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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’

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 30, 1939
Stars: Popeye, Bluto, Olive Oyl
Rating:  ★★★½
Review:

It's the Natural Thing to Do © Max Fleischer‘It’s the Natural Thing to Do’ is the last of four 1939 Popeye cartoons that has alternate opening titles.

In the short’s opening scene we watch Popeye and Bluto clobbering each other in the garden, while Olive does the dishes. However, then the trio receives a telegram from the Popeye fan club, asking them to “cut out the rough stuff and act more refined. Be ladies and gentlemen. That’s the natural thing to do.”.

After reading, Olive immediately sends the boys off to return as gentlemen, and indeed, they come back in top hat and tails. Olive, too, has become more refined, and the scene in which the trio move to the living room as refined as possible is a highlight of ridiculous animation. However, our heroes cannot cope with the numerous cakes and coffee being served without a table, and are at loss in polite conversation. Soon, they laugh at their own situation, and start clobbering each other again with gusto, as for them that’s “the natural thing to do”.

‘It’s the Natural Thing to Do’ is a very enjoyable cartoon, and a great take on the trio’s familiar relationship. However, it’s clearly made by lesser animators, for Popeye’s and Bluto’s designs look very awkward most of the time, at times evoking the looks of a 1934 Buddy cartoon. The animation certainly is sub-par when compared to the 1938 output, even though it’s done with clear fun. The drain of Fleischer’s top animators to their first feature ‘Gulliver’ only shows too well.

Watch ‘It’s the Natural Thing to Do’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘It’s the Natural Thing to Do’ is available on the DVD Set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 14, 1939
Stars: Popeye, Wimpy, Olive Oyl
Rating:  ★★★½
Review:

Hello, How Am I © Max FleischerIn ‘Hello, How Am I’ Popeye and Wimpy somehow have become room mates.

The short opens with them sleeping in the same room, while the phone rings. It appears to be Olive who invites Popeye over for a hamburger dinner. This, of course, attracts Wimpy’s attention.

Popeye soon is on his way, but around the corner he meets a doppelgänger, claiming to be Popeye, too. This puzzles the poor sailor, who immediately falls into an identity crisis. However, when he challenges the impostor with the help of spinach, it’s quickly revealed he’s actually Wimpy, something we viewers knew all the way long, as Wimpy’s mask keeps falling off during the picture.

‘Hello, How Am I’ is a rather slow and at times poorly timed cartoon, but Popeye’s existential crisis is marvelously done, and the cartoon is certainly one of the most original Popeye shorts of the late 1930s. It’s also the third of four 1939 Popeye cartoons that feature alternate opening titles.

Watch ‘Hello, How Am I’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hello, How Am I’ is available on the DVD Set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

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: May 19, 1939
Stars: Popeye, Bluto, Olive Oyl
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Wotta Nitemare © Max Fleischer‘Wotta Nitemare’ features new titles, abandoning the boat titles the series featured from its very start in 1933.

However, these new titles only lasted four cartoons, apart from ‘Wotta Nightmare’, ‘Ghosks is the Bunk‘, ‘Hello How Am I‘ and ‘It’s the Natural Thing To Do‘. With ‘Never Sock A Baby’ the boat was back again.

‘Wotta Nightmare’ essentially stars Popeye only, as we watch him dreaming, having a nightmare in which a devil-like Bluto courts an angel-like Olive Oyl. Popeye is having a hard time in his own dream, while we watch him tossing and turning in his bed, and even sleepwalking across the room. In the end spinach comes to the rescue, but then Popeye awakes before he can take his revenge, so he rushes out of his house to clobber a bewildered Bluto in real life.

‘Wotta Nitemare’ is the first Popeye cartoon to show the familiar love triangle of Popeye, Bluto and Olive Oyl since ‘Learn Polikeness’ (1938), being absent for more than a year. More striking is the welcome return to Fleischer’s surreal world of the early 1930s during dream sequence , with its metamorphosis gags, floating faces, and extreme body deformations when the dream-Bluto clobbers Popeye.

Watch ‘Wotta Nitemare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Wotta Nitemare’ is available on the DVD Set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

Director: Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton
Release Date: August 12, 1939
Stars: proto-Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Hare-Um Scare-Um © Warner BrosIn 1939 Ben Hardaway revisited the rabbit he had introduced in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938).

The rabbit was completely redesigned, and received the colors that would make Bugs Bunny. However, the rabbit retained his loony character and Woody Woodpecker laugh, and is a far cry from the cool guy Bugs Bunny would become. But as he was Ben “Bugs” Hardaway’s bunny, it was this character that gave Tex Avery’s later star his name.

‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ stars an anonymous red-nosed man who goes hunting when meat prices soar. In the forest he encounters the loony rabbit, who at one point even sings a song about how crazy he is.

There’s remarkably little to enjoy in ‘Hare-um Scare-um’, as neither hunter nor rabbit are sympathetic, and one doesn’t care for either. However, the short introduces cross-dressing, when the rabbit disguises himself as a female dog to attract the hunter’s pooch. This cross-dressing would become a popular feature of the later Bugs Bunny.

Watch ‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hare-Um Scare-Um’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

This is the third of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Prest-O Change-O
To the next proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Elmer’s Candid Camera

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 25, 1939
Stars: Two Curious Dogs, proto-Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Chuck Jones uses the silly rabbit from Ben Hardaway’s ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ (1938) and makes it a magician’s rabbit in a cartoon featuring his earliest stars, the “Two Curious Dogs”, which had made their debut in January in ‘Dog Gone Modern’.

In ‘Prest-O Change-O” the two dogs flee from a dog catcher into a magician’s house, where the tall dog meets the rabbit, while the small dog struggles with a “hindu rope”.

Jones’s handling of the material is very Disney-like, slow in action and with much attention for situation comedy. Unfortunately, his two dog characters are anything but funny, and the complete film fails to impress. The rabbit, a forerunner of Bugs Bunny, is as unsympathetic as he was in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ and rightfully gets punched in the end. He doesn’t talk, however, but shows the weird laugh he got in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’.

‘Prest-O Change-O’ doesn’t add anything, however, and the rabbit remains unappealing. So, after this film this particular rabbit was transformed into another design, making its debut in ‘Hare-um Scare-um’ of five months later.

Watch ‘Prest-O Change-O’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Prest-O Change-O’ is available on the Blu-Ray set ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

This is the second of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Porky’s Hare Hunt
To the next proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-um Scare-um

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: March 31, 1939
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 28, 1939
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl
Rating:  ★
Review:

Leave Well Enough Alone © Max Fleischer‘Leave Well Enough Alone’ opens with Popeye visiting Olive Oyl’s pet shop, buying all her animals (dogs) for $500, only to set them free immediately.

Only a parrot stays behind. He sings the cartoon’s title tune, in which he tells us that it’s better to be safe inside, being cared for than free in the outer world. Indeed, in no time all the dogs have been caught by a dog catcher. Popeye buys them all from the dog catcher and restores them to the shop.

‘Leave Well Enough Alone’ is low on gags, its title song is trite, but most importantly, its message is highly questionable. It’s very strange to watch such a free spirit as Popeye finally obeying to this extremely conservative motto. Was it a hidden message from Max to his employees?

Watch ‘Leave Well Enough Alone’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Leave Well Enough Alone’ is available on the DVD Set ‘Popeye the Sailor Volume Two’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: June 9, 1939
Stars: Betty Boop, Pudgy
Rating:  ★
Review:

The Scared Crows © Max FleischerIn the opening scene of ‘The Scared Crows’ we watch Betty and Pudgy planting seeds, which are immediately eaten by crows.

Betty chases them away using a scarecrow, but one flies against a tree, and Betty takes the poor bird inside to nurse it. However, the crow soon invites all his friends inside, and the flock creates havoc in Betty’s kitchen. Using the scarecrow as a disguise Betty chases them all away, restoring peace.

‘The Scared Crows’ is a slow and tiresome cartoon, and it’s difficult to see anything noteworthy in it, apart from being Pudgy’s last theatrical cartoon. The little cute dog had hardly made an impression during its five year career, never reaching the stardom of its owner, let alone Popeye, Fleischer’s major star, and he wasn’t missed.

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

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 82
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Musical Mountaineers
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Rhythm on the Reservation

‘The Scared Crows’ 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: Bob Clampett
Release Date: December 16, 1939
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Film Fan © Warner Bros.‘The Film Fan’ is one of those cartoons on cinema itself.

In this short Porky Pig is still a kid, sent to the grocery store by his mother. But when he passes a cinema with free admittance for kids, he rushes inside. What follows are some typical cinema annoyances, and advertisements for films like ‘Gone with the Breeze’. However, when an employee interrupts the program to say that “if there’s a little boy in this theater, that was sent to the store by his mother, he’d better go home right away’, Porky leaves the theater, together with all other kids…

There’s little to enjoy in ‘The Film Fan’, which is remarkably low on gags, most of them trite, and the film can’t stand the comparison with the similar ‘She Was An Acrobat’s Daughter‘ (1937).

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

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 66
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Giant Killer
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Last Stand

‘The Film Fan’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director: Jack King
Release Date: April 28, 1939
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The Hockey Champ © Walt Disney‘The Hockey Champ’ easily is one of the best Donald Duck cartoons of the 1930s.

Unlike ‘Good Scouts’ or ‘Donald’s Golf Game’, this short is fast paced, full of gags, speed lines and chase scenes, looking forward to the 1940s, the age of chase cartoons. The cartoon opens wonderfully with Donald Duck performing some impressive figure skating, and imitating Norwegian world champion and movie star Sonja Henie.

His performance is interrupted by Huey, Dewey and Louie playing ice hockey, and Donald Duck challenges the trio to a game. He indeed shows some impressive ice hockey skills, playing all by himself, in a scene recalling Max Hare playing tennis with himself in ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ (1935). This is a speedy scene for a 1939 cartoon, but when the Huey, Dewey and Louie take revenge, this speed is retained. There’s a wonderfully silly chase scene underneath the snow, with the hockey sticks acting as periscopes, and, needless to say, the haughty Donald is finally defeated by his nephews.

‘The Hockey Champ’ is an important step towards the faster cartoon style of the 1940s, and still a delight to watch, in contrast to contemporary Donald Duck cartoons, which are as beautifully made, but unfortunately less funny.

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

This is Donald Duck cartoon no. 8
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Lucky Day
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Cousin Gus

‘The Hockey Champ’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

Director: Jack King
Release Date: January 13, 1939
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Donald's Lucky Day © Walt Disney‘Donald’s Lucky Day’ starts with the shadows of two gangsters making a time bomb to be delivered by a messenger boy.

The messenger boy in question is Donald Duck. Unfortunately, it’s Friday the 13th, and superstitious Donald desperately tries to avoid a ladder, a mirror and a black cat. In the end the black cat saves him by accident, hence the title.

Donald Duck is the sole star of this cartoon, but apart from his antics with the cat in the harbor, there’s little to enjoy. And because of Jack King’s slow timing, one has ample time to admire the beautiful, realistic background paintings, successfully evoking the atmosphere of a misty harbor quarter by night.

Watch ‘Donald’s Lucky Day’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon no. 7
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Golf Game
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Hockey Champ

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

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 26, 1939
Stars: Hunky and Spunky
Rating:  ★
Review:

Always Kickin' © Max Fleischer‘Always Kickin” sees the return of that infamous duo of burrows, Hunky and Spunky.

In the opening scene we watch Hunky teaching Spunky how to kick backwards. Next we watch Spunky trying to be like the birds. He fails at attempts to sing, to build a nest and to fly, and all the bird mock the little donkey. Then an evil vulture or eagle (it’s not very clear) arrives, and kidnaps one of the young birds, much to the distress of the other birds. Spunky comes to the rescue, using the newly learned kicking technique to kick the hell out of the evil bird. In the end we watch all the birds admiring Spunky’s kicking practice.

It’s difficult to say anything positive about this cartoon. Its story is so utterly cloying, its protagonists so terribly boring, and its timing so remarkably slow, it’s a real pain to sit it out. When one does so, the short’s seven-and-half minutes feel much, much longer… One can only guess what the Fleischers ever saw in their donkey duo, as they made yet another five cartoons with them.

Watch ‘Always Kickin” yourself and tell me what you think:

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

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: February 11, 1939
Stars: The Captain and the Kids
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Mama's New Hat © MGM‘Mama’s New Hat’ was the last entry of MGM’s ill-conceived ‘Captain and the Kids’ series, which ended prematurely after only fifteen cartoons, lasting only one year.

Surprisingly, it’s the series’ best entry, as for once the studio has tried to make a genuine gag cartoon.

The short opens with the two brats buying a new hat for their mother for mother’s day. Unfortunately they ruin it immediately by falling into the mud. So they exchange their muddy hat for one of a neighboring horse. The horse is not pleased, however, and tries to steal the hat back from Ma Katzenjammer. This leads to a long chase scene, making ‘Mama’s New Hat’ one of the earliest entries in a genre that would become standard in the 1940s and 1950s.

The short suffers from inner logic, but it builds up nicely to a grand finale, and it’s surprisingly full of inventive gags, the one in which the horse turns into a plane as a highlight. This is imaginative storytelling at its best.

‘Mama’s New Hat’ still is no masterpiece, but it’s better than all the other ‘Captain and the Kids’ cartoons, and the only one looking forward. It shows that the young studio’s team was capable of more. Friz Freleng, of course, would further prove his worth back at Warner Bros., the others only came into their own with the arrival of MGM stars ‘Tom and Jerry’, who made their debut two years later.

‘Mama’s New Hat’ contains a scene in which we watch a supposed pursuit in a large house from the outside (using a moving pan with a lot of sound effects). This gag was reused much later in the Tom & Jerry short ‘The Flying Cat‘ (1952).

Watch ‘Mama’s New Hat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mama’s New Hat’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

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