Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tall Timber

The last of the Oswald shorts still available for me today is Tall Timber, which again features Oswald in a solo role. It’s a very interesting cartoon visually, and has some great gags, but there’s no connective tissue to the story, merely a succession of gags. It’s really a throwback to the Alice series in that way, and somewhat of a deviation from the previous Oswald subjects.

The story, such as it is, just features Oswald on a journey through the wilderness, first off in a canoe. There are some great close-up shots of Oswald as he paddles along the river, offering a different perspective from the normal sideways shots.



Of course, not everything goes according to plan, and soon Oswald is carried over the falls, going through all sorts of contortions and gags to try and avoid the rocks and sink his boat. Nothing especially stands out, and the sequence seems to drag on just a bit.



At the bottom of the falls, a duck menaces Oswald, causing him to shoot a hole in his boat by accident. The duck manages to get Oswald to sink the boat, but the resourceful rabbit grabs on to a moose that carries him to shore.



That does not mean safety, though, as Oswald soon is falling over forward, down a steep mountain face, with a boulder on his tail. He does his best to avoid it, but to no avail.



The boulder smashes Oswald up against a tree, which leads to the most interesting sequence of the film. In a close up, Oswald tries to stretch himself back out, which causes all sorts of distortions into the lens of the camera. It’s almost a fisheye effect, but it was done with animation. It’s a great visual, and some inventive animation.



Oswald manages to get squished back to a round shape, and rolls down a hill into a couple of baby bears. The small bears smack him around and pull him back into his normal shape. Oswald chases them, only to run right into the mother bear.



What follows is very familiar from the Alice Comedies – the bear chases Oswald into a cave, sound effects animation pop out from the cave, the bear leaves in its undergarments, and out comes Oswald in a new bear skin coat. It’s a familiar scene, but something about Oswald doing it makes it a bit funnier than when Julius did it.



So that’s the last of the Oswalds. There were several that were missing from the Disney Treasures DVD, but I don’t have access to them, and I’m not sure how many of them survive. But what does exist gives us a good idea of what was going on at the Studio at the time. Tomorrow, I’ll post about the legacy of Oswald, and we’ll transition into the Mickey Mouse shorts soon.

6 comments:

  1. This is my favorite Oswald short - it may not have as much story as Oh What a Knight, but the gags and animation are just that great. It should be interesting to see how things change on this site once Mickey shows up - I suppose one could say that everything up until now has just been sort of a prologue, and the bulk of Disney's career is just getting started.

    Hope I haven't psyched you out too much ;).

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  2. You're right, there's less of a story this time, but it's still fun to watch. Rather than focusing on his personality, this one seems like a chance to put Oswald through as many distortions as possible and the animators sure push it – even further than we've seen before (and maybe further than we'll ever see again in a Disney cartoon). A lot of the effects are much longer lasting than before and Oswald seems really uncomfortable as he struggles to correct himself. My favourite LOL gag is when squashed-fat Oswald ends up walking on his ears, unable to right himself. There's also some great animation of the tall-flat Oswald struggling to stand up and using a tree as support (bringing to mind the scene at the end of Roger Rabbit where Judge Doom gets run over by the steamroller).

    It's sad that we've reached the last of the surviving Disney Oswalds, with so many in the series still lost, but I'm looking forward to the early Mickey's and your post about Oswald's legacy! The end of the Oswalds marks a very fascinating turning point in animation history.

    –Mac

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  3. Yeah, no pressure, B.D. Honestly, I am still pondering how I'm going to cover the Mickeys. I have not, and I imagine most have not, seen a lot of the b&w shorts, but I've seen many if not all of the color ones.

    I will probably shift away from the synopsis approach and try to give a brief summary of the story while focusing on the animation a little more.

    I'm also still figuring out how to do the first three - in order of when they were animated or released? I'm leaning towards when they were animated, but we'll see.

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  4. Since we've been following Walt's progress short by short, it might be most interesting to watch them in this order: Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho (with the sound turned off) and then Disney's first sound cartoon Steamboat Willie. What do you think?

    –Mac

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  5. That's not a bad idea, Mac. I am definitely leaning towards Plane Crazy first, just to see the short that Ub did nearly by himself before changing to sound.

    I like the idea of doing it with the sound off. What if I did Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho without sound, then did Steamboat Willie and came back to those two with sound, to see what the difference is.

    I'm also probably going to trim the synopsis part and focus more on the craft and try to dig a little deeper into what's going on with Walt.

    Of course, I could have a crazy work week like the last two and all this could fall apart :)

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  6. That sounds like a good idea! I'll look forward to your posts, but if you're busy at work or at home, just take your time and have fun!

    –Mac

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