Flowers and Trees (1932)

Article 4137 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-23-2013
Directed by Burt Gillett
No voice cast
Country: USA
What it is: Disney Silly Symphony

Two young trees strike up a romance, but a jealous tree stump, angry at having been rejected, sets fire to the forest.

This is a Disney short from the era when they were the dominant force in cartoon shorts. This was the first three-strip Technicolor cartoon and it netted Disney the first of his 32 Oscars. It’s a charming piece of whimsy, with dancing anthropomorphic trees and flowers filling up the screen. The story is simple, but the story isn’t really the point; it’s the excellent and innovative animation that makes this one, as well as its fine use of music.

Fugitive Apparitions (1904)

aka Les apparitions fugitives
Article 4122 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-1-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Magic trick short

A magician makes a woman appear and disappear.

This is another of Melies’s magician shorts, which I’ve discussed before. About the only surprise in this one is that Melies opts for fade-ins and fade-outs for his tricks rather than the substitutions that he usually used. I suspect he may have been experimenting with a new technique or trying to find new wrinkles in an old one. Whatever his intention, this one’s a pretty minor entry of his, and not one of his essential works.

The Frog (1908)

THE FROG (1908)
aka La grenouille
Article 4113 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-23-2012
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Featuring Julienne Mathieu
Country: France
What it is: Spectacle trick short

A woman summons a frog from a fountain, which she then kisses. She takes his place in the fountain, which then turns into a variety of objects, including a giant frog, the head of an old man, and a variety of carousels.

There’s no real plot to this one; it’s basically a premise designed to show a variety of tableaux enhanced by special effects. Chomon may have borrowed many of his special effects tricks from Melies, but he does appear to have his own unique vibe, and I sense that he enjoyed making these movies. This is not one of his better works, but it is mildly entertaining.

The Four Troublesome Heads (1898)

aka Un homme de tetes
Article 4112 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-22-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies, and parts of Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Early trick short

A magician detaches his own head three times so he can sing a song in four-part harmony. The results leave something to be desired.

Apparently Georges Melies’s still-attached head is one of the four in question, as he only has three disembodied heads to contend with in this early trick short. It’s quick fun, and, at only one minute’s length, efficient. This is one of his most memorable trick shorts.

The Flower Fairy (1905)

aka La fee aux fleurs
Article 4110 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-19-2012
Directed by Gaston Velle
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Magic fluff

A woman waters her windowsill and flowers magically appear, attracting butterflies. Eventually a large flower opens up to reveal the face of the woman, and she bows and makes her exit. Oops, I just gave away the ending…

I don’t really expect much in the way of gravitas when watching shorts from the silent era, especially when they run about one minute long. But even by those standards, this is a piece of airy fluff. It practically dissipates while you’re watching it. I’d say it’s about as close as I’ve come to watching no movie at all for this series, but if you’re keen on flowers, fairies and butterflies, you could do worse.

A Few Quick Facts About Fear (1945)

Article 4109 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-17-2012
Directed by Zack Schwartz
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Robert C. Bruce
Country: USA
What it is: Private Snafu short

The concept of fear is illustrated, with emphasis on how the emotion can help us rather than impede us.

During the forties, the US government financed a series of animated shorts for the armed forces featuring the character of Private Snafu; these were designed to be humorous educational shorts for our men in uniform. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been from Warner Brothers, but this one is from UPA, and the graphic quality is therefore more abstract. The short chooses to approach its subject from the point of view of a medieval knight (played by Snafu) encountering a fire-breathing dragon, which is what gives this short its fantastic content. It’s a pretty bare-bones affair and lacks the comedic flair of many of the other shorts in the series, but it makes for some interesting viewing nonetheless; after all, at three minutes, it hardly wears out its welcome. Incidentally, one of the writers is none other than Dr. Suess.

Fat and Lean Wrestling Match (1901)

aka Nouvelles luttes extravagantes
Article 4108 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-16-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Jeanne D’Alcy and Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Comic trick short

Two wrestling matches are featured. The second features a fat wrestler pitted against a thin one.

The film opens with two women of about the same size, but those in the hope of witnessing some female wrestling will be disappointed, as they turn into men before the match begins. So who would win in a wrestling match helmed by Georges Melies? Why, it’s whoever doesn’t get turned into a big rag doll at the crucial time; the latter gets torn limb from limb. Fortunately, cartoon violence rules apply; those who are torn limb from limb come back together to fight another day. The effects are obvious, but this is one of the funnier shorts that Melies directed.