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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes I really enjoy these less exaggerated human characters, not
so much in the form of Elmer or Yosemite Sam, but natural looking, then
engaging in the ridiculous antics. Such was the case here, especially
in Maisie's running to catch the bus and sitting at her desk reading
all day, eating chocolates, and her hearty lunch which was an ice cream
The makeup job didn't stay bad, and the joke was just making fun of women who do wear too much makeup, which we see even today.
But the subtlety of the joke about crazy people in padded cells making women's hats was very amusing.
Strange to think this idea would have been better done by Disney or WB, but they probably didn't consider an entire cartoon about hats at random to be worth touching.
As it turned out, it was. And very well done here.
Animation is an art form, perhaps more popular than ever today thanks
to the creativity of new styles like the Pixar approach, that thrives
on the fantastic. With MAD HATTER this typical theatrical program
filler is far too steeped in reality, especially considering that the
audience went to movies to escape.
Sid Marcus, an animator whose career evolved into directing Pink Panther cartoons and later forgettable TV episodes, does a prosaic job limning the travails of Maisie, a well-named Ann Sothern type whose daily routine is just that, routine.
Featuring all human characters, normal situations merely exaggerated for effect, and in fact a mean-spirited presentation, this forgotten short emerges as anti-entertainment. Quite frankly, I would have appreciated a (precursor of course back in 1940) noir or even neo-Realist approach to animation if one was interested in a dreary cartoon. In fact, an animated spoof of the great Italian classics of the late '40s like SHOESHINE, BICYCLE THIEF or PATH OF HOPE would be quite amusing.
The nastiest (and most pointless) scene here comes early on when Maisie, late for work, slaps on her makeup and looks more like Emmett Kelly than a normal girl. It's a pure case of making fun of her -wanting the audience to laugh at her as a figure of ridicule. Starting from Betty Boop on through Jessica Rabbit, the fans want and deserve beauty and alluring female characters -Marcus missed the boat.
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