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Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Release Date: January 21, 1960
Rating: ★★
Review:

Goliath II © Walt Disney‘Goliath II’ is a slow and gentle children’s film, penned by storyman Bill Peet, about a tiny elephant, who is the shame of the herd, until he bravely defeats a cocky mouse, which scares all the others away.

With its fifteen minutes of length, Reitherman’s all too relaxed timing, George Bruns’s uninspired score, and studio favorite Sterling Holloway’s dull narration, ‘Goliath II’ is one of the most boring of the Disney specials. Moreover, there are several instances of reused animation (e.g. the tiger from ‘Tiger Trouble’ (1945), the crocodile from ‘Peter Pan’, and an owl from ‘Bambi‘), giving the film a rather cheap look.

Nevertheless, ‘Goliath II’ is a milestone, as it is the first animated film to exploit the xerox technique on cel animation, an innovation developed by Ub Iwerks in the 1950s. The xerox process meant the characters needn’t be retraced by the ink department, and could keep their vibrant animated lines, giving them a more graphic look. For better or worse, the xerox technique dominated Disney animation up to the late 1980s. By then it had long lost its charm, and was finally discarded (‘The Little Mermaid’ is the first film in the new style).

The xerox technique, combined with Reitherman’s direction, the film’s setting and elephant characters, make ‘Goliath II’ a forerunner of ‘Jungle Book’ (1967). The short even introduces the gag in which the elephants are forced to stop their march, and fall on top of each other.

Despite the new techniques, and fine animation, there’s little to enjoy in ‘Goliath II’, but I would like to single out the extraordinary background paintings by Richard H. Thomas, Gordon Legg and Thelma Witmer, which schematically indicate a jungle without going into too much detail.

Watch ‘Goliath II’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Goliath II’ is released on the DVD-set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Directors: Norman McLaren & Evelyn Lambart
Release Date: 1960
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Lines Vertical © Norman McLaren & Evelyn Lambart

‘Lines Vertical’ is one of the most extreme films Norman McLaren ever made.

Together with collaborator Evelyn Lambart he manages to make a film consisting of vertical lines only, made directly on film. The whole film consists of white vertical lines moving across the screen against monochrome backgrounds. The film starts with one line, then two, then three, and so on, until ca. twenty lines fill the screen in a constant ballet.

At one point the lines get a three-dimensional quality, resembling rotating columns. The movements of the lines follow Maurice Blackburn’s serene score, which is clearly inspired by Chinese classical music. It’s a testimony of the genius of both McLaren & Lambart that they can even pull off such a boring concept, and turn it into a successful film, even if it’s not the most engaging one.

Watch ‘Lines Vertical’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Lines Vertical’ is released on the DVD-box set ‘Norman McLaren – The Master’s Edition’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: January 23, 1960
Stars: Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester
Rating: ★★★
Review:

West of the Pesos © Warner Bros.The setting of ‘West of the Pesos’ is a ‘veelage’, where several mice have been caught and put into cages inside the ‘ACME Laboratorio por experimentao’, guarded by Sylvester.

The remaining mice of the village would gladly rescue their comrades, so Speedy Gonzales is lured by the beautiful female mouse Camilla to come to the rescue. As the gags come fast and plenty, this is one of the more satisfying Speedy Gonzales cartoons, if hardly really funny. This time, Sylvester doesn’t stand a chance, and isn’t even given time to think of some counter measures.

Despite all the action, the main attractions of this cartoon are the attractive and strikingly modern backgrounds by Robert Givens and William Butler. The list of mice caught for the laboratory includes the names of animators Rudy Zamora, Manuel Perez and Gus Arriola, as well as painter Pablo Picasso.

Watch ‘West of the Pesos’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘West of the Pesos’ is released on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: August 20, 1960
Stars: The Honey-Mousers
Rating:
Review:

Mice Follies © Warner Bros.Not to be confused with the delightful Tom & Jerry short of the same name ‘Mice Follies’ marks the third appearance of the Honey-Mousers, McKimson’s parody of the television sitcom The Honeymooners.

The short opens with Ralph and Ned departing way too late from a night out. Somehow, we’ll never know why, Ned taunts a cat on the way. The cat follows the boys home, and they mistake the ferocious feline for their wives when they arrive home. The two men flee the house. Then the wives arrive themselves, only to get the same treatment from the cat. In the end we watch the four going asleep on a tiny park bench.

It’s hard to say anything positive about ‘Mice Follies’, The story just makes no sense, none of the dialogue is remotely interesting, little to nothing is done with the parody element, and the few gags present all fall flat. And so, the Honey-Mousers wouldn’t return after this unsuccessful entry.

Watch ‘Mice Follies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mice Follies’ is released on the Blu-Ray-set ‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection’

Director: Alex Lovy
Release Date: April 20, 1960
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Ballyhooey © Walter Lantz‘Ballyhooey’ was the last Walter Lantz cartoon directed by Alex Lovy. In 1959 Lovy left Lantz to become an associate producer for the now clearly successful Hanna-Barbera studio.

It’s perhaps ironic that the cartoon actually spoofs television. In this cartoon Woody Woodpecker trying to watch his favorite quiz show, but he has to sit through a multitude of commercials (“but first a word of our sponsor”). When the quiz arrives Woody thinks he has the right answer and rushes to the studio.

At this point the cartoon becomes less static (the first part was just a string of commercials), but also less funny. Woody’s antics at the studio feel out of place and old-fashioned when compared to the more biting satire of the first half. In this respect ‘Ballyhooey’ isn’t really a successful cartoon, but Woody Woodpecker’s annoyance during the first part, and the absurdity of the multiple commercials make the short a fun watch.

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

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 98
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Pistol-Packin’ Woodpecker
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Heap Big Hepcat

‘Ballyhooey’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

Director: Te Wei
Release Date: 1960
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Where is Mama © Te Wei‘Where is Mama’* is a charming little film in which we watch a school tadpoles seeking their mother.

They mistake two shrimps, a goldfish, a crab, a turtle and a catfish for their mother, before their real mother finds them.

Told by a voice-over, ‘Where is Mama’ is a genuinely Chinese film: it is based on an ancient Chinese fable, it is typically preoccupied with nature and water, its watercolor and ink style is based on classic Chinese painters (most obviously Qi Baishi), and it is set to a serene and leisurely speed.

The result is a film that is a bit slow, but poetic in feel and strikingly beautiful. The short looks timelessly Chinese, but at the time of its release the film’s style was completely new and daring within the Chinese animation film world. However, it would take ca. twenty years before its influence became clear, because five years after the making of this cartoon the Shanghai Animation Studio was shut down as part of the Cultural Revolution, and many of its employees were sent to re-education camps in the countryside. Only in the late seventies it would be up and running again. In the following decade ‘Where is Mama’ would be an inspiration to many Chinese animators, who would reuse several of this film’s key elements. In that decade, too, Te Wei made his own masterpiece, ‘Feeling from Mountain and Water‘ (1988).

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

‘Where is Mama’ is available on the French DVD ‘Impression de montagne et d’eau’

* this film probably is best known by its French title: ‘Les têtards à la recherche de leur maman’

 

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