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Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: January 30, 1937
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Pigs is Pigs © Warner Bros.In ‘Pigs is Pigs’ a fat little pig thinks of food all the time.

At night the pig dreams he’s being fed by a machine of an evil scientist with a hic-cough. He eats so much, he explodes. He awakes in a fright, but when his mother invites him to breakfast, it’s clear he hasn’t learned anything.

With its quasi-moralistic tale, its family-setting, its child star, and its Silly Symphony-like backgrounds, ‘Pigs is Pigs’ is still firmly rooted in the goody-goody world of the mid-1930s. However, an early ‘Hold the onions’-gag (the first of a long series), the fast machine-scenes, and the surprisingly non-moralistic finale look forward to a more individual Warner Bros. style.

‘Pigs is Pigs’ is far from a classic, but it’s surprisingly well animated, and shows that by 1937 the Schlesinger studio could use the Disney influence for their own ends.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Pigs is Pigs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pigs is Pigs’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

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Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: April 12, 1947
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Birth of a Notion © Warner BrothersDaffy Duck tricks a dog called Leopold with a ‘poisoned bone’ to let him stay at his house during the winter.

Unfortunately, the dog’s owner is an evil scientist (a caricature of Peter Lorre) who happens to be looking for a duck’s wishbone. This leads to a wild chase full of pretty weird gags and off-beat dialogue penned by Warren Foster.

‘Birth of a Nation’ is the second of two Warner Bros. cartoons featuring Peter Lorre as a mad scientist, the other being ‘Hair-Raising Hare’ from 1946. New voice artist Stan Freberg does an excellent job in mimicking and parodying Lorre’s typical voice.

Watch ‘Birth of a Notion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date:
 April 19, 1952
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

Water, Water Everyhare © Warner BrothersSix years after ‘Hair-raising Hare’ (1946) Bugs Bunny faces the orange monster in sneakers again.

‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is a horror cartoon featuring almost everything a horror movie should have: an evil scientist, a monster, a mummy and a robot. This story is rather awkwardly framed, however, by a story about the river flooding Bugs’s home and transporting him to and from the castle. Facing the monster Bugs repeats his manicure-tric from the earlier film, although this time he pretends to be a hair dresser. He also makes himself invisible and he makes the monster shrink.

If not as funny as ‘Hair-raising Hare’, ‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is full of clever gags. It moves at a relatively relaxed pace, which only a very confident film maker could use with such effect. In that respect, ‘Water, Water Evey Hare’ shows the mastery director Chuck Jones had achieved. He needn’t be fast and furious to be funny and he knew it.

Watch ‘Water, Water Every Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/7621186/water_water_every_hare_1952/

‘Water, Water Every Hare’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 90
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Foxy Proxy
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hasty Hare

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: June 14, 1947
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse © MGMThis cartoon starts with Tom’s attempts to prevent Jerry from lapping his milk.

In ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse’ Jerry has attained a Droopy-like ability to be everywhere, giving Tom a hard time. In order to defeat the omnipresent mouse, Tom mixes a poisonous drink. Unfortunately, it renders the mouse muscular and extremely strong.

Later, Jerry tries to mix the same drink to get strong again, but it’s Tom who drinks it. However, it makes him smaller and in the final shot watch see Jerry chasing a tiny Tom.

‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse’ covers similar grounds as the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Worm Turns‘ (1937), but with better results. The highlight of the cartoon is the animation of the effects of Tom’s potion on Jerry. Especially the animation of a threatening, marching muscular Jerry is grandiose, and in this scene Scott Bradley’s outstanding music is particularly powerful.

Watch ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 30
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Part Time Pal
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Salt Water Tabby

Director: Frank Tashlin
Release Date: 
March 23, 1946
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:
 ★★
Review:

Hare Remover © Warner BrothersIn ‘Hare Remover’ Elmer Fudd is an unlikely evil scientist developing a potion to change animals into monsters.

He tries it on a dog, but it only makes it eat grass. Because he has run out of test animals, he has to find a rabbit to try the potion on. Enter Bugs Bunny. What follows is a plot in which both characters think they’ve turned the other into a monster, which happens to be a totally confused bear.

‘Hare Remover’ was to be Frank Tashlin’s last Warner Brothers cartoon and the second of only two Bugs Bunny cartoons directed by him. Unfortunately, it’s not a grand finale.

Despite some great gags and a clever story, the director seems at loss with the two personalities. Elmer, who has a slightly altered design, having suddenly received buck-teeth, is awkward enough as a scientist. But watching Bugs being aghast that he really has made his foe into a monster, and trying to revive Elmer’s former self by making a chemical drink of his own, is just out of character.

In September 1944 Frank Tashlin would leave Warner Brothers, to direct puppet films for the Joan Sutherland studio. Then he left animation all together to work at feature films, first as a gag writer and screen writer, then as a director, in 1951.

Robert McKimson would succeed Frank Tashlin as a director. When Bob Clampett left Warner Brothers, too, in May 1945, the studio had entered a new era. The wild days were over.

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

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 36
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon:  Baseball Bugs
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hair-Raising Hare

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 24, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★
Review:

The Magnetic Telescope © ParamountIn ‘The Magnetic Telescope’, the sixth entry in the Superman series, yet another evil scientist attracts ‘flaming comets’ with a ridiculously looking magnetic telescope.

As one comet has destroyed part of the city, the police tries to stop the villain from hauling in another one. But their attempts make the professor lose control over the comet, and while destruction is at hand, Lois phones the Daily Planet from the laboratory. When her call ends in a scream, Clark Kent rushes… er… takes a cab to the laboratory. Only when the cab is stopped by one of the comet’s offshoots, he changes into Superman and flies up there…

Superman, of course, saves the day. He first tries to stop the comet itself (which falls remarkably slowly), but surprisingly, this is too much for him, and his antics produce more offshoots, which destroy bridges and such. So, in a bright moment he restores power to the magnetic telescope, telling Lois to put the machine on ‘reverse’… (how Superman came to know how the telescope works, we’ll never know…).

The whole story is amazingly ridiculous, especially because the story is told in the most sincere fashion. It shows the Fleischer studio’s discomfort with realism all too clearly.

The all too powerful comet is a minor surprise within the formulaic Superman series. But ‘The Magnetic Telescope’ has two other deviations from the story formula: in this entry Clark Kent doesn’t say his usual ” this looks like a job for Superman”,’ and Lois manages to kiss Superman, who, unfortunately turns out to be Clark Kent, after all…

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

This is Superman film No. 6
To the previous Superman film: The Bulleteers
To the next Superman film: Electric Earthquake

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 21, 1941
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★½
Review:

The Mechanical Monsters © Paramount‘The Mechanical Monsters’ was Superman’s second cartoon, and it is almost a copy of the first one.

Again, there’s an evil scientist, this time a jewel thief, who robs jewelry using huge flying robots. Again, Lois gets herself into trouble by her curiosity and, again, after Superman has saved the day, Lois and Clark discuss Lois’s article in the newspaper.

This copying of a formulaic story format is the main weakness of the Superman series, and it’s saddening to see it already happening in the second cartoon. Luckily, the execution of the formula is better than in the first cartoon. This evil scientist is drawn more realistically, and the sidekick has gone. The elaborate intro has been shortened into a few seconds, leaving more room for the story. Moreover, watching Superman knocking down giant robots is more enjoyable than watching him defeating a ray.

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

This is Superman film No. 2
To the previous Superman film: Superman
To the next Superman film: Billion Dollar Limited

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 26, 1941
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Superman © Paramount‘Superman’ is the first Superman cartoon, the very first cartoon series to feature realistic characters, and the Fleischer Studio’s most ambitious cartoon series.

Superman, of course, was based on the comic strip hero who made his debut in 1938. For his screen debut, the studio made a long introduction of the character, which lasts almost two minutes.

After this intro a very simple story develops, which contains many elements to be reused in later Superman cartoons, becoming a routine all too soon:

1) an evil scientist
2) something big to beat (in this cartoon a deadly ray, which Superman ridiculously punches away)
3) Lois getting intro trouble due to her curiosity, and
4) an ending with Lois and Clarke reading a newspaper article written by Lois Lane.

Despite elaborate shadows and special effects, this first realistic theatrical cartoon (not counting the works by Winsor McCay) hasn’t aged very well. The scientist is still half cartoony, and he has an animal sidekick, which mimics his moves.

The rest of the characters are drawn realistically, but also stiff and expressionless. They look forward to the wooden realistic cartoons of the TV era. The character was very popular, however, and inspired a couple of parodies, most notably the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Super Rabbit’ (1943). It’s ironic that after Popeye the Fleischer again had to rely on a character created elsewhere to achieve success. Unfortunately, this meant they couldn’t exploit Superman’s popularity as much as they could have with a character of their own.

Superman would star in seventeen cartoons, all from 1941-1943, nine by the Fleischer Studios, and eight by its successor, Famous studios. In 1943 the series was dropped because it was too costly to produce.

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

This is Superman film No. 1
To the next Superman film: The Mechanical Monsters

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: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: January 2, 1937
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pete, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Worm Turns © Walt DisneyIn the opening shot of ‘The Worm Turns’ we watch Mickey looking like an evil scientist, working on a potion that can give courage and power.

He tries it on a fly caught in a spiderweb, on a mouse (the two different designs of mice in this film, with one being twenty times larger, is quite confusing!) who is the victim of a cat, on the cat, who’s chased by Pluto, and on Pluto, who’s threatened by evil dog catcher Pete.

The animation of the opening sequence is quite stunning, but the whole short fails to get funny. Hanna and Barbera would revisit the same idea in the similar ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse‘ (1947) with much better results.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 90
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Elephant
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Don Donald

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