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Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: November 1, 1941
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Porky's Pooch © Warner Bros.In ‘Porky’s Pooch’ a dog tells his Scottish terrier friend how he managed to get a master.

This dog is a clear forerunner of Chuck Jones’s Charlie Dog, who would make his debut six years later in ‘Little Orphan Airedale’ (1947). Like Charlie Dog, this dog, called Rover, is an orphan, forcefully trying to make Porky Pig his master. Rover speaks in a similar way as Charlie, and even introduces the Charlie Dog lines “You ain’t got a dog, and I ain’t got a master’ and ‘and I’m affectionate, too’.

The dog also does a Carmen Miranda impression, most probably the first in an animated film, as the Brazilian actress had become famous only one year earlier, with ‘Down Argentine Way’ (1940). The short is also noteworthy for the use of real photographs as backgrounds, against which the characters read surprisingly well.

Watch ‘Porky’s Pooch’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 93
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Robinson Crusoe, jr.
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Midnight Matinee

‘Porky’s Pooch’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 5’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

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Director: George Scribner
Release Date: November 13, 1988
Rating: ★★
Review:

Oliver and Company © Walt DisneyOliver and Company’ is the Walt Disney studio’s third film about dogs, after ‘Lady and the Tramp‘ (1955) and ‘One Hundred and One Dalmations’ (1961). Three of the first film’s characters, Peggy, Jock and Trusty, even have a cameo during Dodger’s song.

‘Oliver and Company’ contains some nice and easy looking dog animation, but it is hardly a worthy successor of the two classics. The opening scenes of ‘Oliver & Company’ introduces Oliver, a cute little orange cat to us, in a scene set to an ugly 1980s song. Oliver teams up with a cool dog called Dodger, who appears to be part of a dog gang. Only when the gang’s owner, the poor tramp Fagin (excellently voiced by Dom DeLuise) is visited by the film’s villain, Sykes, some kind of drama begins. By then the film already is 18 minutes underway.

During a totally incomprehensible framing act Oliver is taken sway by a little rich girl called Jenny, much to the dismay of her house’s star dog, poodle Georgette (voiced by Bette Midler). The gang ‘rescues’ Oliver, which leads to the only continuous and songless story part of the complete film. Surprisingly, the upper class world of Jenny and Georgette and the lower class world of Fagin and his dogs don’t seem to clash at all in this film. As soon Jenny is kidnapped, Georgette naturally teams up with the dog gang. The film ends with a wild and totally unbelievable chase, killing Sykes.

Although released five months after ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ it’s difficult to regard ‘Oliver & Co.’ as part of the Disney renaissance. It’s not as bleak as ‘The Fox and the Hound‘ or as misguided as ‘The Black Cauldron‘, but the film still feels as a continuation of the 1960s and 1970s, instead of something new, making it part of animation’s dark ages.

There are several reasons for this: first, the use of xerox, first used in ‘One Hundred and one Dalmations’ (1961), and defining Disney’s graphic style up to this film. Second, the equally graphic backgrounds, which are uninspired, dull and ugly, as are the all too angular and unappealing cars and machines. Third, the animation, which is erratic and at times downward poor, with the animation of the little girl Jenny, a far cry from the endearing Penny from ‘The Rescuers‘ (1977), being the low point. Fourth, the human designs, which apart from the main characters, look the same as in any generic animated television series from the 1980s. And fifth, the story, which, vaguely based on Charles Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’, is ramshackle and formulaic. Moreover, the attempt to ‘modernize’ Disney by moving the setting to contemporary New York is forced, and only a change of setting. There’s no new spirit to the film. And finally, the anonymous 1980s songs have aged the film very quickly.

There are some highlights: the dogs are all good, if not particularly inspired and owing much to ‘Lady and the Tramp’, Jenny’s butler Jenkins is well animated, as is Fagin when he struggles to give Oliver back to Jenny. But overall the film fails to entertain: Oliver himself is not particularly interesting, he is just the straight man, the little girl Jenny is too bland to gain sympathy, the songs are generic and the story (penned by no less than thirteen people) is too erratic to suck the viewer in.

Luckily, ‘Oliver and Company’ was not part of a new era, but the last convulsion of an old one. With its next film, ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) Disney would really enter its renaissance.

Watch Dodger’s song from ‘Oliver & Company’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: unknown
Release Date: February 15, 1926
Stars: Margie Gay (Alice), Julius
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Still from 'Alice's Mysterious Mystery' featuring a dog priest salving an imprisoned dogTwo dog catchers, a bear and a mouse, catch a whole school of dogs.

They also lure some dogs using a girl dog on a balcony. They all end in a prison-like sausage factory, which contains a death chamber. We see a dog actually walk in there (after having been salvaged by a dog priest). He comes out as a string of sausages… Luckily, detectives Alice (Margie Gay) and Julius free all remaining dogs.

This cartoon contains quite some flexible animation, especially of the bear emptying the school.

Watch ‘Alice’s Mysterious Mystery’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Alice’s Mysterious Mystery’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: July 30, 1932
Stars: Pluto
Rating:
★★★★
Review:

Just Dogs © Walt Disney‘Just Dogs’ opens with a dog pound, with several dogs howling to the tune of Vernon Dalhart’s 1924 hit ‘The Prisoner’s Song’.

Then a little black dog escapes, and helps Pluto and several other dogs escaping, too. Once outside the little dog repeatedly tries to gain Pluto’s sympathy, to no avail. Not even when it shares a large bone with Pluto. When an annoying little Pekingese warns the other dogs of the bone, trouble starts, but the little dog saves the day with the help of legion of fleas, while Pluto remains busy with an alarm clock. Only then he gains Pluto’s much wanted sympathy.

‘Just Dogs’ is not a particularly funny or beautiful short and its star, Pluto, is most of the time quite unsympathetic, but it does show the advancements in animation Disney was making at the time: we’re not watching ‘just dogs’, we’re watching several recognizable types of dogs, among them a very lifelike St. Bernard.

By now, the Disney animators didn’t need to stick to stereotyped ducks, pigs, cows, horses, or in this case, dogs, but were able to draw and animate real dogs, who looked like dogs, moved like dogs and behaved like dogs. This kind of naturalism is quite unprecedented in earlier films. ‘Just Dogs’ is still a mixed bag: some of the designs are still very primitive, especially during the escape scene, but there are some striking new designs here, not in the least, the small, optimistic black dog, who ‘s the real hero of the short.

The two main protagonists, Pluto and his clever comrade, are two distinct characters, which behave and move differently, a great advancement in character animation. Disney would develop both naturalism and character animation into perfection in the coming seven years.

Two years later the little dog would reappear as Pluto’s rival Terry in Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics.

Watch ‘Just Dogs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 28
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Bears and the Bees
To the next Silly Symphony: Flowers and Trees

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