Gulliver’s Travels (1939)

Is it just me or do the Fleischer cartoons not get the same attention as the Disney and Warner ones? Until now all I can remember seeing are the Superman series, and though I know I’ve seen Popeye cartoons (and even then I probably haven’t seen them in a quarter century or more) I’m fairly sure I’ve only ever seen them in colour, which means I’ve never seen any of the Fleischer productions. Anyway, my limited knowledge of the Fleischer oeuvre expanded a bit this morning courtesy of TVS (who I do seem to be watching a fair bit of late, probably cos it’s virtually the last free-to-air station still showing old films)… interested to learn Max & Dave wanted to try their hand at an animated feature as early as 1934 but Paramount (their distributor) refused to countenance such a bizarre idea, at least until Disney made Snow White. After what was apparently not an entirely happy production (thanks in part to Paramount wanting a much faster turnaround than Disney), Gulliver was ready for Xmas ’39 and duly proved a hit. And at this distance it’s still pretty fair viewing, though not without a few issues; perhaps the biggest one is the way in which Gulliver doesn’t really get to do a lot, he doesn’t even wake up after his shipwreck until about halfway through. Plus the romantic subplot between the prince and princess of the two kingdoms is beyond feeble, and the use of rotoscope to draw them (and Gulliver) sticks out sorely against the more conventionally “cartoonish” drawing of all the other characters. Otherwise, though, it’s well-drawn stuff, the humour is reminiscent of the early WB shorts, and though it’s no masterpiece it was still a nice way to start the day.

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