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Director: Ikuo Ōishi
Release Date: 1939
Rating:  ★★

Swim, Monkey, Swim © Ikuo Ōishi‘Swim, Monkey, Swim’ tells about monkey, who learns to swim, and immediately joins a swimming contest.

The monkey wins by cheating, riding a ‘water imp’. In the end he succeeds in “cheating the others, but not his heart”.

‘Swim Monkey Swim’ is a primitive film, with the designs and animation looking like an Aesop Fable from the 1920s. Indeed, Ōishi was a Japanese animation pioneer, already making films in the 1910s. But if this film really was made 1939, it seems he had little learned since. The designs are nice and readable, but the film’s timing is too slow, rendering endless footage of the race. With its ten minutes the film is overlong and overstays its welcome.

Watch ‘Swim, Monkey, Swim’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Swim, Monkey, Swim’ is available on the DVD-box set ‘Japanese Anime Classic Collection’

Director: Bernard Brown
Release Date: January 27, 1934
Rating: ★★

Pettin' in the Park © Warner Bros.Mid-1933 Harman and Ising had quit with Leon Schlesinger after a dispute over money, leaving Schlesinger without a studio.

So Schlesinger quickly set up one at Sunset Boulevard, initially with help from sound engineer Bernard Brown and his friends. Brown even himself directed two cartoons during the studio’s chaotic starting months, of which ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ is the first.

Brown was no animator himself, and judging from this cartoon he was not much of a director, either: ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ just makes no sense. The first half is just an illustration of the song from the Warner Bros. musical ‘Gold Diggers from 1933’, featuring the familiar theme of a cop courting a babysitter (see also Fleischer’s ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart‘ and Van Beuren’s ‘In the Park‘ (1933). The second half suddenly reports a diving contest and a swimming race between birds. Bridging the action is a cheeky little penguin – what he does in a park no-one will ever know.

There’s a surprising lack of continuity and consistency rarely seen outside the Van Beuren studio output, and the cartoon is of an appalling low quality, especially when compared to the earlier Harman and Ising output. Even worse, few of the gags come off, and none is anything near funny.

Nevertheless, even a terrible film like ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ shows that the typical Warner Bros. animation style, developed at Harman & Ising, had not been lost. It certainly helped that Schlesinger had managed to hire away some crew from his former associates. Bob Clampett, for example, who gets his first billing as an animator here. Clampett and Jack King (hired away from Disney) are clearly trying to put some pepper into the hopeless scenes. Thus despite its story atrocities, even ‘Pettin’in the Park’ displays Warner Bros. own distinct animation style, which, in 1933 was second to Disney only in quality.

Watch ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pettin’ in the Park’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: October 23, 1942
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★★★★

How To Swim © Walt Disney

With ‘How To Swim’ director Jack Kinney really hit his stride. The film perfectly blends educational information with total nonsense.

The result is one of the best of Goofy’s ‘how to’ shorts, ‘How to swim’ starts off hilariously, when Goofy practices various strokes on a piano stool, unknowingly crossing the street while doing so. Other gags involve Goofy trying to change in a remarkably small beach locker and his attempts to bath in the surf.

The best part, however, is the diving sequence. Here, a great story device is introduced: the chart-like figure, borrowed from the educational shorts Disney made for the war effort at that time. The diving sequence also features the use of the ‘slow motion camera’, which was introduced in the ‘How to ride a horse’ sequence within ‘The reluctant Dragon‘ (1941). The combination of the slow motion camera’s ridiculously elaborate animation and the perfection of the chart figure is deadly funny.

It’s characteristic for the high quality standards at the Disney Studio that even regular gag cartoons contain beautiful and convincing effect animation, like the tidal waves in ‘How to Swim’.

Watch ‘How To Swim’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 8
To the previous Goofy cartoon: The Olympic Champ
To the next Goofy cartoon: How to Fish

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