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Director: Friz Freleng
Release date: October 2, 1954
Stars: Sylvester
Rating: ★★★
Review:

By Word of Mouse © Warner BrothersIn the mid-fifties Friz Freleng directed three propaganda shorts celebrating the American capitalistic system. They were funded by the right wing Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and curiously, they all feature Sylvester the cat.

‘By Word of Mouse’ is the first of the three. In this cartoon we’re taken to the rather backward German town of “Knöckwurst-on-der-Rye”. Here mouse Hans tells his siblings about his trip to America. Cut to his memories: we watch him meeting his cousin Willie at the harbor. Willie takes the astounded Hans to a trip, showing the riches of the Americans. Because Hans doesn’t understand how this can be, Willie takes him to a university mouse, who lectures the two about mass production and mass consumption.

Comic relief is provided by Sylvester, who chases the three mice, interrupting the lectures. But he cannot hide the fact that, although being an ordinary Looney Tune, ‘By Word of Mouse’ is pretty informative, if rather propagandistic by single-mindedly glorifying the wonders of capitalism.

‘By Word of Mouse’ was followed by ‘Heir-Conditioned‘ (1955) and ‘Yankee Dood It‘ (1956), covering similar grounds.

Watch ‘By Word of Mouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Director: Jack Kinney
Release date: October 15, 1954
Rating: ★★
Review:

Social Lion © Walt DisneyIn this narrated short a lion deliberately gets himself caught to scare the people in New York. Unfortunately, he’s all but unnoticed there.

‘Social Lion’ was the last of three ‘special cartoons’ Jack Kinney directed in 1954, after his own Goofy series had stopped. It is, unfortunately, not a very successful cartoon. Its narration is trite, its timing poor and its animation, by veteran Norm Ferguson, heterogeneous: the full animation of the lion is awkwardly out of contact with the highly stylized animation of the humans.

Unfortunately, ‘Social Lion’ would be the great animator’s last statement. the Disney studio fired Ferguson in July 1953. He died four years later of a heart-attack, at the premature age of 45.

The cartoon reuses the weird safari song from Kinney’s earlier, way more successful short ‘African Diary’ (1945).

Watch ‘Social Lion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Social Lion’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release date: May 21, 1954
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Pigs Is Pigs © Walt DisneyAfter his own Goofy series had stopped in 1953, Jack Kinney directed six other shorts at the Walt Disney Studio.

‘Pigs is Pigs’ is probably the best of the lot. It’s a story in rhyme and song about a railway station employee who does everything by the rules. At one day he has a dispute with a Scotchman about whether guinea pigs are pigs or not. The guinea pigs remain at the station until the bureaucrats of his company have found out the answer. Unfortunately, the animals multiply by the hour, soon filling the complete station.

The designs and animation of this short are highly stylized, making ‘Pigs is Pigs’ a prime example of ‘cartoon modern’, despite its 1905 setting. The scenes at the railway company are the best, ruthlessly parodying the aimless ways of bureaucracy.

Watch ‘Pigs is Pigs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pig is Pigs’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Tex Avery
Release date: December 20, 1954
Stars: Chilly Willy
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

I'm Cold © Walter LantzIn 1954 Tex Avery left MGM to return to his first employer in the animation field, Walter Lantz, at whose studio he had been an animator in the early 1930s.

I’m Cold’ was the first of a mere four cartoons Tex Avery made at Walter Lantz’s studio. In this cartoon he sets his teeth on a character introduced in 1953 called Chilly Willy, a cute little penguin.

Like Pablo the cold-blooded penguin from ‘Three Caballeros‘ (1944), Chilly Willy finds it too cold in Antarctica. Avery, however, uses this premise with much funnier results. In an attempt to get warm, Chilly Willy sneaks into a fur coat store, guarded by a phlegmatic dog who shares a Daws Butler voice with the laid-back wolf from Tex Avery’s ‘Three Little Pups‘ from 1953. This phlegmatic dog was reused in at least four more Chilly Willy cartoons.

Avery is in excellent form here, delivering a perfectly timed cartoon. ‘I’m Cold’ demonstrates how genius can overcome small budgets and limited (animation) talent. Even Clarence Wheeler’s music sounds more inspired and certainly funnier than normal. Of course, the product was much cruder than Avery’s films at MGM had been, but at the same time it was much better than any earlier Lantz film from the 1950s. And, Avery’s second film featuring Chilly Willy, ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point‘ (1955) would even be better…

Watch ‘I’m Cold’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: August 7, 1954
Stars: Tweety & Sylvester
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Satan's Waitin' © Warner BrothersDuring a chase Sylvester falls down and ceases to be.

He goes straight to hell, where a bulldog-like devil tells him he can return to earth because he has still eight lives left. Unfortunately, back on earth Sylvester loses his lives fast, especially during a chase at a carnival.

‘Satan’s Waitin’ shows some similarities to the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Heavenly Puss‘ (1949), including bulldog devils and a heavenly escalator. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most original and most inspired of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, on par with the celebrated ‘Birds Anonymous’ from 1957.

Watch ‘Satan’s Waitin’’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: December 23, 1954
Stars: Donald Duck, the Park Ranger
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Grand Canyonscope © Walt DisneyBy 1954 Donald Duck was Walt Disney’s only cartoon star to survive as, Mickey, Pluto and Goofy all had retired in 1953.

Following Tom & Jerry, who had entered the large screen one month earlier, he was to enjoy the last stage of his cinema career in Cinemascope, being the only Disney cartoon star to do so.

‘Grand Canyonscope’ is the first of Donald’s Cinemascope cartoons, and it uses the new technique to great effects. Donald is an annoying tourist in the Grand Canyon, repeatedly bothering the park ranger from ‘Grin and Bear it‘. The action makes excellent use of the wide screen, and the Grand Canyon is portrayed in beautiful scenic backgrounds, which are the real stars of this extraordinarily beautiful Donald Duck cartoon.

Watch ‘Grand Canyonscope’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 109
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: The Flying Squirrel
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: No Hunting

Director: Don Patterson
Release Date: November 20, 1954
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:
Review:

Convict Concerto © Walter LantzIn ‘Convict Concerto’ Woody Woodpecker is a piano tuner, who’s ordered by a gangster to play the piano continuously, while he hides inside the piano.

Consequently, during the rest of the cartoon we hear Woody play the Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt. This is the only interesting aspect of this cartoon…

‘Convict Concerto’ was the last of fifteen cartoons Don Patterson directed for Walter Lantz during 1952-1954. None of his cartoons were interesting enough to become classics, with ‘Convict Concerto’ being particularly bad. So he is all but forgotten now. He was replaced by Tex Avery, who, in contrast, was already an animation classic at the time.

Watch ‘Convict Concerto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.funniermoments.com/watch.php?vid=dc6c702b1

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: August 13, 1954
Stars: Donald Duck, Humphrey the Bear
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Grin and Bear it © Walt Disney‘Grin and Bear it’ was the second of six cartoons featuring the nervous bear Humphrey, Disney’s last cartoon star to hit the cinema screen.

It also introduces the fidgety park ranger, voiced by Bill Thompson (more commonly known as the voice of Droopy and Mr. Smee in ‘Peter Pan’, 1953). The park ranger would star in five cartoons. In this short he orders the bears to mix with the tourists, something they gladly do, because this means getting fed. Humphrey, however, is stuck to Donald, who doesn’t share a crumb with the bear. This leads to Humphrey making more and more desperate attempts to obtain food.

Donald is hardly anything more than a straight man in this short. But it’s an entertaining film, nonetheless, featuring beautiful backgrounds.

Watch ‘Grin and Bear it’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 107
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Dragon Around
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: The Flying Squirrel

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: February 15, 1954
Stars: Sugarfoot
Rating: ★
Review:

A Horse's Tail © Walter LantzIn their search for new characters the Lantz Studio introduced yet another character after launching Maw and Paw in 1953. Their new star, Sugarfoot the horse, was even less successful than the barnyard couple.

In his debut cartoon Sugarfoot is expelled from his farm for wrecking his replacement, a tractor. He soon finds a job at the movies as a double for a star horse, earning enough money for his boss to buy a new tractor.

Sugarfoot was an interesting character for the 1950s, because he did not speak. Nevertheless, he was so remarkably unfunny, he lasted only two cartoons, the other one being ‘Hay Rube’ from the same year. It remains an almost unbelievable fact that this terribly unfunny cartoon was penned by the great Michael Maltese.

Watch ‘A Horse’s Tale’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.trilulilu.ro/video-animatie/sugarfoot-a-horses-tale

Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: 1954
Rating: ★★★
Review:

A Drop Too Much © Jiri TrnkaA young man on a motorcycle is on his way to his girl.

Along the way he stops at a bar, where a wedding is taking place. There he’s offered a drink, which he reluctantly accepts. However, one leads to another and he is quite intoxicated when leaving the bar. Driving at night he tries to speed against a car, a train and even a plane, but he finally crashes, never to see his girl.

This educational film warns us not to combine drinking with driving. In this respect the film is very dull and predictable, but Trnka’s illusion of speed and drunkenness is astonishing.

Watch ‘A Drop Too Much’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://en.channel.pandora.tv/channel/video.ptv?ch_userid=noisypig&prgid=46485008&ref=rss

Directors: John Halas & Joy Batchelor
Release Date: January 31, 1954
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Animal Farm © Halas & BatchelorBased on George Orwell’s famous fable (published only nine years before), Animal Farm is the first animated feature made in England, it’s one of Europe’s first feature films, and it’s undoubtedly among the masterpieces of feature animation.

The film falls into the tradition of Disney-style semi-realistic cel animation. However, it sets itself apart from the Disney tradition in its grim and political story, its lack of sentimentality and its open depiction of cruelty and violence. Moreover, the backgrounds are bold oil paintings, with visible brush strokes and darker colors than any Disney film had ever shown.

Nevertheless, the realistic and wonderful animation of the animals pays some depths to the Disney tradition (watch the Silly Symphony ‘Farmyard Symphony‘ for example), greatly helped by the presence of ex-Disney animator John Reed. The film even contains one sweet character for comical relief in a little duckling who tries to keep up with the other animals, echoing the turtle in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937). However, when the story turns particularly grim, with the killing of the Trotsky-like pig Snowball by Napoleon’s dog henchmen, we do not see this cute character again.

The assassination of Snowball is the first of several alarming events in which the animals’ revolution is betrayed. The most disturbing of these is Boxer’s ride to a certain death. This scene is the emotional highlight of the film, and it creates strong feelings of outrage and alarm, still. The horror on the face of his friend Benjamin is very well captured, and moves to this day.

Using a voice over and evocative music by Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber, the film retells Orwell’s story effectively, using only Orwell’s own words. Its only strong deviation from the book is its ending. Where Orwell’s novel ends with the Stalin-like pig Napoleon’s regime installed, the film ends with yet another revolution – some wishful thinking that in the real world never quite came true until the late 1980s, when encouraged by Gorbachev’s perestroika, the people all over Eastern Europe revolted against their communist oppressors.

‘Animal Farm’, which was released within a year after Stalin’s death, is still a moving portrait of the corrupting force of power. Even though its subject, the Soviet Union, has long been a state of the past, the forces depicted in this movie are still active. The world is not free of its Napoleons, yet…

Watch ‘Animal Farm’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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