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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: Les Clark
Release Date: August 1, 1958
Rating: ★★
Review:

Paul Bunyan © Walt Disney‘Paul Bunyan’ belongs to a group of Disney specials that retell tall tales from the West, following ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘ and ‘Pecos Bill‘ from ‘Melody Time‘ (1948).

The short is told by three “eye witnesses”, who tell us about the great deeds of the mighty lumberjack Paul Bunyan, who was “63 axe handles high”. The best part describes how Bunyan and his equally gigantic ox Babe have reshaped the American landscape, by building sites like Pike’s peak, the Missouri river and Yellowstone Falls.

The designs in this cartoon are very bold and angular, which are pleasant to watch. Unfortunately, the short is hampered by a remarkable slowness and a terrible lack of good gags, which make it at 17 minutes too long to entertain.

‘Paul Bunyan’ was the only non-educational short directed by Disney veteran Les Clark, who had been with Disney since the birth of his own studio in 1928.

Watch ‘Paul Bunyan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Paul Bunyan’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: March 16, 1961
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Saga of Windwagon Smith © Walt Disney‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ was Disney’s last tall tale cartoon after entries like ‘Pecos Bill‘ (from ‘Melody Time‘, 1948) and ‘Paul Bunyan‘ (1958).

Unlike the former, which were rooted in American folklore, this story seems to be an original, although it retains a traditional feel. The story, which is sung in rhyme, tells about Windwagon Smith, a sailor who arrives at a small town in Kansas on a wagon with a sail. He convinces the villagers to make even a larger one to sail the prairies to Santa Fe with. But when it’s ready the villagers get scared and abandon the ‘ship’, except for Molly, the mayor’s daughter, who’s in love with Smith. Together they vanish into a storm.

‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ was the last cartoon to be directed by Charles Nichols. It’s also the last of only six shorts directed by him not to feature Pluto. It’s moderately stylized except for Molly, who’s conceived and animated in a charmingly stylized way. Nichols left Disney in 1962 for Hanna-Barbera, where he worked on countless television series. In the late 1980s he returned to Disney, where he worked onto his death in 1992, 81 years old.

Watch ‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

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