Depending on the process director Disney used to marry live action with animation, Alice’s Wonderland is either mediocre or just plain bad. If it’s the latter, Disney has no concept of perspective or, you know, shadows.
The first three minutes are awesome. A little kid (Virginia Davis, in an awful performance–it’s probably Disney’s fault) visits an animation studio and is amazed at how the cartoon characters come alive on the animators’ panels. Disney’s conception of the studio is something technology still hasn’t produced (and probably never will). It’s spellbinding.
Then it becomes about Davis and gets bad. All the little cartoon animals love her and applaud her lame, poorly directed dance. The technical wonders of the first few minutes become lame and cheap tricks, a couple of shocking incompetence.
The animation’s mostly lame with occasional exceptions. Unfortunately, a couple great gags can’t make up for all of Alice‘s failings.
Written, directed and produced by Walt Disney; directors of photography, Rudolf Ising and Ub Iwerks; animated by Hugh Harman, Ising, Iwerks and Carman Maxwell; released by Margaret J. Winkler.
Starring Virginia Davis (Alice).
Posted in 1923, Animation, Black and White, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Margaret J. Winkler, Short, USA
Tagged Carman Maxwell, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Ub Iwerks, Virginia Davis, Walt Disney
There’s nothing good about The Saga of Windwagon Smith. The best thing about it is the extended opening titles, which eat up some of the runtime and lessen the cartoon’s awfulness.
The animation happily plays at the nexus of lazy, incompetent and bad. Director Nichols–who cowrote–at least could’ve come up with an interesting visualization for his dumb story.
Instead, he relies on singing narration. It, and the dialogue, all rhymes. Except they’re bad rhymes, which makes one wonder how much time anyone spent on Windwagon. It’s like they wrote the dialogue first and the couplet at some later point.
Rex Allen is equally obnoxious as the protagonist and narrator.
The most striking thing about the cartoon, however, is the rampant racism. There are multiple Native American jokes, a Chinese one, but it also mocks the Kansas townspeople as moronic rednecks.
Windwagon‘s a dreadful way to spend twelve minutes.
Directed by Charles A. Nichols; written by Lance Nolley and Nichols; animated by Julius Svendsen and Art Stevens; music by George Bruns; production designer, Ernie Nordli; produced by Walt Disney; released by Buena Vista Releasing Company.
Starring Rex Allen (Windwagon Smith) and J. Pat O’Malley (Mayor Crum); narrated by Allen.
Posted in 1961, Animation, Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Color, English, Family, Romance, Short, USA, Western
Tagged Art Stevens, Charles A. Nichols, Ernie Nordli, George Bruns, J. Pat O'Malley, Julius Svendsen, Lance Nolley, Rex Allen, Walt Disney
As if Donald Duck couldn’t get weirder, he’s apparently got the hots for a female elephant in Working for Peanuts. But it’s not actually a Donald cartoon, it’s a Chip and Dale cartoon. The boys are after the peanuts–a delicacy they’ve just discovered–and the zoo has them.
Donald’s the zookeeper, the elephant’s got the peanuts. Chaos ensues.
Director Hannah and his animators must have either been on a tight deadline or completely disinterested, because Peanuts is terrible work. The animation on Donald and the chipmunks is fine, but on the elephant and the other zoo animals it’s awful. There’s one shot of a group of people standing around with the same face and expression. The zoo itself has no personality (or cages).
As for the gags… they’re tepid. The final one’s kind of funny, but the dumb elephant’s in the scene; she ruins it.
These Peanuts are stale.
Directed by Jack Hannah; written by Nick George and Roy Williams; animated by Volus Jones, Bill Justice and George Kreisl; music by Oliver Wallace; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Dessie Flynn (Dale), James MacDonald (Chip) and Clarence Nash (Donald Duck).
Posted in 1953, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Family, RKO Radio Pictures, Short, USA
Tagged Bill Justice, Clarence Nash, Dessie Flynn, George Kreisl, Jack Hannah, James MacDonald, Nick George, Oliver Wallace, Roy Williams, Volus Jones, Walt Disney
Bill Peet, who came up with the story for Susie the Little Blue Coupe and co-wrote the final script, must have thought American kids didn’t have enough depressing classic Russian literature in their lives. It’s a seriously disturbed, if fantastic, cartoon.
Susie tells the story of a happy little car named, you guessed it, Susie. Some guy buys her and she lives a happy life, or so she thinks… because it turns out the guy doesn’t do maintenance until its too late and then abandons her.
She suffers in a used car lot, then ends up in the possession of a small-time drunk. She suffers even worse in his care before the climax–a junkyard.
Director Geronimi showcases the suffering, one upping it every time.
The animation’s great, the pacing’s great, it’s just a disquieting cartoon. Geronimi and Peet introduce a lovable character only to make her suffer.
Directed by Clyde Geronimi; screenplay by Bill Peet and Don DaGradi, based on a story by Peet; animated by Bob Carlson, Ollie Johnston, Hal King and Cliff Nordberg; music by Paul J. Smith; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Stan Freberg (Junkyard owner); narrated by Sterling Holloway.
Posted in 1952, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Family, RKO Radio Pictures, Short, USA
Tagged Bill Peet, Bob Carlson, Cliff Nordberg, Clyde Geronimi, Don DaGradi, Hal King, Ollie Johnston, Paul J. Smith, Stan Freberg, Sterling Holloway, Walt Disney
The beginning of Paul Bunyan is cute. It’s little Paul Bunyan (though a giant) growing up in Maine. Very cute. The song, which later becomes annoying, is well-used. Director Clark’s direction is pretty good throughout, though once Paul’s enormous ox, Babe, enters the picture, Clark loses control of the perspective.
But that slip isn’t the interesting part about Bunyan. No, it’s the middle section. The cartoon explains how Paul and Babe are responsible for the North American landscape (not billions of years of tectonic shifts). If one were a conspiracy theorist, he or she could use Bunyan as a case of popular entertainment indoctrinating children to be unquestioning morons.
The final part, featuring Paul versus evil city folk, continues that thread.
Thurl Ravenscroft gives a lousy performance as Paul, which–in addition to the willful stupidity–drags down the cartoon.
And the animation’s never on par with Clark’s direction.
Directed by Les Clark; written by Lance Nolley and Ted Berman; animated by George Goepper, Jerry Hathcock, Ken Hultgren, Fred Kopietz, George Nicholas, Jack Parr, John Sibley and Robert W. Youngquist; music by George Bruns; produced by Walt Disney; released by Buena Vista Pictures.
Starring Thurl Ravenscroft (Paul Bunyan), Parley Baer (Chris Crosshaul) and Dal McKennon (Cal McNab).
Posted in 1958, Adventure, Animation, Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Color, Comedy, English, Family, Short, USA
Tagged Dal McKennon, Fred Kopietz, George Bruns, George Goepper, George Nicholas, Jack Parr, Jerry Hathcock, John Sibley, Ken Hultgren, Lance Nolley, Les Clark, Parley Baer, Robert W. Youngquist, Ted Berman, Thurl Ravenscroft, Walt Disney
Pluto’s Christmas Tree gets off to a somewhat rocky start; it turns out, the animators spend more time on one nut than they do on Mickey Mouse. Besides looking perpetually hung over, Mickey’s also very loosely drawn.
However, Tree soon picks up because Hannah’s direction is inspired and the animators excel on everything (except Mickey). Chip and Dale are hiding in Mickey and Pluto’s Christmas tree, annoying Pluto, but also giving the viewer a look at a Christmas tree from inside out.
Hannah creates, in six minutes or so, a truly lovely little Christmas cartoon. Besides the lovely tree interiors, there are a bunch of great gags for the chipmunks and Pluto.
Even the sappy ending works out well, maybe because Hannah ends Tree with a gag (and starts the sappy ending with one).
I remembered it immediately, once the tree interiors started; the visuals are incredibly striking, incredibly memorable.
Directed by Jack Hannah; written by Bill Berg and Milt Schaffer; animated by Volus Jones, Bill Justice, George Kreisl and Fred Moore; music by Joseph Dubin; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Ruth Clifford (Minnie Mouse), Pinto Colvig (Pluto / Goofy), Dessie Flynn (Dale), James MacDonald (Mickey Mouse / Chip) and Clarence Nash (Donald Duck).
Posted in 1952, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Family, Fantasy, RKO Radio Pictures, Short, USA
Tagged Bill Berg, Bill Justice, Clarence Nash, Dessie Flynn, Fred Moore, George Kreisl, Jack Hannah, James MacDonald, Joseph Dubin, Milt Schaffer, Pinto Colvig, Ruth Clifford, Volus Jones, Walt Disney
Social Lion is such a truly awful cartoon, one would need to sit with pencil and paper to make notes on every moronic detail in its six minutes.
Director Jack Kinney–brother to co-writer Dick Kinney, who, with Milt Schaffer, writes a lousy story–doesn’t have bad ideas, particularly during the Africa scenes. The animation is bad, but Kinney’s direction shows some promise. Sadly, once the story moves–along with the titular captive Lion–to New York City, Kinney gets wrapped up in the moronic social commentary.
Writer Kinney and his co-culprit Schaffer come up with a plot too heady for kids and too stupid for adults. They also can’t figure out how to put any action in a cartoon about a lion being loose in New York City. They’re inept.
Actually, Lion‘s only adept feature is the uncredited narrator. Sure, the writing’s bad, but the performance isn’t.
Directed by Jack Kinney; written by Milt Schaffer and Dick Kinney; animated by Norman Ferguson; music by Oliver Wallace; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Paul Frees (Lions Club President / Drunks / Clothing salesman).
Posted in 1954, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Family, RKO Radio Pictures, Short, USA
Tagged Dick Kinney, Jack Kinney, Milt Schaffer, Norman Ferguson, Oliver Wallace, Paul Frees, Walt Disney
The Story of Anyburg U.S.A. is an odd one. A small town decides to sue cars–personified here as cute, the windshields as big eyes–for all the auto accidents.
Sadly, Anyburg opens with a lot more energy–the narrator goes on and on about homicides on the highway and such and it doesn’t seem Disney at all.
A lengthy courtroom sequence, with some really bad rhyming dialogue, takes up the rest of the cartoon. As the prosecutor brings up witless witnesses, Anyburg‘s point is clear–people are responsible, not the cars.
But were Americans in the fifties really willing to take responsibility for themselves? Anyburg makes it seem possible, if not probable.
The animation is fantastic–the courtroom scene’s dynamic, as are the car sequences–but it’s hard to get enthusiastic about the cartoon. Geronimi doesn’t bring any entertainment to the public service announcement.
Directed by Clyde Geronimi; written by Dick Huemer; animated by Bob Carlson, George Kreisl and John Sibley; music by Joseph Dubin; produced by Walt Disney; released by Buena Vista Film Distribution Co.
Starring Hans Conried (Prosecutor), Thurl Ravenscroft (Cyrus P. Sliderule) and Bill Thompson (Defense Attorney).
Posted in 1957, Animation, Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Color, Comedy, English, Family, Short, USA
Tagged Bill Thompson, Bob Carlson, Clyde Geronimi, Dick Huemer, George Kreisl, Hans Conried, John Sibley, Joseph Dubin, Thurl Ravenscroft, Walt Disney
Instead of padding Goliath II out to an exhausting fifteen minutes, director Reitherman and writer Bill Peet should have concentrated on making it a good seven minute cartoon. Worse, there are animation problems every few frames in Goliath, like whoever photographed the cells didn’t know how to focus; at seven minutes, it might not look like such a mishmash.
The story involves a mouse-sized elephant and the problems he causes for his herd. From the first few seconds, it’s clear the story will either resolve with him growing to regular size or using his pint-size to the betterment of the herd.
I won’t spoil it, but it’s painfully obvious during the cartoon.
Reitherman does have some nice sequences–particularly a jungle at night one–but Goliath‘s mostly a waste of time in terms of animation.
It almost feels like a failed feature project, given the ballooned plot.
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman; written by Bill Peet; music by George Bruns; produced by Walt Disney; released by Buena Vista Distribution Company.
Starring Kevin Corcoran (Goliath II), Barbara Jo Allen (Goliath II’s Mother), Paul Frees (The Mouse), Verna Felton (Eloise) and J. Pat O’Malley (Goliath I); narrated by Sterling Holloway.
Posted in 1960, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Family, Short, USA
Tagged Barbara Jo Allen, Bill Peet, George Bruns, J. Pat O'Malley, Kevin Corcoran, Paul Frees, Sterling Holloway, Verna Felton, Walt Disney, Wolfgang Reitherman
Two Chips and a Miss is a weak seven minutes. While some of the fault is Hannah’s direction, it’s mostly just his animators. They’re incredibly lazy when it comes to their figures. Hannah’s even lazier when it comes to filling out the cartoon.
Chip and Dale are both romancing a night club singer (a female chipmunk) and the night club is empty besides the three of them. Oh, wait, I forgot–there’s also an implied black waiter. It’s an odd, terrible touch.
The night club’s not supposed to be empty, however, and there’s background applause in the clearly empty club. Chips is just lazy.
I suppose the ending’s a little funny, with the female chipmunk’s closing gag–and wink–suggesting she just wanted to get the boys to make out.
Unfortunately, Hannah doesn’t embrace the humor in that ending, which is no surprise. Hannah rarely does anything right in Chips.
Directed by Jack Hannah; written by Nick George and Bill Berg; animated by Volus Jones, Bill Justice and George Kreisl; music by Joseph Dubin; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.
Starring Dessie Flynn (Dale) and James MacDonald (Chip).
Posted in 1952, Animation, Color, English, Family, RKO Radio Pictures, Short, USA
Tagged Bill Berg, Bill Justice, Dessie Flynn, George Kreisl, Jack Hannah, James MacDonald, Joseph Dubin, Nick George, Volus Jones, Walt Disney