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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 1, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers © ParamountBy the end of 1933 Betty Boop’s heydays were pretty much at their end.

Bimbo had left the screen in September, and Koko would soon follow in March 1934. Moreover, it had become clear that Betty Boop was in fact a sort of one-trick pony: apart from singing and being sexy, she couldn’t do little else, and in this period she’s kidnapped in almost every cartoon (apart from ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’, also in ‘Betty Boop’s Big Boss‘, ‘Mother Goose Land‘, and ‘Betty in Blunderland‘. Worse, the hot jazz of August’s ‘The Old Man of the Mountain‘ was replaced by the harmless sweet orchestra music of Rubinoff and his orchestra in ‘Morning, Noon and Night‘ and ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’.

In this cartoon Rubinoff plays the title song, a novelty hit from the early 1920s, accompanying a tale about a factory-made Betty Boop doll landing in a toy store. There the Betty-doll gets a warm and grand welcome, she sings ‘I’m Glad I’m here’ and is crowned queen. Like in ‘Betty’s Hallowe’en Party’ the festivities are disturbed by a brutal (toy) gorilla. He destroys many toys and like many before him he kidnaps Betty. Interestingly enough, however, the gorilla’s intentions are not sexual, heralding the new sexless era. Instead, he wants to decapitate Betty as he needs a head for another broken doll. Luckily, the wooden army comes to the rescue, and the parade continues with the captured gorilla and many damaged toys. In the final shot we can see Betty’s panties from behind.

‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ is one of those Fleischer cartoons of 1933/1934 that clearly began to show a Disney influence, in this case from the Silly Symphony ‘Santa’s Workshop‘ (1932), which also features a toy parade. It’s most clear that the Fleischer’s animation had become more ambitious: the mechanical toys behave surprisingly toy-like, and even the Betty Boop doll is clearly mechanical in some scenes.

The Fleischers add some spectacular stagings, and the prologue to the theme song is no less than stunning, with the camera swooping from scene to scene, and zooming out to reveal the complete toy shop. Nevertheless, the funniest shot is typical Fleischer: in the opening scene we watch a giant factory deflating while producing the single package that will contain the Betty Boop doll.

Watch ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 23
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: She Wronged Him Right

‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 3, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party © ParamountBetty Boop invites a cold scarecrow to her Halloween party.

The scarecrow helps Betty with the preparations, decorating the walls with “witch paint” and “cat paint”. The party itself is very merry until a bullying gorilla arrives. When Betty pulls out the lights, however, suddenly some scary ghosts appear, and together with the painted witches they beat the gorilla out of the house.

‘Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party’ is an uneven, all too loosely composed and a little boring cartoon. It is noteworthy, however, for its most inspired score, which makes a clever use of Betty Boop’s theme song. When Betty’s answering door, one can see her panties from behind.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 22
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Morning Noon and Night
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Parade of the Wooden Soldiers

‘Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party’ is available on the DVD ‘Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Vol. 1’, and on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date:
 January 21, 1950
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny
Rating:
 ★★½
Review:

Hurdy-Gurdy Hare © Warner BrothersIn this cartoon Bugs Bunny apparently lives in Central Park, New York.

He buys a hurdy-gurdy with a monkey in order to become rich. But when the monkey betrays Bugs, Bugs fires him and goes fetching the money at the apartment block himself. The monkey then fetches his big brother (a gorilla) to fix Bugs. But in the end it’s the gorilla who collects money for Bugs.

‘Hurdy-gurdy Hare’ is an inconsistent and rather weak cartoon, which nevertheless contains a great ladder gag, in which Bugs quotes Groucho Marx. At the end, Bugs makes a reference to James Petrillo, leader of the American Federation of Musicians at the time.

Watch ‘Hurdy-gurdy Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.ulozto.net/live/xPiUKTr/bugs-bunny-hurdy-gurdy-hare-1950-avi

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 68
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rabbit Hood
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Mutiny on the Bunny

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 August 26, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Terror on the Midway © ParamountIn ‘Terror on the Midway’ Lois is reviewing something as mundane as a circus, when a small monkey accidentally releases a titanic gruesome gorilla.

The gorilla follows her, while Superman’s busy putting other animals back into their cages. He rescues Lois and captures the gorilla, but it remains unclear how he stops the fire that has started, too.

‘Terror in the Midway’ is one of those fortunate Superman shorts without a villain (see also ‘The Arctic Giant’ and ‘Volcano‘ from the same year). However, it also shows Fleischer’s ambivalent realism: it contains some generic Fleischer thirties children designs, which by 1942 really look old-fashioned, but there are also some rare close-ups of Lois and Superman, which add to the drama. The staging, too, is superb, with some spectacular shots.

The gorilla looks like a typical King Kong-like monster, despite the fact that its model sheet was partly based on rotoscoped movements of real gorillas. Apparently, Bambi-like naturalism was wasted on the Fleischers animators.

Terror on the midway gorilla modelsheet © Max Fleischer

gorilla modelsheet from ‘Terror on the midway’

Unfortunately, ‘Terror on the Midway’ would be the last Superman cartoon made by the Fleischer studios, before Paramount stole their crew to form their own Famous Studios. Indeed, it was the very last film the Fleischer brothers made together, ending an era that had begun 27 years earlier.

Watch ‘Terror on the Midway’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 9
To the previous Superman film: Volcano
To the next Superman film: Japoteurs

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: November 20, 1942
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Pluto at the Zoo © Walt DisneyWith ‘Pluto at the zoo’ director Clyde Geronimi delivers his most successful Pluto short.

In this short Pluto carries a tiny bone when he discovers a huge bone at the Lion’s cave. He decides to steal it, but this causes him lots of trouble with the lion, a kangaroo, a gorilla and several crocodiles.

Pluto’s pantomime is wonderful in this cartoon, and, unlike most of the previous entries directed by Geronimi, there’s an absence of sentimentality, which is nicely replaced by absurdism, with the simply hilarious gorilla sequence as a highlight within the whole series.

Watch ‘Pluto at the Zoo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 9
To the previous Pluto cartoon: T-Bone for Two
To the next Pluto cartoon: Private Pluto

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: June 17, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating:
Review:

Still from 'Mickey's Mechanical Man' featuring a gorilla boxing a robotMickey has build a robot to fight a gorilla in a boxing match, which is called “the battle of the century: machine vs. beast”.

Mickey’s robot has one disadvantage: he runs wild when he hears Minnie’s car horn. Luckily, this fact helps him in the end: when he’s clobbered by the gorilla (on the tune of Franz Liszt’s second Hungarian rhapsody), he seems almost lost. But then Minnie fetches her car horn, revitalizing the robot. From that point he actually cheats, using multiple boxing gloves, a hammer and hits below the belt.

Despite its clear story and high quality animation, ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man’ is a very weak short, and a low point in the otherwise outstanding Mickey Mouse year of 1933. The cartoon is surprisingly low on gags and it’s difficult to sympathize with the robot character, as it’s mechanical after all, while the gorilla is a living being. Moreover, Mickey’s motives remain unclear and we’re not invited to care about the match.

The cartoon most interesting feat. are the robot’s jerky movements, which are clearly mechanical and based on wind-up toys, but which become rather frantic and ridiculously elaborate when the robot goes wild. Nevertheless, there are some traces of Stan Laurel’s boxing moves from ‘Any Old Port’ (1932).

‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man’ is reminiscent of the Fleischer Studio’s equally weak ‘The Robot‘ (1932). Both films were inspired by rather hysterical stories about robots taking over jobs, which circulated in the early 1930s, and which struck a chord in an era of vast unemployment.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 57
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mail Pilot
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Gala Premier

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: September 22, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★★
Review:

A gruesome gorilla has escaped. Mickey rings Minnie to warn her about it, but she’s not afraid and she plays Mickey a tune* through the telephone, until the gorilla enters and kidnaps her. Of course Mickey rushes to her house to save her.

This cartoon is interesting for the rather extensive dialogue in the beginning of the cartoon. By now the Disney animators had mastered lip-synch, and neither Mickey nor Minnie show any awkward faces anymore while talking.

Even more interesting is the cartoon’s quite elaborately drawn gorilla, which in several scenes is staged originally to show its huge size. The cartoon is a great improvement on Mickey’s earlier horror cartoon, ‘The Haunted House‘ (1929) and cleverly explores the possibilities of suspense by using some spectacular elements of horror: whispers, shadows, darkness and false alarms. It also contains a classic corridor-with-doors-scene, which may very well be the very first in its genre.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 22
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Chain Gang
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Picnic

* The tune is “All Alone”, a hit song from 1924, which of course still was copyrighted in 1930. The use of a copyrighted tune marks a change in Disney’s musical policy. Apparently by 1930 he could afford it to pay rights. Disney’s use of well-known pop tunes remained sporadical, however. And Disney soon turned to producing hit songs of his own, most notably ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ from ‘Three Little Pigs‘ (1933).

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