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Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: October 23, 1941
Rating:  ★★★★
Review:

dumbo © walt disneyAlthough released before ‘Bambi’ (1942), Dumbo is essentially Disney’s fifth feature film (or sixth, if you take ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ in account).

The production on ‘Bambi’ in fact had already started in Disney’s golden age, when only the sky seemed the limit. But the disappointing box office results of costly ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Fantasia’ (both 1940) and the cut-off from foreign markets due to World War II completely changed the financial outlook of the Disney studio.

New projects were to be cheaper and simpler than the highly ambitious ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Bambi’. ‘The Reluctant Dragon’, of course, was the first result of this new policy, but ‘Dumbo’, too, is a product of this new era. Luckily it was very successful at the box office, but sadly, only six weeks after its premiere World War II hit the United States itself, and suddenly the Disney studio was faced with entirely new problems…

‘Dumbo’s origin lies in a little book by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, which has been completely eclipsed by Disney’s film. The first plans were to make into a short, but Joe Grant and Dick Huemer expanded it to feature length, even if barely. Clocking a mere sixty minutes, ‘Dumbo’ is the shortest, simplest and most direct of all Disney features. Its story is extremely straightforward, and sets in after a short setting introduction. When the film climaxes, with Dumbo’s first triumphant flight, the film has only four minutes left. In no other animated film things are rounded up so quickly in the end. It’s as if Dumbo’s success is way less interesting than his sorrow. Even the loss of the ‘magic feather’ provides only a few seconds of stress. A contemporary animation film would certainly expand this story idea with more predictable results.

With this lean story, the studio perfectly managed to focus on the character of little Dumbo (or Jumbo jr., which is his real name) himself. With his over-sized ears the adorable little elephant soon becomes the laughing stock of the circus, and when he ruins an act, he’s treated as an outcast. Even worse, when his mother tries to defend him, she’s locked up in solitary confinement, which means that Dumbo is separated from his mother. The relationship of Dumbo and his mother forms the heart of the film, and their scenes together, animated by Bill Tytla, excel in charm and tenderness. Especially Dumbo’s visit to his locked up mother is an emotional highlight, and the reunion of mother and son forms a pinnacle of emotional animation. Unfortunately, the studio knew too well that this was the case, and this scene is enhanced with a sentimental song, a crying Timothy, and shots of other animals and their cubs. This tendency of overdoing sentimentality has become a major problem in American animated features ever since. All this elaboration was unnecessary, as the simple interplay between mother and son clearly is marvelous enough to steal the heart of the greatest cynic.

Surprisingly, Dumbo, despite being the main protagonist of the film, doesn’t speak. In fact he hardly makes a sound, except for a few blows and hiccups here and there. His silence is countered by the talkative little mouse Timothy, who’s introduced after twenty minutes, and who, from then on, carries the film forward. It’s Timothy who acts as the little kid’s first helper, after his mother has been taken away, it’s Timothy who manages to get Dumbo in his first act, it’s Timothy who takes Dumbo to his mother, and it’s Timothy who helps Dumbo finds his real talent. Although much smaller than Dumbo, Timothy clearly is a much more confident character, speaking with Ed Brophy’s tough New York accent, and taking on guys bigger than him. He certainly is a marvelous character, and one of the best friend characters in any animation film. Nevertheless, with his arrival the film loses some of its show-don’t-tell-quality, which it has in its first scenes. For example, the building of the circus, and the scene in which Dumbo and his mother play hide and seek are prime examples of telling a story without words or any commentary.

However, Timothy is not the only great character in the film. There’s for example a gentle stork, voiced by Sterling Holloway, in his first Disney assignment. Holloway would become Disney’s all-time favorite voice actor, lasting until the 1970s. This stork takes his duty very seriously, insisting on singing happy birthday for the newborn. Also noteworthy is Casey Junior, the train. He is Disney’s first anthropomorphized train since ‘Mickey’s Choo-Choo’ from 1929, and only given a few short scenes, but these are delightful enough to make him one of the stars. ‘Casey Junior’ gets more footage in ‘The Reluctant Dragon’. Moreover, that film reveals how he speaks.

Then, of course, there are the other elephants, all female, and acting like a bunch of narrow-minded gossiping ladies. It seems that already before the arrival of Dumbo his mother is somewhat of an outcast. She clearly fits in less well in their petty little group. Rarely an uglier bunch of vile females hit the animated screen.

Even more memorable are the five crows who find Dumbo and Timothy up in the tree. These crows are clearly stereotyped blacks, but luckily they are actually voiced by blacks, except for their leader, who is voiced by Cliff Edwards (better known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in ‘Pinocchio’). And luckily they don’t show any abject stereotyped black character traits like being dumb, slow, lazy, fearful or addicted to gambling. Instead, they look like a bunch of fun-loving characters, and they help little Dumbo in the end. Animated by Ward Kimball, these crows are given a song-and-dance routine that has a wonderful jazzy air to it, even if the music hardly hasn’t.

The humans in ‘Dumbo’, on the other hand, are very anonymous. We only get to know the face of the Italian ringmaster, other characters only appear in silhouette or in greasepaint. During the circus building scene the workers are kept completely faceless, making the viewer focus on the work of the elephants, including Dumbo.

The music is very supportive to the story, and the songs hardly stop the action, if at all. Somehow the songs from Dumbo have become less classics than from ‘Snow White’ or ‘Pinocchio’. This is a pity, for composers Oliver Wallace and Frank Churchill and lyricist Ned Washington have produced a very inspired score, which matches the colorful scenes perfectly, with ‘Casey Junior’ and ‘When I See an Elephant Fly’ as major standouts.

And then, of course, there’s the pink elephant scene. This scene forms the break between Dumbo’s misery and triumph, and it’s the only scene to show real experimentalism (although one must admit that the circus building scene, with its strong angles and expressive staging is a very impressive example of cinematic expressionism). Directed by Jack Kinney, the wildest of Disney’s directors, it’s in fact the most surreal scene in studio animation since Bob Clampett’s ‘Porky in Wackyland’ (1938). Of absolute beauty is the elephant ballet, painted only in outlines. The scene knows a great deal of metamorphosis, a rare feat in Disney animation since ca. 1933. It’s a welcome return of one of the most powerful tools of animation. Some elements of the Pink Elephant scene hark all the way back to the boogie men sequence from the Silly Symphony ‘Lullaby Land’ (1933). In is turn it influenced later surreal sequences in e.g. ‘The Three Caballeros’ (1944) and ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day’ (1968).

In all, ‘Dumbo’ is a charming little film, with a lot of heart. Its cuteness never gets in the way, and its leanness makes it more accessible than any other Disney feature. What ‘Dumbo’ may lack in astonishing experimentalism, is compensated by a lot of color and delightfully playful animation. It’s by all means a little gem that can easily stand the test of time.

Or can it? As the years go by, ‘Dumbo’ may become less and less acceptable. It already contains a newspaper headline gag that makes it a clear product of the war era (‘Dumbombers for home defense’). Then there are the stereotyped crows, which certainly have become more problematic since then. Add the pink elephant scene, in which Dumbo (a little kid!) in fact gets drunk. I predict a time in which this scene will not be accepted anymore by the “politic correct”. And finally, there’s the circus setting itself. With the advent of television, the circus has known a steady decline, and in the 21st century the idea itself of animals performing becomes less and less acceptable. All these factors are a real threat to the film, and if we’re unlucky it will finally receive the same fate as ‘Song of the South’ (1948), which is virtually banned from life, leaving us with the dreary photo-realistic remake, which will be released on March 29 this year.

This would be a pity, for the original ‘Dumbo’ is great entertainment, and a prime example of what great animation is all about.

Watch the original trailer for ‘Dumbo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: June 28, 1940
Stars: Pluto, Butch
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Bone Trouble © Walt DisneyPluto’s solo career had a slow start: after his first own cartoon, ‘Pluto’s Quin-puplets’ our favorite mutt had to wait three more years for a second cartoon.

Compared to this first, cute cartoon, ‘Bone Trouble’ is an altogether different short: it’s a real exponent of the chase cartoon era: when Pluto steals a bone from vicious neighbor dog Butch, a chase soon follows into a surprisingly empty carnival. Most of the gags originate in Pluto’s adventures in a hall of mirrors. This is a wonderful place, having mirrors that are able to reflect Pluto as an alligator, a camel, an ape, a kangaroo and a seal.

Unlike many of the later Pluto shorts, ‘Bone Trouble’ is a genuine gag cartoon, greatly helped by the carnival atmosphere, and an excellent musical score. The short introduces Butch the bulldog. Butch was not the first vicious bulldog on the animated screen (for example, there’s one in the Betty Boop cartoon ‘You’re Not Built That Way’ from 1936), but he is the prototype of all subsequent animated bulldogs, most notably Spike, who made his debut in the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Dog Trouble’ (1942). Why in cartoons Bulldogs were always portrayed as bullies, we’ll never know, as real bulldogs look hardly like their cartoon counterparts.

‘Bone Trouble’ is also noteworthy for being the cartoon in which Jack Kinney’s makes his direction debut. Kinney became the studio’s best gag director, which he showed in the Goofy series, which in 1940 became his own. Kinney directed only one other Pluto cartoon: ‘Cold Storage‘ from 1951, which is even better than ‘Bone Trouble’.

Butch, meanwhile, would return in five other Pluto cartoons, ‘T-Bone for Two‘ (1942), ‘Canine Casanova’ (1945), ‘Pluto’s Kid Brother‘ (1946), ‘Pluto’s Purchase’ (1948) and ‘Pluto’s Heart Throb‘ (1950).

Watch ‘Bone trouble’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 2
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Quin-Puplets
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pantry Pirate

‘Bone Trouble’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Complete Pluto Volume One’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: December 26, 1941
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Art of Self Defense © Walt DisneyThe first five Goofy shorts all progressed the Goofy character, and none was like the previous one.

Goofy and Wilbur’ had made Goofy a solo star, ‘Goofy’s Glider’ introduced the pompous narrator John McLeish, ‘Baggage Buster’ rendered Goofy voiceless, and ‘How to Ride a Horse’ and ‘The Art of Skiing‘ put this all together into the archetypical sports cartoon.

Now, in ‘The Art of Self Defense’ another step was made: the duplication of Goofs. In the main body of the cartoon we still watch only one Goofy, but this is preceded by a historical overview of fighting, featuring several different goofs, even in caveman and hieroglyph form. Now Goofy could be anybody, and indeed, already in his next cartoon, ‘How to Play Baseball’ (1942) numerous Goofs flock the screen.

‘The Art of Self Defense’ is about boxing, and features Goofy being clobbered by his own shadow, and training endlessly, only to be knocked out in the ring within seconds. The very silly historical opening is the highlight of the cartoon, however, featuring great sound effects, and various depictions of time marching on. Also interesting is the boxing scene from the turn of the century, which figures very graphical quasi-etched background art.

Watch ‘The Art of Self Defense’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 5
To the previous Goofy cartoon: The Art of Skiing
To the next Goofy cartoon: How to Play Baseball

‘The Art of Self Defense’ is available on the DVD set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: November 14,1941
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Art of Skiing © Walt DisneyJack Kinney revolutionized the Goofy cartoon with the ‘How to Ride a Horse’ sequence in ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ from June 1941. The contrast between John McLeish’s all too sincere instructions, and Goofy’s original ways of acting them out, proved to be a highly successful one, and resulted in great comedy.

This concept was immediately put into action in the Goofy shorts, with ‘The Art of Skiing’ being the first example. This is Goofy’s first real sports cartoon, and it shows several aspects of skiing, like the slalom and the ski jump, all in Goofy’s own original fashion. The Alpine setting is enriched by yodels by Austrian alpine ski racer and professional yodeler Hannes Schroll (1909-1985), who’s also responsible for the very first Goofy yell, which is in fact a variation on his other yodels in the same short. The Goofy holler, as it came to be known, was an instant hit, and reappeared in several other Goofy cartoons, every time our beloved character made a great fall.

The Goofy holler even appeared outside the Goofy series, and can be heard in e.g. the Pluto shorts ‘Legend of Coyote Rock’ (1946) and ‘Food for Feudin’ (1950), and in the feature ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’.

‘The Art of Skiing’ also marks the first instance in which McLeish recites a poem. This story idea would be used to a great effect in ‘The Olympic Champ’ (1942). The best gags, however, involve Goofy trying to put on his trousers with his skis already attached, and Goofy trying to turn around with his skis. The endless string of predicaments story man Jack Cutting and the animators put the character in is both inventive and very funny.

Watch ‘The Art of Skiing’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 4
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Baggage Buster
To the next Goofy cartoon: The Art of Self Defense

‘The Art of Skiing’ is available on the DVD set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: April 18,1941
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Baggage Buster © Walt DisneyThe start of Goofy’s solo career was eventful, and all his five earliest solo cartoons can be regarded as key shorts in the evolution of the character.

‘Baggage Buster’ is a particularly transitional cartoon. The short was made after Pinto Colvig’s departure to the Max Fleischer studio in Miami, leaving Goofy voiceless. The result is that in ‘Baggage Buster’ Goofy has become a completely silent character, while by 1941 silent characters already had become a rare feat.

Of course, director Jack Kinney and his team would use this fact to their advantage in the great ‘how to’ cartoons, starting with ‘How to Ride a Horse’ sequence in ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ of two months later, but in ‘Baggage Buster’ Goofy still is his 1930s self. After ‘Baggage Buster’ Kinney never reverted to this version of the character, and he was only revived in a few Mickey Mouse shorts, and in the Goofy cartoons ‘Foul Hunting’ (1947, by Jack Hannah) and ‘The Big Wash’ (1948, by Clyde Geronimi). In these two cartoons, however, Goofy speaks again, leaving ‘Baggage Buster’ being the sole cartoon in which our character remains a strange mix of the 1930s Goof and the 1940s silent character.

Like Donald had been in his first solo cartoon, ‘Donald’s Ostrich’ (1937), Goofy is a station master at some remote train station. And where Donald had to deal with an all too hungry ostrich, Goofy struggles with a magician’s trunk. The trunk knows quite some tricks, and even defies gravity, giving Goofy a hard time. The most bizarre scene is when Goofy’s body largely disappears inside the magician’s hat, leaving him walking on his arms.

The cartoon ends with the trunk producing an endless stream of animals, and soon Goofy’s little station is flocked by e.g. a lion, an armadillo, a shark, a flying squirrel, a giraffe, a crocodile, a stork (carrying a baby), a seal, an elephant, an ant eater, and even a sperm whale and a dinosaur…

As is often the case with cartoons dealing with magic, however, the humor never reaches great heights, as the magic permits an ‘anything can happen’ mantra, which spoils the fun. It’s so much funnier when cartoon magic is applied without the ‘it’s magic’ excuse.

Goofy’s looks once again are more streamlined than before, but only with ‘How to Ride a Horse’ he would reach his new appearance, which would last until he was redesigned once again, for ‘Tennis Racquet’ in 1949.

Watch ‘Baggage Buster’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 3
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Goofy’s Glider
To the next Goofy cartoon: The Art of Skiing

‘Baggage Buster’ is available on the DVD set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy’

 

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: November 22, 1940
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Goofy's Glider © Walt DisneyIn ‘Goofy’s Glider’ our likable goof tries to reach the sky in a self-made glider plane.

We watch several attempts, highlights of which are a failed shot with a catapult, in which Goofy manages to launch himself without his plane, and the scene in which he takes the sky upside down.

The looks of ‘Goofy’s Glider’ are less gorgeous than that of Goofy’s first cartoon, ‘Goofy and Wilbur‘ (1939). Goofy’s design has become more streamlined, and the overall art is leaner, and less Silly Symphony-like. Yet, ‘Goofy’s Glider’ is a more mature cartoon than Goofy’s debut film. It’s humor is more assured, sillier, better timed, and thus funnier.

Moreover, this cartoon forms an important step in the evolution of Goofy: first, it’s the first Goofy short directed by Jack Kinney, who had made his directing debut with the Pluto short ‘Bone Trouble‘ earlier that year, and who would direct almost every Goofy cartoon until the very end of the series in 1953. Second, it introduces the ‘how to’ formula, in which Goofy tries to achieve a goal, helped by an off-screen narrator, in a series of blackout gags. And third, it introduces story man John McLeish as the off screen narrator, helping Goofy through his series of attempts, with his particularly pompous voice, which contrasted perfectly with Goofy’s antics on the screen.

The cartoon’s rather revolutionary blackout gag formula was most probably based on Tex Avery’s spot gag cartoons of the late 1930s (e.g. ‘Detouring America’ of 1939 and ‘Cross Country Detours’ of 1940). But where Avery stuck to rather unrelated gags, Kinney applied the formula to several attempts by one character to achieve one goal. Even if this idea owes something to the Donald Duck short ‘Donald’s Nephews‘ (1938), which also features a book to bridge the gags, it was a revolutionary step forward, fit for the chase cartoon era. In this respect, ‘Goofy’s Glider’ is the ancestor to the format of most chase cartoons, and that of the Tweety and Sylvester and Roadrunner series in particular. As such, it even predates Frank Tashlin’s Fox and Crow series, which is often cited as most influential in this respect. This formula, at least, was used in most of Goofy’s coming sports cartoons.

It remains a little unclear who’s Goofy’s voice in this cartoon. Pinto Colvig had left for the Fleischer studio in Miami, and the dialogue in this cartoon feels detached from the images, as if it had been recorded after the animation. In several scenes lip synch is poor, and in the first scene it’s even completely absent. Plus, several vocalizations occur when Goofy’s face cannot be seen. On the other hand, there’s clearly some new dialogue and even some singing. Some internet sources state that one George Johnson is Goofy’s voice in this cartoon, and even in ‘Goofy and Wilbur’. I find this hard to believe. If so, why did Goofy become a silent character? If Johnson did the voices in these two cartoons, he obviously did an excellent job, and would have proven to be a worthy successor of Colvig. Yet, with Goofy’s next cartoon, ‘Baggage Buster’ the character would be completely silent.

Moreover, in his memoirs Jack Kinney doesn’t mention Johnson, stating that Colvig’s leave was the cause of the silencing of the character:

“Voice-over was the only choice, because, as we saw it, the Goof couldn’t talk much, if at all. The reason for this was that Pinto Colvig, the old circus hand who had done Goofy’s patter for years, had left the studio. Consequently, all the Goof’s manic mutterings had to be lifted from the studio library of sound tracks.”

(Cited from: ‘Walt Disney and Assorted Other Characters – An unauthorized Account of the Early Years at Disney’s’ – page 123).

I therefore suspect that in both Goofy’s earliest cartoons Colvig is still responsible for the vocalizations, and somehow his parts for ‘Goofy’s Glider’ were rushed. But I must admit that I’ve no proof for this hypothesis, and I would be happy to be corrected.

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

This is Goofy cartoon No. 2
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Goofy and Wilbur
To the next Goofy cartoon: Baggage Buster

‘Goofy’s Glider’ is available on the DVD set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy’

 

Directors: Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske & Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: August 24, 1942
Stars: Donald Duck, Goofy, Joe Carioca
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Saludos Amigos © Walt Disney‘Saludos Amigos’ was the first result of a two-month trip to South America Walt Disney made with eighteen people from his staff, including animator Norm Ferguson and designers Mary and Lee Blair.

This trip was financed by the Coordinator of Inter-American affairs, and ‘Saludos Amigos’ feels like an advertisement for South America. It’s the first of several ‘package films’ Disney made in the 1940s, and like its followers, it is uneven. There is not much of a story, just a live action travelogue across Bolivia, Chile, Argentine, and Brazil. In between there are four cartoon sequences: Donald Duck as a tourist at Lake Titicaca, the story of Pedro the airplane, Goofy as a Gaucho and a samba sequence featuring Donald and a new character, Joe Carioca.

Donald’s antics at Lake Titicaca are only mildly funny, until its finale, the suspension bridge scene, which evokes a genuine sense of heights. Pedro the airplane is a children’s story using a narrator. It’s probably the first animation film starring a humanized vehicle, and very successful at that. Pedro is well-designed, being both a plane and a likable little boy. His story reaches an exciting climax when Pedro gets caught in a storm near Aconcagua. ‘Goofy as a gaucho’ is a nice follow-up to ‘How to ride a horse’ from ‘The Reluctant Dragon‘ (1941), with Goofy acting as an Argentine gaucho. This sequence is based on the art of Argentine painter Florencio Molina Campos (1891-1959), without being as gritty. The result is both educational and funny.

However, the real highlight of the film is its finale, in which Donald meets the Brazilian parrot Joe Carioca. Both dance to a samba, following a background which is created ‘on the spot’ by a brush. This sequence is alive with creativity, seemingly introducing a new era of more stylized images and brighter colors, which would dominate the 1940s and 1950s.

Joe Carioca was such an intoxicating character, he was returned to the screen, where he would reunite with Donald in ‘The Three Caballeros‘ (1944) and ‘Melody Time‘ (1948), in still more stylized and colorful scenes.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Saludos Amigos’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: October 21, 1951
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Fathers Are People © Walt DisneyThis third cartoon of the Mr. Geef-series starts with our hero announcing to his colleagues that he has become a father.

We quickly move to several years later, when his son has become a hyper-active and extremely playful young boy, who troubles his father a lot. Like the other George Geef cartoons the humor of the cartoon stems mostly from its recognisability. Fathers can connect immediately to Mr. Geef’s problems with his son.

Although it’s not brought with great bravado, ‘Fathers are People’ is a milestone within the Disney catalog: for the first time a Disney star becomes a parent. Although it may be debatable whether Mr. Geef really is Goofy, the son is his, he’s not some nephew or whatever, like Huey, Dewey and Louie are. This is a very rare happening in the complete cartoon universe. True, Oswald became a father in ‘Poor Papa’ (1927), but this was a pilot film, and Oswald wasn’t a star, yet. And indeed, Pete was the first Disney cartoon character shown to be a father, having a son in ‘Bellboy Donald‘, 1942, but that cartoon didn’t celebrate a birth.

Anyway, George Geef jr. would return the next year in ‘Father’s Lion’. But in ‘A Goofy Movie’ (1995) Goofy had a very different and older son called Max, so maybe George Geef and Goofy weren’t one and the same, after all…

Watch ‘Fathers are People’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 32
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Get Rich Quick
To the next Goofy cartoon: No Smoking

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: June 29, 1951
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Tomorrow We Diet © Walt DisneySeveral of the Goofy cartoons of the 1950s cover everyday problems like driving and smoking, and, in ‘Tomorrow We Diet!’, dieting. These subjects remain remarkably topical, which makes them enjoyable to watch today.

‘Tomorrow We Diet’ features a particular fat type of Goofy with a weird faint voice. This fat Goofy is encouraged to diet by his rather independent mirror image. This unfortunately leads to hallucinations of food and to sleep-walking. When he finally gives in to his hunger he discovers that ‘the man in the mirror’ has eaten everything.

The highlights of the cartoon are a number of fatness gags, and the nightmarish hallucination sequence with its continuous voices saying “eat!”

Watch ‘Tomorrow We Diet!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 30
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Cold War
To the next Goofy cartoon: Get Rich Quick

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: April 27, 1951
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Cold War © Walt Disney‘Cold War’ introduces a new name for the Goofy character as the average American, as he had already been portrayed in ‘Goofy Gymnastics‘ (1949) and ‘Hold That Pose‘ (1950).

From now on our hero is known as Mr. George G. Geef, who has a characterless, average voice and who is married to a human wife, of whom we only see her arms and legs. Despite these departures, ‘Cold War’ stills uses the voice over from the sports cartoons, putting the cartoon firmly back into a great tradition. Nevertheless, George G. Geef has little to do with the original Goofy from ‘On Ice‘ (1935), and it’s almost inconceivable that it’s still the same character.

As George Geef Goofy would deal with the troubles of the average American man, like diets, children, and cigarettes. And so, in this first entry of the ‘George Geef’ series within the Goofy series, Mr. Geef catches a cold at work, and is nursed to the max by his over-caring wife…

Watch ‘Cold War’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 29
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Home Made Home
To the next Goofy cartoon: Tomorrow We Diet!

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: March 23, 1951
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★
Review:

Home Made Home © Walt DisneyIn ‘Home Made Home’ Goofy tries to build his own house.

‘Home Made Home’ features the updated design of Goofy, introduced in ‘Tennis Racquet‘ (1949). Nevertheless, this cartoon has an old-fashioned feel to it. Like the sports cartoons from the 1940s, it uses a pompous narrator, and Goofy’s original voice. Moreover, the cartoon consists of three elongated situation gags in a style we had not seen since the 1930s. In the first Goofy is trapped in a blueprint, in the second he has to deal with a glass panel with a will of his own, recalling the piano from ‘Moving Day‘ (1937), and in the third he has to battle a snake-like paint-gun.

The gags are clever at times. Nevertheless, this short is rather slow and unfunny and only a shadow of the 1930s cartoons, the style of which it seems to try to evoke.

Watch ‘Home Made Home’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 28
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Lion Down
To the next Goofy cartoon: Cold War

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: February 9, 1951
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Cold Storage © Walt DisneyCold Storage is the second of only two Pluto cartoons directed by Jack Kinney, the other being ‘Bone Trouble‘ from 1940.

Jack Kinney was Disney’s best gag cartoon director, and ‘Cold Storage’ is no exception. The story is set in wintertime. A freezing stork seeks shelter in Pluto’s dog house. When an equally cold Pluto returns home, a battle for the dog house begins.

Highlight of the film is when Pluto discovers his doghouse is moving and flying. Pluto’s facial expressions are priceless in this section. However, throughout the picture the animation of Pluto is expressive and flexible, full of great facial expressions and extreme poses. The interplay between the two characters is excellent and accounts for many gags.  In the end the already zany cartoon turns absurd, when winter suddenly gives way to a hot summer day…

Watch ‘Cold Storage’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 41
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Camp Dog
To the next Pluto cartoon: Plutopia

Director: Jack Kinney
Release date: October 15, 1954
Rating: ★★
Review:

Social Lion © Walt DisneyIn this narrated short a lion deliberately gets himself caught to scare the people in New York. Unfortunately, he’s all but unnoticed there.

‘Social Lion’ was the last of three ‘special cartoons’ Jack Kinney directed in 1954, after his own Goofy series had stopped. It is, unfortunately, not a very successful cartoon. Its narration is trite, its timing poor and its animation, by veteran Norm Ferguson, heterogeneous: the full animation of the lion is awkwardly out of contact with the highly stylized animation of the humans.

Unfortunately, ‘Social Lion’ would be the great animator’s last statement. the Disney studio fired Ferguson in July 1953. He died four years later of a heart-attack, at the premature age of 45.

The cartoon reuses the weird safari song from Kinney’s earlier, way more successful short ‘African Diary’ (1945).

Watch ‘Social Lion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Social Lion’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release date: May 21, 1954
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Pigs Is Pigs © Walt DisneyAfter his own Goofy series had stopped in 1953, Jack Kinney directed six other shorts at the Walt Disney Studio.

‘Pigs is Pigs’ is probably the best of the lot. It’s a story in rhyme and song about a railway station employee who does everything by the rules. At one day he has a dispute with a Scotchman about whether guinea pigs are pigs or not. The guinea pigs remain at the station until the bureaucrats of his company have found out the answer. Unfortunately, the animals multiply by the hour, soon filling the complete station.

The designs and animation of this short are highly stylized, making ‘Pigs is Pigs’ a prime example of ‘cartoon modern’, despite its 1905 setting. The scenes at the railway company are the best, ruthlessly parodying the aimless ways of bureaucracy.

Watch ‘Pigs is Pigs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pig is Pigs’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: March 5, 1954
Stars: Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Donald's Diary © Walt DisneyIn this strange and original cartoon Donald is a bachelor in San Francisco during the 1920s, who falls in love with Daisy, but who flees from the prospect of marriage, after having a horrible nightmare.

Like Mickey in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932), Donald has a rather distorted view of married life. While Mickey was haunted by hundreds of little kids, Donald’s fear is virtual slavery.

This short is narrated by an eloquent voice over (reminiscent of Donald’s dream voice in the cartoon of the same name from 1948), supposedly Donald’s ‘written’ voice. Most of the gags originate in the contrast between what’s being said and what the viewer sees.

‘Donald’s Diary’ is a very atypical Donald Duck cartoon. Maybe because it was not directed by his regular director Jack Hannah, but by Jack Kinney, whose own Goofy series had stopped the previous year. The short uses strong and beautiful 1950s backgrounds, more angular animation, and a very different design of Daisy. Moreover, Huey, Dewey and Louie are not Donald’s nephews here, but Daisy’s little brothers.

‘Donald’s Diary’ was the fourth of five Donald Duck cartoons Jack Kinney directed. In it he reused some animation from his first Donald Duck cartoon, ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face‘ from 1943.

Watch ‘Donald’s Diary’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 105
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Spare the Rod
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Dragon Around

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: February 24, 1956
Stars: Donald Duck, Chip ‘n Dale
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Chips Ahoy © Walt DisneyThis Cinemascope cartoon is one of finals. It was the last screen appearance of Chip ‘n Dale, it was the last non-educational Donald Duck short and it was the last cartoon directed by Goofy director Jack Kinney, whose own Goofy series had stopped three years earlier.

The short features a quite ordinary battle between Chip ‘n Dale and Donald. This time the squirrels steal Donald’s miniature boat to sail to an island full of acorns. Highlights are Donald acting out a thunderstorm and Dale’s deadpan reactions to Donald’s attempts to persuade them into various boats.

By 1956 Jack Kinney, the greatest director of comedy the Disney studio had ever seen, had been out of favor for some time, and on March 13, 1958 he was fired. He continued animating during the dark ages of animation, in which animation was only seen in light of expenses. He worked on UPA’s first feature, ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ and on Popeye films for television, besides several small and often unfinished projects with his own animation company. In 1988 he wrote his highly entertaining and richly illustrated autobiography ‘Walt Disney and Assorted other Characters’. Jack Kinney passed away on February 9, 1992, 82 years old.

Watch ‘Chips Ahoy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 114
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Up a Tree
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: How to Have an Accident in the Home

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: March 3, 1950
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Brave Engineer © Walt DisneyAfter the Walt Disney studios quit its package features, it started to release ‘specials’ again, one-shot cartoons featuring no recurring character.

These specials were essentially the successors of the Silly Symphonies, and a few were made during World War II. However, most of them were made in the fifties, if not necessarily to advance animation, then certainly to keep animators busy between feature films. Unfortunately, almost none of these shorts match the inventiveness of the Silly Symphonies or were really successful (the Academy Award winning ‘Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom’ (1953) is the prime exception).

For example, ‘The Brave engineer’, the first special from the fifties, looks like it has been a left-over from the compilation feature ‘Melody Time‘ (1948). Like this feature’s sequences ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘ and ‘Pecos Bill‘, it’s a half sung and half narrated tall-tale based on a poem about a legendary American hero from the 19th century.

This time comedian Jerry Colonna sings and tells the story of Casey Jones, a train engineer, a character who really existed. In the cartoon Casey desperately tries to deliver the western mail on time. On the way he encounters all the cliches featured in westerns involving trains: a damsel on the rails, train robbers and a villain who blows up a bridge. The ride ends in a clash with another train. Unlike the real Casey Jones, who died in the crash, the cartoon Casey survives and delivers the mail on time, almost…

Despite the relatively fast pace and many corny gags, the story never really takes off. The viewer somehow never gets involved in the story and remains uninterested to the end.

Watch ‘The Brave Engineer’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Brave Engineer’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: January 5, 1951
Stars: Goofy, the mountain lion
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Lion Down © Walt DisneyIn this short Goofy inhabits a house on the top floor of a large apartment block. He needs an extra tree for his hammock, so he fetches one from a forest nearby.

Unfortunately, he’s visited by the tree’s former owner, the mountain lion from the Donald Duck short ‘Lion Around‘ (1950), and together they fight over the hammock.

The gag routine is laid out well, involving many ringings of doorbells and falls from great heights, resulting in an extraordinarily long falling sequence. However, the comedy is hampered by irritating vocal sounds by both Goofy and the mountain lion, and by a slightly sloppy timing. This is too bad, for a possibly very funny cartoon now only becomes average.

In 1952 the mountain lion would reappear again in the Goofy short ‘Father’s Lion’.

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

This is Goofy cartoon No. 27
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Hold That Pose
To the next Goofy cartoon: Home Made Home

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: November 30, 1950
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Hold That Pose © Walt DisneyThis cartoon starts with the opening shot of a tired Goofy dragging himself into his own home from ‘Goofy Gymnastics‘ from the previous year.

This time, however, the voice over advises Goofy to get a hobby, for example photography. This leads to several great photography gags, especially when Goofy tries to make pictures of a bear, which results in a long, fast and gag-packed chase sequence involving a funfair. It also reuses a gag involving a cab from ‘Baseball Bugs‘ (1946), showing Jack Kinney’s interest in the gag language of Disney’s rivals.

‘Hold that pose’ is one of Goofy’s funniest shorts, and certainly one of his best cartoons of the fifties.

Watch ‘Hold That Pose’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 26
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Motor Mania
To the next Goofy cartoon: Lion Down

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date:
 June 30, 1950
Stars:
 Goofy
Rating:
 ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Motor Mania © Walt DisneyIn this cartoon a particularly civilized type of Goofy, an “average man” called Mr. Walker, changes into a Mr. Hyde-like wildman called Mr. Wheeler, once he sits behind the wheel of his car.

‘Motor mania’ is a quite disturbing film about road manners, it even becomes nightmarish when we watch cars bark at a helpless pedestrian. It is as moralistic as it is funny. And it remains somehow strikingly relevant today, making it an original classic within the Goofy series.

‘Motor Mania’ is the only Goofy cartoon in which our hero is depicted as an unsympathetic and even evil character. But by now Goofy had lost all his former persona. He had changed into a random citizen, so it works very well.

‘Motor Mania’ forms another step in the evolution of Goofy into the American everyman. By now Goofy had replaced Donald Duck as a representative of the American citizen. Donald Duck had been the average citizen in the 1940s, but at the end of the decade his role had been diminished, evolving into a straight man for the antics of Chip ‘n Dale, the little bee and such. Jack Kinney’s Goofy took over, cumulating in the typical 1950s everyman, George Geef, in ‘Cold War‘ from the next year.

Watch ‘Motor Mania’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 25
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Goofy Gymnastics
To the next Goofy cartoon: Hold That Pose

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