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Director: ?
Release Date: April 3, 1933
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★

Chinaman's Chance © Ub IwerksIn ‘Chinaman’s Chance’ Flip the Frog is a policeman, ordered to arrest Chow Mein, an escaped Chinese convict, whom he tracks down into Chinatown.

Flip follows the criminal into a Chinese laundry, which turns out to be a place of horrors, with a pool containing a snake and an alligator. Later we watch Flip smoking opium, which leads to a marvelous scene in which the whole scenery goes wobbly in a special effect never before seen on the animated screen. The opium even makes Flip imagining Chow Mein as a beautiful Chinese lady.

Unfortunately, the rest of the short is not nearly as interesting. The cartoon ends with Chow Mein back in prison, and Flip receiving a medal. Carl Stalling’s score on the other hand remains wonderful throughout, and is full of mock-Chinese music.

Watch ‘Chinaman’s Chance’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 36
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Bulloney
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Pale-Face

‘Chinaman’s Chance’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Directors: Mannie Davis & John Foster
Release Date: August 17, 1930

Laundry Blues © Van Beuren‘Laundry Blues’ is one of those cartoons that’s very hard to watch today.

This short features some extreme stereotypes of Chinese people, in animal form, plus one caricature of a (human) Jew. The Jew has his beard washed and ironed, only to fall into the mud with it shortly afterwards.

Apart from the vicious stereotyping, the short suffers from a lack of direction: things are just happening on the screen. The backward racism, the total lack of plot, and the scarcity of gags make ‘Laundry Blues’ endless. It’s everything but a classic, indeed. And yet, the part of the four Chinese ironing was reused in its entirety in ‘Chinese Jinks‘ from 1932.

Watch ‘Laundry Blues’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Laundry Blues’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’

Director: Harold Mack
Release Date: August 1, 1952
Rating: ★★★★★

De gouden vis © Toonder Studio'sBy 1952 the Dutch Toonder studios had been producing animation films for ten years, and now they were ready to produce a ‘free film’, not commissioned, but out of their own ideas.

The first of these free films was ‘De gouden vis’ (The Golden Fish). It was Marten Toonder’s old wish to produce a free film, and the result is clearly a work of love. ‘De gouden vis’ is an astonishing achievement for the Dutch studio: all elements of animation film have matured in this film: its storytelling is original, its designs are gorgeous, the animation is excellent, the effects are convincing and its atmosphere is unique. The result is arguably one of the most beautiful films ever made in The Netherlands.

Based on a story by Marten Toonder’s brother, Jan Gerhard Toonder, the film tells about the Chinese prince Li Pai, who repeatedly asks an old wise fish how to live. The fish tells the prince that his eyes know the answer, but Li Pai misinterprets what he sees, and only in old age he discovers the truth…

The film has a genuinely Chinese atmosphere, thanks to designs by Pamela & Harold Mack and backgrounds by Cees van de Weert and Ling Nan Lung. The film hasn’t aged a bit, except for Nell Knoop’s Dutch narration, which has an unmistakable 1950s diction.

Unfortunately, ‘De gouden vis’, in spite of praise on several film festivals around the world, only returned a mere thousand guilders, while its production had costed about 40,000 guilders. So, during the rest of its existence, the Toonder studios produced only a handful of other ‘free films’, most notably ‘Moonglow’ (1955).

‘De gouden vis’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

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