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Director: Andreas Hykade
Release Date: 1995
Rating: ★★★½

‘Wir lebten im Gras’ is the first of three films in which German animator Andreas Hykade explores the loss of innocence, the other two being ‘Ring of Fire’ (2000) and ‘Der Kloane’ (The Runt, 2006).

The film is also the most cryptic of the three, full of images that are very difficult to decipher. The film is set in a rather mythical place, ‘two streets away from the end of the world’ and has a timeless and universal feel.

The story is told by a boy voice over, who reminisces about his father, who told him that “All women is whore and all men is soldier”. Outside the voice over there is no dialogue. The little boy tries to see the world through his father’s eyes, but this conflicts with his softer side, and he’d rather fall in love with the enigmatic ‘dandelion girl’.

The film is less straightforward than this synopsis suggests, however, and the film is more surreal and suggestive than narrative. For example, the boy’s adventures are interjected by nightmarish dream sequences, the meaning of which is never really explained. These dream sequences are rendered in an expressionistic pastel style, reminiscent of Lorenzo Mattotti’s art work. This style contrasts highly with the simple cel animation.

Hykade’s drawing style is highly original. His human designs are simple, almost stickman-like, but genitals are very prominent, and the father is drawn as a more robust, earthly character.

The animation is very virtuoso, with a great feel for timing. Moreover, Hykade uses a lot of changing perspective, and has an admirable command of movement.

‘Wir lebten im Gras’ was Hykade’s last student film, but it certainly is his first major work. With this film Hykade proved to be a strong new voice in the animation world, a fact he consoled with his masterpiece ‘Ring of Fire’ from 2000.

Watch ‘Wir lebten im Gras’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Wir lebten im Gras’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol. 2’

Director: Jeff McGrath
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: June 11, 1994
Rating: ★★★½

‘Joking the Chicken’ is all about humor. It all starts nicely with a spoof on ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’, now with the invention of humor instead of violence (in fact the invention of humor looks surprisingly like a similar scene in ‘La guerre du feu’ (Quest for Fire) from 1981).

The episode features a dorky bespectacled little stand-up comedian called Iggy Catalpa, who isn’t at all funny, but oh so politically correct. Enter an enigmatic manager who mysteriously turns the failing comedian into a star, forcing all comedy into being politically correct on the way.

It’s clear where the makers are heading, which is nicely summed up during the episode’s finale, in which Duckman holds a powerful speech that not only holds up today, but is even more necessary than ever.

Yet, the episode is hampered by a lack of substance story-wise, and by the reapparance of Duckman’s arch nemesis, King Chicken (see ‘Ride the Highschool‘), who is a much less interesting character than the makers want him to be.

Most strange is a 1930s-like musical number sung by the manager accompanied by Cornfed on the piano. Duckman isn’t impressed, and we are neither, because this number is rather trite than funny, and only manages to emphasize the obsolescence of the style.

Thus ends the first season of Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man. It was clear that there was more to do with the character, thus three seasons would follow, and the series lasted until 1997.

Watch ‘Joking the Chicken’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Joking the Chicken’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Norton Virgien
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: May 21, 1994
Rating: ★★★½

‘Cellar Beware’ is another episode exploring Duckman’s role as a “responsible” father.

This time Aunt Bernice decides to ask some visitors over, and drills the men of the house to behave. She also invites some speaker about home security, and after a lecture full of apparently horrifying slides, the once so skeptical Duckman buys the “Interloper Führer 2000” security system, which soon turns against the family itself.

It’s hard to sympathize with Duckman in this episode, even though he acts surprisingly heroically in the end. The party sequence is probably the highlight of the episode, which is entertaining mostly because of Ajax’s brainless remarks, and because of a bizarre reference to ‘The Sound of Music’. Note Mambo’s very Paul Driessen-like double take ten minutes into the episode.

Watch ‘Cellar Beware’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Cellar Beware’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Igor Kovalyov
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: May 7, 1994
Rating: ★★★½

Russian independent animation master Igor Kovalyov directs this erotically charged episode in which Duckman’s son Ajax falls in love.

The story features a very unlikely undercover investigation by Duckman and Cornfed dressed as ‘teenagers’ in Ajax’s school. More convincing and more importantly to the series is the search for Ajax by Aunt Bernice and Duckman in some honeymoon town in Mexico.

Duckman is more lustful than ever in this episode, which expands on both his relationship with Aunt Bernice as with his son, Ajax. Cornfed, on the other hand, is hardly present. His best gag is when he’s in a tree together with Duckman, spying on Ajax’s vice principle, fooling Duckman with describing erotic images to drive the latter’s lust to a boil.

The whole episode bursts with sex without revealing anything, and certainly is one of the most adult of all Duckman episodes, even if Duckman’s own desires and objectifications of women are rather juvenile.

Watch ‘It’s the Thing of the Principal’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘It’s the Thing of the Principal’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Norton Virgien
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: April 23, 1994
Rating: ★★★½

In an act of jealousy Duckman fires Cornfed, but without his partner the avine crimefighter doesn’t go anywhere in solving a murder case…

This episode knows some extreme camera angles, and a running gag in which everybody sees something else in a Rorschach-test-like pen stain on Duckman’s chest.

Watch ‘A Civil War’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Civil War’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Mike Booth
Release Date: October 1996
Rating: ★★★½

The Saint Inspector © BolexbrothersThis Bolexbrothers short tells about a rather fat, naked hermit. He lives in complete meditation on a platform high above the mountains and clouds.

One day he gets a visit from the ‘saint inspector’, a robot. The robot inspects the meditative state of the hermit, who only once reacts to the robot’s tests. This prompts the robot to look inside the hermit’s brain, which leads to a mesmerizing string of rapidly changing and rather disturbing images.

‘The Saint Inspector’ is quite an absurd film, and more than anything else demonstrates the limitless potential of animation.

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

‘The Saint Inspector’ is available on the DVD ‘The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb’

Directors: Charles Bowers & Raoul Barré
Release Date: 1916
Stars: Mutt and Jeff
Rating: ★★★½

Domestic Difficulties © Barré StudioWhen compared to other studio animation film of the era, Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff cartoons come across as remarkably sophisticated and lush.

Made by animation pioneers Charles Bowers and Raoul Barré at the Barré Studio, the Mutt and Jeff cartoons are very akin to Fisher’s original comic strip, relying heavily on text balloons. In this respect these cartoons are no different from the other studio animation films of the time, However, the animation is much more intricate and less stiff than animation films made at Bray’s studio, and the drawings have an unparalleled clarity, foreshadowing Hergé’s ligne claire. Nevertheless, even this cartoon relies heavily on repeated animation, with many cycles used twice or more.

In this short Mutt sneaks out to go drinking with his mate Jeff, but he’s punished by his wife, who awaits him at home with a rolling pin. There are several gags in this cartoon, but the best is when the whole background keeps revolving around the two drunk characters. This is a very original and wonderful way to depict the drunkenness of the two.

On their way home the two friends sing ‘Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula’, a big hit in 1916. Notice that Mutt and Jeff wear Mickey Mouse-like gloves, showing that these attributes are much older than the mouse.

Watch ‘Domestic Difficulties’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Domestic Difficulties’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

Director: J.R. Bray
Release Date: 1915
Rating: ★★★½

Diplodocus © J.R. Bray‘Diplodocus’ is J.R. Bray’s own version of Winsor McCay’s ‘Gertie the Dinosaur‘ (1914), being so similar to the McCay’s success film that it’s plain plagiarism.

The film stars a Diplodocus instead of a Brontosaur and shows the differences between Bray’s and McCay’s drawing styles, with McCay showing more art nouveau elegance, and Bray displaying more comic strip like clarity.

Bray’s film reuses much of McCay’s material: like Gertie the Diplodocus lifts one foot, shifts from side to side, he gets startled by a flying dragon, interacts with a mastodon, eats a pumpkin etc. Like McCay’s film it’s clear that the film had to be shown together with a live narrator, who interacts with the drawn prehistoric animal.

The only new elements are the Diplodocus tying its neck in a knot, the arrival of a small monkey, and a sea serpent pulling at the mastodon’s trunk.

Bray’s animation is of a high quality, but his Diplodocus lacks Gertie’s personality. Thus this weak rip off only manages to show what great film ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ was, and still is.

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

‘Diplodocus’ is available on the DVD & Blu-Ray-set ‘Cartoon Roots: The Bray Studios Animation Pioneers’

Director: Jiří Brdečka
Release Date: 1963
Rating: ★★★½

Spatne namalovana slepice (Gallina vogelbirdae) © Jiří BrdečkaIn ‘Spatne namalovana slepice (which translates as ‘Badly Drawn Hens’)’ we watch three kids in a school class: a dreamy boy, a little girl who sits next to him, and a nerdy boy with glasses.

When the teacher orders the class to reproduce an intricate drawing of a chicken, the bespectacled boy reproduces the poster with photographic accuracy. The dreamy boy, however, makes a semi-abstract interpretation of the subject and the teacher reprimands the little boy. But then, at night, his colorful drawing comes to life…

This film is a clear ode to fantasy and celebrates the breaking of rules. This is a subject that’s often encountered in European animation films from the 1950s and 1960s, and which would have special appeal in the Eastern Bloc, with its repressive communist regimes.

Brdečka uses an idiosyncratic angular style, clearly influenced by the cartoon modern movement of the 1950s, but especially akin to contemporary developments at Zagreb film in Yugoslavia. His film uses vocal sounds, but no dialogue, and relies mostly on visual gags. However, there’s one great scene in which a famed ornithologist called Dr. Vogelbird repeatedly listens to a tape recorder saying his own name.

In the end, the film is a little too inconsistent and too wandering to become a classic, but its sympathetic story and charming drawing style make the short a nice watch.

Watch ‘Spatne namalovana slepice’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Spatne namalovana slepice’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Annecy – Le coffret du 50e Anniversaire’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: February 3, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★½

The Hot Piano © Hanna-BarberaIt’s Fred an Wilma’s tenth anniversary, and Wilma thinks Fred has forgotten the day, as usual.

On the contrary, Fred is buying a piano for her, at least he was until he discovers a piano costs $1500 instead of his $50. Yet, Fred manages to buy a ‘hot piano’ from a sleazy guy on the corner for just that sum.

A lot of screen time of this episode is devoted to Fred and Barney trying to get the piano in Fred’s house at night. This is a long string of slapstick gags, ending with Fred riding the piano on the street. Like ‘The Sweepstakes Ticket‘, this part has some throwback gags to Tex Avery’s ‘Deputy Droopy’ (1955) with Barney running to a mailbox to yell in it.

Much better though is the scene in which Barney and the shop owner play an elaborate, quasi-classical improvisation on the 1880 song ‘The Fountain at the Park’ at the Stoneway piano. This is one of the most delightful scenes within the complete series, greatly enhanced by the genuinely delightful music. Almost as good is the short’s finale, in which Barney and a quartet of policemen sing ‘Happy anniversary’ to the tune of Gioachino Rossini’s overture to William Tell over and over again, much to Fred’s chagrin.

Watch the anniversary song from ‘The Hot Piano’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 19
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Snorkasaurus Hunter
To the next Flintstones episode: The Hypnotist

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

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: October 7, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Hot Lips Hannigan © Hanna-BarberaThis episode opens with another feature borrowed from The Honeymooners, the series that served as the example for The Flintstones: the idea of the boys being member of an all-male society.

In this episode Fred and and Barney are members of The Loyal Order of Dinosaurs”. This club is also featured in the episode ‘The Golf Champion‘, but later the two neighbors would join the ‘Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes’.

The story starts with the two having to perform at the annual meeting. Barney practices a trampoline act, while Fred tries his luck at magic, with stuff borrowed from ‘Rockstone the Great’. In a demonstration he thinks he made the wives disappear and he and Barney take advantage of the situation to go to the Rockland Dance Hall to see Hot Lips Lannigan, an old acquaintance of Fred. Fred and Barney join in at his concert with Fred singing ‘When the Saints Go Marchin’ In’, bebop style, and Barney beating the drums. Their act impresses the young hep cats, much to Wilma’s and Betty’s bewilderment, who have dressed up like hep cats themselves to catch their husbands red-handed.

‘Hot Lips Hannigan’ is one of the more inspired Flintstone episodes, even though there’s absolutely no reference to prehistoric times, at all. Highlights are the intoxicating jazz number at the dance hall, and Betty’s and Wilma’s ‘hep’ alter egos. The name Hot Lips Hannigan is modeled on that of trumpeter Hot Lips Page, but the character looks more like a white version of Dizzy Gillespie, with his beret and goatee, and he plays the latter’s iconic upright trumpet.

Hot Lips Page had already died in 1954, and bebop arguably died with the death of Charlie Parker in 1955, making this episode strangely anachronistic. Moreover, Hannigan appears to be a square in disguise (for example ‘When the Saints Go Marchin’ was a staple of the conservative dixieland bands of the time), and it’s clear the writers’ sympathies are with the conservative middle-aged, not with the more advanced music-loving youngsters. This is a rather painful conclusion in an era in which even rock-‘n-roll was already past its prime, and hard bop (the follow-up to bebop) already started to make place for post-bop and free jazz…

Watch ‘Hot Lips Hannigan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 2
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Flintstone Flyer
To the next Flintstones episode: The Swimming Pool

‘Hot Lips Hannigan’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

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

The Flintstone Flyer © Hanna-Barbera‘The Flintstone Flyer’ was the very first Flintstone episode aired on television. The story was one of two already conceived before the series went to production and used to sell the series (the other one was ‘The Swimming Pool‘).

The episode establishes many aspects of the series: the setting may be in the stone age, this is a rather poor excuse for a suburban situation comedy depicting very a very standard family from mid-20th century indeed, complete with modern inventions like cars, telephone and television (how the latter two work is never revealed). This is little wonder, as the series was modeled after ‘The Honeymooners’ (aired 1955-1956), which features remarkably similar characters (for example, they love bowling, too).

Hanna and Barbera’s stone age is one of pure fantasy, and features dinosaurs coexisting with humans, despite the fact that dinosaurs had died out 65 million years before the dawn of man. In that respect ‘The Flintstones’ stand in a long tradition: dinosaurs co-existing with man could be seen in e.g. Willis O’Brien’s short ‘R.F.D. 10,000 B.C.’ (1916), in the Alley Oop comics (starting in 1932), in ‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur‘ (1939), in ‘Prehistoric Porky’ (1940), and Fleischer’s Stone Age cartoons from 1940.

The Flinstones tells about Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. The two are neighbors in some suburban area of ‘Bedrock’ (population 2500). They both love bowling, and are willing to lie to their wives (Wilma and Betty, respectively) to go out to play their favorite game. When bowling, Fred has a particular walk on his toes, and when excited he shouts ‘Yabba-dabba doo!’.

In this particular episode, the guys want to go bowling, while they have to go to the opera with their wives. So, Fred pretends to be ill and then the two literally fly off to the bowling alley, using a flying machine Barney has invented before. The opera itself is a typical mismatch of Wagnerian costume and bel canto singing, a trope frequently encountered in cartoons.

The complete cartoon moves at a steady pace, and by 2018 one can only conclude that the humor is rather dated. One cannot resist the thought what poor marriages these must be that one cannot be honest to each other. This sets the tone of many episodes to come: by now they only seem to demonstrate the inequality between men and women at the time.

Moreover, little to nothing is done with the stone age concept: we watch monkeys grabbing the pins, and a soda machine that’s operated by a man, but that’s about it.

No, despite Warner Bros. veterans Warren Foster and Michael Maltese working on the stories, the classic status of this very first animated series to be aired on prime time must come from its appealing designs by Ed Benedict (who had designed cavemen before, for Tex Avery’s ‘The First Bad Man’ from 1955), clever layouts by Dick Bickenbach and Walt Clinton, and great background artwork (e.g. featuring olive skies) by Art Lozzi, Fernando Montealegre, Robert Gentle and Dick Thomas. Even the limited animation (by the likes of top-animators Ken Muse, Carlo Vinci, Ed Love, Don Patterson and Dick Lundy) remains quite interesting throughout, even if the designs are rather off at times.

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

This is the first Flintstones Episode. To the demo episode: The Flagstones
To the next Flintstones episode: Hot Lips Hannigan

‘The Flintstone Flyer’ 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 All-Purpose Machine © Toonder StudiosAt the start of this cartoon Ollie Bungle is out of gas. He and Tom Puss meet a bearded fellow with a large box, and when they ask him for gas, he makes the large box change into a fuel station.

The little bearded man demonstrates that the box can change into virtually anything, and Ollie Bungle buys the machine on the spot. Unfortunately, the all-purpose machine turns out difficult to handle, and only causes for trouble.

The story makes little sense and is highly forgettable. Nevertheless, this short is noteworthy for its very beautiful limited background art.

‘The All-Purpose Machine’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: unknown
Production Date: 1959
Stars: Tom Puss and Ollie Bungle
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Wonder Shoes © Toonder Studios‘The Wonder Shoes’ is one of the nine Tom Puss films the Toonder studios made in 1959-1960 for the American television market, which the series never reached.

This particular episode starts with Ollie Bungle capturing a large boot while fishing. Oddly enough he orders a shoe maker to make two shoes out of the boot. This is particularly puzzling as Ollie Bungle never wears shoes. The shoes possess a magic quality and fulfill Ollie Bungle’s wishes. So when he wishes them to walk to the moon, he is in serious trouble. Luckily, Tom Puss is there to save him.

‘The Wonder Shoes’ is a weak story that is saved by some slapstick comedy and silly situations, featuring criminal Bul Super and police officer Bulle Bas. Both characters are familiar to readers of the Tom Puss comics, but remain unnamed in the cartoon. Special mention should go to the minimal background art.

‘The Wonder Shoes’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Bill Justice
Release Date: November 10, 1959
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Noah's Ark © Walt DisneyThis is the second of no less than three Disney interpretations from the classic story from Genesis, the other ones being the Silly Symphony ‘Father Noah’s Ark‘ (1933) and a sequence from ‘Fantasia 2000’ (1999), starring Donald Duck.

This second version is the most extraordinary of the three as it exchanges the ordinary cel animation for stop motion, an animation technique not practiced at the Disney studio. Yet animators Bill Justice and X Atencio gave it a go. For novices in this particular technique, the stop motion is of a remarkably high quality, on par with other stop motion films of the time.

In classic animation tradition, the film start with human hands handling the material, and even the film’s title is animated in stop motion, using a string of wool. Justice’s and Atencio’s designs, too, are refreshing: all characters are mostly made of ordinary material, like corks, pencils and clothespins, often still very visible. The cinematography, too, is superb. For example, there’s a clever montage scene of Noah and his sons building the ark.

The story (by T. Hee) is told by Jerome Courtland in rhyme and features a jazzy score by George Bruns and several songs by Mel Leven. The makers don’t take their story too seriously, and at one point there’s even room for a blues song sung by an abandoned female hippo who grieves, while her husband Harry dances with all other female creatures.

In all, ‘Noah’s Ark’ is a nice departure for Disney, and the film’s looks remain unique within the Disney canon. At 20 minutes the short may be a little too long, but the sheer fun with which this film has been made is contagious.

Watch ‘Noah’s Ark’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Noah’s Ark’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: John Hubley
Release Date: 1959
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Moonbird © John HubleyWith ‘Moonbird’ John and Faith Hubley entered the field of animated documentary.

The film is an illustration of a nightly fantasy adventure by their own two little boys Mark and Humpy (ca. five and three). The main narrative of their fantasy is that they try to catch a large bird, using candy for a bait. But being two little boys, their story meanders a lot, and is interrupted by random singing, and even crying.

John and Faith Hubley illustrated this unedited piece of recorded dialogue as if the boys’ adventure were real. What’s more, they added subtle action that is not in the soundtrack. For example, the Moonbird itself is seen much earlier than heard.

The background art is pretty avant-garde, rendered in bold black, blue and pink brush strokes. These images verge on the abstract, but manage to evoke a nightly garden, nonetheless. Animators Bobe Cannon and Ed Smith, however, animated the two boys in classic Disney style, even though they are rendered in monochromes and with the pencil lines still visible.

‘Moonbird’ is a charming little film, and an ode to children’s fantasy. It was immediately recognized as something new, and it won the Academy Award for best animated short.

Later, the Hubley’s made more films based on unedited dialogue, e.g. ‘The Hole’ (1962), ‘The Hat’ (1964) and ‘Windy Day’ (1968), the last film starring their two daughters. In the late 1970s the fledgling Aardman studio followed suit with their Animated conversations series (e.g. ‘Down & Out‘ and ‘Confessions of a Foyer Girl‘).

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

‘Moonbird’ is available on the DVD’s ‘Selected Films of John and Faith Hubley 1956-1973’ within The Believer Magazine March/April 2014 and ‘The Hubley Collection Volume 2’

Directors: Norman McLaren & Evelyn Lambart
Release Date: 1960
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Lines Vertical © Norman McLaren & Evelyn Lambart

‘Lines Vertical’ is one of the most extreme films Norman McLaren ever made.

Together with collaborator Evelyn Lambart he manages to make a film consisting of vertical lines only, made directly on film. The whole film consists of white vertical lines moving across the screen against monochrome backgrounds. The film starts with one line, then two, then three, and so on, until ca. twenty lines fill the screen in a constant ballet.

At one point the lines get a three-dimensional quality, resembling rotating columns. The movements of the lines follow Maurice Blackburn’s serene score, which is clearly inspired by Chinese classical music. It’s a testimony of the genius of both McLaren & Lambart that they can even pull off such a boring concept, and turn it into a successful film, even if it’s not the most engaging one.

Watch ‘Lines Vertical’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Lines Vertical’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Norman McLaren – The Master’s Edition’

Director: Norman McLaren
Release Date: 1959
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Short and Suite © Norman McLarenIn ‘Short and Suite’ a jazzy score for clarinet, piano and double bass by E. Rathburn is interpreted by dots, shapes and lines, scratched directly on film.

The film knows no narrative, and is highly abstract, but at one point one can clearly see flowers and even human shapes. The film consists of several episodes, following more or less frantic parts within the score. McLaren’s images are very well-timed to the music, and the shapes get extra dimensions by the shadows they cast on the black and monochrome backgrounds.

‘Short and Suite’ may not be among McLaren’s best, it’s still a nice example of his great art.

Watch ‘Short and Suite’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Short and Suite’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Norman McLaren – The Master’s Edition’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: July 14, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

His Better Elf © Walter Lantz‘His Better Elf’ starts with Woody Woodpecker being poor, full of debts and living near a city dump.

Suddenly a four-leaf clove grows through the floor, which turns into a leprechaun woodpecker (a miniature green Woody) called O’Toole, who speaks in rhyme. First O’Toole demonstrates his powers, and then he grants Woody three wishes.

Woody’s first wish is, as expected, to become filthy rich. But O’Toole grants him the wish by placing him inside the National Bank, and soon a cop tries to arrest Woody for bank robbing. The rest of the cartoon is essentially a chase cartoon with the cop trying to catch Woody, and O’Toole sabotaging these attempts, using a lot of dynamite. In the end Woody uses his third wish to sent the little pest to hell.

‘His Better Elf’ is a genuine gag cartoon, but it’s a pity the wish concept isn’t used more, but instead taken over by a routine cartoon chase. There’s a shot featuring a moving background when Woody is caught by two policemen, a rare feat since the early 1930s.

Watch an excerpt from ‘His Better Elf’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 85
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: Half Empty Saddles
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Everglade Raid

‘His Better Elf’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Lew Keller
Release Date: February 27, 1958
Stars: Ham and Hattie
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Sailing and Village Band © UPA‘Sailing and Village Band’ is the second of four ‘Ham and Hattie’ cartoons, virtual video clips to two songs each.

‘Sailing’ is a very nice children’s song by Mel Leven on his ukelele. In this song he sing about sailing, and his lyrics are accompanied by images of little girl Hattie with a toy sail boat in a fountain in a park. This song is more narrative than ‘Trees’ was, and when Mel Leven sing about a sea monster, Hattie’s toy boat encounters a frog in the pool.

For the second song, ‘Village Band’ Ham changes himself into blue dog Roscoe, a tuba player in a very undignified village band in small, but very dignified village. Unlike any other Ham and Hattie episode this is actually a story, using a narrator. This is a typical UPA story of misfits and outcasts getting respect from their environment. Nevertheless, there’s an unwelcome sense of conformism present, for the beatnik-like band gets ‘dignified’ by wearing official costumes, emblem of their incorporation into the system…

Watch ‘Sailing and Village Band’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sailing and Village Band’ is available on the DVD box set ‘UPA – The Jolly Frolics Collection’

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