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Director: James Algar
Release Date: 1942
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Four Methods of Flush Riveting © Walt DisneyOf all milestones of Disney animation, ‘Four Methods of Flush Riveting’ is the most unassuming and certainly the most boring.

It was made in early 1941, thus before The United States had entered the war, for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, which was located nearby the Disney studio at Burbank. The film was “produced under the technical direction of the Lockheed Aircraft Cop.”, and without doubt very useful, but it was in fact a pilot film. As the title card states:

The following film uses a simplified technique developed by the Walt Disney studio to demonstrate the quickest and cheapest method whereby the animation medium can be applied to National Defense Training”.

Both 1940 features ‘Pinocchio‘ and ‘Fantasia’ had lost money, and Disney was looking for new opportunities to earn some. In World War I J.R. Bray had demonstrated that animation film could be used perfectly for training the troops, thus pioneering the educational animation film. Nevertheless, between World War I and World War II only few educational films were made.

Disney’s new technique is in fact limited animation. As such it is the mother of all animated instruction films up to the present day, but even more of limited animation as an art, which would be explored more and more during the 1950s and 1960s.

The immediate effect on the Disney studio was that it sprouted commissions for several instruction films, mostly for the army and the navy, starting with ‘Stop That Tank!‘ for the National Film Board of Canada.

During World War II the Disney studio produced no less than 200 different training films for the armed forces. Moreover, limited animation immediately entered propaganda shorts, like ‘The Thrifty Pig‘ (1941) and such, as well as features, like ‘The Three Caballeros‘ (1944).

The film itself is very dry, and as educational as it is dull. Its most interesting feature is the use of a structured blue monochrome background against which the clean, airbrushed objects read very well. The idea of using monochromes and structures in backgrounds was going to be of as much importance as limited animation to the more forward looking forces in the animation field, and the UPA studio, which sprouted from the 1941 Disney strike, in particular.

Watch ‘Four Methods of Flush Riveting’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Directors: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney
Release Date: October 5, 1949
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow © Walt DisneyThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow, told and sung by Bing Crosby, quite faithfully retells the story by Washington Irving.

The story tells us about the skinny schoolmaster Ichabod Crane who tries to court Katrina van Tassel, the most beautiful girl in town, while ignoring his rival Brom Bones. At Halloween Bones tells a spooky story about a headless horseman, scaring the schoolmaster to death. And when on the way home he really encounters a headless horseman, he’s never seen again…

The animation of Ichabod Crane and Katrina van Tassel both show how familiar the animators had become with the human figure. Ichabod Crane is an awkward, slender figure, but human, nonetheless. Katrina both has a sexy, graceful charm, as well as stylized moves, which make her a little abstract, like an all too beautiful woman can be in the hearts of men. Certainly, in the next feature, ‘Cinderella‘ (1950) the animators were confident enough to let human characters star a feature for the first time since ‘Pinocchio‘ (1940).

This film’s highlight, however, are the wonderful backgrounds, which were lacking in the first story, ‘The Wind in the Willows‘. In ‘The legend of Sleepy Hollow’ the backgrounds are stylized, with striking colors, and most of the times clearly inspired by Mary Blair. The background artists’ art reaches its peak in the stunning scary forest scene, an elaboration on the scary forest in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937). This climatic scene, in which Ichabod Crane is confronted with the headless horseman, makes effective use of expressionistic coloring, like the best parts in ‘Fantasia’ (1940) and ‘Bambi‘ (1942).

These positive aspects, however, cannot rescue this film, which is rather slow, and totally devoid of sympathetic characters. In the end one has to conclude that this second part of the feature, like the first, is not particularly interesting or memorable.

Watch ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney
Release Date: October 5, 1949
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Wind in the Willows © Walt Disney‘The Wind in the Willows’ is the first of the two stories that make up the compilation feature ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad‘. 

This story had originally been conceived in 1938 as a possible feature film, before it was shelved in 1942. The 1949 version is clearly truncated, and it shows. This story tells only an episode from ‘The wind in the Willows’ starring the enthusiastic Toad, whose love for chariots and cars causes a lot of trouble for himself and his quiet, all too British friends Water rat, Mole and Badger. The story is quite unfaithful to the book, giving a large role to one Cyril the horse and containing both a long scene at the court and a long sequence in which our four friends try to steal a document from a gang of weasels.

Although the English feel is retained, this version of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ completely lacks the poetry so typical for the book. Sure, Toad’s intoxicating character has been transferred to the screen very well, but the characters beside him never really come off. Moreover, the story is told too unevenly to be either exciting or endearing, and the interplay between animals and humans remains unconvincing. The backgrounds are uninspired, especially when compared to those in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow‘, except for those in the winter train sequence. The weasels, which are animated excellently with broad comedy, anticipate those in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ (1987).

Watch ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney
Release Date: October 5, 1949
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad © Walt DisneyThe adventures of ‘Ichabod and Mr. Toad’ was the last of the Disney compilation features so typical of the 1940s.

Like ‘Fun and Fancy Free‘ (1947) it consists of only two stories, this time both drawn from literature. Both use a narrator, which gives the films a feeling of moving illustrations. Neither of the stories is particularly endearing: the story of Mr. Toad lacks the poetry of the original story, the story of Sleepy Hollow lacks speed. It would be a happy return to direct story telling (opposed to using voice overs) in ‘Cinderella‘, the next year.

The six directing animators of this feature all belong to the group of ‘nine old men’.

‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’ consists of the following two episodes, which I will discuss in more detail elsewhere:

1. The Wind in the Willows
2. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Watch ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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