Animated Shorts watched Nov-Dec 2013

Ruka/The Hand (1965, Jiri Trnka)

Potter just wants to make pots and keep his little plant alive, but a fascist hand keeps intruding wanting him to sculpt fascist hands instead. Potter is kidnapped by the hand and forced to create hand progaganda but escapes only to die back at home. Banned in his home country of Czechoslovakia, naturally. Trnka’s final film – I will have to find more.

Johann Mouse (1952, Hanna & Barbera)

Jerry is a mouse in Strauss’s house who waltzes uncontrollably when the master is playing. The cat learns to play in order to set a trap, but the two are discovered and are invited to perform for the king. Cute enough, but I don’t know about oscar-winning. It beat a not-too-great Tex Avery, two from UPA and one from Canada, the same year McLaren’s Neighbours won best documentary (!?) short. Hans Conreid narrated.

Magoo’s Puddle Jumper (1956, Pete Burness)

Blind Magoo buys an electric car (!) and drives it into the ocean. Somehow his idiot son Waldo survived the bear short and tags along. People must’ve thought Jim Backus was hilarious. All three oscar nominees were UPA productions, so producer Stephen Bosustow could not have lost.

The Nightmare of Melies (1988, Pierre Etaix)

A fun Melies tribute incorporating the earliest cinema techniques, scenes from King Kong, an alka-seltzer commercial and late-80’s computer animation.

D. Cairns for The Forgotten:

Etaix additions to the source script make Méliès a prophet of the whole history of film, from the greatest special effects film of golden age Hollywood, up to the computerized visions of the present day (1988), and taking in the true nightmare of the television commercial. I love how the ad breaks in, hideously colorful and cheery, disrupting what is already a rather stylistically disparate piece .. almost to the point of disintegration.

Bimbo’s Initiation (1931, Dave Fleischer)

Bimbo is kidnapped by a cult that keeps attacking him with sharp things and spanking instruments then asking if he wants to be a member. He always answers no until confronted with dog-eared Betty Boop who dribbles her ass like a basketball. Maltin called it Fleischer’s darkest work, and Jim Woodring reveres it, naturally.

Tord and Tord (2010, Niki Lindroth Von Bahr)

“I felt my need for coffee becoming more and more apparent.”

Clearly somebody watched Fantastic Mr. Fox and David Lynch’s Rabbits then imagined a meeting of these two worlds. Sort of a less-violent stop-motion Fight Club, as a fox named Tord finds out his next-door neighbor is also named Tord, so they start hanging out and exchanging coded messages, until rabbit-Tord disappears and may not have ever existed.

The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005, Anthony Lucas)

Cool silhouette animation, watched with Katy. Narrator/Jasper (Joel Edgerton, villain of Gatsby) is a disgraced navigator in an airship-steampunk future, whose ship stumbles across deadly creatures whose blood can cure the plague affecting Jasper’s home planet (and more specifically, his wife). Sort of an Alien meets Little Shop of Horrors, with an unresolved ending.

Director Lucas followed this up with a 3-minute rabbit short and worked on new anthology film The Turning. Writer Mark Shirrefs does lots of Australian sci-fi television. The Australians gave this a best-short award, but Oscars picked The Moon and the Son and Baftas the great Fallen Art.

Bobby Yeah (2011, Robert Morgan)

The story of a murderous kidnapper with a predilection for pushing red buttons. Possibly the most grotesque stop-motion movie ever – kudos to Morgan! Reminds of Symbol at times, with a confused-looking guy in a room pushing mysterious buttons with varying consequences, but this one also has elements of murder-spree crime drama, with much sexual imagery.

UPA Jolly Frolics disc 1 (1949-1952)

Robin Hoodlum (1949, John Hubley)

“I rob from the rich and I give to the poor. I never give a thing to the middle class.”

I guess the UPA revolution started late – this seems like a typical WB/Disney-style character cartoon full of decent jokes (the newly-appointed sheriff Crow and prince john always haggling over payment and due dates) and tired ones (the English sure enjoy teatime). Interesting that Robin is portrayed as a fox, some 25 years before the Disney feature. He’s also kind of terrible with a bow and arrow, another unusual choice. The first UPA short to be oscar-nominated, beaten by Hanna-Barbera’s The Little Orphan.

Nobody helping Robin because it is teatime:

The Magic Fluke (1949, John Hubley)

Good one, story of a a conductor Fox who dumps his one-man-band Crow partner for the big time, until crow gets well-intentioned revenge by getting his ex-buddy a magic wand as conductor’s baton.

Exceptional-looking, and they saved time and effort by having the crow narrate via thoughts sans lipsync. Predates Tex Avery’s great Magical Maestro by a couple years.

Horn section becomes rabbits:

Ragtime Bear (1949, John Hubley)

This one introduced the world to the blind, gruesome-looking Mr. Magoo and his accident-prone son Waldo, who dies early in a hiking accident. A bluegrass-fan bear masquerades as the son (we learn that banjos basically play themselves) while one-joke Magoo quickly wears out the blindness gimmick. Characters talk over each other Popeye-style. But wait, Waldo lives, only to get immediately shotgun-blasted by his father, who attempts revival via vase-of-water in the face. Weird movie.

Bearskin rug in the line of fire:

Punchy de Leon (1950, John Hubley)

Another rival Fox/Crow cartoon, voyaging to Florida in 1503 seeking the (coin-operated) fountain of youth for a vain king of Spain. I enjoy the rivalry thing, and it’s a step up from Ragtime Bear no matter how you look at it, but no real good gags in this one. I’m starting to notice the abstract backdrops that Leonard Maltin told me to look out for.

Flash as the fountain water restores the king:

The Miner’s Daughter (1950, Robert Cannon)

Ol’ prospector and homely daughter have no luck mining gold, then Harvard man turns up next door with fancy modern techniques and strikes it rich. Miner’s daughter lures him over with the smell of Boston baked beans, and they get happily, wealthily married. Dialogue is sung but their mouths don’t move. The instrumental variations on My Darling Clementine are nice, but no decent gags except for Harvard man’s fully-furnished inflatable house and its umbrella-punctured demise.

Harvard man refusing to save the distressed maiden:

Giddyap (1950, Art Babbitt)

Sad horse-drawn ice delivery cart is getting beaten by modern motorized ice delivery cars. Flashback: their horse Jack “the Hoofer” used to be a famous dancer before the movies came along and ruined showbusiness. Cart driver’s daughter gets an idea: put the horse on television (which recently came along and ruined the movies). Happy ending: ice delivery guy now uses a helicopter to beat the car. Implications: embrace changing technology to help your business succeed, and one day we’ll all drive helicopters.

Tapdancing horse vs. period picture:

The Popcorn Story (1950, Art Babbitt)

Nebraska-set story of Wilbur Shucks, who invented popcorn but instead of eating it tried to harness its explosive power to fuel a rube goldberg shoeshine machine, narrated by the town fancypants as he dedicates a statue in Wilbur’s honor.

The Family Circus (1951, Art Babbitt)

Patsy is jealous that the new baby gets all daddy’s attention, so she destroys daddy’s stuff, injures him and torments the cat. Finally daddy gets a clue and decides love is the answer. Dream sequence saved a few bucks using childlike drawings and 2fps animation.

Gerald McBoing Boing (1951, Robert Cannon)

Seen this a few times before, a great one.

Georgie and the Dragon (1951, Robert Cannon)

More actioney than the others. Georgie brings home a baby dragon which grows huge in a matter of minutes while he tries to hide it from his strict father. Meanwhile the movie beats its Scottish setting over the viewer’s head constantly.

The Wonder Gloves (1951, Robert Cannon)

Good one – no dialogue except in the framing story of a guy telling his nephew about the time he discovered magic boxing gloves and accidentally went from boxing gym janitor to world champion.

The Oompahs (1952, Robert Cannon)

Generation-gap music story, big band vs. jazz, as personified by a family of horns.

Rooty Toot Toot (1952, John Hubley)

Musical courtroom drama based on the classic song Frankie and Johnny. J has been shot to death in a bar – the bartender and another girl testify they were nearby and that his girlfriend F killed him in a jealous rage. Defense lawyer tells a tale of poor lovely innocent F, and J’s accidental suicide. Jury acquits, F sees her suitor/lawyer dancing with the girl from the bar and shoots him dead in court. Wow.

Month of 121 Shorts: Oscar-winning cartoons 1

The Country Cousin (1936, Wilfred Jackson)
A Disney Silly Symphony. Country mouse loves all the expensive food in the city, but isn’t fond of cats, cars or roller-skaters so he hauls ass back to the country. Includes an extended drunky joke. It beat a Popeye cartoon and an MGM jazz short of racial caricatures.
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The Milky Way (1940, Rudolf Ising)
Finally someone other than Disney takes the prize. Disney wasn’t even nominated – competition included the first Bugs vs. Elmer short and the first Tom & Jerry cartoon.
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The Cat Concerto (1946, Hanna & Barbera)
Won the oscar despite allegations that the story was ripped off from W-B’s Rhapsody Rabbit, beating a George Pal puppetoon about John Henry, a Woody Woodpecker musical, and early appearances by Chip ‘n Dale and Foghorn Leghorn.
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For Scent-imental Reasons (1949, Chuck Jones)
“Ahhh, le belle femme skunk fatale!”
The greatest sexual predator in the cartoons makes his fifth appearance. This beat a piece John Hubley made for UPA which I’d like to see.
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Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950, Robert Cannon)
Gerald makes noises, is shunned, finds his place and everyone learns a valuable lesson. Beat out a Mr. Magoo cartoon (also from UPA) and one of my favorite Tom & Jerrys.
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Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953, Ward Kimball)
Full-on Disney animation plus outlines and photographs. I’ve seen part of this on those Disney Sing-Along Songs tapes that Trevor played on repeat for two years. The history of musical instruments in ten minutes. Possibly my favorite of all the oscar shorts so far, though I’ll bet it’s not widely played because of the racial stereotypes on display.
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The first CinemaScope cartoon, originally released to accompany Fantasia – should be a required classic. Tough competition: Chuck Jones, UPA, Donald Duck and Ted Parmelee’s awesome The Tell-Tale Heart.
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When Magoo Flew (1954, Pete Burness)
Ridiculous picture (and not always in a good way) complete with weird self-referential ending and a crabby complaint about television. Maybe Tashlin was hiding under a desk somewhere. Not a big Magoo fan, don’t know how this beat a Tom & Jerry mouseketeer short, tweety bird, Disney and Tex Avery. Dig the Ted Parmelee reference in the screenshot.
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Speedy Gonzales (1955, Friz Freling)
This one doesn’t have the line I remember about wanting to get the cheese but being too lazy, but it does have the line “he’s a friend of my sister” / “Speedy is friend of everybody’s seester!” Another no-longer-politically-correct classic. Surprisingly beat the Hanna/Barbera holiday classic Good Will To Men and an acclaimed Tex Avery piece.