Saturday, April 05, 2008

Samuel L. Jackson as The Octopus

Striking some very Frank Miller-ish poses for Frank Miller's adaptation of The Spirit.

Four Legends Walk Into a Camera Frame

The Bette Davis Centennial

Born a hundred years ago today, one of the greatest actresses of all time.

For the Guy Who Played Mr. Belvedere Fan Club

An SNL sketch, so not on YouTube. Still, Happy Birthday, Brocktoon! Rest in peace!

My favorite episode was the one where David Rappaport played his brother. Man, I love David Rappaport. But a close second is probably this one...

Ah, the eighties. Kids getting molested on TV left and right.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Parents, Plan Accordingly

This week I've been doing afternoons at the same school, dealing with basically the same seven special needs students. I know that my generation is turning out to be something like 90% really shitty parents, but do you think you could wait until they're older before you start dressing them up to look like smaller versions of teen trendoids?

I guess what I'm getting at is this: parents, I know those low rise jeans are popular for girls, but there's really a point where it's totally inappropriate. I don't want to see your third-grader's buttcrack, alright?

Throwdown 4/4

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Did everyone else see the fake Legend of Zelda movie trailer? It was an elaborate April Fool’s trick, but I have to say, I’d rush right out to see this movie in a second. My only complaint is that they didn’t have a much bigger, triumphant version of that great theme music in the trailer. It's here, if you missed it.

2. Note to Dimension Films: the world does not need a Short Circuit remake. It really didn’t need Short Circuit 2, to be honest. Stop remaking every single movie from the eighties. Movies are bad enough right now as it is. On the other hand, this does save me a lot of money and time, because I won’t watch these things.

3. Disneyland is talking about putting the Disney characters among the little people in the It’s a Small World ride. Relatives of Mary Blair, who designed the ride, have written to call it a “gross desecration of the ride’s original theme.” I have to say it’s a pretty crass idea to shove Donald Duck and Goofy as product placements into a ride that’s supposed to celebrate togetherness and a global spirit of goodwill.

4. A 21-foot squid in a Paris museum. I really would like to see that. It turns out, by the way, that these giant squid are invading the San Francisco Bay area, attacking fish and divers. They’re out of the area; is it because of food depletion or increased competition? I don’t know, but I do know one thing: I want to see a red devil. But not from too close…

5. You know… I think I’m done with the world of the animated Batman. I had the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini series, plus Superman, plus Justice League, I even enjoyed Teen Titans. Now… I don’t know, I think I’m done. Looking at this image, I don’t feel any excitement or interest. I’m just done. I had my stuff, I can watch it on DVD. Pass, Cartoon Network. This is for a different audience; I had my run. On a related note, if you’re interested in doing something original again, CN…

6. I enjoy this: Benedict Fitzgerald, the guy who co-wrote The Passion of the Christ, is suing Mel Gibson for fraud. Apparently, when he was writing the movie, Mel told him the budget of the movie was only $4 million so that he’d accept a low price for the script. The actual budget of the movie was $35 million. The level of class we’ve come to expect.

7. Sarah Jessica Parker on her son’s political feelings based on his deep analysis of the current partisan situation and reflection on the world political climate: He's very into Barack Obama. On his own! He's really, truly into this election. He's come to this conclusion on his own based specifically on Barack's gender. It's that deep. He's a fan and a true supporter of Barack Obama." Her son is five. Don’t you just love those people who think everything their kids do is indicative of genius?

8. Apparently, the University of Texas at San Antonio’s anti-plagiarism honor code was plagiarized, right down to the definition of plagiarism. Yeah, those college kids are really our future.

9. I love the way the gossip media goes crazy for every little scrap. It’s truly hilarious to watch. Thinking it’s revealing and damaging to “find” a Dita Von Teese sex tape (the woman sells them on her website, for fuck’s sake) is like thinking it’s revealing and damaging to discover that Robert Mapplethorpe once took a picture of someone naked. Give me a fucking break, Did you happen to miss that Dita is famous for having been in porno, Penthouse, and Playboy, and for being a stripper? A burlesque dancer, sure, but a stripper. She made a name for herself in bondage and fetish modeling. The curse of being a gossip blogger is that your memory only goes back a few weeks when you’re not dealing with Britney Spears’s pussy. Big scoop, idiots.

10. A much creepier story—though still not shocking, really—is that Hulk Hogan is dating a girl who looks a hell of a lot like his daughter. I kept saying this is where we were going. I watched Hogan Knows Best for the first three seasons, man. I could see the wistful looks Hulk would give Brooke; the way he was always so threatened when boys came sniffing around his princess; the sexual jealousy that would bubble to the surface; his insane desire to keep her locked up in a tower and keep tabs on her every second of every day. Come on, that goes beyond simply being protective. And then he fucks her best friend, and now he’s fucking a lookalike… Yeah, there’s a reason this is happening.

11. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that Germany will boycott the Beijing Olympics. Good thing America doesn’t have a leader who’s always fobbing off about the importance of liberty and democracy and how we should support freedom; otherwise we’d look pretty stupid right now. [Sidebar: I was taking a German class in 2002 that was taught by one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, who was from Bavaria. One day after class, he expressed disappointment that G-Dub had made a political reference to 9/11 when he opened the 2002 Olympics. He pointed out that even Hitler didn’t politicize the opening of the 1936 games. I just...enjoyed that.]

12. Translation: respect my views and never express your own. Or, my views are important and yours are not. Fuck you. My opinion of your mythical sky-god and your ridiculous, cooties-fearing prayer circle does nothing to you, so get it out of my face. And that goes for all of the major superstitions, by the way.

13. John McCain wants to build up US troop levels. He also doesn’t want to raise taxes. Which is like saying you want to drive across the country but don’t want to put gas in your car. McCain’s financial ideas are so far removed from reality, he’ll probably get elected.

14. Montana, New Hampshire, Maine, and South Carolina are basically defying the Department of Homeland Security by taking the whole secure driver’s license action into their own hands and refusing to comply with this REAL ID fiasco (trust me, like everything that comes out of DHS, it will be a fiasco). Like No Child Left Behind, REAL ID is another federal mandate that the states are expected to pay for themselves. Seventeen states have actually passed legislation against REAL ID; no state is near compliance, but most have asked for extensions. The plan will cost America’s states around $4 billion. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer said “This is the federal government telling a state you must do something, and you must pay for it. Well, thanks for playing; Montana is not in.” He called federal warnings that no one with REAL ID will be allowed to board a plane a bluff, and he’s probably right, considering the shame the airline industry is in and how desperately the government wants to keep puffing it up. It’s nice to see someone still has a notion of states’ rights in the country; it sure as hell isn’t the federal government. Meanwhile, did you know that the manufacture of American passports has been outsourced to foreign countries? One of the companies making our passports is a Thai company with links to Chinese espionage. I guess that’ll make the takeover that much easier, then.

15. In a recent Florida survey, it was found that many teens believing drinking a capful of bleach will prevent HIV, a shot of Mountain Dew is an effective birth control, and that smoking pot will keep you from getting pregnant. Do I even need to remind you that Florida has abstinence-only sex education? The whole state is one Britney Spears waiting to happen.

16. With airlines cancelling flights right and left for safety checks and Aloha Air and ATA shutting down entirely, it sure looks like the airline industry is on its way out. Why don’t they just nationalize the damn thing and make it a government service already? The government’s bailing it out constantly, doing everything (as they will in this recession/depression) to protect business at your expense; why don’t they just take over outright, like they do in countries that aren’t buying our shit? And how much of this do you think is tied to rising fuel costs?

17. How much worse is the economy going to get? St. Francis Hospital & Health Center closed down here in Chicago because of uninsured and Medicaid patients it took in. Is that going to serve as a warning to other hospitals to not take in uninsured patients? There are more and more of us being disenfranchised by this profit-at-all-cost America, but when none of us have any money, what are they going to make? How much longer is the collapse going to take, I wonder?

18. One more airline story: the TSA stopped a woman in Texas, Mandi Hamlin, and forced her to remove her nipple piercings with a pair of pliers because they set off the alarm. Meanwhile, there’s a story out that someone testing the TSA got a knife through security twice. Whatever they tell you, I know people who have personally dealt with the TSA, and they have not made it any safer at the airport. And now the TSA will let you fly with a nipple piercing if you “allow a visual inspection.” So, knives are okay, but nipple rings are a threat to our national security… but hey, ladies, if you just show your tits, everything’s fine! The terrorists have truly won.

19. Ben Bernanke said this week that if thing keep going the way they are now, we could see a recession this year. So… there you go. Watch out, everyone. You’ve been warned. By the way, I saw a dollar store that was having a 70% off sale. No kidding. Oh, and did you hear that in many cases, banks aren't taking the titles to the homes they foreclose on because they don't want to pay the taxes?

20. In 2003, Savana Redding, an honor student, was suspected of distributing drugs, taken out of her class, marched to the nurse’s office and, without notifying either of her parents, strip-searched. Nothing was found, but the school had to take extreme measures because, you know, she was supposed to have given another kid prescription strength Ibuprofen. And they take that shit seriously in Arizona. Redding was 13 years old at the time, and she’s still appealing the case. She was so nervous, upset and humiliated by having her breasts and vagina exposed by the school secretary that she developed ulcers and had to drop out of school to attend another one. According to ABC News, the school district’s lawyer says the duty of schools to protect students comes before anyone else’s rights. Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but he does say the strip search of a 13 year-old was reasonable, and tell us: “Remember, this was prescription strength Ibuprofen.” I think I need some now after just talking about this. This is another reason I’m going to home-school any kids I may end up having; public schools sometimes take their responsibilities far too seriously. If anyone had strip-searched my 13 year-old daughter, they would’ve had their arm broken the next day. And when it healed, broken again. You see the cycle here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

More From Hellboy II

My MandyPants Is Growing Up

Happy 22nd Birthday, Amanda!

An Open Letter to Guys Who Scan British Girlie Mags

You guys suck. Seriously, you're awful. Seriously, what is your excuse for this?

This is a great picture of Keeley Hazell that is ruined by being a terrible quality scan. Look at that, seriously. Just scratchy and a little pixellated the closer you get to it (and it's a very large scan, so there's just no call for this). What has happened to you guys out there? Where's the pride in your workmanship?

Just a couple of years ago there were these great Italian websites that posted scans of genuine quality from European magazines. Remember JoeScans? Oh, my kingdom for the return of JoeScans! That guy really cared about producing a quality image. He cared so much that, even though he basically was stealing images from magazines, he put his own logo on the damn things. But you know what? They were good enough forgeries for him to deserve to sign them. But you guys... seriously, what's with the laziness? You think scanning and providing us with pictures is simply a matter of clicking a "start scan" button and putting it online, but there's more to it than that.

You guys have slacked off and now, frankly, it's just embarrassing. Embarrassing and sad. I would love--dearly love--to continue to post pictures of Keeley Hazell, Kitty Lea, Lucy Pinder, Eve Wyrwal, Lindsay Strutt, Sophie Howard, and many others, but you guys have made me stop. Because your scans are just so goddamn bad that there isn't any point. You're getting gorgeous pictures and you're turning them into garbage. You're supposed to be providing for guys like me who don't have access to these British magazines in the states (some bookstores carry them, but they're imported, and I ain't paying 12 bucks for a skin mag). You should all be ashamed of yourselves for the terrible work you're doing. Where's the caring? Where's the joy in your work?

Guys, goddammit, just click the mouse a couple of more times! SHARPEN THE IMAGE! Seriously, even the most ancient scan programs will let you sharpen a freaking image. So, in case you missed it:



The New Futurama

The new movie is released on 24 June. Press release here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Evaluating Disney: 1951

Walt Disney was finally back on top. After nearly a decade of treading water, the studio had scored a real triumph with both Treasure Island and Cinderella, both with critics and audiences, and Walt was once again flushed with the excitement of success and new ideas. He had shown himself and the world he could produce live action entertainment as well as animation, and had even branched out into television with the One Hour in Wonderland promotional special. 1951 would build on these successes while the animated shorts were scaled back. Walt could see the writing on the wall; business in animated shorts was no longer financially feasible.

But at least Walt was tasting the fruits of success again.

1/5: Lion Around
Goofy. This is very much like a Donald Duck cartoon, really; Goofy cuts down a tree to hang his hammock on, then fights with Louie the Lion for the hammock. And hilarity ensues! It's definitely not one of Goofy's best, but there are some funny gags. If there's one Disney formula I'm now sick of, it's this: X wants to sleep, but Y won't let him for whatever reason. It is interesting that Goofy has a foil here; usually his foil is his own ineptitude. I notice this year, by the by, that there are a number of movie animators working on the shorts (in this case Ed Aardal and John Sibley). I don't remember seeing that before, though I could've missed it. I wonder why that is, especially with all of the film work going on.

1/19: Chicken in the Rough
Chip 'n' Dale. This is the first entry in a too-short Chip 'n' Dale series. Once again, I can't believe how much I just love Chip 'n' Dale. They really added a lot of life to these later years of Disney shorts at a time when they had become stale. The cartoons were still on the stale side, but the cartoons with Chip 'n' Dale are nearly always winners. This is one of the funnier Disney cartoons of 1951, too, with Dale accidentally hatching a chicken egg and being mistaken for one of the chicks. There's a hilarious sequence where he tries to convince the yard rooster that he's a chick, faking a fight with a worm. I also like that the hens look like old-style Disney, not so new and big.

2/9: Cold Storage
Pluto. This short is almost aggressively mediocre, which is a surprise considering Jack Kinney directed it. Pluto and a stork fight on a winter's day over who gets to sleep in the warm dog house. We've seen it all before, and it gets less and less funny every year.

3/2: Dude Duck
Donald Duck. The humor in this cartoon is sharp, alright. Donald goes to a dude ranch (dressed in English riding gear) and struggles to ride a horse who doesn't want to be ridden (except by some super hot dames; I don't know who did the animation/rotoscoping on the girls, but they're incredibly well-animated.)
The horse, Rover Boy #6, looks an awful lot like Cyril Proudbottom from The Wind in the Willows. There are some great jokes, the best of which is the horse's nonchalant "moo."

3/23: Home Sweet Home
Goofy. Or, really, How to Build Your Own Home. Well, it's a nice try, but again, it's over-familiar and just doesn't have much energy. Added to that, the gags are predictable and tired.

3/23: Corn Chips
Donald Duck. Another great cartoon with Chip 'n' Dale. In this one, Donald is shoveling snow and tricks the chipmunks into doing it for him. They retaliate by stealing his popcorn, and a battle breaks out. At this point, I couldn't even explain why I like Chip 'n' Dale so much, but I just absolutely adore the little guys. One of the best of the year.

4/27: Cold War
Goofy. One of the cartoons with Goofy as "George Geef." In this one, Mr. Geef gets a cold and suffers. That's about it. Some good gags, but not one of the best.

5/18: Plutopia
Pluto. Pluto has a surreal dream while on vacation with Mickey Mouse; in the dream, Milton the Cat is Pluto's butler. Forgettable, really. Have I mentioned half a hundred times I'm not a fan of Pluto? I hate the redesign of Mickey Mouse so much that I block it out of my mind; I forget he was resdesigned until I see it, and then I'm disappointed.

6/8: Test Pilot Donald
Donald Duck. Donald is in the park with his toy plane, but Dale decides to jump in the cockpit and have some fun with it. Dale is just absolutely charming in this short, taking flight and dive-bombing Donald. Great character animation in this short, too. Once again, Chip 'n' Dale save the shorts.

6/29: Tomorrow We Diet
Goofy. Goofy tries to lose weight by dieting, but it's hard for him. There's a potentially good device with Goofy's mirror reflection telling him how to do it, but it grates quite a bit.

7/20: Lucky Number
Donald Duck. The nephews put in their only appearance this year. They find out that Donald has won a lottery where the prize is a new car. They want to get it for him as a surprise, but have to steal gas from him to do so. Which means he doesn't believe them and wants revenge, and once again, Donald ruins his own life. But you know what? It's funny. And I love the nephews in this short, wearing college sweaters and hats.

7/28: Nature's Half-Acre
True-Life Adventures. The third short in Disney's nature series, this one examines a half-acre of land that could be anywhere in America. Highlighting the variety of bird, insect, lizard, amphibian and spider species that co-exist together, as well as the blooming of flowers, this makes excellent use of time-lapse photography to show us the life cycle of plants and animals from one spring to the next (including a beautiful sequence of feeding caterpillars of many varieties, their cocooning, and their re-emergence as butterflies). Perhaps not as narratively strong as Seal Island or Beaver Valley, but it offers a wide array of life, all contained within half an acre. So far, this series has not disappointed.

Disney's follow-up feature to Cinderella had been lingering around the studio for twenty years by the time it finally hit theaters. After Disney had established himself with audiences via Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies, audiences started to clamor for Disney's take on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Walt himself never felt much of a connection with the material, but knew that people expected he would eventually make it, and he looked into it seriously. In 1931, he bought the rights to the classic illustrations by Sir John Tenniel, intending to make the film in their style. He had made the series of Alice Comedies in the twenties with a live action actress against an animated world, and for a little while he planned to make the film the same way. Mary Pickford was to play Alice, and actually filmed a screen test. But development halted on the project in 1933 when Paramount released their live action all-star version of Alice in Wonderland (with a script by Joseph L. Mankiewicz).

Still, the idea lingered around the studio, with Walt deciding in 1938 that he would make a feature film out of the classic Lewis Carroll work. He registered the title with the MPAA and began tentative pre-production. Some of the styles were explored in the 1937 Mickey Mouse cartoon Thru the Mirror, one of the best-remembered Mickey cartoons. Still, Walt wasn't very enthusiastic about it; he was much more excited about finishing Bambi and Fantasia, or following up Snow White with Pinocchio or Peter Pan. Still, story men were at work, writing dozens of outlines and even creating some storyboards. What they always had problems with was the episodic nature of the novel. They kept trying to come up with some sort of through-line for the sake of narrative coherence. In the early forties, the idea of using live action was brought up again and again, and finally Walt announced in 1946 that Ginger Rogers would star in a combination live action/animation version of the film, the kind of style that had so excited him in Song of the South. It has never been clear to me whether Ginger Rogers was to play Alice or another role; certainly there was talk of making Alice a vehicle for Luana Patten, the child star of Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart.

For this film, Aldous Huxley wrote a particularly icky-sounding script that focused on the peculiar relationship between Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell, for whom Dodgson wrote the book. They were to be ridiculed by society, except for an actress who champions them. In the end, they would be validated by Queen Victoria herself, who praises Dodgson's work. Given what may have been the reality between Dodgson and Liddell, it's probably for the best that Disney chose not to make this film; probably it would be nearly as controversial as Song of the South remains today. The draft included scenes from Through the Looking Glass as well, and Walt announced that the animation would still be done in the style of Tenniel. But that style proved impractical for animation, and after the reception (and cost) of Song of the South, Walt scrapped his plans for combination features. Alice would instead follow Cinderella as a fully animated feature. The film had been in pre-production for a decade; by 1949, 40 songs had been written for the film.

The film that resulted from all of this uncertainty is, little surprise, something of a mixed bag in both story and animation. In Leonard Maltin's book The Disney Films, Ward Kimball is quoted describing the film as "a loud-mouthed vaudeville show. There's no denying that there are many charming bits in our Alice, but it lacks warmth and an overall story glue. Alice suffered from too many cooks--directors. Here was a case of five directors each trying to top the other guy and make his sequence the biggest and craziest in the show. This had a self-cancelling effect on the final product." That about sums up the problem; there are moments of brilliants, surrounded by a sort of forced zaniness that never really goes anywhere. Add to that an episodic story that never builds any real momentum, and much of Alice in Wonderland feels labored and paltry.

Much of this comes from Walt's discomfort with the story. He said later that he felt trapped by the literary reputation of the source material. This wasn't a fairy tale he could add on to, like Snow White or Cinderella. He couldn't do much to interpret it through the typical Disney filter, either, and this is another case where the style of the studio was too inflexibly realistic to gel with the type of story being told. Once again, Walt had done his studio a disservice by insisting only on one style instead of more experimental styles of animation for different stories. In The Disney Version, Richard Schickel dismisses Alice as the product of a factory, a broad outline of a classic that arrogantly takes over Carroll's work without really understanding it. In Hollywood Cartoons, Michael Barrier says the film suffers especially because there doesn't seem to be any "sense that Walt Disney ever decided what kind of story he was telling and how it should be told. Alice is a frantic film; everyone working on it seems to have suffered from discomfort with the material, bordering on panic, and to have tried to disguise that discomfort as high spirits." Both men are right. The film almost never approaches the kind of purposeful, special storytelling of the best films before it: Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, and Cinderella.

But granted, there are some great moments in the film. The mad tea party has some excellent character animation (again, most of the film was shot in live action) and some inventive sight gags. The effects animation is wonderful, particularly the smoke of the caterpillar, especially as he recites a poem about a crocodile. Some of the rotoscoped action of Alice is splendid, and some of the character animation, especially of her expressions, is some of the best the Disney artists produced. The sequence in the Tulgey Wood has some great weird creatures. The march of the cards, which would now certainly be handled with computers, is superb, especially when the cards quickly shuffle themselves. I love the character animation on the Queen of Hearts, the bruiser who thinks herself dainty and takes a girlish glee in her cruelty; she's like Lucy Van Pelt on steroids. The flamingos are funny and their manic giggling is provided by Pinto Colvig. And best of all is the Cheshire Cat, who comes across as the truly weirdest thing in the movie because he's so cool and quiet (Ward Kimball, who animated the Cheshire Cat, also thought so).

But other sequences fall flat. The singing flowers are rote Disney; the caucus race doesn't do much; the Walrus and the Carpenter segment is routine and brings the film to a halt. The designs of many characters feel ordinary. The critics were especially hard on the film because it took such liberties with the Tenniel designs. Luckily, Mary Blair's concepts and color scheme do much to save the look of the film, carrying it even more than it had carried Cinderella, though without the warmth of that story. The lighting effects, the rippling water, the sharp colors and the Modernist design are all real benefits of the film.

This was the first of the animated films that really went for well-known celebrity voices in the leading roles. Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna play the Mad Hatter and the March Hare; Disney stalwart Sterling Holloway is the Cheshire Cat; Verna Felton is the Queen of Hearts; Bill Thompson plays the White Rabbit. Stan Freberg was to play the Jabberwock, but the sequence was cut from the storyboards when it was decided it was too scary (Freberg would appear in Lady and the Tramp as the voice of the beaver). Newcomer Kathryn Beaumont is quite good as the voice of Alice.

But for all of the fitful entertainment Alice offers, it doesn't form a satisfying whole. The critics certainly noticed, and they gave Disney some of the worst reviews of his career. He knew the critics would be hard on him for taking on such a popular classic. Although he had run quite an ad campaign for the film (including One Hour in Wonderland and a segment of the Ford Star Revue called "Operation: Wonderland"), audiences also didn't like the film and it failed at the box office. Walt didn't like the film, either; he found it too weird and found Alice herself unsympathetic, passive, humorless, and impossible to identify with. He liked it so little that he vowed never to re-release it, and valued it so little that he was already showing it on TV in 1954 (as the second episode of his series Disneyland). Perhaps the ultimate mark of the small regard Disney had for the entire enterprise is this: in the opening credits, Lewis Carroll's name is mispelled.

Animation Credits
Production supervisor: Ben Sharpsteen
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson
Directing animators: Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Ollie Johnston, Wolfgang Reitherman, Marc Davis, Les Clark, Norm Ferguson
Animators: Hal King, Judge Whitaker, Hal Ambro, Bill Justice, Phil Duncan, Bob Carlson, Don Lusk, Cliff Nordberg, Harvey Toombs, Fred Moore, Marvin Woodward, Hugh Fraser, Charles Nichols

8/1: How to Catch a Cold
A ten-minute commercial animation made for International Cellucotton Productions, aka Kleenex. A common man catches a common cold and is educated in health and the use of Kleenex by a little man who personifies his common sense. It's pretty good, well-animated, although it's very much a product of its time. For example, I think when we see the man's wife and her friends talking around the bridge table, they're squawking like hens. I couldn't swear to it, but I think Bill Thompson does the voices.

8/10: R'coon Dawg
Mickey Mouse. Another Mickey Mouse cartoon that is really a de facto Pluto cartoon. I don't know if, in 1951, it was really a good idea to do a cartoon with a stereotypical cracker narrator saying "coon" over and over again, too. We even see the raccoon sitting on the bayou and chewing on wheat, and hear talk of how he's "almost human" (cue Becca saying "almost like three-fifths of a human"). The raccoon is very cute, but I'm not sure how, let's say, unintentional some of this cartoon is.

8/31: Get Rich Quick
Goofy. Another of the Geef shorts, this time illustrating Mr. Geef's gambling problem and the lengths he will go to to make bets. Average, really. They haven't done Goofy any favors by stepping up production of his series.

9/21: Cold Turkey
Pluto. This is the last cartoon in the Pluto series, and it does at least go out on a high note. Pluto and Milton are watching TV and see an ad for Lurkey's Turkeys, and really want one of their own. There's some funny business in the beginning with the two trying to get inside the TV and get the turkey; then they search the house for a turkey, find one, and fight over it. It is so much a Tom and Jerry cartoon. But it's one of Pluto's better outings.

10/21: Fathers are People
Goofy. One of the best of the Geef cartoons, this one sees Mr. Geef dealing with the ups and downs of being a father. The best moment in the short, and one I may repeat in life, is when the baby cries in the middle of the night and Mrs. Geef reminds him "Dear, the bottle." He staggers to the kitchen and fixes himself a martini. Some great gags in here and, interestingly, Bobby Driscoll is the voice of Geef's young son. A real high point of the year, especially where the Goofy cartoons are concerned.

11/2: Out of Scale
Donald Duck. This has to have been inspired by Disney's model train, which you can see him riding around the studio in a lot of the film taken of him. Donald has a similar train, along with a scale model town and countryside. Chip 'n' Dale come into this and move into one of the model homes, and uncharacteristically, Donald is thrilled! He loves it, because they're perfectly to scale. But then he can't resist having some fun by messing with them, which almost leads to disaster, but actually leads to a perfect ending in which the conflict is resolved the best way it can be for all three of them. It's surprising, to say the least, but completely wonderful.

11/23: No Smoking
Goofy. Goofy tries to quit smoking. It has its moments, and plays like one of the How To shorts, but by this point I just want the Goofy series to end along with Pluto.

12/14: Bee On Guard
Donald Duck. As he has before, Donald tries to steal honey from the bees. The bees are in the style of Spike, but none of the bees is really him. I enjoyed the designs, though; the hive is like a big castle, the bees wear helms and carry spikes like kerns, and there's this sort of awesome Viking bee who leads them.
The extreme Donald goes to here is to dress up like a gigantic bee, which is at once stupid and hilarious. It's a nice note to go out on in 1951, with a surprisingly spring-themed short and a strong non-Chip 'n' Dale entry in the Donald Duck series.

12/25: The Walt Disney Christmas Show
As he had in 1950, Walt spent Christmas Day 1951 in front of the cameras. The set-up is the same as the previous special, right down to Hans Conreid once again assaying the role of the Slave of the Magic Mirror. Kathryn Beaumont appears once again, but instead of Alice she's now playing Wendy Moira Angela Darling, the role she was both voicing and acting out in Disney's next animated feature, Peter Pan, which would see theaters in 1953. Bobby Driscoll, Walt's Pan, also appears. Ostensibly a commercial for another film, Walt nevertheless made it as entertaining as he possibly could, refusing to market in a crass way.

Things were going so well for Disney in 1951 that the box office failure of Alice in Wonderland didn't make a dent in the company. He now had Peter Pan in animation, as well as the shorts and the True-Life Adventures and plans for more features; not only was Lady and the Tramp being planned, but he'd finally asked for a script for Sleeping Beauty. Walt spent the summer of 1951 in England, overseeing the production of his second live action feature, The Story of Robin Hood. He was back in, whole hog.

But what Walt didn't see was that the failure of Alice in Wonderland was part of a larger problem with the animation studio. No new ground was being broken and, frankly, Walt wasn't that interested in breaking new ground just now (at least, not in animation; he was still meeting with artists regarding Mickey Mouse Park and Walt Disney's America). The cartoons were stagnating, especially since Walt insisted on micromanaging each picture, even if he had to do it by mail from overseas. And the shorts would end up paying the price for their lack of growth.