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Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: August 20, 1960
Stars: The Honey-Mousers
Rating:
Review:

Mice Follies © Warner Bros.Not to be confused with the delightful Tom & Jerry short of the same name ‘Mice Follies’ marks the third appearance of the Honey-Mousers, McKimson’s parody of the television sitcom The Honeymooners.

The short opens with Ralph and Ned departing way too late from a night out. Somehow, we’ll never know why, Ned taunts a cat on the way. The cat follows the boys home, and they mistake the ferocious feline for their wives when they arrive home. The two men flee the house. Then the wives arrive themselves, only to get the same treatment from the cat. In the end we watch the four going asleep on a tiny park bench.

It’s hard to say anything positive about ‘Mice Follies’, The story just makes no sense, none of the dialogue is remotely interesting, little to nothing is done with the parody element, and the few gags present all fall flat. And so, the Honey-Mousers wouldn’t return after this unsuccessful entry.

Watch ‘Mice Follies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mice Follies’ is released on the Blu-Ray-set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: June 1962
Stars: The Beary Family
Rating:
Review:

Mother's Little Helper © Walter Lantz‘Mother’s Little Helper’ is the second cartoon featuring ‘The Beary Family’, new cartoon stars that Walter Lantz had launched in April 1962 in ‘Fowled-up Birthday’, and which would last until 1972, the very last year of Lantz’s theatrical cartoons.

The Beary family consists of Charlie and Bessie Bear, who are a clearly traditional family with Bessie being a housewife and Charlie a rather Fred Flintstone-like husband (in fact the Beary family was modeled on the live action sitcom ‘Life of Riley’). Inexplicably, though, the two have a pet called Goosey, who doesn’t speak, but who is able to tell-tale on Charlie, nonetheless.

The short starts with Bessie vacuum cleaning and complaining about how much work it is to keep the house clean. So much she can’t even go to the beauty parlor! Luckily, Charlie offers to do her work, so she can go. But Goosey tells Bessie about Charlie’s unusual cleaning methods and even sabotages his work, and part of the cartoon is filled with Charlie getting rid of the pest.

‘Mother’s Little Helper’ is a terribly unfunny cartoon: the short relies heavily on dialogue, with Charlie’s nautical references being the supposed source of humor. Moreover, none of the characters is sympathetic, and the Goose’s role is unclear, anyway. An opportunity to satirize man-wife relationships is wasted by the outlandish antics of Charlie and Goosey. It’s absolutely unbelievable that such talent-rich Disney veterans like story men Al Bartino and Jack Kinney, and director Paul Hannah worked on this abysmal product.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mother’s Little Helper’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: July 1961
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:
Review:

Franken-stymied © Walter Lantz‘Franken-stymied’ starts with a classic stormy scene and Woody Woodpecker trying to hide from the storm in a castle.

Inside the castle a Frankenstein-like mad scientist has made a chicken-plucking robot called Frankie, and as soon Woody arrives, Frankie starts plucking him (luckily we see no effect – throughout these scenes Woody keeps all his tail feathers, no matter how many times they are plucked). It takes a while before Woody can take control, and in the end he manages to cover the scientist in feathers and make Frankie go after the unfortunate villain.

‘Franken-stymied’ was made by talented Disney veterans like Jack Hannah (direction), Don Lusk (animation), Homer Brightman (story) and Clarence Wheeler (music), but it doesn’t show. The cartoon suffers from bad timing, awful dialogue, canned music, ugly designs and poor animation, as if the budget was way too tight to deliver anything decent. Clearly, ‘Franken-stymied’ never comes near any Disney product, but even worse: it cannot even compete with Walter Lantz films from only one year earlier.

Watch ‘Franken-stymied’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 109
To Woody Woodpecker’s debut film: Sufferin’ Cats
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Busman’s Holiday

‘Franken-stymied’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

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

The Bungle Cure © Toonder Studios‘The Bungle Cure’ is based on the Tom Poes comic strip ‘De Bommelkuur’ (1953), one of the weakest of all Tom Poes comics. And indeed, the film based on this story, is equally weak.

The short starts with Tom Puss driving the sick Ollie Bungle to the mountains, because the doctor has advised the sick bear to get some mountain air. Unfortunately, in the mountains they end up in a feud between two mountain tribes, the Grimps and the Knarks. The two tribes are equally fanatical in helping Mr. Bungle to heal. Their zeal make Mr. Bungle flee to a deserted island in a mountain lake, where Tom Puss discovers that Mr. Bungle has been cured, after all.

‘The Bungle Cure’ may function as a nice story for children, but has little to offer otherwise. As with the other Tom Puss & Mr. Bungle films the animation is extremely limited and the short relies heavily on dialogue. Most interesting is the minimal background art, which has maintained some of the panache of Marten Toonder’s own comic strips.

‘The Bungle Cure’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Seymour Kneitel
Release Date: August 29, 1958
Stars: Herman and Katnip
Rating:
Review:

You Said a Mouseful © Paramount‘You Said a Mouseful’ builds on two ideas: Katnip suddenly is an Italian chef, making pizza, while Herman runs a gym for mice, to keep them in shape enough to escape the cat.

Unfortunately, little Chubby hardly cooperates, eating everything in sight, and Herman has to rescue the brat repeatedly. Surprisingly, in the end little Chubby saves Herman by telling Katnip they’re Italian, too, and the cartoon ends with Katnip and the mice dancing around a pizza.

There’s very little to enjoy in ‘You Said a Mouseful’. Chubby is clearly modeled on Nibbles, the hungry orphan mouse Jerry adopts in the Tom & Jerry ‘The Milky Waif’ (1946), and who appeared in ten cartoons in total, up to 1957. Chubby hardly shares Nibbles’ charm, however, and the cartoon is hampered by rather cliche chase routines. Little is done with Katnip’s sudden Italian roots, except for him singing in mock-Italian. The whole cartoon looks like a poor man’s Tom & Jerry short.

The best gag may be when Katnip lures Chubby with help from a very large spaghetti string, the most violent one is when Herman puts Katnip’s hands into a toaster. This makes a painful watch indeed.

Watch ‘You Said a Mouseful’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘You Said a Mouseful’ is available on the DVD ‘Herman and Katnip – The Complete Series’

Director: Dave Tendlar
Release Date: November 22, 1957
Stars: Herman and Katnip
Rating:
Review:

One Funny Knight © Paramount‘One Funny Knight’ takes place in mystical medieval times.

Herman works as a servant in a tiny medieval castle in a forest. When Katnip kidnaps ‘beautiful’ princess Guinevere, Herman comes to the rescue. Rather incongruously, Katnip is dressed in 17th century style, and rides a scooter to his own, much larger, castle, followed by Herman on a bicycle.

There is more melodrama than humor in ‘One Funny Knight’, which makes the cartoon a rather boring watch. Nevertheless, there are some nice perspective stagings.

Watch ‘One Funny Knight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘One Funny Knight’ is available on the DVD ‘Herman and Katnip – The Complete Series’

Director: Gosce Vaskov
Release Date: 1996
Rating:
Review:

Misa u A-Molu (Mass in A Minor) © Zagreb Film‘Mass in A minor’ is the first computer animated film made in Croatia.

This single fact must be the sole reason to watch the film. Otherwise, ‘Mass in A minor’ is utterly forgettable. The short is an unremarkable mood piece with flames as its main theme. The motion is perfectly set to Marijan Brkić’s new age music, but this cannot save the film, which has a cheap, ugly and utterly primitive look.

 

‘Mass in A Minor is available on the DVD ‘The Best of Zagreb Film: Be Careful What You Wish For and The Classic Collection’

Director: Darko Kreč
Release Date: 1995
Rating:
Review:

Posljednji valcer u starom mlinu (Last Waltz in the Old Mill) © Zagreb FilmIn this latter-day Zagreb Film studio short two grains change into a prince and princess who waltz around a remote water mill.

This film combines live action footage of the water mill with cell animation of the prince and princess. Unfortunately, the film is hampered by its poor story, its mediocre designs, and unremarkable music by Ozren Depolo. If anything this film makes clear that in the post-communist era the Zagreb Film studio was severely struggling. With films like these one can feel the Zagreb school dying.

Watch ‘Last Waltz in the Old Mill’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Last Waltz in the Old Mill’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of Zagreb Film: Be Careful What You Wish For and The Classic Collection’

Director: Émile Cohl
Release Date:  July 27, 1913
Rating:
Review:

He Poses for his Portrait © Éclair New York‘He Poses for his Portrait’ is the second of only two surviving Newlyweds cartoons Émile Cohl made in the United States.

Like ‘Zozor ruine la réputation de sa famille‘ the film is based on the comic strip by George McManus, and the film is essentially an animated comic strip, with text balloons playing the most important part in telling the story.

In ‘He Poses for his Portrait’ a couple wants to have a picture painted of their little baby. Unfortunately, the brat drives the painter mad. As in ‘Zozor ruine la réputation de sa famille’ there’s hardly any animation, resulting in a pretty static and remarkably boring film. By all means, Cohl’s animated comic strips should be regarded as a failure, and belong to the weakest films in his enormous output, despite their success at the time. If anything, the series demonstrated that one needed little animation to please an audience, a message which several studios would take at heart in the decades afterwards.

Watch ‘He Poses for his Portrait’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘He Poses for his Portrait’ is available on the DVDs ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’

Director: Émile Cohl
Release Date: May 24, 1910
Rating:
Review:

Cadres fleuris © Émile Cohl‘Cadres fleuris’ is one of the least comprehensible and most boring of Cohl’s tableau films.

In this film the frames themselves are much more elaborate than the images inside the frames, which are reduced to a small part of the screen. There’s some cut-out animation, and some stop-motion, but the purpose of the film remains utterly puzzling, especially when some portraits of contemporary world leaders (e.g. Kaiser Wilhelm II and Czar Nicholas II) come along.

With the best of will one can see this film as an early forerunner of the abstract animation experiments of the 1920s and 1930s by Walter Ruttmann, Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, and Oskar Fischinger. Anyway, ‘Cadres fleuris’ was Cohl’s last venture into the tableau film, a genre which in the early 1910s quickly became obsolete, anyhow.

Watch ‘Cadres fleuris’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Cadres fleuris’ is available on the DVDs ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’

Director: Émile Cohl
Release Date: April 28, 1910
Rating:
Review:

Le petit chantecler © Émile CohlÉmile Cohl’s ventures into stop-motion form the weakest part of his prolific output, and ‘Le petit Chantecler’ is no exception.

The film is told in four acts, but it remains utterly inexplicable what happens on the screen. For the most part we just watch stiff statues of roosters, chickens, chicks, a pheasant, a pig, some ducks, and even eggs move in front of an equally static backdrop painting.

There’s an obvious suggestion of story, but it’s completely lost on the audience. Only with the arrival of Władisław Starewicz, and his groundbreaking film ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge‘ (1912), there would arise a real master of the stop motion medium.

Watch ‘Le petit Chantecler’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

‘Le petit Chantecler’ is available on the DVDs ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’

Director: Eric Armstrong
Release Date: July 3, 2002
Rating:
Review:

The ChubbChubbs! © Sony PicturesThe star of ‘The ChubbChubbs!’ is a humble alien who swipes the floor of a nightclub on some planet.

When the nightclub is threatened by some monsters, the alien repeatedly tries to warn its clientele, but only manages to ruin the singer’s act three times. In the end the alien disposes of the approaching army of monsters with help of some yellow animals, the ChubbChubbs of the title. These turn out to have rotating razor-blade mouths, belying their cute appearance.

‘The ChubbChubbs!’ was a sort of test film for Sony Pictures Imageworks, and thus it’s not a very deep film. In fact, the film feels rather childish and immature, and the only source of humor stems from the cameos of familiar science fiction movie characters, like Darth Vader, Yoda, Alien and E.T.. The rest of the cartoon humor feels forced and overtly cliche.

The film isn’t helped by a trite story, a too talkative soundtrack, ugly voice designs (especially of the alien itself), ugly color designs, mediocre animation, and very inconsistent computer art, blending an array of styles from cartoony to realistic into a far from convincing world. That this utterly forgettable film managed to win an Academy Award is beyond me, especially when considering that one of the other nominees was Kōji Yamamura’s classic short ‘Mt. Head’.

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

https://vimeo.com/5603230

‘The ChubbChubbs!’ is available as a bonus on the DVD ‘Surfs Up’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: October 25, 1941
Rating:
Review:

rookie revue © warner bros.

Like Bob Clampett’s earlier ‘Meet John Doughboy‘ Friz Freleng’s ‘Rookie Revue’ is a spot gag cartoon on the army, which grew by the minute due to the draft that had been installed since October 1940.

Note that both cartoons predate the attack on Pearl Harbor, showing that the US armed forces were growing even before the United States were being attacked. The premise of ‘Rookie Revue’ is that we “join the army for a day and get a glimpse of military life”. None of the spot gags are remotely funny, however, making ‘Rookie Revue’ very, very tiresome, and only interesting as a period piece. Nevertheless, animation lovers will appreciate the caricatures of Tex Avery, Henry Binder and Ray Katz in the mess.

Watch ‘Rookie Revue’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rookie Revue’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: August 2, 1941
Rating: 
Review:

Aviation Vacation © Warner Bros.Tex Avery’s spot gag cartoons always were rather loose-jointed affairs, but ‘Avation Vacation’ tops them all in randomness.

The main frame involves a plane trip around the world, but we also watch ostriches hiding and butterflies emerging. None of the gags is remotely interesting, least of all the plane gags themselves. This results in arguably the weakest of all Avery’s spot gag cartoons.

The short is noteworthy, however, for featuring the first occurrence of the ‘hair-in-the-projector-gag, a 4th wall breaking gag that Avery would perfect in ‘The Magical Maestro’ (1952). In this first version the hair pops up, while a highly realistic Irishman sings a ballad in operetta style. The hair is less convincing than the one in ‘The Magical Maestro’, but the gag works nonetheless, and it’s the undisputed highlight of the otherwise ultimately boring cartoon.

Watch ‘Aviation Vacation’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Aviation Vacation’ is available on the French ‘Tex Avery’ DVD Box Set

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 11, 1941
Stars: Popeye, Poopdeck Pappy, Swee’Pea
Rating:  ★
Review:

Child Psykolojiky © Max FleischerThis short opens with Popeye and Poopdeck Pappy playing cards (and the old man cheating a lot).

Unfortunately father and son are disturbed by a weeping Swee’Pea, and both try to nurture the baby. The two men’s methods of nurture are quite different, however, Popeye’s soft approach contrasting heavily with Poopdeck Pappy’s more outlandish methods. As soon as Popeye leaves the room, his father tests Swee’Pea’s nerves by swinging him outside the window, like a Michael Jackson avant la lettre. Next he teaches the infant how to shoot.

Despite the rather risque gags (at least to the modern viewer), ‘Child Psykolojiky’ never becomes very funny. The cartoon is hampered by its large amount of dialogue (it certainly is one of the most talkative cartoons of the era), and its moral, which throws the short back into the 1930s.

Watch ‘Child Psykolojiky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 97
To the previous Popeye film: Olive’s Boithday Presink
To the next Popeye film: Pest Pilot

‘Child Psykolojiky’ is available on the DVD set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1941-1943’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: May 9, 1941
Stars: Popeye
Rating:  ★
Review:

opeye Meetss Rip van Winkle © Max Fleischer‘Popeye Meets Rip van Winkle’ opens with Popeye passing Rip van Winkle’s home, which is emptied by some movers (one being a caricature of Chico Marx), because Van Winkle didn’t pay the rent.

Soon, Van Winkle is put outside himself, still sleeping. Popeye takes the old man home. But when he leaves the bearded fellow alone for a while, Van Winkle immediately starts sleepwalking. Incomprehensibly, the somnambulist ends with some fairy tale dwarfs bowling in the countryside. Popeye has to fight them all before he can take the old man back with him.

‘Popeye Meets Rip van Winkle’ makes very little sense, and certainly is one of the weakest Popeye cartoons ever made. The best part is when the dwarfs beat Popeye to their own size. Nevertheless, the short features some beautiful effect animation on Popeye, when he’s lit by lighting.

Watch ‘Popeye Meets Rip van Winkle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 95
To the previous Popeye film: Flies Ain’t Human
To the next Popeye film: Olive’s Boithday Presink

‘Popeye Meets Rip van Winkle’ is available on the DVD set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1941-1943’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: February 21, 1941
Stars: Gabby
Rating:
Review:

Two for the Zoo © Max FleischerIn a search for more lasting characters, the Fleischer studio gave Gabby, the omnipresent watchman from ‘Gulliver’s Travels‘ (1940) his own series.

In 1940 and 1941 the studio made eight Gabby cartoons. Unfortunately, the series was not a success. The problem lies with the character itself. Even in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ Gabby is hardly funny, and in ‘Two for the Zoo’, his fourth solo film, he only demonstrates that he was the most talkative character of his era, which is hardly an advertisement.

In this rather tiresome cartoon Gabby meets a porter who transports a ‘rubberneck Kango’ to the zoo inside a large crate. For unclear reasons Gabby volunteers to take the animal itself, taking a small fantasy creature out of the box, which looks like a kangaroo with a trunk and giraffe-like horns. What Gabby doesn’t realize is that he has only taken the cub, and that the mother Kango is still inside the crate. She soon follows the two, putting her cub inside her pouch. This leads to quite some confusion, and only in the end Gabby discovers that there were actually two animals all along.

Unfortunately, none of Gabby’s antics are remotely funny, and the gags are greatly hampered by Gabby’s constant jabbering. The best part is when the large Kango has the hiccups, and Gabby balances on a ladder on her head.

Watch ‘Two for the Zoo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Two for the Zoo’ is available on the Thunderbean DVD/Blu-Ray ‘Fleischer Classics featuring Gulliver’s Travels’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: July 18, 1942
Rating:
Review:

Foney Fables © Warner Bros.‘Foney Fables’ is a spot gag cartoon on fairy tales, very much in the vain of ‘A Gander at Mother Goose‘ (1940), sharing the realistic hand skipping pages of a storybook with the former cartoon.

‘A Gander at Mother Goose’ already was anything but classic, but ‘Foney Fables’ is even worse. Neither writer Michael Maltese nor director Friz Freleng seem inspired, and the often beautiful animation is wasted on all the lame spot gags. Even the running gag is trite and predictable.

The most interesting aspects of the cartoon are the war references: the grasshopper will survive winter, because he has bought war bonds, the wolf in sheep’s clothing is called ‘the fifth columnist of his day’, the goose that lays golden eggs lays normal eggs for national defense, and old mother Hubbard is being accused of hoarding food. These gags cannot rescue the cartoon, however, which remains uninteresting and forgettable.

Watch ‘Foney Fables’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Foney Fables’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 5’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 20, 1940
Stars: Sniffles
Rating:
Review:

The Egg Collector © Warner Bros.In the 1930s Frank Tashlin had made the most beautiful cartoons at Warner Bros. When Chuck Jones inherited his unit at the end of 1938, he too made the most beautiful shorts of all.

‘The Egg Collector’ is a prime example, with stunning background art, original camera angles (a clear Tashlin influence), great shading and excellent animation. However, unlike Tashlin’s cartoons, Jones’s were extremely slow. ‘The Egg Collector’, for example , moves at such a sluggish speed, one almost falls asleep while watching it.

The short stars the little mouse Sniffles, Jones’s very first returning character, and his friend, the bookworm from ‘Sniffles and the Bookworm’ (1939). They read in a book about egg collecting, and wish to collect an owl’s egg, not realizing that the fact that eats small rodents means it can possibly eat them. Thus they are on their way to a church nearby, where they soon discover the real nature of the barn owl. There’s little humor in this cute and boring cartoon, although the little owl’s hoots are very charming. The design of the little owl is exactly the same as the one in ‘Little Brother Rat‘.

Carl Stalling accompanies the church scenes with particularly solemn music, based on Felix Mendelssohn’s stage music for A Midsummernight’s Dream. His score rarely sounded so German as it does in this particular short.

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

‘The Egg Collector’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 22, 1941
Stars: Hunky & Spunky
Rating:  ★
Review:

Vitamin Hay © Max Fleischer‘Vitamin Hay’ was the very last of the Color Classics, a series that arguably already had run out of steam by 1938.

‘Vitamin Hay’ seems to have appeared almost as an afterthought, being released almost a year after the second to last Color Classic, ‘You Can’t Shoe a Horsefly‘. Like the previous three Color Classic cartoons it starred the boring burro duo of Hunky and Spunky.

This time Spunky refuses to eat his ‘vitamin hay’, and joins a goat in eating car parts. When he swallows a car horn he gets into trouble with some angry geese, and Hunky, once again, has to come to the rescue.

Hunky and Spunky never were remotely interesting to watch, and certainly not fit for the more adult war era, so I doubt whether anyone missed them when they were shelved. ‘Vitamin Hay’, is a fitting farewell to the donkeys, being as tiresome and as devoid of humor as the worst of their previous cartoons. Luckily, the Fleischer had a new, more daring star with ‘Superman‘. Yet he, like Popeye, had not been conceived by themselves, leaving Koko the Clown and Betty Boop the Fleischer’s only two successful creations during the long existence of their studio.

In hindsight the Fleischers’ Color Classics were a disappointing series that never fulfilled their promise. They never approached the quality of their original, Disney’s Silly Symphonies’, and most entries were ill-fated attempts at emulating the Disney style, resulting in sugary, childish and terribly unfunny cartoons. It was clear that in this series the Fleischers tried to be something they were not. This was a pity, for the contemporary Popeye series proved that they needn’t to. In the Popeye cartoons the Fleischers could stay true to themselves, producing some of the best shorts of the 1930s, including several classics, where in my opinion the Color Classics produced none, bar the very first one, the Betty Boop vehicle ‘Poor Cinderella‘ (1934).

Watch ‘Vitamin Hay’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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

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