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Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: June 30, 1939
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Sea Scouts © Walt DisneyIn ‘Sea Scouts’ Donald Duck pretends to be an admiral, commanding his inept nephews on a sailing trip.

All too soon, however, their trip turns into disaster, and when the mast breaks loose, Donald seems destined to end in the jaws of a ferocious shark. The shark is exactly the same design as the one in ‘Peculiar penguins‘ (1934), including the strange green coloring.

‘With ‘Sea Scouts’ Dick Lundy joined Jack King and Clyde Geronimi as a director of Donald Duck. Lundy would direct nine Donald Duck cartoons before leaving Disney for Walter Lantz in October 1943. Like Geronimi, Lundy had a rather gentle style and only one of his Donald Duck shorts is a real classic: ‘Donald’s Tire Trouble‘ from 1943.

‘Sea Scouts’ is a genuine gag cartoon, and it’s admirable to watch how several events lead to complete disaster. Moreover, Donald Duck’s obsession with his own hat is a nice ingredient in the turn of events. However, Lundy’s direction lacks the necessary bite, and the cartoon falls short in reaching the heights it could have with a better timing.

Watch ‘Sea Scouts’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon no. 11
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Beach Picnic
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Penguin

‘Beach Picnic’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: March 31, 1939
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

So Does an Automobile © Max FleischerIn ‘So Does an Automobile’ Betty Boop owns a car hospital for ill anthropomorphized cars.

Although this cartoon features a musical number, it mainly consists of inspired spot gags, making this short the only Betty Boop entry in the spot gag genre. And, in true gag cartoon fashion, this cartoon saves its best gag for last.

For a Betty Boop cartoon from the second half of the 1930s, ‘So Does an Automobile’ has a surprisingly silly atmosphere, which harks partly back to the early 1930’s, Betty Boop’s heydays. The number of gags and the silly atmosphere arguably make the short one of the best Betty Boop cartoons of the second half of the 1930’s, right behind ‘Betty Boop and Grampy’ (1935) and ‘Pudgy Picks A Fight‘ (1937). Unfortunately, ‘So Does an Automobile’ was to be Betty Boop’s last great cartoon, as her series stopped four months later.

Watch ‘So Does an Automobile’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 80
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: My Friend the Monkey
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Musical Mountaineers

‘So Does an Automobile’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 7, 1939
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp © Max Fleischer‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’ is the last of three Popeye two-reelers in Technicolor.

Like ‘Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor’ (1936) and ‘Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves’ (1937) the short has a clear 1001 Arabian Nights setting. In fact, it’s a rather faithful retelling of the classic fairy tale, until Spinach comes along. Unlike the earlier two-reelers ‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’ doesn’t either feature Fleischer’s table-top technique, Wimpy or Bluto, with an anonymous villain taking Bluto’s place.

The film is introduced as being a script Olive is writing for ‘Surprise Pictures’, and, of course, she herself stars as the princess. It’s the first scene in which we can hear Margie Hines as Olive Oyl’s voice. Hines had replaced Mae Questel, who didn’t make the move to Miami together with the rest of the Fleischer studio. Margie Hines would remain Olive’s voice until the end of 1943, after which Mae Questel picked it up again.

‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’ is wonderfully made. Its background art is no less than gorgeous, and some of the animation is outstanding, for example that on Popeye’s horse. The final battle is a delight, when Popeye uses cans of spinach as his own magic against the magic of the lamp, now in the villain’s hands.

The film contains a novelty: in the cave scene and in the scene in which Popeye parades the streets as a prince, he suddenly has eyes with pupils, foreshadowing his design of the Paramount studio years.

Watch ‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’ is available on the DVD Set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 27, 1939
Stars: Popeye, Bluto, Wimpy
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

Customers Wanted © Max FleischerIn 1937 the Fleischer Studio suffered a severe strike. In 1938 they moved their studios to Miami, Florida to break up union activity, and because of the state’s more favorable financial climate.

The new studio opened in October 1938, and devoted a lot of its resources to the Fleischer’s first feature film, ‘Gulliver’, which was released at the end of 1939.

The move to Florida had several consequences for the Popeye series: as the studio’s top animators now worked on ‘Gulliver’, the series was laid in hands of some lesser men, and this shows in many 1939 Popeye cartoons. More importantly, there were some voice changes: Mae Questel and Gus Wickie (Bluto’s voice) had stayed behind in New York, so Olive’s voice was taken over by Margie Hines, who would do her voice until the end of 1943. Bluto’s voice was now done by Pinto Colvig, whom the Fleischers had hired away from Disney. Jack Mercer, Popeye’s voice, got along very well with Margie Hines – in fact the two were married on March 8, 1939.

The move may have had a particular impact on ‘Customers Wanted’, for this cartoon is a ‘cheater’: it only partially features new material, some scenes are reused from two earlier Popeye cartoons, albeit in the most natural way.

‘In ‘Customers Wanted’ Popeye and Bluto as competing arcade owners at a Coney Island-like amusement park. They’re both out of customers, and dive on Wimpy, when he seems interested.

The competing entrepreneurs are so eager to show Wimpy their films on their mutoscopes, they don’t even charge him money. The mutoscope films are excerpts from ‘Let’s Get Movin” (1936) and ‘The Twisker Pitcher’ (1937). Soon, however, Bluto’s and Popeye’s competition turns into a fight, and it’s Wimpy who cashes in by advertising their row as ‘the fight of the century”.

‘Customers Wanted’ is an early compilation cartoon, but a very entertaining one. Bluto’s and Popeye’s tricks to lure Wimpy away from the competition are delightful, and so are the voices. The amusement park itself is beautifully designed, and is reminiscent of the futuristic fair of ‘All’s Fair at the Fair‘ (1938).

Watch ‘Customers Wanted’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Customers Wanted’ is available on the DVD Set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: May 6, 1939
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Thugs with Dirty Mugs © Warner Bros.The title ‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ is a parody of the 1938 Warner Bros. gangster picture ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’, and the short is indeed a gangster picture itself.

Starring ‘Edward G. Robesome’ as Killer Diller, the cartoon tells the story of a notorious bank robber, mostly by newspaper headlines.

However, much more than a story, ‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ is a genuine gag cartoon. Its arguably the first Tex Avery film to show his mature style from start to end. It’s simply packed with the director’s unique gag style: cars can contract like harmonicas, a safe can become a caravan or a radio, and a bank can turn into a slot machine. Meanwhile the police can cross a split screen, and cigars and guns can hang in mid-air only to be picked up again. And finally, the crooks are betrayed by a man in the audience, who has seen the picture twice. With this film Tex Avery definitely proved to be a unique voice in the cartoon world, and his influence can hardly be overstated.

The pin gag was reused by Bob Clampett in ‘The Great Piggy Bank Robbery’ (1946).

Watch ‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Thugs with Dirty Mugs’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 18, 1938
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

A Date to Skate © Max FleischerPopeye invites Olive into a roller skating hall.

The unwilling Olive is no roller skate talent, however, and after some antics inside the hall, she accidentally skates outside and into the streets. It’s up to Popeye to rescue her. Unfortunately, he has forgotten his spinach, but luckily somebody in the audience can give him a can. This particular gag is rare but undeniable influence of the new Warner Bros. cartoon style on the Fleischer cartoons. The rest of the cartoon retains Fleischer’s unique and charming style.

‘A Date to Skate’ is in no way a classic, but it’s enjoyable from start to end, and gains particular speed when Olive is lost on the streets. There’s a great scene in which she manages to skate inside a department store, and another one in which she and Popeye make a long descend – a scene that seems to make use of a ridiculously long background painting, even though some parts are clearly reused.

Watch ‘A Date to Skate’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Date to Skate’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

Directors: Cal Howard & Cal Dalton
Release Date: June 11, 1938
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Katnip Kollege © Warner Bros.At Katnip Kollege, all cool hep cats attend the swingology class. They all sure can swing, except bespectacled Johnny, who has no rhythm at all.

Johnny has to stay in the dunce’s corner, and at night he’s still there, while all other cats are having fun outside. But wait! Suddenly the clock gives Johnny the ‘rhythm bug’ and he rushes to the others to sing that swinging is ‘as easy as rollin’ off a log’ to his surprised girlfriend Claudia Kitty Brite. He also breaks into a hot trumpet solo, Roy Eldridge-style, which earns him kisses from his sweetheart.

‘Katnip Kollege’ is the second of only three films directed by the duo consisting of story man Cal Howard and animator Cal Dalton. The two Cals replaced Friz Freleng when he was lured away by MGM. After these three cartoons their unit was merged with that of Ben Hardaway, until Freleng returned from an all too short stint at the competing studio in 1940. In their films Howard, Hardaway and Dalton displayed not too much talent as directors, and although they produced some fun shorts, their cartoons are inferior to contemporary cartoons by Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin.

‘Katnip Kollege’ is a clear example of their unsure style: the cartoon is low on gags, and the animation is erratic, with a lot of superfluous movement. At times it’s unclear whether the characters’ actions are supposed to be funny. Moreover, the school backgrounds feature incongruous over-sized tins, cans and clothes pins, as if the cat characters are supposed to be as tiny as bugs.

On the other hand, the swing music is genuinely intoxicating, the cartoon simply bursts with color, and the atmosphere is one of sheer joy, resulting in a really enjoyable cartoon. The cartoon easily beats ‘The Swing School‘ by the Fleischer studio, which was released only two weeks earlier, but which covers remarkably similar grounds.

Watch ‘Katnip Kollege’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Katnip Kollege’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2’

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: January 15, 1938
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Porky's Poppa © Warner Bros.‘Porky’s Poppa’ starts with a close harmony group singing a variation on ‘Old MacDonald had a Farm’, ‘Porky’s Poppa has a farm’.

On his farm Poppa also has a mortgage, and his prize cow, Bessie, is ill. So he orders a mechanical cow. Porky, however, revives Bessie, and makes her compete against the mechanical cow.

For his cartoons Clampett had redesigned Porky Pig, making him more boyish and more appealing than he was in Freleng’s, Avery’s and Tashlin’s shorts. Porky is still a child character in this cartoon, but the cartoon humor is not. Despite the sentimental Great Depression theme, this cartoon is delightfully silly and nonsensical.

‘Porky’s Poppa’ is only director Bob Clampett’s fifth film, and the short simply bursts with energy. The cartoon already shows what Clampett had in store for the world: nonsensical gags, zany animation and sheer fun.

Watch ‘Porky’s Poppa’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 34
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Hero Agency
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky at the Crocadero

‘Porky’s Double Trouble’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: February 18, 1938
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Learn Polikeness © Max FleischerOlive takes Popeye to Prof. Bluteau’s school of etiquette.

The opening scene shows Prof.’s Bluteau’s large office, with help of Fleischer’s 3d tabletop background. Bluteau of course is Bluto and in this scene he’s already established as a fraud. Indeed, he hardly behaves gentleman-like when Olive and Popeye enter. True, he does know more manners than Popeye, but he clearly fancies Olive, and when trying to kiss her, he almost strangles her.

So, Popeye doesn’t have to win Olive back, he really has to rescue her from the brute. Interestingly, this time the spinach gives Popeye some manners besides strength, and there’s some great animation on Popeye clobbering Bluto in deft poses, on the tune of ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’.

Bluto’s design is somewhat off in this cartoon – the studio clearly experimented with new eyes on the character, which are not really steady yet. Maybe the studio grew a little tired of the character, for Bluto wasn’t seen again in the rest of 1938, only to return in ‘Customers Wanted’ (1939) [see Bobb Edwards’s comment below ‘Big Chief Ugh-Amugh-Ugh’ for a more plausible reason]. Indeed, in the mean time the studio proved it could come up with wonderful cartoons without him.

Watch ‘Learn Polikeness’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Learn Polikeness’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: June 25, 1938
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Porky's Party © Warner Bros.By 1938, the Warner Bros. Studio really started to hit its stride. ‘Porky’s Party’ is a good example of the studio’s new, confident and unique style, which owed virtually nothing to the Disney convention.

In ‘Porky’s Party’, Porky celebrates his own birthday. His party is hindered by a silk worm he gets as a present from uncle Phineas Pig. When one exclaims ‘sew’, the worm immediately starts sewing clothes out of nowhere, including a bra. It may be clear that once Porky says ‘So!’, the worm does the same thing. Another problem is Porky’s dog, who gets drunk on his hair tonic, and who’s mistaken of being mad. Porky’s guests aren’t helping either: one is a penguin who eats all his food, the other a particularly loony duck goose.

‘Porky’s Party’ is rather disjointed, but its atmosphere is strikingly silly, and the gags come in fast and plenty. Only the gag in which the penguin swallows a worm-produced silk hat, is milked too long. But mostly, ‘Porky’s Party’ is an early testimony of Warner Bros.’ unique, wacky style, which would dominate the war years.

Watch ‘Porky’s Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 42
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Fireman
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Spring Planting

‘Porky’s Party’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: February 2, 1934
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Red Hot Mamma © Max FleischerIt’s a cold winter night, and to get warm Betty lights a fire.

Soon, however, it gets too hot, and the fire roasts her two chickens. Betty herself soon dreams she’s in hell, dressed only in her nightgown. In a short scene the fires of hell reveal her legs through her nightgown. Later, when the devils watch her perform a sexy dance to a jazzy score, they get hot. But Betty gives them the cold shoulder (literally), which causes them and all hell to freeze completely over.

‘Red Hot Mamma’ is one of the last Betty Boop cartoons to glorify her sexuality, and to have a jazzy score. However, the humor is already much less compelling than from the 1931-1933 cartoons, lacking the weird surrealism of that period. As a result ‘Red Hot Mamma’ is amusing, but far less funny than it might have been, were it produced only a few months earlier…

Watch ‘Red Hot Mamma’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 25
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: She Wronged Him Right
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Ha! Ha! Ha!

‘Betty Boop’s May Party’ is available on the Blu-Ray Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Vol. 2 and on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Władysław Starewicz
Release Date: 1933
Stars: Fétiche
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Mascot © Wladyslaw Starewicz‘The Mascot’ shows that by 1933 Starewicz was the undisputed master of stop motion.

This 26 minute long film starts with live action, and is a typical melodramatic product of its time: we watch a poor mother making a dog doll, while her ill child lies in the back of the small room with fever. When she sheds a tear on the puppy doll, it comes alive. The puppy doll makes friends with the little girl, but the next day he’s about to be sold by a poor mother together with several other dolls she made.

On the way, however, a thief doll cuts a hole through the cardboard box they’re in, and all dolls leave the box, except for the little dog, who’s sold and hung in a car. Finally the dog makes his way home and rescues the little ill girl from a certain death by fetching her an orange.

The plot is more complicated than this main narrative, however, and features countless puppets. Besides the dog’s story, there’s a menage à trois featuring a ballet dancer, a Pierrot and the thief doll, and there are also a monkey doll and a cat doll involved.

Highlight of the film is a night scene, in which everything comes alive, from pieces of paper to skeletons of fish and birds. No less than the devil himself invites all creatures inside his cavern, where an grand ball is taking place. This sequence has a nightmarish character comparable to Alexeïeff’s ‘Une nuit sur le mont chauve’ from the same year.

The whole film has a unique, gritty atmosphere, however. Throughout, the animation ranges from primitive to astounding. Starewicz especially excels in facial expressions, which really make some of the characters come alive. The dog, for example, clearly is a timid, reluctant character.

Unfortunately, the film is completely silent, despite a sparsity of dialogue and sound effects, and sometimes Starewicz’s dolls fall prone to overacting to overcome the lack of sound. Edouard Flament’s angular soundtrack doesn’t help either. Moreover, the all too complex plot hampers the film, making it meander too much. The melodrama, too, is a little too much for present day audiences.

Nevertheless, ‘The Mascot’ is a tour de force of stop motion animation. At least it provided Starewicz with a contract for eleven more films about the cute little dog, which was baptized Fétiche and finally starred five more films.

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

https://archive.org/details/The_Mascot_Complete

‘The Mascot’ is available on the DVD ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge & other Fantastic Tales’

Director: Yasuji Murata
Release Date: January 31, 1933
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Larks' Moving Day © Yokohama Cinema ShokaiIn ‘The Larks’ Moving Day’ we follow a family of anthropomorphized larks who live in a cornfield.

The owner of the cornfield plans to harvest, but first asks his neighbors, then his relatives to help him. Father lark isn’t impressed: as long as the farmer keeps asking others, he will not harvest, and thus their home will not be in peril. Only when the farmer exclaims ‘we’ll do it ourselves’, the lark family moves from the field to a safer area. Thus father lark’s moral to the audience is ‘You can’t do a job, until you stop relying on others and do it yourself’.

This silent film is one of Murata’s more enjoyable films, as his elegant drawing style is on full display. The animation, too, is superb, even if it’s limited. The short shows once again that Murata was the undisputed leader in the field.

Watch ‘The Larks’ Moving Day’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Larks’ Moving Day’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Japanese Anime Classic Collection’

Director: ?
Release Date: November 11, 1933
Stars: Willie Whopper
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Stratos Fear © Ub IwerksNot satisfied with Flip the Frog, MGM demanded a new cartoon star from Ub Iwerks. So, the studio conceived Willie Whopper, a fat little boy telling tall tales.

Unfortunately, Willie Whopper wasn’t much of a success either, and the series was stopped after only twelve entries. Most famous among the Willie Whopper cartoons probably is ‘Stratos Fear’ in which our hero visits the dentist. When Willie gets too much laughing gas, he inflates and goes up into the air, soon leaving earth, the moon, passing Saturn and into space. When he passes an alien planet, he’s caught by some strange alien scientists.

The alien planet is by all means an odd world, and it anticipates the sheer zaniness of ‘Porky in Wackyland‘ (1938). At one point one of the evil scientists even dresses as a beautiful woman in a scene looking forward all the way to Tim Burton’s feature ‘Mars Attacks!’ (1996). Luckily in the end, it all appears to have been a dream.

‘Stratos Fear’ is an interesting cartoon, because of its early surrealism, but Willie Whopper is not much of a character, being just a bland boy, only reacting on his surroundings, without any internal motivation. The gags, too, are only mildly amusing, as things are just happening on the screen, in a pretty steady flow. Also, despite a certain horror atmosphere, and the erotic beauty, it’s one of those 1933 cartoons already moving towards the infantile world of the second half of the 1930s. The result is noteworthy cartoon, but hardly anything more than that.

Watch ‘Stratos Fear’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Stratos Fear’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date: August 26, 1933
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

We're in the Money © Warner Bros.‘We’re in the Money’ is entirely built around the catchy opening tune of the Warner Bros. musical ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’.

The joyous song, with its anti-Great Depression theme is entertaining enough to carry the whole cartoon. It is played and sung by toys and dolls in an apartment store at night. Even coins from a cashier join in, singing ‘we are the money’. There’s also a doll doing a Mae West imitation.

Composer Frank Marsales is on the loose here, and plays endless variations on the title song. There’s absolutely no story, whatsoever, but the cheerful mood is captivating, and despite the lack of real action, the cartoon will leave you with a smile.

Watch ‘We’re in the Money’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘We’re in the Money’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’ and the DVD-set ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’

Director: Harry Bailey
Release Date: May 5, 1933
Stars: Sentinel Louey
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

A Dizzy Day © Van Beuren‘A Dizzy Day’ was the second of only two animated cartoons featuring Otto Soglow’s lesser known character Sentinel Louey.

Like ‘A.M. to P.M.’ it’s only a string of newspaper comics gags transferred to the movie screen, with an absurd rescue plot being the longest gag of all. Surprisingly, Sentinel Louey is less than sympathetic in this film, knocking down a woman , and later trying to drown a cat.

Like Soglow’s comic strip, there’s only visual comedy. Soglow’s graphic style is copied beautifully, although there’s one bird that looks more like a traditional Van Beuren character than like a Soglow creation.

Like ‘A.M. to P.M.’ ‘A Dizzy Day’ is only mildly funny, but charming. Its real treat, however, lies in its gorgeous score, although it’s very unlikely this score is original. It’s certainly not by Van Beuren’s house composer Gene Rodemich, and very likely it’s not by any American composer, at all. On the contrary, the score sounds genuinely European, and from a later era (ca. late 1940s, early 1950s), cartoonier, but otherwise similar to scores by Matyas Seiber for ‘Magic Canvas’ (1948) and George Auric’s score for ‘Kermesse fantastique’ (1951). So, this lovely score must be of a later date, and has likely been produced for a British post-war release of the film.

Watch ‘A Dizzy Day’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Dizzy Day’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Otto Soglow’s The Little King’

Director: Harry Bailey
Release Date: January 20, 1933
Stars: Sentinel Louey
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

A.M. to P.M. © Van BeurenIn search of new characters The Van Beuren studios signed a contract with Otto Soglow to produce twelve animated cartoons based on his characters.

Ten feature his most famous creation The Little King, but the series starts with two featuring Soglow’s lesser known character Sentinel Louey, a British guard, complete with large bearskin hat. Unlike the Little King films, these first two cartoons are very faithful to the source material. Not only do they contain a string of gags that are undoubtedly directly transferred from the comic strip, they also capture Sloglow’s idiosyncratic graphic style remarkably well. This style is much more appealing and original than anything the studio did before, making both ‘A. M. to P. M.’ and ‘A Dizzy Day’ visually among the most beautiful animated films of the entire 1930s.

Unfortunately, because ‘A.M. to P.M.’ is a compilation of newspaper comics gags, there’s no story whatsoever. Moreover, Soglow’s humor is one of charm and wonder, not one for loud laughs, and as a result ‘A.M. to P.M.’ moves past at a leisurely speed without leaving much impression besides the extraordinarily beautiful images.

Watch ‘A.M. to P.M.’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A.M. to P.M.’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Otto Soglow’s The Little King’

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: October 9, 1933
Stars: Pooch the Pup, Dopey Dick
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

She Done Him Right © Walter Lantz‘She Done Him Right’ was the last of thirteen cartoons starring Pooch the Pup, a Walter Lantz character that was virtually Oswald the lucky Rabbit, but with different ears.

The cartoon is an obvious spoof of the Paramount Mae West vehicle ‘She Done Him Wrong’ from earlier that year. Like the feature, the cartoon is set in the 1890’s, and it features a nightclub singer called Poodles, who’s dressed and talks like West. Inside Joe’s Beer Garden a man sings the 1908 music hall song ‘Has Anybody Here Seen Nelly?’, but Poodles has a much more modern song to offer: Cab Calloway’s 1932 hit song ‘Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day’. Then a villain kidnaps Poodles, and Pooch the Pup comes to the rescue.

Pooch the Pup himself is utterly forgettable, but this cartoon is packed with wonderful and weird gags, and features great jazz music. ‘Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day’ is sung with a great voice, which makes one wonder who the particular voice artist is. The cartoon also marks the first appearance of a fat character called Dopey Dick, who is remarkably similar to Wellington Wimpy, who only hit the screen ten days before ‘She Done Him Right’.

Watch ‘She Done Him Right’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘She Done Him Right’ is available on the DVD ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: ?
Release Date: May 20, 1933
Stars: Scrappy, Oopy
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Technoracket © ColumbiaPenned by Sid Marcus and animated by Art Davis, ‘Technoracket’ is one of those cartoons inspired by rumors of robots taking over, like Fleischer’s ‘The Robot‘ from 1932, and ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man‘ from one month later.

Unlike those boxing-themed cartoons ‘Technoracket’ is surprisingly prophetical. In this cartoon Scrappy has a farm, in which Oopy does all the work, with help of the farm animals. But when Scrappy reads about the new age of technocracy he fires all animals, switching to robots, instead. Because it’s a cartoon, even the cows and chickens become robots, with the cows producing bottles of milk instantly. There’s also a scene in which a robots plants bolts to grow plants of canned tomatoes.

At one stage, however, Oopy sneaks into Scrappy’s house and destroys his controls, making the robots go wild. This leads to some nightmarish scenes. There’s for example a robot which devours a pig to spit out hams, another robot brutalizes a mechanical chicken forcing it to produce numerous eggs. Soon the robots create havoc in Scrappy’s home, and he himself removes the controls, which explode in the backyard, destroying all robots.

‘Technoracket’ illustrates the 1930’s fear of work replacement by robots very well. Nevertheless, its predictions have somewhat become true, albeit in a less cartoony fashion, as farms are all but mechanized factories, today…

Director: Ted Esbaugh
Release Date: 1933
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Wizard of Oz © Ted EsbaughTed Esbaugh was one of the very few American animators operating independently during the 1930s.

With ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Esbaugh could make use of Technicolor’s three-way process, if only outside the U.S., as Walt Disney had the exclusive rights to its use in the States themselves.

With this film Esbaugh was the first to bring Frank L. Baum’s famous fantasy to the film screen in full color. Like the latter, much more familiar live action version from 1939, Esbaugh paints the Kansas opening in sepia tones, and unleashes full color only in the land of Oz.

Lasting only eight minutes, the film’s plot is simple, and only superficially taken from the book: when Dorothy plays with Toto, a tornado takes her to Oz, where she lands on the scarecrow. Together they walk through the forest, where they encounter the tin man. The quartet (the lion is nowhere to be found) walk into the emerald city, where they’re taken to the wizard of Oz.

In Esbaugh’s version, the wizard of Oz is a real wizard, and he performs some tricks for our heroes, e.g. eight dolls dancing in a Busby Berkeley ballet-like fashion, and an egg growing into gigantic proportions, threatening our heroes, until it explodes, revealing a tiny chicken.

‘The Wizard of Oz’ boasts music by Carl Stalling, who’s in top form here, while the colorful images splash from the scene, and the animation can compete with contemporary cartoons by Warner Bros. and Disney in quality. However, the short’s story is hardly gripping, and although enjoyable, more forgettable than one would expect.

Because of Disney’s deal with Technicolor, Esbaugh’s film was never seen in the United States, and only shown in Canada and the UK, and it never received the fame it could have had otherwise.

Watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Wizard of Oz’ is available on the Blu-Ray/DVD-set ‘Technicolor Dreams and Black & White Nightmares’

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