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Director: ?
Release Date: November 11, 1933
Stars: Willie Whopper
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Stratos Fear © Ub IwerksNot satisfied with Flip the Frog, MGM demanded a new cartoon star from Ub Iwerks. So, the studio conceived Willie Whopper, a fat little boy telling tall tales.

Unfortunately, Willie Whopper wasn’t much of a success either, and the series was stopped after only twelve entries. Most famous among the Willie Whopper cartoons probably is ‘Stratos Fear’ in which our hero visits the dentist. When Willie gets too much laughing gas, he inflates and goes up into the air, soon leaving earth, the moon, passing Saturn and into space. When he passes an alien planet, he’s caught by some strange alien scientists.

The alien planet is by all means an odd world, and it anticipates the sheer zaniness of ‘Porky in Wackyland’ (1938). At one point one of the evil scientists even dresses as a beautiful woman in a scene looking forward all the way to Tim Burton’s feature ‘Mars Attacks!’ (1996). Luckily in the end, it all appears to have been a dream.

‘Stratos Fear’ is an interesting cartoon, because of its early surrealism, but Willie Whopper is not much of a character, being just a bland boy, only reacting on his surroundings, without any internal motivation. The gags, too, are only mildly amusing, as things are just happening on the screen, in a pretty steady flow. Also, despite a certain horror atmosphere, and the erotic beauty, it’s one of those 1933 cartoons already moving towards the infantile world of the second half of the 1930s. The result is noteworthy cartoon, but hardly anything more than that.

Watch ‘Stratos Fear’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Stratos Fear’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

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Director: Vladimir Tarasov
Release date: 1988
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Pereval (The Pass) © Soyuzmultfilm‘Pereval’ (The Pass) is a science fiction film from the Soviet Union about three youngsters, descendants of some astronauts stranded on a strange, alien planet, who make a quest to the original spaceship.

The film is dark and moody and the atmosphere contemplative, even in the action scenes. Nevertheless, there is a weak comic relief in the form of an eight-eyed, elephant-like creature, which the youngsters encounter on their way to the ship.

In this film Tarasov uses a bold, realistic style with sharp contrasts: he juxtaposes stark shadows with monochrome yellows and reds to create a unique graphic atmosphere, reminiscent of the work by Frank Miller. The planet is portrayed as barren, disturbing and threatening. The images are often very surreal, and no attemption is made to give the backgrounds any sense of realism. This makes this film comparable to Laloux’s ‘La Planète sauvage‘, despite its difference in style. The spaceship, for example, looks more like an alien temple, and one gets the idea that the journey of the three is more symbolical than real. The mood is enhanced by a Dio-like hard rock song.

‘Pereval’ was the last animation film Tarasov made during the Soviet era. See the modest Wikipedia article to learn what happened to him after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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

Adam © AardmanA man is created by a giant hand on a tiny planet.

His creator orders him 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).

This film features some pretty 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 it contains great silent comedy gags, the film is rather unsettling overall. 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’

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