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Director: James Algar
Release Date: December 17, 1958
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Grand Canyon © Walt Disney‘Grand Canyon’ is not an animation film. I include it in my blog though, because of its obvious ties to ‘Fantasia’ (1940).

In fact, ‘Grand Canyon’ feels like an extra ‘live-action segment to Fantasia (like ‘Fantasia’ the film starts with the sounds of the orchestra preparing to play). Fantasia-veteran James Algar directed this extraordinary Cinemascope short, which was photographed and produced by Ernst A. Heiniger and set to Ferde Grofé’s ‘Grand Canyon Suite’ (1931). It’s a genuine mood piece, a visual interpretation of Ferde Grofé’s impressionistic music. Thus ‘Grand Canyon’ is not really a documentary, nor does it tell a story. It’s a combination of the music and images of the vast landscape only.

Grofé’s suite is in five parts, which all are played. Part one, ‘Sunrise’, is accompanied by panorama shots, made from a plane. In Part two, ‘Painted Desert’, we dive into the canyon, with images of a rather turbulent Colorado river. Part three,’On the trail’ is devoted to animals, with shots of a lynx, a spider, a roadrunner, a snake, a Gila monster, a Western spotted skunk, and a puma with some cubs. Part four, ‘Cloudbust’ shows us images of clouds, a thunderstorm and snow, and finally, part five, shows us miscellaneous images of a landscape in the now, an owl, a hare, and an eagle who takes us back to the plane shots, while the sun sets.

The complete film lasts almost half an hour. The result is a strange and only moderately entertaining mixture between Fantasia and the True Life Series.

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

‘Grand Canyon’ is available as an extra on the ‘Sleeping Beauty Platinum Edition’ DVD-set

Director: Władysław Starewicz
Release Date: 1958
Stars: Patapouf
Rating: ★★
Review:

Winter Carousel © Ladislaw StarewiczWładysław Starewicz was a stop motion pioneer, who had made some very important films in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. ‘Winter Carousel’ was the last film he completed, and the short’s style is practically the same as that of his films of forty years earlier: the film is essentially silent, and populated by various animals, whose rather gritty look is typical for the Polish-Russian filmmaker.

‘Winter Carousel’ stars brown bear Patapouf and his rather mischievous friend Rabbit, who had been introduced in Starewicz previous film, ‘Nez au Vent’ (Nose in the Wind, 1956). In ‘Winter Carousel’ the duo encounters a jolly snowman, who apparently is father Winter, and a female polar bear. Both Patapouf and Rabbit are clearly interested in the female creature, and the three go skating together, playing blind man’s buff, and riding a Christmas tree carousel. This part of the film is a delightful sequence: Starewicz’s arctic backgrounds are pretty evoking, there’s a unique sense of poetry in the images, and his suggestion of speed during the skating and carousel scenes is impressive.

But then suddenly Father Winter starts to melt and reveals a female wooden creature (clearly a goddess of spring) underneath. Thus, strangely, the last five minutes of the film take place in spring. Unfortunately, from that moment all suggestions of narrative are thrown out of the window, and things just happen on the screen. We watch Patapouf en Rabbit gamble with some dice, watching a performance by a grasshopper and drinking in a long, plotless and completely superfluous kind of epilogue. None of theses spring images matches the winter scenes, and in the end the film is too uneven and too rambling to be a lasting work.

The animation is at times quite good, especially in Rabbit’s and Patapouf’s little gestures, but the complete result is unfortunately rather boring. In fact, this product, already old-fashioned and hopelessly dated by its release, is a rather sad ending to Starewicz’s great career. With this film he only managed to proof that he was a relic from another era.

Watch ‘Winter Carousel’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Winter Carousel’ is available on the DVD ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge & other Fantastic Tales’

Director: Taji Yabushita
Release Date: September 3, 1958
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The White Serpent © Toei Animation‘The White Serpent’ (also known as ‘Madame White Snake’ or as ‘Panda and the Magic Serpent’) is a feature of firsts: it was the first feature made by the Tōei Studio, Japan’s first post-war feature, the first one in color, and the first to be released in the United States.

The film somewhat forms the herald of a new era within Japanese animation, and is sometimes regarded as the starting point of the Japanese animation industry. The Tōei studio at least had the intention to become the Oriental Disney. Indeed, the foundation of the Tōei Dōga studio two years earlier was partly inspired by the Japanese release of Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937), which made an enormous impression on Japanese animators. Another catalyst was the coming of television, for which the studio could make numerous commercials.

For its feature film studio boss Hiroshi Okawa firmly preferred universal tales. As Disney already had mined the European legacy, the Tōei studio turned his attention to Asia. Thus, the film tells an ancient Chinese legendary love story, more or less immediately familiar to Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and other East Asian audiences, greatly enhancing the film’s export possibilities.

The film starts with a prologue to a song, in which we watch a boy befriend a snake. Unfortunately the adults don’t approve, and he has to set the snake free. This part uses shadow-like cutout figures with little to no animation, and has a certain elegant cartoon modern feel to it. This is replaced by classic full animation as soon as the real story starts. For the abandoned snake turns out to be an immortal spirit, who now takes the shape of a beautiful girl, Pai Nang, and who revisits her former owner, the now adult Hin Hsien.

Unfortunately, their love is disrupted by a bonze called Hokai, who fights evil spirits and who takes Pai Nang for one. Typically for a Japanese film, Hokai is no real villain, but a man who tries to save Hin Hsien on incorrect assumptions. Also starring are a fish spirit who turns into a little girl called Hsiang Ching, and two animal sidekicks called Panda and Mimi (a fox), who seem to have walked straight from a Disney movie, although they are clearly nipponified on the way. When Hin Hsien is banished, the two go looking for him, and on the way they beat and befriend an animal gang of robbers and thieves.

The fight between Panda and the gang leader, a large pig, is one of the highlights of the movie. Another is the celestial combat between Pai Nang and Hokai, an extraordinary scene by all means, as is Pai Nang’s journey through heaven in search for the dragon ruler of all spirits.

Overall the film has a poetic and magical atmosphere, greatly enhanced by Chui Kinoshita’s evocative music, and the narrative moves at a leisurely speed, sometimes aided by a voice over. The animation varies from fair to excellent. Especially the animals are very well done. There’s no attempt at lip synch, however, and at times the voices seem detached from their animated bodies. On the other hand, this feat would have made overdubbing rather easy, and as the film was designed to be distributed all over Asia, this must have been a conscious choice.

Overall, the animation style has more in common with contemporary European products than with Disney animation. There’s a poetic elegance and naivety to it that certainly adds to the movie’s charm. Indeed, the film was a success in Japan, and attracted all kinds of animators to the Tōei studio, including a young Hayao Miyazaki, who joined Tōei in 1963.

In all, ‘The White Serpent’ is by all means a successful start of a new era, and a film that still entertains today.

Watch the 1958 trailer for ‘The White Serpent’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The White Serpent’ is available as a French DVD-release called ‘le serpent blanc’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: November 3, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Dooley
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Jittery Jester © Walter Lantz‘Jittery Jester’ takes place in a medieval castle where Dooley is court jester to a bored king.

Then the King hears Woody Woodpecker singing his own variation on ‘The Woodchuck Song’ from 1904. The king finds our hero infinitely more funny than Dooley, and he orders Dooley to catch the bird. During the obligate chase scene the king is too often the unwilling victim of Dooley’s attempts to catch Woody. In the end Woody is the new jester, using Dooley in his pranks.

Like many other Woody Woodpecker cartoons from 1958 ‘Jittery Jester’ is a rather run-of-the-mill chase cartoon, which features some anachronisms like a speedboat and dynamite. The draw bridge scene is the most inspired, even if it’s as predictable as the other gags in the cartoon.

‘Jittery Jester’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: September 8, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tree's a Crowd © Walter LantzWoody rides a bus through Colonel Fleabush’s 60,000 acre estate full of trees.

Woodpeckers are not welcome there, and when the colonel discovers Woody, he orders his big yellow cat Filbur to catch the bird. What follows is a typical chase cartoon in which all the trees are destroyed.

Filbur is distinguished by a typical laugh (provided by Daws Butler), and sounds a little like Muttley from the later Hanna-Barbera television series ‘Wacky Races’ (1968-1969). The chase sequence is very formulaic and has little to offer, especially as Smith’s timing is a little too relaxed to make the gags work. The short also features three puns on trees, while the Latin tree names the colonel utters are all nonsensical.

Watch ‘Tree’s a Crowd’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Tree’s a Crowd’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: August 11, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker, Gabby Gator
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Everglade Raid © Walter Lantz‘Everglade Raid’ opens with Woody Woodpecker reading a newspaper add telling tourists to come to the Everglades to make a fortune on alligator bags.

So Woody goes to Florida, where he encounters a hungry alligator, voiced by Daws Butler as a variation on the Southern wolf from the Droopy cartoon ‘The Three Little Pups‘ (1953). What follows is a chase cartoon with blackout gags, in which the alligator tries to catch Woody, and vice versa. In the end the alligator succeeds, yet it is Woody who has the last laugh.

‘Everglade Raid’ suffers from slow timing and a surplus of dialogue, but some of the animation is very fine, especially the alligator’s walk cycle. Later, the alligator was christened Gabby Gator, and he would return in ‘Southern Fried Hospitality’ (1960). The character lasted until 1963.

Watch ‘Everglade Raid’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Everglade Raid

‘Everglade Raid’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Paul J. Smith
Release Date: July 14, 1958
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

His Better Elf © Walter Lantz‘His Better Elf’ starts with Woody Woodpecker being poor, full of debts and living near a city dump.

Suddenly a four-leaf clove grows through the floor, which turns into a leprechaun woodpecker (a miniature green Woody) called O’Toole, who speaks in rhyme. First O’Toole demonstrates his powers, and then he grants Woody three wishes.

Woody’s first wish is, as expected, to become filthy rich. But O’Toole grants him the wish by placing him inside the National Bank, and soon a cop tries to arrest Woody for bank robbing. The rest of the cartoon is essentially a chase cartoon with the cop trying to catch Woody, and O’Toole sabotaging these attempts, using a lot of dynamite. In the end Woody uses his third wish to sent the little pest to hell.

‘His Better Elf’ is a genuine gag cartoon, but it’s a pity the wish concept isn’t used more, but instead taken over by a routine cartoon chase. There’s a shot featuring a moving background when Woody is caught by two policemen, a rare feat since the early 1930s.

Watch an excerpt from ‘His Better Elf’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘His Better Elf’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Han van Gelder
Release Date: 1958
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Van Inca tijd tot Blooker tijd © Toonder StudiosIn this film director-animator Han van Gelder uses his unique technique of mixing cut-out with stop-motion for a short advertising film for Blooker cocoa.

The film tells about the Incas who invented cocoa, and how the Spanish conquistadors brought cocoa with them to Europe, where Jan Blooker’s factory uses only the best cocoa for its chocolate. The jump from the conquistadors to Blooker is a rather abrupt and not all too convincing one.

For this film Van Gelder uses UPA-inspired cartoon modern style characters and backgrounds. The film’s story isn’t too interesting, but these designs certainly make it a fun watch. The Blooker factory only lasted until 1962, but the brand is still available today.

Watch ‘Van Inca tijd tot Blooker tijd’ yourself and tell me what you think:

From Inca time to Blooker time 1958

‘Van Inca tijd tot Blooker tijd’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Børge Ring
Release Date: 1958
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Lokkend goud of gouden lokken © Toonder StudiosThis is the story of a man full of debts who marries a rich woman for her money, but he gets remorse when he discovers the rich lady is bald.

The story is a humorous old Irish ballad called ‘Very Unfortunate Man’, translated by Annie M.G. Schmidt into Dutch and sung by Dutch actor Otto Sterman. Danish animator Børge Ring provides the story with strong cartoon modern images in the best UPA tradition, matched by equally stylized background art and color schemes by Alan G. Standen. The two give the otherwise rather Dutch film a very international feel, both in design and quality. The complete cartoon may be quite on the light side, it is nevertheless a delight to watch.

‘Lokkend goud of gouden lokken’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Lew Keller
Release Date: October, 1958
Stars: Ham and Hattie
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Spring and Saganaki © UPA

‘Spring and Saganaki’ is the third cartoon within the short ‘Ham and Hattie’ series.

‘Spring’ is another gentle children’s song by Mel Leven, sung by him accompanied by his ukelele. This part is notable for its very beautiful background art. For the second song Ham changes into Japanese farmer Saganaki, who wants to join an army of Samurai. This part is in fact a story told in rhyme. Unfortunately, the episode is hampered by singer Hal Peary’s mock-Japanese and the more trite song by Mel Leven and Jim Murakami, which is reminiscent of similar pseudo-ethnic swing songs from the 1930s. The result is the weakest of the four Ham and Hattie cartoons. Yet, as the designs are still top notch, ‘Spring and Nagasaki’ remains a delight to watch, if not to listen to.

Watch ‘Spring and Saganaki’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Spring and Saganaki’ is available on the DVD box set ‘UPA – The Jolly Frolics Collection’

Director: Lew Keller
Release Date: February 27, 1958
Stars: Ham and Hattie
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Sailing and Village Band © UPA‘Sailing and Village Band’ is the second of four ‘Ham and Hattie’ cartoons, virtual video clips to two songs each.

‘Sailing’ is a very nice children’s song by Mel Leven on his ukelele. In this song he sing about sailing, and his lyrics are accompanied by images of little girl Hattie with a toy sail boat in a fountain in a park. This song is more narrative than ‘Trees’ was, and when Mel Leven sing about a sea monster, Hattie’s toy boat encounters a frog in the pool.

For the second song, ‘Village Band’ Ham changes himself into blue dog Roscoe, a tuba player in a very undignified village band in small, but very dignified village. Unlike any other Ham and Hattie episode this is actually a story, using a narrator. This is a typical UPA story of misfits and outcasts getting respect from their environment. Nevertheless, there’s an unwelcome sense of conformism present, for the beatnik-like band gets ‘dignified’ by wearing official costumes, emblem of their incorporation into the system…

Watch ‘Sailing and Village Band’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sailing and Village Band’ is available on the DVD box set ‘UPA – The Jolly Frolics Collection’

Director: Lew Keller
Release Date: January 30, 1958
Stars: Ham and Hattie
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Trees and Jamaican Daddy © UPA

UPA’s last theatrical cartoon series consisted of four films only, but these four are beautiful and delightful shorts well worth watching.

The four shorts are all double-bills showcasing two songs each: the first is a children’s song by Mel Leven (who would become famous for his songs for ‘101 Dalmatians’), who sings and plays the ukulele. This first song stars the little girl Hattie, who herself remains a silent character. After Hattie’s song comes a more general song, starring the mustached wizard Ham. Ham was actually a non-character, as for each song he changes himself into someone else.

All four Ham and Hattie films boast beautiful designs, superb cartoon modern background art, but extremely limited animation, with little to no movement and practically no inbetweening. The first song of ‘Trees and Jamaican Daddy’ is a gentle children’s song about er… trees. The images feature Hattie and her toy bird playing in a forest. The second song, ‘Jamaican Daddy’, stars Ham as a Jamaican maracas player and is arguably the best song in the series. This catchy Calypso song tells how one should maintain the family tree by getting as many babies as possible. The song is accompanied by sunny and tongue-in-cheek images of Latinos with very large families.

Watch ‘Trees and Jamaican Daddy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Trees and Jamaican Daddy’ is available on the DVD box set ‘UPA – The Jolly Frolics Collection’

Directors: Włodzimierz Haupe & Halina Bielińska
Release Date: 1958
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Zmiana warty (The Changing of the Guard) © Włodzimierz Haupe & Halina Bielińska

‘The Changing of the Guard’ is a stop motion film that tells a story with the simplest of means.

The background consists of highly graphical wiry outlines of buildings set in an empty stage. The ‘actors’ are matchboxes. We watch them marching, while one of them, a night guard, falls in love with a female matchbox in a window (the matchbox is recognizable as a woman, because of the three lips painted on its front). When the two meet at night, they catch flame, which devours the complete regiment. So, the next day the civilians put up a ‘no smoking’ sign.

Haupe’s and Bielińska’s stop motion is very primitive, yet effective, and their minimalist approach shows how little one needs to tell a communicating and resonating story. Admittedly, their story is not too interesting, verging on the brink of a farce, but the elegant designs and effective animation make it a short fun to watch.

Watch ‘Zmiana warty’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Zmiana warty’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Anthology of Polish Animated Film’

Director: Walerian Borowczyk
Release Date: 1958
Stars: Borisław Stefanik
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Szkola (The School) © Walerian Borowcyk‘The School’ is a pixillation film starring Borisław Stefanik as a soldier in training.

We watch the private practicing, being tantalized by a fly, trying to hoot, and going to sleep, where he dreams he’s a general commanding marching women’s legs. Apart from the dream scene, the film is shot in sepia tones, giving it a timeless feel. The story never gets too serious, and the absurd atmosphere is enhanced by Andrzej Makowski’s overtly enthusiastic military music, completed with whistles and duck calls.

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

 

‘Szkoła’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Anthology of Polish Animated Film’

Directors: Walerian Borowczyk & Jan Lenica
Release Date: 1958
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Dom (The House) © Walerian Borowcyk & Jan Lenica‘Dom’ is an avant-garde film with strong surrealistic images. The film consists of six unrelated ‘scenes’ connected by the image of a woman looking into the camera.

It’s as if Borowczyk and Lenica explored the possibilities of experimental cinema, trying out several techniques in a row. Thus we watch cut-out images of a strange contraption, a pixillated scene of two men fighting, an octopus-like wig destroying a still life setting, a man repeatedly hanging his hat on a coat rack, a sequence of old family pictures and postcards, and a live action scene in which a woman caresses a plaster male head.The film’s weird atmosphere is greatly enhanced by Włodzimierz Kotoński’s modern music, which uses electronics and percussion only.

It’s hard to make sense of it all, but it’s clear that with this film Borowczyk and Lenica proved to be strong new voices in avant-garde cinema.

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

 

‘Dom’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Anthology of Polish Animated Film’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: August 1, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Tot Watchers © MGM

‘Tot Watchers’ was the very last Tom & Jerry cartoon directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

The short was released in August 1958, but it had already been made in 1956, before MGM closed its animation studio in April 1957. Surprisingly this short was penned by Homer Brightman, instead of Hanna & Barbera themselves.

The cartoon stars a teen-age babysitter who, instead of watching the baby, is hanging on the telephone all the time. It’s up to Tom & Jerry to rescue the baby time and time again, especially when the baby wanders off to a building site. The building site sequence harks back to similar cartoons taking place there, like the Popeye cartoon ‘A Dream Walking’ (1934), the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Clock Cleaners’ (1937) and the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Homeless Hare‘ (1950).

The baby looks like a Chuck Jones character. Like Jones’ Minah Bird the infant is almost a force of nature, devoid of personality, but with a drive of its own. Unfortunately there’s no conflict between Tom & Jerry themselves in this cartoon (apart from the very beginning), thus ‘Tot Watchers’ lacks the duo’s traditional comedy. Moreover, the short is hampered by the babysitter’s extensive dialogue. In all, this makes ‘Tot Watchers’ a rather disappointing ending to the series.

The short marks Spike’s last screen appearance, who has a very short scene in this cartoon, and only as a cliche bulldog. Tom and Jerry, however, would return to the silver screen, in 1961, with an ill-conceived new series, produced by Gene Deitch’s animation studio in Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile Hanna and Barbera would start a television adventure, founding their now legendary Hanna-Barbera production company in July 1957, and producing television series starring such beloved characters as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and the Flintstones, to name just a few.

Watch ‘Tot Watchers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 113
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Robin Hoodwinked
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Switchin’ Kitten

‘Tot Watchers’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: June 6, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Nibbles
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Robin Hoodwinked © MGM‘Robin Hoodwinked’ is similar to Tom & Jerry’s four musketeer cartoons, but this time Jerry and Little Nibbles belong to Robin Hood’s merry men.

Alas! Poor Robin Hood has been locked inside the sheriff’s prison, so Jerry and Little Nibbles go to the rescue. Unfortunately, the prison is guarded by Tom. At one point Tom swallows the key, and Nibbles goes inside the sleeping Tom to retrieve it. This makes Tom getting the hiccups, and he swallows a jug of wine to stop them. Of course, Nibbles gets drunk, and at one point we watch him reappearing from Tom’s mouth, singing ‘The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond’. Unfortunately, the rest of the cartoon doesn’t build on this story idea, and all too soon Robin is rescued.

‘Robin Hoodwinked’ is not a bad cartoon, but rather routine and uninspired. Nibbles, who makes his twelfth and last screen appearance in this cartoon, speaks with an English accent in this short.

Watch ‘Robin Hoodwinked’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 113
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Vanishing Duck
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tot Watchers

‘Robin Hoodwinked’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: May 2, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Little Quacker
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Vanishing Duck © MGM‘The Vanishing Duck’ marks Little Quacker’s eight and last cartoon appearance.

He enters Tom & Jerry’s house as a gift from George to his wife Joan. This couple apparently are Tom’s owners. As soon as the two are off for an anniversary dinner, Tom enters the house, and within seconds eats Little Quacker, who reenters life by opening Tom’s left eye like a roller blind.

Little Quacker seeks refuge at Jerry’s, but soon discovers ‘vanishing cream’, rendering the two critters invisible, and driving Tom mad. But, for once, Tom gets wise, and applies the vanishing cream to himself, and in the end, it’s Tom who can bully mouse and duck unseen.

‘The Vanishing Duck’ borrows heavily from ‘The Invisible Mouse‘ (1947), in which Jerry becomes invisible. Like other invisibility cartoons the humor suffers because the invisible characters become invincible, and the sympathy shifts to the hapless victim, in this case Tom. In that respect it’s only fitting Tom gets his revenge in the end. Apart from the eye gag the cartoon isn’t very inspired. For example, there’s a nice gag in which Jerry and Little Quacker make Tom think his tail has gone off, but this gag is hardly developed, and dropped all too soon.

Watch ‘The Vanishing Duck’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 112
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Royal Cat Nap
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Robin Hoodwinked

‘The Vanishing Duck’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: March 7, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Nibbles
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Royal Cat Nap © MGM‘Royal Cat Nap’ was the last of four cartoons in which Tom & Jerry are musketeers in 17th century France.

In this cartoon the king is taking a nap, and Tom has to keep the king’s sleep undisturbed, otherwise he will be beheaded. Jerry and Little Nibbles, who, like earlier entries, speaks French in this cartoon, take advantage of the situation.

With this story the cartoon harks all the way back to Tom & Jerry’s debut ‘Puss Gets the Boot‘ (1940), and to ‘Quiet Please’ (1945) in particular, in which Spike poses Tom for the same problem. Two of the gags, however, are borrowed from Tex Avery’s Droopy cartoon ‘Deputy Droopy’ (1955), with Tom running to a far away hill to make the noise he can’t make in the king’s bed room.

Tom really gets into trouble when he has to scream, after he has locked all the doors himself, and swallowed the key. Luckily little Nibbles rescues Tom from certain death by lulling the king back to sleep, but outside the king’s bed room the fight continues.

‘Royal Cat Nap’ is no classic, but it shows that even in their last year at MGM Hanna & Barbera still had maintained their talent for comedy and timing. The heydays of Tom & Jerry were clearly over, but compared to most contemporary theatrical cartoons ‘Royal Cat Nap’ is surprisingly inspired and well-timed. The animation, too, is still of high value. This is partly because the 1957/1958 cartoons were made much earlier, in 1955 and 1956. Already in the Spring of 1957 MGM had closed his cartoon animation studio. By July Hanna & Barbera had founded their own production company, and by December 1957 they had launched their first television series, The Ruff and Reddy Show.

Watch ‘Royal Cat Nap’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 111
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Happy Go Ducky
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Vanishing Duck

‘Royal Cat Nap’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: January 3, 1958
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Little Quacker
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Happy Go Ducky © MGM‘Happy Go Ducky’ starts with the Easter bunny delivering an Easter egg to Tom & Jerry.

The two fight over the egg, which soon breaks, hatching into Little Quacker, which immediately goes swimming in whatever fluid containing device he sees, being it Tom’s milk bowl, a fish tank, a water tank or a bath. Tom & Jerry try to get rid of the little duck, even putting it back into the egg shell and sending it back to the Easter bunny, but to no avail. In the end, the whole room is flooded, and Tom and Jerry have to watch Little Quacker swimming around with his four duckling friends from the local public park pond.

‘Happy Go Ducky’ is remarkable for lack of conflict between Tom and Jerry. As soon as Little Quacker enters the scene, the two work together to get the intruder out. This hampers the comedy, which remains mild and friendly. Part of the humor stems from Little Quacker exclaiming ‘Happy Easter!’ enthusiastically every time he has found a place to swim. The best gag however is when Tom tries to shut a shower door, which Little Quacker has filled to the max with water.

Watch ‘Happy Go Ducky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 110
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tom’s Photo Finish
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Royal Cat Nap

‘Happy Go Ducky’ is available on the European DVD Box set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

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