You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘★★’ category.

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: March 15, 1940
Rating:  ★★
Review:

Ants in the Plants © Max Fleischer‘With ‘Ants in the Plants’ the Fleischers more or less made their own version of Disney’s ‘Bugs in Love‘ (1932), now featuring ants.

After a rather spectacular forest intro we watch ant society, with a school, a restaurant etc. Then the queen ant sings a song telling her soldiers that their main enemy is the ant eater. The villain then immediately enters the scene, and despite his rather funny appearance, he proves to be a considerable foe.

Like ‘Bugs in Love’ (and several other Silly Symphonies) war breaks out to stop the intruder. ‘Ants in the Pants’ may be no classic, the short still belongs to the more enjoyable Color Classics. The cloying morale of contemporary Color Classics is lacking, and the classic war story, if far from original, works once again. During this scene there are some clever sight gags, with the ants combining a corncob and a magnifying glass to use those as a machine gun as a particular highlight.

Watch ‘Ants in the Plants’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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

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Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 1, 1939
Stars: Porky Pig, Uncle Sam
Rating: ★★
Review:

Old Glory © Warner Bros.‘Old Glory’ starts with Old Glory itself, i.e. the American Flag. Below it we watch Porky Pig trying to memorize the pledge of alliance to no avail.

In frustration, Porky throws away his history book, and falls asleep. In his dream Uncle Sam materializes from Porky’s history book and he tells Porky what the pledge of alliance is all about, with images of the declaration of independence, Paul revere’s midnight ride, the war of independence, the signing of the constitution, the trek to the West, and finally the statue of Abraham Lincoln, while we listen to an excerpt of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. After this Porky awakes and salutes the flag with enthusiasm.

‘Old Glory’ was Chuck Jones’s first cartoon starring Porky Pig. It’s also the character’s first full color cartoon (after his debut in the two-color cartoon ‘I Haven’t Got A Hat’ Porky had remained a black and white character). Chuck Jones makes him genuinely juvenile, and perfect fodder for patronizing material, just like Frank Tashlin’s ‘Wholly Smoke‘ (1938) had been, which also stars a child version of Porky.

All of Chuck Jones’s early cartoons have a high quality look, matching the production values of Walt Disney and Harman-Ising’s cartoons for MGM. None more so than ‘Old Glory, a commission by Warner Bros. in a series of patriotic shorts about American history (all the others were live action shorts). Unlike any other Leon Schlesinger film, ‘Old Glory’ relies heavily on rotoscope, and features a multitude of realistic people. Moreover, there’s some careful and very convincing shading on the characters, and Uncle Sam, in particular, is animated with great care, even if his eyes become spooky at times.

‘Old Glory’ thus is a well made cartoon, with high production values. But let’s face it, the short also is a sickeningly patriotic and nationalistic cartoon, which has very little to offer to all those outside the U.S. In a way it looks forward to some of the propaganda from World War II, for example the finale of ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face‘ (1943). Unlike the latter cartoon, however, ‘Old Glory’ is completely devoid of humor. Luckily, it remained highly atypical for the Warner Bros. studio’s output.

Watch ‘Old Glory’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 59
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Scalp Trouble
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Picnic

‘Old Glory’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: June 14, 1939
Stars: Popeye, Bluto, Olive Oyl
Rating:  ★★
Review:

Ghosks is the Bunk © Max Fleischer‘Ghosks is the Bunk’ is the second of four 1939 Popeye cartoon with alternate titles.

The cartoon starts with Olive reading a ghost story to Bluto and Popeye. When a storm wind makes Popeye hide beneath the couch, Bluto fakes tiredness, only to rush out to an abandoned hotel to play some ghost tricks on the sailor. However, he’s discovered all too soon, and with the help of invisible paint Popeye returns the trick on him.

‘Ghosks is the Bunk’ is the first cartoon to show the major weakness of invisibility gags: when invisible one becomes practically invincible, and the viewer’s sympathy soon goes to the poor ex-bully who gets clobbered. This problem would return in the invisibility cartoons ‘The Vanishing Private‘ (1942) featuring Donald Duck, and ‘The Invisible Mouse‘ (1947) starring Tom & Jerry.

Watch ‘Ghosks is the Bunk’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Ghosks is the Bunk’ is available on the DVD Set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 7, 1939
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★
Review:

Rhythm on the Reservation © Max Fleischer

In ‘Rhythm on the Reservation’ Betty Boop visits and Indian reservation, trying to buy a tom-tom drum.

Meanwhile, her car full of musical instruments, is emptied by the native Americans, who are too dumb to use them properly, and use them for various purposes. But when Betty starts a swinging tune, they join in, sort of.

These scenes make ‘Rhythm on the Reservation’ a late variation on ‘Trader Mickey‘ (1932), which had featured cannibals. Of course, such scenes make the short an offensive and hopelessly dated cartoon. Unfortunately, it was to be Betty Boop’s last. It’s a sad ending for a once so promising career. But Betty Boop had lost most of her charm already in 1934, and by 1939 she felt like a leftover from another era. With her series, and that of the Silly Symphonies ending (the latter series ended in April 1939), one can say more or less goodbye to the 1930s.

Nevertheless, Betty was surely missed, as the Fleischers never came with another successful star of their own to replace her: Gabby (1940-1941) or the donkey duo of Hunky and Spunky (1938-1941) hardly count, and Popeye and Superman were owned by King Features and DC Comics, respectively. Meanwhile at Warner Bros. people were defining a new cartoon style that would dominate the 1940s…

Watch ‘Rhythm on the Reservation’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop’s 83rd and last cartoon
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: The Scared Crows

‘Rhythm on the Reservation’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: May 12, 1939
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating:  ★★
Review:

Musical Mountaineers © Max FleischerIn the opening scene of ‘Musical Mountaineers’ Betty Boop’s car stops in the middle of nowhere, and she gets stranded in ‘feud county’.

Betty seeks for help in a poor barn, where she encounters a fully armed hillbilly family. The hostile hillbillies make Betty Boop dance by shooting at her feet, but Betty’s inspired dancing brings out their musical element, and soon we watch them all singing and dancing together.

It’s hard to enjoy ‘Musical Mountaineers’, as the short features cliche caricatures of mountain people, even if the Appalachians are treated better than in the extremely backward ‘Be Up To Date’ from one year earlier. Nevertheless, the musical routine feels trite, and seems to belong to the early 1930’s, when song-and-dance routines were all too common. The best gag is Margie Hines’s, who, as Betty Boop’s voice, adlibs “it looks like the people who moved out, don’t live here anymore”.

Watch ‘Musical Mountaineers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 81
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: So Does an Automobile
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: The Scared Crows

‘Musical Mountaineers’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 2, 1938
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating:  ★★
Review:

On with the New © Max FleischerIn the opening scene of ‘On with the New’ we watch Betty Boop working at the ‘Ye olde quainte coffee house’.

Betty has to work hard: she must cook and wash the dishes at the same time. She clearly hates her job, but luckily she gets a job as a nurse in ‘Bundle from Heaven Nursery’. At the nursery we watch the babies being cleaned at an assembly line. However, as soon as Betty has them in their beds and said goodnight to them, the babies cause havoc. The uncontrollable babies behave so badly that Betty quits her job on the spot and rushes back to her old job, which she does with renewed enthusiasm.

There’s little to enjoy in ‘On With The New’, although the assembly line sequence is rather nice. The uncontrollable baby material go all the way back to ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (1931) and ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932), and by 1939 such antics, with its multitude of animation cycles, had become old fashioned and trite. The assembly line sequence, on the other hand, looks forward to a similar sequence in the Warner Bros. classic ‘Baby Bottleneck’ (1946).

Watch ‘On with the New’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 77
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Sally Swing
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Pudgy in Thrills and Chills

‘On with the New’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 27, 1939
Stars: Betty Boop, Pudgy
Rating:  ★★
Review:

My Friend the Monkey © Max FleischerBelow Betty Boop’s window there’s an Italian organ grinder with a monkey.

Betty invites the monkey inside to play with Pudgy. But the mischievous little animal immediately aims for her food, and Pudgy has a hard time trying to chase the intruder out of the house. When Pudgy finally succeeds, the monkey returns in Betty’s arms, as she has just bought him from the organ grinder.

‘My Friend The Monkey’ is the closest the Betty Boop series ever came near becoming a chase cartoon, a new genre that was emerging at the time. However, the cartoon is far from a gag rich chase cartoon, being more tiresome than funny. Even the pay off scene is anything but a surprise, as we could watch Betty negotiating with the organ grinder throughout the picture.

The animation of the monkey dancing was reused from Pudgy swinging in ‘The Swing School‘, even using the same music, but now in barrel organ form.

Watch ‘My Friend the Monkey’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 79
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Pudgy in Thrills and Chills
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: So Does an Automobile

‘Pudgy in Thrills and Chills’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 23, 1938
Stars: Betty Boop, Pudgy
Rating:  ★★
Review:

Pudgy in Thrills and Chills © Max FleischerIn ‘Pudgy in Thrills and Chills’ Betty and Pudgy board on a mountain train for winter sport.

Betty wears a rather sexy winter outfit and goes skating on the frozen lake, in a rotoscoped action to the music of a nice waltz version of ‘Jingle Bells’. Meanwhile a dumb skier wants to kiss her.

However, in the cartoon world, skating often takes place near a waterfall (see also the Popeye cartoon ‘Seasin’s Greetinks!‘ (1933) and the Mickey Mouse short ‘On Ice‘ from 1935), and ‘Pudgy in Thrills and Chills’ is no exception. Thus soon Pudgy and Betty fall off the waterfall, only to be saved by the dumb skier. He returns both Betty and Pudgy into safety, and finally earns the desired kiss… from Pudgy.

There are actually remarkably few thrills and chills in this slow cartoon, as most screen time goes to Betty Boop skating, the antics of the dumb skier, and some boring actions by Pudgy. Most remarkable is the very convincing scene of Betty Boop and Pudgy playing tic-tac-toe on a steamy train window.

Watch ‘Pudgy in Thrills and Chills’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 78
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: On with the New
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: My Friend the Monkey

‘Pudgy in Thrills and Chills’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Jack King
Release Date: November 4, 1938
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★
Review:

Donald's Golf Game © Walt Disney‘Donald’s Golf Game’ is the third film featuring Donald and the nephews.

Donald’s in for a game of golf, and it’s clear he only uses his nephews to be caddies, without granting them anything. Naturally, the nephews take matters in their own hand, with ‘Goofy Golf Clubs’: one changes into a net, another into an umbrella, and a third one into a boomerang. Soon Donald is stuck in a rubber band, while the three brats are playing the field.

‘Donald’s Golf Game’ is a genuine gag cartoon, but once again Jack King’s timing is ridiculously slow, spoiling otherwise fine gags. In the family’s fourth outing, ‘The Hockey Champ‘ (1939), this problem was finally over. Al Taliaferro would set the stage before the film, letting Donald Duck play golf in his daily comic strip from October 24 to November 5.

Watch ‘Donald’s Golf Game’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon no. 6
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Good Scouts
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Lucky Day

‘Donald’s Golf Game’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: July 29, 1938
Stars: Donald Duck, Goofy, cameos by Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Fox Hunt (1938) © Walt Disney‘The Fox Hunt’ is the second entry in the Donald & Goofy mini-series. In fact, Mickey, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabella Cluck are also present, but only shortly, and first only as shadows.

Donald gets most of the screen time, devoted to his antics with five unruly bloodhounds and a sly fox. Goofy gets only one scene, in which his horse refuses to jump. This part shows a novelty: when we watch Goofy and his horse being under water, we’re watching a new technique involving distortion glasses to make the water more convincing. This technique would become very important in the elaborate ocean scenes in Disney’s second feature film ‘Pinocchio’ (1940), for which these few seconds are only the try-out.

‘The Fox Hunt’ clearly borrows from the early Silly Symhony of the same name. The Donald and Goofy version copies the shot with the hunters being shadows in the distance, and the end gag with the skunk. The Donald and Goofy cartoons were not among Disney’s best, and ‘The Fox Hunt’, too, is only average.

‘The Fox Hunt’ was the last short directed by Ben Sharpsteen, and like Jack King, he favors an all too relaxed timing in this short, hampering the comedy. Sharpsteen had already been a sequence director for ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937), and for ‘Pinocchio’ he was promoted to supervising director. From now on he would work on feature films, solely, until the early 1950s, when he moved on to True-Life adventures.

Carl Barks, who was a story man at the time this short was made, revisited the fox hunting theme in his 1948 comic ‘Foxy Relations’, which is much funnier than this film.

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

‘The Fox Hunt’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

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

The Fresh Vegetable Mystery © Max FleischerAlright, that’s something we had never seen before: anthropomorphized vegetables…

It’s night in a kitchen, and all vegetables are sound asleep, when an evil cloaked figure arrives and kidnaps mother carrot and her kids. The entire potato police force comes into action, but like in the Silly Symphony ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?‘ (1935) the police force only manages to arrest a bunch of innocents from a bar.

Most of the ‘humor’ origins in the typical tortures the police men apply to their victims to make them talk: a cob is made into popcorn, an orange squeezed out, a ‘hard-boiled’ egg fried. In fact, it’s rather painful to watch these scenes. In the end the villain turns out to be four mice, who are caught in a mouse trap, and immediately to start a fight among themselves.

‘The Fresh Vegetable Mystery’ makes little sense, and can hardly be called funny, but the cartoon is alleviated by its original setting (which anticipates ‘Sausage Party’ from 2016), making it stand out among more generic Color Classics.

Watch ‘The Fresh Vegetable Mystery’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 16, 1938
Stars: The Captain and the Kids
Rating: ★★
Review:

Poultry Pirates © MGMIn 1937 MGM decided to start its very own studio, after having distributed cartoons by Ub Iwerks (1930-1934) and Harman-Ising. They put Fred Quimby, a producer famous for having neither animation experience nor any sense of humor, in charge.

Quimby hired virtually Harman & Ising’s complete staff away. He also hired some talent from other studios, most notably Jack Zander and Joe Barbera, who would later work on Tom & Jerry, and Friz Freleng. Quimby lured Freleng away from Leon Schlesinger by flattery and by offering him a much larger salary. Freleng stayed less than a year at MGM before happily returning to Warner Bros.

Freleng’s talents were wasted on ‘The Captain and the Kids’, a series based on the classic comic strip of the same name by Rudolph Dirks. MGM had bought the rights to this comic strip, and insisted to make a series out of them. The strip had been around since 1897 (first as ‘The Katzenjammer Kids’), and really felt as coming from another era. Amidst the days of Donald Duck, Daffy Duck and Popeye, these characters were hopelessly old-fashioned, and Freleng struggled to create any fun with them. Consequently, none of the Captain and the Kids cartoons have become classics.

Nevertheless, Freleng’s films were still better than that of other people directing the ill-conceived series, which was, in the end, a failure. In total, Freleng directed six Captain and the Kids cartoons, and one stand-alone cartoon called ‘The Bookworm’, before returning to the greener pastures of the Leon Schlesinger studio.

Of Freleng’s Captain and the Kids cartoons, ‘Poultry Pirates’ is the first. It stars the captain, only, who tries to keep a bunch of chickens and ducks out of his vegetable garden, to no avail. At one point he has to fight a six feet tall rooster, but that happens to be part of a dream.

There’s very little to enjoy in ‘Poultry Pirates’. The animators do no attempts to lip synch, neither the captain nor the chicks gain and sympathy, the story drags on, and the result is frustratingly unfunny.

Watch ‘Poultry Pirates’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Poultry Pirates’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: May 14, 1938
Rating: ★★
Review:

Now That Summer Is Gone © Warner Bros.While Tex Avery and Bob Clampett were experimenting with a cartoon style totally different from Disney, Frank Tashlin made some Merrie Melodies that were still surprisingly Silly Symphonies-like.

‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ is one of the most conspicuous of them all, opening with autumn images of numerous squirrels collecting nuts for the winter. The industrious ways in which the squirrels collect nuts hark all the way back to early Silly Symphonies like ‘Autumn‘ (1930), ‘The Busy Beavers‘ (1931) and ‘Father Noah’s Ark‘ (1933). In any case these opening sequences feature complex scenes and lush production values.

This setting gives way to a story about a young squirrel who’s addicted to gambling. When his father orders him to collect nuts at the ‘First Nutional Bank’ he loses it all to a mustached stranger. In the end, it turns out to be the father himself, who gives the lying little brat a big spanking.

This humorless and cloying morality tale places ‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ deeply in the second half of the 1930s. Nevertheless, it’s still enjoyable to watch Tashlin’s experimental cinematography at play.

Watch ‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Now That Summer Is Gone’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: August 27, 1938
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★
Review:

Wholly Smoke © Warner Bros.In ‘Wholly Smoke’ Porky Pig is still clearly a little boy.

We see his ma, and we watch him walking to Sunday school. On his way to school Porky encounters a street urchin smoking a cigar. The rascal challenges Porky to smoke like him, but, of course, Porky only gets sick, and in a state of delirium he walks into a tobacco shop.

There a ghostly figure called Nick O’Teen starts a song on the tune of ‘Mysterious Mose‘, which tells us that children shouldn’t smoke. This part of the cartoon is much in the vain of Warner Bros. typical books-come-to-life cartoons (e.g. the contemporary ‘Have You Got any Castles?‘), and features caricatures of the three Stooges, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee and Cab Calloway. In the end of this morality tale, Porky rushes back to Sunday school.

‘Wholly Smoke’ is a clear showcase of Tashlin’s excellent direction skills, with its interesting camera angles, speedy cuts, and special effects when Porky gets sick. Nevertheless, the short’s obvious moral, its saccharine ending, and the lack of gags makes it one of the more boring Warner Bros. cartoons, even though one couldn’t agree more with the short’s message.

Watch the colorized version of ‘Wholly Smoke’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 45
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky and Daffy
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky in Wackyland

‘Wholly Smoke’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: May 27, 1938
Stars: Betty Boop, Pudgy
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Swing School © Max Fleischer‘The Swing School’ marks a return of Betty Boop to the animal world she came from in the early 1930s.

In this cartoon she runs a swing school for anthromorpic kid animals, including an elephant, a hippo, a giraffe, and Pudgy. Pudgy, like Pluto, had been only a half anthropomorphized dog and wasn’t able to speak. So in this cartoon, in which he’s more treated as a little kid than as a dog, all these animals are devoid of speech. However, they can sing and play the piano.

Unfortunately, Pudgy is not doing well at all, singing Betty Boop’s trite Lalala song way out of tune. So Betty makes him sit in the dunce’s corner. But when a female dachshund takes pity on the pup, and kisses him, Pudgy suddenly bursts into some serious scatting, making the whole class swing.

‘The Swing School’ surfs on the swing craze, which was in full swing (pardon the pun) by 1938. Although the catchy scatting part is a warm welcome back to Betty Boop’s early jazz days, most of the cartoon is terribly slow and extremely childish, and so tiresome that it comes close to the point of being unwatchable. In no sense the cartoon comes close to the Fleischers’ greatest swing cartoons, like ‘Swing, You Sinners!‘ (1930) or ‘Minnie the Moocher‘ (1932).

Only two weeks later, Warner Bros. would release ‘Katnip Kollege‘ covering the same subject, but with much, much more spirit.

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

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 74
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Out of the Inkwell
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Pudgy the Watchman

‘Out of the Inkwell’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Vol. 4’ and the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 28, 1938
Stars: Betty Boop, Pudgy
Rating: ★★
Review:

Riding the Rails © Max FleischerIn ‘Riding the Rails’ Pudgy, Betty Boop’s cute puppy, follows Betty on her way to work.

He loses her on the subway, where he causes havoc. When he’s being chased by a rather poorly designed and ditto animated conductor he lands on the rails, where he’s almost killed. He hurries off home, and straight back into his bed.

Betty’s ride on the subway recalls a similar bus ride in ‘Judge for a Day’ (1935), and is most enjoyable in its depiction of subway annoyances. However, most of the cartoon deals with Pudgy’s terror, and plays on melodrama, not laughs. This makes ‘Riding the Rails’ a sympathetic, yet rather forgettable cartoon.

Watch ‘Riding the Rails’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 71
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Zula Hula
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Be Up To Date

‘Riding the Rails’ is available on the Blu-Ray Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Vol. 3 and on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Jack King
Release Date: February 11, 1938
Rating: ★★
Review:

Self Control © Walt DisneyIn ‘Self Control’ Donald Duck is relaxing in a hammock in his garden, listening to the radio.

On the radio some professor advises to keep your temper, an advice Donald Duck takes wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, when he tries to rest, this becomes very difficult, as he’s hindered by a fly, a caterpillar, a chicken and an obnoxious woodpecker. The cartoon ends with Donald Duck battering the radio to pieces.

‘Self Control’ is the first Donald Duck cartoon with the Duck as the average citizen battling everyday annoyances, a role he would play with gusto during the 1940s. Unfortunately, in ‘Self Control’ his annoyances are a little too outlandish to be really familiar.

Moreover, the cartoon suffers from a terrible slowness, rendering a surprisingly boring cartoon. It seems the studio was still struggling with the character in a solo outfit. Indeed, when coupled to strong adversaries, like his nephews in ‘Donald’s Nephews‘ from two months later, the result was much more explosive. The woodpecker would return in ‘Donald’s Camera’ (1941).

Watch ‘Self Control’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 2
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Ostrich
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Better Self

‘Self Control’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

Director: Tom Palmer
Release Date: September 9, 1933
Rating: ★★
Review:

Buddy's Day Out © Warner Bros.Early 1933 Hugh Harman demanded more money for their cartoons, but Leon Schlesinger refused it. This led to a break between the two, and Harman & Ising quit in June 1933.

This event left Schlesinger with a contract with Warner Bros. to deliver cartoons, but without a studio to make them. Moreover, he was without a cartoon star, as Harman & Ising had taken Bosko with them. Schlesinger quickly set up a studio of his own, at the old Warner Bros. lot at Sunset BLvd. He quickly signed several people to man his brand new studio, including Jack King from Disney, and Bob Clampett from Harman & Ising.

However, somehow he first trusted his new studio into the hands of a guy called Tom Palmer, tipped by his sound engineer, Bernard Brown. Palmer and his associate quickly came up with a brand new star called Buddy, whom Bob Clampett described as “Bosko in whiteface”. This is not entirely true, however, for where Bosko was devoid of personality, he was at least cheerful, and nicely drawn. Buddy, on the other hand, had an ugly design, and was bland as hell.

In ‘Buddy’s Day Out’, Buddy’s first film, even his makers were not sure what to make of him. He’s obviously drawn like a boy, but he drives a car, and has an all too clearly erotic relationship with his girlfriend Cookie. Added to these ‘stars’ are a little baby brother called Elmer and a dog called Happy, which is almost a copy of Terry from Disney’s ‘Just Dogs‘ (1932). As you may notice Buddy, Cookie and even Elmer follow a trend that had existed since the dawn of the sound era of creating a star and giving him a girlfriend. Obnoxious baby brothers are nothing new either, and appear in e.g. Fleischer’s ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart‘ (1932), Van Beuren’s ‘In the Park‘ (1932), and in Columbia’s complete Scrappy series.

In their very first adventure the quartet go on a picnic, but problems soon start when Elmer runs away with the car. This part is absolutely action rich, but the complete cartoon lacks anything that resembles a gag. Palmer was not much of a gag man, let alone a director, and after ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ he directed only one more cartoon (‘I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song‘) before Schlesinger fired him.

‘Buddy’s Day Out’ thus was the first cartoon of Leon Schlesinger’s very own studio, and it shows. Compared to the Harman & Ising Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is clearly of a lesser quality. Especially the thin lining of the characters is subpar, as is the rather erratic animation on them. That said, the animation on ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is still far better than practically any animation at Paul Terry or Van Beuren, and the short at least showcases a nicely animated train. However, the cliched blandness of Buddy and friends, and the lack of anything resembling humor make ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ a far from promising start for Schlesinger’s new star.

Nevertheless, Buddy was a child of his time, for in 1933/1934 cartoons moved away from the world of sex, booze and horror to a more childish world of fairy tales, nursery rhymes etc. It was Disney who had made the first move, but also Iwerks and Van Beuren had already drifted into that direction. Thus at Warner Bros. the supposedly black, somehow mature Bosko was replaced by the white, somewhat childish Buddy. The Hays code sealed the trend by banning sex, drugs etc. By 1934 cinema had entered its most infantile stage. And it was Buddy who would be Warner Brother’s epitome of this low point in early cartoon history, which would last until the end of 1935, when a guy called Tex Avery came along…

Watch ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Mannie Davis
Release Date: August 11, 1933
Stars: Cubby the Bear
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Nut Factory © Van BeurenIn ‘The Nut Factory’ Cubby Bear is a Sherlock Holmes-like detective, with the little cat from ‘Fresh Ham‘ as his Watson.

Our hero soon gets a call to solve a mystery of stolen false teeth. After a completely unnecessary diversion in a ghost house, Cubby discovers the false teeth in a hollow tree, in which squirrels use them to crack nuts. The ghost house sequence feels almost obligatory, placing the cartoon in a long series of pre-code horror cartoons.

‘The Nut Factory’ is a terribly animated and erratic cartoon, and Cubby is as lifeless and bland as ever, but the cartoon shows two gags that foreshadow Tex Avery: when an old lady phones Cubby, she crosses the split screen, and later Cubby opens multiple doors in one door post, a gag that first appeared in the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Mad Doctor‘ from earlier that year.

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

‘The Nut Factory’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Cubby Bear’ and on the DVD ‘The Complete Adventures of Cubby Bear’

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