Thursday, July 9, 2009

Arctic Antics

Arctic Antics is a rather, well, silly entry into the Silly Symphonies, but it does have some interesting features. There are a couple of nice experiments with motion and perspective, and the appearance of a polar bear that looks very familiar.

The basic outline of the short is exactly what it says, the antics of arctic creatures playing, dancing, singing and eating on ice flows and glaciers. Like most of the Silly Symphonies, there is no narrative flow besides the music carrying things along. It’s not a detriment to the shorts most of the time, but Arctic Antics does lack a bit of cohesion.



The beginning sequence, featuring a polar bear cub riding on the back of a white seal, is quite good, and features some very interesting motion. The cub jumps over ice flows, while the seal goes underneath, and the cub lands back on the seal on the other side. It’s a cute gag, but the real interesting thing is the way the seal is drawn while underwater. Again using the techniques from earlier Silly Symphonies, we get to see the animators trying something new with viewing a character through the water, not just their reflection. This is a natural extension of what we saw in Springtime, with the frog viewing his reflection.

The next sequence is an interesting set of details as well. While various animals float right to left in the foreground, joining in the song where appropriate, the back ground animals stay put, dancing and singing. It’s very neat to see two different speeds of motion in the same shot like that. It’s not something you would expect, but it works very well.



Of course, the most memorable piece of Arctic Antics has to be the appearance of the “Mickey” polar bear. It’s not surprising that the animators would reuse model sheets or repurpose characters, due to the amazing time crunches they were under on these films. It is surprising, however, that they would do so with the studio’s most recognizable character. There’s no doubt audiences would see this little guy as a Mickey clone, so it’s a mystery as to why they would insert him.



There are few smaller sequences between the Mickey bear and the last major set piece, but they’re fairly unremarkable. A walrus is used as a bass, a seal plays with his food of a fish to entertain other seals – nothing very new or innovative, and not particularly entertaining to me.



The last part of the short, though, is dedicated to a group of penguins marching along to the old song “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” and that’s quite fun. There is a smaller penguin unable to keep up to provide some comic relief, but the whole thing is quite good. The music is peppy and keeps things moving, and the penguin animation is done quite well.



Arctic Antics will probably mostly be remembered for the Mickey bear, but to me, the penguin sequence is the best part of the short. As a whole, though, there’s not much new here to interest a repeat viewer.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with you on this and that this one isn't so good until we get to the penguin sequence. It's a new locale with great potential, but the dances and actions-to-music are not as as inspired as in previous entries in the Silly Symphony series. It feels like stuff we've seen before and sometimes it literally is – there's some animation that's reused from 'Wild Waves'! Disney was still failing to meet the deadlines getting the cartoons completed for release so maybe that could be why certain shortcuts were made?

    Still, from stuff we've seen before to a glimpse of the future. The marching penguin sequence is great fun and just what I'd been waiting for after Frolicking Fish and the first half of this cartoon. The most obvious comparison to this scene would be the similar one in the Donald and Goofy cartoon 'Polar Trappers'. However, that little penguin, who can't keep in step with the others, also put me in mind of Dopey when he's marching behind the other dwarfs and more especially Hoplow, the little mushroom in Fantasia.

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  2. This isn't the first time a Mickey bear has turned up in a Disney cartoon - Tall Timber, the last surviving Oswald short, features some bear cubs with a striking resemblance to the familiar mouse. Plane Crazy would presumably have been in development at the time that film was made, so perhaps they "re-purposed" the character they hadn't even completed yet? Food for thought...

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  3. Good call, B.D. Tall Timber may have used model sheets from Plane Crazy. It would make sense.

    Mac, there seems to be a lot of reusing animation going on these days. The short I reviewed today, The Shindig, features a lot of that. Was there something going on that was causing the deadline problems? I may do some digging into that over the weekend.

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  4. The Disney Studio fell behind schedule after Iwerks and Staling left. I think It took them about a year to recover the disruption and catch up.

    Interesting comment about those cubs, B.D. They didn't stand out to me as being as extra Mickey-like as the polar bear in this one (a lot of the characters in the Oswalds are kinda Mickey-ish), I'll have to re-watch it and see what I think! A later cartoon – 'The Bears and the Bees' has some really Mickey-like cubs too, at times it's like watching Morty and Ferdie!

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