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Director: Kunio Katō
Release Date: June 10, 2008
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The House of Small Cubes © Robot CommunicationsIn ‘The House of Small Cubes’ (better known by its french title ‘La maison en petits cubes’) an old man lives in an almost abandoned town, flooded by an ever rising sea level.

Each time the level reaches his doorstep, he builds another level on top of the former one. One day his pipe falls down into a former home. The man dives to retrieve his pipe, but also into his own memories. By diving into ever deeper levels the old man remembers his deceased wife, his former family, and even the times before the flood began.

‘The House of Small Cubes’ is a gentle and sweet little movie on memory and loss. Despite being made in Japan, nothing in the film looks Japanese, and the short’s surreal but moving story is by all means universal. The film thus rightfully won the 2008 Academy Award for best animated short film.

Watch ‘The House of Small Cubes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The House of Small Cubes’ is available on the DVD Box ‘The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 9’ and on the French DVD box set ‘Annecy – Le coffret du 50e anniversaire’

 

 

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Director: Eric Armstrong
Release Date: July 3, 2002
Rating:
Review:

The ChubbChubbs! © Sony PicturesThe star of ‘The ChubbChubbs!’ is a humble alien who swipes the floor of a nightclub on some planet.

When the nightclub is threatened by some monsters, the alien repeatedly tries to warn its clientele, but only manages to ruin the singer’s act three times. In the end the alien disposes of the approaching army of monsters with help of some yellow animals, the ChubbChubbs of the title. These turn out to have rotating razor-blade mouths, belying their cute appearance.

‘The ChubbChubbs!’ was a sort of test film for Sony Pictures Imageworks, and thus it’s not a very deep film. In fact, the film feels rather childish and immature, and the only source of humor stems from the cameos of familiar science fiction movie characters, like Darth Vader, Yoda, Alien and E.T.. The rest of the cartoon humor feels forced and overtly cliche.

The film isn’t helped by a trite story, a too talkative soundtrack, ugly voice designs (especially of the alien itself), ugly color designs, mediocre animation, and very inconsistent computer art, blending an array of styles from cartoony to realistic into a far from convincing world. That this utterly forgettable film managed to win an Academy Award is beyond me, especially when considering that one of the other nominees was Kōji Yamamura’s classic short ‘Mt. Head’.

Watch ‘The ChubbChubbs!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

https://vimeo.com/5603230

‘The ChubbChubbs!’ is available as a bonus on the DVD ‘Surfs Up’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: July 30, 1932
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Flowers and Trees © Walt Disney‘Flower and Trees’ was the first film (animated or not) in full technicolor and it’s therefore a milestone of cinema.

Nevertheless, it feels like a transitional film. The colors make it stunningly modern compared to the earlier Silly Symphony entries, but some of the designs still firmly belong to the black-and-white era. The designs of the flowers and the caterpillars, for instance, go all the way back to the third Silly Symphony, ‘Springtime‘ from 1929.

The birds, on the other hand, have lost their cartoony designs they still had in ‘The Bird Store‘ from six months earlier, and the villain tree is probably the most elaborate character to have hit the animated screen thus far.

For contemporary audiences, the film may seem rather silly and a bit old fashioned, but its storytelling is very economical. It contains some original visual gags (flowers brushing their teeth, a pine portrayed as a hen) and fine drama, when the rejected mean old trees sets the wood on fire. The colors are not only used as a novelty, but add to the drama, as do musical quotes from Franz Schubert’s “Erlkönig” and Gioachino Rossini’s overture to William Tell.

Technicolor was a great advancement for the Silly Symphony series. The colors created way more atmosphere and allowed for more complex designs. Because of color, the Silly Symphonies would propel animated art forward like they never did before, making Walt Disney the undisputed leader in the field.

This leadership was greatly aided by the exclusive contract Disney concluded with the Technicolor company, giving him the exclusive rights to use the new technique for animated films for three years. So, when other studios had to stick to black and white, or were obliged to use far less convincing two-color techniques, Walt Disney made the most beautiful and literally most colorful cartoons of the 1930s.

‘Flowers and Trees’ enthralled  the critics so much at the time, they installed a special Academy Award for best animated short films, with ‘Flowers and Trees’ naturally being its first winner. During the 1930s Disney would win every Oscar in this category.

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 29
To the previous Silly Symphony: Just Dogs
To the next Silly Symphony: King Neptune

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: April 26, 1947
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Cat Concerto © MGMIn ‘The Cat Concerto’ Tom unexpectedly appears to be a star pianist, playing Franz Liszt’s second rhapsody in concert, and doing it with enjoyable flair.

Unfortunately his playing awakes Jerry, who sleeps inside the grand piano. This leads to a hilarious chase in and around the piano, while the playing of the music continues.

‘The Cat Concerto’ almost looks like a remake of Friz Freleng’s ‘Rhapsody Rabbit‘ from 1946. However, it shares only two gags with the earlier film: that of the mouse suddenly interjecting a boogie-woogie theme and the final gag in which the mouse steals the show. The main difference between the two films is The Cat Concerto’s higher sense of realism and its integrated story, in which every gag follows from the one preceding it in almost continuous action.

‘Rhapsody Rabbit’, in contrast, is more absurd and contains more totally unrelated black-out gags. In the end, ‘The Cat Concerto’ is the better cartoon, because of its great characterization, its outstanding animation, its perfect timing. Indeed, it won an Academy Award, and together with ‘The Band Concert‘ (1935) it can be considered the best concert cartoon of all time.

Nevertheless, there seems to be something fishy about ‘The Cat Concerto’, when compared with ‘Rhapsody Rabbit’. For more on the controversy about these two all too similar cartoons, see Thad Komorowski’s excellent blogpost on the issue.

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

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 29
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Part Time Pal
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date:
January 1, 1943
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Der Fuehrer's Face © Walt DisneyIn ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ Donald is apparently a citizen of ‘Nutziland’, a fascist country where even trees and clouds are swastika-shaped.

Donald is awoken by a silly march band singing the sarcastic title song (penned by Disney composer Oliver Wallace and sung with gusto by Spike Jones). Then he has breakfast that consists of only one coffee bean, ‘aroma de bacon & eggs’ and a slice of wooden bread. All too soon he has to work at the assembly line, making shells and saluting to images of Adolf Hitler.

In the end, it appears that it was all just a dream, and Donald, in his Stars and Striped-colored room, sighs, embracing a golden copy of the statue of liberty: “Am I glad to be a citizen of the United States of America”. This closing scene is rather corny and the satire of the film misses some points: most of the (German) citizens of Nazi Germany were not poor and did not have to work like slaves, as is suggested here. Instead, the Nazis used forced labor forces from their occupied territories.

Nevertheless, ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ was both artistically and commercially the most successful of the Disney war time propaganda films. It even won an academy award for being the best animated short of 1943. It’s so successful, because, unlike most other propaganda shorts, it’s outrageously funny: its satire is so zany, its depiction of ‘Nutzi land’ so wacky, and the scene at the assembly line so out-to-lunch, that one cannot stop laughing. When Donald goes mad, these segments are even topped by a brightly colored, rather avantgardistic and very surrealistic stream-of-consciousness-like scene, which resembles similar dream sequences in ‘Dumbo‘ (1941) and ‘The three Caballeros‘ (1944).

This short was not directed by any of the two regular Donald Duck directors of the time, Dick Lundy and Jack King, who both preferred a more unassuming type of humor, but by Jack Kinney, who is most famous for directing Goofy, and who was undoubtedly the wackiest of the Disney directors, of which this film certainly is proof.

Watch ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 38
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Bellboy Donald
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Tire Trouble

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