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Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: July 3, 1942
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Sleep Walker © Walt DisneyIn the first scene of this cartoon a female black dachshund tries to steal Pluto’s bone, but she fails.

Then, strangely enough, Pluto delivers her his bone in his sleep, but when he awakes he thinks she has stolen it. After some chasing, he finally destroys her home in his wrath, only to discover that she’s a mother of five pups. When it starts to rain, too, he repents and lends her his own house and collection of bones.

Director Clyde Geronimi favored food-themed Pluto cartoons, and this short is no exception. Unfortunately, the premise of Pluto sleepwalking  is very unlikely and the execution more aimed at sighs than at laughs. The result is yet another cute and rather unfunny Pluto entry. Its best feature is its music (unfortunately uncredited), which uses an effective muted trumpet during the chase scenes, and a weird melody for woodwinds during Pluto’s sleepwalking.

The female dachshund is an early forerunner of Pluto’s later love interest, Dinah, who would first appear in the 1945 cartoon ‘Canine Casanova’.

Watch ‘The Sleep Walker’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 7
To the previous Pluto cartoon: The Army Mascot
To the next Pluto cartoon: T-Bone for Two

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: February 28, 1942
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★
Review:

Pluto Junior © Walt DisneyIn this cartoon Pluto has only one son (instead of five as in ‘Pluto’s Quin-Puplets’ from 1937).

We watch this pup playing with a ball, a balloon, a caterpillar and a bird, which leads him into a distressful position on a clothes-line. Only then Pluto, who had been asleep all the time, comes into action. Pluto rescues his son and both fall into a wash-tub.

The best sequence of the cartoon involves Pluto’s antics on the clothes-line. It’s clear that he is a far funnier character than his son, which is only cute. Indeed, after this cartoon Pluto jr. was never seen again.

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

This is Pluto cartoon No. 5
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Playmate
To the next Pluto cartoon: The Army Mascot

Director: Alex Lovy
Release Date: July 27, 1942
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Juke Box Jamboree © Walter LantzIn the deserted ‘Zowie cafe’ a mouse is disturbed a jukebox playing latin music.

In his attempts to stop the machine, the mouse ends in a cocktail and gets drunk. He visions ‘spirits’ coming from the bottles who start a conga beat. A lobster does a Carmen Miranda act, blending Cuban and Brazilian styles, and singing in some kind of mock-Spanish. The mouse happily joins in, until he returns to his home to sleep.

The whole cartoon has a delirious atmosphere, and can be called ‘intoxicating’ without necessarily being really entertaining. The ghosts’ designs, with their red noses and bowler hats, are copied straight from the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Lonesome Ghosts’ (1938).

Watch ‘Juke Box Jamboree’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: March 4, 1942
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Hams That Couldn't Be Cured © Walter LantzThis short has probably grimmest opening shot of all Hollywood cartoons: that of someone about to be hanged.

It turns out to be the wolf, who will be hanged for harassing the three little pigs. The wolf pleads innocent, however, and tells us “what really happened”. In his own story the wolf is a classical music teacher, loving peace and quiet (the most ridiculous illustration of this is the image of the wolf crocheting a bath tube out of a sheep). He’s visited by the three little pigs who play hot jazz, bullying the wolf, wrecking his instruments, and finally his house.

It’s a bit odd to associate such intoxicating jazz with random violence à la Clockwork Orange, but the result is an entertaining cartoon, although it is clearly tributary to the 1941 Warner Bros. cartoon ‘The Trial of Mr. Wolf’, which features a very similar story idea. Interestingly enough the director of that cartoon, Friz Freleng, would later also direct a cartoon about a wolf and three little pigs playing hot jazz, in ‘The Three Little Bops‘ (1957).

Watch ‘The Hams That Couldn’t Be Cured’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://vk.com/video-20905395_162788911

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: May 23, 1942
Rating:
Review:

Light Fantastic © Warner Bros.From the early 1930s to the early 1940s Warner Bros. released several cartoons in which books, magazines etc. come to life. Of all these cartoons, ‘Lights Fantastic’ is probably the most extreme and the most dated.

It opens with a real life shot of Times Square in New York, and all sequences after that supposedly take place in neon billboards on this square. This results in little movement, a few gags on Chinese and no laughs.

Present day viewers like me don’t even have a clue how many of these billboards were based on real and familiar ones. I personally could only recognize Mr. Peanut (from Planters). No doubt most of the fun disappeared with the familiarity of the pictured advertising. However, I seriously doubt whether this cartoon has ever been a winner, for its few gags are lame, and don’t build up to a finale, at all.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Lights Fantastic’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: April 11, 1942
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Horton Hatches the Egg © Warner Bros.

‘Horton Hatches The Egg’ is a unique film within Bob Clampett’s oeuvre, and indeed the complete Warner Bros. canon: it’s the studio’s only book adaptation, it lacks sex and violence, and there is nothing of the zany and extreme animation so typical of Clampett’s unit.

Instead, we’re treated on a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s children’s book to the screen. The cartoon uses most of Dr. Seuss’s rhymes, with adding only a little dialogue of its own, which is easily identifiable because of the lack of rhyme. Dr. Seuss’s designs, too, are wonderfully transferred to the animated screen. Especially Horton and the other forest animals have a distinctive Dr. Seuss character.

The Warner Bros. team departs from Dr. Seuss’s drawings, however, in the human designs. The three hunters are rather bland in Dr. Seuss’s children’s book, but Clampett made them a very funny trio in the cartoon. Moreover, some of the wild Warner Brothers humor has crept into the cartoon, most typically two movie star references, which, unfortunately, date the film a little: Lazy Mayzie imitates Katharine Hepburn, and there’s a fish with Peter Lorre’s features, who, after seeing Horton on a ship, shoots itself, exclaiming “Now I’ve seen everything!”.

Today, a gag like this is regarded inappropriate for children, and it might be this gag that is responsible for the little screen time the cartoon gets today. This is very unfortunate, because this animated adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book is not only the first of all, it is also one of the best, being second only to Chuck Jones’s ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas‘ from 1966.

Watch ‘Horton Hatches the Egg’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.metatube.com/en/videos/195775/Horton-Hatches-the-Egg-Cartoon-1942/

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: March 13, 1942
Stars: Popeye
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Fleets of Stren'th © Max Fleischer‘Fleets of Stren’th’ is the third in a series of cartoons in which Popeye has joined the American navy.

In this cartoon Popeye still is a lousy sailor, but when the battle cruiser is under attack, he once again shows what he’s able to do (see also ‘Blunder Below‘). This time the battle cruiser is attacked by a squad of Japanese dive bombers. It takes some time before Popeye is able to eat his spinach, but when he does, he turns into a plane himself, defeating the complete enemy fleet.

In this process we see only one pilot, the other planes are subtly dehumanized. In this way we’ll never think of the fate of the Japanese pilots, at all. This was a clever device used in many war propaganda films of the time.

Watch ‘Fleets of Stren’th’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 104
To the previous Popeye film: Blunder Below
To the next Popeye film: Pip-Eye, Pup-eye, Poop-eye and Peep-eye

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: February 13, 1942
Stars: Popeye
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Blunder Below © Max FleischerPopeye had joined the navy before the United States entered the war, in ‘The Mighty Navy‘ (November 1941), so in ‘Blunder Below’ he’s ready to fight the enemy, the first major cartoon star to do so on the movie screen.

In the first part of this cartoon Popeye tries to be a normal sailor, among Superman-like sailors, trying to learn gunning. He is no talent, however, blundering away and almost shooting down the captain by accident.

But when a submarine approaches, Popeye shows his real worth: he beats the submarine single-handedly, saving the battle cruiser. It’s this great combination of clumsiness and superhuman powers which make Popeye such an appealing character.

The approaching submarine is accompanied by the music of Franz Schubert’s Erlkönig, indicating a German origin. However, it soon turns out to be Japanese. The submarine is anthropomorphic itself and completely dehumanized, as if it were not manned by people at all. When in August 1942 Popeye changed hands from the Fleischers to Paramount, this would radically change…

Watch ‘Blunder Below’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 103
To the previous Popeye film: Kickin’ the Conga ‘Round
To the next Popeye film: Fleets of Stren’th

Director: Alex Lovy
Release Date: August 3, 1942
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Pigeon Patrol © Walter Lantz‘Pigeon Patrol’ is a typical war era cartoon. It tells about Homer Pigeon, a dopey little country pigeon, whose girl Daisy May is impressed by the USA carrier pigeons, who look like American army planes.

Rejected by Daisy May, Homer decides to volunteer, too, but he’s way too small. However when he encounters a crashed carrier, he rescues an important message from an ugly Japanese vulture, beating the enemy saying: “remember Pearl Harbor and Singapore!”. In the end we watch him being decorated and happily married to Daisy May.

‘Pigeon Patrol’ is not too funny, but very propagandistic. It seems to want to emphasize that every man can do his job for the country. The Japanese vulture belongs to the typical stereotyped caricatures of a Japanese in Hollywood cartoons, complete with a suggestion of general Tojo-like glasses.

Two years later, Warner Bros. would tell another tale about a pigeon called Homer in ‘Plane Daffy‘ (1944). Their Homer commits suicide in that film. Walter Lantz’s Homer Pigeon, however, would star one other cartoon, ‘Pigeon Holed’ from 1956.

Watch ‘Pigeon Patrol’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: April 13, 1942
Rating: ★★
Review:

Mother Goose on the Loose © Walter LantzMother Goose on the Loose’ stands in a long tradition of nursery rhyme cartoons, from the Felix the cat cartoon ‘Felix in Fairyland’ (1923) via the Silly Symphony ‘Mother Goose Melodies‘ (1931) and ‘Mother Goose Land‘ starring Betty Boop (1933), to Disney’s ‘Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood’ (1938) featuring caricatures of Hollywood stars.

Unfortunately, ‘Mother Goose on the Loose’ is weaker than any of these, hampered by a slow timing, corny gags and an obnoxious voice over. Even a jazzy tune, setting in after five boring minutes, cannot rescue the cartoon. Its only attraction is its obsession with dames, which are literally all over the cartoon. This makes ‘Mother Goose on the Loose’ a typical cartoon of the World War II era.

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: October 3, 1942
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Hep Cat © Warner Bros.‘The Hep Cat’ was the first Looney Tune made in color. As the Merrie Melodies already were in color, this cartoon heralded a full color era for the Leon Schlesinger studio.

In ‘The Hep Cat’ the dog Rosebud (Willoughby but with another name) tries to catch a ‘hep cat’, a feline womanizer who, on his turn, tries to get a girl, a.o. by speaking with a deep french voice, anticipating the romancing skunk Pepe Le Pew by three years. Rosebud succeeds to seduce the jive cat by using a sexy kitten-like hand puppet. He looses the chase however, and in the last shot we can see the hep cat stroking the hand puppet, saying, with a Jerry Colonna voice ” I can dream, can’t I?”.

‘The Hep Cat’ does not have much of a story, but who cares? It’s an intoxicating and jazzy cartoon, and from the moment the Hep Cat starts singing ‘Java Jive’ with alternate lyrics, you’re lost. The short is fast and funny, full of uninhibited sex and violence gags and throughout the picture one keeps marveling at the extreme and amazingly flexible animation from Bob Clampett’s unit.

Watch ‘The Hep Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 12, 1942
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Case of the Missing Hare © Warner BrothersBugs Bunny is bullied by a large magician, leading to his catch phrase “Of course you realize this means war”. In the second part of the film Bugs Bunny wrecks the magician’s show, and finally the magician himself.

Bugs’s catch phrase was borrowed from Groucho Marx, an important inspiration on Bugs Bunny’s character anyhow. The line would become typical for Bugs as directed by Chuck Jones. Unlike Bob Clampett, Jones would treat the rabbit not as intrinsically mischievous, but as reacting to injustice placed on him.

The large magician in ‘Case of the Missing Hare’ is the first of many particularly large adversaries Jones gave to Bugs, all bullying the rabbit into action. Thus, the magician is the direct forerunner of e.g. the warehouse keeper in ‘Hare Conditioned‘ (1945), the crusher in ‘Rabbit Punch‘ (1948) and Giovanni Jones in ‘Long-Haired Hare‘ (1949).

‘Case of the Missing Hare’ shows that by the end of 1942 Chuck Jones’s mastery over material had become fully realized. The cartoon features his typical character designs, extravagant key poses, original camera angles and sense of design. The latter is exemplified by background artists Gene Fleury and John McGrew’s very unnatural backgrounds. In the first part we watch pink trees and yellow skies. In the second part they got even bolder, reducing the backgrounds to abstract forms in two colors, only.

In its typical and original design and cinematography ‘Case of the Missing Hare’ looks forward to Jones’ mature work of the late forties and fifties.

Watch ‘Case of the Missing Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 14
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Hare-Brained Hypnotist
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Tortoise Wins by a Hare

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: March 28, 1942
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Wabbit Who Came to Supper © Warner BrothersElmer Fudd will inherit three million dollars from Uncle Louie, if he doesn’t hurt any animal, especially rabbits. Bugs, of course, takes advantage of the situation.

‘The Wabbit Who Came to Supper’ was Friz Freleng’s second Bugs Bunny cartoon, only, but he understood the brassy character completely. The highlight of the cartoon is the scene in which in the middle of a chase a clock chimes and Bugs bursts into a convincing New Year routine… in July. This scene not only shows the fresh character’s overpowering personality, it also shows Bugs Bunny’s ability to produce necessary attributes out of nowhere, this time confetti and streamers.

Bugs’ design, however, is rather unappealing and uncertain in this cartoon. And Elmer Fudd, too, has the less appealing alternate fatty design, which Robert Clampett had introduced in ‘Wabbit Twouble‘ (1941). Luckily, this design was short-lived and lasted only four cartoons.

Two years later Hanna and Barbera would use the same plot idea in the Tom and Jerry cartoon ‘Million Dollar Cat’ (1944) with even better results.

Watch ‘The Wabbit Who Came to Supper’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 8
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Wabbit Twouble
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Wacky Wabbit

 

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: October 10, 1942
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Fine Feathered Friend © MGMDuring a chase at the barnyard Jerry seeks shelter with a large and angry chicken.

This short contains the very first example of the extreme cartoon violence that would become so typical for the Tom and Jerry series: the scene in which Jerry tries to cut off Tom’s head with a pair of hedge-shears.

The short’s highlight, however, is Jerry’s Josephine Baker-like dance with yellow feathers when he’s trying to disguise himself as a little chick.

‘Fine Feathered Friend’ is the first Tom & Jerry cartoon to start with their familiar opening tune.

Watch ‘Fine Feathered Friend’ yourself and tell me what you think:

https://vimeo.com/89586651

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 8

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Bowling Alley Cat
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Sufferin’ Cats

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: July 18, 1942
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Bowling Alley-Cat © MGM‘The Bowling Alley Cat’ is the first Tom and Jerry cartoon to take please outside their familiar home setting. In this short the cat and the mouse play at an abandoned bowling alley.

The short is mildly paced, but its timing is excellent and the silent comedy delightful, supported by Scott Bradley’s excellent score.

The film contains an early example of metamorphosis, in which Tom changes into a familiar household object, this time a ninepin. This type of metamorphosis would become a recurrent gag in the Tom & Jerry series. Compared to later entries Tom’s deformation in ‘The Bowling Alley Cat’ is mild, and still a little plausible. This kind of plausibility was abandoned the next year in the more frantic cartoon ‘Sufferin’ Cats‘.

Watch ‘The Bowling Alley Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 7

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Puss ‘n Toots
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Fine Feathered Friend

Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date: 
December 25, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★½
Review:

Destruction Inc. © Paramount‘Destruction Inc’ was Superman’s third war cartoon, after ‘Japoteurs‘ and ‘Eleventh Hour‘  from earlier that year. Like ‘Japoteurs’ it features saboteurs on American soil, a paranoid idea, well-fed by government propaganda.

This time the danger comes from the inside: some American gangster saboteurs threaten a munition plant. Lois discovers them at a factory, but she’s captured and put inside a torpedo. Luckily Superman is in the neighborhood, not as Clark Kent, but as an elderly general. However, he only arrives just in time to rescue Lois from a certain death in a short that belongs to Superman’s more entertaining films.

‘Destruction, Inc’ opens with a shot of someone being murdered. Such a shot would open the next film, ‘The Mummy Strikes‘, too.

Watch ‘Destruction, Inc.’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 13
To the previous Superman film: Eleventh Hour
To the next Superman film: The Mummy Strikes

Director: Dan Gordon
Release Date: November 20, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Eleventh Hour © Paramount‘Eleventh Hour’ is Superman’s second war cartoon, after ‘Japoteurs‘ from earlier that year. It’s one of the earliest World War II cartoons dealing with Japan.

In this short Superman himself is the saboteur, destroying ships, bridges, airports and tanks in Yokohama, Japan. The furious Japanese capture Lois, who stays with Clark Kent in Japan, and threaten Superman to execute her if he doesn’t stop his sabotage.

Superman reads this ultimatum all but too late and he’s only just in time to rescue Lois from the firing squad. Lois returns home, but Clark Kent stays behind, implying that Superman keeps on doing his sabotage work, a message that must have been comforting to the home-front.

The story of this cartoon is quite original, if not very well-constructed. Unfortunately, by now Superman has been reduced to an expressionless figure, making him a boring character to watch.

Watch ‘Eleventh Hour’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 12
To the previous Superman film: Showdown
To the next Superman film: Destruction, Inc.

Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date:
 Oct 16, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★★½
Review:

Showdown © ParamountIn an original twist to the Superman formula, a sneaky fake Superman steals jewelry for his gangster boss.

Meanwhile Lois and Clark  have to report an opera performance. Luckily, the fake superman is there, too, pickpocketing the attendants. Superman captures his look-alike and his boss.

‘Showdown’ clearly has the most original story line of all superman cartoons, and this makes the short arguably the best entry of the series. At least the cartoon contains the funniest line in the series, when Lois makes Clark Kent the sarcastic remark “fine Superman you‘d make”.

Watch ‘Showdown’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 11
To the previous Superman film: Japoteurs
To the next Superman film: Eleventh Hour

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 August 26, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Terror on the Midway © ParamountIn ‘Terror on the Midway’ Lois is reviewing something as mundane as a circus, when a small monkey accidentally releases a titanic gruesome gorilla.

The gorilla follows her, while Superman’s busy putting other animals back into their cages. He rescues Lois and captures the gorilla, but it remains unclear how he stops the fire that has started, too.

‘Terror in the Midway’ is one of those fortunate Superman shorts without a villain (see also ‘The Arctic Giant’ and ‘Volcano‘ from the same year). However, it also shows Fleischer’s ambivalent realism: it contains some generic Fleischer thirties children designs, which by 1942 really look old-fashioned, but there are also some rare close-ups of Lois and Superman, which add to the drama. The staging, too, is superb, with some spectacular shots.

The gorilla looks like a typical King Kong-like monster, despite the fact that its model sheet was partly based on rotoscoped movements of real gorillas. Apparently, Bambi-like naturalism was wasted on the Fleischers animators.

Terror on the midway gorilla modelsheet © Max Fleischer

gorilla modelsheet from ‘Terror on the midway’

Unfortunately, ‘Terror on the Midway’ would be the last Superman cartoon made by the Fleischer studios, before Paramount stole their crew to form their own Famous Studios. Indeed, it was the very last film the Fleischer brothers made together, ending an era that had begun 27 years earlier.

Watch ‘Terror on the Midway’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 9
To the previous Superman film: Volcano
To the next Superman film: Japoteurs

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 17, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Volcano © ParamountIn the aptly titled short ‘Volcano’, a dormant volcano is starting to erupt again on the island of Monokoa.

Daily Planet reporters Lois and Clarke are present, but Lois steals Clark’s press pass to work alone. She sneaks away to visit the volcano by herself, but when she’s up on the volcano, it suddenly erupts. Superman saves her and the village below by redirecting the lava to the other side.

Together with ‘The Arctic Giant’ and ‘Terror on the Midway‘, ‘Volcano’ is noteworthy for featuring no villain, let alone an evil scientist. Moreover, this Superman short probably contains the most spectacular effect animation within the series in its terrifying depiction of floating lava.

Watch ‘Volcano’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 8
To the previous Superman film: Electric Earthquake
To the next Superman film: Terror on the Midway

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