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Director: Dick Huemer
Release Date: March 17, 1939
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Goofy and Wilbur © Walt DisneyOf Mickey’s co-stars, Goofy was the last to get his own series, a fact that in a way is true to his slow character.

Goofy had appeared outside the Mickey Mouse series for the first time in ‘Polar Trappers‘ (1938), co-starring with Donald Duck, but only in 1939 he would star a cartoon on his own, in ‘Goofy and Wilbur’. This short is only the second of two cartoons directed by Dick Huemer (the other one being ‘The Whalers’ from 1938). In Don Peri’s book ‘Working with Walt’ Huemer states he wished he had stayed on shorts, but Disney put him to work on ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Fantasia’ and he never returned to the short medium.

In ‘Goofy and Wilbur’ Huemer mainly emphasizes the gentle side of Goofy’s character. Goofy goes fishing in a no fishing area, using a live grasshopper called Wilbur as a bait. Wilbur, whose design is halfway that of the grasshopper in ‘The Grasshopper and the Ants‘ (1934) and that of Jiminy Cricket in ‘Pinocchio‘ (1940), is clearly Goofy’s friend, and the two cooperate in a clever scheme in which Wilbur lures several surprisingly colorful fish to Goofy’s net.

The consequence of this story idea is that most of the screen time goes to the little grasshopper instead of Goofy. Only when, after six minutes, Wilbur gets swallowed by a frog we switch to Goofy, and only then his unique physique can be seen in a great chase scene. However, the cartoon’s highlight is the priceless shot in which Goofy tries to comfort himself after the loss of his friend: “I gotta cheer up! There’s lots of grasshoppers in the weeds!”, only to fall back into the saddest face possible immediately after uttering these words.

The production values of ‘Goofy and Wilbur’ are fantastic, but Huemer’s gentle humor doesn’t make the most of the character. This was left to his successor, Jack Kinney, who steered the lovable goof into a whole new direction…

Watch ‘Goofy and Wilbur’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

‘Goofy and Wilbur’ is available on the DVD set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy’

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Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: November 2, 1940
Stars: Porky Pig
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

The Sour Puss © Warner Bros.When Porky reads in the paper that fishing season will open the day after, he goes out fishing with his cat next day.

At the pond they encounter a flying fish (actually a marine species), which soon turns out to be as loony as Daffy Duck. The fish has the last laugh, imitating comedian Lew Lehr, saying “pussycats is the craziest people”.

‘The Sour Puss’ is a pretty run of the mill cartoon, and over before you know it. Porky has a modest role in a cartoon that’s actually devoted to his cat. Most interesting is the convincing animation of Porky in his rocking chair: one can see his body shift to move the chair. Also noteworthy are a bizarre shot in which Porky imitates a fish, a mussel with Popeye-like arms, and the cat’s over-joyous reaction to Porky’s promise of a fish dinner: he even kisses a mouse, which prompts a canary on committing suicide, saying ‘Now I’ve seen everything’. This last gag was repeated by a Pete Lorre-like fish in ‘Horton Hatches the Egg‘ (1942), while the Lew Lehr line reappeared in ‘Scaredy Cat‘ (1948).

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

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 79
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Prehistoric Porky
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Hired Hand

‘The Sour Puss’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’.

Director: Jack Hannah
Release date: April 27, 1956
Stars: Humphrey Bear
Rating: ★★
Review:

Hooked Bear © Walt DisneyIn 1956 Jack Hannah directed two Cinemascope cartoons starring Humphrey the bear and the park ranger, without Donald Duck.

‘Hooked Bear’ is the first one. In this short the park is visited by fishermen. Humphrey, of course, wants to join in, trying to catch some fish, but he is entirely unsuccessful.

Even though Humphrey is a well developed and likable character, ‘Hooked Bear’ does not rank among Hannah’s most inspired cartoons. The short marks only Humphrey’s fifth appearance, but some routine already has sneaked in, and none of the gags ever seem to pay off satisfactorily.

Watch ‘Hooked Bear’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hooked Bear’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: April 18, 1953
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Simple Things © Walt Disney‘The Simple Things’ was to be Mickey’s and Pluto’s last theatrical cartoon (Pluto’s own series had stopped two years earlier).

Unfortunately it is a rather uninspired goodbye. The cartoon returns to the elongated situation comedy of the thirties. There are only two plots here, which hardly build up to a finale. First: Pluto’s encounters with a humanized clam and second, Mickey and Pluto’s fight with a hungry seagull. Both parts are executed routinely, without inspiration.

This makes ‘The Simple Things’ a sad ending to a career that started so phenomenally well, changing the course of animation, 25 years earlier. It would take Mickey another thirty years to return to the movie screen in ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ from 1983. Meanwhile, Mickey & Pluto director Charles Nichols would direct three Donald Duck cartoons, and one special, ‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith‘, before leaving Disney for Hanna-Barbera in 1962.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 125
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Pluto’s Christmas Tree
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: February 22, 1947
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Spike
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Cat Fishin' © MGMTom goes fishing in a no-fishing area, guarded by Spike. He uses Jerry as a live bait to catch an enormous pike.

The humor of this perfectly timed cartoon follows logically from the clever interplay between these four characters, it’s highlight being the sequence where Tom tries to land a big fish, which turns out to be Spike. The result is one of the most perfect Tom & Jerry cartoons ever.

Watch ‘Cat Fishin’’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 27
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Solid Serenade
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Part Time Pal

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: December 4, 1942
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

How to Fish © Walt Disney

‘How to fish’ kicks off nonsensically when the narrator explains how astrology gives ‘man’ (Goofy) an urge to fish.

The cartoon consists of blackout gags involving various types of fishing, like angling and lake fishing. In the end Goofy manages to capture one fish, which turns out to be his own outboard motor.

‘How to Fish’ is one of Goofy’s less inspired sports cartoons, even though it’s pretty enjoyable. It is the first Goofy short to use oil background paintings. It contains one discontinuity incident: when he fishes himself into a tree, he shortly wears his socks again.

Watch ‘How To Fish’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 9
To the previous Goofy cartoon: How to Swim
To the next Goofy cartoon: Victory Vehicles

Director: Gene Deitch
Release Date: October 26, 1961
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating: ★★
Review:

Down and Outing © MGMIn ‘Down and Outing’ Tom and Jerry join a fat man who goes fishing. During the cartoon Tom tries to get rid of Jerry, mostly on expense of the man.

‘Down And Outing’ is the second of thirteen Tom & Jerry films by Gene Deitch, and like in the first, ‘Switchin’ Kitten‘, a rather inspired story (by Larz Bourne) is ruined by bad design, bad timing, bad animation and bad sounds. The fat man would become Gene Deitch’s best attempt on a recurring character, returning in ‘High Steaks‘ and ‘Sorry Safari‘ (both from 1962).

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

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 116
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Switchin’ Kitten
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: It’s Greek to Me-Ow!

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: September 1, 1931
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating:
Review:

Still from 'Fishin' Around' featuring the gamekeeperMickey and Pluto go fishing in a no fishing area, but the fish are making fun of them.

Pluto even gets under water, sniffing the bottom of the lake and meeting an enormous fish. This scene reuses quite some animation of Pluto sniffing from Pluto’s debut ‘The Picnic‘ (1930). Then a gamekeeper appears, but Mickey and Pluto escape him. The goat-like gamekeeper would return in Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic ‘Dr. Oofgay’s Secret Serum’ (July 1934).

Like ‘Traffic Troubles‘, ‘The Moose Hunt‘ and ‘The Beach Party‘ from the same year, ‘Fishin’ Around’ is a genuine gag cartoon. It is the weakest of the lot, however, and can hardly be called a classic. The tricks the fish pull at Pluto and Mickey are amusing, but nothing more than that. Both the fish and Pluto steal a lot of screen time from Mickey, who is blander than ever before in this short.

Nevertheless, the film is a modest example of how the Disney studio tried to improve the quality of its animation. Notice, for example, the reflections and other water effects in this short. By now, they had become standard in Disney cartoons. Moreover, the cartoon starts with some quite convincing animation of Mickey rowing. There’s some clear sense of pulling weight here, even though these cycles are interspersed with less convincing animation.

Watch ‘Fishin’ Around’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 32
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Blue Rhythm
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barnyard Broadcast

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