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Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date: August 26, 1932
‘Nursery Scandal’ is Van Beuren’s direct answer to Walt Disney’s successful Silly Symphony ‘Mother Goose Melodies‘ (1931), if a rather dingy one.
It’s night and the moon personally awakes some gnomes, who in turn awake Mother Goose. Mother Goose courts a scarecrow, much to the chagrin of the goose and the other nursery rhyme characters. At one point four gnomes start to sing nursery rhymes in a swinging close harmony style, leading to a long song-and-dance sequence in which we watch several nursery rhyme characters dancing, much like ‘Mother Goose Melodies’, but way jazzier. Composer Gene Rodemich is in excellent form in this cartoon, providing a highly enjoyable score. Notice the seemingly naked and very human fairy on top of the nursery rhyme book somewhere in the middle of the cartoon.
Watch ‘Nursery Scandal’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Nursery Scandal’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’
Directors: Mannie Davis & John Foster
Release Date: January 13, 1933
‘Silvery Moon’ starts with the song ‘Moonlight bay’ and the two young cats from ‘The Wild Goose Chase‘ (1932) in a canoe on a moonlit lake. Suddenly, the moon invites them over, producing a giant staircase. Once the two have arrived on the moon, a fairy opens a gate, revealing a dreamlike candy land.
The dreamlike atmosphere is enhanced by scenes that change while the two kittens stay in place. In Candyland the two frolic around, and eat all what’s around until they’re sick. Then they’re hunted by a bottle of castor oil and a spoon, until they fall off the moon, next to their own canoe.
‘Silvery Moon’ was one of the last Aesop’s Fables, and one of the best. Sure, the designs and animation are still poor (some of the animation is reused from ‘Toy Time‘), and the film’s subject may be a little childish, it’s a surprisingly inspired cartoon, showing wonderful events with a natural charm. It’s a pity that ‘Silvery Moon’ is in black-and-white, for its dreamlike atmosphere would make perfect subject for color, which in 1933 still was brand new, anyhow (Disney’s first technicolor cartoon, ‘Flowers and Trees‘ had only been released half a year earlier).
Indeed, the cartoon’s content and atmosphere look forward to several color cartoons of the Hayes code era, most notably the Fleischer cartoon ‘Somewhere in Dreamland‘ (1936), which also features two children visiting a candy world. This makes ‘Silvery Moon’ probably the most forward-looking cartoon the Van Beuren studio ever produced, and it certainly has aged much better than most of the cartoons the studio produced in the early 1930’s.
Watch ‘Silvery Moon’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Silvery Moon’ is available on the DVD ‘Aesop’s Fables – Cartoon Classics from the Van Beuren Studio’
Director: Abe Levitow
Release date: February 24, 1967
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Here they fight each other using modern technology, including a robot cat. In the end, Tom manages to shoot Jerry to the moon, but luckily for Jerry, it turns out to be made out of cheese.
This cartoon contains nice settings and some original ideas, but none of them are executed well, resulting in yet another mediocre Tom and Jerry cartoon produced by Chuck Jones. Tom & Jerry’s next cartoon, ‘Guided Mouse-ille‘, also has a science fiction setting. Interestingly, both these shorts were penned by story man John Dunn.
Watch ‘O-Solar-Meow’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Ward Kimball
Airing date: December 28, 1955
Stars: Walt Disney, Ward Kimball, Wernher von Braun
After ‘Man in Space‘ (1955), ‘Man and the Moon’ is the second of three Disneyland broadcasts documenting man’s plans to conquest space.
‘Man of the Moon’ deals with the conquest of the moon, and consists of four parts. The first, largely animated, tells about man’s fascination for the moon. This sequence is a highlight of ‘cartoon modern’ style, and is full of director Ward Kimball’s trademark zany humor. It’s also the highlight of the documentary, despite the studio’s efforts to evoke the first mission to the moon in the fourth part.
The second features Ward Kimball in real person, telling us facts about the moon. The third part is hosted by German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who tells about a possible mission to the moon. Surprisingly, Von Braun does not try to land on the moon, but merely wants to fly around it.
His plans are shown in the fourth part as an “on the spot account of the first expedition to the moon”. Unfortunately, this is not as exciting a finale it possibly was in 1955, even though weightlessness is shown quite convincingly using special effects.
In 1957 Disney even showed more ambitious space plans, in ‘Mars and Beyond’.
Watch ‘Man and the Moon’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Zhou Keqin & Ah Da
Release Date: 1981
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’
Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 24, 1948
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian
He’s only volunteering when he notices the supply of carrots in the rocket. The rocket scene is reminiscent of Bob Clampett’s ‘Falling Hare’ (1943). On the moon Bugs encounters Marvin the Martian (in his first screen appearance) and his green, talking Martian dog, who resembles Willoughby a little but who speaks with the dumb voice of Junior Bear, provided by voice actor Stan Freberg.
The two Martians are on the first Mars-Moon expedition and want to blow up the Earth. But it’s Bugs who blows up the two and accidentally half the moon, too. In the end we see the three hanging on the left piece of the moon with bugs screaming to the control room: “Get me outa here!”.
‘Haredevil Hare’ is one of the first science fiction-themed films that flooded the post-war era. It even predates the first post-war live action features set in outer space, ‘Rocketship X-M’ and ‘Destination Moon’ by two years. In the 1950s outer space would become a popular film setting. Indeed, Chuck Jones himself would revisit outer space several times in his cartoons, most notably in ‘Jumpin’ Jupiter‘ (1955), ‘Rocket Squad’ (1956), and the greatest of all science fiction cartoons, ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century‘ (1953).
The latter cartoon also features Marvin the Martian, who would reappear in three more Bugs Bunny cartoons: ‘The Hasty Hare’ (1951), ‘Hare-Way to the Stars’ (1958) and ‘Mad as a Mars Hare’ (1963). Of all cartoon villains, Marvin the Martian is the most extraordinary. He’s as gentle, polite and mild-mannered as he is destructive. Although he would never become a major star, he’s still popular today.
Apart from introducing Marvin, ‘Haredevil Hare’ is a notable cartoon because of some nice and weird animation by Ben Washam of Bugs being a nervous wreck after his voyage to the moon: we watch him changing from one bizarre pose into the other, almost without any animation in between.
Watch ‘Haredevil Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Haredevil Hare’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’
This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 51
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bugs Bunny Rides Again
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hot Cross Bunny