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Director: Bill Justice
Release date: July 18, 1956
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Jack and Old Mac © Walt DisneyDirector Bill Justice had co-directed two educational shorts in 1943: ‘The Grain That Built a Hemisphere‘ and ‘The Winged Scourge‘, but ‘Jack and Old Mac’ marks his solo direction debut.

Taking the cartoon modern-style to the max, ‘Jack and Old Mac’ brings jazzy versions of two familiar addition songs: ‘The House That Jack Built’ and ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’.

This simple and unpretentious idea leads to one of Disney’s most daring cartoons. The first song only uses characters made out of words and throughout the picture startlingly modern backgrounds are used, which constantly change and which are totally abstract, giving no sense of space whatsoever. The animation, too, is mostly very limited, although some animation is reused from the ‘All the Cats Join In’-sequence from ‘Make Mine Music’ (1946).

George Bruns’s score is strikingly modern for a Disney cartoon, using genuine bebop jazz. In comparison, Louis Prima’s dixieland jazz in ‘Jungle Book’ from eleven years later is much more old-fashioned.

In all, ‘Jack and Old Mac’ is a neglected little masterpiece, and Disney’s modest, but most daring contribution to the cartoon avant-garde.

Justice would direct four more specials: ‘A Cowboy Needs a Horse’ (1956), ‘The Truth about Mother Goose’ (1957), ‘Noah’s Ark’ (1959) and ‘A Symposium on Popular Songs’ (1962), all strikingly modern in design.

Watch ‘Jack and Old Mac’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Jack and Old Mac’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

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Director: Les Clark
Release Date: August 1, 1958
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Paul Bunyan © Walt Disney‘Paul Bunyan’ belongs to a group of Disney specials that retell tall tales from the West, following ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘ and ‘Pecos Bill‘ from ‘Melody Time‘ (1948).

The short is told by three “eye witnesses”, who tell us about the great deeds of the mighty lumberjack Paul Bunyan, who was “63 axe handles high”, and his equally gigantic ox Babe. The best part describes how Bunyan and Babe have reshaped the American landscape: their footsteps turn into the land of 10,000 lakes (in Minnesota), and they themselves build landmarks like the Missouri River, Pikes Peak in Colorado, and the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Falls in Wyoming.

Eyvind Earle supervised the color schemes, while Tom Oreb designed the characters, like they  did for ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1959). Their designs are very bold and angular, and the background art, painted by Eyvind Earle and Walt Peregoy, is a delight to watch. Composer George Bruns composed a catchy theme song for the giant hero, which is sung several times throughout the short.

Unfortunately, the short is hampered by a remarkable slowness and a terrible lack of good gags, which make it at 17 minutes too long to remain entertaining. In the end ‘Paul Bunyan’ is more interesting for its looks than for its story.

‘Paul Bunyan’ was the only non-educational short directed by Disney veteran Les Clark, who had been with Disney since the birth of his own studio in 1928.

Watch ‘Paul Bunyan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Paul Bunyan’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

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