most of Pluto’s best cartoons were made in the series’ last two years. In fact, almost every Pluto cartoon from 1950/1951, Pluto’s last two screen years, is a winner.
‘Pluto’s Heart Throb’ is a good example. In this rather weird short both Butch an Pluto fall in love with Dinah (who we hadn’t seen since ‘In Dutch‘ from 1946). They’re acting like rivals, but they have to pretend to be friends when she’s looking. When Pluto saves Dinah from drowning, he gains her love and Butch makes a sad retreat.
Penned by Roy Williams, one of the most original of the Disney story men, this short is stuffed with silly ideas, starting with the silly little pink dog cupid, who makes Pluto and Dinah fall in love with each other. The animation is extremely flexible, with wonderful expressions on all three characters. The excellent silent comedy is further enhanced by a very lively score. In all, ‘Pluto’s Heart Throb’ is a great improvement on the earlier in-love-with-Dinah-cartoon: ‘Canine Casanova’ from 1945.
Watch ‘Pluto’s Heart Throb’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 11, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny
When the excavator driver ignores Bugs’s pleas for leaving his home alone, Bugs nags him until the bully can’t take no more.
This film contains a gag of a half conscious Bugs walking at great heights without falling, a scene that is clearly borrowed from earlier shorts, like the Popeye cartoon ‘A Dream Walking’ from 1934 and the classic Disney short ‘Clock Cleaners’ from 1937. It also contains an elaborate final gag with a hot rivet, a type of gag Chuck Jones invented. It anticipates similar gags in the Roadrunner series and Jones’s Tom and Jerry films from the sixties. The Highlight of the cartoon, however, is a gag with the bully balancing on a plank with a bunch of bricks, which Bugs slowly withdraws…
Watch ‘Homeless Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 70
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Mutiny on the Bunny
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Big House Bunny
Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: January 15, 1949
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Like Freleng’s quite similar ‘Stage Door Cartoon‘ (1944), the action soon shifts into a theater, with wonderful comedy with Bugs’s and Elmer’s repeatedly passing past sitting people, continuously using the phrases ‘pardon me’ and ‘excuse me’ as a major highlight. Other great gags are Bugs’s playing with the intermission switch (which immediately causes the public to rush outside to smoke) and the finale, in which Bugs manages to get a blinded Elmer into a lion’s beak.
Despite the wonderful comedy, the film nevertheless fails to reach the heights of ‘Stage Door Cartoon’, falling short, due to some bad designs of Elmer and to a sense of routine.
Watch ‘Hare Do’ yourself and tell me what you think: