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Cartoon Hell #9 – “The Story of Time”

January 11, 2009

Cartoon Hell is TheKarpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.

I've watched this, and the skull still doesn't make sense.

I've watched this, and the skull still doesn't make sense.

“The Story of Time” is another entry in the “150 Classic Cartoons” that I don’t really understand. I entered into this short unsure of what to expect. According to IMDB this particular work was nominated for an Academy Award back in 1951, the year the FDA finally made Gerber take arsenic out of baby food, polio wiped out the thriving utopia historians call “The Lost Wyoming”, and Russia finally freed their feudal serfs. At best this will be genuinely watchable, at worst it will be pretentuous in the least enjoyable way, much like a certain entry about snails that shall remain nameless.

The text about this adventure being underwritten by Rolex troubled me somehow. Did Rolex take one disastrous bender into the world of animation and find it unlivable? I’ve watched a lot of crappy cartoons and I’ve never seen their name pop up before.

Then there’s the following text, which scrolls across the screen Star Wars style:

Before recorded history man found he could divide the movements of the sun’s shadows into hours and minutes. In his constant search for greater accuracy, sun, fire, water and sand were primitive steps towards the mechanical perfection of the modern wrist-chronometer. This film is a symbolic story of man’s progress in time measurement.

Wrist-chronometer? Wait a damn minute, is this whole production just a really long watch advertisement? I didn’t expect underwriting to mean they essentially bought an ad for overpriced wrist watches. Granted, at this point it’s still possible that the creator of this film made the statement innocently, but I’m dubious.

Soon it shall kill us all.

Soon it shall kill us all.

We begin with a Star Trek shot of space moving by for some reason. Then a surprisingly frightening sun looms over a pathetic Earth. If I possessed blogger Perez Hilton’s gift for adding colorful drawings to existing JPEG files, I’d be sorely tempted to draw in a screaming angry face on the sun depicted. That sun is about to break everything you own because it thinks you’re cheating on it.

There's a lot of loving shots of this crap. More than I'm comfortable with.

There's a lot of loving shots of this crap. More than I'm comfortable with.

We move down to a mountain range and towards a group of 3D stick figures worshipping the sun. From there we move on to Egyptian shrines for the sun, and almost too rapidly for me type without pausing we move on to greek sundials. Then a loving, almost erotic montage of various sundials. It’s a bad time to be alive if you hate sundials, because the fuckers are everywhere in this montage.

Spooktacular! Oh wait, that's not what they're going for.

Spooktacular! Oh wait, that's not what they're going for.

After all this rapid fire history I was relieved when it all switched to a darkly lit (to be fair, everything is darkly lit in most of these old shorts, since they’ve been cleaned approximately never) yard by a spooky house. Is it possible that we’ll encounter some honest to god narrative? Will the house contain a line of frightening New Englanders who have been keeping the secret of time for centuries?!

Nope, just an Asian time device where a shrinking fuse drops balls when the string holding them up dies. To make this tease even worse, they start dramatically cutting between the asian device and the greek sundial like there’s some sort of Rocky style fight between the two coming up. I feel like the director is trying to work me into a frenzy over the cultural differences between clocks, and I’m resisting very strongly.

No one cares this much about time pieces. There used to be. But they died.

What exactly are we looking at here friends?

What exactly are we looking at here friends?

Then we go to a bunch of men standing around a…. I included a picture for a reason. They all seem kinda spooked by it. Or impressed, the animation isn’t that good. Maybe I’m just projecting, because I would be uncomfortable in its presence, seeing as it resembles some sort of dark, foreboding proto-blender. But then it all goes crazy as we discover that it’s just a painting, and we switch paintings to some sort of Dali knock off. Dali liked clocks as we all know, but Dali was also still alive, and Dali most likely had copyrights that Dali wanted to be paid for, thus the sad imitation.

Again we descend into a horrible montage, this time of various unwieldy pre-clock devices of various kinds. We’re preparing for the fight where the clock takes on Clubber Lang by this point.

This feels like burlesque for people I never wish to encounter.

This feels like burlesque for people I never wish to encounter.

It culminates in a dance sequence where three dimensional commas do an elaborate dance sequence with clock pendulums. I don’t know what sort of passion drives a man to make such a scene, but I fear it. I fear it the way Frankenstein’s Monster feared fire.

Once those shenanigans are over we find ourselves in what I can only assume was Captain Hooks clock room before he went apeshit. Clocks line every wall and sit on every surface. Why do I suspect that this is the creator’s own collection?

Well that's delightful, grandma will want it in the bedroom!

Well that's delightful, grandma will want it in the bedroom!

A tour begins of various cuckoo clocks, including one where a bearded Grim Reaper eternally slices off the heads of those below him. As a whole I find cuckoo clocks spooky and unnatural, much like those monkey toys that bang their cymbals together when wound up. They’re like ugly parodies of something you might enjoy, like your grandmother imitating your favorite comedian.

We’re treated to clock springs turning relentlessly onward, and I begin to lose patience. If “The Story of Time” was shorter I’d expect it to be the intro to a training video on your new job at the clock factory. Commas keep dancing around every damn place. I must have missed the value they have in time telling, or maybe it’s apostrophe, it’s hard to tell when they’re prancing around, the little assholes.

Lightning crashes everytime anytime yell "Hornblower".

Lightning crashes everytime anyone yells "Hornblower".

After some pointless montaging we’re forced to look at a model boat. This whole thing could easily have been called, “Grandpa Shows Off His Hobbies!”

But back to the watches, please, this is a serious matter. So serious that an unseen hand flips through a book of deeply exciting watch mechanisms. I specifically did not include a picture of this because I don’t care, and I don’t like you if you do.

Ladies dig clam metaphors.

Ladies dig clam metaphors.

A watch falls down into the ocean and gets eaten by a clam, and damned if it doesn’t come back out as a precision time piece! Honest to god, there’s triumphant music when the Rolex is revealed as a culmination of several millennium of design. It’s the pearl made from the grit of history people!

And of course what pretentious piece of crap film making would be complete without the camera panning out through the earth into space and off into the cosmic void.

I want to get into a time machine and tell director Robert G. Leffingwell that in the grim future of 2009 damn near everything tells time, and that lots of people now just look at their cell phone when you ask them what time it is.

I’m glad this lost the Academy Award to “World of Kids”. That doesn’t even sound much better, but at least it might have had a storyline. The winner for single reel animation was one of those Tom and Jerry cartoons where they dressed up as musketeers, so it couldn’t have been a intense year for animation.

UNPC Moment:

If only! I could have used the distraction of something inappropriate to take my attention away from all the damn clocks. Like one clock depicted in a racist fashion, or a couple clocks chain smoking. I would  have accept a little clock sexism.

Rating: Nearly Unwatchable

The whole production felt like the sort of overwrought monstrosity you’d expect if you gave an elderly hobbyist a stop motion camera and a budget. If I wanted to learn about models and archaic clocks and I’d just find an old person and ask. The fact that it was an overly long advertisement for expensive watches just twisted the knife.

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2 comments

  1. This is an example of why I often think these releases never work due to the questionable material that often gets used for these DVD sets out there. It’s almost like they’ve ran out of ideas and think this stuff works as best despite their original intentions as educational or informative-type interests outside the entertainment realm.

    In some way, it’s nice some of these stuff gets unearthed at all, though I often wonder if they would best be seen in another format of sorts than though something that is sold to a general, unexpected public.

    >> I’m glad this lost the Academy Award to “World of Kids”. That doesn’t even sound much better, but at least it might have had a storyline. The winner for single reel animation was one of those Tom and Jerry cartoons where they dressed up as musketeers, so it couldn’t have been a intense year for animation.

    The one nominee that year was “Rooty Toot Toot” from UPA, which I felt should’ve won anyway.


  2. Rolex still exists today. To this day, no one knows what the world Rolex means, not even an inventor knows that (according to one School of thought).



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