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Director: Michael Lah
Release Date: April 4, 1958
Stars: Droopy, Butch (Spike)
Rating: ★★
Review:

Mutts About Racing © MGMIn this Cinemascope cartoon ‘Daredevil Butch’ (Spike) and ‘Buzz Droopy’ race against each other in a car race.

As should be expected, Spike hardly plays fair, and the cartoon consists of several blackout gags in which Spike tries to stop Droopy from racing, including the classic paint-a-tunnel-on-a-wall gag.

The cartoon suffers from a bad sound design (especially Butch’s voice sounds like it was recorded in a toilet) and from an inconsistent story line, which does not build to a climax. Moreover, Lah’s timing is too relaxed for the race theme, and none of the gags really come off. All this unfortunately makes ‘Mutts About Racing’ one of the weakest of all Droopy films. Only the last one, ‘Droopy Leprechaun’, would be worse…

Watch ‘Mutts About Racing’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mutts About Racing’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’

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Director: Michael Lah
Release Date: February 7, 1958
Stars: Droopy, the Wolf
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Sheep Wrecked © MGMIn ‘Sheep Wrecked’ Droopy is a sheepherder, or more clearly, a sheep dog guarding his flock inside a fenced pasture against the laid-back Southern wolf character ( in his last screen appearance).

‘Sheep Wrecked’ arguably is the most inspired of Michael Lah’s six Droopy films. The animation is fine, and the gags plentiful. Among the wolf’s attempts are him dressing up like a stork and like Bo-Beep, a gag harking all the way back to the Silly Symphony ‘Three Little Wolves‘ (1936). Both Droopy and the wolf are in fine shape in this cartoon.

Unfortunately, the pace is rather slow, and the best features of this Cinemascope cartoon are Scott Bradley’s very inspired music and F. MonteAlegre’s beautiful backgrounds, with their minimal indications of settings on a bright orange canvas. Remarkably, this Homer Brightman-penned story involves a very slow guided missile, very similar to the one in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Misguided Missile‘. ‘Misguided Missile’ was penned by the very same writer, and only released eleven days earlier.

Watch ‘Sheep Wrecked’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Sheep Wrecked’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’

Director: Michael Lah
Release Date: December 6, 1957
Stars: Droopy, Butch (Spike)
Rating: ★★★
Review:

One Droopy Knight © MGMIn this Cinemascope cartoon ‘sir Butchalot’ (Butch a.k.a. Spike) and ‘sir Droopalot’ (Droopy) combat a dragon over a beautiful princess.

Despite its medieval setting ‘One Droopy Knight’ feels like a remake of ‘Señor Droopy‘ from 1949, as it reuses no less than three gags from the earlier film, including the last one. Unlike the wolf in ‘Señor Droopy’, however, Spike is as unsuccessful as Droopy in combating the dragon, until the very end. The dragon appears quite invincible, indeed, as is demonstrated by Droopy’s feeble attempts to pinch it with his rubbery sword. He’s a well-conceived character on his own, and less a ferocious bully than the bull was in ‘Señor Droopy’. One has the genuine feel he rightly defends himself against those pesky, puny knights.

As in his other cartoons, Michael Lah’s timing is a little too relaxed to make the gags work right. Moreover, the short is hampered by a large amount of dialogue, and even Scott Bradley’s music sounds more canned than before. Several scenes are stolen by the beautiful, highly stylized backgrounds, laid out by Ed Benedict and painted by F. MonteAlegre, with their bright colors and elementary designs.

Watch ‘One Droopy Knight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘One Droopy Knight’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’

Director: Jack Hannah
Release date: April 27, 1956
Stars: Humphrey Bear
Rating: ★★
Review:

Hooked Bear © Walt DisneyIn 1956 Jack Hannah directed two Cinemascope cartoons starring Humphrey the bear and the park ranger, without Donald Duck.

‘Hooked Bear’ is the first one. In this short the park is visited by fishermen. Humphrey, of course, wants to join in, trying to catch some fish, but he is entirely unsuccessful.

Even though Humphrey is a well developed and likable character, ‘Hooked Bear’ does not rank among Hannah’s most inspired cartoons. The short marks only Humphrey’s fifth appearance, but some routine already has sneaked in, and none of the gags ever seem to pay off satisfactorily.

Watch ‘Hooked Bear’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hooked Bear’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
Release Date: June 16, 1955
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Lady and the Tramp © Walt Disney‘Lady and the Tramp’ is a mild and friendly film based both on story ideas by Joe Grant that went as far back as 1939, and a short story by novelist Ward Greene. It tells the story of Lady, an upper class female Cocker Spaniel living around the turn of the century.

Lady’s life of luxury seems to be threatened by the coming of a baby, but it is the babysitter, aunt Sarah, who’s her real nemesis. The cat-loving old lady quickly has Lady muzzled, and it’s up to the tramp to rescue her. They spend a night out together, but in the morning, while they’re chasing chickens “together”, Lady gets caught and ends in the city dogpound. There she discovers that the tramp is quite a ladies’ man. It seems their short-lived relationship is over, but then the tramp helps her catching a rat that has sneaked into the house and into the baby’s room…

‘Lady and the Tramp’ was the first animated feature in Cinemascope. The film uses the new technique to great effects, with the action carefully laid out to the broad screen. Its backgrounds are very beautiful, and remarkably lush or, when necessary, highly dramatic. Only in the love scene they become somewhat stylized, showing a Mary Blair influence otherwise absent from the film.

The high quality animation is a delight to watch and stands out in an age of stylized and limited animation, something the 1950s more and more became to be. Like the animals in ‘Bambi‘ (1942), the dogs have a look and feel of real animals, while, at the same time, being full characters one can relate to, with a complete range of human expressions. Even the minor characters, like the dogs in the dogpound, are perfectly animated in that respect. The voices help in this dualism, often being a combination of human and dog-like sounds.

The humans, on the other hand, are hardly seen, and only the strongly caricatured ones, Aunt Sarah, Tony and Joe, have something of a character. It is telling that the most famous and probably most romantic kiss in animation history can be seen in this movie and is a kiss between two dogs. In this scene Lady and the tramp share a meal of spaghetti, accompanied by romantic music by the two Italian restaurant owners. This scene, animated by Frank Thomas, is the undisputed highlight of the film. Honorable mention goes to the very lifelike fight between the tramp and a large rat, a strongly dramatic scene animated by Wolfgang Reitherman, which can compete with the fighting scene in ‘Bambi’ in its impact.

Watch the dining scene from ‘Lady and the Tramp’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: January 14, 1955
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

No Hunting © Walt DisneyIn ‘No Hunting’ Donald is encouraged by an off-screen narrator and by the spirit of his grandfather to join the hunting season.

This leads to a great satirical cartoon, ridiculing hunting and hunters. It even contains a parody on ‘Bambi‘!

‘No hunting’ feels like a Goofy short featuring Donald. Like in the Goofy shorts, most of the humor comes from the contrast between the narrator’s lines and what is shown on the screen. It’s a very enjoyable Cinemascope cartoon, which deserves to be more widely known.

Watch ‘No Hunting’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 110
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Grand Canyonscope
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Bearly Asleep

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: December 23, 1954
Stars: Donald Duck, the Park Ranger
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Grand Canyonscope © Walt DisneyBy 1954 Donald Duck was Walt Disney’s only cartoon star to survive as, Mickey, Pluto and Goofy all had retired in 1953.

Following Tom & Jerry, who had entered the large screen one month earlier, he was to enjoy the last stage of his cinema career in Cinemascope, being the only Disney cartoon star to do so.

‘Grand Canyonscope’ is the first of Donald’s Cinemascope cartoons, and it uses the new technique to great effects. Donald is an annoying tourist in the Grand Canyon, repeatedly bothering the park ranger from ‘Grin and Bear it‘. The action makes excellent use of the wide screen, and the Grand Canyon is portrayed in beautiful scenic backgrounds, which are the real stars of this extraordinarily beautiful Donald Duck cartoon.

Watch ‘Grand Canyonscope’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 109
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: The Flying Squirrel
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: No Hunting

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: February 24, 1956
Stars: Donald Duck, Chip ‘n Dale
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Chips Ahoy © Walt DisneyThis Cinemascope cartoon is one of finals. It was the last screen appearance of Chip ‘n Dale, it was the last non-educational Donald Duck short and it was the last cartoon directed by Goofy director Jack Kinney, whose own Goofy series had stopped three years earlier.

The short features a quite ordinary battle between Chip ‘n Dale and Donald. This time the squirrels steal Donald’s miniature boat to sail to an island full of acorns. Highlights are Donald acting out a thunderstorm and Dale’s deadpan reactions to Donald’s attempts to persuade them into various boats.

By 1956 Jack Kinney, the greatest director of comedy the Disney studio had ever seen, had been out of favor for some time, and on March 13, 1958 he was fired. He continued animating during the dark ages of animation, in which animation was only seen in light of expenses. He worked on UPA’s first feature, ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ and on Popeye films for television, besides several small and often unfinished projects with his own animation company. In 1988 he wrote his highly entertaining and richly illustrated autobiography ‘Walt Disney and Assorted other Characters’. Jack Kinney passed away on February 9, 1992, 82 years old.

Watch ‘Chips Ahoy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 114
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Up a Tree
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: How to Have an Accident in the Home

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