Archive for Fleischer Bros

Moonshot

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on September 16, 2020 by dcairns

So, yeah, this is appalling.

Howard S. Moss only made five films, per the IMDb, from 1916 to 1930, but that can’t be right. He must have done more, or else had some other way of making a living… maybe he did commercials? Can you imagine these foul, racist homunculi compelling you to buy washing powder? I bet they could be very persuasive, crawling under your sheets at night to whisper jingles in your ear as you slept.

The animation here strikes me as OK, the character design grotesque, apart from the poor (and nameless) black kid who keeps getting mown down by jalopies — he actually has some appeal, though there’s racism in his design as well as his role in the story. This is the work of a man who hates kids on some deep, sub-basement level. Probably animation wasn’t the best career choice, Howard.

The scenery’s good. The warped buildings, funhouse mirrorworld architecture, connect by occult means to the Fleischer Bros cheese dreams of the same era, and the whole thing does feel authentically NOCTURNAL.

It doesn’t make sense to me at all as a music video for “Hearts and Flowers” though I guess Warner Brothers, in their usual synergetic way, were hoping to sell sheet music off it. It also doesn’t make narrative sense to me. It’s just a bunch of stuff, ending with some thinning puppet destroying the moon with a shotgun. Why? Is there some suggestion that the moon fiddled with his underage daughter? That doesn’t seem appropriate to this genre, whatever it’s supposed to be. Still, given all that’s preceded it, I was surprised he didn’t just up and shoot the black kid.

Ark Shadows

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2018 by dcairns

Are thirties cartoons strange because the sensibilities attracted to motion picture cartooning at that time were inherently odd people, or because the years have aged the films in unexpected ways, or because the medium was still in its relative infancy and so rampant experimentation predominated, or something else, or some combination of all three.

At the Fleischer Bros studio, we seem to have a peculiar worldview that’s beautiful to watch (as long as they stayed with shorts: GULLIVER’S TRAVELS and HOPPITY GOES TO TOWN exhibit a very different manner), whereas the lesser studios, it seems to me, often produced work that’s bizarre but doesn’t seem to WORK.

Witness Terrytoons’ jug-band rendition of the deluge, purportedly as Aesop’s Fable according to some title cards, while others (the film has been released with various hot-spliced main titles over the decades since its manufacture) don’t bother with this band-aid alibi and leave the blasphemy to stand on its own merits.

I don’t think the Old Testament mentions anything about a mouse playing a toenail xylophone, so the picture gets off to a flagrantly apocryphal start. Noah’s modern dress overalls suggest this is an updating of the apocalypse, something like TAKE SHELTER.

Then we get a plotless stretch of musical farm animals which is disturbing in a classic early thirties way, especially the la-la-la cow who ought to be rendered into sirloin ASAP to preserve sanity. So things are already a bit upsetting before the single black storm cloud starts a storm that engulfs the entire planet. The giraffe with windows in his neck, and down his right leg, is an unwelcome invention also. Co-star him with the Frankenstein monster from VAN HELSING, the only other character I can think of with windows in him, so I can avoid both at the same time.

OH GOD NO MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP

Mouse seems to be riding a toy horse, it has puppet-like joints on its legs and is too small to be a real horse, but then it gets struck by lightning and becomes a skeleton. What. And then it gets chopped in half but keeps running, like Baron Munchausen’s steed. (Terry Gilliam had to leave this passage from the novel unfilmed, due to budget problems on THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN: “I cut the thing that made me want to do the movie in the first place.”)

Various equally appalling gags show more exotic animals boarding the ark two by two. Toons of this vintage often have a nice/scary quality of BLACK GLOW, where the ink-lines are somehow underexposed or badly duped, resulting in an antimatter aura of darkness bleeding from the dark figures. This one is kind of washed out, but the lightning bolts are interesting: they’re so over-exposed they just look like some kind of print damage or error, blinding fluctuations in the brightness.

But the ending is the thing that makes this one worthwhile. You should really watch it before reading further, but I do want to write it down so I can see the words in cold black and white. So stop reading now and watch at least the last minute of the toon if you haven’t already, then come back and read on after this happy image ~

YES. Like the freed prisoners of Bunuel’s THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, the happy menagerie give thanks to the Lord for their deliverance — and He strikes them down again, for no reason. Noah ends up with a frozen lightning bolt through the seat of his dungarees, as it rains cats and dogs (more than two by two, them critters breeds FAST). In a cartoon, God is a capricious, cruel, infinitely destructive demiurge, like Bugs Bunny tormenting Daffy Duck in DUCK AMUCK with nightmarish metamorphoses in a cel-painted Beckettian torture-show. The cartoonist hits on the perfect metaphor: if there were a God, this is the kind of guy He would have to be, randomly dishing out surreal punishments before returning us to the darkness of the inkwell.

And the Lord sayeth, “Ain’t I a stinker?”

Talkartoon

Posted in FILM with tags , , on April 23, 2016 by dcairns

Pretty amazing digital restoration job on the kind of film we’re used to hearing through a rainstorm of pensive crackle, the image fuzzed and degraded — here, only the occasional winking sparkle hints at an analog origin. Am I churlish to slightly miss the intimations of mortality, in particular the way the black tones in old Fleischer movies used to GLOW from beyond their outlines, a physics-defying obsidian effulgence?

Still, the films’ hallucinogenic horrorshow qualities appear undimmed. Long Live Bimbo!