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Director: Frédéric Back
Release Date: June 1993
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Le fleuve aux grandes eaux © Frédéric BackFollowing the extraordinary success of ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, which inspired several tree planting projects, Frédéric Back turned his attention to Canada’s majestic St. Lawrence river in ‘The Mighty River’.

Clocking almost half an hour, this is Back’s last and most impressive film. Told by Donald Sutherland, the film is both an ode to this impressive river, showing nature’s grandeur and spectacular sights, and a tale of the river’s sad history, which with the arriving of the Europeans turns a dark page. Soon, the story is one of slaughter, exploitation, destruction, pollution, and greed.

The film’s pessimistic and environmentalist message at times contrasts greatly with the extraordinarily beautiful and highly virtuoso images, not only of the river itself, or of the abundance of creatures the river inhabits, but also of mankind living around the stream.

Back’s style ranges from highly naturalistic to impressionistic, pointillistic, and even Van Gogh-like. His animation style is in constant motion, taking the spectator from one image to another in an organic string of continuity, as if the film itself flows like a river. Metamorphosis and swooping camera movements add to the flowing nature of the film.

Despite the extraordinary beauty of the more peaceful images, Back shows us many pictures of death and destruction: images of the slaughtering of once abundant species, of decimation of the surrounding forests and of the emptying of life in the nearby Ocean bay. These images give the film a sad and disturbing outlook, and there’s makes no mistake that Black blames sheer greed for these atrocities.

Yet, by altering the images of woe with images of wonder, Back keeps his film from becoming a depressing work of agitprop. Still, his message is crystal clear: man has exploited this mighty river long enough, and now it’s time to give its nature rest and time to heal. And even then the once countless flocks of great auk and passenger pigeons will never return, as man has driven them to extinction.

In all, ‘The Mighty River’ is an impressive piece of work, a film that will leave no viewer unmoved, and a crowning achievement on Back’s already impressive oeuvre.

Watch ‘Le fleuve aux grandes eaux’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Le fleuve aux grandes eaux’ is available on the DVD-box ‘L’intégrale de Frédéric Back’

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: December 19, 1936
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Porky in the Northwoods © Warner BrothersPorky has a game refuge in Canada, in which he defends rather cute animals against an evil hunter.

The hunter is designed like the lieutenant from ‘Little Beau Porky‘, but we only see him appear after 4’30. Before this his threat is shown by his shadow only, a remarkably inventive device for a cartoon of the 1930s.

Like other early Warner Brothers films, ‘Porky in the North Woods’ looks very primitive, and rather Disney-anno-1932/1933-like. Yet it features an extremely fast sequence of a squirrel running a ridiculously long distance through the woods to get help (and back to fetch and apple). Such short and fast sequences of characters crossing ridiculously long distances would become a trademark of Tashlin’s colleague Tex Avery. Like his first two films, Tashlin’s third short at Warner Bros. features a battle sequence: this time we watch an enormous number of animals being called to arms.

Porky hardly talks in this cartoon – it seems Tashlin tried to avoid his tiresome stutter. Indeed, in 1937, the original voice artist would be replaced by Mel Blanc, who was able to make Porky’s stutter funny.

Watch ‘Porky in the North Woods’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 17
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: The Village Smithy
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Wrestler

Directors: Dick Lyford & Ford Beebe
Release Date: December 12, 1941
Stars: The Seven Dwarfs
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

7 Wise Dwarfs © Walt Disney‘7 Wise Dwarfs’ is Walt Disney’s second propaganda film for the Canadian government, and it uses the same two-part formula as the first (‘The Thrifty Pig‘), this time reusing animation from Walt Disney’s most famous film of all: ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937).

The first part of ‘7 Wise Dwarfs’ reuses animation of the seven dwarfs singing the mining song and ‘Hi-ho’, but with altered lyrics and backgrounds. There is some new animation of the Dwarfs entering and leaving the bank to buy war bonds. The second part is almost the same as that of ‘The Thrifty Pig’, ending with the same powerful image of planes gunning the words ‘Invest in Victory’. The Seven Dwarfs would return in ‘The Winged Scourge‘ (1943), which features a lot of new animation on them.

Watch ‘7 Wise Dwarfs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Ford Beebe
Release Date: 1941
Stars: The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The Thrifty Pig © Walt DisneyBefore The United States were dragged into the war by Japan’s attack on Pearl harbor, December 7, 1941, Walt Disney Studio already had made four propaganda shorts for the Canadian government.

Canada, had declared war on Nazi Germany on September 10, 1939, a week after the United Kingdom, following Germany’s invasion of Poland, September 1.

‘The Thrifty Pig’ is the first of Disney’s four propaganda films commissioned by the Canadian government to persuade their citizens to buy war bonds to invest in the war effort. The other three being ‘7 Wise Dwarfs‘ (1941), ‘Donald’s Decision‘ (1942) and ‘All Together‘ (1942). It’s also Disney’s first propaganda cartoon.

‘The Thrifty pig’ consists of two parts, The first part cleverly reuses animation from Walt Disney’s most famous short, ‘Three Little Pigs‘ (1933), but in this shortened version the wolf wears a Nazi costume, the bricks are made of war bonds and the union jack is waving at the wise pig’s house. The only new animation is when the wolf’s blows reveal war bonds beneath the plaster and when the wise pig says “these bricks not only stop his blowing, they will also get him going”.

The second part is more overtly propagandistic and uses limited animation of war machines and slogans to persuade the public to buy “more and more war certificates”. The end shot, where a plane shoots the words ‘Invest in Victory’ on the screen’ is the most powerful image of the complete film.

This two part formula would be reused in all succeeding propaganda films that had to persuade the public to invest in the governmental war industry. Apart from the Canadian commissions, we see this structure in ‘The New Spirit‘ (1942) and ‘The Spirit of ’43‘ (1943), which had to persuade American citizens to pay their income taxes in time.

Watch ‘The Thrifty Pig’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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