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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 29, 1938
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Hold It © Max FleischerIn ‘Hold It’ a bunch of cats sing a song with many stops in it, a rather lame variation on the 1937 hit song ‘Posin”.

At the stops everybody freezes, including the singing cat himself, who’s able to hang still in mid-air. Later, the cats’ song manages to stop apples from falling and water from flowing.

These rather original and silly gags save the cartoon, which otherwise is anything but interesting, The cats’ song is too trite to become a real classic, and apart from the threat of a dog, nothing really happens in the cartoon. And yet, ‘Hold It’ marks a welcome diversion from the childish morality tales that most Color Classics are. As is often the case with the Color Classics, the opening scene is the most memorable, with its beautiful 3D shots of a village going to sleep. This scene takes a full minute off the cartoon, while the song only enters after the third minute.

Watch ‘Hold It’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hold It’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 31, 1937
Rating:
Review:

Little Lamby © Max Fleischer‘Little Lamby’ is one of the most sickeningly sugary entries within Max Fleischer’s Color Classics series.

In this short we watch an evil fox entering peaceful ‘Animalville’. In order to catch some fresh meat, he organizes a baby contest with himself as the judge. He chooses an innocent little lamb as the winner. As the fox states it : “He’s the winner, and my dinner”, before he rushes off on a motorcycle to his hideout. Of course, the townspeople follow him, and during the film’s climax they try to enter the fox’s tree house, while the fox prepares the totally unaware lamb for dinner…

‘Little Lamby’ is totally devoid of humor, and the short is hampered by tiresome vocalizations, especially of the fox, whose wordless grunts get on the nerves. Moreover, the animation is erratic, with the quality often not exceeding that of cartoons from four/five years earlier. No, the only interesting thing about ‘Little Lamby’ is its opening shot, in which we watch the fox wandering through a beautiful 3D tabletop landscape.

Watch ‘Little Lamby’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Little Lamby’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: October 29, 1937
Rating: ★★
Review:

Educated Fish © Max FleischerIn many Color Classics the opening sequence is the most interesting part, mostly because of the spectacular 3D effects of Fleischer’s tabletop backgrounds.

‘Educated Fish’ doesn’t employ the tabletop, but even in this short the opening scene is the most interesting part of the cartoon, with its convincing animation of rolling waves. The rest is a childish and tiresome cartoon about a small fish called Tommy who plays hooky and gets caught by a fisherman. In the end he clearly has learned his lesson.

True, there are a handful of nice gags, like the teacher eating the worm in the apple instead of the apple itself. And the sexy worm, with her Mae West-like voice, is nice to watch, but these factors cannot rescue a cartoon that almost collapses under its self-importance and lack of humor. Nevertheless, this cartoon was nominated for an Academy Award (which it understandably lost to Disney’s tour de force ‘The Old Mill‘), and thus, Tommy would return in ‘Small Fry’ (1939), which is even worse.

Watch ‘Educated Fish’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Educated Fish’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Somewhere in Dreamland – Max Fleischer’s Color Classics: The Definitive Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 3, 1934
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Poor Cinderella © Paramount‘Poor Cinderella’ is the first of Fleischer’s Color Classics series, a series meant to compete with Walt Disney’s ‘Silly Symphonies’.

It features Fleischer’s proven star Betty Boop in her only appearance in color, and it’s undoubtedly her most elaborate cartoon.

Although filmed in the two-color technique of Cinecolor, which only uses reds and blues, its designs are lush and colorful. Nevertheless, ‘Poor Cinderella’ remained the only Color Classic in Cinecolor. The seven subsequent entries were filmed in 2-color Technicolor, using reds and greens, until Disney’s monopoly of 3-color Technicolor expired in 1936. The first full color Color Classic was ‘Somewhere in Dreamland‘ from January that year.

Apart from color, ‘Poor Cinderella’ boasts some stunning backgrounds, using Fleischer’s unique 3D-technique for the first time. In this technique 3D sets are used as a background to the animated cells to mesmerizing effects. Until the invention of the multiplane camera, which made his debut in ‘The Old Mill‘ in 1937, Fleischer’s 3D technique remained unchallenged in its wonderful creation of depth.

The story is quite faithful to the original fairy tale, albeit with some typical Fleischer touches. For instance, when the Fairy Godmother gets Betty into a wonderful outfit, the latter is seen in her underwear, something that would never happen to Disney’s Cinderella.

Oddly, Betty is red-haired and blue-eyed in this cartoon; probably to make her fit in better with the designs of those same colors. The changes between the scenes are creative and original. The Fairy Godmother is closer to human design than anything in previous Fleischer cartoons. The horses are drawn very realistically, as well, surpassing comparable designs at the Disney studio, although they do not move correctly.

‘Poor Cinderella’ was clearly made with the intention to compete with Disney, and remarkably, it does challenge that studio. Nevertheless, the Fleischer studio had difficulties to be on par with the ever advancing Disney studio, which pushed the limits of animation in almost every Silly Symphony it released, leaving the promise of ‘Poor Cinderella’ unfulfilled.

Watch ‘Poor Cinderella’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Poor Cinderella’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 17, 1936
Rating:

Review:

Somewhere in Dreamland © Max FleischerMax Fleischer’s first full color cartoon is in the same vein as Disney’s ‘Lullaby Land‘ (1933) and Walter Lantz’s ‘Candy Land’ (1934), depicting little children’s wonderful dreams.

‘Somewhere in Dreamland’ deals with two very poor children who dream that they are in dreamland which is full of candy and toys. Fleischer’s 3D-technique is used with stunning results, and the cartoon must have struck a chord with the audience during the Great Depression era, in which poverty was an all too familiar thing. Indeed, as children the Fleischer Brothers themselves had known hunger like depicted in the film, when their father ran out of business. Unfortunately, the cartoon is remarkably unfunny and sickeningly sweet, following similar sugary outings in Disney’s Silly Symphonies series, like ‘Funny Little Bunnies‘ (1934) and ‘The Robber Kitten‘ (1935).

Unlike those films, however, ‘Somewhere in Dreamland’ suffers from primitive designs. The children’s mother looks like a relative of Olive Oyl, while the little children are drawn in typical thirties kids style resembling Hänsel and Gretel from Disney’s ‘Babes in the Woods‘ from four years earlier. The result is that none of the characters seem to fit within the elaborate 3D-sets.

Watch ‘Somewhere in Dreamland’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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