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Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 December 16, 1930
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Playful Pan © Walt DisneyWith his double pipe, Pan makes all animals and plants, yes, even trees and clouds move and dance. The latter cause a fire with their lightning, but Pan lures the flames away to the lake, as if he were the pied piper.

Like ‘Springtime‘ (1929) ‘Playful Pan’ can be regarded as a forerunner of Disney’s groundbreaking cartoon ‘Flowers and Trees‘ (1932). The short is especially interesting for the introduction of the anthropomorphized flames, so typical of cartoons about fire. ‘Playful Pan’ is more entertaining than earlier Silly Symphonies, because half way the dance routine gives way to some kind of story, in which fire threatens the forest. This fire sequence is actually rather exciting. The fire itself is well animated, and the flames form a real threat: they do kill a humanized tree, and make all the animals flee.

The story formula of ‘Playful Pan’, in which the second half has some kind of story, was explored in many more Silly Symphonies from 1931 (e.g. ‘Birds of a Feather‘, ‘The China Plate‘. ‘The Busy Beavers‘). One had to wait until ‘The Ugly Duckling‘, from the end of that year, to watch a Silly Symphony to feature a concise story from start to end.

Watch ‘Playful Pan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 15
To the previous Silly Symphony: Winter
To the next Silly Symphony: Birds of a Feather

‘Playful Pan’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

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Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: June 23, 1944
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Springtime for Pluto © Walt DisneyAn updated version of Pan from ‘Fantasia’ (1940), now wearing a boiler hat, creates spring.

Pluto enjoys it for a while, e.g. discovering a caterpillar who transforms into a very sexy butterfly. The butterfly is designed as a miniature pin-up girl, who dances to a conga beat. After this encounter, Pluto juggles with a wasps’ nest, angering the wasps who sting him in the form of a Lockheed Lightning and a V2 rocket. These two sequences make ‘Springtime for Pluto’ a typical war era cartoon, even though it’s not about war, at all.

After Pluto gets stung, he’s caught in the rain, and even in a hailstorm. In the end he’s not enjoying spring anymore, and angrily he chases Pan into the distance.

‘Springtime for Pluto’ is the first cartoon directed by Charles Nichols, who would direct all Pluto and Mickey cartoons (save one) from now on until their retirement in 1953. Nichols is famous for his mild-mannered humor, but his debut consists of very enjoyable utter nonsense from the beginning to the end. It’s full of the exuberant spirit of the war time era.

Even the oil backgrounds, painted by Lenard Kester (1917-1997), have more vivid colors than before. These are flatter than in most Disney films, and during the butterfly sequence one can even see the paper texture. They form an early example of a more graphic style of backgrounds within a Disney film, and look forward to the fifties. Perhaps Kester had been inspired by similar experiments by Chuck Jones’ unit at Warner Brothers (e.g. ‘The Dover Boys‘ from 1942). In any case, the result contributes to the surreal atmosphere of the film.

Kester has been credited for backgrounds of only one other Disney cartoon, ‘How To Play Football’ from a few months later. In this short the backgrounds are effective, but unremarkable. Had he been toned down by the studio? Fact is that Kester soon moved on to devote his life to oil painting…

Watch ‘Springtime for Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 11
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Private Pluto
To the next Pluto cartoon: First Aiders

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