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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 5, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Jack and the Beanstalk © Max FleischerOnly three months after Van Beuren’s ‘The Family Shoe’, the Fleischer studio released their retelling of the fairy tale in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.

Despite being released after six cartoons featuring Bimbo in his final design, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ features Bimbo with his old, less memorable look. Bimbo plays the part of Jack. He is prompted to plant some magic beans, after a giant in the sky has dropped a cigar on him. The beans soon sprout into a giant beanstalk, which takes Bimbo to the clouds. There he discovers Betty Boop, who’s the giant’s prisoner, making pea soup for him. Bimbo ties the giant and flees with Betty on the magic hen, which changes into a car when hitting the road. But an obnoxious mouse releases the giant who follows them using cars as roller-skates.

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is a very enjoyable, but weird and highly surreal version of the classic tale. It was the last Talkartoon to feature Betty Boop with dog ears. In all her subsequent films she would be fully human.

The short features ‘Sweepin’ The Clouds Away’ as its theme song, which had been a huge hit for Maurice Chevalier in 1930. Two years later Disney would visit similar grounds in ‘Giantland‘, which is, as you may expect, way less surreal, but much better animated.

Watch ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 28
To the previous Talkartoon: Mask-a-Raid
To the next Talkartoon: Dizzy Red Riding Hood

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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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’

Directors: Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske & Bill Roberts
Release Date: September 27, 1947
Stars: Jiminy Cricket, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Edgar Bergen, Luana Patton
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Fun and Fancy Free © Walt DisneyFun and Fancy Free’ was the fourth of six package features Disney released in the 1940s.

It consists of two unrelated stories, which were both originally conceived as feature films in 1940/1941. The two stories, ‘Bongo’ and ‘Mickey and the Beanstalk’ are loosely linked by Jiminy Cricket, who sings the happy-go-lucky theme song.

He plays a record to a sad doll and a gloomy bear which features Dinah Shore telling the story of Bongo in rhyme and song. This cute, if unassuming and forgettable little film (after a story by Sinclair Lewis) tells about Bongo the circus bear, who breaks free from the circus, falls in love with a cute female bear called Lulubelle, and combats a large brutal bear called Lumpjack.

Immediately after this story has ended, we follow Jiminy Cricket to a live action setting: a private party with a little girl (Luana Patton), Edgar Bergen and his two ventriloquist sidekicks, the cynical Charlie and the dumb, but gentle Mortimer.

Bergen tells a version of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, starring ‘famished farmers’ Mickey, Donald and Goofy in their last classic trio outing. This part had a long genesis, the early drafts of this film go back to 1940. Apparently Pinto Colvig had returned to the Disney studio, because Goofy has his voice back after having been silenced for eight years. Pinto Colvig would do Goofy’s voice in two subsequent shorts, ‘Foul Hunting‘ (1947) and ‘The Big Wash‘ (1948), before leaving again, leaving Goofy voiceless, once more. This sequence is also the last theatrical film in which Walt Disney does Mickey’s voice. Halfway the production Jimmy MacDonald took over.

This second episode of ‘Fun and Fancy Free’ is a delight, if a little bit slow. Its humor derives mostly from Charlie’s sarcastic interruptions. Nevertheless, the animation of the growing beanstalk and of Willie the giant is stunning.

Willie would be the last giant Mickey defeated, after having done with giants in ‘Giantland‘ (1933) and ‘Brave Little Tailor’ (1938). Unlike the other giants, Willie is an instantly likeable character, and he was revived as the ghost of Christmas Present in ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ (1983).

‘Fun and Fancy Free’ is a lighthearted film. Like Disney’s other package features, it is not too bad, but it is certainly not among the ranks of masterpieces.

Watch the opening scene of ‘Fun and Fancy Free’ 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: Burt Gillett
Release Date: November 25, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, The Orphan Mice
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Giantland © Walt DisneyMickey tells the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to his numerous nephews with him in the starring role.

These nephews come out of nowhere, even though they had appeared in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932), where they were, indeed, part of a nightmare. In ‘Giantland’ they’re real alright, and they would star in five other Mickey Mouse cartoons of the 1930s.

In his story Mickey meets the first giant of his career. This giant is very well drawn, with great use of perspective and realistic details, especially in the hands. This must have been the closest the studio could come to the human form in 1933. The cartoon also contains many shadows. Both features are a testimony of Disney’s urge to master more naturalism in his cartoons.

Nevertheless, one can see that the animators were still struggling with such elaborate designs. The giant is not drawn very consistently, and some sequences are more convincing than others. The best and most beautiful scene is when Mickey ends up inside the Giant’s mouth. This is an original scene by all means, and one that could almost only be done in animation.

Notably, the cartoon emphasizes that the story is a fantasy, with Mickey only telling it. Mickey was slowly becoming more settled, and while he’s still the hero of this cartoon, as the years progressed his quieter nature meant that he lost more and more screen time to less timid characters, like Pluto, Donald Duck and Goofy.

Mickey would deal with giants again in ‘Brave Little Tailor’ (1938) and in ‘Fun and Fancy Free’ (1947), a re-telling of the same fairy tale. ‘Gulliver Mickey’ from six months later follows the same story line as ‘Giantland’, but now in reverse, with Mickey himself being the giant, while Floyd Gottfredson retold the story of ‘Giantland’ in his Sunday Mickey Mouse comics from March 11 to April 29, 1934.

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


This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 62
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Pet Store
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Shanghaied

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