You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘David Hand’ tag.

Director: David Hand
Release Date: December 19, 1936
Rating: ★★★
Review:

More Kittens © Walt DisneyThe success of Oscar-winning ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ (1935) undoubtedly prompted this sequel, which is both less beautiful, less entertaining and less remarkable than the original short.

The film is aptly titled ‘More Kittens’, which shows its crowd-pleasing character. This time the kittens create havoc in the garden, while dealing with a fly, a tortoise and a teasing blue bird.

The cartoon is remarkable for introducing the good-natured St. Bernard Bolivar, who would become Donald Duck’s dog in the comic strip two years later. He’s not named here, but the likeness is so stunning, not only in design but also in character, that there’s no doubt it’s him. True, there was also a St. Bernard in ‘Alpine Climbers’ (1936), but this dog lacks Bolivar’s character, being more of a cliche St. Bernard instead.

Watch ‘More Kittens’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 65
To the previous Silly Symphony: Mother Pluto
To the next Silly Symphony: Woodland Café

Advertisements

Director: David Hand
Release Date: October 10, 1936
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Mickey's Elephant © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Elephant’s opens with Mickey receiving a cute young elephant from the Rajah of Ghaboon as a playmate for Pluto. Unfortunately Pluto is not amused, and he thinks ‘Bobo’ is an intruder with intentions to replace him.

‘Mickey’s elephant’ is similar to ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto‘ (1933) and to ‘Mickey’s Kangaroo‘ (1935), in which Pluto is also jealous of an intruder and which also feature his evil side. Like in ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto’ Pluto’s evil consciousness has materialized into a little devilish persona, who talks with a strong New York accent and who persuades Pluto to fix Bobo using red pepper. Sneezing along Bobo blows is own new house down, but unfortunately Pluto’s too…

‘Mickey’s Elephant’ is a rare example of a Mickey Mouse film inspired by the Mickey Mouse comic strip. Most of the time the influence was reversed. But in this case Bobo the elephant had made his entrance in Floyd Gottfredson’s strip two years earlier. Bobo is a completely innocent character, and Pluto’s little devil notwithstanding, the cartoon is more cute than funny.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Elephant’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 89
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Donald and Pluto
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Worm Turns

Director: David Hand
Release Date: October 26, 1935
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Three Orphan Kittens © Walt DisneyOn a winter night three kittens are thrown in a sack into a garden.

Luckily they can escape the cold by entering the house, which they explore. This sweet cartoon contains elaborate gags with a.o. pepper, a bottle of milk, and a pianola.

‘Three Orphan Kittens’ was penned by Joe Grant and Bill Cottrell, and benefited from Fred Moore’s appealing animation. Indeed, it won an Academy Award. Its success made it one of those rare Silly Symphonies to evoke a sequel (‘More Kittens‘ from 1936). Moreover, it clearly inspired other animation film makers: the milk bottle gag was more or less copied by Fleischer in ‘We did it‘ (1936) which also stars three kittens. And, some of the pianola gags may have inspired Hanna and Barbera in their ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947).

At least Hanna and Barbera copied the black maid (of whom we only see her arms and legs) for their own Mammy Two-Shoes in the Tom & Jerry series. The black maid would also return in a few Disney shorts: ‘More Kittens‘ (1936), ‘The Pantry Pirate‘ (1940, starring Pluto), and ‘Figaro and Cleo‘ (1943).

Watch ‘Three Orphan Kittens’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 56
To the previous Silly Symphony: Music Land
To the next Silly Symphony: Cock o’ the Walk

Director: David Hand
Release Date: August 13, 1942
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Bambi © Walt DisneyAlthough it was released after ‘Dumbo’, ‘Bambi’ is essentially Disney’s fourth feature, and it was also the last in which the studio really pushed the envelope.

‘Bambi’ had been long in the making, with initial work already starting in 1937. In fact, it was initially planned as Disney’s second feature, but soon pushed back in favor of ‘Pinocchio’.

After having made such great and diverse efforts as ‘Snow White’, ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Fantasia’, Disney set the stakes even higher in Bambi, reaching a zenith in naturalism. But the film is way more than that: it’s a symphony of nature, utterly romantic in its depiction of forest life. It’s also a coming of age story and a depiction of the circle of life.

‘Bambi’ is full of great scenes, starting with the stunning opening scene, a long and complicated shot, which shows the vastness and depth of the forest using a multiplane camera, and which leads us straight into the story, when we come to follow friend owl in his flight.

The storytelling is very lean, it uses little dialogue and it consists of only a few distinct parts, which all concentrate on Bambi’s experiences. Most of the story is told by images and music only, and there are three pure mood pieces very reminiscent of a Silly Symphony like ‘The Old Mill‘ (1937) and parts of ‘Fantasia’: the April Shower sequence, the autumn sequence and Bambi’s love scene. In these sequences especially, it’s clear that atmosphere prevails above character development, and the studio indulges in beautiful imagery that is still impressive and enchanting today.

The film can be divided into eight sections (the titles are all mine):

1) Birth: which also introduces the lovable little rabbit Thumper;
2) Discovery of the world: including the introduction of the little skunk Flower and a rain scene, set to the beautiful song ‘April shower’;
3) The meadow: where both danger and other deer are introduced, including Bambi’s father and his later love interest, Feline;
4) Autumn: a short transitional mood piece;
5) Winter: which includes the famous skating scene, inspired by Pluto’s difficulties on ice in ‘On ice‘ (1935) and which ends with that harrowing, yet off screen death of Bambi’s mother;
6) Spring: where all our characters have become adolescents and discover the power of love;
7) Man: where man, who never is seen on screen, but whose threatening presence is so much more felt, once again brings danger into the forest, shooting animals (including Bambi) and causing a forest fire, which leads to great dramatic and apocalyptic shots of the burning forest;
and finally
8) Birth again: in which the cycle is completed.

The first five sections take almost two-thirds of the film and are responsible for Bambi’s reputation of being a childish film full of cute animals. This may be partly true, but is does no justice to the complete film, for the last three sections, starting with the death of Bambi’s mother (which essentially ends his childhood) are more artistic, more expressionistic and more dramatic. These scenes belong to the most powerful animated images ever brought to the screen.

But throughout the complete picture the artwork is stunning: the backgrounds, based on designs by Tyrus Wong, are lush and suggestive,  the use of color is very clever and often amazing, and the music, which is very important to the narrative and which uses off-screen songs to evoke moods, is rich and effective. Indeed, Bambi’s soundtrack, by composers Frank Churchill and Edward Plumb, ranks among the best scores of any animation film. Backgrounds, design, color, music – all these make  the film a mood piece of an astonishing quality.

The animation itself, too, is a highlight. It was supervised by four of the later so-called ‘nine old men’: Eric Larson, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and it’s the first testimony of their legendary status. The animation is amazingly well-done both in its naturalism as in its sense of character. It ranks from pure naturalism in Bambi’s mother exploring the meadow and Bambi preparing to fight to pure character animation. A highlight of the latter is Bambi having to say hello to Feline. Bambi’s behavior in this scene is perfect that of a young bashful boy.

The only deviation from believability is during the Twitterpated sequence: Eric Larson’s animation on friend Owl is zany and cartoony, as is the animation of the lovestruck Flower. The whole sequence is a little bit ridiculous, and out of place with the rest of the film. Luckily as soon as Bambi falls in love with Feline, the last part starts, which in its drama, powerful imagery and stunning effects is the undisputed highlight of the whole movie.

Bambi never ceases to amaze: it is simply beautiful.

Watch the skating scene from ‘Bambi’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: David Hand
Release Date: April 13, 1935
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Mickey's Kangaroo © Walt DisneyIn ‘Mickey’s Kangaroo’ Mickey receives a kangaroo for a present.

Pluto grows jealous of the intruder and its little kid, which is expressed with side glances at the audience in extreme close ups, and through a tough and sneaky voice over by Don Brodie. This is a rather weak device to overcome Pluto’s silent character. While Pluto tries to get rid of the little kangaroo, Mickey gets beaten up by mama kangaroo, but he keeps laughing.

As Jim Korkis reveals in ‘The Book of Mouse‘, ‘Mickey’s Kangaroo’ surprisingly is a film based on a true story. In 1934 Walt Disney got two wallabies as a present from Australian wine maker Leo Buring. By the time they arrived at the studio, the two marsupials had given birth to a child. The three wallabies were kept in a pen outside the studio department.

‘Mickey’s Kangaroo’ became Mickey’s last cartoon in black and white, being released even after ‘The Band Concert‘, Mickey’s first one in color. Unfortunately, it’s not a very funny goodbye to the black and white era. Nevertheless, its story line would be reused in ‘Mickey’s Elephant‘ (1936).

Watch ‘Mickey’s Kangaroo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 75
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Service Station
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Garden

Director: David Hand
Release Date:
January 19, 1935
Stars:
Mickey Mouse
Rating:

Review:

Mickey's Man Friday © Walt DisneyLike in ‘The Castaway‘ (1932), Mickey has been shipwrecked, and he’s washed ashore at a tropical island full of cannibals.

When the cannibals try to cook a young native, Mickey scares them away in order to rescue the poor fellow. He then adopts this young native and they build a fort together, which they finish just in time, before the cannibals return to attack them. These eventually manage to overrun Mickey’s defense, and Mickey and the native flee on a self made ‘ship’.

Even when compared to Disney’s two other embarrassing cartoons about cannibals (the Silly Symphony ‘Cannibal Capers‘ (1930) and ‘Trader Mickey‘ (1932, curiously also directed by David Hand), the depiction of natives in ‘Mickey’s Man Friday’ is backward and humiliating. Mickey’s man Friday uses his feet more than his hands and appears to be more closely related to apes than to man. This is so sickening to watch that this is one of the very rare cartoons of which I feel that they could have remained under the rug, despite the fast and clever ‘invention gags’ featured in this cartoon, which foreshadow comparable gags in ‘The Flintstones’.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Man Friday’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 72
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Two-Gun Mickey
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Band Concert

Director: David Hand
Release Date: June 16, 1934
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, the orphan mice
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Mickey's Steamroller © Walt DisneyTwo of the orphan mice used in ‘Giantland‘ (1933) and ‘Gulliver Mickey’ (1934) appear in this cartoon.

It’s unclear whether these two brats are Mickey’s nephews Morty and Ferdy, who were created by Floyd Gottfredson in the Mickey Mouse comic in 1932, as they’re not named in this short. If they are, this film marks their only screen appearance, for, unlike Donald’s nephews, they don’t appear in any other film. Anyway, as in the comic strip, these two brats are full of mischief.

This time they steal Mickey’s anthropomorphized steam roller, while Mickey’s flirting with Minnie. The two kids manage to destroy a bridge, a streetcar, a complete hotel and the steamroller itself, but in the end Mickey’s not mad at them, just laughing.

‘Mickey’s Steamroller’ is a real gag-cartoon. Yet, it is not particularly funny and it has an old-fashioned feel to it, especially after such elaborate entries in the Mickey Mouse series, as ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘ and ‘Giantland‘.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Steamroller’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 67
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Gulliver Mickey
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Orphan’s Benefit

Director: David Hand
Release Date: July 29, 1933
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Old King Cole' featuring a castle in a book

Old King Cole throws an annual party at his castle, which ends at midnight.

One can regard ‘Old King Cole’ as a remake of ‘Mother Goose Melodies‘ from 1931. Both cartoons feature nursery rhyme characters singing and dancing. Although King Cole himself still has the same design he had in the earlier cartoon, the complete short shows an enormous progress in animation, which is elaborate and fluent throughout.

In ‘Old King Cole’ the long song-and-dance routine is executed much more complexly than in the earlier short. Indeed, at times it is even reminiscent of the musicals of the era. It belongs to the operetta-Silly Symphonies of the mid-1930s, with all characters singing their lines. It features several original arrangements of classic nursery rhymes, with the sequence of the nine little Indians leading to a stunning finale, with all characters dancing to an Ellingtonian jungle rhythm.

But then Hickory, Dickory and Dock spoil the fun, telling the audience it’s midnight, and all nursery rhyme characters flee back to their books. King Cole himself has the last shot, singing goodnight to the audience.

‘Old King Cole’ contains no story whatsoever, but the film’s sheer joy, its complex designs and its bright colors make this cartoon yet another highlight within the Silly Symphony series.

Watch ‘Old King Cole’ yourself and tell me what you think:


This is Silly Symphony No. 37
To the previous Silly Symphony: Three Little Pigs
To the next Silly Symphony: Lullaby Land

Director: David Hand
Release Date: March 11, 1933
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Still from 'Birds in the Spring' featuring a bird listening to its eggs

‘Birds in the Spring’ is a Silly Symphony about a mischievous little bird who encounters a.o. a rattlesnake and some angry bees.

This short can be regarded a study in realism, using birds. The realistic birds portrayed here are a far cry from the primitive and cartoony designs of ‘Birds of a Feather‘ from 1931. They fit perfectly in the equally realistic and elaborate backgrounds. The difference between the two shorts shows the enormous and unbelievable growth the Disney studio had made in a mere two years. The snake and the bugs in this cartoon, on the other hand, are not half as good, and fail to evoke any feeling of realism. A cousin of the badly designed snake would appear, however, in ‘Mickey’s Garden‘ (1935).

In his autobiography Pinto Colvig reveals that all the chirps, whistles, warbles and tweets in this cartoon are made by two women, Esther Campbell and Marion Darlington.

‘Birds in the Spring’ may have inspired ‘Morning Noon and Night‘ (released October 1933), the first of several Silly Symphony-like cartoons produced by the rival Fleischer studio.

Watch ‘Birds in the Spring’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 34
To the previous Silly Symphony: Santa’s Workshop
To the next Silly Symphony: Father Noah’s Ark

Director: David Hand
Release Date:
August 20, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating:

Review:

Still from 'Trader Mickey' featuring Mickey playing saxophone to a cannibalMickey is a trader in Africa. He is captured by a bunch of hungry cannibals, whose king laughs with Goofy’s guffaw*.

The cannibals ruin Mickey’s trade, which consists mostly of musical instruments. When Mickey grabs a saxophone, he launches a long song-and-dance-routine, making the short old-fashioned when compared to contemporary Mickey Mouse cartoons like ‘Barnyard Olympics‘, ‘Mickey in Arabia‘ and ‘Mickey’s Nightmare’.

The cartoon is hampered further by severe and backward caricatures of African natives. They’re shown as extremely dumb, and halfway apes and humans. Among the offensive images are shots of cannibals playing instruments with their feet, and others of cannibals with gigantic duck-like lips. In any case practically all the gags originate in the cannibals’ ignorant use of Mickey’s trade, which make the film a tiresome watch today, despite its jolly atmosphere. The cannibals would also appear in Floyd Gottfredson’s contemporary Mickey Mouse strip, starting at August 17. The strip borrowed several images from the animated cartoon, including the fat king and his cook.

‘Trader Mickey’ was the first short directed by David Hand (1900-1986), who’d become Disney’s third director after Wilfred Jackson and Burt Gillett. Hand had joined the Disney studio as an animator in early 1930, just after the departure of Ub Iwerks. As a director he would create many wonderful shorts, like ‘The Mad Doctor‘ (1932) and ‘Who Killed Cock Robin‘ (1935). Then he advanced to features, directing ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) and ‘Bambi‘ (1942). Hand would leave the Disney studio in July 1944 to set up his own studio in England.

Unfortunately, ‘Trader Mickey’ cannot be regarded a great start of Hand’s directing career. It’s a weak film, based on ingredients from the equally weak ‘Cannibal Capers‘ (1930) and ‘The Delivery Boy‘ (1931). Hand would nevertheless maintain a high standard in all his next films, the only other failures being ‘Mickey’s Man Friday‘ (unfortunately also starring cannibals) and ‘The Robber Kitten‘, both from 1935.

Watch ‘Trader Mickey’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 45
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Nightmare
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Whoopee Party

*Goofy himself had just made his first appearance in ‘Mickey’s Revue‘ from three months earlier and there was not yet an indication that this character was here to stay, or that this laugh was exclusively his.

Director: David Hand
Release Date: June 29, 1935
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Who Killed Cock Robin? © Walt Disney‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ is a musical mystery very loosely based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. Its source material notwithstanding, ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’ is the most adult Silly Symphony ever made.

True to the Silly symphony concept, all characters either sing or speak in rhyme to Frank Churchill’s music (with Jenny Wren’s sensual blues as a highlight), but in a bare seven minutes the cartoon manages to mock both the law, racialism and gay people, while displaying an unusual eroticism through Jenny Wren, who is a very fine caricature of famous Hollywood actress Mae West, a tour de force by Joe Grant (design) and Hamilton Luske (animation).

These features are especially striking when one bears in mind that the Hays Code was already active in 1935. Due to his self-censorship of the movie industry sex and violence were banned from the movies. To illustrate its effect: due to this code an erotic cartoon character like Betty Boop had to be tuned down and was turned into a goody-goody and quite a bland character. Yet, ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’ displays its satire and eroticism in full glory.

When Cock Robin has been shot by a mysterious shadow, the Keystone Cop-like police randomly arrests some bystanders: a tough-looking guy, a black bird (in those days blacks were easily arrested just because of their color) and a cuckoo who resembles Harpo Marx. They’re treated very roughly, being knocked by the cops almost all the time. And when Jenny exclaims that justice should be done, the judge simply orders to hang all verdicts even though nobody knows who’s guilty!

It’s Cupid, an obvious caricature of a homosexual, who prevents this cruel sentence. Cock Robin appears to be alive, and finally he and Jenny Wren reunite in a hot kiss. Thus ends one of the most spectacular cartoons of the 1930s.

Watch ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 54
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Cookie Carnival
To the next Silly Symphony: Music Land

Director: David Hand
Release Date: April 18, 1936
Stars: The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Three Little Wolves © Walt Disney‘Three Little Wolves’ follows ‘The Big Bad Wolf”, being the third cartoon in the ‘Three Little Pigs’ series.

Penned by Joe Grant & Bill Cottrell, it introduces the Wolf’s three sons, who anticipate Huey, Dewey and Louie (who would make their cinema debut two years later, in ‘Donald’s Nephews‘). They even speak in a similar way. The wolf, on the other hand, suddenly has an inexplicable German accent.

In this cartoon he dresses up ridiculously again, this time as Bo-Beep, but he does manage to lure two of the little pigs to his house. When he closes the door, the pigs turn red and say ‘why, Bo-Beep!’, as if they’re being seduced. Of course, the wise pig comes to the rescue, this time using an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, called the ‘wolf pacifier’.

The three little wolves would return in the last ‘three little pigs’-cartoon, ‘The Practical Pig’ (1939), but in the subsequent comic strip only one would remain, and he eventually would befriend the pigs, contrary to his lookalikes in this cartoon, who are even more aggressive than their father.

The end-shot of this cartoon was later reused in the propaganda film ‘Food will win the War‘ (1942).

Watch ‘Three Little Wolves’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 60
To the previous Silly Symphony: Elmer Elephant
To the next Silly Symphony: Toby Tortoise Returns

Director: David Hand
Release Date: November 14, 1936
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Mother Pluto © Walt DisneyPluto unwillingly starts a career as a mother to a number of chicks.

When he finally has learned to love them, their real mother returns and together with her husband, a violent rooster, tries to chase Pluto away.

Although introduced as such, ‘Mother Pluto’ is not really a Silly Symphony. It lacks both the obligate music and the fairy tale character typical of the series. It’s actually Pluto’s first solo outing. It seems that at the time Disney didn’t dare to introduce new series besides the Mickey Mouse cartoons and the Silly Symphonies. But with Mickey giving way more and more to his co-stars Goofy, Donald and Pluto, this step would soon be made.

At the end of 1937 Pluto would become the first Mickey Mouse co-star to start his own series with ‘Pluto’s Quin-Puplets’, immediately followed by Donald with ‘Donald’s Ostrich’. Goofy followed one-and-a-half year later, in 1939, with ‘Goofy and Wilbur’. These three stars would be heading most of the Disney shorts of the 1940s and 1950s when the Silly Symphony series had been dropped and the number of Mickey Mouse shorts diminished.

Watch ‘Mother Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 64
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Country Cousin
To the next Silly Symphony: More Kittens

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

Director: David Hand
Release Date:
July 14, 1934
Rating:
★★½
Review:

The Flying Mouse © Walt Disney‘The Flying Mouse’ is a musical short about a little mouse who wants to fly like the birds.

A blue fairy grants him that wish, giving him bat-like wings, but he soon discovers that these don’t bring him any luck: he is not allowed to join the xenophobic birds, not recognized by his relatives and called ‘a nothing’ by a group of crooked bats. Luckily, the same fairy releases him from his wings and in the end we see our little hero running to his mother in the sunset light.

This cartoon is one of many silly symphonies that seem to aim directly at kids and that are rather moralistic. This seems to be a strong trend in 1934 and it gradually led Disney away from carefree humor towards sugary sanctimony.

This cartoon is quite humorless, yet beautifully drawn. The blue fairy is a good try at the human figure (if not near the humans in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937), let alone the blue fairy in ‘Pinocchio’, 1940), and the mice, designed by Albert Hurter, are drawn much more realistically than Mickey. Moreover, ‘The Flying Mouse’ is another stunning example of character animation: our main hero acts out his feelings mostly in pantomime. Nevertheless, we can feel his joy, his embarrassment, his fear and his grief. It’s this combination of ambitious designs and great character animation that makes Silly Symphonies like these stand out among the cartoons of the thirties.

Indeed, it was this particular cartoon that prompted Frank Thomas to try to become an animator at Disney’s. Thomas joined Disney on September 24, 1934, only a few months after this cartoon. He would stay with the studio until 1978, becoming one of Walt’s ‘Nine Old Men’. He is especially famous for his emotional animation, e.g. the dwarfs’ grief in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, Pinocchio trapped in the birdcage in ‘Pinocchio’,  the romantic diner in ‘Lady and the Tramp‘ (1956), and Baloo trying to tell Mowgli he cannot stay in the jungle in ‘Jungle Book’ (1967).

And it was ‘The Flying Mouse’, which showed him the way…

Watch ‘The Flying Mouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:


This is Silly Symphony No. 46
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Wise Little Hen
To the next Silly Symphony: Peculiar Penguins

Director: David Hand
Release Date: January 21, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Mad Doctor © Walt Disney‘The Mad Doctor’ is Mickey’s third horror cartoon and easily his best (the other two are ‘The Haunted House’ from 1929 and ‘The Gorilla Mystery’ from 1930).

The plot is simple: it’s night, the weather is foul and Pluto is kidnapped by an evil scientist called Dr. XXX, who takes him into his laboratory, which is reminiscent of that of Frankenstein in James Whales’ film of the same name, 1931. Mickey follows Pluto’s tracks into a creepy castle, entering it in a scene which reuses some footage of ‘Egyptian Melodies‘ from 1931. Inside the castle he has to deal with several skeletons, including a ridiculous hybrid of a skeleton and a spider. Soon, he’s captured, too, and about to be killed by a chainsaw. Fortunately, it turns out to be all just a dream…

Besides the horror, this cartoon also features elaborate designs and loads of special effects. Especially beautiful is its shadowing on the characters. It also has a strong musical element, as the mad scientist sings all his lines. Some of the gags are quite surreal and reminiscent of the Fleischer style, like a lock locking itself or the scientist cutting off Pluto’s shadow. The cartoon also features a gag with many doors in one doorpost. This gag would be reused and improved by Tex Avery in ‘The Northwest Hounded Police’ from 1946.

Watch ‘The Mad Doctor’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 52
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Building a Building
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Pal Pluto

Director: David Hand
Release Date: January 7, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete ,Pluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Building a Building © Walt Disney‘Building a building’ has a grand opening with its close-up of the anthropomorphized excavator.

This fast and gag-rich cartoon can be summarized as ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ at a building site: Mickey is employed as an excavator machinist. When Minnie drops by selling box lunches, Mickey is so struck by love that he ruins the blueprints of foreman Peg Leg Pete three times. Pete is charmed by Minnie, too, and he tries to force her to a kiss. Of course, Mickey comes to the rescue, fleeing with Minnie and leaving Pete behind with the building in complete shambles. Pete just manages to fire Mickey, but Minnie immediately adds him to her business.

‘Building a Building’ reuses several story ideas from the early Oswald cartoon ‘Sky Scrappers‘ (1928). Both feature the hero being an excavator machinist, his love interest bringing box lunches, and Pete trying to abduct the girl. Even the excavator opening shot is a copy of the opening shot of ‘Sky Scrappers’. However, in five years both animation, timing and characterization have much improved. If ‘Sky Scrappers’ was a remarkable achievement for 1928, it was at times still crude. ‘Building a Building’ on the other hand has a refined quality that characterized the Mickey Mouse cartoons of 1933 and beyond.

There’s for example some remarkably flexible animation on Mickey when he rides the elevator. The animators have really put a sense of weight in his body, and exaggerated the effects of the sudden start and stop of the lift on it, with a lovely comic result. The musical score, too, is a delight from beginning to end, becoming particularly silly when Pete’s trousers change into a watering can. Indeed, with ‘Building A Building’ Mickey got his second Academy Award nomination, after ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (1931)

‘Building a Building’ is the first of a few 1933 Mickey Mouse cartoons that are introduced and partly played out in Song, following the Silly Symphonies ‘King Neptune‘ and ‘Santa’s Workshop‘ from 1932. Other examples from 1933 are ‘The Mad Doctor‘,  ‘Ye Olden Days‘ and ‘The Mail Pilot‘.

Watch ‘Building a Building’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 51
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Good Deed
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mad Doctor

Director: David Hand
Release Date: November 17, 1934
Stars: Donald Duck, Fifi, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Mickey and Donald (in his third appearance) are policemen hunting Pete who has ‘dognapped’ Minnie’s dog Fifi. The chase, which includes a lot of gunfight, ends in a sawmill where all three have to cope with a runaway circular saw.

The cartoon is outstanding for its fast pace and high content of gags. Mickey and Donald are staged as a duo, but, like in ‘Orphan’s Benefit’, Donald Duck is given the last shot. ‘The Dognapper’ would remain Mickey’s and Donald’s only genuine duo cartoon, but it set the stage for the famous trio outings of the late thirties in which Mickey, Donald and Goofy would fight the odds together. Goofy, the only missing element, would join Mickey and Donald a few months later, in ‘Mickey’s Service Station’ (1935).

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 70
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Plays Papa
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Two-Gun Mickey

Director: David Hand
Release Date:
April 20, 1935
Rating:

Review:

The Robber Kitten © Walt Disney‘The Robber Kitten’ is one of the more annoying entries in the Silly Symphony series.

Being a Silly Symphony, its animation is top notch, especially the character animation of the little rascal Ambrose (or ‘Butch’ as he prefers to be called) and the experienced robber Dirty Bill. But, the story is slow-paced, childish and dripping with morality.

The setting is vague and pretty unconvincing: Bill is clad in a medieval Robin Hood-like costume, while Ambrose is clad in 17th century fashion. A much sillier world as that of ‘The Cookie Carnival’ was brought with much more bravado.

All too typical for the Silly Symphonies of the mid thirties, ‘The Robber Kitten’ is nothing more than beautifully animated pulp.

Watch ‘The Robber Kitten’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 51
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Golden Touch
To the next Silly Symphony: Water Babies

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 814 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories