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Director: Norman McLaren
Release Date: 1938
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Love on the Wing © Norman McLarenIn the late 1930s Scottish film maker Norman McLaren made several films for the British Post, like the promotional live action films ‘Book Bargain’ (1937) about how telephone books were made, and ‘News for the Navy’ about how letters were delivered worldwide.

Much more interesting than these films, however, is the small advertisement film McLaren made for Empire Air Mail, ‘Love on the Wing’. The film is clearly strongly influenced by the surreal movement. It uses, for example, music from Jacques Ibert’s quirky ‘Divertissement’, which was by that time only eight years old, and the film’s opening images are reminiscent of works by Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí.

In ‘Love on the Wing’ McLaren’s exploits his trademark technique of drawing direct on film, and he combines these images with beautiful painted and highly surreal backgrounds, reminiscent of the otherworldly landscape paintings by Giorgio De Chirico and Yves Tanguy.

The film tells a little love story, but is wildly associative, with metamorphosis and symbolism simply exploding from the screen. The three protagonists change into letters and back again, as well in numerous other symbols of love. So much is happening in the mere four minutes, it leaves the viewer breathless.

‘Love on the Wing’ surely must be one of the most avant-garde advertisement films ever made, and the short is without doubt McLaren’s first animated masterpiece.

Watch ‘Love on the Wing’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Love on the Wing’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Norman McLaren – The Master’s Edition’

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Director: Oskar Fischinger
Release Date:
 December 1933
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Kreise © Oskar Fischinger‘Kreise’ is most probably the first full color film made in Europe.

Made with ‘Gaspar Color’ it certainly makes clever use of color’s new possibilities. ‘Gaspar Color’ required too much exposure time for live action, but for Fischinger’s animations it was perfect.

Color certainly added a great deal to Fischinger’s films. ‘Kreise’, for example, literally explodes with color. As its title implies, the film is composed of circles, only, which move and grow in various ways on an instrumental excerpt from Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser.

The film ends with a slogan: “Alle Kreise erfasst Tolirag” (Tolirag reaches all circles [of society]), revealing that this totally abstract film is actually a commercial for an advertising agency. This was Fischinger’s trick to get the film past the Nazi censors, who in 1933 had come to power, and who were strongly opposed to abstract art.

Later the film also advertised other companies, like the Dutch Van Houten chocolate company. The film clearly shows that Walt Disney was not the only one who knew how to deal with color, but one wonders whether Tolirag (or Van Houten for that matter) did get a lot of new customers out of it.

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

‘Kreise’ is available on the DVD ‘Oskar Fischinger: Ten Films’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 March 21, 1931
Rating: ★★★
Review:

In My Merry Oldsmobile © Max Fleischer‘In My Merry Oldsmobile’ is a rather odd commercial for Oldsmobile, done in Screen Song fashion. The cartoon will be familiar of readers of Leonard Maltin’s ‘Of Mice and Magic’, for his book features several stills from this film.

The film starts weird to begin with. We watch an evil male character sneak upon a woman undressing(!). Luckily she reveals countless dresses under each other. The creepy guy sneaks into her home and asks the terrified woman for a ride, which she unsurprisingly refuses. Then suddenly a little guy arrives offering her a ride in his Oldsmobile outside. This section uses a lot of dialogue, but no lip synch whatsoever.

The little guy’s invitation for a ride prompts the barbershop title song (a hit song from 1905) and the bouncing ball, so typical of Fleischer’s Screen Songs. The song is accompanied by images of a couple riding an Oldsmobile Curved Dash from 1904, the car celebrated in the song. Then we watch the cartoon characters riding this car, and suddenly there’s a lot of metamorphosis of words into the car etc. The film ends as oddly as it started: when the couple gets married, they’re immediately in a boxing match, indicating that marriage is one long fight.

One wonders how such a story would help Oldsmobile selling more cars. Moreover, none of their latest models is featured in the cartoon, only their first model, which by 1931 was of course extremely outdated.

Watch ‘In My Merry Oldsmobile’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘In My Merry Oldsmobile’ is available on the DVD ‘Fleischer Classics featuring Gulliver’s Travels’

Director: Frank Moser
Release Date: 1930
Rating: ★★
Review:

Family Album © Audio Productions‘Family Album’ is a commercial by Charles W. Barrell for the Western Electric Company, glorifying the telephone, and its ‘offspring’: other inventions that are derived from telephone technology, including the microphone and the speaker.

The film reuses the character Talkie from Fleischer’s earlier film ‘Finding his voice‘ (1929), but its star is an anthropomorphized telephone, talking about his family. Although quite educational, the film is less interesting than Fleischer’s film. The animation, by veterans Paul Terry and Frank Moser, is rather poor and limited. There’s no rubbery animation whatsoever, and the designs are still in 1920s style.

‘Family Album’ is available on the DVD ‘Cultoons! Rare, Lost and Strange Cartoons! Volume 2: Animated Education’

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