You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Ben Sharpsteen’ tag.

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: January 9, 1937
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Don Donald © Walt DisneyAfter co-starring with Pluto in ‘Donald and Pluto’ (1936), Donald really comes to his own in ‘Don Donald’. In this cartoon he only shares screen time with a new character, Donna Duck, a predecessor of Daisy with a temper that matches Donald’s own. 

In this film, we watch Donald in a Mexican setting featuring a surprisingly Krazy Kat-like palm in the background. He wears a large sombrero and tries to woo Donna, but his donkey spoils his efforts Donald trades his donkey for a car (the small red car we would become so familiar with). The car makes a deep impression on Donna, and both go for a ride.

The animation of the car ride is a great showcase of animation of speed, while the hilarious sequence in which Donald tries to restart the motor again, is a wonderful example of rubbery animation. The film ends marvelously, when Donna produces a unicycle out of her handbag and rides off into the distance. But the whole film is one of sheer delight and one of the classics of the 1930’s.

Despite Mickey’s absence, ‘Don Donald’ is still part of the Mickey Mouse series. Only with ‘Donald’s Ostrich’ from December 1937 Donald would get his own series.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 91
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Worm Turns
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Magician Mickey

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: September 12, 1936
Stars: Donald Duck, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Donald and Pluto © Walt DisneyWhile Donald is plumbing, Pluto accidentally swallows a magnet, attracting all kinds of metallic objects, like his dish, a pendulum, a watch and eventually Donald’s monkey-wrench.

This short features elaborate gags based on character animation, surely building to a grand finale. One can admire the inevitable ‘logic’ of the film, yet the result is only mildly funny, and neither one of Donald’s or Pluto’s best films.

Although advertised as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, in ‘Donald and Pluto’ Mickey Mouse is not present at all. On the contrary, for both Donald and Pluto this is their first cartoon without Mickey (if we disregard the Silly Symphonies ‘Just Dogs‘ (1932) and ‘The Wise Little Hen‘ (1934)). After getting more and longer sequences of their own within the Mickey Mouse series, this step was eventually going to happen.

Pluto had come a long way, sharing five years and 33 films with Mickey before standing on his own, but Donald received his independence already within two years, after only twelve films with Mickey.

Both Pluto and Donald would get their own series in 1937.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 88
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Circus
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Elephant

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: August 1, 1936
Stars: Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, the Orphan Mice, the Little Seal
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Mickey's Circus © Walt DisneyIn ‘Mickey’s Circus’ we watch Mickey and Donald perform in a circus for a pack of orphan mice.

Most of the time goes to Donald and his trained seals. Only after six minutes Mickey joins in again, struggling with Donald on the slack-rope, while being troubled by the orphan mice.

‘Mickey’s Circus’ was the last cartoon to feature the Orphan Mice (apart from the remake of ‘Orphan’s Benefit from 1941), until their unexpected return in ‘Pluto’s party‘ from 1952. It’s also the first Disney short featuring a cute little seal. Similar seals would reappear in ‘Pluto’s Playmate’ (1941), ‘Rescue Dog‘ (1947) and ‘Mickey and the Seal‘ (1948).

Watch ‘Mickey’s Circus’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 87
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Alpine Climbers
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Donald and Pluto

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date:
 June 20, 1936
Stars:
 Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pete
Rating:
  ★★★½

Moving Day © Walt DisneyBecause Mickey, Donald and Goofy can’t pay the rent, evil sheriff Pete will sell their furniture. The boys decide to move before that’s going to happen…

‘Moving Day’ is the this third of the classic trio cartoons featuring Mickey, Donald and Goofy. In this entry Mickey is hardly visible. Most of the cartoon is taken by his co-stars in two all too elaborate sequences: one featuring Goofy in a surreal struggle with a piano with a will of his own, and another featuring Donald’s trouble with a plunger and a fishbowl.

Despite the great animation, one gets the feeling that in this cartoon the artists were too much obsessed with character and less with gags, making this cartoon a bit slow and tiresome, when compared to the previous trio outings ‘Mickey’s Service Station’ and ‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade‘ from 1935. Luckily, in later trio shorts like ‘Moose Hunters’ or ‘Hawaiian Holiday’, the fast pace was found again.

‘Moving Day’ is the first cartoon to feature Pete in color.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 85
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Rival
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Alpine Climbers

Director: Wilfred Jackson & Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: 1942
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The New Spirit © Walt DisneyWhen the United States were forced into the war themselves, the government asked Disney to make a short to make the American citizens fill in their income tax forms in time. Disney gave them his biggest star of that time, Donald Duck, to play the everyman. The government was not impressed until the taxes came rolling in after the film was screened in cinemas.

In contrast to Disney’s earlier propaganda films for the Canadian government, this film uses entirely new animation, directed by Wilfred Jackson, and produced in the ridiculously short time period of a single month. We watch Donald listening to a slightly anthropomorphized radio. The radio asks Donald if he wants to do his part for the country and Donald is growing more and more enthusiastic, until the radio reveals he has to pay his income tax. The radio has to persuade Donald once again, who grows enthusiastic again to the strong slogan ‘Taxes to beat the axis’ (with the axis referring to the Axis powers: Germany, Italy and Japan).

The film further explains the public how to fill in a new, simplified form, using an anthropomorphized pen, bottle of ink and blotter. Like the shorts Disney made earlier for the Canadian government (e.g. ‘The Thrifty Pig‘ and ‘7 Wise Dwarfs‘), the second half (directed by Ben Sharpsteen) consists of very limited and highly propagandistic animation with grim images of factories, guns, planes, war ships and tanks, while an intense narrator repeats the intoxicating mantra of ‘taxes to beat the axis’.

When he comes to the propagandist climax, the sentence “to beat to earth the evil destroyer of freedom and piece”, we watch a horrifying towering monster-like machine depicting the Nazi aggressor. This mechanical monster is defeated and makes place for a patriotic end shot with clouds resembling the American flag, tanks and guns rolling and planes flying accompanied by a heroic hymn, while the narrator tells us that “this is our fight”.

It’s important to note that the film goes at lengths to dehumanize the enemy. The average tax payer was not to help to kill people, but to destroy “the enemy”, in this case a vague mechanical monster. Succeeding propaganda films often eschewed the idea that making war is killing people, with the propaganda feature ‘Victory through Air Power’ (1943) being the prime example.

In case of “The New Spirit”, propaganda rarely was so obvious, but it works: after watching the picture I had its slogan in my head for days. Indeed, the film was so successful, that it got a follow-up the next year: ‘The Spirit of ’43‘.

Watch ‘The New Spirit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: 1942
Stars: The Three Little Pigs (in a cameo)
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

Food Will Win the War © Walt DisneyArguably the most ridiculous of all war time propaganda cartoons, ‘Food Will Win the War’ tells us about the successes of American agriculture.

A bombastic narrator makes all kinds of outrageous comparisons to illustrate the farmer’s huge production. Examples are baking all fruits of America into one big pie or frying all America’s meat on four Vesuvius volcanoes. The result is so absurd and its message so out to lunch that the short is actually great fun to watch.

Throughout the cartoon the animation is very limited, almost absent. The limited animation gives the short a poster-like quality. Full animation is limited to four short sequences:

1) a bowling ball bowling down skittles which resemble Hitler, Mussolini and a Japanese general
2) a giant pie thrown at the earth
3) Chickens laying eggs
4) The three little pigs leading an army of pigs.

Watch ‘Food Will Win the War’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: May 25, 1935
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Cookie Carnival © Walt DisneyOf all Silly Symphonies this one is particularly silly. The very idea of a cookie land is as original as it is looney.

Yet, the cartoon is literally sugary, not funny. The story, about a Charlie Chaplin-like tramp (voiced by Pinto Colvig) making a poor lonesome girl queen of the parade, is pure sentimental melodrama. Moreover, the characters speak in operetta-like recitatives and when the girl, having become queen, has to choose a king the cartoon shifts to a tiresome medley of song-and-dance-routines.

Nevertheless, the art direction of this Silly Symphony is stunning and its backgrounds lush and beautiful, making this one of the most impressive cartoons of the era. The girl is quite beautifully animated. After her transformation into a carnival queen, she doesn’t resemble a cookie at all, but she is pictured and animated as a real girl.

Notice the contrast between the sissy Angelic Cakes and the fun-loving Devil Cakes, whose theme music is jazz (the most ‘evil’ music of the era).

Watch ‘The Cookie Carnival’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 53
To the previous Silly Symphony: Water Babies
To the next Silly Symphony: Who Killed Cock Robin?

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: September 28, 1935
Stars: Donald Duck, Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

On Ice © Walt DisneyOn Ice is the first of Disney’s ‘ensemble cartoons’.

Everyone is in it: Mickey, Minnie (in her color debut), Donald, Goofy, Pluto and even, albeit very briefly, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow. ‘On Ice’ introduces two story ideas that would be used again much later: Pluto’s problems on ice in ‘Bambi’ (1942) and the idea of skating near a waterfall in the ‘Once upon a Wintertime’ sequence of ‘Melody Time’ (1948).

Apart from this, ‘On Ice’ has been very important in the development of Goofy. He’s been completely restyled, has more body to his looks and a much more distinct personality. All these important improvements on the character are attributed to Art Babbitt, one of the greatest animators of all time. Goofy sings ‘The world owes me a living’ from ‘The grasshopper and the ants’ (1934). The song naturally becomes his theme song. No wonder, for the grasshopper and Goofy share the same voice: that of Pinto Colvig. Also of note is Goofy’s original fishing style, using chew to catch fish.

Watch ‘On Ice’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 79
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Pluto’s Judgement Day
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Polo Team

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: August 3, 1935
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Donald Duck, Goofy, Mickey Mouse
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Mickey's Fire Brigade © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade’ is the second of the classic trio cartoons featuring Mickey, Donald and Goofy, and the first of its kind in color.

When one compares this cartoon to the similar ‘The Fire Fighters’ from 1930, one can see what stunning progress the Disney studio had made in a mere five years: the backgrounds, the camera angles, the character animation, the effect animation: everything has improved considerably.

What’s more, its gags are faster, more clever and better build up to a wonderful finale. Among the numerous brilliant ideas are a burning title card, water splashing against ‘the camera’ and a bathing Clarabelle Cow who is not amused when saved by our heroes.

This cartoon is both Goofy’s first color appearance as the last time he’s seen in the design he got in ‘The Whoopee Party’ about three years before. In this film he’s got a particularly goofy cuckoo theme song, while some of the anthropomorphized flames play ‘who’s afraid of the big bad wolf’ from ‘Three Little Pigs’ on the piano.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 77
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Garden
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Pluto’s Judgement Day

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: January 2, 1937
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pete, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Worm Turns © Walt DisneyIn the opening shot we see Mickey looking like an evil scientist, working on a potion that can give courage and power.

He tries it on a fly caught in a spiderweb, on a mouse (the two different designs of mice in this film, with one being twenty times larger, is quite confusing!) who is the victim of a cat, on the cat, who’s chased by Pluto, and on Pluto, who’s threatened by evil dog catcher Pete.

The animation of the opening sequence is quite stunning, but the whole short fails to get funny. Hanna and Barbera would revisit the same idea in the similar ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse‘ (1947) with much better results.

Watch ‘The Worm Turns’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 90
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Elephant
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Don Donald

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 394 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 394 other followers