From July 14, 2013
Gulliver's Travels (1939)
As with "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" I didn't know much about this film before a few months ago. I'd definitely seen clips of "Gulliver's Travels" from time-to-time throughout the years, but didn't know who made it.
It was made by the Fleischer brothers after they saw the success that Disney had with "Snow White". "Snow White" came out in 1937 and the Fleischers made sure to get their first animated feature--the second cel-animated movie EVER--out before Disney's second ("Pinocchio" 1940).
I bought the newest DVD edition of this film from Koch/E1 Entertainment because I'd read that it had been remastered a bit. It all looked good, not as good as the digitally remastered Disney films, but decent. However, apparently a lot of animation fans had problems with the edition that I bought. From wikipedia: "E1 Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray Disc on March 10, 2009, but received strong criticism for presenting the movie in a stretched and cropped 1.78:1 format, as well as applying an egregious amount of noise reduction." Eh, it looked ok to me, and I'm usually picky about that kind of thing.
The effects animation of the waves at the beginning is good, but nowhere near as convincing as in the Disney films "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", or "The Little Mermaid".
The little guy with the lantern--Gabby--is voiced by Pinto Colvig, best-known for voicing Goofy and Pluto for Disney. But the voice he used for Gabby is really annoying, but apparently not to 1930s audiences because Gabby was such a popular character that he ended up getting his own short film series.
Watching the two kings roughhouse made me laugh. I like the design of King Bombo.
Princess Glory has that weird, bouncing shrill singing (like Snow White) that for some reason was popular in the 1930s. I hate it in "Snow White" and I hate it in "Gulliver's Travels".
The two kingdoms get into a war because the two kings can't decide which song should be played the wedding of their children.
I really liked that when the mob passes over a wooden bridge at night, you can see their torch light through the boards of the bridge. Really well-done.
A lot of time is spent showing gags of the Lilliputians while they tie up Gulliver. I liked how the Lilliputians shaved Gulliver with a scythe.
The roto-scoped Gulliver stands out too starkly from the other characters in the film. I read that ths was done purposefully to differentiate Gulliver from the Lilliputians, but I think its too jarring having the two animation techniques next to each other. I think its better to do what Disney did (as with Snow White and Chernabog from "Fantasia") where they certainly based the movements on a live-action reference, but they didn't roto-scope. There's a scene in "Gulliver's Travels" where Gulliver's hand dances with King Little. His hand is not roto-scoped and it fits in a lot better.
Some of the background paintings are gorgeous, as in the dawn sequence in Lilliput near the end of the film (approx 1:04:00).
There aren't really any memorable songs in the film. Apparently "Hap Hap Happy Day" was popular in its day and I liked "All Together Now", but they just aren't memorable to me.
Something about the animation isn't as good as the Disney Studios. Not enough in-betweening? I later read on wikipedia that the Fleischer Studios made "Gulliver's Travels" in less than two years, which is less than half the time it took Disney to make "Snow White", so I guess there was some cost-cutting going on after all.
I appreciate the film's message against war. It's a good ending, although the diagonal panning shot of the Lilliputians at the end looks terribly done.