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Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: August 2, 1941
Rating: 
Review:

Aviation Vacation © Warner Bros.Tex Avery’s spot gag cartoons always were rather loose-jointed affairs, but ‘Avation Vacation’ tops them all in randomness.

The main frame involves a plane trip around the world, but we also watch ostriches hiding and butterflies emerging. None of the gags is remotely interesting, least of all the plane gags themselves. This results in arguably the weakest of all Avery’s spot gag cartoons.

The short is noteworthy, however, for featuring the first occurrence of the ‘hair-in-the-projector-gag, a 4th wall breaking gag that Avery would perfect in ‘The Magical Maestro’ (1952). In this first version the hair pops up, while a highly realistic Irishman sings a ballad in operetta style. The hair is less convincing than the one in ‘The Magical Maestro’, but the gag works nonetheless, and it’s the undisputed highlight of the otherwise ultimately boring cartoon.

Watch ‘Aviation Vacation’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Aviation Vacation’ is available on the French ‘Tex Avery’ DVD Box Set

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 8, 1941
Stars: Popeye, Poopdeck Pappy
Rating:  ★★
Review:

Pest Pilot © Max FleischerIn ‘Pest Pilot’ Popeye suddenly has exchanged sailing for flying.

Apparently, Popeye owns an “air-conditioned airport”, where he works on some planes. Poopdeck Pappy drops by, begging Popeye to let him fly, which Popeye keeps refusing. When put outside, Pappy finds an idle plane, and the old man takes off immediately, flying recklessly all over the world, and crashing into Popeye’s airport again.

Surprisingly little happens in this ‘Pest Pilot’: we practically only see Pappy begging and flying. Poopdeck Pappy’s flight is mildly amusing, and in fact the short’s best gag is Popeye’s original way of making a propeller.

‘Pest Pilot’ was the last Fleischer cartoon featuring Poopdeck Pappy. Popeye’s old man would turn up in ‘Seein’ Red White ‘n Blue’ (1943), but was revived by Paramount in only eight cartoons. Poopdeck Pappy’s last three Fleischer cartoons were rather weak, but earlier ones had shown that the character certainly had comic potential, so why he was eventually shelved, we’ll never know.

Watch ‘Pest Pilot’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 98
To the previous Popeye film: Child Psykolojiky
To the next Popeye film: I’ll Never Crow Again

‘Pest Pilot’ is available on the DVD set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1941-1943’

Director: Dave Hand
Release Date:
 May 13, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Mail Pilot © Walt DisneyIn his fifth year Mickey Mouse was at the top of his game: practically every Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1933 is a winner (the sole exception arguably being ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man‘). Moreover, Mickey was still the top star himself, although with ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto‘ he would give screen time to Pluto, the beginning of a trend that would take severe turns in the rest of the 1930s, when Pluto, Donald and Goofy would all but eclipse Mickey’s career.

None of that in 1933! In that year Mickey is still in prime form, with ‘The Mail Pilot’ as a perfect example. It’s astonishing to watch the ease with which its strong story is told, and how many events the animators could squeeze into the seven minute cartoon.

In ‘The Mail Pilot’ Mickey is a mail pilot who has to carry a chest with money across the mountains. On his way he has to deal with a thunderstorm and a blizzard before he sees the sun again. The design of the anthropomorphized sun is the same as in the Silly Symphony ‘Father Noah’s Ark‘ from one month earlier. Unfortunately, at the other end of the mountains he’s confronted by evil mail robber Pete, who has both his legs in this cartoon. Pete shoots Mickey’s wings and propeller to pieces, but Mickey manages to fly nonetheless, capturing the bandit on the way.

‘The Mail Pilot’ belongs to Disney’s operetta period (see also ‘The Mad Doctor‘ and ‘Ye Olden Days‘ from the same year), and all dialogue is sung. Its opening song. ‘The Mail Must Go Through’, forms the main musical theme, which composer Bert Lewis develops in classical fashion in the rest of the score to glorious effects.

‘The Mail Pilot’ has an exciting adventure plot, and it’s not surprising that it spawned a comic book story, which arguably was Mickey’s most exciting adventure thus far. The story (now also labeled ‘The Mail Pilot’ ran from February 27 (months before the release of the cartoon ) until June 10. Floyd Gottfredson greatly expanded on the cartoon’s story, substituting the mail pilot for a much more exciting pirate dirigible with a magnetic web to ensnare the mail planes. Later, some scenes of the cartoon were combined with elements from ‘Shanghaied’ (1934) in Floyd Gottfredson’s classic comic strip ‘Mickey and the Pirates’ (or ‘The Captive Castaways’, 1934).

Watch ‘The Mail Pilot’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 56
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Ye Olden Days
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Mechanical Man

‘The Mail Pilot’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in black and white’

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: March 12, 1943
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Flying Jalopy © Walt DisneyDonald Duck is looking for a plane at ‘Ben Buzzard’s (crashed) used planes’.

Ben Buzzard sells a ramshackle plane to Donald and makes him signing a swindling contract in which an insurance company will pay the swindler $10,000,- in case of an accident. The buzzard then tries to make Donald crash.

Unfortunately, the comedy doesn’t quite work. First, because it’s hard to believe that the anthropomorphized buzzard can fly on his own, while the equally anthropomorphized Donald cannot. Second, Ben Buzzard’s attacks become more open and open, but at no point it’s made clear whether Donald realizes why he’s being attacked.

‘Flying Jalopy ‘was the last cartoon Dick Lundy directed at Disney. In October 1943 he left Disney to become an animator and director at Walter Lantz, where he directed several Woody Woodpecker shorts, including ‘Wet Blanket Policy‘, which uses the same idea, but with way better results, resulting in a far more hilarious cartoon. It even uses the same buzzard character, but Lantz’s Buzz Buzzard would become way more famous than Ben Buzzard ever was.

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

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 40
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Tire Trouble
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Fall out – Fall in

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