Posts Tagged ‘Musical’

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Cartoon Hell #34 – “Felix the Cat and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg”

January 19, 2010

Cartoon Hell is Nicholas Merlin Karpuk’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. 

Pinching out gold might be rough on the insides.

Felix the Cat is about as close as animation gets to a hipster icon. He’s obscure, but vaguely recognizable, and iconic enough that people keep trying to revive the franchise. It gives you that extra bit of cred to have his merchandise, but ask anyone what their favorite Felix the Cat moment is, and you’ll be treated to blank stares. There’s a reason for that: No one watches silent cartoons, and all the talkies with Felix are awful. They resuscitate the corpse of Felix every couple of decades to try and recapture the magic, but I’ve never seen the appeal. Apparently there’s brewing right now.

 Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse both started as silent film characters. They both functioned as mimes going through a series of stream of consciousness animation experiments. Adding voice to a silent character sank a lot of careers, and if you listen to Mickey Mouse, he’s boring as hell, which is why he became the straight man to the antics of characters who actually possessed specific personalities. He was the Zeppo Marx of animation.

 You can’t take an existing character and betray peoples’ expectations, which is probably why the studio that made Felix resisted doing talkies for so long. This particular cartoon was an attempt by Van Beuren to revive the popular character, and they missed the point entirely, which is why only three were ever made.

 The reason so many characters of yesteryear fail is because they either had no personality, which later technology revealed, or the owners of the rights no longer have the courage to let them behave that way. Popeye isn’t hyper-destructive, Bugs Bunny isn’t obnoxious, Donald Duck no longer has a rage problem, they all become paper stand-ins with nothing more than a recognizable profile and an annoying voice.

 The voice is indeed the biggest problem here. From the first line, Felix’s talking cuts like a knife, a shrill, kiddy tone only replicable by having a child yell half an inch from your ear.

Good to see we've moved to a goose-based economic model.

Felix is running a relief stand powered by the Goose and its golden eggs. Maybe I’m just being a nerd, but wouldn’t you rapidly devalue the local currency doing that? Damn it, Felix, do you not understand scarcity, quit squeezin the goose! 

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Cartoon Hell #32 – “Little Hawk”

January 11, 2010

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. 

Brother to Fat Dove and Trifling Pigeon.

The titles for this cartoon don’t make things very clear. After the title, the words “Young Peoples Records” appears. I wish it had a possessive, which would make it sound like an old person describing a music collection they’d just stolen. 

This map gives the impression of Lord of the Rings set in Detroit.

As far as opening images go, this one is damn confusing. Am I looking at a leaf, or a poorly drawn depiction of the Great Lakes? Fortunately, the narrations clarifies that our story takes place by Lake Michigan. I should learn to trust my keen eyes.

 The story is about an Ottawa boy that everyone calls Lazy Bones. He’s a watches people do common activities, suggesting that thoughtfulness is correlated with laziness, which let’s be honest, isn’t entirely unfair.

 As far as shoddy limited animation techniques go, Little Hawk’s is one of the worst. They took real pictures of natural scenery and cut them to fit their forest areas, drawing a few crude trees on top to give the appearance of depth. The Ottawa boy isn’t the only lazy one here. 

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Cartoon Hell #31 – “The Snow Man”

January 7, 2010

 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. 

Warning, there is no snowman resembling this one in the short.

Snowmen sucked where I grew up. Seattle weather didn’t lend itself to thick, rollable snow. If it fell at all, it carried too much moisture to make a snow man that didn’t look like a slouched, misshapen derelict. The snowmen of my childhood looked like they’d sooner stab you than give a proper smile. As bad as this cartoon is, it reflects those awful snowmen surprisingly well.

 The Snow Man starts off with an Inuit sending his seal off to it’s own little seal-house igloo. Considering what Inuit usually do to seals, this seems a bit dishonest. The seal complains until the man hands it a hot water bottle, which would only satisfy someone who’s never tried that. 

How hard would you have to turn a gear with that kind of timing?

Back inside his igloo, which looks suspiciously like a normal lodge created by someone with no interest in finding reference material, the man says prayers to his heathen gods, and then sets his clock to wake him up in six months. Apparently them Eskimos hibernate like bears.

 We watch the hands pass through the months with an urgent voice whispering “tick tock” in a way that felt too intimate for the setting. The scene doesn’t change to skeleton in a parka as I would have expected. At this point I wish I could travel back in time and tell the animators, “You realize Eskimos aren’t bears, right? Even the fattest one couldn’t sleep through the winter.” 

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Cartoon Hell #29 – “Red Riding Hood”

December 28, 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. 

Generic? HECK NO!

Fairy tales were an amazing resource for slacker cartoonist who needed to fill a yearly quota of shorts. All you do is add a few jokes to the tired formula, slap on ironic commentary, and people will assume you’ve done a clever thing. For those who doubt the formula’s durability, note the numbers they’re using after Shrek films these days.

 Little Red Riding Hood is a story that hasn’t just been exhausted, they’ve strip-mined it, the earth salted so nothing good might ever grow again. I’ve lost count of how many shorts I’ve seen based on its premise. Hell, entire movies have been made lampooning it. I can’t possibly imagine what this short could do that I haven’t already seen.

 Except maybe plagiarize Mickey Mouse. The protagonist is a dead-ringer for a Disney production, but this came out in a less litigious age. Hearing shrill mouse-singing on a soundtrack that sounds like it survived a bombing gives this film a solid first impression. 

Who n' the Hell am I looking at here?!

A grandmother lies in a bed embroidered with the word “Grandma”. She’s sick, you can tell because she’s wailing, a doctor at her side. This film not only assumes you’ve never heard this story before, but that you can’t recognize basic concepts without labeling. 

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Cartoon Hell #26 – “Toby the Pup In The Museum”

December 9, 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 think they forgot to finish this title card.

The first Bugs Bunny cartoon did not start with a title card proclaiming that he was the star. This would come later, of course, but a cartoon featuring an unestablished character probably shouldn’t start with such unearned familiarity. At best the title of this cartoon should be, “In the Museum” with a smaller bit of print at the bottom stating that it features one Toby the Pup. You, Toby, are no Popeye the sailor. You’re not even a Screwy Squirrel.

My suspicion is that the title card may have been added later, as the sound doesn’t seem to come from the same room the microphone is in, giving it that fresh, cable access quality. It has the scent of repackaging, making its appearance in the collection double repackaging.

We start with a lion sleeping at a desk next to an open window, a brass band playing music that doesn’t necessarily resemble brass instrumentation. While the lion sleeps, his fountain pen dances because, well, as we’ve established, things dance in old cartoons. In the world of old cartoons even the densest of masses would do a little soft shoe if you put on some ragtime.

The pen wakes the lion up with a healthy squirt of ink and he uses his own tongue to clean his face off as though it were a washcloth. I initially screen-captured this moment, but upon looking at the results, it looked visually nonsensical. It looks like he’s vomited in zero gravity.

A janitor at street level is playing his mop like a flute, which enrages the lion for some reason. It takes a few beats for me to put together the visual shorthand going on here. The lion has long, wild hair (as opposed to all the lions with crew cuts), a monocle, and a suit jacket. His anger at amateurish music must mean he’s a conductor. So far the cartoon is making me do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to characterizing. Hell, the only way we know the character he’s picking on is Toby is by the hat with “Toby” clearly written on the label.

The lion chastises Toby and sends him off on his cleaning duties, which involve mopping a room full of randomly placed statues. This confuses me further. I’m not sure if the lion is really a conductor, or just a snooty guy who hates music. Is it a college? A museum? A gentleman’s club? Gay brothel? Help me out here.

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Cartoon Hell #22 – “Professor Yaya’s Memoirs”

April 13, 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.

No, it is not a sisterhood of any sort.

No, it is not a sisterhood of any sort.

That’s right, we’re moving on from obscure shit like Popeye and Betty Boop to the real stars of yesteryear. That’s right, the Hoffnung!

Yeah, I hadn’t heard of them previously either. The instrument wearing the hat who introduces the cartoon didn’t jog my memory. According to the title card they are, “Based on Books,” which is pretty awesome. I like books, heck I have a Goodreads account and I’m one of the five people that actually write reviews there. It’s literary grounding assures us of a superior viewing experience.

This sexy action-packed excitement can all be yours!

This sexy action-packed excitement can all be yours!

It begins the way all fast-paced cartoons should begin, with an old man napping peacefully. The action heats up when the old man receives a note. A simple card states, “Happy Birthday, The Family.” It’s good to establish the mafia connections up front.

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Cartoon Hell #21 – “Jingles”

April 5, 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.

Maybe it should end with, "...in Color?"

Maybe it should end with, "...in Color?"

There are a few things immediately wrong with “Jingles”, A Musical Sketch in Color. Let’s work from least obvious backwards. Firstly, there’s Christmas music playing, which never bodes well. Second, there is utterly nothing recognizable about the format. As much as I bitch about the Fleischer characters like Popeye and Betty Boop, it’s still nice to have a personality of some sort anchoring the whole thing. Lastly, I don’t think it’s a good start when the title card lies to me, because this bitch is monochrome.

It’s a film by Sy Young, and it all has the amateur feel of something cobbled together in some lightless place in the world where orphans of the Great War euthanize elderly circus animals. The warbly music combines with that effect to make me concerned that I’m watching some old Edison snuff film thrown into the collection because it cost nothing in royalties.

Eskimo law actually requires this.

Eskimo law actually requires this.

Two eskimos turn a crank at the top of the world and a old style traffic sign smacks the sun. Whatever my expectations were, they’ve been defied. The sun starts a locomotive, and every single part twists into a character when it moves. There’s a shot from the trains perspective as it moves through the hillside towards a tunnel that’s eerily well animated, to the point where I felt a little unnerved.

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