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Director: unknown
Production Date: 1959
Stars: Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle
Rating:
Review:

The Bungle Cure © Toonder Studios‘The Bungle Cure’ is based on the Tom Poes comic strip ‘De Bommelkuur’ (1953), one of the weakest of all Tom Poes comics. And indeed, the film based on this story, is equally weak.

The short starts with Tom Puss driving the sick Ollie Bungle to the mountains, because the doctor has advised the sick bear to get some mountain air. Unfortunately, in the mountains they end up in a feud between two mountain tribes, the Grimps and the Knarks. The two tribes are equally fanatical in helping Mr. Bungle to heal. Their zeal make Mr. Bungle flee to a deserted island in a mountain lake, where Tom Puss discovers that Mr. Bungle has been cured, after all.

‘The Bungle Cure’ may function as a nice story for children, but has little to offer otherwise. As with the other Tom Puss & Mr. Bungle films the animation is extremely limited and the short relies heavily on dialogue. Most interesting is the minimal background art, which has maintained some of the panache of Marten Toonder’s own comic strips.

‘The Bungle Cure’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: unknown
Production Date: 1959
Stars: Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Weather Crystal © Toonder Studios‘The Weather Crystal’ is the second of nine Tom Puss films that were made for the American television market, but which were never released.

This short is based on a Tom Puss comic made for the Dutch Donald Duck magazine in 1959. In this film Tom Puss and Ollie find find a crystal that controls the weather. Ollie Bungle immediately conceives a plan to sell the weather, but as every client asks for something different, all goes wrong.

This is a very weak story, with both Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle behaving completely out of character (in Marten Toonder’s original comic strip none of the two would think of exploiting a commercial enterprise). Moreover, the short places the two in a human world, instead of the fable world they usually live in.

‘The Weather Crystal’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: unknown
Production Date: 1959
Stars: Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Magic Hat © Toonder StudiosIn 1959 an unknown American distribution company asked Marten Toonder to produce some animated shorts for the American television market starring Toonder’s comic strip stars Tom Poes (Tom Puss, a white cat) and Olivier B. Bommel (Ollie Bungle, a large bear).

Nine films were conceived, but the Americans were displeased with Ollie Bungle’s voice, which was provided by a black man. Even worse, the so-called distribution company turned out to be a fraud, and these films were never shown anywhere.

The DVD accompanying Jan-Willem de Vries’s Dutch language book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’ has included eight of these films. They are a strange mix of Toonder’s elaborate cartoon style and Hanna-Barbera-like cartoon modernism. For example, Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle look more angular than ever, and both suddenly wear bow-ties, an all too obvious Hanna-Barbera influence. The animation in these shorts is very limited, and unfortunately the films rely too heavily on rather tiring dialogue, but this is countered by some effective staging.

‘The Magic Hat’ is clearly based on the Tom Poes story ‘De kniphoed’ (1955), and apart of Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle, features Bungle’s butler, Joost, magician Hocus Pas and a rather unrecognizable chief constable Bulle Bas (all unnamed in the cartoon). As the 65 page comic strip has been squeezed into a five minute film, the story has been greatly simplified. The result is no masterpiece, but still makes a pleasant watch, and the film is a good example of the huge influence the Hanna-Barbera studio had on the rest of the world.

‘The Magic Hat’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Han van Gelder
Release Date: 1958
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Van Inca tijd tot Blooker tijd © Toonder StudiosIn this film director-animator Han van Gelder uses his unique technique of mixing cut-out with stop-motion for a short advertising film for Blooker cocoa.

The film tells about the Incas who invented cocoa, and how the Spanish conquistadors brought cocoa with them to Europe, where Jan Blooker’s factory uses only the best cocoa for its chocolate. The jump from the conquistadors to Blooker is a rather abrupt and not all too convincing one.

For this film Van Gelder uses UPA-inspired cartoon modern style characters and backgrounds. The film’s story isn’t too interesting, but these designs certainly make it a fun watch. The Blooker factory only lasted until 1962, but the brand is still available today.

Watch ‘Van Inca tijd tot Blooker tijd’ yourself and tell me what you think:

From Inca time to Blooker time 1958

‘Van Inca tijd tot Blooker tijd’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Børge Ring
Release Date: 1958
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Lokkend goud of gouden lokken © Toonder StudiosThis is the story of a man full of debts who marries a rich woman for her money, but he gets remorse when he discovers the rich lady is bald.

The story is a humorous old Irish ballad called ‘Very Unfortunate Man’, translated by Annie M.G. Schmidt into Dutch and sung by Dutch actor Otto Sterman. Danish animator Børge Ring provides the story with strong cartoon modern images in the best UPA tradition, matched by equally stylized background art and color schemes by Alan G. Standen. The two give the otherwise rather Dutch film a very international feel, both in design and quality. The complete cartoon may be quite on the light side, it is nevertheless a delight to watch.

‘Lokkend goud of gouden lokken’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Han van Gelder
Release Date: 1957
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

De verzonken klokken © Toonder Studios‘De verzonken klokken’ is a very beautiful animation short in which director Han van Gelder combines two-dimensional cut-out figures with three-dimensional sets to unique results.

The story is narrated by Dutch actor Ton Lutz, and written by Jan Gerhard Toonder, the brother of producer Marten Toonder, who based his narrative on legends from Zeeland.

The film tells about a sexton who falls in love with the beautiful  girl Neeltje, but when she rejects him, he gets drunk and rings the church bells in the middle of the night, until the complete clock tower gets swallowed by the sea. In the end Neeltje marries school master Piepkema, but at their wedding they hear the church bells ringing from the sea. Piepkema provides a moral in rhyme that this ringing means that the sexton’s soul has found no rest, but Van Gelder shows us the Sexton at the bottom of the sea, happily in love with a mermaid, defying the classic Christian moral.

‘De verzonken klokken’ knows little, but effectively used animation. Van Gelder’s character designs and sets are simply gorgeous, and give the film a unique atmosphere. There are also some very convincing water rippling effects in the underwater scenes.

Watch ‘De verzonken klokken’ yourself and tell me what you think:

De verzonken klokken 1957

‘De verzonken klokken’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Maarten Koopman
Release Date: 2008
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Theatre Patouffe © Musch & Tinbergen‘Theatre Patouffe’ features a performance of lifeless objects, mostly of things on wheels, but also of some furniture performing acrobatics, and of three flying machines.

The objects and theater settings are beautifully made, and evoke a very surreal atmosphere, reminiscent of Jan Švankmajer’s films. Moreover, the film is full of clever ideas, and at one point one of the contraption even shows films of other contraptions performing, creating quite a Droste effect.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from the lack of a story arc. This renders the short unsatisfying, despite the intriguing images, and unique atmosphere

‘Theatre Patouffe’ is available on the DVD ‘Animazing! – Mindblowing Animation Films Supportes by the Netherlands Film Fund 1998-2008’

Directors: Paul Driessen & Kaj Driessen
Release Date: 2008
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The 7 Brothers © Paul DriessenWith ‘The 7 Brothers’ Dutch director Paul Driessen elaborates on the fairy tale ideas he had explored in ‘3 Misses’ (1988).

‘The 7 Brothers’ tells the tale of no less than seven old writers, and their stories, all Driessen’s own idiosyncratic variations on classic fairy tales, featuring a mixture of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats, Snow White, Puss in Boots and Hansel and Gretel. There are seven short gags, all rather cruel takes on the familiar tales.

The film is unique within Driessen’s oeuvre, for its use of live action: the seven gag segments are bridged by shots of the old men wandering on a cobbled street at night. These surreal live action images were directed by his son, Kaj Driessen. The result is a beautiful and funny, if rather unassuming film.

Watch ‘The 7 Brothers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The 7 Brothers’ is available on the DVD ‘Animazing! – Mindblowing Animation Films Supportes by the Netherlands Film Fund 1998-2008’

Director: Arjan Wilschut
Release Date: 2006
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Hard Boiled Chicken © il Luster‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ is a short gag short about a rooster and a chicken who try to save their egg from the farmer.

The film is shot in sepia tones, and uses simple comic designs on the chickens, while the cat and the farmer are a little more elaborate in design. The short partly evokes the atmosphere of a film noir detective, but this idea is not worked out well (for example, the short also features a totally unrelated The Matrix-inspired moment), and in the end the short falls short in its inconsistency. Yet, ‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ is a small, gentle film, and excellent for children.

Watch ‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ is available as a bonus on the DVD ‘Animazing! – Mindblowing Animation Films Supportes by the Netherlands Film Fund 1998-2008’ and on the DVD ‘Independent Animation from The Netherlands Volume 2’

Director: Henk Kabos
Release Date: 1943
Rating: ★★
Review:

Das musikalische Auto © Toonder studio's‘Das musikalische Auto’ is a Toonder studio film commissioned by Nazi Germany.

It’s a strange little tale of a man who ‘improves’ an old car into a musical instrument. He tours around the countryside, until his car crashes against a tree.

The soundtrack of this film has been lost, so we don’t know how the musical car sounds, but the film feels uninspired: the story lacks any logic, and the animation is primitive and raw. It contains some elements both 1930s Fleischer and Disney, without reaching either peaks.

In his autobiography Marten Toonder states that the idea of this cartoon had its origins in the German UFA studio, who wanted a story on a tumble toy. Toonder soon gave the tumble toy arms and legs, but he and his studio only halfheartedly worked on this ill-conceived idea, and it shows. Nevertheless, some of the designs are quite charming: the backgrounds have an unmistakable Toonder-touch, and the animals in the cartoon do look good.

‘Das musikalische Auto’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Joop Geesink?
Release Date: 1943
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Phi-garo in het woud © Toonder Studio'sSerenata nocturna‘, Marten Toonder’s and Joop Geesink’s first stop motion film, did raise interest of Philips, and the Dutch electronics company commissioned another short to advertise the Philishave, an electronic razor. This resulted in ‘Phi-garo in het woud’.

in ‘Phi-garo in het woud’ a bearded gnome tries to impress a female elf, but she rejects him. The gnome gets a shave at the local barber, but the elf still rejects him. Then a witch shows him the Philips Philishave, which does the trick.

‘Phi-Garo in het woud’ is less entertaining than ‘Serenata nocturna’, its story less logical, and its designs more generic than in the earlier cartoon. The animation, however, is a little more assured. More commissions were now to follow.

Watch ‘Phi-garo in het woud’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Phi-garo in het woud’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Joop Geesink
Production Date: September 1942
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Serenata nocturna © Toonder studio's‘Serenata nocturna’ is the first collaboration between two Dutch animation film pioneers, Marten Toonder and Joop Geesink.

The collaboration results in a charming little advertising film about a Mexican who tries to serenade his love, to no avail. He tries several instruments, without success. But then he magically produces a Philips Radio, and finally his love is impressed.

The puppet animation in this short is very reminiscent of that of George Pal, the Hungarian animator, who had an important puppet film studio in Eindhoven in the late 1930s, and who had made several films for Dutch electronics company Philips himself. Pal, however, had exchanged The Netherlands for the United Kingdom, and finally emigrated to the United States in December 1939, leaving The Netherlands without any animation studio of importance. Now, Toonder and Geesink tried to fill this gap. Perhaps, Philips would be interested to commission films from them.

However, the inexperience of both animators shows: the animation still looks primitive, with a lot of excessive movement. The short’s story, however, is funny and still entertaining today. Indeed, Philips saw potential, and would become an important commissioner to both film makers.

Toonder would soon abandon stop motion, but Geesink would continue in the field, creating one of the most successful stop motion animation studios of the post-war era.

Watch ‘Serenata nocturna’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Serenata nocturna’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Harold Mack
Release Date: August 1, 1952
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

De gouden vis © Toonder Studio'sBy 1952 the Dutch Toonder studios had been producing animation films for ten years, and now they were ready to produce a ‘free film’, not commissioned, but out of their own ideas.

The first of these free films was ‘De gouden vis’ (The Golden Fish). It was Marten Toonder’s old wish to produce a free film, and the result is clearly a work of love. ‘De gouden vis’ is an astonishing achievement for the Dutch studio: all elements of animation film have matured in this film: its storytelling is original, its designs are gorgeous, the animation is excellent, the effects are convincing and its atmosphere is unique. The result is arguably one of the most beautiful films ever made in The Netherlands.

Based on a story by Marten Toonder’s brother, Jan Gerhard Toonder, the film tells about the Chinese prince Li Pai, who repeatedly asks an old wise fish how to live. The fish tells the prince that his eyes know the answer, but Li Pai misinterprets what he sees, and only in old age he discovers the truth…

The film has a genuinely Chinese atmosphere, thanks to designs by Pamela & Harold Mack and backgrounds by Cees van de Weert and Ling Nan Lung. The film hasn’t aged a bit, except for Nell Knoop’s Dutch narration, which has an unmistakable 1950s diction.

Unfortunately, ‘De gouden vis’, in spite of praise on several film festivals around the world, only returned a mere thousand guilders, while its production had costed about 40,000 guilders. So, during the rest of its existence, the Toonder studios produced only a handful of other ‘free films’, most notably ‘Moonglow’ (1955).

‘De gouden vis’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1988
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

De schrijver en de dood © Paul DriessenIn an old castle a medieval writer is writing such lively stories, it  attracts Death’s attention.

The writer tells a story about a peddler and his son, who has a touch of magic. All goes well, until Death comes in, and messes with the writer’s stories to ruin them and fill them with death and misery. Nevertheless, he fails to kill the son, who’s the writer’s main protagonist. With his magical powers the young boy escapes certain death several times. However, when in the end, the writer turns out to be same man as the little boy in his stories, Death has the last laugh.

‘De schrijver en de dood’ is one of Paul Driessen’s darkest and gloomiest films. His typical black humor is not absent, and is best visible in the little snapshots, which disrupt the story’s continuity for small morbid gags. But more than in any other of his films death is more disturbing than funny, and the sadness and misery are heartfelt. At the same time, it’s also one of Driessen’s most poetical films. The images are rich and full of fantasy, and in his own way Driessen creates a convincing medieval world to marvel at.

Watch ‘De schrijver en de dood’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘De schrijver en de dood’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1985
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Spiegeleiland © Paul Driessen‘Spiegeleiland’ is a short and stylized animation film, which uses one scene and one perspective only.

We watch a castaway on an island and his reflection. The castaway is visited by a female companion and rescued by a ship. Or is he? The reflection tells another tale…

This simple story is told without dialogue and with the greatest economy. Like ‘Ei om zeep’ (The Killing of an Egg’) and ‘Het treinhuisje’ (Home on the Rails) we watch a single tableau. In ‘Spiegeleiland’ Driessen takes this format even further, limiting his action to a circle with only a tiny island within.

The result is without doubt one of Driessen’s strongest and most poetic films. Driessen would reuse this method of parallel depiction of reality and fantasy to a great effect in the tragic ‘The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg’ from 2000.

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

‘Spiegeleiland’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Oh What A Knight © Paul Driessen‘Oh What a Knight’ is a short and funny gag film in which a knight rescues a princess from a dragon, a cyclope, a snake and a villain, only to watch her fall in love with his empty shiny armor.

Driessen’s unique animation style is most present in this cartoon. For example, the knight has an odd way of falling to pieces and reassembling himself. ‘Oh What a Knight’ is one of Driessen’s funniest films. In fact it would not be surpassed until his ‘3 Misses’ from 1998.

Watch ‘Oh What a Knight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Oh What a Knight’ is avaiable on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1981
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Het treinhuisje (Home on the Rails) © Paul Driessen‘Het treinhuisje’ is one of Paul Driessen’s most beautiful films.

This short builds on the surreal concept of a home built right on a railway track. The daily life of the couple living in the house is dominated by a train passing right through their home at certain times.

With simple and direct storytelling Driessen sets the drama, in which this very train ruins the life of the couple. All the time we stick inside the couple’s home. Only when the man tells of his misfortunes, we shortly cut to the outside world. Ironically, it’s the railway itself that ruins the couple’s life.

The story is told without dialogue, and supported by beautiful country music. The emotions of the couple are depicted well, and are very subtle. However, the film also shows Driessen’s typical animation style at its most radical: the film’s surrealism is enhanced by strange disappearances of the characters when they cross the room and by a ghostly avant-image of the train before it really enters the house.

The film also shares the trademark morbid humor with other Driessen films, especially in the cuckoo clock and in the persistent fly bugging the characters throughout the picture. Nevertheless, the melancholy atmosphere dominates, and its the film’s drama that impresses the viewer time and time again.

Watch ‘Het treinhuisje’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Het treinhuisje’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1980
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Ter land, ter zee en in de lucht © Paul DriessenIn this film Paul Driessen experiments with the split screen for the first time.

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:

‘Te land, ter zee en in de lucht’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1977
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Ei om zeep © Paul DriessenA man is going to eat an egg, when he suddenly hears a voice from within. He destroys the egg, killing the unseen victim. However his cruel behavior is soon punished in an echo of events.

‘The Killing of an Egg’ is a short cartoon with a very limited setting. The whole action takes place within a single square frame and its perspective is changed only once. In this claustrophobic surrounding the story unfolds its own inner logic. In this limited time-space Paul Driessen shows his mastery of story telling.

This classic cartoon is a prime example of Paul Driessen’s mature style. It’s the first film in which he plays with framing the action (soon followed by split screens, eventually leading to the extreme example of ‘The End of the World in Four Seasons’ from 1995). The film shows Driessen’s typical way of telling a short story based on a simple, yet clever idea which makes the cartoon tick like an inevitable fate. Later examples of this style are ‘Home on the Rails‘ (1981) and ‘Sunny Side Up‘ (1985). And finally, this film is typical of Driessen’s dark humor, which always has a disturbing edge to it. We may feel as powerful as this man, but we, too, will be crushed in the end…

Watch ‘Ei om zeep’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

‘Ei om zeep’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1977
Rating: ★★★
Review:

David © Paul Driessen

After working in Canada for the NFB for five years, Driessen experienced a major personal setback, when his marriage failed, and his ex left for The Netherlands with their two children. Driessen soon missed his son and daughter and returned to his native country himself.

In The Netherlands he rented a small attic in The Hague to work and live in. Here he made ‘David’, which he dedicated to his children Anouk and Kaj.

David is the world’s tiniest cartoon star. He’s so small, even the little gnomes can’t see him. During most of the cartoon his presence is only known by his footsteps and his voice. In fact, David is probably the first cartoon star to remain invisible throughout the picture. Nevertheless, Driessen manages to keep the film entertaining, even though most of the time we look at an empty screen.

This film is clearly meant for children and unfortunately, it is hampered by its slowness and large amount of dialogue of David himself (in the Dutch version provided by actor Aart Staartjes). Much of the fun is in David trying to make himself known. Despite its joyful spirit, the film contains a morbid ending, when David, having survived a giant and a predatory bird, is eventually squashed by an unknowing pedestrian…

‘David’ was Driessen’s sixth film, and his idiosyncratic style has matured immensely since his first film, ‘The Story of Little John Bailey‘ (1970). With his next film ‘Killing of an Egg‘ he would animate his first masterpiece.

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

‘David’ is available on the DVD  ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

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