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Director: David Hand
Release Date: December 19, 1936
Rating: ★★★
Review:

More Kittens © Walt DisneyThe success of Oscar-winning ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ (1935) undoubtedly prompted this sequel, which is both less beautiful, less entertaining and less remarkable than the original short.

The film is aptly titled ‘More Kittens’, which shows its crowd-pleasing character. This time the kittens create havoc in the garden, while dealing with a fly, a tortoise and a teasing blue bird.

The cartoon is remarkable for introducing the good-natured St. Bernard Bolivar, who would become Donald Duck’s dog in the comic strip two years later. He’s not named here, but the likeness is so stunning, not only in design but also in character, that there’s no doubt it’s him. True, there was also a St. Bernard in ‘Alpine Climbers’ (1936), but this dog lacks Bolivar’s character, being more of a cliche St. Bernard instead.

Watch ‘More Kittens’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 65
To the previous Silly Symphony: Mother Pluto
To the next Silly Symphony: Woodland Café

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Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: December 19, 1936
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Porky in the Northwoods © Warner BrothersPorky has a game refuge in Canada, in which he defends rather cute animals against an evil hunter.

The hunter is designed like the lieutenant from ‘Little Beau Porky‘, but we only see him appear after 4’30. Before this his threat is shown by his shadow only, a remarkably inventive device for a cartoon of the 1930s.

Like other early Warner Brothers films, ‘Porky in the North Woods’ looks very primitive, and rather Disney-anno-1932/1933-like. Yet it features an extremely fast sequence of a squirrel running a ridiculously long distance through the woods to get help (and back to fetch and apple). Such short and fast sequences of characters crossing ridiculously long distances would become a trademark of Tashlin’s colleague Tex Avery. Like his first two films, Tashlin’s third short at Warner Bros. features a battle sequence: this time we watch an enormous number of animals being called to arms.

Porky hardly talks in this cartoon – it seems Tashlin tried to avoid his tiresome stutter. Indeed, in 1937, the original voice artist would be replaced by Mel Blanc, who was able to make Porky’s stutter funny.

Watch ‘Porky in the North Woods’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 17
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: The Village Smithy
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Wrestler

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: October 24, 1936
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Little Beau Porky © Warner Brothers‘Little Beau Porky’ is Frank Tashlin’s second film at Warner Bros. It’s a more clearly gag-orientated effort than his debut film ‘Porky’s Poultry Plant‘.

Porky (with his old stutter) is a soldier at the foreign legion, being bullied by his lieutenant. However, in the end he manages to single-handedly save the fort and to overthrow an evil Arab and his gang.

Like in ‘Porky’s Poultry Plant’, both design and animation are primitive. But Tashlin unmistakably shows his cinematic talent, especially in the opening sequence and in the preparation for battle.

Watch ‘Little Beau Porky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 15
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Moving Day
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Village Smithy

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: August 22, 1936
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Porky's Poultry Plant © Warner BrothersBoth director Frank Tashlin and composer Carl Stalling make their Warner Bros. debut in this film in which Porky (with his old ugly voice) has a fowl farm, threatened by a bunch of evil buzzards.

‘Porky’s Poultry Plant’ looks primitive when compared to Disney films of the same time, looking more like a Disney film from 1932-1933. Its story is sweet, and not very funny, but Carl Stalling’s music is fresh, and Tashlin’s staging is already very impressive. Especially the air battle sequence (in which Porky, in a small army plane, fights an air fleet of hawks ) is remarkably stunning, showing unparalleled fast montage and original ‘camera’ shots. Both these techniques would become Tashlin trademarks, and would contribute to a faster, more gag-orientated style at Warner Bros. Tashlin had replaced Jack King, who had returned to Disney, and with his first Warner Bros. cartoon he immediately proves to be a more inventive director than his predecessor.

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

http://www.supercartoons.net/cartoon/822/porky-pig-porkys-poultry-plant.html

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 12
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Rainmaker
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Milk and Money

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: September 12, 1936
Stars: Donald Duck, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Donald and Pluto © Walt DisneyWhile Donald is plumbing, Pluto accidentally swallows a magnet, attracting all kinds of metallic objects, like his dish, a pendulum, a watch and eventually Donald’s monkey-wrench.

This short features elaborate gags based on character animation, surely building to a grand finale. One can admire the inevitable ‘logic’ of the film, yet the result is only mildly funny, and neither one of Donald’s or Pluto’s best films.

Although advertised as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, in ‘Donald and Pluto’ Mickey Mouse is not present at all. On the contrary, for both Donald and Pluto this is their first cartoon without Mickey (if we disregard the Silly Symphonies ‘Just Dogs‘ from 1932 and ‘The Wise Little Hen‘  from 1934). After getting more and longer sequences of their own within the Mickey Mouse series, this step was inevitable.

Pluto had come a long way, sharing five years and 33 films with Mickey before standing on his own, but Donald received his independence already within two years, after only twelve films with Mickey.

Both Pluto and Donald would get their own series in 1937. They would appear together in five more films, all within Donald’s series: ‘Beach Picnic‘ (1939), ‘Donald’s Dog Laundry‘, ‘Put-Put Troubles‘, ‘Window Cleaners‘ (all 1940) and finally ‘The Eyes Have It’ (1945).

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 88
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Circus
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Elephant

Director: David Hand
Release Date: October 10, 1936
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Mickey's Elephant © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Elephant’s opens with Mickey receiving a cute young elephant from the Rajah of Ghaboon as a playmate for Pluto. Unfortunately Pluto is not amused, and he thinks ‘Bobo’ is an intruder with intentions to replace him.

‘Mickey’s elephant’ is similar to ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto‘ (1933) and to ‘Mickey’s Kangaroo‘ (1935), in which Pluto is also jealous of an intruder and which also feature his evil side. Like in ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto’ Pluto’s evil consciousness has materialized into a little devilish persona, who talks with a strong New York accent and who persuades Pluto to fix Bobo using red pepper. Sneezing along Bobo blows is own new house down, but unfortunately Pluto’s too…

‘Mickey’s Elephant’ is a rare example of a Mickey Mouse film inspired by the Mickey Mouse comic strip. Most of the time the influence was reversed. But in this case Bobo the elephant had made his entrance in Floyd Gottfredson’s strip two years earlier. Bobo is a completely innocent character, and Pluto’s little devil notwithstanding, the cartoon is more cute than funny.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Elephant’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 89
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Donald and Pluto
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Worm Turns

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: August 1, 1936
Stars: Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, the Orphan Mice, the Little Seal
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Mickey's Circus © Walt DisneyIn ‘Mickey’s Circus’ we watch Mickey and Donald perform in a circus for a pack of orphan mice.

Most of the time goes to Donald and his trained seals. Only after six minutes Mickey joins in again, struggling with Donald on the slack-rope, while being troubled by the orphan mice.

‘Mickey’s Circus’ was the last cartoon to feature the Orphan Mice (apart from the remake of ‘Orphan’s Benefit from 1941), until their unexpected return in ‘Pluto’s party‘ from 1952. It’s also the first Disney short featuring a cute little seal. Similar seals would reappear in ‘Pluto’s Playmate‘ (1941), ‘Rescue Dog‘ (1947) and ‘Mickey and the Seal‘ (1948).

Watch ‘Mickey’s Circus’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 87
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Alpine Climbers
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Donald and Pluto

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date:
 June 20, 1936
Stars:
 Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pete
Rating:
  ★★★½
Review:

Moving Day © Walt DisneyBecause Mickey, Donald and Goofy can’t pay the rent, evil sheriff Pete will sell their furniture. The boys decide to move before that’s going to happen…

‘Moving Day’ is the this third of the classic trio cartoons featuring Mickey, Donald and Goofy. In this entry Mickey is hardly visible. Most of the cartoon is taken by his co-stars in two all too elaborate sequences: one featuring Goofy in a surreal struggle with a piano with a will of its own, and another featuring Donald’s trouble with a plunger and a fishbowl.

Despite the great animation, one gets the feeling that in this cartoon the artists were too much obsessed with character and less with gags, making this cartoon a bit slow and tiresome, when compared to the previous trio outings ‘Mickey’s Service Station’ and ‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade‘ from 1935. Luckily, in later trio shorts like ‘Moose Hunters’ or ‘Hawaiian Holiday’, the fast pace was found again.

‘Moving Day’ is the first cartoon to feature Pete in color. It was also the last of only three cartoons in which Art Babbitt animated Goofy. After he had done so much for the character in ‘Mickey’s Service Station’ and ‘On Ice‘, one can say that in ‘Moving Day’ he went a little too far in milking the goof’s scenes. Anyhow, Babbitt went over to feature films, but after these three shorts Goofy’s character was established well enough for others to take over with equally inspired results.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 85
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Rival
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Alpine Climbers

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 24, 1936
Stars: Betty Boop, Pudgy
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Still from 'We Did It' featuring a little black kittenWhen Betty is gone three kittens cause havoc in Betty’s house. Pudgy gets the blame until the kittens plead guilty.

The three kittens are doubtless inspired by the Walt Disney’s Academy Award-winning cartoon ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ from 1935, from which it borrows a milk bottle gag. ‘We Did It’ is not half as elaborate as the Disney cartoon. Nevertheless, it shows the Fleischer’s growth in character animation through pantomime. Pudgy, like Pluto, is by design fit for character animation.

Unfortunately, the Fleischer Studio was very inconsistent and this cartoon was followed by many in which character animation is practically absent. And even in ‘We Did It’ the result of this technique is only mildly amusing and hardly impressing.

Watch ‘We Did It’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 50
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop and Little Jimmy
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: A Song a Day

‘We Did It’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: March 28, 1936
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Elmer Elephant © Walt Disney‘Elmer Elephant’ is a beautiful cartoon. It’s full of cute animals, but despite its cuteness it never becomes cloying. Based on an idea by story artist Bianca Majolie, its storyline is very straightforward and really heartfelt, like the best of Disney’s works.

Elmer visits the birthday party of one of his jungle friends, the extremely cute girl tiger Tilly. He appears to be her favorite guest, but all the other animals (including some non-tropical foxes) mock him because of his trunk, singing “your nose is like a rubber hose”. Moreover they bully and taunt him and send him away.

Unhappy, Elmer wanders through the jungle, but then he encounters even stranger-looking animals: an old giraffe and three Jimmy Durante-like pelicans, who comfort him a little. Then, suddenly, there’s a fire in Tillie’s tree hut. Elmer comes to the rescue, and with help of his nose and of his new odd friends he saves Tillie from the anthropomorphized flames. Thus being the hero of the day he wins Tillie’s love, displayed by a kiss.

Elmer Elephant has the looks of a storybook. It’s beautifully animated, with lots of shadows, and it has well-designed characters. Especially the hippo, who has an absurdly low voice, is a wonderful character. It’s both surprising and a shame that no other cartoon has been made with these cute characters in their beautiful jungle forest,  although Elmer and Tilly have a cameo appearance in ‘Toby Tortoise Returns‘.

Of course, the idea of a kind elephant being mocked for a handicap would later return in ‘Dumbo’ (1941), making ‘Elmer Elephant’ its immediate predecessor.

Watch ‘Elmer Elephant’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 59
To the previous Silly Symphony: Broken Toys
To the next Silly Symphony: Three Little Wolves

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: October 31, 1936
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Country Cousin © Walt DisneyA very beautifully executed rendering of the classic tale, ‘The Country Cousin’ is a gem among the Silly Symphonies.

Its story is lean and economical, its characterization highly effective and its silent acting superb. Particularly noteworthy is the drunken performance of the Country Cousin, animated by Art Babbitt, which belongs to the highlights of animation.

Everyone who wants to know what ‘character animation’ is all about, should go and watch this cartoon. One cannot find a better example of it: the two mice look similar, but are very different in their behavior, attitude, and personality. Moreover, their personalities are played completely in mime, without any help from characteristic voices.

Besides this, ‘The Country Cousin’ contains some very realistic animation of people’s feet walking on the sidewalk. Indeed, the human realism of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) was not far away anymore.

Thirteen years later, Tex Avery would explore the theme of ‘The Country Cousin’ once again, albeit quite differently and way more ridiculously, in his hilarious short ‘Little Rural Riding Hood’ (1949).

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 63
To the previous Silly Symphony: Three Blind Mouseketeers
To the next Silly Symphony: Mother Pluto

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: August 22, 1936
Stars: Max Hare, Toby Tortoise, The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Toby Tortoise Returns © Walt DisneyOne of the few sequels in Disney’s pre-video era, ‘Toby Tortoise Returns’ features the two stars of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ from 1935.

In this cartoon, written by Ward Kimball and featuring his typically zany style of humor, Max Hare (who’s still a bragging bully) and Toby Tortoise combat each other in a boxing match, which – of course – Toby eventually wins, albeit by means of Max’s own trickery.

Apart from Toby Tortoise and Max Hare there are many cameos of other Silly Symphony stars, among them the three little pigs, Dirty Bill (from ‘The Robber Kitten’), Jenny Wren and the Cuckoo from ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ and, Elmer Elephant and Tilly Tiger (from ‘Elmer Elephant’), as if all Silly Symphonies were taking place in the same space and time.

This makes ‘Toby Tortoise Returns’ akin to the earlier ‘Mickey’s Polo Team’ from the same year. The whole atmosphere is rather like that of a future Warner Brothers-cartoon, and one can sense the sheer joy the makers had in bringing all these characters together in a cartoon which sole reason of existence seems to be pure fun.

Notice the black bunny and the black turtle that are Max’s and Toby’s helpers, respectively.

Watch ‘Toby Tortoise Returns’ yourself and tell me what you think:


This is Silly Symphony No. 61
To the previous Silly Symphony: Three Little Wolves
To the next Silly Symphony: Three Blind Mouseketeers

Director: David Hand
Release Date: November 14, 1936
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Mother Pluto © Walt DisneyPluto unwillingly starts a career as a mother to a number of chicks.

When he finally has learned to love them, their real mother returns and together with her husband, a violent rooster, tries to chase Pluto away.

Although introduced as such, ‘Mother Pluto’ is not really a Silly Symphony. It lacks both the obligate music and the fairy tale character typical of the series. It’s actually Pluto’s first solo outing. It seems that at the time Disney didn’t dare to introduce new series besides the Mickey Mouse cartoons and the Silly Symphonies. But with Mickey giving way more and more to his co-stars Goofy, Donald and Pluto, this step would soon be made.

At the end of 1937 Pluto would become the first Mickey Mouse co-star to start his own series with ‘Pluto’s Quin-Puplets’, immediately followed by Donald with ‘Donald’s Ostrich’. Goofy followed one-and-a-half year later, in 1939, with ‘Goofy and Wilbur’. These three stars would be heading most of the Disney shorts of the 1940s and 1950s when the Silly Symphony series had been dropped and the number of Mickey Mouse shorts diminished.

Watch ‘Mother Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 64
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Country Cousin
To the next Silly Symphony: More Kittens

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 17, 1936
Rating:

Review:

Somewhere in Dreamland © Max FleischerMax Fleischer’s first full color cartoon is in the same vein as Disney’s ‘Lullaby Land‘ (1933) and Walter Lantz’s ‘Candy Land’ (1934), depicting little children’s wonderful dreams.

‘Somewhere in Dreamland’ deals with two very poor children who dream that they are in dreamland which is full of candy and toys. Fleischer’s 3D-technique is used with stunning results, and the cartoon must have struck a chord with the audience during the Great Depression era, in which poverty was an all too familiar thing. Indeed, as children the Fleischer Brothers themselves had known hunger like depicted in the film, when their father ran out of business. Unfortunately, the cartoon is remarkably unfunny and sickeningly sweet, following similar sugary outings in Disney’s Silly Symphonies series, like ‘Funny Little Bunnies‘ (1934) and ‘The Robber Kitten‘ (1935).

Unlike those films, however, ‘Somewhere in Dreamland’ suffers from primitive designs. The children’s mother looks like a relative of Olive Oyl, while the little children are drawn in typical thirties kids style resembling Hänsel and Gretel from Disney’s ‘Babes in the Woods‘ from four years earlier. The result is that none of the characters seem to fit within the elaborate 3D-sets.

Watch ‘Somewhere in Dreamland’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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