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Director: Sanae Yamamoto
Release Date: 1942
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

The Animal Village in Trouble © Sanae Yamamoto‘The Animal Village in Trouble’ tells the tale of three families: the monkeys, the bears and the raccoon dogs.

The monkeys’ family is very large, and hard to feed. But when a storm breaks out, it’s the only family that manages to protect its home. Moreover, the monkeys save the other two families from drowning. Is this a message to the audience to produce more offspring in times of war?

This film is essentially silent, with a voice over. The designs are quite elegant, and more clearly Japanese than usual in pre-war/wartime anime. The animation is mostly fair, with the storm scene in particular being quite spectacular. Also interesting is the occurrence of metamorphosis, a rarity in prewar/wartime Japanese animation: one raccoon dog transforms itself into an alarm clock, while another changes into a bridge at one point.

Sanae Yamamoto (1898-1981) came into prominence as an animator in the 1920s. In the 1950s he would join the Tōei animation studio, where he became supervising animator until his retirement in 1967.

Watch ‘The Animal Village in Trouble’ yourself and tell me what you think:

https://www.senscritique.com/film/Doubutsu_Mura_no_Daisodou/21070972

‘The Animal Village in Trouble’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Japanese Anime Classic Collection’

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Director: unknown
Release Date:
 August 22, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Stormy Seas © Flip the FrogIn ‘Stormy Seas’ Flip the Frog is a sailor, playing and dancing merrily with his fellow sailors, until their ship is caught in a thunderstorm. Soon Flip receives the S.O.S. of another boat in need, and he runs off to rescue a Honey-like female kitten in a long rescue scene.

There’s practically no dull moment in ‘Stormy Seas’, but the cartoon also demonstrates that Iwerks was looking back for inspiration, instead of forward. The scene in which Flip swims right through the waves is borrowed straight from the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Wild Waves‘ (1929), and the rescue scene borrows the lifeline gag from the Mickey short ‘The Fire Fighters‘ (1930). This type of gag borrowing would become worse in Flip’s next cartoon, ‘Circus’. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that it had also occurred occasionally in the early Mickeys themselves, as they reused several gags from Mickey’s predecessor Oswald.

There’s a great deal of anthropomorphism of lifeless objects in this cartoon: the cloud, the radio and even Flip’s chewing tobacco become humanized. However, the cartoon is most noteworthy for its very inspired music. It’s undoubtedly by MGM composer Scott Bradley, for it displays his unique style of intertwining several melodies in a classical way, mixing the hornpipe and ‘My Bonnie’ with Richard Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’ to great effect during the storm scene. This is the first testimony of Bradley’s mature style known to me, and it anticipates his celebrated work of the 1940s.

Watch ‘Stormy Seas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 25
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Room Runners
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Circus

‘The Office Boy’ is available on the DVD Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: November 5, 1937
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The Old Mill © Walt Disney‘The Old Mill’ is a milestone in effect animation.

From the first scene on special effects seem to be the sole raison d’être of the film. The cartoon is literally stuffed with them: dew on a cobweb, ripples in the water, light beams, fireflies, wind, rain and a thunderstorm.

Disney’s famous multiplane camera, with which the feeling of depth could be realized, makes its debut here. Together these effects create an astonishing level of realism, necessary for the upcoming first animated feature, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. In ‘The Old Mill’ even the animal characters are more or less realistic, a rare feat in Disney cartoons until then.

All this realism leads to awe-inspiring images, based on concept art by Danish illustrator Gustaf Tenggren, who had joined the studio in 1936. Unfortunately, the images do not lead to much of a story. The film is more of a series of moods from dusk to dawn. Despite its clever pacing, reaching a climax in the thunderstorm sequence, ‘The Old Mill’ is an overly romantic depiction of nature, and less enjoyable as a cartoon than as a showcase of Disney animation.

Watch ‘The Old Mill’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 68
To the previous Silly Symphony: Little Hiawatha
To the next Silly Symphony: Moth and the Flame

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: February 23, 1935
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Donald Duck, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Band Concert © Walt DisneyAlmost three years after ‘Flowers and Trees’ Mickey finally made the step to color, and it’s probably because of this that ‘The Band Concert’ has such a Silly Symphony-like feel to it.

In 1935 the concept of a concert cartoon was already an old one (Mickey’s first was the ‘Barnyard Concert’ from 1930), but it finds the peak of perfection in this one.

Likewise, the use of Gioachino Rossini’s ‘overture Wilhelm Tell’ and ‘Turkey in the Straw’ in cartoons was far from new, but who would have thought that the two tunes would fit together so perfectly? The overture is played inside-out culminating in the storm sequence which brings forth a tornado. That’s how it feels, Mickey is not only conducting the storm music but even the real storm itself!

Notwithstanding the cartoon being a Mickey Mouse showcase, it’s Donald Duck who is stealing the show, like he did in the two previous Mickey Mouse cartoons he appeared in: ‘Orphan’s Benefit‘ and ‘The Dognapper‘. Being the only character in the cartoon born in color, Donald makes the transition from black-and-white to color naturally. Mickey and the other characters, on the other hand, still have a strong black-and-white feeling in their design and are less fitting in the bright world of color.

During Mickey’s concert, Donald produces an unending supply of flutes out of nothing, playing ‘Turkey in the Straw’ right through Rossini’s music (this ability of bringing forth material from out of nowhere was a capability that Donald would soon lose, but it would become a trademark of Bugs Bunny several years later). It’s a bitter irony that it’s this tune, ‘Turkey in the Straw’, which signals Mickey’s demise, because it was the same tune that made Mickey a star in the first place.

Nevertheless, ‘The Band Concert’ is without doubt Mickey’s best concert cartoon, arguably his best cartoon since ‘Steamboat Willie‘ and certainly one of the most perfect animated cartoons ever made.

Watch ‘The Band Concert’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 73
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Man Friday
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Service Station

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