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Director: Nick Park
Release Date: December 26, 1993
Stars: Wallace and Gromit
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕

The Wrong Trousers © Aardman‘The Wrong Trousers’ was the second short featuring the cheese-loving duo Wallace & Gromit.

Their first outing, ‘A Grand Day Out’ had been a virtuoso piece of clay animation, but even so, ‘The Wrong Trousers’ was a giant leap forward, taking Aardman’s claymation out of the independent animation atmosphere into the mainstream of slick studio productions, without losing an inch of character.

Despite being only 29 minutes long and featuring only three characters, ‘The Wrong Trousers’ feels like classic cinema. The fifties horror typography of the opening titles immediately makes it clear that we’re in for a mystery plot, and indeed this is a crime thriller with a small penguin as a most unlikely, but very convincing villain.

The film opens on Gromit’s birthday, a day which turns out quite sour. First, Wallace seems to have forgotten all about it, then he gives him the most useless gift imaginable: automatic trousers to walk him out without his faithful master. Then it turns out that Wallace has to cut expenses and … a room for rent.

That very evening the penguin comes in as the new boarder, but instead of taking the vacant room, he heads immediately for Gromit’s room. The mysterious penguin first takes care of Gromit, chasing the poor dog out of the house, then he uses the trousers in a diamond heist scheme.

The whole film is very well shot, featuring expressionistic angles and clever zooming in and out between the  front and back of the set. The suspense is greatly added by dramatic orchestral music by Julian Nott. And throughout the animation, by Nick Park himself and by Steve Box, is top notch.

Especially the two silent characters, the penguin and Gromit, are very well animated: the penguin creepy and enigmatic, hardly revealing its emotions, except in the heist scene, Gromit with a multitude of expressions, making great use of Nick Parks trademark brow technique. In fact, Gromit is such a rounded character, he easily carries the whole film easily using the expressions of his eyes alone. Especially Gromit’s agony, having to watch how the penguin silently takes over his home, is tantalizing.

Nevertheless, the most impressive part of this short is the finale. This is a remarkable chase scene, ridiculously set indoors on miniature trains, but it consists of five frantic minutes with a sense of speed never seen before in a stop-motion film. This finale alone takes the possibilities of stop-motion forward to new heights, and together with ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ from the same year, ‘The Wrong Trousers’ must be regarded as a milestone in animation. Thus, the next year the film rightfully won the Academy Award for animated short.

The film also started a sort of Wallace and Gromit tradition of combining silly inventions with mystery thriller plots, as this would be the promise of all three subsequent Wallace and Gromit films.

Watch ‘The Wrong Trousers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Wrong Trousers’ is available on the DVD ‘Wallace & Gromit – The Complete Collection’

Director: Jack King
Release Date: August 11, 1939
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating:
Review:

Donald's Penguin © Walt DisneyIn ‘Donald’s Penguin’ Donald Duck receives a present from one Admiral Bird, South Pole.

The package appears to contain a female penguin, whom Donald calls Tootsie. In ‘Donald’s Penguin’ Donald’s behavior is quite different than from the earlier ‘Polar Trappers‘ (1938), in which he tried to kill several penguins in order to eat them. True, even in this gentle cartoon he threatens to blast the penguin away with a shotgun, but mostly the short shows Donald’s soft side. This doesn’t lead to great comedy, and mostly ‘Donald’s Penguin’ seems to be the Donald Duck counterpart of the later, but equally dull Pluto-befriends-an-animal series (e.g. ‘Pluto’s Playmate‘ from 1941 and ‘Canine Patrol‘ from 1945). Nonetheless, ‘Donald’s Penguin’ is a rare Disney cartoon in which creatures are killed, as Donald’s three goldfish all end in the penguin’s stomach.

‘Donald’s Penguin’ was the last cartoon in which Donald Duck wears a white cap. In his next short, ‘The Autograph Hound’ it was replaced by a blue one, probably for greater contrast.

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

This is Donald Duck cartoon no. 12
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Sea Scouts
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: The Autograph Hound

‘Donald’s Penguin’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

Director: Tex Avery
Release date: December 20, 1954
Stars: Chilly Willy
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

I'm Cold © Walter LantzIn 1954 Tex Avery left MGM to return to his first employer in the animation field, Walter Lantz, at whose studio he had been an animator in the early 1930s.

I’m Cold’ was the first of a mere four cartoons Tex Avery made at Walter Lantz’s studio. In this cartoon he sets his teeth on a character introduced in 1953 called Chilly Willy, a cute little penguin.

Like Pablo the cold-blooded penguin from ‘Three Caballeros‘ (1944), Chilly Willy finds it too cold in Antarctica. Avery, however, uses this premise with much funnier results. In an attempt to get warm, Chilly Willy sneaks into a fur coat store, guarded by a phlegmatic dog who shares a Daws Butler voice with the laid-back wolf from Tex Avery’s ‘Three Little Pups‘ from 1953. This phlegmatic dog was reused in at least four more Chilly Willy cartoons.

Avery is in excellent form here, delivering a perfectly timed cartoon. ‘I’m Cold’ demonstrates how genius can overcome small budgets and limited (animation) talent. Even Clarence Wheeler’s music sounds more inspired and certainly funnier than normal. Of course, the product was much cruder than Avery’s films at MGM had been, but at the same time it was much better than any earlier Lantz film from the 1950s. And, Avery’s second film featuring Chilly Willy, ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point‘ (1955) would even be better…

Watch ‘I’m Cold’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Peter Lord
Release Date: 1991
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Adam © AardmanA giant hand creates a man on a tiny planet.

His creator orders the man around, but the man soon discovers his barren sphere is too small to do anything, and that he is stuck to it. Luckily, in the end the creator grands him a companion, which turns out to be a penguin (iris out).

‘Adam’ exploits the dark humor typical for the early Aardman films. Its claustrophobia feels real and disturbing, and the film raises inevitable questions about existence and purpose of life. And though ‘Adam’ contains great silent comedy gags, the film is rather unsettling overall. Unfortunately, the film’s comedy is hampered by Stuart Gordon’s rather ugly electronic music. However, Lord’s animation is superb throughout, and a prime example of the more comedy-driven animation style the Aardman studio took from 1989 on.

Watch ‘Adam’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Adam’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: July 8, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Humphrey Bogart
Rating: ★★½
Review:

8 Ball Bunny © Warner BrothersBugs re-encounters the little penguin form ‘Frigid Hare‘ (1949), complete with the top hat and bow tie he gave him in that cartoon.

He promises the tacit little fellow to bring him home, which Bugs thinks is on the South Pole. This leads to a long voyage across the Americas, including Martinique, Panama and the Amazon. At several places they meet Humphrey Bogart begging for some money, a reference to his role in ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ (1948). This running gag may be the highlight of an otherwise tiresome and unfunny cartoon.

Watch ‘8 Ball Bunny’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 73
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: What’s Up, Doc?
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hillbilly Hare

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: October 7, 1949
Stars: Bugs Bunny
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Frigid Hare © Warner BrothersOn the way to Miami Beach Bugs misses a left turn at Albuquerque again and reaches the South Pole, where’s confronted with a little penguin chased by an Eskimo, who is as mean as he is out of place. Although Bugs wants to go to the beach, he saves the little fellow.

This is one of the weaker Bugs Bunny cartoons, mainly because of the rather inactive penguin, whose cuteness softens Bugs’s character and because of the large amount of dialogue, provided by Bugs alone. The short’s best scene is when Bugs dresses as a female Eskimo to rescue his waddling little friend. Jones would reuse the little penguin the next year in ‘8 Ball Bunny‘ with moderately better results.

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

http://www.supercartoons.net/cartoon/663/bugs-bunny-frigid-hare.html

‘Frigid Hare’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 65
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: The Windblown Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Which is Witch?

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