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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: February 5, 1932
Stars: Bimbo, Betty Boop
Rating: ★
Review:

The Robot © Max FleischerEven though ‘The Robot’ was released half a year after ‘The Herring Murder Case’ (1931) it features Bimbo in his design before his make-over in that film.

In this film Bimbo is courting a female character, who only wants to marry him, when he can lick ‘One Round Mike’ in a boxing match. Bimbo accepts, but when it’s his turn he builds a robot out of his car to win the game.

Betty Boop has a small cameo in this cartoon when she rushes outside to revive Bimbo’s car-robot (or is she Bimbo’s girlfriend but in a different design? The Fleischers were inconsistent enough to be unclear on this). Apart from this short scene, there’s little to enjoy in ‘The Robot’. The most interesting part maybe Bimbo’s way of courting his sweetheart, which he does by ‘television’, a sort of Skype avant la lettre.

Strangely enough, the idea of a boxing robot was reused in ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man‘ from 1933, with equally weak results. There was something going on in 1932 with boxing robots anyway, for also Popeye socks a robot in the ring in the Popeye Sunday comic strip of April, 24 and May 1, 1932. In any case, to most people in the Great Depression robots were the ultimate terror, as unemployment already was a major problem. Luckily, no robot would be used in any factory until the 1960s. And boxing robots still haven’t seen the light of day, yet.

Spread from the April 1934 issue of Modern Mechanix and Inventions

Spread from the April 1934 issue of Modern Mechanix and Inventions

More on the robot craze of the early 1930s can be found here and here.

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

This is Talkartoon No. 32
To the previous Talkartoon: Boop-Oop-a-Doop
To the next Talkartoon: Minnie the Moocher

‘The Robot’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: September 21, 1951
Stars: Pluto, Milton
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Cold Turkey © Walt Disney‘Cold Turkey’ was the very last Pluto cartoon, although Pluto would return in Mickey Mouse’s last three cartoons (1952/1953).

The short couples Pluto to Milton, the zany cat who had been introduced in ‘Puss-Cafe‘ the previous year, only to star in three cartoons.

‘Cold Turkey’ opens with some live action footage on a television set featuring a wrestling match. Pluto and Milton sleep right through it, only to awake at an add for hot turkey. The pair first tries to get the turkey out of the television set, then try to find it in the kitchen. When they discover one in the fridge, the companionship turns into rivalry.

‘Cold Turkey’ is less funny than either ‘Puss-Cafe’ or ‘Plutopia‘, the other two cartoons featuring Milton, but it’s still an enjoyable short. The best part may be the pedal bin scene. It’s sad to see the Pluto series ending when its makers had finally made it into a funny one, with its last eleven cartoons being among the best of the entire series.

Watch ‘Cold Turkey’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto’s 43rd and last cartoon
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Plutopia

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: December 26, 1953
Stars: Droopy, The Wolf
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Three Little Pups © MGM‘The Three Little Pups’ starts as a pastiche of the Disney classic ‘Three Little Pigs‘ (1933) with dogs instead of pigs, and the wolf being a dogcatcher.

However it changes into a typical Avery-cartoon as soon as the wolf has failed to blow the smart little pup’s dog house down. He then goes completely berserk on trying to break the house down only to freeze and say into the camera in a remarkably laid-back Southern voice, provided by Daws Butler: “Well, that’s a well-built dog house, man”.

This is clearly a completely different wolf than we had seen before in Tex Avery’s cartoons. Instead of having wild takes, his reactions to his humiliations are absurdly stolid. All through the picture, he remains completely calm, and several times we can hear him whistling the civil war tune ‘Kingdom Coming’, accompanied by the barest minimum of percussion. This would become his signature song in his reappearances in the Tex Avery one-shot ‘Billy Boy’ (1954), and in two of Michael Lah’s Droopy cartoons: ‘Sheep Wrecked‘ (1958) and ‘Blackboard Jumble’ (1957), which reuses some animation from ‘The Three Little Pups’.

Incidentally, the wolf is not the first animated character to whistle this tune. Twenty years earlier, Pooch the Pup already whistled it in the Walter Lantz cartoon ‘King Klunk‘ (1933). Avery worked at Lantz at the time – is it possible he remembered the tune from this cartoon?

The phlegmatic Southern Wolf is by all means a hilarious character to watch, and he plays surprisingly well against the equally deadpan Droopy. Add lots of gags, Tex Avery’s superb timing and spot on music by Scott Bradley, and we have a fine cartoon of excellent comedy. ‘Meow, man!’

Note the anti-television gags in this short. Tex Avery would make more of those in ‘Drag-along Droopy’ (1954). During the 1950s television made things difficult indeed for theatrical cartoons. Less and less visits were paid to the cinemas, and so studios were forced to cut down their costs. This process ultimately led to the demise of the theatrical cartoon, and to the decline of American studio animation in general, which reached an all-time low in the 1970s, only to be revived again at the end of the 1980s.

Watch ‘The Three Little Pups’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Three Little Pups’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’ and on the French DVD-box ‘Tex Avery’

Director: Bruno Bozzetto
Release Date: 1983
Rating: ★★
Review:

Sigmund © Bruno Bozzetto‘Sigmund’ is a very short cartoon, commissioned for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The cartoon consists of one scene in a blue room in which a bespectacled little boy imagines himself as the sport stars he watches on television. The little boy’s imagination is shown by metamorphosis: we watch him change into the sport stars, growing with every metamorphosis.

‘Sigmund’ is a sweet short, but neither memorable, funny or one of Bozzetto’s best.

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

Director: Osvaldo Cavandoli
Release Date:
 1974
Stars:
 La Linea
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

La Linea episode 1 © Osvaldo CavandoliLa Linea is an Italian television series, which takes graphic design, introduced by UPA to the animated screen, to the max.

The first of all La Linea shorts defines the complete series: it consists of numerous unrelated gags around the jabbering little man Linea, who lives in a 2-dimensional world, consisting of only one white line, of which he is part.

This cheerful, but temperamental guy has some characteristics that return in every single episode: First, he talks an Italian-sounding sort of gibberish, provided by voice actor Carlo Bonomi. Second, he always walks to the left of the screen. Third, he always encounters at least one interruption of the line during his walk. Fourth, he frequently argues with his off-screen creator, of whom we only see his hand drawing things for the little guy. And Fifth, our hero has also has an intoxicating laugh, which is heard at least once.

All designs are extremely stylized, yet perfectly recognizable, and beautifully animated. The backgrounds are monochromic, changing from green to red to blue etc. All these elements make this series such a classic, even though most of the episodes are completely plotless, and only last about 2 minutes.

In this particular episode La Linea encounters a turtle, a television set, a tap and a woman. He plays golf and takes a rollercoaster ride. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s fun. Franco Godi’s music in this particular cartoon is more present than in the following ones, using a tune with voices instead of the instrumental background music of later cartoons.

Watch ‘La Linea episode 1’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘La Linea episode 1’ is available on the DVD ‘La Linea 1’

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