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Director: Petra Freeman
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★½
Review:

‘Jumping Joan’ is a dreamlike short about a girl who seems able to jump inside and outside reality.

The narrative is set around a house in the countryside, next to a forest and a river. Petra Freedman’s images are poetic and intriguing, but also very vague and incomprehensible. If there’s a story to this film I couldn’t detect it. What remains are the soft painted images of the girl moving through a garden and other-wordly places, meeting spirits of the earth, the wood and the sky, or so it seems.

The film turns particularly puzzling when the little girl drops two bunny-like creatures from under her skirt, which dance with a blue spirit, living inside a hollow tree, while the girl seems to change into some electrical firework(?) What this all might mean, remains an utter mystery to me.

Petra Freeman’s drawing style is soft, and a little spiritual. Her animation style is a bit slow, but very imaginative, and she uses a fair amount of metamorphosis to tell her story. The film is dominated by earthly reds and blacks, and the dreamlike atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the sound design, which uses strange sounds, and very little music.

Watch ‘Jumping Joan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Jumping Joan’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Directors: Mike Gabriel & Eric Goldberg
Release Date: June 23, 1995
Rating: ★★½
Review:

In the early nineties the Walt Disney studio was on a roll. Since 1989’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ all its features met with both critical acclaim and huge box office successes. Especially, the studio’s previous film, ‘The Lion King’ (1994) rather unexpectedly broke all box office records, being the highest-grossing motion picture of all time until ‘Finding Nemo’ came along in 2003.

Thus, not surprisingly, the expectations were high for Disney’s next feature, ‘Pocahontas’, only to be followed by a huge letdown, even though the feature did rather well at the box office. ‘Pocahontas’ fails in almost every aspect Disney’s previous features succeeded: the film lacks an engaging story, interesting protagonists, a threatening villain, appealing sidekicks, inspired humor or great songs. Of course, being a Disney film, the film’s animation is outstanding, and so is the film’s design, but that’s unfortunately not enough to rescue a film that collapses under its own pretentiousness.

The film is very, very loosely based on the historical John Smith’s accounts of Pocahontas (ca. 1596-1617), and is terribly unhistorical in almost every aspect. Worse, the film is saturated by political correctness to a fault, and can count as a document of historical revisionism. The film tries very, very hard to portray the native Americans as real people, but nevertheless falls into the trap of the ‘noble savage’, reinforcing the myth that native Americans were living in more harmony with nature than Europeans ever did. Of course, the coming of the Europeans was a tragedy to the native Americans, as it started their demise (only a mere handful of the Tsenacommacah, the tribe depicted, still survive today), and it is practically impossible to make a positive film, let alone an uplifting Disney musical, out of such subject matter. In that respect the film was doomed from the outset.

The film starts In London with governor Ratcliffe (1549-1609) wanting to explore the new world to regain status at the court of king James I. We watch Ratcliffe establish Jamestown , and in the finale of the film Ratcliffe is overthrown by his own men, a very unlikely event, by all means (in reality Ratcliffe was killed in an ambush by members of the Pamunkey tribe). While in Virginia Ratcliffe is obsessed with gold only, regarding the native inhabitants as mere pests.

The misunderstanding between the Tsenacommacah and the British almost leads to war, while the love between Pocahontas and John Smith shows that this does not need to be so. The film is one large advertisement for mutual understanding. A welcome message, for sure, but delivered with heavy-handedness and aplomb. In fact, the rather hippie-like message of love conquers all has been stale since 1970, and is in fact rather painful considering the real events following the establishment of the British colony in Virginia.

Additionally, the film suffers from dire dialogue, and an all too obvious emphasis on delivering its message. Most of the movie progresses slowly and sentimentally. What doesn’t help is the uneasy mix between the serious clashes between the human groups, and the fluffy child’s world of the animal sidekicks. Perhaps the film’s best scene is the final one, in which, against all rules of Disney logic, Pocahontas and John Smith part, never to be reunited again…

Part of the movie’s problems are the leads themselves. Admittedly, star animator Glen Keane has animated Pocahontas very well – especially the scenes just prior the first meeting between her and John Smith are outstanding. However, Pocahontas is presented as a brave, mature and independent woman, which contrasts highly with her childish animal friends, and, to be frank, with her rather irresponsible behavior. Moreover, she has very little to do with the historical Pocahontas, who converted to Christianity, while the movie Pocahontas practically converts John Smith to animalism, in a historically very, very unlikely sequence. Even worse, the real Pocahontas later married a planter, and died already at the tender age of 21. These facts are hard to bear when looking at the stout and proud woman Pocahontas is in the Disney film.

Yet, Pocahontas fares much better than her lover John Smith, Unlike Pocahontas, it’s pretty hard to love John Smith, who’s presented as a fearless and almost flawless hero from the outset. John Smith is surprisingly blasé, and pretty vain, too. In fact, in a way Smith has more in common with Gaston from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ than the animators would be willing to admit, and there’s nothing really interesting about him. In fact, Smith remains a remarkably blank character, having a bland design and a weak story arc, typified with the song ‘Savages’, in which Pocahontas teaches him a lesson on the subject of ‘savages’, the worst of the all too clear messages of political correctness in the film. Animator John Pomeroy must have had a hard time breathing some life into this dull character.

More interesting characters are Pocahontas’ friend Nakoma, who, to me, has actually a more appealing character design than Pocahontas herself has, and her father, Chief Powhatan, who arguably is the best designed character in the whole movie. These two Indians are more interesting than all Europeans. Best of these is Thomas, a youngster that is so clumsy he would have died within months in the real world. Governor Ratcliffe is a very unhistorical character, who looks more Spanish than British, and who is foolish enough to try to dig up gold at a random shore. In the 17th century they certainly knew better than that. Ratcliffe is a rather poor excuse for a villain: he’s more vain than scary, and at no point a real threat to anyone, as is proven by the film’s finale. He’s accompanied by a servant called Wiggins, who provides the only convincing comic relief in this all too serious film.

Wiggins certainly is more tolerable than the three animal characters, the overtly cute raccoon Meeko, ditto hummingbird Flit, and Ratcliffe’s pet pug Percy. The three steal considerable screen time, they have their own subplot of enemies befriending each other, and are completely out of tune with the serious subject of clash of civilizations, and threat of war. By the time ‘Pocahontas’ was released, one got the impression that ‘animal sidekicks’ were obligate additions to the rule book of Disney feature film making, a feeling that was corroborated by ‘Mulan’ (1998), in which the animal sidekicks (a dragon and a cricket for God’s sake!) were even more outlandish and superfluous.

Yet, the worst character in the whole movie is Grandmother Willow, a talking tree. Apart from the fact that she’s brought alive by dated computer animation, this is a concept that even in a world full of spirits I will not buy. Grandmother Willow is such an outlandish, unbelievable character, she hampers the whole movie, and makes it very, very difficult indeed, to take the more realistic events seriously. Someone should have vetoed her presence early in the conceptualization of the story.

The soundtrack isn’t of any help either. The songs are by composer Alan Menken, who provided the hit songs for ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989), ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991) and ‘Aladdin’ (1992). Not one of the songs in ‘Pocahontas’, however, reaches these heights. Instead, we are treated by very generic and surprisingly forgettable nineties-musical songs. What certainly doesn’t help are the trite lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, which suffer from the same political correctness as the rest of the movie. The ‘Savages’ song forms the low point of the film in that respect.

No, the film’s unquestionably strongest point is its design, and it’s art director Michael Giaimo and artistic coordinator Don Hansen who should be praised most. More than any other Disney film of the Disney renaissance ‘Pocahontas’ looks back to the stylized designs of the late 1950s. For example, the film starts with a 1607 scene that is very reminiscent of the London scene in ‘The Truth About Mother Goose’ (1957), while in the rest of the film the background art, supervised by Cristy Maltese, is a straight echo of Eyvind Earle’s artwork for ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1959), including square trees. The human designs, too, are more angular than ever, even to a fault, rendering some of the characters stiff and unappealing, especially some of the Indians, who at times look like technical art school drawings instead of living humans.

In fact, the film is most interesting for its outstanding color design, which with its grand greens, blues and purples is comparable to the best of ‘Fantasia’ (1940) and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, and one must admit that ‘Pocahontas’ certainly is a film worth looking at, if not necessarily one to watch. Indeed, I believe ‘Pocahontas’ will be remembered for its design elements, a clear product of the animation renaissance, especially as an early product of the school that looked back to the cartoon modern age (ca. 1948-1965), as exemplified by several television series from Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network from the second half of the nineties, which were, not surprisingly, often made by former CalArts students of Giaimo.

Watch the trailer for ‘Pocahontas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pocahontas’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: John Eng
Airing Date: March 25, 1995
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★½
Review:

In this mediocre Duckman episode a guy named Milo, owner of a rehab clinic for the rich and famous, asks the help of Duckman to find out who wants to murder him.

Unfortunately, the man is killed even before Duckman can start the case. But Duckman isn’t focused anyway, and it’s up to Cornfed to solve the murder mystery, while Duckman gets ravingly mad in rehab.

Duckman behaves more cartoony than ever in this episode, and his hallucinatory ride in which he has visions of food and women forms the highlight of the cartoon. But he’s playing second base this time, for much screen-time is devoted to his assistant Cornfed at his most serious. There’s also some random violence by Duckman on his cutesy-wootsy assistants Fluffy and Uranus.

Watch ‘Days of Whining and Neurosis’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 16
To the previous Duckman episode: Married Alive
To the next Duckman episode: Inherit the Judgement: The Dope’s Trial

‘Days of Whining and Neurosis’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Lynn Smith
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★½

‘Sandburg’s Arithmetic’ is a gentle if unremarkable children’s film which uses the poet Carl Sandburg’s reading of his own poem ‘Arithmetic’ as its basis.

Smith illustrates the poem with painted animation images of birds, children, numbers and a zebra, which all sprout from the text. The film has a happy atmosphere, greatly helped by the vivid colors and Zander Amy’s rustic, yet lively music. Smith’s strongest point in animation is her command of perspective, event though she’s no Georges Schwizgebel.

‘Sandburg’s Arithmetic’ is a charming little film, but no more than that. But then again, it doesn’t aim to.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Sandburg’s Arithmetic’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sandburg’s Arithmetic’ is available on the The Animation Show of Shows DVD Box Set 6

Director: Paul Demeyer
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: April 30, 1994
Rating: ★★½

Still from 'Not So Easy Riders' featuring Duckman and Cornfed as Easy Riders

This episode is all about the money. It starts with Duckman chasing a one dollar bill on a busy street, getting hit by cars and trucks repeatedly.

Next Duckman gets a letter from the IRS summoning him to finally pay his taxes. With help of a motor gang Duckman escapes, and, together with Cornfed, ends up in Las Vegas.

‘Not So Easy Riders’ contains obvious references to ‘Easy Rider’ (1969). Especially Duckman’s psychedelic trip is noteworthy for its continuous flow of metamorphosis animation and psychedelic sixties-like imagery.

Moreover, the episode can boost to contain some nice snippets of familiar Frank Zappa songs, like ‘Disco Boy’ and ‘Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance’.

Yet, its story arch is weak and the humor relies a little too much on dialogue.

Watch ‘Not So Easy Riders’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 9
To the previous Duckman episode: A Civil War
To the next Duckman episode: It’s the Thing of the Principal

‘Not So Easy Riders’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Norton Virgien
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: March 19, 1994
Rating: ★★½

Still from 'Gripes of Wrath' featuring Cornfed and Duckman wandering through the perfect world

After the first two great Duckman episodes, ‘Gripes of Wrath’ feels as an enormous letdown. Compared to the earlier two entries, this story is surprisingly disjointed.

The episode starts with Duckman wanting to go to mud wrestling, but ending up taking his sons to a science exhibition instead. There they meet a giant supercomputer, and before soon this machine has taken over the world and turned it into a perfect one. But this perfection can’t last and as easily the same world disintegrates into one worse than before.

These series of events are clearly modeled on ‘Back to the Future Part II’ (1989), with a bit of ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’ thrown in.

Unfortunately, the story is told rather confusingly and quite hard to follow, and the underlying discourse about the use of technology never really takes off properly.

Watch ‘Gripes of Wrath’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 3
To the previous Duckman episode: T.V. or Not to Be
To the next Duckman episode: Psyche

‘Gripes of Wrath’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Earl Hurd
Release Date: September 17, 1917
Stars: Bobby Bumps
Rating: ★★½

Bobby Bumps Starts for School © Bray PicturesThe Bobby Bumps series was conceived and drawn by Earl Hurd, the inventor of cel animation, and his series is the first to employ this new technique.

‘Bobby Bumps starts for School’ is the 23rd entry in the series, and this film transcends the tiresome dullness of the limited animation dominating the cartoons of the 1910s with the charm of the drawings.

Bobby Bumps has to go to school. First he’s washed by his ma, then we watch him walking to school, carrying ridiculously large books on his back. At school he imagines himself playing ball with his dog Fido (visualized on his desk). The body of the film involves some antics with the school bell and the headmaster. The film ends with a little mouse writing ‘Earl Hurd’.

‘Bobby Bumps Starts for School’ is full of clever ideas and elegant, if very limited animation. Especially the animation on Fido’s walk is very well done. Throughout it’s clear that Earl Hurd knows how to draw and his perspective drawing is excellent.

Watch ‘Bobby Bumps Starts for School’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bobby Bumps Starts for School’ is available on the Blu-Ray-DVD-combo ‘Cartoon Roots’

Director: Břetislav Pojar
Release Date: 1959
Rating: ★★½

Lev a písnicka (The Lion and the Music) © Břetislav Pojar‘Lev a písnicka’ is a Czech puppet film in the tradition of Jiří Trnka.

The short tells about a bandoneon-playing actor who travels through the desert, but who finds a resting place at an abandoned ruin. There he performs before a small crowd of animals (two lizards, a fennec, and an antelope). But then a ferocious lion enters the scene…

In ‘Lev a písnicka’ Pojar tells a surprising story. Moreover, he uses a small but effective decor, and some spectacular cinematography. He shows he’s a clear master of animation, making the inner feelings of expressionless puppets come to life by movement only. Especially the animation of the lizards is well done. But the film’s animation highlight goes to the scene that shows the lion’s despair after he has swallowed the bandoneon, which keeps on playing in his stomach, robbing him from his stealth, and thus of a welcome meal.

Nevertheless, the film is hampered by a slow speed, and quite some scenes are unessential to the story. In the end Pojar’s film is too long and too unfocused to become a real classic.

Watch ‘Lev a písnicka’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Lev a písnicka’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Annecy – Le coffret du 50e Anniversaire’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 24, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Good Scout © Hanna-BarberaIn this episode Fred takes on a job as scout leader of the Sabre-Toothed Tiger Patrol, consisting of three little boys.

Fred and Barney go camping with the three kids. This main part of the episode consists of four rather unrelated and mediocre blackout gags: Fred encountering a sabre-toothed bear, Barney and Fred clearing the camping area by removing boulders in a few rather Roadrunner-like gags, and the scouting team playing baseball. The trip abruptly ends, when their tent floats down a stream and straight to the obligatory waterfall at night.

In the opening scenes Fred has acquired a new walking cycle. The night scenes feature some beautiful and very stylish background art work. Also beautiful is the shot of the scouting team marching in silhouette. However, highlight of the episode is the late double-take on Wilma when Fred tells her he has joined the boy scouts.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Good Scout’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 24
To the previous Flintstones episode:  The Long, Long Weekend
To the next Flintstones episode: Rooms for Rent

‘The Good Scout’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 17, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

In the Dough © Hanna-BarberaWilma and Betty enter a baking contest with their recipe for an upside down bubble cake.

Fred ain’t too enthusiastic, until he hears of the prize money of $10,000. Indeed, Betty and Wilma get to the finals. But they get the measles, and cannot leave home. Enter Fred’s lunatic plan to take their place, impersonating Mrs. Rubble and Flintstone.

Following Betty’s and Wilma’s recipe, Fred and Barney even manage to win, but as Barney had used flour brand B instead of the sponsor’s Tastry Pastry flour, they never get the $10,000. Even worse, their plan only backfires on them, with the wives blackmailing them to tell their friends of their temporary womanhood.

‘In the Dough’ is a rather run of the mill episode, with the most inspired gag being a throwaway gag at the start of the show: Wilma packing Fred’s enormous lunch box. Moreover, this is another episode unwillingly revealing the plight of 1960s housewives: they pack their husbands’ lunchboxes, and only by using blackmail they can make their husbands doing the dishes…

‘In the Dough’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: February 24, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Tycoon © Hanna-BarberaThis episode has an unusual narrative structure. It immediately starts differently, using a narrator, who first introduces bedrock and its inhabitants, before focusing on Fred Flintstone. Moreover, the episode uses a flashback, and ends inconclusive, much unlike all the other Flintstone episodes.

The story is an example of a classic mistaken identity, when Fred Flintstone is mistaken for business tycoon J.L. Gotrocks, and vice versa. The problems start when Gotrocks flips his wig, resigns and goes out on the street, and his employees convince Fred to take Gotrocks place. Surprisingly Fred does an amazing job by saying “whose baby is that?”, “What’s your angle?” and “I’ll buy that” only.

Nevertheless, the comedy hardly comes off, as the lookalike plot never gets convincing. The best prehistory gag involves a bird voice recorder, which repeats the message when thrown a cracker.

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

‘The Tycoon’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: December 30, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Prowler © Hanna-BarberaThere’s a prowler in town and Betty and Wilma are taking judo lessons to protect themselves.

Fred doesn’t approve and to prove that this self-defense is all nonsense he dresses up like a burglar himself to scare the wives. When he and the real prowler turn up at the same time, this causes a lot of misunderstandings.

This is a particularly slapstick-rich episode, with Fred and Barney trying to get Fred through Barney’s window, Fred repeatedly running into the real prowler, and Fred getting a beating from Betty, Wilma and the prowler.

There are also two nice prehistoric gags: Fred uses a bee in a shell for a razor, and a dinosaur lawn mower.

Unfortunately, the episode is hampered by the backward depiction of judo professor Rockimoto, a foul caricature of a Japanese, with the obligatory round glasses, big teeth, and phony accent.

Barney’s voice wavers a little during the episode.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Prowler’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 14
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Drive-in
To the next Flintstones episode: The Girl’s Night Out

‘The Prowler’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: December 2, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

Hollyrock, Here I Come © Hanna-BarberaThe wives win a trip to Hollyrock with their slogan ‘Mother McGuire’s Meatballs don’t bounce’. Within two days Fred and Barney miss their wives so much they decide to follow them.

Before soon, both Wilma and Fred are asked to star in a new television series called ‘The Frogmouth’. But within a day Fred is overdoing it, and the producer makes him nervous to get rid of him.

‘Hollyrock, Here I Come’ plays on the American myth that anybody can become a star. The best gag of this only moderately funny episode comes from the guy on TV announcing the winning slogan. The timing of this gag is surprisingly sharp for the series, which is generally does not display any fast gags. Another highlight is the great wild-eyed take on Fred when Wilma tells him she won a trip to Hollyrock, and he thinks he can go.

As always the concept of a stone age television is rather puzzling, a mystery that is pushed further by the animated commercial.

Watch ‘Hollyrock, Here I Come’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 10
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Engagement Ring
To the next Flintstones episode: The Golf Champion

‘Hollyrock, Here I Come’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: October 28, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Split Personality © Hanna-BarberaIn this episode Fred accidently knocks himself out with a bottle. When he wakes up he has turned into a suave gentleman who loves opera and poetry.

Wilma, Barney and all other husbands soon get really fed up with this new ‘Frederick’ character, so Barney thinks up a scheme to get the old Fred back.

This is one of the more inspired Flintstones episodes, especially the scene in which Fred comes home, growling is a delight. Moreover, this episode finally features no less than three stone age gags: some birdlike creature is Wilma’s waste disposal, Betty’s shower is a mammoth, and Fred’s pick-up is a little bird with a will of his own.

Nevertheless, the episode’s message is rather dubious: one of Frederick’s new habits is his willingness to do some of the house cleaning himself. Such progressive, feminist ideas were clearly out of the question in this era…

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Split Personality’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 5
To the previous Flintstones episode: No Help Wanted
To the next Flintstones episode: The Monster from the Tarpits

‘The Split Personality’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: October 21, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

No Help Wanted © Hanna-BarberaThis episode starts with a conversation between Fred and Wilma providing the back story: due to a stupid action by Fred, Barney got fired. So, Fred helps his neighbor out by making him the caddie of his rich and influential golf partner, Mr. Boulder.

Barney’s authentic instructions makes the big shot win for once, so Barney gets a job as a  debt collector, with his first victim happening to be Fred…

This episode is just one another example of Fred’s tendencies to deceive his wife, refusing to tell Wilma he has gambled the money away, necessary to pay the television bill. The story progresses at an even, rather slow speed, and is only moderately funny. The best scenes are the golf scene and the chase between Fred and Barney, with the latter looking like a television set with legs.

This episode is the first to feature Dino (although he has been in the titles since the beginning). Nevertheless, Dino’s appearance is restricted to the first scene, and no mentioning of him occurs during the rest of the episode.

Watch an excerpt from ‘No Help Wanted’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 4
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Swimming Pool
To the next Flintstones episode: The Split Personality

‘No Help Wanted’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Production Date: 1959
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Flagstones © Hanna-Barbera

‘The Flagstones’ is a demo reel lasting only 95 seconds, with which Hanna and Barbera tried to sell their product: a prime-time television animation series.

However, their title ‘The Flagstones’ resembled ‘The Flagstons’ too much, the surname of Hi and Lois from the comic strip of the same name by Mort Walker and Dick Browne. Thus the name was first changed into ‘The Gladstones’ and finally, into ‘The Flintstones’, the prehistoric family we all know today.

In this demo reel not only the names are different, Betty looks very different, too, and Barney doesn’t sound like himself. Wilma and Fred, on the other hand, are pretty much themselves already.

The demo depicts a short scene from the episode ‘The Swimming Pool’ (the final version can be seen from 10’40 to 12’03 in this episode). ‘The Swimming Pool’ was one of two stories Hanna and Barbera had already conceived before selling the series (the other one was ‘The Flintstone Flyer‘, the first episode to be made and aired).

The looks of the demo may be a little different from the real series, it does show that the Hanna-Barbera product has clear roots in the cartoon modern era, using appealing designs and layouts by Ed Benedict, and beautifully painted background art by Art Lozzi.

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

‘The Flagstones’ is a demo for ‘The Flintstones’.
To the first Flintstones Episode: The Flintstone Flyer

‘The Flagstones’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

 

Director: unknown
Production Date: 1960
Stars: Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Eastern Treasure © Toonder Studios‘The Eastern Treasure’ is based on the great Tom Poes comic strip ‘De achtgever’ (1957).

In this cartoon Ollie Bungle is visited by an Eastern treasurer and his obedient servant, called Kowtow. Ollie Bungle takes over the job as treasurer, and immediately the servant joins his side. In the end Tom Puss manages to get rid of him by making the servant into the treasurer.

The strong story of the comic strip is condensed to its bare essentials, and has lost most of its strengths. Moreover, the two Easterners hardly look that way. ‘The Eastern Treasure’ was the last of the Tom Puss shorts completed, before Toonder discovered he had been swindled. His Tom Puss television series was never aired, neither in the US, for which it had been made, nor anywhere else. A lot of money, effort and work had just been wasted on a scam.

‘The Eastern Treasure’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

 

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: January 18, 1958
Stars: Speedy Gonzales
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tortilla Flaps © Warner Bros.‘Tortilla Flaps’ is a Speedy Gonzales cartoon featuring a vulture as Speedy’s adversary.

The cartoon takes place during Cinco de Mayo. The mice are having their own little festival, where Speedy plays tennis with himself as an attraction at the fair. When the vulture threatens the festival, Speedy Gonzales takes care of him. Soon the vulture surrenders and he ends as an attraction at the fair himself.

‘Tortilla Flaps’ is one of the weaker Speedy Gonzales cartoons: the vulture is a poor substitution for Sylvester, and none of the chase gags are very funny. The best gag arguably is when Speedy makes the bird stop for a passing train, but the bird doesn’t make it in time…

Watch ‘Tortilla Flaps’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Tortilla Flaps’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Max Fleischer
Production Date: 1959
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Imagine That © Max Fleischer‘Imagine That!’ is one of the last products by animation pioneer Max Fleischer.

On January 14, 1958 Fleischer founded a new animation studio, called ‘Out of the Inkwell Films, Inc’, with which he clearly returned to his roots. ‘Imagine That!’ is a product of that studio, scripted and drawn by Fleischer himself. The short is a pilot film for a proposed new nature series for television. In this short Fleischer returns to his earliest films, starting with an inkwell. Soon, a narrator asks the spectator what bird he would like to be if he could be one. In the end he settles on the swift, for sheer looks. What follows are some facts about the swift’s nature and behavior.

Unfortunately, there’s practically no animation, and even that is limited. Even worse, the still images have an extremely old-fashioned look, and the complete film looks like a product of the 1910s, not the late 1950s. One wonders how Fleischer ever thought this miscalculated product would ever work. In any case no one was interested in this product by the old man.

Fleischer had a better chance with a revival of Koko the Clown in a new ‘Out of the Inkwell’ series. This, too, suffered from low budgets and very limited animation, but the series at least reached television in the 1960s. Nevertheless, this new series was far from successful, and ‘Out of the Inkwell Films, Inc’ was finally dissolved at the end of 1964.

‘Imagine That!’ is available on the DVD ‘Before Walt’

Directors: Jerzy Zitman & Lechosław Marszałek
Release Date: 1959
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Bulandra i diabel © Studio Filmów Rysunkowych‘Bulandra i diabel’ retells a story by Polish writer Gustaw Morcinek (1891-1963).

Unfortunately, the story is very hard to follow, not to say incomprehensible. It doesn’t help that there’s no dialogue (when the protagonists talk, you hear some sped up tape sounds). At least the narrative features a miner, a goat, a king and a devil.

Zitman and Marszałek have designed their film like a picture book, and all action takes place in absolute flat space. Neither the background art nor the cut-out figures get any feeling of depth. The background art is neatly designed, combining a naive folk-like quality with a stark cartoon modern design. The cut-out figures however, are animated rather poorly, and hardly display any sense of emotion. The result is rather disappointing.

In fact, ‘Bulandra i diabel’ is most interesting for featuring music by avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki. During this time Penderecki was already experimenting with stochastic techniques and new timbres, but none of that in this film. Here he sticks to a way more accessible rather gritty Béla Bartók-like mid-century modernism.

Watch ‘Bulandra i diabel’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bulandra i diabel’ is available on the DVD set ‘Anthology of Polish Children’s Animation’

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