Santa in Animal Land (1948)

Santa in Animal Land (1948)
Article 6008 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-10-2021
Directed by Stefan Sharff
Voice and Hand actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Christmas short

The animals in Animal Land wonder why they have no Santa Claus. Two of the animals travel to the North Pole to find out why.

For the record, whether a puppet short can be called an animated short depends on the type of puppet. George Pal’s Puppetoons are animated because it requires a frame by frame process to bring the puppets to life. For hand puppets, you just let the camera roll and let the puppeteers do their thing, and this is not animation. I probably wouldn’t make an issue of this, buy my copy is on the Mill Creek 600 Classic Cartoons collection, and it’s not a cartoon. But then, one doesn’t necessarily take the Mill Creek megapacks at their word; I’ve seen movies on their Action movie set that have no action, comedies on their Comedy sets that aren’t funny, Movies on their Horror set that aren’t scary… but I digress.

The rating for this on IMDB is 4.8, and that’s about right. The presentation is static and dull, and there’s very little of interest here. Yes, I understand that some work went in to building the puppets, the scenery and the costumes, but beyond that, it looks like minimal effort was put into it. I’d find this one dull even if I was a kid who loved puppets. You could make a better movie at home, and I really mean it this time.

Santa’s Pocket Watch (1980)

Santa’s Pocket Watch (1980)
Article 6007 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-10-2021
Director unknown
Featuring the voice of William Rushton
Country: UK
What it is: Quaint Christmas whimsicality

What a young boy wants for Christmas is to meet Santa while the man is making his rounds. When he does, he hides in Santa’s bag and is taken to Santa’s workshop. There Santa allows him to spend Christmas celebrating with he himself and his elves.

You’d think that, given the title, that the timepiece would play a more significant role in the proceedings, but it’s merely an Item of Affidavit. And just what is an IOA, you ask? It’s merely that item that exists in a movie to provide proof that the adventure that preceded the character waking up in a familiar place did indeed truly happen. In action, it works like this.

A: Santa gives the boy his pocket watch as a present.
B: The boy wakes up in the corner of the living room, and begins to wonder if he really met Santa or not.
C: The boy finds the pocket watch, which serves as the Item of Affidavit to prove that yes, he did indeed meet Santa Claus.

Oops, did I give away the end of this Christmas short? Yes, it appears I did. But with an ending like that, does it really matter. When you get right down to it, there really isn’t much to this short; most of the running time is concerned with the elves performing gags. The end result isn’t godawful; it’s too congenial to really be that bad. It’s also nothing special, either. It’s a run-of-mill Christmas short that fills up twenty minutes of time.

The Ship of the Ether (1934)

The Ship of the Ether (1934)
Article 6004 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-5-2021
Directed by George Pal
No cast
Country: The Netherlands
What it is: Advertisement

A ship filled with music from all nations floats through the ether.

This was a very early Puppetoon by George Pal designed to promote the Philips Radio of 1934. Though it has recognizable characters, it’s similar to some of the more abstract animation of the time in feel; there’s no plot to speak of, it’s propelled by the music, and it’s mostly trying to impress with atmosphere rather than with laughs or whimsy. It is also very much a product of its time; I’m not exactly sure what’s going on during the sequence where a variety of music performances take place with a label for each one appearing, but I suspect I would know if I lived in that time. It is, however, an interesting curiosity nowadays.

Superfantagenio (1986)

Superfantagenio (1986)
aka Aladdin
Article 5998 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-15-2021
Directed by Bruno Corbucci
Featuring Bud Spencer, Luca Venantini, Janet Agren
Country: Italy
What it is: Pseudo-shopping-cart movie

A teenage boy finds Aladdin’s lamp and summons a genie who solves everyone’s personal problems when he isn’t drinking beer, annoying the cops and beating up people.

It’s an update of the Aladdin story in which the boy is named Al Haddin and the genie is played by Bud Spencer.  It plays out like a cheap imitation of a Disney shopping-cart movie and is an Italian movie shot in Miami.  Bud Spencer appears to putting forth the minimum amount of effort to put forward what can almost be called a performance, and the plot meanders in a way that makes you suspect the writers had only the vaguest idea of where they wanted the plot to go, if anywhere.  Yet, for all that, I’ll count my blessings, which is my way of saying better Bud Spencer than Franco Franchi.  Disney’s version of ALADDIN  a few years later would wipe memories of this one off the map.

Sinbad the Sailor (1935)

Sinbad the Sailor (1935)
Article 5994 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-24-2021
Directed by Ub Iwerks, Shamus Culhane, Al Eugster
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Ub Iwerks Comicolor cartoon

Sinbad tussles with pirates on the high seas.

Most Sinbad adaptations have fantastic content of some sort and this one is no exception, but it’s not until the roc shows up as part of the storyline does it truly qualify as fantastic cinema beyond the bounds of comic exaggeration. It’s a solid but not particularly inspired effort from Ub Iwerks, but I’ve always preferred his Flip the Frog cartoons to his Comicolor series. And as far as Sinbad cartoons go, this one doesn’t hold a candle to the Popeye adaptation of the story. And though I usually like to highlight a favorite moment when I review cartoons, there’s nothing in this one that really stands out.

Shuffle Off to Buffalo (1933)

Shuffle Off to Buffalo (1933)
Article 5993 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-18-2021
Directed by Friz Freleng and Rudolf Ising
Featuring the voices of Johnny Murray and the Rhymettes
Country: USA
What it is: Early Warner Brothers cartoon

We visit the assembly line at the baby delivery factory and get to hear the title song warbled.

I’m not sure that the presence of storks delivering babies in a cartoon is enough for me to definitely move the cartoon into the realm of the fantastic, but the existence of a factory with an assembly line that preps the babies for delivery is enough, especially as it appears that the main person in charge is Father Time himself (though he isn’t explicitly named as such). It’s a typical early thirties Warner Brothers cartoon; it opens with a series of gags surrounding the situation and then finds every chance it can to perform the title song. In the process we get a handful of celebrity caricatures; Eddie Cantor is the most prominent, but Joe E. Brown and Ed Wynn both pop up. The best gag involves the labels for the twins delivered to Nanook of the North.

A Short Vision (1956)

A Short Vision (1956)
Article 5992 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-12-2021
Directed by Joan Foldes and Peter Foldes
Featuring the voice of James McKechnie
Country: UK
What it is: Succinct apocalypse

A vision is seen in the night skies over with. Those who see it share the same fate as those who don’t.

Here’s a worthy effort of British experimental animation. As anybody who has seen a theatrical cartoon can attest, the fact that you only run about six minutes doesn’t mean that not a lot can happen. In that short a time, the world can end, as it does here. And I think the point being made here is that it ends not just for a few certain souls, but for all. The prey, the predator, the awake, the asleep… none are spared. No, this isn’t a cheery cartoon, nor is it funny. Still, it is a bit too short to work up to a real emotional kick. Nevertheless, it’s a worthy effort.

Short and Suite (1959)

Short and Suite (1959)
Article 5991 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-12-2021
Directed by Norman McLaren
No cast
Country: Canada
What it is: Abstract animation to jazz music

Here’s another foray into abstract animation from Canada’s master of the form, Norman McLaren. The abstractness dominates here, though it does pop into the representational for fleeting moments, usually just long enough for the viewer to recognize it as such before it runs back into abstraction. If there’s any plot here, it’s due to individual interpretation; I like to see it as a dance between abstract figures. This one is solid, but I don’t think it’s my favorite from McLaren’s oeuvre.

The Shoemaker and the Elves (1935)

The Shoemaker and the Elves (1935)
Article 5990 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2021
Directed by Arthur Davis
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Columbia Color Rhapsody

As a reward for taking in a freezing, helpless waif on a winter night, a shoemaker is visited by elves who make shoes for him all through the night while he sleeps.

If I were to count the number of times I’ve reviewed each fairy tale adaptation I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner was “Cinderella”. And this story is the one I suspect would be in second place, which I do find surprising, as it never struck me as a particularly popular fairy tale. Still, I do prefer the animated versions to some of the live-action ones I’ve seen; the latter tend to be filled with endless scenes of elves building shoes, which gets very old; at least a cartoon keeps the action abbreviated. The most striking thing about this adaptation is the addition of the starving waif, which implies that the cobbler has received the attention of the elves due to his unselfish act of charity for the waif (though the cartoon doesn’t make that explicit). The gags are standard, though we do get a couple of famous star caricatures in the mix, namely, those of Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo. Other than that, this is mostly business as usual.

Shiver Me Timbers! (1934)

Shiver Me Timbers! (1934)
Article 5989 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2021
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Willard Bowsky
Featuring the voices of William Costello and Mae Questal
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye vs. Ghosks

Popeye, Olive Oyl and Wimpy board a pirate ship and are set upon by spooks and skeletons.

Here’s a Popeye short that doesn’t need the spinach excuse to argue its inclusion in fantastic cinema; the wealth of ghosts and skeletons does that. It’s also nice that it’s one of the earlier cartoons of the series when the quality was somewhat higher. The gags are typical of the genre but rather creative at times. It also made me wonder more about the power of spinach in these cartoons; you’d think the increase in physical power wouldn’t have much of an effect on non-physical entities, but it apparently does seem to give Popeye the power to battle of the winds; at least that’s the interpretation I put on the appearance of a character appearing from the stormy ocean. This is definitely one of the better Popeyes.