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Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 May 12, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Pluto, Goofy
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Mickey's Revue © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Revue’ is famous for introducing Goofy, whose guffaw we had heard off-stage in the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon, ‘Barnyard Olympics‘.

In this cartoon he’s an elderly person, bearded and wearing glasses. We don’t hear him speak, only his guffaw can be heard, and together with Pluto he forms the running gag of the cartoon. Although Goofy literally has the last laugh, nothing points to the direction of a star career beyond the laugh itself, and indeed, in ‘Trader Mickey‘ his guffaw was used by a cannibal king, indicating it was not an exclusive trait, yet.

Nevertheless, Goofy would return in ‘The Whoopee Party‘, redesigned, christened Dippy Dawg, and here to stay. In fact, Goofy arguably is the first cartoon character, whose voice predates the screen persona, which is completely built around the stupid laugh, and ditto voice.

Apart from Goofy’s debut, there’s enough to enjoy in ‘Mickey’s Revue’, even though it revisits two themes explored earlier in the Mickey Mouse cartoons: that of Mickey and the gang giving a performance and that of animals causing havoc. Here, the source of havoc are the small kittens from ‘The Barnyard Broadcast‘ and ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (both 1931). It was their last screen performance, for they would soon be replaced by little mice, first introduced in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932).

‘Mickey’s Revue’ follows the same lines as ‘The Barnyard Broadcast’, but is much better executed, cleverly intertwining the subplots of Goofy’s annoying laugh, Pluto trying to enter the stage, and the kittens interfering with Mickey’s performance. One of the gags involve a kitten caught in the hammers of Minnie’s piano, a gag looking forward to a similar one in the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947). Despite it’s great comedy, ‘Mickey’s Revue’ was the last cartoon exploiting the ruin finale, as used in 1931/1932 cartoons like ‘Mickey Cuts Up‘ and ‘The Grocery Boy‘.

‘Mickey’s Revue’ is a typical ensemble cartoon, also starring Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and no less than three Clarabelle Cows. By now Horace Horsecollar had caught up with his comic personality, and had grown in personality beyond that of a stereotyped horse. Unfortunately, Horace was not developed further on the movie screen – it was left to Floyd Gottfredson  to explore Horace’s character further in his comic strip.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Revue’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 41
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Barnyard Olympics
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Musical Farmer

‘Mickey’s Revue’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in black and white’

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 12, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Stopping the Show © Max Fleischer‘Stopping the Show’ is Betty Boop’s first cartoon under her own name, starting a series that would only end, after 88 entries, in 1939.

In ‘Stopping the Show’, she’s the highlight of a show that is half cinema half theater. The show starts off with a “noose reel”, followed by a screening of a short cartoon (!) starring Bimbo and Koko. Then Betty enters the stage. She starts with singing ‘That’s My Weakness Now’, which in 1928 had been a hit song for her source of inspiration, Helen Kane. Then she does imitations of Fanny Brice and Maurice Chevalier.

By now, Betty is so well animated, that she feels like a real character, who easily steals the hearts of the audience. She’s a real cartoon star, second only to Mickey Mouse. Her performance makes ‘Stopping the Show’ a delightful watch, even though it lacks the surrealism of earlier outings.

Watch ‘Stopping the Show’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 1
To Betty Boop’s last Talkartoon: The Betty Boop Limited
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop Bizzy Bee

‘Stopping the Show’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date: October 31, 1931
Stars: Piggy, Fluffy
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

You Don't Know What You're Doin'! © Warner Bros.With Foxy gone, Harman and Ising conceived a new star, Piggy, who, like Foxy is exactly Mickey Mouse (including the trousers), but now in Pig form. As with his predecessor, the plagiarism is most visible in Piggy’s girlfriend Fluffy, who is as Minnie as Piggy is Mickey.

Piggy was even more short-lived than Foxy, lasting only two cartoons, of which this is the first. In it we watch Piggy and Fluffy visiting a theater. At a certain point Piggy hits the stage to perform ‘Silver Threads Among The Gold’, a 1873 hit song that by 1931 had become synonymous with old-fashionedness. No wonder he’s booed away. At that point three drunkards burst into the title song. Piggy gets drunk, too, and leaves the theater and his girlfriend.

Outside he provides his car with some booze, a story idea borrowed from ‘Traffic Troubles‘ (Mickey Mouse) and ‘The New Car’ (Flip the Frog) from earlier that year. Unlike the earlier two films, though, this leads to a wonderfully drunken scene, in which the whole background becomes wobbly. This is one of the most memorable scenes of all early Warner Bros. cartoons, making ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!’a must-see, despite the rather mediocre scenes preceding it. Moreover, the cartoon features some particularly hot jazz music, provided by Gus Arnheim’s Brunswick Recording Orchestra.

Watch ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

 

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 May 23, 1931
Stars: Bimbo, Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Silly Scandals © Max FleischerIn ‘Silly Scandals’ Bimbo wants to visit a theater, where Betty Boop performs.

Unfortunately he’s broke, but he finally succeeds in sneaking into the theater by walking backwards along the leaving crowd. Inside we watch Betty singing the 1930 hit song ‘You’re driving me crazy’. Like in ‘Mysterious Mose‘ her sexiness is well explored, as her dress falls off during the performance, revealing her bra.

After Betty’s performance, Bimbo ends up being hypnotized by a magician, who makes our unfortunate hero dance against his will. The cartoon ends in a short, but zany and nightmarish dream sequence.

‘Silly Scandals’ is a transitional cartoon that shows the potential of Fleischer’s fledgling cartoon star Betty Boop, but failing to explore it to the max, still focusing on the rather bland Bimbo. We hear her name for the very first time. Yet, Bimbo is still the only billed star of the cartoon. But the Fleischers were quick learners, and with almost every subsequent Talkartoon Betty’s star would rise, and her screen time increase.

Watch ‘Silly Scandals’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 21
To the previous Talkartoon: Twenty Legs under the Sea
To the next Talkartoon: The Herring Murder Case

‘Silly Scandals’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: July 14, 1930
Stars: Oswald the Rabbit, Kitty
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Spooks © Walter Lantz‘Spooks’ is a nice early Oswald cartoon from the Walter Lantz studio.

It takes place in a theater where Oswald performs. It features a mysterious phantom who helps Oswald’s girlfriend Kitty to become a great singer by putting a record player in her dress. This leads to an absurd performance. The phantom fancies Kitty, but she prefers Oswald, who has to rescue her from the phantom’s clutches. This part of the film has horror overtones, commonplace in the early 1930s. The film ends with a rather lame gag.

‘Spooks’ features some very Mickey Mouse-like mice. Its animation, by Bill Nolan, Clyde Geronimi and Pinto Colvig is fair, and the story enjoyable, even if it’s rather inconsistent.

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

Director: Michel Ocelot
Airing Date: December 21, 1983 – ?
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

La Princesse Insensible © Michel OcelotAfter the artistic successes of ‘Les trois inventeurs‘ (1979) and ‘La légende du pauvre bossu‘ (1982) Ocelot turned his skills to a gentle and entertaining television series for children.

The series, called ‘La princesse insensible’ (the insensitive princess), consists of thirteen episodes and has a very simple story line: a princess is so bored that nothing can amuse her. The king declares that when a prince manages to amuse the princess nonetheless, he will win her. In the 4 minute long episodes we watch several young princes, sorcerers in fact, trying to amuse her in her own theater, all in vain.

‘La princesse insensible’ uses a mixture of traditional and cut-out animation. Ocelot’s animation may be simple, no doubt due to a limited budget, but it’s very effective in its pantomimed action. The series’ design is elegant in its recreation of an 18th century atmosphere. The framing story is told in silhouettes, reminiscent of the work by Lotte Reiniger, but the theater scenes are in bright colors. The atmosphere is fairy-like and surreal throughout, helped by Christian Maire’s otherworldly music. In all, ‘La princesse insensible’ is a little charming series, which shows Ocelot’s delicate and unique voice in the animation world.

The separate episodes of ‘La princesse insensible’ are listed below:

1. Le Prince dompteur (The Tamer Prince)
This episode tells the framing story and shows us the first prince. He has a menagerie of trained fairy tale animals: a unicorn, a three-headed dog, a Chinese dragon and a phoenix.

2. Le Prince jardinier (The Gardener Prince)
The second episode, like all following episodes of ‘La princesse insensible’, starts without the framing story. Instead the story is told in the title song. After the intro, we watch the second prince performing right away. He’s a garden prince, able to make plants and flowers grow on the bare floors and pillars of the princess’s theater. When he fails to impress the princess, he disappears on an ever-growing tree.

3. Le Prince à transformations (The Transforming Prince)
The third prince trying to impress the insensible princess is the most interesting to animation fans. Being called the metamorphosis prince, he’s able to transform himself into all kinds of people and things. Ocelot uses some beautiful metamorphosis animation in doing so. The prince’s performance builds up to a great finale, in which the prince transforms himself into seemingly hundreds of things, which is depicted by the rapid showing of random pictures. This simple device works because we’ve seen the process of transformation just before that. It also adds a humorous touch to the fairy-like atmosphere, because many of the objects are anachronisms in the 18th century setting.

4. Le Prince sourcier (The Dowser Prince)
The fourth prince, the ‘diviner prince’, is able to sprout water everywhere, using a divining-rod, turning the princess’s theater into a fountain. One of the more fairy-like episodes of ‘la princesse insensible’, ‘Le prince sourcier’ is less impressive than the first three episodes. After these three, the diviner prince even fails to impress we viewers.

5. Le Prince qui fait semblant (The Pretender Prince)
The fifth prince trying to impress the princess is almost typically french: he’s a mime artist, miming (among others) that he plays the piano, rides a bicycle and even a motorcycle inside the princess’s theater. When he fails to impress the princess he even mimes that he commits suicide. Like ‘le prince à transformation’ this episode has an extra touch because of the anachronisms.

6. Le Prince météorologue (The Meteorologist Prince)
The sixth prince is called the weather prince, and he’s able to make clouds dancing within the princess’s theater. He also makes rain, lightning and a rainbow. When he leaves the princess unimpressed, he covers himself in snow. One of the lesser episodes of ‘la princesse insensible’, ‘le prince météorologue’ nevertheless shows Ocelot’s fantasy. When one doesn’t expect any more meteorological wonders, the prince transforms the rainbow into numbers and patterns.

7. Le Prince sous-marin (The Underwater Prince)
The seventh prince arrives in a fish-like submarine inside an enormous fish-tank. Compared to the other princes, his antics are relatively believable, although he seems to have the ability to make fish forming patterns. This episode is one of the lesser entries in the series, despite the beautiful old-fashioned design of the princes’ submarine.

8. Le Prince volant (The Flying Prince)
The eight prince, the flying prince, looks like a Japanese superhero with wings. During his flight, we see more of the theater than in any other episode. Apparently there’s more public than the princess alone.

9. Le Prince décorateur (The Decorator Prince)
The decorator prince is able to turn the complete theater upside-down, to change its colors by clever lighting. When the princess is unimpressed as ever, he descends into the basements.

10. Le Prince magicien (The Magician Prince)
This prince is called the ‘magician prince’, even though many of the other princess were skilled magicians as well. The prince enters on a flying carpet and turns the pillars of the theater into palm trees, the chandelier into a beach ball and the stone ornaments into butterflies. Then he turns his own hat into a zeppelin and the furniture into a train. Enraged by the princess’s non-reaction, the prince makes everything disappear again, including the theater and himself.

11. Le Prince peintre (The Painter Prince)
The Painter prince episode, unlike the other episodes, has some false starts, as the prince repeatedly forgets something he needs to paint his enormous canvas. The painter exactly copies the theater on his canvas, then paints a happy portrait of the princess. But when she remains unimpressed, he violates his own drawings. It’s charming to see the shadows of Ocelot’s paper figure of the painter, while he’s painting the enormous canvas. It gives the series its handicraft appeal.

12. Le Prince artificier (The Artificer Prince)
The fireworks prince, like the painter prince, knows some false starts, when he has troubles preparing the fireworks in the dark. The fireworks effects are created nicely with kaleidoscope effects into beautiful abstract patterns. The prince also illuminates the theater with neon lights. In the end the prince disappears on a rocket, after which the complete theater explodes.

13. Le Prince écolier (The Schoolboy Prince)
The last prince, ‘the schoolboy prince’, is much less skilled than the other princes, but he immediately solves the princess’s problem: she appears to be terribly nearsighted, and he helps her with his glasses. They are married, and the other princes perform for the princess once again, which leads to a sequence with highlights from the previous episodes.

‘La princesse insensible’ is available on the DVD ‘Les trésors cachés de Michel Ocelot’

Director: Unknown
Release Date: March 19, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Bright Lights © Walt DisneyAlthough broke, Oswald tries to enter a vaudeville theater where Mademoiselle Zulu performs her shimmy dancing.

After we watch some cat chorus girls dancing the can-can, Mll. Zulu, a female cat character, is shown doing her erotic shimmy dance, probably inspired by Josephine Baker. Oswald manages to enter the theater by hiding beneath a man’s shadow(!), but he is discovered. He tries to hide in a cage, which contains a fierce leopard. When the leopard breaks loose, and later a couple of lions, the whole theater is emptied.

This rather plotless, yet entertaining short contains many surreal gags and a very flexible use of body parts. Oswald’s body is deformed even more than normal, and in one scene we watch him without his pants on.

The best scene is when Oswald pantomimes his love for Mlle. Zulu. This scene is acted out very well, and this embryonic character animation is far more sophisticated than the animation surrounding it.

Watch ‘Bright Lights’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 15
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Rival Romeos
To the next surviving Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Ozzie of the Mounted

Directors: Pinto Colvig, Walt Pfeiffer & Ed Penner
Release Date: April 17, 1937
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Clarabella Cow, Clara Cluck, Goofy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Mickey's Amateurs © Walt DisneyMickey is only the straight man while hosting an amateur night at the theater.

We watch Donald trying to recite ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ while forgetting the words, Clarabella Cow and Clara Cluck performing an operatic song, and Goofy with an automatic one man band that goes haywire.

Donald surprises not only his but also the modern audience by drawing a tommy gun to shoot at the audience(!). However, it’s Goofy’s silly musical machine which draws the biggest laughs in a hilarious sequence, with particularly silly animation.

‘Mickey’s Amateurs’ ends with Donald getting caught in the closing end circle. Self-awareness gags like this were rare at Disney’s (another example is the burning title card in ‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade‘ from 1935), but would become standard repertoire at Warner Bros. and in Tex Avery’s cartoons at MGM.

Watch ‘Modern Inventions’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 94
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Moose Hunters
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Modern Inventions

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date:
 January 15, 1949
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

Hare Do © Warner BrothersThis Bugs Bunny short starts with Elmer Fudd hunting our hero with a “wabbit detector”.

Like Freleng’s quite similar ‘Stage Door Cartoon‘ (1944), the action soon shifts into a theater, with wonderful comedy with Bugs’s and Elmer’s repeatedly passing past sitting people, continuously using the phrases ‘pardon me’ and ‘excuse me’ as a major highlight. Other great gags are Bugs’s playing with the intermission switch (which immediately causes the public to rush outside to smoke) and the finale, in which Bugs manages to get a blinded Elmer into a lion’s beak.

Despite the wonderful comedy, the film nevertheless fails to reach the heights of ‘Stage Door Cartoon’, falling short, due to some bad designs of Elmer and to a sense of routine.

Watch ‘Hare Do’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 56
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: My Bunny Lies over the Sea
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Mississippi Hare

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date:
 December 30, 1944
Stars:
 Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating:
 ★★★★★ 
Review:

Stage Door Cartoon © Warner BrothersIn ‘Stage Door Cartoon’, the forest scene, in which Elmer is “fishing’ for a certain rabbit”, is soon replaced by an urban environment, where Bugs flees into a stage door. From then on, the action takes place in the theater.

The numerous gags involve a great tap dance by Bugs, a spectacular dive by Elmer from a ridiculously high ladder into an “ordinary glass of water” and Elmer watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon. ‘Stage Door Cartoon’ does not make any sense, but it’s full of gags, resulting in one of the funniest of all Bugs Bunny cartoons.

‘Stage Door Cartoon’ also features a Southern Sheriff who looks and sounds like an early version of Yosemite Sam, a Friz Freleng character who would make his debut only four months later.

Watch ‘Stage Door Cartoon’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 29
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon:  The Old Grey Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Herr Meets Hare

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: August 11
, 1934
Stars:
Clara Cluck, Clarabelle Cow, Donald Duck, Goofy, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, the Orphan Mice
Rating:
★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Orphan's Benefit © Walt DisneyIn ‘Orphan’s Benefit’ Mickey and the gang are giving a theatrical performance for the orphan mice we know from ‘Mickey’s Nightmare’ (1932) and other cartoons.

We watch Donald Duck reciting ‘Little Boy Blue’, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Goofy as acrobats and Mickey and Clara Cluck giving a recital.

‘Orphan’s Benefit’ marks Donald Duck’s second appearance, after his debut in ‘The Wise Little Hen‘ from two months earlier, and his looks are still a bit awkward: he has black feet (because of his transition from color to black and white), an elongated bill and he is very small compared to the rest of the gang. Nevertheless, ‘Orphan’s Benefit’ marks the real birth of Donald Duck: he’s cast outside the Silly Symphonies along Mickey and his co-stars, and he’s really stealing the show. Moreover, for the first time he’s showing his temper and his typical ‘dance of anger’ (created and animated by Dick Lundy).

Besides Donald Duck this cartoon also introduces Clara Cluck, the opera-singing hen. Her career was way less successful than Donald’s: in total she would star in only seven cartoons, and she retired in 1942. Mickey’s role is reduced to a scarcely visible and embarrassingly unfunny straight man. Therefore Orphan’s Benefit marks as much the start of Donald’s career as the beginning of Mickey’s demise.

‘Orphan’s Benefit’ was the only Disney cartoon to be remade. In 1941 it appeared again, now in color and with new designs (especially of Donald Duck).

Watch ‘Orphan’s Benefit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 68
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Steamroller
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Plays Papa

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