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Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 11?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La planète déchiquetée © ProcidisThe exciting episode ‘La planète déchiquetée’ undoubtedly is one of the highlights of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’.

It starts immediately where ‘À Cassiopée’ had left off. In this episode Cassiopeia leaves the galactic union, an act reminiscent of Japan’s resignation from The League of Nations in 1933. Like ‘À Cassiopée’ this episode starts with politics, with the absent-minded Maestro as a comic relief. Maestro also tells us how a sun explodes at the end of its life, thus adding a small educational touch to this episode.

A dying sun plays a major part in the political scheme of things, threatening a military base Cassiopeia is building nearby. When the sun does explode, Cassiopeia tries to save the material, leaving its own slave-like people behind, leaving them to be rescued by the allies.

Only after 20 minutes we meet our heroes, trying to save the last Cassiopeian people from the threatened planet. The time element and the contrasting goals of Cassopeia and Omega make this episode particularly thrilling. The suspense is supported by Michel Legrand’s exciting score.

At the end, the rescuing vessel The Ursus, with our heroes on board, crashes into another planet, leading to the first real cliffhanger in the series.

Watch ‘La planète déchiquetée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 10th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 9th episode: À Cassiopée (In Cassiopeia)
To the 10th episode: Les naufragés de l’espace (Shipwrecked in Space)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 4?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

À Cassiopée © ProcidisEpisode 9 of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is closely tied to episode 10 and 11, constituting the first episode-exceeding story within the series.

It’s also one of the more political episodes. Indeed, its first half is about politics only. It starts with general Teigneux (Pest) reflecting on the past, how he failed to colonize planets because of Omega, referring to the events in episodes 2-6. Then consul Le Nabot (Dwarf) shows him the tapes from earth he had stolen in the previous episode.

The images of earth shows Barillé’s cynical view on the earth’s future: 30 billion people, many of which overfed, a lot of pollution, age-long traffic jams (reminiscent of those from Halas & Batchelor’s cartoon ‘Automania 2000’ from 1963), and a pride in producing weapons. After watching these images, Cassiopeia plans to invade earth.

After this long introduction, our heroes are sent to Cassiopeia to find out what their plans are, but they’re immediately captured and sent into prison. The second half of this episode consists therefore of a classic prison break, with a starring role for the rather matter-of-factly Metro. Our heroes eventually escape using the same meteor trick the Millennium Falcon did in ‘The Emperor Strikes Back’ (1980), one of the numerous influences of George Lucas’ films on Barillé’s series.

Watch ‘À Cassiopée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 9th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 8th episode: Le long voyage (The Long Voyage)
To the 10th episode: La planète déchiquetée (A Planet Blown to Pieces)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 27?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Le long voyage © Procidis‘Le long voyage’ is a nice episode about space travel.

Star of the episode is an ancient forefather of Maestro who, after a journey of more than a 1,000 years, awakes near Omega, only to be greeted by descendants of humans who had made the trip after him, with better, larger and faster spaceships.

This episode excels in beautiful backgrounds and designs, especially of the spaceships. Highlight, however, are the ancient Maestro’s fantasies about extraterrestrial life, just before he encounters the all too familiar inhabitants of Omega.

With ‘Le long voyage’ we firmly return to the main story of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’. The strange incident from episode 1 is mentioned again, and in this episode we learn that earth still exists, ultimately leading to our heroes visiting their mother planet in episode 17. It also contains an unclear mystery about a hijacked ‘train’, indicating more troubles to come. Moreover, this episode shows Psi’s psychic powers in full, saving Pierrot who has become adrift in space.

Maestro’s ancestor is a great character and he would return to the screen in episodes 17 (‘Terre!‘) and 18 (‘L’Atlantide‘).

Watch ‘Le long voyage’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 8th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 7th episode: La planète Mytho (The Planet Mytho)
To the 9th episode: À Cassiopée (In Cassiopeia)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 20?, 1982
Rating: ★★
Review:

La planète Mytho © ProcidisIn this seventh episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ our heroes Pierrot, Psi and Metro land on a planet, where the survivors of a stranded spaceship play Gods.

This episode toys with Erich von Däniken’s ideas about the gods having been astronauts (Barillé would revisit that idea in ‘Les Incas‘). The stranded people are like the gods of the ancient Greek, sharing their names and habits.

The commander of the ship, Zeus, is a strong and valiant man, but he is also selfish, autocratic, and paternalistic. He keeps the mortals, the original humans populating the planet, ignorant and miserable. Pierrot and Psi disagree with the commander’s choice, and secretly give the humans bricks, the wheel, the sail, music and fire, thus turning them into some Prometheus and Athena, and showing Barillé’s personal political view.

Unlike its predecessor, ‘La révolte de robots‘, ‘La planète Mytho’ is more or less a stand-alone episode. It is also vaguely educational, telling kids a little about Greek mythology, although this is much easier to understand and to enjoy by the educated viewer than by the intended audience.

Apart from the Gods, Barillé shows us three Greek myths: Peleus and Thetys, Pan and Syrinx, and Eris’s apple of discord. The bronze giant Talos is transformed into a robot.

Because of the use of Greek mythology, the overall episode is inconsistent, hard to follow and slow. One wonders what Barillé’s aim was with this entry: did he want to educate or did he want to tell about political ethics?

Watch ‘La planète Mytho’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 7th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 6th episode: La révolte des robots (The Revolt of the Robots)
To the 8th episode: Le long voyage (The Long Voyage)

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: Roman Kachanov
Release date: 1981
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Tayna Tretyei Planeti (The Mystery of the Third Planet) © Soyuzmultfilm‘Tayna Tretyei Planeti’ (‘The Mystery of the Third Planet’, also ‘[Alice and] The Secret of the Third Planet’) is a delightful science-fiction film for children about the little girl Alice, who accompanies her father, a bespectacled scientist, and the melancholy captain Green on their trips to collect alien animals for the Moscow zoo.

On their way they encounter a mysterious professor, and learn about the illegal slaughter of ‘chatterers’, some kind of alien bird species. The one surviving chatterer provides the key to the mystery, leading our heroes to two heroic astronauts, who have been captured by pirates.

Despite the mystery plot, the overall mood of the film is optimistic, unhurried and relaxed. At no point there’s is any real danger or violence. Even when the villain commits suicide at the end, it turns out to be fake. The film’s delight is not as much found in its story as in its gorgeous designs, its alien images, its surreal backgrounds, Aleksandr Zatsepin’s wonderful soundtrack, full of electronic space-funk, and in its exuberant animation. Alice, for example, has the habit to pull back her hair continuously, while her dad keeps putting his glasses straight. Also featured is a comical alien creature, called Gromozeka, who possesses no less than six arms, which are all animated separately.

It seems that there were no budget problems at Soyuzmultfilm at that time, if animators could indulge that much in excessive animation. The results are gorgeous, but sometimes the elaborate animation slows down the action, especially during the action scenes, which are anything but fast. Nevertheless, ‘Tayna Tretyei Planeti’ is a gem of an animation film, and a feature that definitely deserves to be more well-known, even though it’s a short one, clocking only 45 minutes.

Watch ‘The Mystery of the Third Planet’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Vladimir Tarasov
Release date: 1978
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Contact © Soyuzmultfilm‘Contact’ is a good-humored short film in which a pipe-smoking, nature-loving hippie encounters a multicolored alien, capable of morphing.

First the man flees in horror, but then the two make contact through music, and in the end we can see them walking into the distance, singing together.

This Soviet film is surprisingly Western-looking and is drawn in a bold seventies style. In contrast with Tarasov’s earlier ‘Forward March, Time!‘ any Soviet association is lacking, and there seems to be some vague message about freedom. Tarasov shows his directing skills and is not afraid to use bold angles and extreme perspectives. The short contains a typical cartoon chase, accompanied by lively jazz music.

In 1979 Tarasov returned with the graphical equally original, but much more propagandistic film ‘Shooting Range’, proving that he was one of the most interesting Russian animators of his generation.

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


Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 13?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La révolte des robots © ProcidisLa révolte de robots’ is the first highlight in the ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ series.

Unlike the earlier episodes the threat does not come from stock villain Cassiopeia, but from a rebelling robot planet called Leto. We’re introduced to this planet first, with our heroes only entering the scene after twelve minutes. Our heroes save the day, especially the little robot Metro, who battles a large robot, which looks like a copy from Grendizer (Goldorak), the famous robot from the Japanese 1970s series of the same name.

However, who is really responsible for the robots’ rebellion remains unknown. This would grow into the series’ most important story element, dominating its great last third. If anything, this episode shows the risks of man’s dependency on technology, but Barillé clearly states that humans are superior to robots, something he tries to illustrate rather unconvincingly in this episode. The whole argument of humans vs. machines would come back with a vengeance in the 23rd episode, ‘Le grand ordinateur‘.

Watch ‘La révolte des robots’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 6th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 5th episode: Les Cro-Magnons (The Cro-Magnons)
To the 7th episode: La planète Mytho (The Planet Mytho)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 6?, 1982
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Les Cro-Magnons © ProcidisThis is the fourth episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ in which the evil constellation of Cassiopeia threatens a green and primitive planet in the Andromeda galaxy.

This time it’s the planet Diane, which is inhabited by humans, who apparently have descended from humans from earth. Against the regulations, Pierot and Psi visit the small population, who, like the title suggests, live like Cro-Magnons.

Like in ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ this population knows its own versions of our main protagonists, so they have their own Pierrette, Maestro, le Teigneux and le Nabot. In the end, the visit by the people from Omega induces tales of Gods within the Cro-Magnon population, echoing the ideas of Erich von Däniken.

This episode opens in a neighborhood and a bar on Omega that is very similar to Mos Eisley in ‘Star Wars’ (1977), one of quite a few influences of that film on Barillé’s series. The most interesting part, however, is the computer search for the planet Cassiopeia probably wants to invade, showing several planets inhabited by weird alien creatures.

Watch ‘Les Cro-Magnons’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 5th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 4th episode: Du côté d’Andromède (Towards Andromeda)
To the 5th episode: La révolte des robots (The Revolt of the Robots)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 30?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Du côté d’Andromède © Procidis‘Du côte d’Andromède’ is the first episode of Il était une fois… l’espace in which Pierrot, his love Psi, and the little robot Metro are presented as a team.

Psi replaces Pierrot’s former co-pilot, Petit Gros, whose star would soon fade away. The trio’s routine inspection flight turns into a disaster when they crash into the planet Clarus, which orbits a dying star. In search of fresh air, our heroes meet a people called Terks, who are outcasts from Andromeda.

They also discover that the Terks are secretly armed by the evil constellation of Cassiopeia in order to invade Andromeda, making Clarus the third of four planets in the Andromeda Galaxy Cassiopeia is trying to use for an invasion. Naturally, the Terks aren’t fond of spies, and our heroes are about to get executed, when their friends from Omega come to the rescue.

Like ‘La planète verte‘, ‘Du côte d’Andromède’ shows Barillé’s love to show and explain political manipulations to children. This episode also introduces the vague, angel-like creature who visits Psi and tells her that evil will never win.

Watch ‘Du côté d’Andromède’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 4th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 3rd episode: La planète verte (The Green Planet)
To the 5th episode: Les Cro-Magnons (The Cro-Magnons)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 23?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

La planète verte © ProcidisUnlike the majority of the episodes of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’, ‘La planète verte’ starts with politics: we witness a political conflict between Omega and Cassiopeia.

Like in ‘Les Sauriens‘, Cassiopeia tries to invade a green, primitive planet in the Andromeda section (something they would also try to do in the fifth episode). Only after more than eight minutes our heroes Pierrot and Petit Gros enter the stage. They check the planet, which turns out to be inhabited by intelligent plants, who have captured their invaders, including general Teigneux (The Pest) and ambassador Nabot (Dwarf) themselves.

This episode show us more of Cassiopeia than the two previous episodes. This society turns out to be very militaristic with Nazi-like characteristics. Because of Cassiopeia’s more prominent role, ‘La planète verte’ is more interesting than the previous two episodes, if not too exciting.

Watch ‘La planète verte’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 3rd episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)
To the 4th episode: Du côté d’Andromède (Towards Andromeda)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 16?, 1982
Rating: ★
Review:

Les Sauriens © ProcidisIn this second episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ the feisty little robot Metro gets his name.

Metro joins Pierrot and Petit Gros on their first mission. The trio explores a Jurassic planet inhabited by large iguana-like people who communicate by telepathy.

If anything, this episode shows how differences between cultures can lead to aversions and misunderstandings. Nevertheless, it is one of the slowest and weakest episodes of the series.

Watch ‘Les Sauriens’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 2nd episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 1st episode: La planète Omega (The Planet Omega)
To the 3rd episode: la planète verte (The Green Planet)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 9, 1982
Rating: ★★½
Review:

La planète Omega © ProcidisAfter the success of ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ (Once upon a Time… Man) Albert Barillé returned with the boldest and most artistic children series of his entire career.

Largely abandoning education, the raison d’être of his last series, he embarked on a fictional and after a while remarkably integrated story, set in the far future, telling about a United Nations-like intergalactic union, and its problems.

Even more than the previous series, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once upon a Time… Space) is a vehicle of Barillé’s highly personal views on the world and mankind. The series expresses a strong love for nature and mutual understanding, and an aversion to imperialism, war and, to a certain extent, technology.

New is a strong spirituality, embodied by the mild, and vaguely South American-looking girl Psi, who possesses psychic powers. Unlike the other main characters, she had not been in the original series, and she is less stereotypical than the rest of the cast. Her role in this first episode (in which she’s introduced as ‘Mercedes’, but everyone calls her ‘Psi’) is still minor, but soon she would become as important as Pierrot (Peter), the series’ main hero.

Pierrot, like all other good guys from ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ has been redesigned and fixed into a single role. Pierrot now is a guy in his early twenties. Petit Gros (Jumbo), too, has changed. He is less dim, less strong and less obese than in the original series. In fact, he’s only recognizable by his red hair. His dad is equally slender and has grown a blonde mustache, while a stern-looking Pierre, head of the intergalactic police, is fixed at an older age (say 50).

The most surprising transformation may be that of Pierrette, who is head of the Union, and who has received a modern hairdo and some fancy glasses. By placing her as head of the union Barillé makes a strong feminist statement that was still pretty bold in the early 1980s. The only characters to remain the same are Maestro, and the two villains Le Nabot (The Dwarf) and Le Teigneux (The Pest). Remarkably, children are totally absent from the series.

In this first episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ Maestro conceives the little robot Metro, who would play a major part in the series, eclipsing his master, while Le Teigneux and le Nabot are introduced as the ambassador and general of Cassiopeia, a galaxy with militaristic ambitions, but which is part of the Union nonetheless. Taking time in introducing all these characters, there is very little action in ‘La planète Omega’. Nevertheless, the stage is set when the Union is confronted by an unknown spaceship of some supreme alien race…

Apart from Barillé’s original story and its classic characters, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is a highlight of television animation because of its great music by Michel Legrand and its superb backgrounds by Philippe Bouchet, Manchu and Afrula Hadjiyanakis. This trio clearly draws inspiration from contemporary science fiction illustrators like Lukas Foss, Colin Hay, Angus McKie and Tony Roberts.

The animation itself, by the Japanese Eiken studio, is better than in ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’, but it’s still mediocre and uneven, and especially the designs of Psi are far from consistent. This would remain a problem throughout the series, together with a sometimes terribly slow narration. These drawbacks, however, do not overcome the series’ merits, and ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ may be praised as Barillé’s masterpiece.

Watch an excerpt from ‘La planète Omega’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 1st episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)

Director: René Laloux
Release date: March 24, 1981
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Les maîtres du temps © René LalouxIn the science fiction film ‘Les maîtres du temps’ Jaffar, the muscular pilot of a spaceship, tries to rescue the little orphan Piel, who is the sole survivor of a massacre on the dangerous planet Perdide.

Jaffar’s only means of contact with the little boy is through an egg-shaped microphone which Piel calls ‘Mike’. Jaffar is aided by a jolly old man called Silbad, and two little telepathic creatures Silbad rescued from a flower, called Jad and Yula. His only passenger, however, the evil prince Matton, on escape with a treasure, tries to kill Piel in order to get sooner to Aldebaran…

‘Les maîtres du temps’ was René Laloux’ second animated feature film and it shares many characteristics with his first, ‘Le planète sauvage‘: it’s a science fiction film based on a novel by Stefan Wul and using designs by a famous french illustrator, this time comic artist Moebius (Jean Giraud). ‘Les maîtres du temps’ nevertheless is less outlandish than ‘Le planète sauvage’: it’s an ‘ordinary’ cel animation film and Moebius’s drawings are less surreal than Topor’s. Yet, they still manage to give the film an otherworldly quality. Especially his designs of Perdide are disturbing, rendering it an uncanny, dangerous planet, indeed.

Moebius’s style is very visible throughout the picture, except for the humans, who are drawn pretty uglily and fail to live up to Moebius’s own high standards. Only the little orphan Piel and the jolly old man Silbad are true to Moebius’s designs. Consequently, they are both very believable and likeable characters, where the others remain flat cardboard examples of ‘the hero’, ‘the beautiful woman’ and ‘the villain’. Their animation, too, remains stiff and unconvincing  In contrast, the funny little gnomes Jad and Yula are rendered very flexible and are responsible for some of the most beautiful animation in the film, which was practically all done by the Hungarian Pannonia Film Studio.

‘Les maîtres du temps’ is far from perfect, but mainly thanks to Piel’s character, with whom we can identify immediately, it’s a film with a heart. This, combined with some impressive science fiction images, especially of Perdide and of the planet Gamma 10, make the film one to return to over and over again.

After ‘Les maîtres du temps’ Laloux would make yet another Science fiction feature, now based on drawings by French comic artist Caza: ‘Gandahar‘. Unfortunately, it would prove to be the weakest of the trio.

Watch the trailer for ‘Les maîtres du temps’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Ben Washam
Release date: August 25, 1967
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating:  ★
Review:

Advance and Be Mechanized © MGM‘Advance and Be Mechanized’ is the third of three science fiction cartoons starring Tom & Jerry, released in 1967, the others being ‘O Solar Meow‘ and ‘Guided Mouse-ille‘.

In their third science fiction short Jerry’s stealing cheese from a ‘cheese mine’ protected by police officer Tom. Both use the robots from ‘Guided Mouse-ille’ to fight each other. The film uses a whole scene twice and reuses a complete scene from ‘Guided Mouse-ille’, adding to a very cheap feel.

The end is particularly depressing when the two robots turn Tom & Jerry themselves into mindless robots… They could hardly be further removed from their glory days than in this cartoon.

Watch ‘Advance and Be Mechanized’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 161

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Shutter Bugged Cat
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Purr-Chance to Dream

Director: Abe Levitow
Release date: March 10, 1967
Stars: Tom & Jerry
Rating:  ★
Review:

Guided Mouse-ille © MGMAfter ‘O-Solar-Meow‘ Tom and Jerry immediately return to the science fiction setting in ‘Guided Mouse-ille’.

The time is 2565 AD and again, Tom and Jerry fight each other with modern technology, including the robot cat from ‘O Solar Meow’. In the end, our heroes are inexplicably blown to the prehistory, where they continue their chase.

Written by story man John Dunn (as was O-Solar-Meow), ‘Guided Mouse-ille’ is a very bad and terribly unfunny cartoon. Luckily, Tom & Jerry’s next short would be much more fun…

Watch ‘Guided Mouse-ille’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 155

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: O-Solar-Meow
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Rock ‘n’ Rodent

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: Ward Kimball
Airing Date: March 9, 1955
Stars: Walt Disney, Ward Kimball, Wernher von Braun
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Man in Space © Walt Disney‘Man in Space’ is a Disneyland special about man’s conquest of space, which, two years before the launching of Sputnik, was still a dream at that time.

The documentary includes information about rockets, weightlessness and concludes with an exciting account of man’s first space travel, based on the designs by rocket engineer Wernher von Braun. Von Braun is one of three German scientists featured in the program, the others being Willy Ley and Heinz Haber, demonstrating the enormous influence of German scientists on American science. Ley had fled Nazi Germany in 1935, but Haber stayed there till the end of the war, and Von Braun was even responsible for the deadly V2 rocket, a technical tour-de-force, but also the Nazi regime’s most fearful weapon.

‘Man in Space’ is shortly introduced by Walt Disney himself, quickly giving the presentation to director Ward Kimball, who remains the main host of the program. Kimball is clearly in his element here. His own wacky cartoon animation style is featured in a short history of man’s attempts to enter space, and in Haber’s accounts of ‘space medicine’. Indeed, he later called the space series, of which ‘Man in Space’ is the first entry, the creative high point of his career.

Throughout the movie, the use of animation is sparse, however, and the animation itself very limited. Nevertheless, its use is very effective, especially in the visionary concluding part, with its typical fifties science fiction designs.

‘Man in Space’ would be followed by ‘Man and the Moon‘ (1955) and ‘Mars and Beyond’ (1957), taking ideas on space travel even further.

Watch ‘Man in Space’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Release date: August 8, 1955
Stars: Porky Pig, Sylvester
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Jumpin' Jupiter © Warner Brothers‘Jumpin’ Jupiter’ was the last of three cartoons in which director Chuck Jones employed Porky Pig, and Sylvester as his frightened cat.

This time they’re camping out when they’re visited by a bird-like alien. The alien takes their complete camping site to outer space. As in the former cartoons, Porky remains completely unaware of what’s happening, while Sylvester sees it all, much to his horror. In the end we see them drive off into the horizon on a strange, strange planet.

‘Jumpin’ Jupiter’ is a beautiful and well animated cartoon, and arguably the most enjoyable of the Porky-Sylvester pairings. The action is helped by Carl Stalling’s particularly inspired music, which matches the science fiction setting perfectly.

Watch ‘Jumpin’ Jupiter’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 145
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: My Little Duckaroo
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Dime to Retire

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