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Director: Bill Justice
Release Date: November 10, 1959
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Noah's Ark © Walt DisneyThis is the second of no less than three Disney interpretations from the classic story from Genesis, the other ones being the Silly Symphony ‘Father Noah’s Ark‘ (1933) and a sequence from ‘Fantasia 2000’ (1999), starring Donald Duck.

This second version is the most extraordinary of the three as it exchanges the ordinary cel animation for stop motion, an animation technique not practiced at the Disney studio. Yet animators Bill Justice and X Atencio gave it a go. For novices in this particular technique, the stop motion is of a remarkably high quality, on par with other stop motion films of the time.

In classic animation tradition, the film start with human hands handling the material, and even the film’s title is animated in stop motion, using a string of wool. Justice’s and Atencio’s designs, too, are refreshing: all characters are mostly made of ordinary material, like corks, pencils and clothespins, often still very visible. The cinematography, too, is superb. For example, there’s a clever montage scene of Noah and his sons building the ark.

The story (by T. Hee) is told by Jerome Courtland in rhyme and features a jazzy score by George Bruns and several songs by Mel Leven. The makers don’t take their story too seriously, and at one point there’s even room for a blues song sung by an abandoned female hippo who grieves, while her husband Harry dances with all other female creatures.

In all, ‘Noah’s Ark’ is a nice departure for Disney, and the film’s looks remain unique within the Disney canon. At 20 minutes the short may be a little too long, but the sheer fun with which this film has been made is contagious.

Watch ‘Noah’s Ark’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Noah’s Ark’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Bobe Cannon
Release Date: January 24, 1952
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Oompahs © UPAIn ‘The Oompahs’ a voice over tells a story about a family of musical instruments.

‘The Oompahs’ is one of UPA’s most avantgardistic cartoons. Its story and designs are by caricaturist T. Hee, who went for the extremes. The instruments are very basic paper cut outs, with very little animation on them. Mostly they just move across the screen. It’s almost unbelievable that such a modern cartoon could come from a Hollywood studio, at all.

The cartoon is the prime example of director Bobe Cannon’s wish to let the audience watch “drawings that moved”. Even if the founding idea of humanized musical instruments is the same as in Disney’s ‘Music Land‘ (1936), ‘The Oompahs’ is aesthetically miles away from the earlier cartoon.

Like some other UPA cartoons ‘The Oompahs’ tells about a young character with a free spirit. Young Orville, a trumpet, wants to play and improvize freely with his friends (some other instruments), in a game that is depicted by a baseball match, and which sounds like a dixieland band. But Oompah Pa doesn’t approve and makes young Orville practice boring tunes. Then young Orville loses all spirit, gets sick, and only his friends can revive him.

This message of letting creative energy run free must have appealed a lot to its makers, for creative freedom was the raison d’être of the whole studio.

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

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