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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 23, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
The short starts with Bimbo crashing on an island on a boat, into Betty Boop’s arms. A waterfall throws them into a spot full of singing trees, and later they’re confronted with a bunch of cannibals. Bimbo disguises himself as ‘black’ using mud, and starts singing the Hawaiian war chant. Thus he becomes the natives’ king. The cannibals perform for him, and Betty, too, who dances an extraordinarily sexy hula dance only dressed in a skirt and a flower garland. Unfortunately, the rain washes off Bimbo’s disguise and the two have to flee in a boat.
The movements of the dancing natives and Betty are rotoscoped from the Royal Samoans, rendering them very convincing and lifelike, indeed. Betty Boop’s hula dance is arguably her best scene ever. Apart from this, the cartoon is stuffed with throwaway gags showing the Fleischer’s typical brand of surrealism.
Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’
Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 3, 1943
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Then they land on a tropical, quasi-Hawaiian island, which strangely enough is inhabited by Bugs Bunny, and the two hungry men immediately try to catch and eat our hero. Of course they don’t manage to do so, and in a hilarious end scene, it’s Bugs, not they, who sails off on an ocean stormer into the distance.
The two castaways were modeled on the cartoon’s story men, Tedd Pierce (the tall one) and Michael Maltese (the short one), and the two men actually voiced their cartoon counterparts themselves.
The cartoon’s real stars however, are its outrageous backgrounds. Designed by Bernyce Polifka and painted by her husband, Gene Fleury, they are arguably the boldest backgrounds in any cartoon from the pre-UPA-era. The island is depicted in brassy, strangely colored, semi-abstract to abstract images, with no sense of three-dimensionality, whatsoever. Nevertheless, the clearly three-dimensional characters read surprisingly well against the outlandish backgrounds.
Polifka had replaced John McGrew, who had worked with Fleury on experimental backgrounds for Chuck Jones cartoons like ‘Conrad the Sailor‘ (1942) and ‘The Aristo-Cat‘ (1943), but who had joined the navy in 1942. The couple shared McGrew’s boldness, and worked with Jones on ‘Hell-Bent for Election’ (1944), one of UPA’s earliest films. But apparently they left Warner Bros. somewhere in 1943-1944. In 1949 they worked for Lou Bunin’s part live action part stop motion feature ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but after this job, they seemingly disappeared from the animation world. So, ‘Wackiki Wabbit’ remains their most famous and greatest legacy. The backgrounds themselves can be admired on the late Michael Sporn’s excellent blogpost on this cartoon.
Watch ‘Wackiki Wabbit’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 18
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Jack Rabbit and the Beanstalk
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: A Corny Concerto
Directors: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders
Release Date: June 21, 2002
All too soon our fluffy little mutant escapes and he ends at the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where he befriends lonely little Lilo, who lives a difficult life with her older sister Nani after the death of their parents. Here Stitch learns to tone down his inclination to destruction and how to love and care.
‘Lilo & Stitch’ is a very appealing film. Its designs, based on Chris Sanders’ idiosyncratic story drawings, are round, cuddly and original. Adding to the friendly atmosphere are the lush watercolor backgrounds, the first in a Disney feature since ‘Bambi‘ (1942). The animation is superb throughout, and Lilo, Stitch and Nani are round and instantly likable characters, who have nothing of the wisecracking arrogance of many other animated characters from the era. The film’s familiar family theme never gets cloying and is countered by a lot of humor. The result is a film full of love and joy.
Probably, because it was made in Orlando, Florida, far from the main company, the film also eschews the rather tiresome Disney musical convention, and features an original soundtrack featuring Elvis Presley songs and Hawaiian chants, instead. True, the plot borrows freely from ‘Men in Black’ (1997), and the science fiction setting feels a little awkward in a Disney film, but the story of loneliness, love and acceptance is well-told, and equally appealing to the young and old.
Moreover, the film proves that one can perfectly well make a good movie out of original and typical elements. A film maker like Hayao Miyazaki knows this, off course. But unfortunately, this message has been lost on the American animation studios, as very few of the subsequent American feature films succeeded in displaying this level of originality in characterization, soundtrack and design. Thus ‘Lilo & Stitch’ remains as Disney’s best attempt at an ‘author film’ (not counting the almost forgotten ‘Teacher’s Pet’ from 2004).
Unfortunately, ‘Lilo & Stitch’ seemed to be Disney’s last masterpiece of traditional animation. Even though it was followed by yet two other 2D animation features, it marked an end of an era lasting 65 years. Disney soon jumped the computer animation band wagon with rather mediocre results, arguably only hitting their stride in 2010 with ‘Tangled‘. Luckily, in 2009 the studio made a surprising, but unfortunately isolated return to the traditional medium with the excellent ‘The Princess and the Frog’.
Watch the trailer for ‘Lilo & Stitch’ yourself and tell me what you think: