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Director: Carl Anderson
Release Date: January 27, 1916
Stars: Police Dog
Rating:

The Police Dog on the Wire © Carl AndersonSoon the Bray studio employed more and more animators, becoming the most important studio of the 1910s, greatly helped by some patents, most importantly the Bray-Hurd patent for cel animation, which copyrighted an animation technique that would be the major technique in drawn animation until the late 1980s.

In the 1910s the young studio kept attracting some names that would become some of the most important animators and producers of the future, like Max Fleischer, Walter Lantz and Paul Terry. These new animators were allowed to start their own series, thus the Bray studio produced such diverse series as Earl Hurd’s Bobby Bumps, Paul Terry’s Farmer Al Falfa, and Max Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell.

One of J.R. Bray’s new animators was Carl Anderson, who made ca. a dozen ‘Police Dog’ films between 1914 and 1918, of which ‘The Police Dog on the Wire’ is one. When judged by this film Anderson emerges as one of the less inspired artists of the Bray studio. The film is remarkably plotless, with a female dog phoning ‘police dog’, while a cop called Piffles gets drunk. The animation, too, is poor and formulaic, never reaching the heights of that of J.R. Bray himself, let alone a Winsor McCay. Moreover, the frames are cramped with objects, giving the characters scarcely space to move in. Many scenes are appallingly slow and static, resulting in a film that is best forgotten.

Watch ‘The Police Dog on the Wire’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Police Dog on the Wire’ has been released on the DVD & Blu-Ray-set ‘Cartoon Roots: The Bray Studios Animation Pioneers’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: November 11, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating:

The Baby Sitters © Hanna-Barbera

This episode starts with Barney getting tickets to a big fight in town.

Meanwhile, their wives promise one Edna Boulder to make Fred and Barney babysit her little son Egbert, so they can go to the bridge tournament together. So, Fred and Barney stay home to watch the fight on television. Unfortunately, their area is blackened out (the replacement is a recital by Alice Blue Jean and her Magic Banjo), thus Fred decides to watch it at Joe Rockhead’s place, who lives outside the blackened era.

Yet, Joe is not home, and in the least convincing of the story twists, Fred busts in Joe’s door to watch the fight anyway. In another unlikely event little Egbert puts his clothes on Joe’s pooch (a little brontosaur), which promptly jumps out of the window, making Fred and Barney think it’s the baby.

The story of this episode rambles, to say the least, and contains an Irish policeman trope. Worse, the designs of the characters are pretty weird. Fred’s design in particular is very inconsistent and off model. On the upside, there’s a nice primitive elevator, and a bird functioning as a car horn. This bird is the first animal talking to the camera, a Flintstones trope that would occur throughout the series.

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

‘The Baby Sitters’ is released on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: March 19, 1960
Stars: Sylvester, Sylvester junior
Rating:
Review:

Goldimouse and the three Cats © Warner Bros.

‘Goldimouse and the Three Cats’ starts as a re-telling of the classic fairy tale with Sylvester as the papa bear, Sylvester junior as the baby bear, and a rather anonymous female mouse as Goldimouse.

This part uses a classic fairy tale voice over, but after three minutes the tale is told and makes place for a routine in which Sylvester tries to capture Goldimouse to impress his son. This part borrows heavily from McKimson’s Hippety Hopper cartoons, with Sylvester junior hiding in shame under a paper bag.

A nice touch is that Sylvester keeps on trying, even after his wife and son have long lost faith, making him a genuine fanatic. This cannot hide the fact that this is a cartoon of tried routine spot gags, which adds nothing new, despite the fairy tale setting with which the film starts.

Watch ‘Goldimouse and the Three Cats’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Goldimouse and the Three Cats’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’

Director: Hamilton Luske
Release Date: June 21, 1961
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating:
Review:

Donald and the Wheel © Walt Disney‘Donald and the Wheel’ is an educational special lasting almost 18 minutes.

The short features two ‘spirits of progress’, an old one and a junior, who are depicted by grotesque looking live actors, of whom we only see their silhouettes. These spirits are voiced by The Mellotones, who provide the rhyming dialogue, and who sing two swinging songs by Mel Leven: ‘Wheels of progress’ and ‘That’s the Principle of the Thing’. Donald Duck is only a pawn in this cartoon, and throughout the picture he’s depicted in his stone age appearance, introduced at the beginning: wearing a bear skin, and suddenly bearing a red scalp.

The educational value of this short is very limited: we watch how wheels are used in all kinds of transport, and in various machines – that’s about it. Thus soon the tiresome dialogue and the irritating duo of spirits wear out their welcome.

The short is further hampered by ugly colored live action footage of cars and industrial wheels, looking forward to the cheap look of Ralph Bakshi’s features from the late 1970s.

Watch ‘Donald and the Wheel’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 118
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: How to Have an Accident at Work
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: The Litterbug

‘Donald and the Wheel’ is released on the DVD-set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume Four 1951-1961’

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’

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