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Director: Jack Cutting
Release Date: April 7, 1939
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Ugly Duckling 1939 © Walt DisneyThe remake of ‘The Ugly Duckling‘ (1931) is the last of the Silly Symphonies and, like the very first (The Skeleton Dance, 1929) one of the best.

Following Hans Christian Andersen’s tale much closer than the original ‘Ugly Duckling’, the 1939 version reaches the apex in animated storytelling. One can even watch it silent and understand the cartoon perfectly, and even more significant, remain emotionally involved, as well.

The Duckling is an instantly likeable character whose emotions are totally convincing and moving. Even the colors of the backgrounds add to the drama, changing from bright greens to blues when the Duckling is expelled. The 1931 version was a milestone in its time, yet it looks crude and primitive today. This 1939 version of The Ugly Duckling, however, is an all time animation masterpiece, and it will doubtless never date.

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 75 (the last in the series)
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Practical Pig

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: December 12, 1931
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Ugly Duckling 1931 © Walt DisneyThis is the first of two versions of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ made by Disney.

Unlike the latter, more familiar version, this ugly duckling is a real duck, accidentally born to a chicken. He’s rejected until he saves his chick brothers and sisters from drowning in a long, fast and exciting action scene, involving both a tornado and a waterfall.

Although looking crude and primitive when compared to the 1939 short, this first version of The Ugly Duckling is a milestone in Disney’s storytelling: while the earlier Silly Symphonies contain a lot of repetitive animation and dance routines, The Ugly Duckling is the first Silly Symphony to tell a coherent story from the beginning to the end. Even the Mickey Mouse films of that time are not that consistent. There still is some rhythmic movement, especially at the beginning, but most of the animation is there to tell the story.

The duckling (who repeatedly looks to the audience for sympathy – not unlike Oliver Hardy) is a real character who transforms from an outcast to a hero, and gains its well-earned sympathy at last. Its best scenes are when it feels rejected, not only by his ‘family’, but also by a cow, a dog and a frog. There’s some genuine feeling of loneliness and unhappiness in these scenes, unparalleled in any other animated film of the time.

This short, which is neither about gags nor about moving to music, would be the first testimony of Disney’s ambitions in storytelling.

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 25
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Fox Hunt
To the next Silly Symphony: The Bird Store

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