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Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: September 13, 1949
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Tom hallucinates he can breath underwater. At the bottom of the sea he encounters a mermouse, an evil swordfish and an even more evil octopus. Then he awakes, discovering thankfully that Jerry has rescued him and is reviving him.
Like the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon, ‘Heavenly Puss‘, ‘The Cat and the Mermouse’ is a dream cartoon, more relying on Tom and Jerry’s love for each other than on the hate-part of their relationship.
‘The Cat and the Mermouse’ is a very well executed cartoon. Tom’s underwater joy is wonderfully animated, and the underwater setting is pretty convincing. The mermouse is, of course, exactly like Jerry, and Hanna and Barbera succeed in transferring Tom & Jerry’s typical chase to an underwater setting.
Tom & Jerry would return to the sea in the Esther Williams feature ‘Dangerous When Wet’ (1953), where they, again, encounter a swordfish and an octopus.
Watch ‘The Cat and the Mermouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: October 28, 1931
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
In ‘The Beach Party’ Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar and Pluto go picnicking on the beach. All goes well, until an evil octopus ruins their picnic, and they all have to battle against him.
‘The Beach Party’ is one of four 1931 Mickey Mouse cartoons to feature no musical routine, at all. Clearly, the Disney studio grew more and more confident in telling stories instead of musical numbers. And rightfully so, because ‘The Beach Party’ shows that Disney studio was more capable than any other studio in telling a good gag-filled story leading to a great finale. These were a welcome replacement to the tiring song-and-dance-routines. And so, by 1932, the musical numbers had almost disappeared from the Mickey Mouse cartoons.
Nonetheless, ‘The Beach Party’ knows no dialogue, and most of the movement is rhythmical, and set to a musical beat. The film’s greatest idea is the battle, because the gang’s means to chase the octopus away are entirely based on their eating habits as shown before. Such subtle and sophisticated story telling was unknown outside the Walt Disney studio at that time.
Notice, too, how Pluto and the crab resolve into speed lines when fighting. This effect was still pretty new at the time. The gag with the crab would be reused six years later to much better effects in ‘Hawaiian Holiday’.’The Beach Party’ is no classic, but secretly this film, too, shows Disney’s ambitions.
‘The Beach Party’ is also the first of only two shorts in which Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar are presented as four close friends, the other one being ‘Camping Out’ from 1934. Their friendship would become common practice in Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics, starting with ‘Mickey Mouse and the Ransom Plot’ (July-November 1931).
In these comic strips Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar would become real personalities, something that never happened in the Mickey Mouse films. Indeed, soon after Mickey changed to color in 1935, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar vanished from the screen, apart from an occasional cameo. Unfortunately, the same thing occurred in the Mickey Mouse strips: Horace’s and Clarabelle’s last major adventure with Mickey was ‘Race for Riches’ (July-September 1935), after which they were replaced by Goofy.
Watch ‘The Beach Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: May 23, 1930
Frolicking fish indeed. Even oysters, starfish and a lobster join in the dance routines, oh so typical of early Silly Symphonies. Nevertheless, this cartoon ends with some kind of story, when an evil octopus follows a small fish, who gets rid of the villain by dropping an anchor on him.
There’s not much to enjoy in ‘Frolicking Fish’ despite its merry premise. However, like ‘Autumn‘ this cartoon contains early and to many rivaling studios undoubtedly ‘unnecessary’ effect animation, this time loads and loads of bubbles.
It has entered animation history, however, by featuring the first example of ‘overlapping action’ in animation. Overlapping action acknowledges that different (body) parts move with different speeds. So one part can already start moving, before another comes to an end, and animation cycles can overlap each other in imperfect ways. This opposed to the then normal type of animation, which was based on poses, which led to straightforward animation cycles. This new type of animation was developed by animator Norm Ferguson, who had been hired by Disney in August 1929. It was a milestone at that time, a piece of animation marveled at by Ferguson’s colleagues, including Walt Disney himself. It led to the development of full animation, which would slowly replace the ‘rubber hose animation’ of the early thirties.
Overlapping Action can be seen in the three fish dancing at 2:07. Compare it to the stiff stop-and-go movements of the fish musicians following this scene, and the difference may become clear.
From ‘Frolicking Fish’ on Norm Ferguson would become one of Disney’s greatest and most influential animators of the 1930s, and he was responsible for another breakthrough piece of animation: ‘Playful Pluto‘ (1934), the first convincing animation of a character thinking. He was a great influence on future Nine Old Man John Lounsberry, whom he trained as an assistant animator. Unfortunately, Ferguson’s star diminished in the 1940s, and by the 1950s his style had become old-fashioned…
Watch ‘Frolicking Fish’ yourself and tell me what you think: