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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: October 27, 1933
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Blow Me Down! © Max FleischerLike the previous two cartoons, ‘Blow Me Down!’ (another of Popeye’s oneliners from E.C. Segar’s comic strip) opens with Popeye singing his own theme song, now while riding a shark to Mexico.

In Mexico Popeye visits a canteen, where Olive is a dancer, performing a dance, that’s taken straight from Segar’s strip from March 1932, including the gag in which she lands with her feet into two spittoons. Then Bluto enters, shooting everything in sight, and within seconds, Popeye is the only other person in the canteen. The two engage into a strange duel, then Bluto tries to harass Olive, but like in ‘I Yam What I Yam’ she appears pretty much in control when Popeye comes to rescue her. In a spectacular finale, Popeye knocks Bluto around the world.

‘Blow Me Down’ covers no new story grounds, its premise harking all the way back to ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ (1928). Yet, it’s by all means a delightful cartoon, and it’s over before you know it. It contains a very original bird-eye shot of Popeye ascending the stairs. Olive’s voice is by Bonnie Poe, and very different from Mae Questel’s later version.

Watch ‘Blow Me Down!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Blow Me Down!’ is available on the DVD Box Set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

 

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Director: Boyd La Vero
Release Date:
 1932
Stars: Marty the Monk
Rating:
Review

Mexican Lilly © Associated Films‘Mexically Lilly’ is the last of three known Marty the Monk cartoons.

Like Marty’s previous cartoon, ‘Mere Maids‘, it opens with live action footage of Boyd La Vero himself, but this time, the cartoon is a complete original, even though it thematically covers similar grounds as ‘The Cactus Kid’ (Walt Disney, 1930) and ‘Hot Tamale’ (Van Beuren, 1930).

‘Mexican Lilly’ thus is a classic Western cartoon. It starts with Marty riding horseback, being followed by a bunch of thugs(?). He escapes to Mexico, where he visits a canteen. There he encounters another villain, but he’s rescued by a fan dancer, who takes him to her bedroom, where she – believe it or not – strips before Marty’s very eyes. She leaves Marty to perform a risque fan dance. But then the thugs appear, and in a dark gun fight, everyone gets killed but Marty, the fan dancer, and the Mexican villain, who runs into the distance, naked.

‘Mexically Lily’ makes a little more sense than Marty’s first two films, but the animation remains crude and erratic. Unfortunately, Steve Stanchfield’s copy is rather poor, and devoid of sound, which was recreated, with okay results. The film was to be Marty’s last known screen appearance. I’m sorry to say that he will not be missed.

‘Mexically Lilly’ is available on the DVD ‘Cultoons! Rare, Lost and Strange Cartoons! Volume 3: Monkeys, Monsters & More!’

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date:
 August, 1931
Stars: Foxy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Lady, Play Your Mandolin © Warner Bros.After twelve Looney Tunes, all starring Bosko, Harman and Ising started a new cartoon series for Warner Bros. with the clearly Silly Symphonies-inspired name ‘Merrie Melodies’.

Unlike the Looney Tunes, the Merrie Melodies would be one-off cartoons, each one promoting a different song from the Warner Bros. song catalog. Indeed, the Merrie Melodies should at least feature one complete chorus of a Warner Bros.-owned tune. This rule continued until the end of the 1930s, and rather hampered the series, for the obligate song sequence would often stop the action of the cartoon.

‘Lady Play Your Mandolin’ is the very first of the Merrie Melodies. It features the title song, which is sung twice during the cartoon. Without explanation, the cartoon features a Mexican cafe setting, which is visited by the hero, Foxy, who was to be Warner Bros.’ answer to Mickey Mouse.

Although not as blatant an imitation as Van Beuren’s Milton Mouse (see ‘Circus Capers‘ and ‘The Office Boy‘), Foxy clearly is Mickey Mouse but with pointed ears and a fluffy tail. Indeed, when watching this cartoon my girlfriend thought it was an early forerunner of Mickey. Foxy never came near Mickey’s popularity, however, and was abandoned after a mere three cartoons.

‘Lady Play Your Mandolin’ is the character’s great testimony. The film is completely plotless, but simply bursts with joy. The short features a lot of flexible animation and everyone moves to Frank Marsales’s peppy music (played by Abe Lyman’s Brunswick Recording Orchestra), including the tables, the cacti, the trees and the cafe itself. There are plenty of gags all around, the most extraordinary one being Foxy’s drunken horse playing its own head as a trombone.

Foxy also started a long Warner Bros. tradition of Al Jolson imitations, when singing the main melody, while his girlfriend (Minnie Mouse but with pointed ears) boop-oop-a-doops. None of the cartoon makes any sense, but its sheer joy makes watching it a highly entertaining experience.

Watch ‘Lady, Play Your Mandolin’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Lady, Play Your Mandolin’ is available on the DVD ‘Little Caesar’

Director: John Foster
Release Date: August 3, 1930
Stars: Milton Mouse, Rita Mouse, Waffles
Rating:
Review:

Hot Tamale © Van BeurenIn 1930 practically all American cartoon studios looked at Walt Disney to guide them through the fledgling sound era (the notable exception being Max Fleischer, who went entirely his own path).

None went so far as the Van Beuren studio, which already in 1929 introduced a couple of mice with an all too obvious resemblance to Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Van Beuren’s mice were called Milton and Rita, but I’ve no evidence the studio ever advertized their names on the screen. Why should it? All resemblance to the real Mickey and Minnie clearly was only beneficial to the studio’s output.

‘Hot Tamale’ is one of these films featuring these blatant Mickey and Minnie lookalikes. This time Milton is in Mexico, riding a mechanical horse (why?) to serenade his sweetheart. Rita dances to his music.

There’s still some acting that clearly stems from the silent era, but more disturbingly: Milton looks rather horny and seems more driven by lust than by love. At one point Waffles (who is Pete only but in name) arrives, also craving Rita. Of course, it’s our “hero” who wins her in the end.

In ‘Hot Tamale’ Van Beuren’s pseudo-Mickey and Minnie were nothing like the real thing. But it would become worse. In ‘Circus Capers‘ and ‘The Office Boy‘ both the resemblance and the abject behavior of these Mickey & Minnie-lookalikes was even more striking. It was a question of time before Walt Disney came into action…

Watch ‘Hot Tamale’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hot Tamale’ is available on the DVD ‘Aesop’s Fables – Cartoon Classics from the Van Beuren Studio’

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: September 27, 1952
Stars: Droopy, The Wolf
Rating:
Review:

Caballero Droopy © MGMIn 1950 Tex Avery left MGM for a sabbatical, most probably due to overwork. Dick Lundy was hired to replace him, and the first cartoon he directed at MGM was ‘Caballero Droopy’.

This short’ is strangely reminiscent of the cartoons of Lundy’s former employer, Walter Lantz, with which it shares a lesser quality: both the designs and the animation are sub-par. It’s really as if this cartoon was made at Walter Lantz instead of at MGM.

For ‘Caballero Droopy’ Lundy revived the wolf, gave him a mustache and placed him into a Mexican setting, in which he tries to outdo Droopy in serenading the phlegmatic dog’s girl. The cartoon is full of Tex Averyanisms, but due to its low production quality it never takes off.

‘Caballero Droopy’ remained the only Droopy cartoon Lundy directed. He moved on to the ailing Barney Bear series, before he had to leave MGM on Tex Avery’s return in October 1951.

Watch ‘Caballero Droopy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/83899298/

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: April 9, 1949
Stars: Droopy, the Wolf, Lina Romay
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Señor Droopy © MGM‘Señor Droopy’ is one of Tex Avery’s most classic cartoons and arguably the best bullfight cartoon of all time, another candidate being Chuck Jones’s ‘Bully for Bugs’ from 1953.

‘Señor Droopy’ is set in Mexico and features the wolf as an overconfident champion bullfighter and Droopy as his measly challenger. Both are in love with Mexican film star/singer Lina Romay, but it’s of course Droopy who wins her: the last scene shows live action footage of this forgotten film star petting our happy hero.

But it’s of course not the story that makes the short so memorable. It’s the gags, and they come in fast and plenty. The film is stuffed with Avery’s own weird logics and cosmic laws, which lead to many a hilarious situation. The best example of Avery’s unique logic may be the following gag: when the bull has vanished between two wooden doors, the wolf closes them together, then another time, but this time vertically, reducing their size by two. He continues doing so until the large doors have been reduced to a tiny cube. He then casually throws the cube behind him, which quickly unfolds to the size of the original doors, which open to reveal a stairway to a cellar, from which the bull rushes back into the arena. Seeing is believing.

‘Señor Droopy’ is not entirely flawless: the wolf’s transformation from über-confident to panic-stricken is not really convincing, and Avery reuses the road gag from ‘Wild and Woolfy‘ (1945), which makes less sense inside the arena. But who cares! The interplay between the wolf, the bull and Droopy is delightful throughout, and even a minor character like the Mexican announcer is animated with gusto.

Watch ‘Señor Droopy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.veoh.com/watch/v202445Gjy2WGzy?h1=Senor+Droopy+-+Droopy

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: January 9, 1937
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Don Donald © Walt DisneyAfter co-starring with Pluto in ‘Donald and Pluto‘ (1936), Donald really comes to his own in ‘Don Donald’. In this cartoon he only shares screen time with a new character, Donna Duck, a predecessor of Daisy with a temper that matches Donald’s own. 

In this film, we watch Donald in a Mexican setting featuring a surprisingly Krazy Kat-like palm in the background. He wears a large sombrero and tries to woo Donna, but his donkey spoils his efforts. Donald trades his donkey for a car (the small red car we would become so familiar with). The car makes a deep impression on Donna, and both go for a ride.

The animation of the car ride is a great showcase of animation of speed, while the hilarious sequence in which Donald tries to restart the motor again is a wonderful example of rubbery animation. The film ends marvelously, when Donna produces a unicycle out of her handbag and rides off into the distance. But the whole film is one of sheer delight and one of the classics of the 1930s.

Despite Mickey’s absence, ‘Don Donald’ is still part of the Mickey Mouse series. Only with ‘Donald’s Ostrich’ from December 1937 Donald would get his own series.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 91
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Worm Turns
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Magician Mickey

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 10, 1930
Stars: Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Still from 'The Cactus Kid' featuring Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and Mickey looking over a cliff‘The Cactus Kid’ can be summarized as ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho in Mexico’. Mickey visits a Mexican canteen where Minnie’s a waitress. They make music together until Pete enters and kidnaps Minnie.

When Mickey pulls her nose, we hear Minnie speaking Spanish. The Mexican atmosphere is further enhanced by the use of music from Emmanuel Chabrier’s España, although the chase scene is accompanied by Jacques Offenbach’s (French) can-can.

Pete’s seen with a peg leg for the first time in this cartoon, although he already had a peg leg in several Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. We also hear him really speak for the first time. Actually, there’s an unprecedented amount of dialogue in this cartoon. Nevertheless, Mickey’s lips still look awkward when he speaks. Fortunately, this problem would soon be solved in the following cartoons.

Horace Horsecollar is recognizable, too, with his characteristic yoke and bowler hat. But he’s still only a partly humanized horse, here, and Mickey rides him. Only in ‘The Shindig‘ from two months later Horace Horsecollar would be fully anthropomorphized.

‘The Cactus Kid’ happened to be the last cartoon Walt Disney directed himself until his unfortunate come-back with ‘The Golden Touch’ five years later. The film was parodied as ‘Galloping Romance’, the cartoon showed in ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘ from 1932.

Watch ‘The Cactus Kid’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 18
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barnyard Concert
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Fire Fighters

Director: Norm Ferguson
Release Date: December 21, 1944
Stars: Donald Duck, Joe Carioca, Panchito, The Aracuan Bird
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Three Caballeros © Walt DisneyDonald stars in his first and only very own feature film.

In the opening scene he receives a large package full of presents. When he opens these presents, they lead him to the mild story of Pablo the cold-blooded penguin (narrated by the melancholy voice of Disney-favorite Sterling Holloway), and to the childish story of ‘Gauchito and his flying donkey Burrito’, before it reintroduces Joe Carioca from ‘Saludos Amigos‘ (1942). Joe takes Donald to Baía, where they dance the samba with Aurora Miranda, nicely blending animation with live action, something that occurs throughout the picture.

Another package introduces the Mexican rooster Panchito. Together the trio sings the intoxicating theme song, wonderfully animated by Ward Kimball, who regarded the scene as his best work. Panchito takes Donald and Joe on a magic serape ride over Mexico, visiting Mexico City, Veracruz en Acapulco Beach, where Donald plays blind man’s buff with a bunch of girls in bathing suits. Actually, Donald keeps hunting girls like a hungry wolf throughout the picture.

‘The Three Caballeros’ was the second of two ‘Good neighbor policy’ features, focusing on South America, and the second of six compilation features Disney made until returning to real features with ‘Cinderella‘ in 1950. When compared to ‘Saludos Amigos’, ‘The Three Caballeros’ is brighter, bolder and more nonsensical. It is noteworthy for its bold color design and for its beautiful color book artwork by Mary Blair, which in its modernity looks forward to the 1950s (especially in the opening titles, during the train ride and in the Mexican Christmas episode).

It is most interesting however, because of its zany surrealism, which invades many scenes with associative images, where metamorphosis and abstraction run haywire, not even sparing Donald himself. In this respect ‘The Three Caballeros’ is the boldest feature Disney ever made.

However, its lack of story, its strong touristic content, its outdated live action imagery, its sentimental songs and the two childish stories at the beginning of the feature all harm the picture. Thus watching the movie feels like being on a colorful journey full of beautiful images that nevertheless turns out to be unsatisfactory in the end.

Watch the title song from ‘The Three Caballeros’ below:

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