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Directors: Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske & Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: August 24, 1942
Stars: Donald Duck, Goofy, Joe Carioca
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Saludos Amigos © Walt Disney‘Saludos Amigos’ was the first result of a two-month trip to South America Walt Disney made with eighteen people from his staff, including animator Norm Ferguson and designers Mary and Lee Blair.

This trip was financed by the Coordinator of Inter-American affairs, and ‘Saludos Amigos’ feels like an advertisement for South America. It’s the first of several ‘package films’ Disney made in the 1940s, and like its followers, it is uneven. There is not much of a story, just a live action travelogue across Bolivia, Chile, Argentine, and Brazil. In between there are four cartoon sequences: Donald Duck as a tourist at Lake Titicaca, the story of Pedro the airplane, Goofy as a Gaucho and a samba sequence featuring Donald and a new character, Joe Carioca.

Donald’s antics at Lake Titicaca are only mildly funny, until its finale, the suspension bridge scene, which evokes a genuine sense of heights. Pedro the airplane is a children’s story using a narrator. It’s probably the first animation film starring a humanized vehicle, and very successful at that. Pedro is well-designed, being both a plane and a likable little boy. His story reaches an exciting climax when Pedro gets caught in a storm near Aconcagua. ‘Goofy as a gaucho’ is a nice follow-up to ‘How to ride a horse’ from ‘The Reluctant Dragon‘ (1941), with Goofy acting as an Argentine gaucho. This sequence is based on the art of Argentine painter Florencio Molina Campos (1891-1959), without being as gritty. The result is both educational and funny.

However, the real highlight of the film is its finale, in which Donald meets the Brazilian parrot Joe Carioca. Both dance to a samba, following a background which is created ‘on the spot’ by a brush. This sequence is alive with creativity, seemingly introducing a new era of more stylized images and brighter colors, which would dominate the 1940s and 1950s.

Joe Carioca was such an intoxicating character, he was returned to the screen, where he would reunite with Donald in ‘The Three Caballeros‘ (1944) and ‘Melody Time‘ (1948), in still more stylized and colorful scenes.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Saludos Amigos’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Director: Bill Roberts
Release Date: August 27, 1943
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Reason and Emotion © Walt Disney‘Reason and Emotion’ is a rather odd propaganda short, telling us about Reason and Emotion, who are depicted as two little characters living inside our heads.

The short ‘demonstrates’ where uncontrolled emotion can lead to: a man gets slapped in the face by a woman, while the woman eats too much. This makes ‘Reason and Emotion’ one of the first cartoons about weight and diets.

Then the short shows how reason is destroyed by Adolf Hitler (in an extraordinarily vicious, but wonderfully animated caricature), who uses fear, sympathy, pride and hate to indoctrinate the Nazi mind. This is one of the propaganda shorts, which treat the Germans as victims of their Nazi leaders (see also ‘Education for Death‘ from the same year). This contrary to the Japanese, who, in WWII animated propaganda films, were all treated as despicable, mean and low. The film also warns against panic and falling for false rumors.

Emotion is depicted as a rough, dumb, but fun-loving caveman, while Reason is a bespectacled thin and rather boring character. One cannot resist to love the Emotion-type, especially in its female form, as depicted in the woman’s head. This female character is animated with gusto by Ollie Johnston.

Watch ‘Reason and Emotion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske & Bill Roberts
Release Date: September 27, 1947
Stars: Jiminy Cricket, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Edgar Bergen, Luana Patton
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Fun and Fancy Free © Walt DisneyFun and Fancy Free’ was the fourth of six package features Disney released in the 1940s.

It consists of two unrelated stories, which were both originally conceived as feature films in 1940/1941. The two stories, ‘Bongo’ and ‘Mickey and the Beanstalk’ are loosely linked by Jiminy Cricket, who sings the happy-go-lucky theme song.

He plays a record to a sad doll and a gloomy bear which features Dinah Shore telling the story of Bongo in rhyme and song. This cute, if unassuming and forgettable little film (after a story by Sinclair Lewis) tells about Bongo the circus bear, who breaks free from the circus, falls in love with a cute female bear called Lulubelle, and combats a large brutal bear called Lumpjack.

Immediately after this story has ended, we follow Jiminy Cricket to a live action setting: a private party with a little girl (Luana Patton), Edgar Bergen and his two ventriloquist sidekicks, the cynical Charlie and the dumb, but gentle Mortimer.

Bergen tells a version of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, starring ‘famished farmers’ Mickey, Donald and Goofy in their last classic trio outing. This part had a long genesis, the early drafts of this film go back to 1940. Apparently Pinto Colvig had returned to the Disney studio, because Goofy has his voice back after having been silenced for eight years. Pinto Colvig would do Goofy’s voice in two subsequent shorts, ‘Foul Hunting‘ (1947) and ‘The Big Wash‘ (1948), before leaving again, leaving Goofy voiceless, once more. This sequence is also the last theatrical film in which Walt Disney does Mickey’s voice. Halfway the production Jimmy MacDonald took over.

This second episode of ‘Fun and Fancy Free’ is a delight, if a little bit slow. Its humor derives mostly from Charlie’s sarcastic interruptions. Nevertheless, the animation of the growing beanstalk and of Willie the giant is stunning.

Willie would be the last giant Mickey defeated, after having done with giants in ‘Giantland‘ (1933) and ‘Brave Little Tailor’ (1938). Unlike the other giants, Willie is an instantly likeable character, and he was revived as the ghost of Christmas Present in ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ (1983).

‘Fun and Fancy Free’ is a lighthearted film. Like Disney’s other package features, it is not too bad, but it is certainly not among the ranks of masterpieces.

Watch the opening scene of ‘Fun and Fancy Free’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Bill Justice & Bill Roberts
Release Date: November 5, 1943
Stars: The Seven Dwarfs
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Winged Scourge © Walt DisneyThis war time educational short tells us about public enemy no. 1. This turns out not to be Nazi Germany or Japan, but the Anopheles mosquito, which spreads malaria. The film is quite insightful in how malaria is spread and how one can prepare oneself against it.

The film features the seven dwarfs from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) as volunteers to give an example. Their precautionary actions are staged to an instrumental version of the song ‘Whistle While You Work’, which was originally associated with Snow White and some forest animals doing the household in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937).

It’s a bit surreal to watch these happy-go-lucky fairy tale characters fighting a serious disease in a modern (South) American environment. Especially because some of the precautionary methods against malaria are quite disturbing. They include spraying oil on ponds and the use of the poisonous gas Paris Green, methods with devastating results for the environment. Clearly, environmentalism was not yet on the agenda in the 1940s (in fact, it only hit the political agenda after the publishing of Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ in 1962).

The seven dwarfs were used earlier in the war propaganda short ‘7 Wise Dwarfs‘ (1941), but that consisted mainly of reused material. ‘The Winged Scourge’ has entirely new animation on the seven dwarfs. It was the last film to feature these happy little men.

‘The Winged Scourge’ was made for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. It’s the first of a few educational health shorts made especially for the Latin American countries, other examples being ‘Defense Against Invasion‘ (1943), ‘Cleanliness Brings Health’ (1945), ‘What Is Disease’ (1945), and ‘Planning for Good Eating’ (1946).

Watch ‘The Winged Scourge’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Bill Justice & Bill Roberts
Release Date: January 4, 1943
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Grain That Built a Hemisphere © Walt Disney‘The Grain that Built a Hemisphere’ is a war time educational short about corn in quite a propagandistic fashion.

The Disney studios made it “under the auspices of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs”, which means that it belongs to the ca. ten films Disney made in the context of America’s ‘good-neighbor policy’ .

‘The Grain that Built a Hemisphere’ is the most propagandistic of the lot. Its tone is set right away when the narrator pompously boosts that “corn is the symbol of a spirit that links the Americas in a common bond of union and solidarity”.

Luckily, the main part of the film is quite insightful, explaining about the origin of corn, and what products it can produce. We learn how inbreeding is used to produce bigger plants and how it can be used as food for livestock (this section reuses footage from ‘Farmyard Symphony‘ from 1938) and as a source for oils, starch, glucose and sugar. And maybe, in the near future, for plastics for all kinds of war machines? Thus ends this educational film as a typical war propaganda short, after all…

Watch ‘The Grain that Built a Hemisphere’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: David Hand
Release Date: August 31, 1935
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Pluto's Judgement Day © Walt DisneyAlthough this cartoon is part of the Mickey Mouse series, Pluto is its star.

After he has chased a little kitten, he dreams that his Judgement Day has come and that he’s put on trial by a number of cheating cats.

Like most of Disney’s dream-cartoons this one contains wonderful backgrounds, characters and ideas, thanks to story men Joe Grant and Bill Cottrell. The dream sequence is executed in a Silly Symphony-like fashion with lots of rhyme and song and very beautiful animation. The prosecutor, animated by Bill Roberts, is particularly well done: he’s an impressive figure, whose stature anticipates Stromboli from ‘Pinocchio‘ (1940).

Pluto now is a fully developed character who easily carries the complete cartoon on his own. Mickey’s part, on the other hand, is reduced to that of a cameo, something that would occur more and more in the years to come.

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


This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 78
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Fire Brigade
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: On Ice

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