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Director: Olga Khodatayeva
Release Date: 1950
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Magic Windmill © Soyuzmultfilm‘The Magic Windmill’ is one of the classic fairy-tale films produced by the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

In this short an old man, a cat and a cock are having trouble to feed all the animals who seek shelter at their place. Therefore they ask the mountain god for help, who gives them a magical little windmill, which produces endless amounts of breads out of of a few grains of corn. Unfortunately, rumor spreads, and soon the little windmill is stolen by a greedy king. But the cock flies to his palace and brings back the magical object, despite several attempts on his life.

‘The Magic Windmill’ is a gentle, if what overlong little film based on a Russian fairy-tale. It uses a naturalistic style, clearly influenced by Disney, with watercolor backgrounds, and a multiplane camera effect in its opening scene . The animal designs are an interesting mix of the Disney style and Russian illustration art. The animation, however, leaves a lot to desire. The animation of movement is awkward, with most characters moving in a slow, all too constant speed. The film uses dialogue in rhyme, but the lip synchronization with the characters is poor.

Despite these flaws, ‘The Magic Windmill’ is a film of great poetry, and one of the best of the Russian fairy tale films of the fifties. Indeed, director Khodatayeva was a veteran of soviet animation, having made films since the 1920s.

Watch ‘The Magic Windmill’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

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Director: Władysław Starewicz
Release Date: 1922
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Frogs Who Wanted a King © Ladislav StarewiczAfter the October revolution, Władysław Starewicz fled to France, where he continued to make stop motion films until his death in 1965. ‘The Frogs Who Wanted a King’ is the fourth film he made in France, and probably his most political.

The film is based on one of Aesop’s fables. Some frogs ask Jupiter for a king. Jupiter sends them one, but the king looks like a tree and does nothing at all. The frogs don’t like him, so Jupiter sends them a stork, who, naturally, eats the unfortunate amphibians.

The message may be that it’s better to have a dull government than one that kills you, a message Starewicz could certainly relate to, being forced to exile by the oppressing communist regime in Russia.

Once again, Starewicz’ animation is top notch. The film has a particularly fable-like character, taking place in its own, very convincing universe.

Watch ‘The Frogs Who Wanted a King’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: May 25, 1935
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Cookie Carnival © Walt DisneyOf all Silly Symphonies this one is particularly silly. The very idea of a cookie land is as original as it is looney.

Yet, the cartoon is literally sugary, not funny. The story, about a Charlie Chaplin-like tramp (voiced by Pinto Colvig) making a poor lonesome girl queen of the parade, is pure sentimental melodrama. Moreover, the characters speak in operetta-like recitatives and when the girl, having become queen, has to choose a king the cartoon shifts to a tiresome medley of song-and-dance-routines.

Nevertheless, the art direction of this Silly Symphony is stunning and its backgrounds lush and beautiful, making this one of the most impressive cartoons of the era. The girl is quite beautifully animated by Gram Natwick, the man who had created Betty Boop five years earlier, and who had joined Disney in 1934. After her transformation into a carnival queen, the girl doesn’t resemble a cookie at all, but she is pictured and animated as a real girl. Natwick would later be an animator on Snow White in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937), and it’s as if the cookie girl was Natwick’s exercise for the real thing.

Notice the contrast between the sissy Angelic Cakes and the fun-loving Devil Cakes, whose theme music is jazz (the most ‘evil’ music of the era).

Watch ‘The Cookie Carnival’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 53
To the previous Silly Symphony: Water Babies
To the next Silly Symphony: Who Killed Cock Robin?

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