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Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 August 13, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Mickey's Nightmare © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Nightmare’ is not a spooky horror cartoon like ‘The Haunted House‘ or ‘The Gorilla Mystery‘. No, it’s more of a bachelor’s nightmare…

The short’s plot harks back all the way to ‘Poor Papa’ (1928), the pilot film for the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series, Mickey’s predecessor. In ‘Mickey’s Nightmare’ Mickey dreams he finally marries Minnie, and is soon visited by a stork delivering a baby, and another, and another… Until the storks deliver tons of little kids. When he is awake he’s very happy to be still a bachelor.

‘Mickey’s Nightmare’ introduces the little orphan mice, who would replace the little kittens of ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (1931) and ‘Mickey’s Revue’ (1932) as a cause of complete destruction. In Mickey’s dream they ruin the house, especially with paint. In order to show Mickey’s horror scenario, the short uses some excellent and complex use of animation cycles featuring lots and lots of little kids.

It’s interesting that the orphan mice first were introduced as Mickey’s children, and only in dream form. In their next cartoon, ‘Giantland‘ (1933), they suddenly materialized into the real world. The orphan mice would stay around until 1936, starring five more cartoons, before returning one final time in ‘Pluto’s Party‘ from 1952.

The little brats also appeared in the Sunday Pages of Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic, starting on September 18. In Gottfredson’s comics the mice are reduced to two, but no less disastrous. They are introduced as Mrs. Fieldmouse’s children and are apparently Mickey’s nephews. These two would eventually be christened Morty and Ferdie, and reenter the movie screen once in ‘Mickey’s Steamroller‘ (1934).

‘Mickey’s Nightmare’ spawned at least two similar cartoons: first the Warner Bros. cartoon ‘Porky’s Romance’ (1937), and second, the Donald Duck short ‘Donald’s Diary‘ from 1954.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 44
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey in Arabia
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Trader Mickey

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

Directors: Mannie Davis & John Foster
Release Date:
 January 13, 1933
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Silvery Moon © Van Beuren‘Silvery Moon’ starts with the song ‘Moonlight bay’ and the two young cats from ‘The Wild Goose Chase‘ (1932) in a canoe on a moonlit lake. Suddenly, the moon invites them over, producing a giant staircase. Once the two have arrived on the moon, a fairy opens a gate, revealing a dreamlike candy land.

The dreamlike atmosphere is enhanced by scenes that change while the two kittens stay in place. In Candyland the two frolic around, and eat all what’s around until they’re sick. Then they’re hunted by a bottle of castor oil and a spoon, until they fall off the moon, next to their own canoe.

‘Silvery Moon’ was one of the last Aesop’s Fables, and one of the best. Sure, the designs and animation are still poor (some of the animation is reused from ‘Toy Time‘), and the film’s subject may be a little childish, it’s a surprisingly inspired cartoon, showing wonderful events with a natural charm. It’s a pity that ‘Silvery Moon’ is in black-and-white, for its dreamlike atmosphere would make perfect subject for color, which in 1933 still was brand new, anyhow (Disney’s first technicolor cartoon, ‘Flowers and Trees‘ had only been released half a year earlier).

Indeed, the cartoon’s content and atmosphere look forward to several color cartoons of the Hayes code era, most notably the Fleischer cartoon ‘Somewhere in Dreamland‘ (1936), which also features two children visiting a candy world. This makes ‘Silvery Moon’ probably the most forward-looking cartoon the Van Beuren studio ever produced, and it certainly has aged much better than most of the cartoons the studio produced in the early 1930’s.

Watch ‘Silvery Moon’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Silvery Moon’ is available on the DVD ‘Aesop’s Fables – Cartoon Classics from the Van Beuren Studio’

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: January 18, 1932
Stars: Oswald the Rabbit
Rating: ★★
Review:

Grandma's Pet © Walter LantzBy 1932 Oswald had changed into a cute little boy. And yet, in the opening scene of ‘Grandma’s Pet’ he’s shown reading the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood to his three nephews(?).

Soon Oswald falls asleep himself and he dreams that he’s inside the fairy tale himself. Apart from Oswald’s presence, the cartoon quite faithfully follows the fairy tale until the wolf kidnaps Little Red Riding Hood, and out of nowhere produces a magic wand, which changes the complete scenery several times. In the end, Oswald uses the magic wand to change the wolf into a roast.

‘Grandma’s Pet’ is one of the Lantz films in which Tex Avery is billed as an animator. It may have inspired his own mix-up fairy tale films, like ‘Little Red Walking Hood’ (1937) and ‘The Bear’s Tale’ (1940). It pales when compared to those latter cartoons, however, suffering from erratic animation and sloppy timing.

Watch ‘Grandma’s Pet’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Grandma’s Pet’ is available on the DVD ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date: September 5, 1931
Stars: Foxy
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Smile, Darn ya, Smile © Warner Bros.‘Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!’, the second of the Merrie Melodies, is also the second to feature that short-lived early star of Warner Bros., Foxy.

The film is practically a remake of Oswald’s first cartoon, ‘Trolley Troubles’ (1927), on which Harman and Ising had worked themselves: Foxy rides a trolley, inviting his very, very Minnie Mouse-like girlfriend along. Like in the former Oswald film, the ride ends with Foxy losing control of the trolley, which leads to some spectacular perspective animation. Unlike the earlier film, however, ‘Smile, Darn ya, Smile!’ ends rather cornily, when it’s revealed it was all a dream.

The title song is sung several times during the cartoon, e.g. by four hobos. It was revived more than fifty years later in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ (1988), when Eddie Valiant enters Toontown.

Watch ‘Smile, Darn Ya, Smile’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Smile, Darn Ya, Smile’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
July 28, 1931
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Cat's Out © Walt DisneyA cat is put out. When he tries to catch a bird, he falls down and gets knocked unconscious by a wind-flower.

Enter a nightmarish sequence, in which the cat imagines his lives are fleeing him, and that he’s being attacked by giant birds, hooting owls, bats, giant spiders and hollow trees. Luckily, in the morning it all appears to have been a dream.

‘The Cat’s Out’ is not devoid of dance routines (there are two dance scenes featuring scarecrows and a bat), but it has a surprisingly clear story, unmatched by earlier Silly Symphonies. It is arguably the first Silly Symphony with such a clear story, anticipating the straightforward storytelling of ‘The Ugly Duckling‘ of the end of the same year. This makes the short one of the most interesting Silly Symphonies of 1931.

Watch ‘The Cat’s Out’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 20
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Busy Beavers
To the next Silly Symphony: Egyptian Melodies

‘The Cat’s Out’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: May 18, 1951
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Milton
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Plutopia © Walt DisneyIn ‘Plutopia’ Mickey and Pluto reach a cabin in the mountains called Utopia.

The place turns out to be dog-unfriendly however: Pluto has to stay outside and even worse, has to be muzzled. Frustrated, Pluto falls asleep. He dreams he’s in Plutopia where Milton (one of the cats from ‘Puss-Cafe‘, and here the cabin’s cat) is his willing servant, serving him food every time Pluto bites him in his tail.

The dream sequence is a delight to watch: its backgrounds consists of no more than changing monochromes featuring ‘scribbled’ outlines of doors, stairs e.g. With this sequence Pluto enters the ‘cartoon modern’ era. Unfortunately, it would be his only cartoon featuring such modern designs.

‘Plutopia’ is the last of only three Pluto cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse (the other two being ‘Pluto’s Purchase’ from 1948 and ‘Pueblo Pluto‘ from 1949). Normally cartoons featuring Mickey would appear under his own name. Indeed, after ‘Plutopia’ the Pluto series had only one entry left, but Pluto would return in Mickey’s last four cartoons.

Remarkably, ‘Plutopia’ features animation by two of the greatest animators of Mickey and Pluto in the 1930s: Fred Moore and Norm Ferguson. Both animators had been eclipsed by Disney’s Nine Old Men, and ‘Plutopia’ is one of the last films they worked on before their premature deaths in 1952 and 1957, respectively.

Watch ‘Plutopia’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 42
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Cold Storage
To the next Pluto cartoon: Cold Turkey

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: September 13, 1949
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Cat and the Mermouse © MGMWhile chasing Jerry at the beach, Tom falls into the water, where he apparently gets unconscious.

Tom hallucinates he can breath underwater. At the bottom of the sea he encounters a mermouse, an evil swordfish and an even more evil octopus. Then he awakes, discovering thankfully that Jerry has rescued him and is reviving him.

Like the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon, ‘Heavenly Puss‘, ‘The Cat and the Mermouse’ is a dream cartoon, more relying on Tom and Jerry’s love for each other than on the hate-part of their relationship.

‘The Cat and the Mermouse’ is a very well executed cartoon. Tom’s underwater joy is wonderfully animated, and the underwater setting is pretty convincing. The mermouse is, of course, exactly like Jerry, and Hanna and Barbera succeed in transferring Tom & Jerry’s typical chase to an underwater setting.

Tom & Jerry would return to the sea in the Esther Williams feature ‘Dangerous When Wet’ (1953), where they, again, encounter a swordfish and an octopus.

Watch ‘The Cat and the Mermouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 43
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Heavenly Puss
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Love That Pup

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: 
October 5, 1946
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:
 ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Big Snooze © Warner BrothersAfter a short chase routine involving a tree trunk on a cliff, Elmer quits.

He tears his contract with Warner apart and decides to enter a career of fishing only ‘and no more wabbits!’. When he rests at the riverside, Bugs enters his serene dream to create a nightmare. This involves e.g. nightmare paint, rendering Elmer in Adam’s costume, making a girl out of him, followed by wolves and a great fall, which typically ends the nightmare. At the end Elmer returns to the scene, reassembling the contract and ready for another routine with the tree.

‘The Big Snooze’ is one of those great cartoons that play with their characters as being real stars (others being the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ (1933), the Donald Duck cartoon ‘The Autograph Hound’ (1939) and ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ (1940, starring Porky and Daffy).

It was to be Bob Clampett’s last cartoon at Warner Bros. He was fired before he could finish it, and the short was completed by Art Davis, who succeeded him as a director. The short’s look and feel is still that of the war era, while contemporary cartoons by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng show the studio was heading into other directions, with milder humor and more sophisticated designs. In contrast, in ‘The Big Snooze’ Clampett’s animation style is extremely flexible, as usual for him, and his backgrounds are as vague as ever.

‘The Big Snooze’ is a hilarious cartoon that marks the end of an era, where the wildest and the zaniest gags were possible. Only Tex Avery at MGM would continue the extreme style. Bob Clampett left Warner Bros. in May 1945 to join the Screen Gems studio. He was succeeded by Art Davis, who would direct some great cartoons until his unit was closed down in 1949.

In the years following Clampett’s leave, his zany style was continued for a while by his master animator Robert McKimson, who had been promoted to director only a few months earlier. However, McKimson soon toned down both animation and humor, and he would never achieve the same level of originality as Bob Clampett did during his Warner Bros. days.

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

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 40
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Racketeer Rabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rhapsody Rabbit

Director: unknown
Release Date: November 1, 1924
Stars: Virginia Davis (Alice)
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Alice Gets in Dutch' featuring the teacher, three books and a canonAlice is at school singing out of tune and blowing a balloon that contains ink. When it explodes in the teacher’s face, Alice is cornered. There she falls asleep.

Alice dreams she’s making music with a cat, a dog and a donkey, until they are being attacked by a evil horned teacher and three anthropomorphized schoolbooks called ‘reading’, ‘writing’ and ‘arithmetic’. The cat invents a canon to shoot pepper with. The first shot is successful, but the second one explodes in their faces, so Alice and the gang are sneezing their heads off. At that point Alice awakes.

‘Alice Gets in Dutch’ is a rather unremarkable entry in the Alice Comedies series. None of the animation in this short is particularly noteworthy, although the animation of the cat thinking up an invention looks quite good. This cat character would eventually evolve into Alice’s main sidekick, the very Felix the Cat-like Julius. The technique of combining live action and drawings suffers in this short; at some scenes Alice is rendered so light, she’s almost invisible.

Watch ‘Alice Gets In Dutch’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Alice Gets In Dutch’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Walt Disney
Production Date: 1923
Stars: Virginia Davis (Alice), Walt Disney, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Ub Iwerks, Carman Maxwell
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Alice's Wonderland' featuring Alice being chased by three lions‘Alice’s Wonderland’ is the pilot film for the Alice cartoons, which Disney made in Kansas city, before trying his luck in Hollywood.

The title card of this pilot reads: “Scenario and direction by Walt Disney. Photography by Ubbe Iwerks and Rudolf Ising. Technical direction by Hugh Harman and Carman Maxwell.”

Alice (the four year old Virginia Davis) drops by the studio and tells Walt Disney she likes to watch him drawing some funnies. Walt Disney lacks his familiar mustache in this sequence, but he is already the kind entertainer of children here, and he takes her to a sheet of paper on where a cat chases a dog out of a dog house. The rest of the studio is also populated by animators (Iwerks, Harman, Ising and Maxwell all appear in this cartoon) and toons alike. The whole crew ‘s watching a boxing match between a dog and a cat, for example.

That night Alice dreams she arrives in cartoonland by train. She’s welcomed by animals and she performs a little dance for them. Unfortunately four lions break out of Cartoonland Zoo and they chase her into a tree, into a cave, into a rabbit hole and finally, to a cliff. She falls off the cliff, and then she awakes.

This cartoon is very entertaining. The idea of a girl in a cartoon (the inverse of the idea of Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell, a series that was around for eight years by then) works wonderfully, and the cartoon is lively. It already contains lots of music and dance, and a very rubbery animated train, besides the normal stiff animation you find in most cartoons of the twenties. The animation of the train looks forward to the flexible animation style that would later make Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney famous.

Luckily, Disney was able to sell the Alice series, starting his Hollywood career. His fledgling studio released 56 Alice Comedies in the next four years, until the series was replaced by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in 1927. The series was quite successful, allowing Disney to expand and to improve. In that sense, ‘Alice’s Wonderland’ lay the foundation of the Disney imperium.

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

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

Director: Frank Moser
Release Date: 1919
Stars: Bud and Susie
Rating:
Review:

Still from 'Down the Mississippi' featuring Bud, Susie and their cat on a raft pulled by an alligator‘Down the Mississippi’ is a cartoon created by Frank Moser, who would later co-found Terrytoons with Paul Terry.

Like, Ub Iwerks, Moser is known as a very fast animator. However, unlike Iwerks, Moser wasn’t either innovative or funny. It may be unfair to use such an early cartoon as ‘Down the Mississippi’ as an example, but the ‘Bud and Susie’ series was Moser’s own creation, so it could have been inspired. This is not the case.

In ‘Down the Mississippi’ Bud, Susie and their cat read ‘Huckleberry Finn’. When the sandman puts them to sleep, they dream they’re on the Mississippi. The cat catches an electric eel and Bud a crocodile. They camp at the river bank, where they’re eaten by a bear(?, the animal isn’t very distinguished). The animation is crude and the animal design typical of the twenties. Nothing is particularly outstanding in this cartoon, which isn’t funny either.

Watch ‘Down the Mississippi’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date: 1921
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'The Flying House' featuring a man behind some machinery‘The Flying House’ is the last of the three ‘Dream of a rarebit fiend’  films Winsor McCay completed in 1921.

In this short a woman dreams that her man has made a flying machine out of their house. They fly to the moon, where they’re almost swatted by a giant. Then they circle in empty space until they’re hit by a rocket.

Compared to the other two Rarebit Fiend films, ‘Bug Vaudeville‘ and ‘The Pet‘, this cartoon uses a lot of dialogue, both in balloons and in title cards. Although it does not quite delivers what it promises, it contains a few good gags, and McCay’s command of perspective is top notch, like always. The film’s most stunning sequence is when the house leaves earth to fly to the moon. In one convincingly realistic shot we see the earth rotating, the moon appearing behind it and growing larger, while the house flies towards us, orbiting the earth. This is a spectacular piece of animation, by all means. Especially because it was done 37 years before the space age.

Unfortunately, ‘The Flying House’ was to be Winsor McCay’s last completed film. His legacy is formidable, and he undoubtedly belongs to the best and most imaginative animators/animation directors of all time.

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

This is Winsor McCay’s tenth and last film
To Winsor McCay’s ninth film: The Pet

Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date: 1921
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Still from 'The Pet' featuring a giant animal eating a building‘The Pet’ is the second of the three ‘Dream of the rarebit fiend’ films Winsor McCay released in 1921. It is arguably the best of the three, and probably the best of all Winsor McCay’s films: it combines a well-executed story with a perfect command of animation. It’s too bad it isn’t more well-known.

In ‘The Pet’ a woman dreams she adopts a small animal that grows larger and larger every day, eating the cat, everything on the table, the furniture, and later on, a tree, a car and some buildings, until it explodes. The dream is totally believable with its inner logic and its wonderful execution. The growth of the animal is shown with a very imaginative use of perspective and beautiful backgrounds. For example, when the pet grows to gigantic proportions, we see it stride behind some very high buildings, towering over our heads.

More than 25 years later Tex Avery would return to the same subject in ‘King-size Canary’ (1947).

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

http://www.spike.com/video/dreams-of-rarebit/2917218.

This is Winsor McCay’s ninhth film
To Winsor McCay’s eight film: Bug Vaudeville
To Winsor McCay’s tenth and last film: The Flying House

Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date: 1921
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Still from 'Bug Vaudeville' featuring a cockroach stunting on a bicycleAfter a period of unfinished projects, Winsor McCay completed a series of three related films in 1921, ‘Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend’.

These films are the animated counterparts of his comic strip of the same name, which run from 1904 to 1913. The films, like the comics, are about ordinary people having a bad dream. When they awake, they blame it on the food they’ve eaten.

The three animated Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend can be regarded as McCay’s most mature works. They’re not as revolutionary as ‘Gertie the Dinosaur‘ or ‘The Sinking of the Lusitania‘, but they display a total command of form and style, and they are flawless in their execution. It’s too bad, McCay didn’t complete any other film after these three, although he lived for another 13 years.

‘Bug Vaudeville’ is the first of the three ‘Dream of the Rarebit Fiend’ films. In this short, a man falls asleep against a tree and dreams he witnesses a bug vaudeville show. He watches the grasshopper and the ants performing acrobatics, a daddy longlegs (with beard and a a hat) dancing, a cockroach stunting on a bicycle, tumble bugs performing acrobatics, two potato bugs boxing and a butterfly on a horse-like black beetle. He awakes when he dreams that he’s been attacked by a giant spider.

‘Bug Vaudeville’  is an entertaining short, but in some respects it is the weakest of the three Dream of a Rarebit Fiend films. Its viewpoint is static: we see the same stage for the most part of the film, without any change of setting. The bugs are drawn relatively simple, and there’s no particularly outstanding animation involved, either of character or of effects. Highlight may be the cockroach on the bicycle, with its certain control of perspective.

Watch ‘Bug Vaudeville’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Winsor McCay’s eighth film
To Winsor McCay’s seventh, unfinished film: Flip’s Circus
To Winsor McCay’s ninhth film: The Pet

Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date: 1912
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'How A Mosquito Operates' featuring the mosquito on a sleeping manWinsor McCay’s second cartoon is about a giant mosquito who sucks a sleeping man until his body is a giant bulb. Then, suddenly aware of the audience, he performs some tricks on the man’s nose, sucks some more and explodes.

Unlike McCay’s first film, ‘Little Nemo‘, a long live action intro is absent, and more important, this one tells a real story. These are both great improvements. Yet, the action is painstakingly slow, and there’s a lot of reverse animation, reusing the same drawings in reverse order. This may have spared drawings, but it doesn’t look convincing in its perfect symmetry of movement.

Nevertheless this rather original film is both nightmarish and silly and, as are all McCay’s films, very well animated.

Watch ‘How a Mosquito Operates’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Winsor McCay’s second film
To Winsor McCay’s first film: Little Nemo
To Winsor McCay’s third film: Gertie the Dinosaur

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 6, 1934
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Betty in Blunderland' featuring Betty Boop and several characters from 'Alice in Wonderland'Late at night, Betty Boop is making a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of Alice in Wonderland on it.

When the clock says it’s time for bed, the rabbit jumps out of the puzzle, and through the mirror. Betty follows him, and the mirror changes her more or less into a sexy Alice, with long curly hair, which becomes her very well.

In Wonderland, the Mad Hatter’s hat pulls out several characters from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’, a.o. Humpty Dumpty, the Duchess, the Mad Hatter, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle. Betty sings “How Do You Do” to them, before being kidnapped by the evil Jabberwock. Of course, the creatures come to her rescue, accompanied by Franz Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody, but when she falls off a cliff, she awakes.

‘Betty in Blunderland’ is a sweet, albeit a bit uninspired cartoon that fails to deliver its promises. It features wonderful designs of the Wonderland characters, many of which are clearly based on the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. However, the Fleischers don’t do anything interesting with them. We watch Tweedledee and Tweedledum fighting, the duchess doing a boring dance, and the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle shooting craps. None of these scenes is remotely interesting. Moreover, one grows tired of creatures kidnapping Betty, something that happens in several cartoons from the era, e.g. ‘Mother Goose Land’ and ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ (both 1933).

Two years later Betty was followed by Mickey who, too, dreamed stepping through the mirror into Wonderland, in ‘Thru the Mirror’ from 1936, which is by all means a much more memorable cartoon.

Watch ‘Betty in Blunderland’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Betty in Blunderland’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Graham Heid
Release Date: May 27, 1938
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Wynken, Blynken and Nod © Walt Disney‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ is one of the last, and certainly one of the most spectacular Silly Symphonies ever made.

There is hardly any story: at the start of the cartoon we hear the poem being sung by a sugary soprano, then we watch Wynken, Blynken and Nod sailing the Milky Way and fishing ‘starfish’ and being at the mercy of some clouds.

The three babies are very alike, with Nod being the ‘Dopey’ of the three, and the humor is mild. But, boy, the looks of this cartoon! Like two other Silly Symphonies obsessed with babies and their bare behinds (‘Lullaby Land’ from 1933 and ‘Water Babies’ from 1935), ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ is a showcase of Disney Animation. The cartoon features extraordinarily beautiful backgrounds, and literally bursts with effect animation, rendering astonishingly beautiful stars, comets, clouds and lightnings. The fantasy is enhanced by a wonderful score, which makes clever use of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. All this gives one the feeling of watching a mini-Fantasia.

Certainly, no animated cartoon would ever show such lushness again. As such, in a sense ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ forms the end and culmination of an era, which had started in the end of 1933, in which the Disney studio combined ever growing ambitions with childish and sugary material.

‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ was the only cartoon directed by Graham Heid. Remarkably little is known about this artist, who also contributed to ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Bambi‘. In fact, I can only find a birth date (November 14, 1909). This is rather surprising, for one can have worse seven minutes of fame than this delightful short. Luckily, animation historians Jerry Beck & Michael Barrier help us out on the Cartoon Research F.A.Q. page.

One trivial remark: ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ is based on the 1889 published poem ‘Dutch Lullaby’ by Eugene Field. Indeed, the words Wynken and Blynken seem to suggest some Dutch origin, but there are no such verbs in the Dutch language, which would translate ‘to wink’ and ‘to blink’ as ‘knipogen’ and ‘knipperen’, respectively.

Watch ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 70
To the previous Silly Symphony: Moth and the Flame
To the next Silly Symphony: Farmyard Symphony

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: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: July 13, 1935
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Mickey's Garden © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Garden’ is Mickey’s second color cartoon (after ‘The Band Concert‘).

It’s also Pluto’s first: he passes the transition into color fluently, getting his typical orange color we’re all familiar with now.

Mickey and Pluto are in the garden trying to kill a number of insects eating Mickey’s crop. When Mickey accidentally sprays himself with bug poison he starts to hallucinate (the transition to the dreamworld is particularly psychedelic: everything, including the background becomes unsteady and wobbly). He dreams that all plants and bugs have grown. This leads to some imaginative scenes. The bugs are not very lifelike, though. The animators even make a weird mistake by giving a particularly evil-looking beetle eight legs instead of six.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 76
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Kangaroo
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Fire Brigade

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

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