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Director: Émile Cohl
Release Date:  1911
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Les exploits de Feu Follet © Émile Cohl‘Les exploits de Feu Follet’ is the first of only two surviving films Émile Cohl made for French film company Eclipse, the other being ‘Les métamorphoses comiques’.

With this film Cohl returned to the looks of his first films ‘Fantasmagorie‘ (1908) and ‘Le cauchemar de Fantoche‘ (1908): the film is shot in white on black and features a stickman. This stickman flies with a balloon to the moon and falls down into the ocean, where he is swallowed by a whale. Curiously, the whale, moon, and an eagle are drawn much more classically than the stickman, making ‘Les exploits de Feu Follet’ less consistent in its looks than either ‘Fantasmagorie’ or ‘Le cauchemar de Fantoche’.

Cohl’s timing is very sloppy in this film, and unfortunately there’s is little metamorphosis, with Cohl relying much on cut-out shortcuts. There’s practically no story, only a string of events. So, this film is not among Cohl’s best.

Watch ‘Les exploits de Feu Follet’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

‘Les exploits de Feu Follet’ is available on the DVDs ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’

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Director: Émile Cohl
Release Date: April 24, 1909
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Clair de lune espagnol © Émile Cohl‘Clair de lune espagnol’ is a bizarre live action movie about a toreador who wants to commit suicide.

When he’s about to jump, the toreador gets caught by an airship and is taken to the moon, which he wounds with a rifle and an ax. The celestial creatures then punish him and throw him back to earth, where he’s reunited with his love.

The film has a strange, rather surreal atmosphere, but lacks real wit. Highlight is the scene with the man and the moon, which uses quite some animation on the moon, whose face changes repeatedly.

Watch ‘Clair de lune espagnol’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Clair de lune espagnol’ is available on the DVDs ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’

Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date:
 August 26, 1932
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Nursery Scandal © Van Beuren‘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
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Silvery Moon © Van Beuren‘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, singing the popular song ‘Moonlight Bay’.

Suddenly, the moon invites them over, producing a giant staircase, which takes them into the moon’s mouth. Once the two have arrived on the moon, a fairy opens a gate, revealing a dreamlike candy land, revealing that the moon consists of cake, candy and ice cream, just like the girl had predicted.

In the Cockaigne-like Candyland the two frolic around, and eat all what’s around until they get 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.

At least, for once the strange floating movements of the Van Beuren characters are in sync with the dreamlike atmosphere, and, a little more far-fetched, with the moon’s reduced gravity. The surreal atmosphere of ‘Silvery Moon’ is further enhanced by scenes that change while the two kittens stay in place.

It’s a pity that ‘Silvery Moon’ is in black-and-white, for its dreamy scenery 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 Cockaigne-like candy world. This makes ‘Silvery Moon’ probably the most forward-looking cartoon the Van Beuren studio ever made, 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
Rating:  ★★
Review:

O-Solar-Meow © MGMIn a cartoon that looks forward to ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ (which would be released the following year), Tom and Jerry inhabit a roulette-like space station.

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:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 154

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Cat and Dupli-cat
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Guided Mouse-ille

Director: Ward Kimball
Airing date: December 28, 1955
Stars: Walt Disney, Ward Kimball, Wernher von Braun
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Man and the Moon © Walt DisneyAfter ‘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, depicting the moon in mythology, in literature, in folklore, in nursery rhymes and in song. 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 folklore section is the most bold part featuring a highly stylized man, but even better are the charming animated children’s drawings in the nursery rhyme section. The sequence ends hilariously with a silly tin pan alley song about the moon, in which the writers throw in every obvious rhyme word (June, swoon, spoon, honeymoon, and even Daniel Boone).

After 18 minutes of great animation, the live action sections start, beginning with the second part. This is the shortest of the four, and 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 involve the assembly of a giant wheel-like space station before even one vessel is flown to the moon.

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, despite the dramatic music and the inclusion of an emergency scene in which a small meteor hits one of the fuel tanks. Nevertheless, the special effects are quite good, showing the space station rotating, and smaller reparation vessel leaving the moon rocket. Especially,  weightlessness within the moon rocket is shown quite convincingly.

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
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’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date:
 July 24, 1948
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian
Rating:
★★★★
Review:

Haredevil Hare © Warner Brothers‘Haredevil Hare’ Bugs opens with two headlines of the ‘Daily Snooze’: ‘Scientist to Launch First Rocket to the Moon’ and ‘Heroic Rabbit Volunteers to Be First Passenger’.

 

Cut to Bugs Bunny ‘volunteering’ (he’s literally dragged towards the spaceship by two men). Bugs changes his mind however, when he notices the supply of carrots dumped into the rocket. And so he’s off to the moon.

Bugs has a hard landing on the moon, which destroys his vesssel and leaves him in shock. But just when he’s adjusted to the fact that he’s alone on the moon, Bugs encounters Marvin the Martian (in his first screen appearance) and his green, talking Martian dog, who is designed like a green version of Charlie Dog and 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. The scenes inside the rocket scene are reminiscent of Bob Clampett’s ‘Falling Hare’ (1943).

Watch ‘Haredevil Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.supercartoons.net/cartoon/661/haredevil-hare.html

‘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

Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date: 1921
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'The Flying House' featuring a man behind some machinery‘The Flying House’ is the last of the three ‘Dream of a rarebit fiend’  films Winsor McCay completed in 1921.

In this short the classic rarebit makes a woman dream that her man has made a flying machine out of their house. With their flying house they fly to the moon, where they’re almost swatted by a giant. When they run out of gas they circle in empty space until they’re hit by a rocket, and both fall down. At this point, of course, the woman awakes.

Compared to the other two Rarebit Fiend films, ‘Bug Vaudeville‘ and ‘The Pet‘, this cartoon uses a lot of dialogue, both in balloons and in title cards. Moreover, there’s a lot of reverse and repeated animation – thus not all movements are too convincing. Although the story does not quite delivers what it promises, it contains a few good gags. And, as always, both McCay’s drawing style and command of perspective are top notch. Especially the shots of the house flying are very impressive.

Yet the film’s most stunning sequence is when the house leaves earth to fly to the moon. In one convincingly realistic shot we see the earth rotating, the moon appearing behind it and growing larger, while the house flies towards us, orbiting the earth. This is by all means  a spectacular piece of animation, especially because it was done 37 years before the space age. McCay clearly and understandably was proud of this sequence, and so he announces it with a title card.

Unfortunately, ‘The Flying House’ was to be Winsor McCay’s last completed film. His legacy is formidable, and he undoubtedly belongs to the best and most imaginative animators/animation directors of all time.

Watch ‘The Flying House’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Winsor McCay’s tenth and last film
To Winsor McCay’s ninth film: The Pet

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