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Director: Jack King
Release Date: July 8, 1938
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Good Scouts © Walt Disney‘Good Scouts’ immediately follows ‘Donald’s Nephews‘, and is the second Donald Duck cartoon featuring Huey, Dewey and Louie. This short shows that the nephews certainly were good gag material.

In ‘Good Scouts’ the four ducks are scouts camping out in Yellowstone Park. When Donald tries to make a tent out of a bent tree, this causes a string of events, which finally leads to him ending on top of a rock on a geyser, followed by a large bear.

‘Good Scouts’ clearly establishes Donald as an unlikely and misguided authority figure. There’s no real antagonism between him and the nephews, however, and when Donald is stuck on top of the geyser the trio seriously tries to save him, only to make matters worse. ‘Good Scouts’ is a great gag cartoon, but like more Donald Duck cartoons from this period it suffers a little from Jack King’s rather relaxed timing. Nevertheless, it provided Donald Duck with his first of no less than eight Academy Award Nominations.

This film’s theme was reused in Al Taliaferro’s daily Donald Duck strip during July 18-30, 1938, shortly after the film’s release. The scout theme was, of course, revisited with gusto by Carl Barks when he made Donald’s nephews into Junior Woodchucks.

Watch ‘Good Scouts’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon no. 5
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Nephews
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Golf Game

‘Good Scouts’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

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Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
 November 15, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse
Rating:
Review:

Jungle Rhythm © Walt Disney‘Jungle Rhythm’ opens with Mickey playing the harmonica while riding an elephant, the design of which is still rooted in the silent era.

Mickey shoots a vulture, but misses and is soon threatened by a bear and a lion. Luckily at that moment a monkey and a parrot start playing a tune on his harmonica, and a long dance routine can begin…

First we watch Mickey dancing with the lion and the bear, then two monkeys. Then Mickey plays the saxophone with two ostriches dancing. Mickey plays the whiskers of a little leopard like a harp, while a lion dances the hula, and he even returns to ‘Turkey in the Straw’, the tune that made him famous in his first sound cartoon ‘Steamboat Willie‘ (1928). After playing’Yankee Doodle’ on five tigers, a number of apes and a lion, the crowd applauds, and the cartoon ends.

‘Jungle Rhythms’ is easily one of the most boring entries among the early Mickey Mouse shorts: there’s no plot, no dialogue, no song, and the dance routines resemble the worst in contemporary Silly Symphonies. In fact, to me, ‘Jungle Rhythm’, together with ‘When The Cat’s Away‘ and ‘The Castaway‘ (1931), forms the worst trio of all Mickey Mouse cartoons. Luckily, weak cartoons like these remained a rarity within the series.

Watch ‘Jungle Rhythm’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 13
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Jazz Fool
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Haunted House

Director: Mikhail Kamenetsky
Release Date: 1984
Rating: ★★
Review:

Wolf and Calf © SoyuzmultfilmMikhail Kamenetsky (1924-2006) was a director of numerous puppet films made between 1965 to 1995, almost all featuring animals.

In his ‘Wolf and Calf’ an old wolf steals a calf to eat, but he starts to like it and raises it like his own son. In the end, when a hungry bear, a vixen and a boar try to steal his loot, he is saved by the calf itself, which has turned into a strong bull.

‘Wolf and Calf’ is a fable-like children’s film with an old-fashioned look. The designs of the protagonists look like they have come from a 1950’s toy shop. Kamenetsky’s puppet animation is elaborate, and actually quite good, if erratic, but the film suffers from an excess of dialogue, which not always seems to correspond with the animated characters themselves.

Moreover, the film’s world is rather inconsistent, stretching its believability: the wolf, like all other animals, is highly anthropomorphic and even lives in a house, alongside humans, who are afraid of him nonetheless. The calf, on the other hand, remains on all fours, and stays an animal, even though it is able to speak.

Watch ‘Wolf and Calf’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 31, 1967
Rating: ★★★
Review:

he Bear That Wasn't © MGMEven though not entirely successful, ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ is a beautiful, highly stylized film, which uses some avant-garde techniques to tell its story, which makes it one of the most daring of the MGM cartoons, comparable to independent cartoons from the era.

Based on the children’s book by Jones’s former Warner Brothers colleague Frank Tashlin, ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ tells the story of a bear who ends up in a factory after hibernation, and who’s told he’s not a bear, but “a silly man who needs a shave and who wears a fur coat” so many times, he comes to believe it himself.

Jones quite faithfully retells Tashlin’s simple, but deep story, but the cartoon is hampered by bad sound design, canned music and a theme song that never really develops. Moreover, it features a lot of smoking, which distracts the viewer from the main subject. Despite being billed as a producer Frank Tashlin was not involved in the film, at all, and he reportedly hated the film…

Watch ‘The Bear That Wasn’t’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Jill Culton, Roger Allers & Anthony Stacchi
Release Date: September 29, 2006
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Open Season © Sony PicturesWith ‘Open Season’ Sony Pictures joined the American computer animated feature pool, being the fourth major company to do so. And because in this world American animation films from the same year share the same features, ‘Open Season’ is about forest animals living near the civilized world, just like Dreamworks’s ‘Over The Hedge‘.

The story of ‘Open Season’ (a domesticated bear called Boog is left in the wild and tries to find his way back home) is fairly original (although similar to ‘Cars’), but like its setting, its execution is not. Like ‘Shrek’ (2001) and ‘Ice Age‘ (2002) it’s a buddy film full of fast-talking, wisecracking animals, with the sap deer Elliott (voiced by Ashton Kutcher) being all too similar to Donkey in ‘Shrek’.

Moreover, some scenes are rather formulaic, like the break-up scene after the waterfall ride (see also ‘Shrek’, ‘Monsters Inc.‘), the ‘we-can-do-this-together-scene’ (see ‘A Bug’s Life’, ‘Robots‘), and the almost obligate near-death of Elliott in the end, which goes all the way back to Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ (1967).

The film’s designs are okay, and are more akin to Dreamworks and Blue Sky than to Pixar. The studio’s the animation is mostly of a high standard, if not inventive. The effect animation is adequate, with convincing lights, waters and smokes. Especially the furs look good, but the human hairs are very bad, and in one scene one can watch some very unrealistically animated bank notes flying around.

In the end, ‘Open Season’ is an entertaining film, but too standard to be a classic. Its foremost selling-point may be that it is one of those rare animated features in which the main protagonist (Boog) is voiced by an Afro-American (Martin Lawrence).

After this modest start Sony Animation would do better with its next feature, ‘Surf’s Up’ (2007), with its ‘documentary’ style. But the company really hit its stride with ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ (2009) with its overtly cartoony animation approach.

Meanwhile the reuse of formulaic story building blocks like the ones in ‘Open Season’ came to hamper more and more American computer animated features, with Disney’s ‘Planes’ (2013) as the ultimate low-point, as it consists of nothing but cliches…

Watch the tailer for ‘Open Season’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick
Release Date: May 19, 2006
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Over The Hedge © DreamworksBased on a comic strip, ‘Over the Hedge’, Dreamworks’s sixth computer animated feature, is a charming, if unassuming film, which belongs to the better half of the Dreamworks features, if barely so.

Unlike the unappealing movie ‘Shark Tale’ (2004) for example, all the actions of the characters have their origin in real animal behavior: they hibernate, they forage and they’re threatened by a human environment to which they have to adapt.

The film’s story is original in that it’s not found in the comic strip on which the movie is based. However, at the same time the story is not too original as it contains some standard, almost obligatory scenes, a feature that hampered more and more American animated feature films from 2005 on.

Nevertheless, the film’s story is well executed: the storytelling is lean, the contrast between the two likable protagonists, the brazen raccoon RJ and the cautious turtle Verne, is well-played, as are the two villains: the mafia-like bear Vincent and the Verminator. Even the side-characters are developed enough to like and to care for them (unlike the many personas in Blue Sky’s ‘Robots‘ (2005), for example).

Even though it contains some very realistic effects, like the animation of fur, the animation generally is not very lifelike, and more akin to the jerky animation of Tex Avery films than to the flow of Disney. Especially, the animation of the ADHD-squirrel Hammy is frantic. This character is also responsible for the highlight of the film, in which Hammy, on caffeine, has sped so much that he sees the world practically motionless.

‘Over The Hedge’ is by no means a classic, but it’s entertaining and well-told. In the world of American computer animated features this is already a plus.

Watch the tailer for ‘Over the Hedge’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Unknown
Release Date: April 30, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Peg Leg Pete
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Ozzie of the Mounted © Walt DisneyOswald is a mounted police officer in charge of catching Peg Leg Pete, who, in spite of his name, has two legs here.

Oswald follows Pete on a mechanical horse, but in the end they’re both chased by a bear. Oswald, however, manages to get both Pete and the bear into prison.

‘Ozzie of the Mounted’ feels rather routine, and is less remarkable than say ‘Rival Romeos‘ or ‘Oh, What a Knight‘. The chase scene fills a large part of the cartoon, but contains few clever gags. Nevertheless, the animation of Oswald swinging around on his mechanical horse’s loose spring is still fascinating to watch. It’s also interesting to point out that Oswald’s mechanical horse looks far more mechanical than his mechanical cow in ‘The Mechanical Cow‘ from seven months earlier. This shows the subtle but steady progress the Walt Disney studio was making in animation, even before it became famous for that.

Watch ‘Ozzie of the Mounted’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 18
To the previous surviving Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Bright Lights
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Hungry Hoboes

Director: Dmitry Babichenko
Release Date: 1950
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Stag and the Wolf © SoyuzmultfilmA wolf gets trapped under a tree. A stag helps him out, but as soon as he is free, the wolf tries to catch and eat his helper.

The stag claims this to be unjust, and the two animals ask a bear to be a referee. The bear restores the initial situation to be able to judge the argument, but then runs off with the deer, leaving the wolf under the tree again.

‘The Stag and the Wolf’ is a typical Russian animation film from the early fifties, this time based on an ancient tale (it’s even found among folk tales in Cameroon, albeit with different animals). Like contemporary Soviet films, it has the distinct flavor of Russified Disney. The film pushes the limits of Soviet naturalism, especially in the backgrounds. The bear, however, is very Disney-like, and a little at odds with the particularly realistically designed stag.

Watch ‘The Stag and the Wolf’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date:
 December 12, 1951
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Big Top Bunny © Warner BrothersFive years after his first Bugs Bunny cartoon, ‘Acrobatty Bunny‘ (1946), McKimson returns to the circus setting.

This time Bugs is the new acrobat partner of an egotistical star acrobat bear called Bruno. This “Slobokian bear” is not a good sport and tries to get rid of Bugs, but of course, the reverse happens.

‘Big Top Bunny’ is better than ‘Acrobatty Bunny’, but it still suffers: it’s worn down by the high amount of rather unfunny dialogue and its slow pace. Nevertheless, the cartoon builds up nicely, and its best gags come in last: first there’s a great cycling gag, then there’s a superb gag in which Bugs and Bruno compete in the most daring high diving act. This is quickly followed by the frantic finale in which Bugs disposes of the bear once and for all.

Watch ‘Big Top Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Big Top Bunny’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 86

To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Ballot Box Bunny
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Operation: Rabbit

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: November 30, 1950
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Hold That Pose © Walt DisneyThis cartoon starts with the opening shot of a tired Goofy dragging himself into his own home from ‘Goofy Gymnastics‘ from the previous year.

This time, however, the voice over advises Goofy to get a hobby, for example photography. This leads to several great photography gags, especially when Goofy tries to make pictures of a bear, which results in a long, fast and gag-packed chase sequence involving a funfair. It also reuses a gag involving a cab from ‘Baseball Bugs‘ (1946), showing Jack Kinney’s interest in the gag language of Disney’s rivals.

‘Hold that pose’ is one of Goofy’s funniest shorts, and certainly one of his best cartoons of the fifties.

Watch ‘Hold That Pose’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 26
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Motor Mania
To the next Goofy cartoon: Lion Down

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