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Director: Roman Kachanov
Release date: 1981
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Tayna Tretyei Planeti (The Mystery of the Third Planet) © Soyuzmultfilm‘Tayna Tretyei Planeti’ (‘The Mystery of the Third Planet’, also ‘[Alice and] The Secret of the Third Planet’) is a delightful science-fiction film for children about the little girl Alice, who accompanies her father, a bespectacled scientist, and the melancholy captain Green on their trips to collect alien animals for the Moscow zoo.

On their way they encounter a mysterious professor, and learn about the illegal slaughter of ‘chatterers’, some kind of alien bird species. The one surviving chatterer provides the key to the mystery, leading our heroes to two heroic astronauts, who have been captured by pirates.

Despite the mystery plot, the overall mood of the film is optimistic, unhurried and relaxed. At no point there’s is any real danger or violence. Even when the villain commits suicide at the end, it turns out to be fake. The film’s delight is not as much found in its story as in its gorgeous designs, its alien images, its surreal backgrounds, Aleksandr Zatsepin’s wonderful soundtrack, full of electronic space-funk, and in its exuberant animation. Alice, for example, has the habit to pull back her hair continuously, while her dad keeps putting his glasses straight. Also featured is a comical alien creature, called Gromozeka, who possesses no less than six arms, which are all animated separately.

It seems that there were no budget problems at Soyuzmultfilm at that time, if animators could indulge that much in excessive animation. The results are gorgeous, but sometimes the elaborate animation slows down the action, especially during the action scenes, which are anything but fast. Nevertheless, ‘Tayna Tretyei Planeti’ is a gem of an animation film, and a feature that definitely deserves to be more well-known, even though it’s a short one, clocking only 45 minutes.

Watch ‘The Mystery of the Third Planet’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: unknown
Release Date:
May 27, 1925
Stars:
Dawn O’Day (Alice), Julius
Rating:
★★★★★
Review:

Still from 'Alice's Egg Plant' featuring the chickens on strikeIn ‘Alice’s Egg Plant’ Alice and Julius have a chicken farm, but a Russian spy chicken named ‘Little red Henski’ makes their chicken strike. Clever Alice then organizes a cock fight with a one egg admission fee.

‘Alice’s Egg Plant’ marks Dawn O’Day’s only appearance as Alice. She was supposed to be the second Alice after Virginia Davis, who quit after some arguments about her salary. But Disney’s salary offer proved to be too low for O’Day, as well. The next Alice would be Margie Gay, who would serve as Alice during 1925 and 1926

In ‘Alice’s Egg Plant’ one can already see the transition from emphasis on live action to animation. The shots of Alice are minimized in this cartoon and there are no close ups. The animation on the other hand begins to look more flexible and lifelike. Add the clever and entertaining story with its many gags, and here’s an Alice Comedy that still is entertaining today. It would also be prophetic, because Disney himself would face a frustrating strike in 1941, also led by an agitator from outside the company, Herbert K. Sorrell…

Watch ‘Alice’s Egg Plant’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Alice’s Egg Plant’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: unknown
Release Date: February 15, 1926
Stars: Margie Gay (Alice), Julius
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Still from 'Alice's Mysterious Mystery' featuring a dog priest salving an imprisoned dogTwo dog catchers, a bear and a mouse, catch a whole school of dogs.

They also lure some dogs using a girl dog on a balcony. They all end in a prison-like sausage factory, which contains a death chamber. We see a dog actually walk in there (after having been salvaged by a dog priest). He comes out as a string of sausages… Luckily, detectives Alice (Margie Gay) and Julius free all remaining dogs.

This cartoon contains quite some flexible animation, especially of the bear emptying the school.

Watch ‘Alice’s Mysterious Mystery’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Alice’s Mysterious Mystery’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: unknown
Release Date: December 15, 1925
Stars: Virginia Davis (Alice), Julius
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Still from 'Alice in the Jungle' featuring four ferocious lionsAlice (Virginia Davis) and her friend Julius the cat are on a safari in the jungle.

The cartoon consists of several unrelated gags: Julius encounters some crocodiles, two elephants go bathing, Julius makes a barber sign post out of a tiger’s tail, and both Alice and Julius are chased by lions (a scene similar to the finale of Alice’s pilot cartoon).

The cartoon contains many surreal gags, a lot of them unashamedly Felix the Cat-like, especially when Julius uses his comic expressions and balloons as tools. Alice’s role, however, is extremely limited here. This is no surprise, for ‘Alice in the Jungle’  is made around leftover footage of Virginia Davis, who, after some salary problems, had been replaced by Margie Gay in early 1925.

Watch ‘Alice in the Jungle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Alice in the Jungle’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: unknown
Release Date: November 1, 1924
Stars: Virginia Davis (Alice)
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Alice Gets in Dutch' featuring the teacher, three books and a canonAlice is at school singing out of tune and blowing a balloon that contains ink. When it explodes in the teacher’s face, Alice is cornered. There she falls asleep.

Alice dreams she’s making music with a cat, a dog and a donkey, until they are being attacked by a evil horned teacher and three anthropomorphized schoolbooks called ‘reading’, ‘writing’ and ‘arithmetic’. The cat invents a canon to shoot pepper with. The first shot is successful, but the second one explodes in their faces, so Alice and the gang are sneezing their heads off. At that point Alice awakes.

‘Alice Gets in Dutch’ is a rather unremarkable entry in the Alice Comedies series. None of the animation in this short is particularly noteworthy, although the animation of the cat thinking up an invention looks quite good. This cat character would eventually evolve into Alice’s main sidekick, the very Felix the Cat-like Julius. The technique of combining live action and drawings suffers in this short; at some scenes Alice is rendered so light, she’s almost invisible.

Watch ‘Alice Gets In Dutch’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Alice Gets In Dutch’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 1, 1924
Stars: Virginia Davis (Alice)
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Alice's wild west show' featuring Virginia Davis blowing smoke ringsAlice organizes a wild west show for the kids in the neighborhood.

All goes well until the bully Tubby O’Brien and his gang show up. Her fellow actors chicken out, so Alice has to improvise some stories about her experiences in the ‘wild and woolly west’. Enter the cartoon sequence.

In her first story she defeats some Indians. In the second one she’s a sheriff in a saloon, smoking a cigar and attending a bad performance of ‘Sweet Adeline’. Meanwhile, the villain, “Wild Bill Hiccup” tries to steal the safe. He and Alice end up in a gunfight in which every other person in the saloon gets killed. She chases the villain by car, returning the safe in the end.

The gang of bullies is not impressed and they pelt her with vegetables. But Alice chases them all out of her humble theater, beating up Tubby O’Brien herself. The cartoon ends with her triumphant smile.

The live action footage, with the instantly lovable Virginia Davis as Alice and a bunch of local children, is highly entertaining. None of the animation, by Ham Hamilton and Walt Disney himself, is particularly interesting, however. Indeed, two months later, Disney would quit animating himself, leaving that to his more skilled employees, like Ub Iwerks.

Watch ‘Alice’s Wild West Show’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Alice’s Wild West Show’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

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