Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bellboy Donald

The last of the shorts for 1942 is Bellboy Donald, which is quite a departure for our favorite duck. After all, his recent adventures were mostly in the Armed Forces, while in his other shorts he’s been in a more rural setting, either as a gardener, blacksmith or just Uncle Donald fighting with his nephews.

Here, Donald enters an urban environment for the first time in recent years, serving as a bellhop at a prestigious hotel. The short employs a technique we have not seen in a while, jumping right into the middle of a situation. Donald is being scolded by his boss for attacking the guests and losing his temper, which would surprise no one.

It’s a great way to shorten the exposition and get right to the point of the short, which is Donald’s interaction with the guests. It plays off of the audience’s familiarity with Donald’s temper and character traits, but doesn’t shortchange the current film.

This short, like the Armed Forces shorts, casts Pete as Donald’s rival, although in this case it’s a new character, Pete’s son, that does most of the harm. Donald is, of course, attempting to control his temper, but doesn’t account for the horror that Pete’s little one tries to inflict upon him.

The situations are mostly as you would figure – Donald tries to lift the luggage but can’t, he messes up part of the luggage and gets reprimanded by Pete, and there’s a whole bunch of fun around the elevator. It’s not that these gags are more innovative or exciting than other things Disney has done. What’s unique is seeing Donald in this setting.

It was very reminiscent to what Mickey went through with Pete in the past. This time, though, there is the added element of the ticking time bomb you know is coming. Donald will not take this kind of treatment forever. When he eventually snaps, he asks his boss if he is fired, and then goes off on the kid, spanking him behind a well placed planter to hide the violence. I’m sure everyone in the audience cheered when he did.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Tarzan Tweetwatch - Monday, 10/4 at 8:30p

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to reschedule the Tweetwatch that was going to take place on Tuesday. The fun of having children, you know. However, all has been ironed out, and our new and improved (not sure how it's improved, but ya know...) Tweetwatch will be on Monday, 10/4 at 8:30 p.m.

That's right, Tarzan. By one vote Tarzan was the winner over The Fox and the Hound. So, let's run through the drill one more time, so we can get loads of us together for some Disney fun.

1. Go on over to Plancast and count yourself in for the event.
2. At 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday, head on over to our Friendfeed room or hop on to Twitter
3. We'll tweet out the cue to start the movie. Join in with your thoughts in the Friendfeed room or with hashtag #TarzanDFP
4. Enjoy the movie with your Disney friends.

Everyone got it? If not, post in the comments or send me a note on Twitter, and I'll see you all on Monday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How To Fish

More Goofy “How To” goodness today, as we look at the Goof taking on one of my father’s favorite pastimes – fishing. How To Fish is a humorous look at the world of a fisherman. As most fishermen can tell you, fishing is a frustrating pursuit with some exciting rewards every now and then. This short captures that perfectly.

The opening of the short is amusing, as it focuses on the relationship of the tides and the astrological chart to how the fish end up biting. Any good fisherman can tell you when the best time to fish is, and most likely, you’ll end up with different recommendations from each and every one. In the short, the narrator uses a cleverly drawn image of fish in the astrology chart to show that fish will bite in certain phases.

From there, we see Goofy lounging at home, until he falls prey to the same astrological phenomenon. It comes upon him like a flash, driving the Goof out of his seat and into full fishing mode. Again, I’ve seen this happen to family members, where hey get taken over by the urge to go fishing. It’s quite funny to see it portrayed through Goofy, though.

The scenes of Goofy trying to fish are exactly what you’d expect, but that doesn’t make them any less amusing. Goofy gets caught on his own line, scares the fish away by falling in the water and generally contradicts everything the narrator is telling him to do. It’s the genius of this series that it continues to work, despite the fact that viewers know exactly what to expect.

My favorite little bit is when Goofy uses a fly lure to drop in the water, and we get to see the view from the fish. The distended and murky view of Goofy trying to see the fish react is priceless, as is the laughter from the fish themselves.

By the time we reach the end, you’re rooting for Goofy to catch something, anything. And of course, he does just that, but not a fish. No, instead the line gets caught on the engine of his boat, and drags Goofy along the water for an endless procession of gags.

Is How To Fish formulaic? You bet. That does not make it less fun, though. It hits a ton of great notes and provides a humorous way to look at a hobby that many people enjoy. Plus, it’s Goofy. How can you go wrong?

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pluto At the Zoo

Pluto at the zoo is not a complex premise for a short. However, since it is different from previous versions of Pluto cartoons, it’s pretty darn entertaining. Getting to see Pluto outside his normal habitat of Mickey’s backyard displays some fun and inventive ways of our favorite dog playing off other characters.

The one thing that is repetitive is Pluto’s constant fixation on bones these days. In many shorts from Sleepwalker to T-Bone for Two, the latest Pluto shorts are all about Pluto’s fixation on getting a bone to chew on. In past shorts, he fought rival dogs, be they female or bulldog or otherwise. Now, Pluto expands his horizons to different animals.

When passing the zoo, Pluto sees a lion with a giant bone, immediately sparking his interest. Pluto sneaks into the zoo and attempts to steal the bone, but finds himself intertwined with the sleeping lion instead. He eventually manages to get loose, but not before going through some quite funny contortions.

What follows is a procession of funny bits where Pluto proceeds from one animal pen to the next, trying to get his bone and get away. The first one is a kangaroo, which offered some great comedic opportunity. Pluto plays around with the joey in the kangaroo’s pouch, ends up in the pouch himself and then runs away.

Following the kangaroo was a gorilla, which was my favorite part. Pluto faints dead away, and the gorilla thinks he has a new toy. It was quite amusing watching the gorilla play with Pluto, plucking his lip like a guitar string, then winding up the sleeping dog and letting him run.

The frantic final scenes are quite amusing as well, as Pluto goes through a variety of animals trying to escape from some alligators. Pluto’s dash through the zoo is hilarious and a fitting end to this short. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Pluto put through his paces in this short.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sky Trooper

Back to war with Donald Duck today, as his adventures in the Armed Forces continue in Sky Trooper. This series is very entertaining, after the travails of Donald Gets Drafted and The Vanishing Private. This short picks up on a thread from Donald Gets Drafted, in that Donald wants to be in planes, not peeling potatoes and marching on the ground.

Again, I have to say that using Pete as the sergeant is an inspired touch. Since he had not been featured as the main antagonist for Donald before, his interaction with Pete feels fresh and original. In a way, he sort of plays as a Mickey character from Mickey’s earlier days, but coming off a little more mischievous.

The story here picks up with Donald peeling potatoes, as he did at the end of Donald Gets Drafted, but this has still not crushed Donald’s dream of flying. He carves a potato into a plane that ends up getting him in trouble with Pete. The Sarge decides to put the kid through his paces, having him touch his fingers together with his eyes closed, and pinning the tail on the airplane, blindfolded of course.

After this last trick ends badly, Pete decides to get his revenge and sends Donald up in the plane with the parachute troopers. There’s a nice humorous effect on this part of the short. As the scene shifts over to the men entering the plane, the animation goes to a propaganda style outline, with Donald trailing the muscular men. It’s hysterical.

Even better, though, are the scenes of Donald desperately trying to cling to the plane, and by extension, Pete, as he falls out with his chute. Donald pulls Pete’s leg, rides below the plane in Pete’s pants, and eventually ends up pulling the sergeant out with him.

The two of them end up falling down with a bomb in between them, passing it back and forth. After an explosion, both Donald and Pete end up peeling potatoes. This series of shorts is so enjoyable, that I somewhat wish that there were more of them. Pete and Donald are good foils for each other, because Donald is just trying to help, but he also doesn’t take a lot of grief off of Pete. It’s a good combination.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How To Swim

Another day, another Goofy “How To” short means another happy day for me. I love the Goof, and especially when he’s used so well. This is another case of the animators using Goofy’s gangly frame as a fantastic way to illustrate an athletic endeavor. Swimming is a great use of that.

Again in this short, the animators take great pains to make the subject interesting and imaginative, beyond what you would expect. The first part of the short does a great job with that, putting Goofy on a rolling stool to demonstrate the proper form for swimming. We get to see Goofy “swimming” around the house, which lends itself to some precarious situations.

Through the house, out onto the street and eventually back into the bathtub – through it all Goofy keeps his silly grin, and his limbs go flailing about. Seeing him gliding through the street as cars pile up behind him is a classic Goofy moment.

The beach locker also offers some great moments of humor, as the tall, lanky Goofy gets crammed into a tiny little locker, where the narrator says that he is supposed to change clothes. You can imagine how this goes. The twisting, turning and shifting around causes the locker to start bouncing, knocking down the other lockers and then eventually dropping Goofy into the ocean.

Goofy’s cluelessness at the fact that he’s underwater is laugh out loud funny. Even as he ends up getting submerged completely, the Goof still sits there and eats his lunch, happily chewing away. It was flat out hilarious.

But by far my favorite part of the short is the cramping. Of course, after he eats underwater, Goofy gets cramps. The narrator tells us that a cramp feels like your muscles being tied in knots, so the animation shows us Goofy’s hose like limbs literally tying themselves into knots. If you have ever had a cramp, it’s so very true, and this short made it fantastically funny.

How To Swim ends with a great shot of Goofy having been slapped around by the waves, now relaxing on an island surrounded by Goofy mermaids. It’s this kind of silliness and innovative humor that makes the Goofy “How To” shorts so memorable, and why I love them so much.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Olympic Champ

Goofy as an athlete is a funny enough premise. When you add on top of that the chance to cast the Goof as an Olympic caliber athlete, well, that’s comedy gold. The Olympic Champ follows that mold, fitting neatly into the “How To” series as another great Goofy cartoon.

This time, we get a brief history of the Olympics, starting with the Torchbearer. There’s a great gimmick at the beginning of each event, where a title card is shown with a Greek look and feel to it, showing a well chiseled athlete doing that event. The scene then cuts to Goofy in that same pose, offering a fantastic comedic juxtaposition.

After Goofy carries the torch into a stadium full of equipment, the games are ready to begin. This short follows the classic “How To” formula, of the narrator carrying on about the proper way to do things, while Goofy demonstrates quite the opposite. With the Olympic events, though, it’s quite amusing, because Goofy really gets a chance to let loose with the free swinging limbs and contortions he is best at doing.

A great example of this is the demonstration of running track. We get to see the actions of Goofy running, leaned all the way forward with legs churning, followed shortly thereafter by a longer jog, and finished with a walk that turns into a little dance. Each of these uses Goofy’s long limbs and thin body to great comedic effect.

My favorite bit in this short, though, is Goofy’s attempt at doing the hurdles. Goofy gets a great running start and makes it easily over the first hurdle, but then collapses and starts getting slammed into hurdle after hurdle, never letting them slow him down. It just seems like a great metaphor for life – you’ll face a bunch of hurdles, but if you can’t go over them, just plow on through them.

There are some great gags in this short, like the oil derrick that results from when Goofy uses the hammer throw. Yes, an oil derrick. No, I’m not going to explain it, you just have to see it. It’s hilarious.

Watching this short was a nice respite from the wartime shorts and the educational efforts that I have been in recently. It was nice to have a pure comedy short, and especially one that was so very well done.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Vanishing Private

The war continues in the 1942 Disney shorts with one of my absolute favorites – The Vanishing Private. Donald Duck, who normally plays the role of frustrated working man, gets an upgrade to be the antagonist of this short, playing off of Pete. And he does it all while enlisted in the Army, as we saw in Donald Gets Drafted.

See the change even in the title card? Donald is an Army man now, as the Disney studio moves more and more into wartime production mode, supporting the efforts through propaganda and the Good Neighbor program. As the short opens, he even sings the theme of “The Army’s Not the Army Anymore” that was featured in Donald Gets Drafted. It’s a nice continuity from the previous short.

The twist here comes from the fact that Donald is supposed to be a camouflage painter, painting the cannon to be less visible from the air. When Sergeant Pete shows up, though, he is not happy with Donald’s red, yellow, green and black spotted camouflage! And who can blame him?

The casting of Pete as the sergeant in this Army Donald series is fantastic. He has not been seen as much since his early days with Mickey, but this is a great use of his abrasive and easily manic personality. Donald gets to him, and the circumstances of this short only exacerbate that situation.

Since his sergeant is not happy, Donald looks for other ways to camouflage the cannon, and ends up finding some experimental invisible paint. You see where this is going, right? Soon enough, the entire cannon is invisible, and Pete is apoplectic. There are some great visuals of Donald painting the cannon, sticking his head out from the invisible cannon, or even Pete poking his head inside.

When Donald gets doused in the invisible paint, though, things really pick up. In many ways, it seems like a Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck cartoon. Before you animation historians jump my case, I haven’t looked to see which came first, but this feels very much like a manic Looney Tunes short.

What’s different here is Donald as the protagonist who outsmarts his enemy. That doesn’t happen often for Donald, so it’s kind of fun and amusing when it does. Seeing Pete get his comeuppance is also quite fun. This short reminds us of why we root for Donald, despite his foibles. There’s always someone worse out there.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Disney Two-Fer - Tweetwatch at 7p, Innermouse at 8:30p

The battle for what we will Tweetwatch on September 28 is ongoing, but thanks to some heavy rallying by one @BufferflyBrie, it seems Tarzan has stormed back to take the lead over The Fox and the Hound. No love for Brother Bear, huh?

Remember, there’s still a day left to vote, and the winner will be announced on the blog tomorrow, so everyone has time to go and get the movie and be all ready to watch it on Tuesday night.

The real reason I’m writing this post, though, is to update the specifics of the Tweetwatch. As you might know from past efforts, we try to start by gathering everyone in the Friendfeed room, then I’ll give the cue to start the movie.

However, on Tuesday, 9/28, I’m going to be a little busy. You see, since we first started the Tweetwatches, some great Disney people started a little live vidcast called Innermouse. Innermouse takes place on Tuesday nights, and it’s scheduled at 8:30 p.m.

So, here’s my proposal to you, why not do a Disney Two Fer? The TweetWatch will take place at 7p.m., so everyone can enjoy the movie. Then, at 8:30, go watch Innermouse, play around with Scott, John and JL on September 28. I’ll be in the chat room, too, so you can come straight over from the Tweetwatch.

Vote for the movie you want to watch, then spend Tuesday, September 28 with your Disney friends! And while you’re at it, go watch the old Innermouse episodes and join in the fun!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How To Play Baseball

This short is a no brainer for me. I love Goofy. I love baseball. Why would I not love Goofy playing baseball? How To Play Baseball is a fantastic piece of comedic animation, and demonstrates the Disney studio using new techniques to make us laugh, and expanding the realm of what Goofy can do.

The first new technique I saw was not necessarily all that new, but was used to great effect in this short. The use of simple diagrams, with narration carrying the narrative, was something we saw in Four Methods of Flush Riveting. In that short, it was dry and humorless. Here, it’s used to great effect, such as the diagram of how the players move on the diamond.

The second technique that expands Goofy’s horizons is the use of multiple Goofs to create the short. We’ve seen this once before, in The Art of Self Defense, but there it was two Goofys fighting each other. Here, we have a whole baseball team full of Goofy players fighting it out. The pitcher Goofy throws it to batter Goofy, and the action continues from there.

What I love about this short is the slapstick quality. Everything is a joke. It’s as frenetic a pace as we saw in the early, early Mickey Mouse shorts, where the jokes piled on a mile a minute. Everything is used for comedy, from the delivery of the pitcher, to the slide of a runner, who ends up sliding down and into the ground, with a pile of dirt on top of him.

The second half of the short focuses on the final game of the World Series, and puts all kinds of baseball issues in the spotlight. The narrator is fantastic, because he uses all sorts of baseball lingo in his descriptions of the action. But rather than keep one piece of jargon going, he changes constantly, adding to the comedic pace. It’s a great little device used to heighten the hilarity.

I can’t recommend this short highly enough, but you probably knew that before you read my review. I love Goofy and especially the “How To” shorts, so this one was a great example of that. Watch it and enjoy!

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Four Methods of Flush Riveting

Unless you’re a big fan of industrial engineering or just looking for a cure for insomnia, I’m not sure there’s a reason for you to watch Four Methods of Flush Riveting. In fact, this short is anything but riveting. Been saving that one since I first saw it. However, as part of my sworn duty to review all aspects of Disney’s film production, I was honor bound to watch it, so I did.

The film was produced for Lockheed, primarily as a demonstration to show how Disney could use animation in training films to show workers how to perform certain tasks. To that end, I will say that the film does a good job.

The simplicity of this short, however, is a good window into what would ultimately become a staple of Disney shorts going forward in the World War II era. For the shorts coming from the Good Neighbor project or some of the future training films, simple and cost effective animation was key. This short is the first real instance of that we have seen.

Using simple diagrams of sheet metal and rivets, a monotone narrator runs through the different methods that a riveter can use to bind these sheets together, and when to use each method. In a simple straightforward way of communicating, it works beautifully. And if you choose to watch it, you should keep in mind that the goal of the short is to quickly and easily get that information across.

What I found interesting is that this is the first time Disney has used this technique, but it would not be the last. Similar techniques were later used in the Man in Space series for the Disneyland TV show and other shorts. This is the first time that we see Disney using different styles, and it’s interesting from that standpoint. Otherwise, save some time and don’t worry about this short in your Disney viewing.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan Into the Firing Line

Back to war quickly today, to cover another one of the wartime shorts that I missed early in the year. This is one of the most effective ones I have seen, mixing the use of the Disney characters with a simple message to get the point across.

No real story here, except that Minnie is frying bacon and eggs in a skillet, then gets ready to throw it out. Pluto is all excited to get the bacon grease, until the radio comes on and informs both he and Minnie about the uses that the war effort could get from old grease.

If you don’t have grandparents/parents who lived through the days of rationing or World War II, you should have them tell you about pouring used grease into tin cans and saving it. Believe it or not, that’s what they did, and then used the grease to make, well…everything!

That’s the message of the film, as it shows the grease dripping out of pans or pots, then turning into bombs, missiles and more. I will admit to being completely in the dark on how this whole process worked, but I know my grandmother talked about it all the time.

The short even goes into the process, showing Minnie pouring the grease into a can, storing it in the freezer, then allowing it to firm up. Once there’s enough, Pluto takes it to the butcher who’s collecting the cans. The butcher pays him in sausages, and the whole moral of the story is received.

Out of the Frying Pan Into the Firing Line is not high art, but as propaganda explaining a process, it’s pretty good. We see the popular Disney characters teaching us how to make this work, and it seems to work well. What more could you ask for?

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.