Little Distributed, this Film is a Fine History and Salute to the Great Animator, Producer and Sort of Forgotten, Hungarian born, Mr. George Pal (Himself)!
It's hard to believe that this compilation and tribute to George Pal, the Man and his tremendous accomplishments in the area of Stop Motion Animation, is already 20 years old. It seems like only yesterday that we took the family* from our Southside palatial estate, North to Wrigleyville and The Music Box Theatre. The old Movie House on Southport Avenue is beautifully restored, appearing just about exactly as it must have in the 1920's, when it opened.
This was a great way to view the Film (or should it be Films, plural?). Of all the four Family, it was probably the Daddy (Yours Truly) was the one most familiar with Puppetoons. And my own experience with them was very limited, being an occasional sighting on a local TV Kids' Lunch Time Show, or some such similar viewing.
THE PUPPETOON MOVIE (1987) is obviously as much a 'Labor of Love as a commercial movie venture. It was only out in the Theatrical Movie Circuit in a limited release. One would have to look for it at a Revival House or "Art Theatre". It certainly wasn't showing at any Shopping Mall Multi-Plex, that's for sure.
OUR STORY (if there is one) .We open up in a Forest Primeval-type setting, where a little Bambi-like fawn is suddenly confronted by a huge Mesozoic Era Tyrannosaurus who is closing in on the little, Cenozoic Era Mammal. The little Deer starts shaking in obvious terror. As the Great, Carnivorous Reptilian Predator moves in for "the Kill", he lets out with an extremely feeble excuse for a roar, and his dentures fall out!
From behind the area of the Camera's eye, we hear a high pitched; "Cut! Cut!" which we know is the command of a Film Director. But this voice seems to be one that is familiar to the kids, as well as their folks. Suddenly, the camera gives us a full view of the green face and body of none other than Gumby!
All of this leads us to a sort of explanation of George Pal, who he was and all about his work. There are all sorts of Copyright Commercial Spokesman characters and characters from films that used that Stop Action animation process. We quickly recognize Mr. Peanut (Planters Peanuts), Speedy Alka-Selszer (Alka-Selzer, Miles Laboratories), Mercury (FTD Floral) and a creature of the same name from GREMLINS; among other various assorted such similar types.
Then they go into the showing of some original George Pal PUPPETOONS, which much to the credit of Writer & Director Arnold Leibovit. The films are all shown from the opening credits on, sans the Logo and credits of the original releasing movie studio; which in this particular case would be (and is) Paramount Pictures Corporation.
Among the multitude of Puppetoon Shorts exhibited, among our favourites were:
1. TULIPS SHALL GROW! (1942).....a story with figures in Dutch Costuming in a Peaceful Land, growing Tulips until the Mechanical Screw-Ball War machine invades them
2. JASPER'S IN A JAM (1946).....Mr. Pal's Puppetoon Star, Jasper (a Black Kid )Recurring character is trapped in the Pawn Shop, thinking the Pawn Shop Keeper to be dead! It features Charlie Barnett's Orchestra with Vocalist MissPeggy Lee.
3. JOHN HENRY AND THE INKY-POO (1946) Featuring the voice of Character Actor Rex Ingram.
4. TUBBY THE TUBA (1947) Narrated by Hollywood Tough Guy, Victor Jory!
There were so many items that we found to be most amusing, funny and of the highest order of a film can hold. One, of which the title escapes me, featured a weather barometric indicator with two doll figures, male and female; being named Punchy & Judy, respectively. Damn, if that Judy character didn't look like our Daughter Jennifer!
THE PUPPETOON MOVIE is available in DVD as well as the VHS. And it would certainly make a fine addition to any home video library; being a fine companion film to your Disney titles. (That's Highly Recommended there, Schultz!)
NOTE: * The whole family means daughters, Jennifer and Michelle, the young Mommy, Deanna and yours truly, Daddy Ryan
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