One Little Indian (1954)
Article 6055 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Grant Munro
Voice cast unknown
What it is: Animated puppet safety short.
An Indian boy magician arrives in the big city as part of a rodeo. Though he proves to be an adept magician, will he be able deal with dangerous traffic in the big city?
Though now the company is the province of making available old sex and porn footage, there was a time when Something Weird Video dealt with other films as well. One interesting thing that they did was to throw in extras at the end of their VHS releases; my copy of the Mexican LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD tape ended with a variety of kiddie movie trailers and this rather obscure Canadian safety short; there’s very little info about it on IMDB. The only reason this one qualifies is that the boy is a magician (the short opens with him performing his act); had his profession been something else, I wouldn’t be covering it. As it is, it’s a pretty ordinary affair; the animation is so-so at best and the messages are pretty obvious. Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to discover that you have a hidden obscurity on the edges of your collection that you might have never found if you had struck out to look for it on your own.
The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
Article 6054 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Ted Key
Featuring Ken Barry, Sandy Duncan, Harry Morgan
What it is: Shopping Cart movie
A space alien who looks like a cat makes an emergency landing on Earth, but his saucer is carried off by the military. The alien befriends some scientists to help him regain his saucer and return to space.
First, a little personal history. I’d been hearing about and seeing the ads for the various Disney shopping cart movies for years before this one came out, and frankly, they looked like they’d be tremendous fun. However, I’d never found the time or opportunity to see any until this one showed up at my local drive-in when I was 19 and had access to the family car. And…. I was underwhelmed. The hilarious humor I expected turned out to be tepid and forced, and the sense of wonder was also left empty-handed. I left the drive-in crestfallen and a little depressed.
That was forty-four years ago, and since then I started this movie-watching project and found the time to see many of the earlier Disney movies of this ilk (some of which I found delightful) and revisiting this one after all that time makes me feel like I’m closing the circle on the genre. Since then this movie has gained a certain amount of fame due partly to the fact there are a few striking similarities between it and Spielberg’s E.T.: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL. Me, I was interested in seeing if I felt any differently about it than when I saw it the first time. Well, I will admit to liking it a hair better this time, largely because I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of seeing a bunch of familiar faces, and there are plenty here. But the laughs still aren’t there; I rarely cracked a smile in watching this, and that’s especially true for the final third of the movie. Where other shopping cart movies would go for the big wild laughs at this point, this one just tries to be a thriller, but just falls flat.
As far as I know, this one marks the end of the era of the original run of Disney shopping cart movies; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Still, I will say this in the movie’s defense; as disappointing as it was, it was still far better than an ersatz Disney shopping cart movie from 1981 called EARTHBOUND. The less said about that one, the better.
The Fly in the Ointment (1943)
Article 6053 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Paul Sommer
Featuring the voices of Hans Conried and Frank Graham
What it is: Columbia cartoon
A spider does battle with a tough fly.
It’s not the plot here that pushes this one into the realm of the fantastic; it’s the fact that it’s set up as a scene from a horror film; it opens with bats flying out of a spooky castle followed by two bats discussing how all horror movies have to start that way. The spider is played as if he were the Phantom of the Opera and the fly as if he were an East End Kid. I wish this one were more fun, but it’s very talky and short on action; it’s also distinctly short of laughs, and outside of the opening and closing scenes, it’s short on atmosphere as well.
Mother Goose on the Loose (1942)
Article 6052 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Walter Lantz
Featuring the voices of Sara Berner, Mel Blanc, Dick Nelson
What it is: Revue style Mother Goose pastiche
A series of gags involving Mother Goose rhymes are presented, often to a swinging beat.
It’s your basic somewhat uninspired array of themed sight gags. There’s a running gag involving Simple Simon, and gags pop up involving Mary’s little lamb, Little Bo Peep, Little Jack Horner, Jack Be Nimble, and an accelerated take on the House that Jack Built. The end result is what you’d expect, and none of the gags really come to life. Not a high point.
Perpetual Motion (1920)
Article 6051 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Featuring Roland Crandell and Max Fleischer
What it is: “Out of the Inkwell” episode
A crank inventor is fooled into believing he has created a perpetual motion machine by an animator. However, the clown created by the animator has a trick of his own up his sleeve…
The “Out of the Inkwell” series featured Koko the Clown interacting with real-life objects and people; the cast members listed above appear as characters rather than as voices. Throw in the perpetual motion machine and we’re nudging up against science fiction, though the fact that it doesn’t really work makes it only a nudge, but the fact that the machine interacts with the animated clown gives us plenty of fantastic content. Like most of the OOTI cartoons, this is amusing enough; I like the method Koko uses to repair his torn clown pants. Koko the Clown would reappear in the early Betty Boop cartoons, but would eventually be abandoned.
Pixie Land (1938)
Article 6050 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Elmer Perkins
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
What it is: animated whimsy
While experimenting with formulas to grow and shrink things, a pixie inventor inadvertently causes a flea to grow to gigantic proportions. Will the pixies be able to save the land from this monster?
As an experiment, I wrote down a plot description of this short before I watched it to see if I would be correct. I was, more or less; the only thing I really got wrong was I thought the opening scenes would feature the pixies at play rather than at work. The cartoon is so-so; it does try for humor at times, mostly when it focuses on the dim-witted inventor, but ultimately there are few surprises in the cartoon. Oddly enough, IMDB claims that Mel Blanc supplies the voices of gnomes rather than pixies, though I have to admit I’m not sure if I have the insight to tell them apart.
Anna & Bella (1984)
Article 6049 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Borge Ring
Featuring the voices of Tonny Huurdeman, Annemieka Ring, Peter Ring
Country: The Netherlands
What it is: Poignant animated fantasy
Two old sisters sort through old photographs and joyfully recall their lives together. But not all memories are happy…
This Dutch animated short won the Oscar for best animated short film of its year, and it’s a worthy choice. The fantastic elements do not manifest themselves until the second half of the short, when one extended memory engages in various fantastical metaphors; furthermore, there’s a final twist which clarifies from just which vantage point the sisters are reminiscing. Despite the fact that it has a voice cast, there really isn’t any dialogue as such; no dubbing or subtitles were necessary here. Children probably wouldn’t care for this one, and the animation style, though well done, may be a matter of taste. Nonetheless, this short, both comic and poignant, is worth catching.