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Director: Sanae Yamamoto
Release Date: 1942
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

The Animal Village in Trouble © Sanae Yamamoto‘The Animal Village in Trouble’ tells the tale of three families: the monkeys, the bears and the raccoon dogs.

The monkeys’ family is very large, and hard to feed. But when a storm breaks out, it’s the only family that manages to protect its home. Moreover, the monkeys save the other two families from drowning. Is this a message to the audience to produce more offspring in times of war?

This film is essentially silent, with a voice over. The designs are quite elegant, and more clearly Japanese than usual in pre-war/wartime anime. The animation is mostly fair, with the storm scene in particular being quite spectacular. Also interesting is the occurrence of metamorphosis, a rarity in prewar/wartime Japanese animation: one raccoon dog transforms itself into an alarm clock, while another changes into a bridge at one point.

Sanae Yamamoto (1898-1981) came into prominence as an animator in the 1920s. In the 1950s he would join the Tōei animation studio, where he became supervising animator until his retirement in 1967.

Watch ‘The Animal Village in Trouble’ yourself and tell me what you think:

https://www.senscritique.com/film/Doubutsu_Mura_no_Daisodou/21070972

‘The Animal Village in Trouble’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Japanese Anime Classic Collection’

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Director: Paul Fennell?
Release Date: 1940
Stars: Gran’ Pop Monkey
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

Beauty Shoppe © Ub IwerksThe Gran’ Pop Monkey cartoon were made during the aftermath of the Ub Iwerks studio (then called Cartoon Films, LTD), just before Iwerks sold the studio and went back to Disney himself.

The character Gran’ Pop Monkey was based on illustrations by British artist Lawson Wood (1878-1957), and in 1939 the studio announced it would make 24 cartoons with the character. However, only three are known today, which were all three released in 1940. In fact, as Yowp notices in his comment to Steve Stanchfield’s informative blog post on this cartoon, these three had already been finished by the end of 1938, so perhaps these were the only ones ever made. In any case, it remains unclear why the series was discontinued, but one thing is certain: they are far from classics.

All three Gran’ Pop Monkey cartoons were shot in Cinecolor, a 2-color system, lacking the vibrant color range of Technicolor, and although the animation is fair, the stories, the designs, voices and gags are not, and the three films make a tiresome watch. In fact, the most enjoyable part of these three cartoons is their excellent musical score.

The first, ‘Beauty Shoppe’ is arguably the best of the surviving trio. In this short Gran’ Pop Monkey is a barber, helped by his two grandsons (who look like macaques, while Gran’ Pop Monkey clearly is a chimpanzee). Business isn’t going well, however, in contrast to that of the beauty salon across the street (the film takes place in a jungle, but anyway). So, one of the grandson suggests to copy the salon’s formula. Soon, female animals rush into Gran’ Pop Monkey’s cabin-turned-beauty salon (including a colorful company of a badger, a penguin, a seal, a pig and a kangaroo). When a gangster-like gorilla demands they make his wife, a hippo, beautiful, things turn very bad for the trio, indeed. Curiously, ‘Beauty Shoppe’ starts with some dialogue in rhyme, which is discarded halfway.

Watch ‘Beauty Shoppe’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 September 2, 1930
Rating: ★★
Review:

Monkey Melodies © Walt Disney

The Silly Symphonies were to be a series of great innovation, but in 1930 this was not so clear, yet, as the entries of that year were mostly preoccupied with dance routines.

The ‘innovation’ of ‘Monkey Melodies’, for example, is the embryonic story of its second half. But only with ‘Playful Pan‘ from the end of the year, some real experimentation was to kick in.

‘Monkey Melodies’ opens with monkeys, apes and parrots frolicking in the jungle in a long dance routine. After several minutes we follow two monkeys in love, who frolic to the tune of Rudy Wiedoeft’s Narcissus. The two go on a boat ride on a log, and manage to escape a crocodile, a hippo, a snake and a leopard.

‘Monkey Melodies’ is a very standard Silly Symphony, typical of 1930, the ‘story’ of the second half notwithstanding, and to be frank, the short is rather dull. Its highlight may be the effect animation of a crocodile swimming under water.

Watch ‘Monkey Melodies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 13

To the previous Silly Symphony: Midnight in a Toy Shop
To the next Silly Symphony: Winter

‘Monkey Melodies’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
 November 15, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse
Rating:
Review:

Jungle Rhythm © Walt Disney‘Jungle Rhythm’ opens with Mickey playing the harmonica while riding an elephant, the design of which is still rooted in the silent era.

Mickey shoots a vulture, but misses and is soon threatened by a bear and a lion. Luckily at that moment a monkey and a parrot start playing a tune on his harmonica, and a long dance routine can begin…

First we watch Mickey dancing with the lion and the bear, then two monkeys. Then Mickey plays the saxophone with two ostriches dancing. Mickey plays the whiskers of a little leopard like a harp, while a lion dances the hula, and he even returns to ‘Turkey in the Straw’, the tune that made him famous in his first sound cartoon ‘Steamboat Willie‘ (1928). After playing’Yankee Doodle’ on five tigers, a number of apes and a lion, the crowd applauds, and the cartoon ends.

‘Jungle Rhythms’ is easily one of the most boring entries among the early Mickey Mouse shorts: there’s no plot, no dialogue, no song, and the dance routines resemble the worst in contemporary Silly Symphonies. In fact, to me, ‘Jungle Rhythm’, together with ‘When The Cat’s Away‘ and ‘The Castaway‘ (1931), forms the worst trio of all Mickey Mouse cartoons. Luckily, weak cartoons like these remained a rarity within the series.

Watch ‘Jungle Rhythm’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 13
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Jazz Fool
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Haunted House

Director: Zhou Keqin & Ah Da
Release Date: 1981
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Monkeys Fish The Moon © Keqin Zhou‘Monkeys Fish the Moon’* tells about a troupe of monkeys who try to catch the moon.

When they finally succeed to catch its reflection in a bowl, they drop it, only to discover that the moon still is in the sky.

‘The Monkeys who tried to catch the moon’ is, like many other Chinese films, based on an ancient fable. And, like many others it uses silent acting to tell its story. Nevertheless, the film is also a little atypical. Its elegant designs are not inspired by ancient painting, but more akin to Lotte Reiniger’s films. Moreover, the movements are not really naturalistic and the film doesn’t use Chinese music. Instead we have a lush and colorful forest world accompanied by rich film music. The cut-out models of the monkeys are soft and subtle in design, and there’s a striking use of light.

The result is one of the most beautiful Chinese animation films ever made.

Watch ‘Monkeys Fish the Moon’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Monkeys Fish the Moon’ is available on the French DVD ‘Impression de montagne et d’eau’

* this film is also known by its French title: ‘les singes qui veulent attraper la lune’

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