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Delightful performance by Chill Wills highlights this rather charming short which turns on the title, 21 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This short was nominated for the Academy Award for Short Subject, two-reel, losing to Van Gogh. There will be spoilers ahead:

This is a charming, if lightweight, short which features an enchanting performance by Chill Wills as Windy, a cowboy with a rather jovial view of life and an inclination to stretch reality a bit to make it more entertaining.

The short opens with the cook at a ranch fighting a dog for a steak and complaining that none of the cowboys had anything nice to say about his cooking. He calls them to dinner and what follows is one endless series of complaints about everything-the poor lighting from the lamp, the food, the coldness and disrepair of the ranch and so on.

The complaints take on heat and broaden to include one cowboy playing a guitar and singing (both with more enthusiasm and skill). These men have grown tired of their lives, their routines, with the company and the perceived lack of anything interesting in their lives, everything becoming stale and flat. One of them decides to quit and starts to leave, only to open the door on Windy.

As an indication of changes to come, as Windy enters, the light from the lamp brightens noticeably. As Windy begins to talk, he exclaims with glee how wonderful everything is-the food, the room, the guitar playing, the company, everything the other men had complained about earlier.

The men are all drawn into Windy's view of the world, which is clearly fanciful. His view of their cramped, boring little world is totally different from theirs and much more agreeable. This comes crashing down with the arrival of the sheriff, who is returning Windy and a horse he's with to the ranch where he is employed. The horse belongs to Windy's employer, though the horse prefers to be with Windy.

The sheriff takes Windy away, but the cowboys decide they want Windy staying at their ranch and concoct a plan. They also begin cleaning the ranch house as their boss comes in and he's as crabby as they once were. Windy comes back, but there's a problem with Windy staying, which is ultimately resolved and the short ends in a most enjoyable way.

This short can be found as an extra on the My Dream Is Yours DVD and is well worth watching. Recommended.

Excellent Heckle and Jeckle short!, 21 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a short in the Heckle and Jeckle series produced by Terrytoons. There will be spoilers ahead:

This is actually the type of plot which makes for a very good Heckle and Jeckle cartoon. The two birds can be rather obnoxious, so in order to make them sympathetic, they have to be in a situation where they're the "good guys", comparatively speaking, and here they are someone to root for.

The antagonist here is a cat with a penchant for birds as food. He takes a birdcage but recently vacated to try to get dinner, er, tenants. There's a sign reading "Wanted, songbirds". H & J come by, see the cage and, wanting a home, determine themselves to be "songbirds" and prove it by launching into a musical number, complete with Jimmy Durante impersonation and then a song and dance number.

The cat, growing impatient that they won't go in the cage, decides to push the issue, only to find out that the birds are rather difficult to catch, getting punched repeatedly. There follows a series of somewhat standard gags for these cartoons. The reason they work here is that the timing is rather good. The execution is great. The birds play pool with the cat, they fake the cat out with the "phone" call in the shower and so on. A gag involving a vacuum is very good.

The ending is obvious but fun. This is in some ways a musical cartoon. This cartoon deserves to be better known. Most highly recommended.

Snow Use (1929)
Average early sound effort from Walter Lantz, 20 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a short in the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series, Lantz variation. There will be spoilers ahead:

There really isn't a whole lot to this cartoon. The big deal here would have been the novelty of sound and the synchronization of music to the animation. The plot is minimal and the animation is mostly of the "Look how stretchy I can make everything!" variety.

The short is basically a series of largely unconnected gags, most of which have some connection to snow and winter, though some of the connections are loose. The best of the gags in the beginning center around Oswald and his sled team dodging a giant snowball. Some of the gags here are decent.

A large bear comes up to a cabin/saloon with a moose and proceeds to tie the hitching post around the moose. That this may well be the best gag in this section of the short speaks volumes. The bear begins to dance (if you can truly call it that) with a cat and then Oswald comes in and causes the bear to lose his pants. There follows a combination of more "dancing" and wooing between Oswald and the cat.

The bear re-enters the short and starts choking Oswald, the cat tries to save Oswald, the bear starts trying to force himself on the cat and Oswald puts a Franklin stove in the rear of his pants, causing the bear to run.

Oswald and his lady love leave on skis, but the bear catches them. The last minute or so of the short is quite predictable and I'll leave for the viewer to enjoy if and when they watch this.

For completists.

Bambi (1942)
Visually beautiful film with well-developed characters, 19 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is an animated feature produced by the Disney studio. There will be spoilers ahead:

This film is an adaptation of the novel by Felix Salten. It's a good deal lighter and gentler than the novel, which is hardly surprising, given as it's a Disney film. The most impressive thing about a very impressive film is its beautiful visuals, particularly in showing the changes in season and in the climactic forest fire sequence.

The Disney animators spent time studying animals in order to get the look and the movements down right, giving the film a very naturalistic, realistic feel.

The story follows Bambi, a male deer, from his birth through his maturation to his finding a mate and beginning the life-cycle all over again by the close of the film. The other animals are all excited by the forthcoming birth of the "prince" and when he's born, they all rush to see him and pay their respects. Friend Owl is a focal point throughout the film, acting as an everyman. Two characters created for the film, a rabbit named Thumper and a skunk named Flower, serve as friends to Bambi as he grows into adulthood.

Bambi passes through many events in his life, including the death of his mother at the hands of man (a hunter). It's interesting that, on its release, the film attracted criticism from hunters for essentially depicting hunting as it actually is, as being a disservice to sportsmen. Bambi comes into his own and meets Thumper and Flower again after some time apart, all three grown and quite baffled by some birds who are "twitterpated" because it's spring and they are in love. They vow never to act so oddly, which of course they in fact do, as each meets his love in order, Bambi being last and seeing his cousin Faline again.

Bambi finds himself having to fight another stag for Faline in a dramatic scene which is effectively animated. It's followed quickly by the forest fire sequence. The film ends in the same way it began, with animals excited again at another birth, this time Faline giving birth to Bambi's fawns. The ending is quite nicely done.

This film is available on DVD and Blu Ray and is well worth watching. Recommended.

Life-size animation technique is interesting, but the story is more interesting than the technique, 18 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This short was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short, losing to Feast. There will be spoilers ahead:

This short has a story which may resonate with a lot of viewers. It's about two brothers and their dying mother. I have some understanding of this, though my situation was not analogous to this one.

One of the brothers, Nick, is unemployed and his mother's primary caregiver of the two brothers. He takes care of his mother's needs when the hired caregivers aren't available. Richard is the favored son, even though he does next to nothing to help apart from occasionally swooping in after the heavy lifting has been done to do a small amount of work and take credit. All through the short, the two make their personalities apparent in ways large and small.

Nick must tolerate being treated second hand by others as the supposed lesser of the two brothers because he's less flashy and unemployed. For much of the short, his efforts are overlooked and the tension between the brothers and even Nick and his mother is quite palpable at times.

The animation is an interesting technique which includes live action footage wherever water is involved. The characters are shown as life-size characters. It's an intriguing technique, but is of secondary importance to the story and character development. The story arc is inevitable, given the subject matter. The short ends with more questions than answers-and that's a good thing.

This short is available online for rental or purchase and is well worth watching. Recommended.

Starts out strongly, then becomes uneven with a predictable finish, 17 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the cartoons from the Scrappy series produced by Charles Mintz for Columbia. There will be spoilers:

I'm not a big fan of Scrappy (he's too often an obnoxious jerk for my tastes) but this cartoon started out well and is a reasonably good short, despite its petering out over the last half or so.

The short opens with a shot of the door to the lab of one "Hugo Plotz". We then enter to see Plotz pouring liquid from one beaker to another for a bit. We then see that Plotz has Scrappy in a glass container. Scrappy tries to escape, only to be injected by Plotz and change into a fish, which isn't what Plotz wants. Scrappy changes back and the footage of him trying to escape is used again, he's injected again and becomes an old Scrappy. Scrappy's brother tries to rescue him, is caught and they're both injected with something which turns them into babies, which is what Plotz wants.

Here, the short goes off the rails a bit, as we see a scroll of dates go by, from 1940 to 1990. We then see Scrappy and his brother in a futuristic setting, but the "futuristic" part is limited to basically one major innovation, with every other aspect looking like the 1930s lifted into 1990.

We even see an older version of Plotz (who apparently declined to use his own serum) chasing a little girl. Much of the latter half of the short consists of Plotz chasing Scrappy. A few of the gags are enjoyable, but the cartoon goes nowhere after the flash forward. The ending is trite and predictable.

Worth watching at least once.

Yet another Mighty Mouse operetta-style short, 16 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the shorts from the Mighty Mouse series produced by Terrytoons. There will be spoilers ahead:

Mighty Mouse cartoons are the definition of "formula cartoons". By the very nature of the concept, the entry of Mighty Mouse into the short makes the outcome inevitable, because Mighty Mouse is a superhero and is thus destined to win no matter who he goes up against. That they are predictable in no way means they cannot be entertaining, but the character of Mighty Mouse is basically rather limited and a little dull. He's not strong enough to carry a short himself.

The basic story arc is pretty much set. The cartoons are framed like the old melodramas, with a heroine in peril, a villain with no redeeming qualities and the stalwart hero. Every other character is a spear carrier. The theme of the cartoon is really the only major difference. Here, the conceit is that a father and his beautiful daughter live in a castle, but daddy is broke and the taxes are due. In comes the bad guy. The heroine is Pearl Pureheart, the bad guy is Oil Can Harry in black armor and some hero must win the jousting tournament to save the castle and spare our heroine from belonging to Harry.

Harry wipes out all the competition fairly easily. The plot is largely conveyed in an operetta singing style, so Pearl sings for some hero to save her. Mighty Mouse heeds the call and the battle is joined. This is even more one-sided than the earlier jousts, but the gags are better, generally revolving around Harry getting knocked out of his armor and having the pieces come down around him in another form. Mighty Mouse continually hands Harry his head until the final gag of the fight, the day is saved, Mighty Mouse gives the prize money to Pearl and then flies off.

There are two bits of comic relief which make this a bit more enjoyable. One is a short guy in armor who pops up with commentary throughout and the other is a sportscaster type announcing the jousting match.

This short is worth seeing.

Fair;y typical early Disney cartoon starring Oswald, 15 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, in his Disney iteration. There will be spoilers ahead:

Oswald is driving to see his sweetheart, but he isn't the only one. Oswald has a rival, a bear, of all things. The intended is a cat. Oswald's rival is clearly more affluent and drives a nicer car. He gets ahead of Oswald using a standard cartoon gimmick involving cars. Oswald gets back in the lead when the nicer car refuses to cross a pool of mud, while Oswald's car not only crosses, but taunts the other car to boot.

Oswald gets to the cat's house and begins playing a banjo and singing, the notes floating up to the cat, who shows her pleasure. The cartoon gets interesting when a goat comes up and starts eating sheet music in unusual and creative ways. Oswald makes the mistake of setting his banjo down while struggling with the sheet music he's playing. There's a great joke in here I won't discuss.

The goat eats Oswald's banjo, Oswald demands it be returned, the goat refuses and Oswald does what any cartoon character would do in the same situation. He starts playing music by using the goat as an instrument. This annoys a sleeping old man, who starts throwing things out a window, including the required chamberpot.

During this, Oswald's rival shows up and the cat comes out. Some nice gags in here, as Oswald and his rival vie for her attention, to the point that they begin to fight each other. The lady fair is not amused and the two swain get their comeuppance in a very funny way.

This short is available on the Disney Treasures The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit DVD set and is well worth watching.

So-so retelling of the Chicken Little fable with Mighty Mouse inserted in the story, 14 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the cartoons in the Mighty Mouse series produced by Terrytoons. There will be mild spoilers ahead:

Truth be told, there isn't much here to discuss. It's a bare-bones retelling of the Chicken Little story, with a duck instead of a chicken being tricked by a fox into thinking that the sky is falling. There's a brief lead sequence where the fox tries to catch a duck pushing a wheelbarrow of produce, only to have the duck outrace him to safety. The best part of the short is probably this sequence, which is the only part of the short even remotely novel. The rest is obvious once the premise is established.

Once the duck is convinced, he in turn convinces other animals and they go out of their safe farm to warn the king that the sky is falling. These aren't Mensa members here. The fox naturally tricks them, along with a second fox, into going into his den, where there starts a chase which lasts long enough to allow the narrator to bring Mighty Mouse into the short. Mighty Mouse actually raises the cartoon up and makes it more enjoyable (he also allows the animators to reuse footage in the fight scenes). The end is a given, since this is a Mighty Mouse short and the star invariably wins.

This short is worth watching once.

This features a minor character in the last and best of the handful of shorts starring him, 13 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a short featuring Charlie the dog produced by Warner Brothers. There will be spoilers ahead:

Charlie the dog was featured in four or five shorts, with him being the star of this one. This was the last short of the handful made with him and it's probably the best of them. Charlie wants, above all else, a home and master. Charlie's attempts to ingratiate himself to prospective masters are the principal reason he can't find one. He's crude, obnoxious and annoying-and this are his good points.

The short opens with the unloading of a cargo ship. Charlie is first seen in a deck chair after a crate is moved. The captain, clearly familiar with Charlie (and not pleasantly so) once again kicks Charlie off his ship and Charlie sets about to find a master. Charlie runs into trouble immediately, as he is in Italy and no one seems to speak English. He goes up to one man finally and asks him if he can "capiche" English, only to have the man rage at him in heavily accented English, calling him a "green-ahorn" as he stomps away.

Charlie spots a restaurant (the signs here are hilarious) and decides having a restaurant owner for a master would be great. The owner has other feelings on the matter and Charlie winds up out again. The man leaves his place briefly and Charlie seizes the opportunity to "endear" himself by waiting on a customer in his absence, an experience the poor customer will never forget, even after a decade and more of therapy.

The owner comes back and screams at Charlie for chasing away his customer and is "treated" to Charlie's idea of a floor show. The owner surrenders and says he'll be Charlie's master, promising to take him home. The ending is great, so I won't spoil it here.

This short is available as an extra on the On Moonlight Bay DVD and is well worth watching. Most recommended.

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