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Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: June 9, 1939
Stars: Donald Duck, Pluto
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Beach Picnic © Walt Disney‘Beach Picnic’ was the first short directed by Clyde Geronimi.

Geronimi was born in Italy in 1901, and worked for Hearst, Bray and Walter Lantz before joining Walt Disney in 1931. He was promoted to director in 1938, and he directed 21 shorts, featuring Donald, Goofy, Mickey and Pluto before moving on to feature films in 1943.

Geronimi had a gentle directing style, more fit for charm than for comedy, and best suited for Mickey and Pluto. ‘Beach Picnic’ is a typical example. It opens with Donald Duck singing the 1914 hit song ‘By the Beautiful Sea’, and in fact he looks like a bather from that era.

But most of the screen time goes to Pluto, not Donald, and our favorite cartoon dog stars in two long situation comedy sequences. First with Donald’s inflatable horse (which Donald calls Seabiscuit after the champion race horse of the era), then with flypaper. This latter sequence is for a great deal a straight copy of Norm Ferguson’s flypaper scene in ‘Playful Pluto‘ (1934). The animation is exactly the same, only redrawn in color.

Another gag features Pluto becoming inflated and flying through the air. This gag is undoubtedly the best of the entire film, and it was repeated by Hanna and Barbera in the Tom & Jerry short ‘Salt Water Tabby‘ (1947). Donald meanwhile has to deal with Indian-like ants, something he would have to do again in ‘Tea for Two Hundred’ (1948).

‘Beach Picnic’ is a slow, and only moderately funny cartoon, and it shows that Donald needed some stronger adversaries to make the comedy work than the gentle Pluto.

‘Beach Picnic’ is part of a transitional phase for Pluto. Even though Pluto’s own series had been launched in 1937, with ‘Pluto’s Quin-Puplets’, the series only really took of in 1940. In the meantime Pluto co-starred with Donald in four films, of which ‘Beach Picnic’ is the first (although the two had already shared screen time in ‘Donald and Pluto‘ from 1936).

Watch ‘Beach Picnic’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon no. 10
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Cousin Gus
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Sea Scouts

‘Beach Picnic’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

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Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: June 25, 1938
Stars: The Captain and the Kids
Rating:
Review:

A Day at the Beach © MGM‘A Day at the Beach’ features the complete Katzenjammer family frolicking at the beach.

The film lacks any story, and consists of an unrelated string of repetitive gags whose only reason of existence seems to demonstrate that one can milk a gag to nausea. For example, there’s almost endless footage of the captain battling with a jumpy sun for some shade, and there’s a running ‘gag’ of the ocean destroying grandpa’s der inspector’s sand castle.

Only when Ma almost drowns, the cartoon gains something of a momentum. The film’s best feature, however, is it depiction of drunken sea creatures, a very small highlight in an otherwise endlessly boring film.

Watch ‘A Day at the Beach’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Day at the Beach’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: October 13, 1950
Stars: Donald Duck, the bee
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Bee at the Beach © Walt DisneyThe bee and Donald compete for an empty spot on the beach in an exceptionally violent cartoon.

This short contains some good gags, but because both characters behave very unsympathetically, it is not too enjoyable. The bee, for instance, deliberately feeds Donald to a shoal of hungry sharks, which our poor hero can hardly escape. Even worse, the cartoon ends with Donald swimming into the horizon, with the sharks following after.

The sharks’ design go all the way back to ‘Peculiar Penguins‘ (1934).

Watch ‘Bee at the Beach’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 87
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Hook, Lion and Sinker
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Out on a Limb

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: December 7, 1945
Stars: Pluto, The Little Turtle
Rating: ★
Review:

Canine Patrol © Walt DisneyIn this cartoon Pluto is a guard dog at the beach, trying to prevent a little cute turtle from swimming. After the little turtle saves Pluto from quicksand, the two become friends.

‘Canine Patrol’ is a cute, but slow and boring cartoon. It introduces the little turtle, the most popular of all animals Pluto befriended in his solo career. The turtle indeed is cute, but it hardly extracts any comedy out of its interactions with Pluto. Nevertheless, it would reappear in two more Pluto cartoons: ‘Pluto’s Housewarming‘ (1947) and ‘Pluto’s Surprise Package’ (1949), which both have all too similar stories.

Watch ‘Canine Patrol yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 16
To the previous Pluto cartoon: The Legend of Coyote Rock
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Kid Brother

Director: Unknown
Release Date: October 31, 1927
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

All Wet © Walt DisneyIn his fifth film Oswald is a hot dog vendor at the beach.

At one point his girlfriend drops by, only to give him the cold shoulder, so Oswald pretends to be a lifeguard. The girl in turn pretends to drown, but then she really get suck into the ocean by a giant fish. Oswald comes to the rescue and earns a passionate kiss.

Although this film still contains some stiff animation and designs from the early 1920s (for example the dog customer), most of the animation is very flexible and lively, especially that of Oswald and the sea. Many of the hot dog gags were reused in the Mickey short ‘The Karnival Kid‘ (1929).

Watch ‘All Wet’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 5
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Great Guns
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: The Ocean Hop

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: July 12, 1947
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Salt Water Tabby © MGMTom is at the beach, trying to impress a sexy white kitten.

He’s disturbed by Jerry, who appears from the kitten’s picnic basket, and by a green crab, which looks surprisingly similar to the crab in the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Hawaiian Holiday’ (1937).

‘Salt Water Tabby’ was the first Tom and Jerry cartoon to feature oil backgrounds, several years after Disney and Warner Brothers made that transition. Nevertheless, this experiment was not to be continued, leaving ‘Salt Water Tabby’ the only Tom and Jerry to feature oil backgrounds for years.

Watch ‘Salt Water Tabby’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 31
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: A Mouse in the House

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: 
February 2, 1947
Stars:
 Pluto, Butch, The Little Turtle
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Pluto's Housewarming © Walt DisneyIn ‘Pluto’s Housewarming’ Pluto’s got a new and very fancy home at the beach, but even before he moves in, it’s occupied by the little turtle from ‘Canine Patrol‘ (1945).

Pluto manages to dispose of the little fellow, but then bulldog Butch squats his house. Butch chases Pluto away, but he himself is chased away by the little turtle. In return, Pluto allows the little fellow to live in his mansion, too.

‘Pluto’s Housewarming’ is one of those numerous Pluto cartoons from the forties in which Pluto befriends a little animal, which he doesn’t like at first. The addition of Butch, however, brings in a new dimension. Nevertheless, this is cartoon is still rather cute than funny.

The little turtle would reappear in the equally cute and unfunny ‘Pluto’s Surprise Package‘ from 1949.

Watch ‘Pluto’s Housewarming’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 20
To the previous Pluto cartoon: The Purloined Pup
To the next Pluto cartoon: Rescue Dog

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: October 28, 1931
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'The Beach Party' featuring Clarabella Cow and Minnie Mouse picknicking on the beachIn ‘The Beach Party’ Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar and Pluto go picnicking on the beach. All goes well, until an evil octopus ruins their picnic, and they all have to battle against him.

‘The Beach Party’ is one of four 1931 Mickey Mouse cartoons to feature no musical routine, at all. Clearly, the Disney studio grew more and more confident in telling stories instead of musical numbers. And rightfully so, because ‘The Beach Party’ shows that Disney studio was more capable than any other studio in telling a good gag-filled story leading to a great finale. These were a welcome replacement to the tiring song-and-dance-routines. And so, by 1932, the musical numbers had almost disappeared from the Mickey Mouse cartoons.

Nonetheless, ‘The Beach Party’ knows no dialogue, and most of the movement is rhythmical, and set to a musical beat. The film’s greatest idea is the battle, because the gang’s means to chase the octopus away are entirely based on their eating habits as shown before. Such subtle and sophisticated story telling was unknown outside the Walt Disney studio at that time.

Notice, too, how Pluto and the crab resolve into speed lines when fighting. This effect was still pretty new at the time. The gag with the crab would be reused six years later to much better effects in ‘Hawaiian Holiday’.’The Beach Party’ is no classic, but secretly this film, too, shows Disney’s ambitions.

‘The Beach Party’ is also the first of only two shorts in which Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar are presented as four close friends, the other one being ‘Camping Out’ from 1934. Their friendship would become common practice in Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics, starting with ‘Mickey Mouse and the Ransom Plot’ (July-November 1931).

In these comic strips Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar would become real personalities, something that never happened in the Mickey Mouse films. Indeed, soon after Mickey changed to color in 1935, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar vanished from the screen, apart from an occasional cameo. Unfortunately, the same thing occurred in the Mickey Mouse strips: Horace’s and Clarabelle’s last major adventure with Mickey was ‘Race for Riches’ (July-September 1935), after which they were replaced by Goofy.

Watch ‘The Beach Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 34
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barnyard Broadcast
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Cuts Up

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: December 21, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Wild Waves' featuring Minnie kissing MickeyIn his fifteenth cartoon Mickey is a lifeguard and he saves a nearly drowning Minnie.

To comfort his sweetheart Mickey does some playing and dancing. Some animals (pinguins, sea lions, pelicans and a singing walrus) join in. This is a particularly dull sequence, Minnie cheers up, calls Mickey ‘my hero’ and kisses him. Iris out.

In this short, there’s a story at least the first half of the cartoon, making it slightly better than most of the early Mickey Mouse entries. The cartoon starts with some nice scatting by Mickey. Unfortunately, the fledgling lip-synch still accounts for some strange facial expressions on our hero. The drowning and saving part is the most interesting sequence, and contains some nice water animation, as well Mickey defying gravity by swimming through air.

‘Wild Waves’ was the first short directed by Burt Gillett. Gillett had joined Disney in April 1929. He would become the principal Mickey Mouse director of 1930 and 1931, and in 1933 he would gain fame with ‘Three Little Pigs‘. His career at Disney’s would last until 1934, when he left for the ill-fated Van Beuren Studio.

‘Wild Waves’ also was the last Walt Disney short to feature music by Carl Stalling. When Ub Iwerks left Disney in January 1930, Stalling soon followed, believing the studio had no future without this master animator. For his last film Stalling not only provided the score, but also the singing for Mickey and the Walrus. The singing walrus would be reused half a year later, in the Silly Symphony ‘Arctic Antics‘, while the dancing sea lions returned in ‘The Castaway‘ (1931).

Watch ‘Wild Waves’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 15
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Haunted House
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Just Mickey

Director: Norm Ferguson
Release Date: December 21, 1944
Stars: Donald Duck, Joe Carioca, Panchito, The Aracuan Bird
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Three Caballeros © Walt DisneyDonald stars in his first and only very own feature film.

In the opening scene he receives a large package full of presents. When he opens these presents, they lead him to the mild story of Pablo the cold-blooded penguin (narrated by the melancholy voice of Disney-favorite Sterling Holloway), and to the childish story of ‘Gauchito and his flying donkey Burrito’, before it reintroduces Joe Carioca from ‘Saludos Amigos‘ (1942). Joe takes Donald to Baía, where they dance the samba with Aurora Miranda, nicely blending animation with live action, something that occurs throughout the picture.

Another package introduces the Mexican rooster Panchito. Together the trio sings the intoxicating theme song, wonderfully animated by Ward Kimball, who regarded the scene as his best work. Panchito takes Donald and Joe on a magic serape ride over Mexico, visiting Mexico City, Veracruz en Acapulco Beach, where Donald plays blind man’s buff with a bunch of girls in bathing suits. Actually, Donald keeps hunting girls like a hungry wolf throughout the picture.

‘The Three Caballeros’ was the second of two ‘Good neighbor policy’ features, focusing on South America, and the second of six compilation features Disney made until returning to real features with ‘Cinderella‘ in 1950. When compared to ‘Saludos Amigos’, ‘The Three Caballeros’ is brighter, bolder and more nonsensical. It is noteworthy for its bold color design and for its beautiful color book artwork by Mary Blair, which in its modernity looks forward to the 1950s (especially in the opening titles, during the train ride and in the Mexican Christmas episode).

It is most interesting however, because of its zany surrealism, which invades many scenes with associative images, where metamorphosis and abstraction run haywire, not even sparing Donald himself. In this respect ‘The Three Caballeros’ is the boldest feature Disney ever made.

However, its lack of story, its strong touristic content, its outdated live action imagery, its sentimental songs and the two childish stories at the beginning of the feature all harm the picture. Thus watching the movie feels like being on a colorful journey full of beautiful images that nevertheless turns out to be unsatisfactory in the end.

Watch the title song from ‘The Three Caballeros’ below:

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