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Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 May 12, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Pluto, Goofy
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Mickey's Revue © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Revue’ is famous for introducing Goofy, whose guffaw we had heard off-stage in the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon, ‘Barnyard Olympics‘.

In this cartoon he’s an elderly person, bearded and wearing glasses. We don’t hear him speak, only his guffaw can be heard, and together with Pluto he forms the running gag of the cartoon. Although Goofy literally has the last laugh, nothing points to the direction of a star career beyond the laugh itself, and indeed, in ‘Trader Mickey‘ his guffaw was used by a cannibal king, indicating it was not an exclusive trait, yet.

Nevertheless, Goofy would return in ‘The Whoopee Party‘, redesigned, christened Dippy Dawg, and here to stay. In fact, Goofy arguably is the first cartoon character, whose voice predates the screen persona, which is completely built around the stupid laugh, and ditto voice.

Apart from Goofy’s debut, there’s enough to enjoy in ‘Mickey’s Revue’, even though it revisits two themes explored earlier in the Mickey Mouse cartoons: that of Mickey and the gang giving a performance and that of animals causing havoc. Here, the source of havoc are the small kittens from ‘The Barnyard Broadcast‘ and ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (both 1931). It was their last screen performance, for they would soon be replaced by little mice, first introduced in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932).

‘Mickey’s Revue’ follows the same lines as ‘The Barnyard Broadcast’, but is much better executed, cleverly intertwining the subplots of Goofy’s annoying laugh, Pluto trying to enter the stage, and the kittens interfering with Mickey’s performance. One of the gags involve a kitten caught in the hammers of Minnie’s piano, a gag looking forward to a similar one in the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947). Despite it’s great comedy, ‘Mickey’s Revue’ was the last cartoon exploiting the ruin finale, as used in 1931/1932 cartoons like ‘Mickey Cuts Up‘ and ‘The Grocery Boy‘.

‘Mickey’s Revue’ is a typical ensemble cartoon, also starring Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and no less than three Clarabelle Cows. By now Horace Horsecollar had caught up with his comic personality, and had grown in personality beyond that of a stereotyped horse. Unfortunately, Horace was not developed further on the movie screen – it was left to Floyd Gottfredson  to explore Horace’s character further in his comic strip.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 41
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Barnyard Olympics
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Musical Farmer

‘Mickey’s Revue’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in black and white’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 21, 1945
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Hare Trigger © Warner Bros.‘Hare Trigger’ introduces that tiny yet explosive adversary to Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam.

His introduction music is Franz Schubert’s Erlkönig, and train robbery is his profession. However, on the train he encounters Bugs, who gives the short-tempered bandit a hard time.

The cartoon contains a shot of an über-cool Bugs rolling a cigarette, a gag repeated and improved on in ‘Bugs Bunny Rides Again‘ (1948). The short  also contains live action footage in the ‘club bar’ wagon.  The gun drawing scene is a highlight, as is Yosemite Sam’s death scene, which bugs invokes with ketchup. The cartoon ends brilliantly with a tongue-in-cheek cliffhanger.

According to Freleng he needed a stronger adversary to Bugs than Elmer Fudd ever was, and Yosemite Sam perfectly fitted the job. He was a delightful opponent to Bugs Bunny, and he became Friz Freleng’s favorite bad guy, lasting until 1964, and starring 31 cartoons in total, nearly all with Bugs Bunny. Perhaps Freleng was so fond of the character because he was partly based on Freleng himself.

In any case, he soon took Sam out of his Western origin, making him a.o. a pirate (‘Buccaneer Bunny‘, 1948), a foreign soldier (‘Bunker Hill Bunny‘, 1950) and a sheik (‘Sahara Hare’, 1955). Free from his Western origins Yosemite Sam could be Bugs Bunny in every country and every period of time, and in this respect he anticipates the Little Guy, the Pink Panther’s adversary, who also sprouted from Friz Freleng’s imagination.

Watch ‘Hare Trigger’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 32
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Unruly Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare Conditioned

 

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: November 19, 1949
Stars: Sylvester, Hippety Hopper
Rating: ★★
Review:

Hippety Hopper © Warner Bros‘Hippety Hopper’ introduces the kangaroo of the same name, and its only function during its entire career: being mistaken for a mouse.

The cartoon starts gloomily enough, with a misty harbor scene, where a mouse is trying to commit suicide. He’s rescued by Hippety Hopper, however, and together they face the mouse’s terror: Sylvester the cat. The mouse makes Sylvester think he can grow tall, and lets Hippety Hopper beat him out of the house. The best comedy comes from a bulldog who keeps pushing Sylvester back inside.

Hippety Hopper himself is a silent character with a friendly smile and absolutely no personality. He’s easily the least funny recurring star in the Warner Brothers cartoon catalog before the 1960s. Even in this first cartoon his appearance is tiresome. Nevertheless, he would star in twelve other cartoons, lasting even till 1964. The mouse, on the other hand, would disappear after this cartoon. No wonder: he’s designed and animated rather uglily.

Watch ‘Hippety Hopper’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: August 31, 1946
Stars: Henery Hawk, Foghorn Leghorn
Rating:  ★★★★★
Review:

Walky Talky Hawky © Warner BrothersAlready in his fourth film as a director McKimson introduces his most durable star, Foghorn Leghorn.

The loud-mouthed rooster is coupled with Henery Hawk, in his second appearance since the Chuck Jones cartoon ‘The Squawkin’ Hawk’ (1942). Also featured is the Foghorn Leghorn’s regular opponent, the barnyard dog, and their recurring feud is already laid out in this short. Foghorn Leghorn uses Henery in this feud, making him believe the dog, not he, is a chicken. In the end Henery catches both, and even a horse, exclaiming; “one of them got to be a chicken”.

‘Walky Talky Hawky’ is one of McKimson’s most inspired cartoons. Both Foghorn Leghorn and the barnyard dog are great characters, and the short is full of great, rather Clampettian animation.

Foghorn Leghorn’s vocal mannerisms were inspired by a 1930s radio character called ‘The Sheriff’. Later, mannerisms from another radio character, Senator Claghorn, crept into the rooster’s vocabulary. For a detailed account on the origins of Foghorn Leghorn, see Keith Scott’s excellent post on Cartoon Brew.

Watch ‘Walky Talky Hawky’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: January 5, 1945
Stars: Pepe le Pew
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Odor-able Kitty © Warner Brothers ‘Odor-able Kitty’, marks the debut of that French-speaking, amorous skunk Pepe le Pew.

In his book ‘Chuck Amuck’ Jones reveals that this character was based on story man Tedd Pierce. In any case, Pierce wrote the story, but how much of himself he had put self-knowingly into this smelly Don Juan remains a mystery.

Oddly enough, in his first cartoon Pepe turns out to be a fraud, being married and having two children. Even his voice changes in the end of the cartoon. But before this surprising finale he’s genuinely Pepe, complete with quasi-French accent, strange hop (including Stalling’s typical theme music), and a love for cats that look like skunks.

Only, in ‘Odor-able Kitty’ this is a male cat, who deliberately disguises himself as a skunk to get a happier life. He has one, until Pepe hops along. In the end, the cat washes himself and returns to his former life as victim of maltreatment, exclaiming “this is the life!”.

Pepe le Pew’s character didn’t really develop after this film, and all his films have more or less the same story as his debut film. Nevertheless Pepe would be one of the most successful of the characters conceived by Chuck Jones, second to the Road Runner and the Coyote, only. He lasted until 1962, starring fourteen more cartoons.

Watch ‘Odor-able Kitty’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.220.ro/desene-animate/12-Odor-Able-Kitty/GcMYA69rME/

Directors: Tex Avery
Release Date: March 20, 1943
Stars: Droopy, The Wolf
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Dumb Hounded © MGM‘Dumb Hounded’ marks the debut of Droopy, the first of all cartoon heroes to be deliberately deadpan.

He is introduced as a very slow bloodhound used to catch the escaped convict, the wolf. He manages to do so by being everywhere the wolf flees to.

Droopy’s übercalm contrasts nicely with the wolf’s extreme double-takes. The best gag is when Droopy asks the wolf not to move, whereupon the wolf uses a multitude of vehicles to flee to a very remote log cabin, only to find Droopy there, exclaiming: “you moved, didn’t you?”. This sequence has a lightning fast montage, something that is lacking from the rest of the film, which suffers a little from an inconsistent story line. The result is a film that is not quite satisfying in the end.

Tex Avery may have felt the same, for he would remake ‘Dumb Hounded’ only three years later with ‘Northwest Hounded Police‘, which uses the same or similar gags to a much greater comic effect.

After Bugs Bunny, Droopy would be Tex Avery’s best effort in creating a cartoon star. The phlegmatic dog would last until 1958, starring 24 cartoons in total. The wolf would be his adversary until 1949, after which he was exchanged for the bulldog Spike. Nevertheless, the wolf would return in 1954, in two Western cartoons, ‘Drag-along Droopy’ and ‘Homesteader Droopy’. Unfortunately, Droopy’s popularity would never come near MGM’s superstars Tom and Jerry, let alone win Academy Awards, like the cat and mouse duo did.

Watch ‘Dumb Hounded’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 2, 1940
Stars: proto-Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★
Review:

Elmer's Candid Camera © Warner BrothersIn this slow and only moderately funny cartoon Elmer tries to photograph nature, but he’s hindered by a predecessor of Bugs Bunny.

This goofy rabbit is not quite Bugs, even though he behaves very calmly and does a Bugs-style death act. His looks and sounds are those of the crazy rabbit in ‘Prest-O Change-O’ (1939) and he still has the Woody Woodpecker-style laugh introduced in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt’ (1938). Jones has toned this loony fellow down, but it was to Tex Avery to introduce a really cool rabbit in ‘A Wild Hare’ (1941).

No, the importance of’Elmer’s Candid Camera’ lies in the fact that it marks Elmer’s debut. Although he’s still wearing an Egghead suit (the character from which he evolved), he lacks Egghead’s goofiness, and he has received his distinctive voice provided by Arthur Q. Bryan. Moreover, he utters his famous line “wabbit twacks” for the first time here.

Unfortunately, ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera’ is more historically interesting than entertaining, and outside its historical importance, the cartoon is quite forgettable.

Watch ‘Elmer’s Candid Camera’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://ulozto.net/live/xzv5WBh/bugs-bunny-elmers-candid-camera-1940-avi

This is the last of four cartoons featuring a Bugs Bunny forerunner
To the first Bugs Bunny cartoon: A Wild Hare
To the previous proto-Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hare-um Scare-um

 

 

Director: Osvaldo Cavandoli
Release Date:
 1974
Stars:
 La Linea
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

La Linea episode 1 © Osvaldo CavandoliLa Linea is an Italian television series, which takes graphic design, introduced by UPA to the animated screen, to the max.

The first of all La Linea shorts defines the complete series: it consists of numerous unrelated gags around the jabbering little man Linea, who lives in a 2-dimensional world, consisting of only one white line, of which he is part.

This cheerful, but temperamental guy has some characteristics that return in every single episode: First, he talks an Italian-sounding sort of gibberish, provided by voice actor Carlo Bonomi. Second, he always walks to the left of the screen. Third, he always encounters at least one interruption of the line during his walk. Fourth, he frequently argues with his off-screen creator, of whom we only see his hand drawing things for the little guy. And Fifth, our hero has also has an intoxicating laugh, which is heard at least once.

All designs are extremely stylized, yet perfectly recognizable, and beautifully animated. The backgrounds are monochromic, changing from green to red to blue etc. All these elements make this series such a classic, even though most of the episodes are completely plotless, and only last about 2 minutes.

In this particular episode La Linea encounters a turtle, a television set, a tap and a woman. He plays golf and takes a rollercoaster ride. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s fun. Franco Godi’s music in this particular cartoon is more present than in the following ones, using a tune with voices instead of the instrumental background music of later cartoons.

Watch ‘La Linea episode 1’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘La Linea episode 1’ is available on the DVD ‘La Linea 1’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: January 7, 1950
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Little Quacker
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Little Quacker © MGMTom steals an egg from a duck’s nest. When he tries to fry it, it appears to contain a little duck, who seeks shelter at Jerry’s place.

‘Little Quacker’ introduces the talkative little duckling, whose voice resembles that of Donald Duck. It would be the most frequent character of the Jerry-befriends-another-animal-cartoons, starring seven other shorts. The character even survived Tom & Jerry to reincarnate as Yakky Doodle in Hanna-Barbera’s television series ‘Augie Doggie and Doggy Daddy’ in 1960.

Despite the character’s apparent popularity, ‘Little Quacker’ is no different from any other Jerry-befriends-another-animal-cartoon. Like all the others, ‘Little Quacker’ is more cute than funny, in spite of some fine gags, and a great long chase scene.

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

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 47
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tennis Chumps
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Saturday Evening Puss

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: October 1, 1949
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Spike & Tyke
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Love That Pup © MGMTom’s chases of Jerry disturb Spike’s son Tyke. If Tom is at it again, Spike “will tear him apart”. Needless to say, Jerry takes advantage of this situation.

‘Love that pup’ is one of the most hilarious Tom & Jerry cartoons. The gags come in fast and plenty, and Scott Bradley’s music is particularly inspired, perfectly matching the fast action. Highlight may be the running gag involving Tom rushing into several garden tools.

‘Love That Pup’ marks Tyke’s debut. He has no name, yet. But then again, even Spike is still called Butch in this cartoon. Spike and Tyke would become Tom and Jerry regulars in the fifties, even starring two films without the cat and the mouse in 1957.

Watch ‘Love That Pup’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 44
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Cat and the Mermouse
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Jerry’s Diary

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: April 23, 1949
Stars: Claude Cat, Hubie and Bertie
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Mouse Wreckers © Warner BrothersMouse Wreckers’ is one of Chuck Jones’s all time classic cartoons.

Hubie and Bertie have found a new home, which unfortunately is inhabited by a prize-winning mouse chasing cat, Claude (in his debut). But Hubie and Bertie succeed to chase the cat out of the house by turning him into a nervous wreck. Hubie and Bertie angle themselves through the chimney to evoke the cat’s doom. After several gags, ending with one using an upside down room, the cat, who never knew what was going on, flees the house in horror, leaving it for Hubie and Bertie to roast marshmellows at the fire.

‘Mouse Wreckers’ features some minor stars from the Chuck Jones vault, but its character comedy is brilliant nonetheless. The character animation of Claude Cat trying to deal with his supposed hallucinations is wonderfully well done, and his steady decline into madness is both hilarious and chilling to watch.

Fifteen years later Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese would reuse this story idea in their Tom and Jerry cartoon ‘The Year of the Mouse’ (1965).

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

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f75_1173565907

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: September 16, 1949
Stars: Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Fast and Furry-ous © Warner Brothers‘Fast and Furry-ous’ is the very first Road Runner cartoon.

The short lays out the plan for all other Road Runner shorts, introducing the Road Runner, and the coyote, and their habitat: a desert canyon landscape covered by freeways. Like all following Road Runner cartoons it consists of blackout gags, involving mail orders, strange inventions, explosives, trucks, boulders and cliffs. It differs from the other Road Runner cartoons, however, in that only one of the products the Coyote purchases (the Superman suit) is made by ACME. It also features quite elaborate designs of Wile E. Coyote. In later cartoon his looks would become more streamlined.

Fast and Furry-ous is an excellent debut. It already contains a classic gag with the one in which the coyote constructs a ludicrous machine from a refrigerator, which produces snow to ski on. Unfortunately he runs out of snow when he’s skiing above a huge ravine…

‘Fast and Furry-ous’ introduces the excellent silent comedy of the Road Runner cartoons, second only to the Tom & Jerry series, and very welcome in an age in which animated shorts became more and more dialogue-driven.

Although we would call the series after the Road Runner, the speedy bird is essentially a one-dimensional character: being invincible, the Road Runner knows only one cheerful expression, and doesn’t do much more than running really, really fast and going ‘beep beep’.

The Coyote, on the other hand, is the best character ever conceived by Chuck Jones. Although he is the predator, in several shorts Jones goes at lengths to show he’s starving and desperate for food, making him more sympathetic. Moreover, the Coyote is an optimist, ever believing he will once triumph. He’s also a fanatic, not giving up despite all his mishaps. And he is an inventor, thinking of countless ways to catch the Road Runner. It is however his unfortunate doom to be confronted with bad luck no matter what he does. In Chuck Jones’s own words:

“In the Road Runner cartoons, we hoped to evoke sympathy for the Coyote. It is the basis of the series: the Coyote tries by any means to capture the Road Runner, ostensibly and at first to eat him, but this motive has become beclouded, and it has become, in my mind at least, a question of loss of dignity that forces him to continue. And who is the Coyote’s enemy? Why, the Coyote. The Road Runner has never touched him, never even startled him intentionally beyond coming up behind the Coyote occasionally and going “Beep-Beep!”. No, the only enemy the Coyote has is his overwhelming stubborness. Like all of us, at least some of the time, he persists in a course of action long after he has forgotten his original reasons for embarking on it.”
(from ‘Chuck Amuck’, page 219)

So when this wonderfully enthusiastic character looks to us for sympathy, when confronted by boulders, trucks, explosions or one of the immensely deep canyons of his homeland, he gains it, for we understand his frustrations and sympathize with him wholeheartedly.

These Oliver Hardy-like looks into the camera belong to the highlights of the series, and it is the silent comedy of the Coyote’s facial expressions that makes the Road Runner cartoons such fun to watch. Indeed, when given a voice, as in the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Operation Rabbit‘ (1952), the character becomes much less interesting; too pompous, too self-aware to gain the sympathy he would silently get. The four Bugs Bunny-Coyote combination shorts therefore never reach the comic success of the best of the Road Runner cartoons.

Watch ‘Fast and Furry-ous’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Fast and Furry-ous’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: April 2, 1943
Stars: Pluto, Chip ‘n Dale
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Private Pluto © Walt Disney

Pluto has joined the army, and wearing a helmet, he has to protect “the pillbox” (a canon) against saboteurs.

These appear to be two little chipmunks who use the canon to crack acorns. Pluto tries to fight them, but the two critters defeat him in an unexpected ending.

‘Private Pluto’ is the second of two World War II-themed Pluto cartoons (the first being ‘The Army Mascot‘ from 1942). It was also to be the last Pluto cartoon directed by Clyde Geronimi, who promoted to sequence director in Disney’s feature films. Geronimi was succeeded by Charles Nichols, who seemed to be more comfortable with the character and who would direct every Pluto cartoon save one from then on.

‘Private Pluto’ is an important cartoon, because it introduces those famous chipmunks, Chip ‘n Dale. They’re not named yet, nor are they two different characters here, but their mischievous behavior and their hardly comprehensible jabbering are already present, and they’re certainly instantly likeable.

Chip ‘n Dale would eventually become Donald’s adversaries, but Pluto, too, would re-encounter them in three cartoons: ‘Squatters Rights‘ (1946), ‘Food for Feudin’‘ (1950) and ‘Pluto’s Christmas Tree‘ (1952).

‘Private Pluto’ is interesting in its own right, for it shows the line of coastal defense the United States had placed at the Pacific Coast in the years preceding the war. After the attack on Pearl Harbor it had been placed on high alert (thus Pluto’s job), but luckily there was no need ever to use it.

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

This is Pluto cartoon No. 10
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto at the Zoo
To the next Pluto cartoon: Springtime for Pluto

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: December 18, 1964
Stars: The Pink Panther, The Little Guy
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Pink Phink © DePatie-FrelengIn his very first own short The Pink Panther nags a painter by painting everything pink that the painter just has painted blue.

This is the Pink Panther’s first film, and it’s easily one of his best. Its simple idea is worked out perfectly into a tight plot (by John Dunn) with a grand finale. Its pantomime animation is effective and its sober design supporting.

Although he never got a name, the “little guy”,  the white, big-nosed, mustached antagonist, who resembles both his creator, Friz Freleng, and Inspector Clouseau, is very important to the success of the series: he is easily the best designed opponent in the Pink Panther cartoons. Like the Pink Panther he’s monochrome, and a silent character, allowing the animators to make the best out of pantomime animation. Moreover, he could be staged in all kinds of functions and settings. Nevertheless, he kept a consistent character, being normally kind and gentle, but getting puzzled, then frustrated and often in the end, very angry with the Pink Panther’s antics.

Nevertheless, it took the makers a while to realize his potential, for though the little guy would return as a janitor in ‘We Give Pink Stamps’ (1965), he would only become a regular from ‘The Pink Blue Print‘ (1966) on, after twenty films with other, often talking, and always less wonderfully designed characters.

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

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: October 9, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto (as Rover)
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Still from 'The Picnic' featuring Mickey and Minnie picnickingMickey’s driving to Minnie’s house singing his own theme song. They both are going on a picnic. While Mickey and Minnie are singing and dancing across the field to the tune of ‘In the Good Old Summertime’, hundreds of wild animals take their food away. The picnic ends in rain.

‘The Picnic’ is a rather plotless and unremarkable cartoon. It nevertheless contains a nice surreal gag in which a rabbit pulls away a hole. This kind of surrealism was rare at Disney’s at that time, but later, Tex Avery would reuse this gag many times at Warner Brothers and MGM.

‘The Picnic’ would have been forgettable, did it not mark the debut of Pluto. He is called Rover in this cartoon, and appears to be Minnie’s dog rather than Mickey’s, but he’s Pluto alright. At this point there’s no reason to believe that Disney intended to make the dog a regular character. Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics of January 1931 cover similar grounds, but feature a very large dog called “Tiny”.

Nevertheless, in April 1931 Pluto would return in ‘The Moose Hunt‘. This time to stay*. In fact Pluto would become a more and more important character in the Mickey Mouse cartoons, at times stealing most of the screen time from Mickey, who would become more and more a ‘straight man’. Eventually, Pluto would be given his own series, in 1937.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 23
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Gorilla Mystery
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Pioneer Days

* Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics followed three months later, introducing Pluto on July the 8th.

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 21, 1934
Stars: Betty Boop, Pudgy
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Still from 'Betty Boop's Little Pal' featuring Betty Boop and PudgyBetty and her little dog Pudgy are picnicking.

However, Pudgy wrecks the picnic, so Betty sends him home. Unfortunately he’s immediately caught by a dog catcher. Luckily, Pudgy manages to escape together with some other dogs.

‘Betty Boop’s Little Pal’ marks the debut of Betty’s little pup Pudgy, even though he remains unnamed in this cartoon. Though more cute than funny, Pudgy was to be Betty Boop’s most entertaining and long-lasting co-star of the Hays Code era. He was a real character, and, like Pluto, he behaved like a real dog, although he’s as anatomically incorrect as Pluto is. Compared to Pluto, Pudgy is younger, cuter and naughtier. He is as much a child character as a dog character, while Pluto is more mature. Pudgy starred in 23 cartoons, only retiring in 1939. Unfortunately, none of his cartoons can be considered classics, save one: ‘Pudgy Picks a Fight‘ from 1937.

‘Betty Boop’s Little Pal’  is very typical of a trend in the Fleischer films that caught on during 1934 (after the Hays Code was in practice): the story line is very clear, which is a great improvement upon most earlier cartoons, but at the same time all nonsense, weirdness, surrealism, sex and jazz have vanished, too (there’s only one surreal gag, of a car scratching itself). Therefore, this and the other Betty Boop cartoons from 1934 and later are remarkably boring compared with the earlier entries.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Little Pal’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Betty Boop’s Little Pal’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: November 5, 1937
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The Old Mill © Walt Disney‘The Old Mill’ is a milestone in effect animation.

From the first scene on special effects seem to be the sole raison d’être of the film. The cartoon is literally stuffed with them: dew on a cobweb, ripples in the water, light beams, fireflies, wind, rain and a thunderstorm.

Disney’s famous multiplane camera, with which the feeling of depth could be realized, makes its debut here. Together these effects create an astonishing level of realism, necessary for the upcoming first animated feature, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. In ‘The Old Mill’ even the animal characters are more or less realistic, a rare feat in Disney cartoons until then.

All this realism leads to awe-inspiring images, based on concept art by Danish illustrator Gustaf Tenggren, who had joined the studio in 1936. Unfortunately, the images do not lead to much of a story. The film is more of a series of moods from dusk to dawn. Despite its clever pacing, reaching a climax in the thunderstorm sequence, ‘The Old Mill’ is an overly romantic depiction of nature, and less enjoyable as a cartoon than as a showcase of Disney animation.

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 68
To the previous Silly Symphony: Little Hiawatha
To the next Silly Symphony: Moth and the Flame

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 9, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Plow Boy © Walt DisneyIn this weak cartoon (Mickey’s seventh) Mickey and Minnie are farmers.

The most remarkable thing about this cartoon is that it marks the debut of Horace Horsecollar. One might say, it marks the debut of Clarabelle Cow, as well, but the early Mickey Mouse cartoons contain a little too many non-distinct cows to state that clearly, because this cow is not different from the others.

This cartoon is particularly important in the development of Minnie: she now has lost the bra-like circles on her body and she’s singing for the first time. Notice how the animation of the tongue is completely convincing. Although Minnie’s only singing “lalalala” (something she would do in many cartoons to follow), this is an important step in the animation of speech. This was something I guess Disney was eager to master. Indeed, in the next cartoon, ‘The Karnival Kid‘, there’s suddenly a lot of talking and singing.

‘The Plow Boy’ contains a scene where the background moves the wrong way making the cow walk backwards.

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


This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 8
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: 
The Barnyard Battle
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Karnival Kid

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
May 15, 1928
Stars:
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating:
★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Plane Crazy © Walt DisneyApril 1928. Disney has just returned from an ill-fated journey to New York. There he had learned that he had lost his star character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and all his crew – all hired away by his distributor, Charles Mintz.

All, save one – only his friend and star animator Ub Iwerks has remained loyal*. And while the rest of the studio is working on the last Disney-produced Oswald cartoons, Iwerks is set to work in a separate office, secretly working on a cartoon, not for Mintz, but for Disney.

Iwerks works at an astonishing speed, and he finishes the animation on the cartoon after two weeks. This is a stunning effort by all standards. But what is even more extraordinary is that the finished product, ‘Plane Crazy’, turns out to be such a fine cartoon!

‘Plane Crazy’ is more consistent than most of the preceding Oswalds. It’s fast, it’s simply packed with gags and very funny. Moreover, it’s full of visual tricks. For example, the film opens with the behind of a cow (!), walking away from the camera. Later there are some great perspective scenes with Mickey’s plane flying under a cow’s udders, and almost crashing into two cars.

The film draws inspiration from the same event as the earlier Oswald cartoon ‘The Ocean Hop‘ (1927): Charles Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris on May 20-21 1927, the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. A goggle-eyed Mickey Mouse (without shoes or gloves) wants to imitate ‘Lindy’ and builds a plane himself, helped by the other farm animals.

Unfortunately his plane crashes against a tree. Then Mickey transforms a car into a plane, and asks Minnie to fly along. After a breath taking take-off, the plane flies, and up in the air Mickey forces a kiss from Minnie, with disastrous results.

‘Plane Crazy’ is, of course, Mickey’s first cartoon and it hasn’t aged a bit. Yes, it’s a silent cartoon with sound added later. Yes, Mickey looks and behaves rather differently than he would do later, and yes, some of the gags are rather crude. Yet, Plane Crazy is outstanding for its fast-paced gags, its extraordinarily rubbery animation, its awesome use of perspectives and its effective pantomime character animation (its only piece of dialogue is Minnie asking “who, me?”).

The film is a testimony of Ub Iwerks’s extraordinary skill. Not only was he an incredibly fast animator, as this short shows he was also an original artist, with a distinct style and an excellent sense of comic timing.

Unfortunately, in 1928, the distributors didn’t see anything distinctive in Mickey. True, he was not too different from Oswald. Both characters were of more or less the same size (with Mickey being outrageously big for a mouse from the outset). Both characters were kinda likable, had a joyful, adventurous spirit, and were seen courting a love interest. Nevertheless, Disney produced a second cartoon with his new character, ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘.

Watch ‘Plane Crazy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 1
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Gallopin’ Gaucho

* and, to be fair, animator Johnny Cannon, and the recently hired Les Clark (one of the future Nine Old Men – who was not even approached by Mintz), and some ink and paint girls, and the janitor.

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
June 9, 1934
Stars:
Donald Duck
Rating:
★★★★
Review:

The Wise Little Hen © Walt Disney‘The Wise Little Hen’ is a simple and quite moralistic Silly Symphony carried by a mediocre, yet all too memorable song. I guess it might have fallen into oblivion, were it not for Donald Duck.

In his first appearance Donald Duck is a real sailor, living on a boat and dancing the hornpipe. He’s a strong voice character from the start. When he joyfully shouts ‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!’ we all know it’s him, even though his looks are different.

Indeed, like Goofy’s voice, Donald Duck’s voice anticipated the character. When Walt Disney heard Clarence Nash use this particular voice, he really wanted something to do with it. According to animator Bill Cottrell, cited in ‘They Drew As They Pleased’, concept artist Albert Hurter was responsible for the duck’s looks. He gave Donald his trademark sailor suit, which he maintained to the present day.

Besides his typical voice and suit, Donald Duck displays two of his typical character traits: egotism and his tendency to trick others. However, he does not yet display his short temper: when ultimately foiled by the hen he’s not breaking down in anger, but joins Peter Pig in remorseful self-chastisement (a gag reused from an early Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon called ‘Rival Romeos‘, 1928). But Donald would show his temper, in his next cartoon: ‘Orphan’s Benefit‘.

Besides Donald Duck this cartoon is interesting for an appetizing and startlingly realistic animation shot of butter melting on hot corn.

Watch ‘The Wise Little Hen’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 45
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Big Bad Wolf
To the next Silly Symphony: The Flying Mouse

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