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Director: unknown
Release Date:
 January 1, 1933
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★

Coo Coo the Magician © Ub IwerksWhile ‘The Goal Rush‘ anticipated Disney’s ‘Touchdown Mickey‘, ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ clearly follows ‘Mickey in Arabia‘ from six months earlier. The setting and the story are too similar to ignore, making ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ quite a rip-off of Mickey’s wonderful cartoon.

Like Mickey, Flip visits some vague Arabian country with his sweetheart. There they meet the magician. When Flip challenges him, the magician makes his sweetheart disappear. While Flip gets lost in an Egyptian tomb, his girl comes in the clutches of a sultan. Flip comes to the rescue, battling several stereotyped black servants, which the cartoon unfortunately also inherited from Mickey’s cartoon. In the end the couple manages to escape on a magic carpet. There’s a short erotic scene of Flip falling into a harem.

Maybe just because it is a copy of ‘Mickey in Arabia’, ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ is an enjoyable cartoon. The exotic setting clearly inspired the makers to make other gags than usual, making this short standing above the average Flip the Frog cartoon.

Watch ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 32
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Funny Face
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Flip’s Lunch Room

‘Coo Coo the Magician’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: Grigori Lomidze
Release Date: 1959
Rating: ★★★

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves © SoyuzmultfilmFilmed in two colors, ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ is a long puppet animation film from the Soviet Union.

The short takes half an hour to retell the famous story from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights quite faithfully. The film features the death of two characters, but the grim ending of the original story is lacking. Instead of being killed, the forty thieves are captured by the townspeople.

Interestingly, Ali Baba is not the real hero of the story, but rather his wife, a girl he bought on a slave market, unfortunately run by the very thieves he had robbed earlier. It’s this slave girl who decoys and fools the thieves to their own destruction.

The film uses a narrator who does all the voices, and a very lush score by composer Eduard Kolmanovsky. The film is quite slow and the puppet animation isn’t as sophisticated as in contemporary films by Jiří Trnka. The puppets have no facial expression whatsoever, and cannot move anything in their face, except for the gang leader, who can roll his one eye. Only occasionally their emotions become apparent. The best example of this may be the terror of Ali Baba’s neighbor when he realizes he’s trapped inside the thieves’ cave.

About the film’s director, Grigori Lomidze, little is known. He also directed the propaganda film ‘To You , Moscow‘ (1947), which combines live action and cel animation. Nothing points to a long experience in stop motion, and unfortunately, it shows. Nevertheless, ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ is a charming film, succeeding in evoking the typical atmosphere of the Arabian Nights.

Watch ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
July 11, 1932
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete

Still from 'Mickey in Arabia' featuring a snake-charmer‘Mickey in Arabia’ can be described as ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ in Arabia.

In this short Mickey and Minnie are tourists visiting some mythical Arabian country on a camel. Here they meet Pete, who has both his legs here, and who apparently is some sort of sheik. Pete captures Minnie, which leads to an exciting finale, which consists of continuous series of gags.

Despite its all too familiar story outline, ‘Mickey in Arabia’ is a major step forward in the Mickey Mouse series. It places Mickey outside his familiar barnyard and performance settings, and sends him on an adventure abroad, similar to the ones Mickey was having in Floyd Gottfredson’s comic strip of the same time. Mickey is at his best as the little hero, and he excels here. Gottfredson himself sent Mickey to Arabia, too, but only two years later, at the end of 1934. His comic strip ‘The Sacred Jewel’ borrows a lot of images from this 1932 film.

The adventure notwithstanding, the Disney story men didn’t forget to fill the short with gags, making ‘Mickey in Arabia’ a fast paced and funny short. It also has a great score, which makes excellent use of Albert Ketèlbey’s ‘In a Persian Market’ to create an Arabian atmosphere.

With ‘Mickey in Arabia’, the studio had hit the jackpot storywise, and in the next two years Mickey would play the little hero more often, with delightful results. Indeed, already in the same year, ‘Mickey in Arabia’ would be topped by the even more excellent ‘Touchdown Mickey‘ and ‘The Klondike Kid‘.

Watch ‘Mickey in Arabia’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 43
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Musical Farmer
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Nightmare

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