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Director: Władysław Starewicz
Release Date: 1933
Stars: Fétiche
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Mascot © Wladyslaw Starewicz‘The Mascot’ shows that by 1933 Starewicz was the undisputed master of stop motion.

This 26 minute long film starts with live action, and is a typical melodramatic product of its time: we watch a poor mother making a dog doll, while her ill child lies in the back of the small room with fever. When she sheds a tear on the puppy doll, it comes alive. The puppy doll makes friends with the little girl, but the next day he’s about to be sold by a poor mother together with several other dolls she made.

On the way, however, a thief doll cuts a hole through the cardboard box they’re in, and all dolls leave the box, except for the little dog, who’s sold and hung in a car. Finally the dog makes his way home and rescues the little ill girl from a certain death by fetching her an orange.

The plot is more complicated than this main narrative, however, and features countless puppets. Besides the dog’s story, there’s a menage à trois featuring a ballet dancer, a Pierrot and the thief doll, and there are also a monkey doll and a cat doll involved.

Highlight of the film is a night scene, in which everything comes alive, from pieces of paper to skeletons of fish and birds. No less than the devil himself invites all creatures inside his cavern, where an grand ball is taking place. This sequence has a nightmarish character comparable to Alexeïeff’s ‘Une nuit sur le mont chauve’ from the same year.

The whole film has a unique, gritty atmosphere, however. Throughout, the animation ranges from primitive to astounding. Starewicz especially excels in facial expressions, which really make some of the characters come alive. The dog, for example, clearly is a timid, reluctant character.

Unfortunately, the film is completely silent, despite a sparsity of dialogue and sound effects, and sometimes Starewicz’s dolls fall prone to overacting to overcome the lack of sound. Edouard Flament’s angular soundtrack doesn’t help either. Moreover, the all too complex plot hampers the film, making it meander too much. The melodrama, too, is a little too much for present day audiences.

Nevertheless, ‘The Mascot’ is a tour de force of stop motion animation. At least it provided Starewicz with a contract for eleven more films about the cute little dog, which was baptized Fétiche and finally starred five more films.

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

https://archive.org/details/The_Mascot_Complete

‘The Mascot’ is available on the DVD ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge & other Fantastic Tales’

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Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: August 7, 1954
Stars: Tweety & Sylvester
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Satan's Waitin' © Warner BrothersDuring a chase Sylvester falls down and ceases to be.

He goes straight to hell, where a bulldog-like devil tells him he can return to earth because he has still eight lives left. Unfortunately, back on earth Sylvester loses his lives fast, especially during a chase at a carnival.

‘Satan’s Waitin’ shows some similarities to the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Heavenly Puss‘ (1949), including bulldog devils and a heavenly escalator. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most original and most inspired of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, on par with the celebrated ‘Birds Anonymous’ from 1957.

Watch ‘Satan’s Waitin’’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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: Boris Kossmehl
Release Date: 1993
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Not Without My Handbag © AardmanWhen she hasn’t paid her washing machine, a girl’s aunt has to go to hell.

However, she soon returns as a zombie to fetch her handbag. The devil has to take her once again, which he tries disguised as the handbag.

Atypical for the Aardman studios, ‘Not Without My Handbag’ features puppet animation and hardly any clay animation. It’s a highly designed film, using stark colors, extreme camera angles and expressionistic decors. Its unique style is somewhat akin to that of Tim Burton, but is even more idiosyncratic. Despite its horror theme, the film is more lighthearted than the earlier Aardman films ‘Adam‘ (1991) or ‘Loves Me, Loves Me Not‘ (1992), because of its zany humor and matter-of-fact dialogue.

‘Not Without My Handbag’ is a modest masterpiece: it’s unpretentious, but it combines originality with virtuosity. The animation of the evil handbag is particularly good. Director-animator Boris Kossmehl later moved to 3D computer animation, performing character animation for Dreamworks’ ‘Antz’ and ‘Shrek’.

Watch ‘Not Without My Handbag’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Not Without My Handbag’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

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