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Gulliver's Travels (1939)
Topic Started: Nov 26 2006, 08:52 AM (988 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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A tradition in the Gravy Dog House is to enjoy Max Fleischer's first feature-length animated film, Gulliver's Travels, every Thanksgiving.

With the astounding box-office success of Disney's Snow White in 1937, Paramount pressured Max into producing his own feature-length cartoon; by all reports, Fleischer was not enthusiastic about the idea. Paramount foot the bill for Max to hire new animators and set up brand new, state-of-the-art animation studio in Florida. Fleischer selected Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, a book he'd loved as a kid, as the object of his efforts. To pare the novel down to workable size, only the section of Gulliver's trip to Lilliput is used, and the political satire was jettisoned as well.

The resulting film is uneven and suffers from Max (and brother Dave, the director) trying to add too many "Disneyesque" touches, but the film is still very entertaining and contains a wealth of likeable characters.

The lead falls, not to Lemuel Gulliver, but to Gabby, the pesky little town crier who is a cross between Dopey and Grumpy. The first third of the film deals with Gabby discovering Gulliver sleeping ("Theres a giant on the beach!") and bringing him back to present to King Little. There's a subplot (or it's supposed to be the main plot, I guess) about King Little's daughter and King Bombo's son and their upcoming nuptials that are canceled when the two kingdoms go to war about which country's anthem will be sung at the wedding. There is a trio of evil spies and a goofy carrier pigeon to add laughs, too. The score isn't bad, with "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" used in dozens of Paramount cartoons over the next 20 years, plus "All's Well" and "Faithful Forever". Best of all is the bouncy "Bluebirds in the Moonlight", highly catchy and singable. The score received two Oscar nominations, in fact.

You'll like the affable Gulliver (who is traced from a real actor, as opposed to the Lilliputians, who are created-from-scratch cartoon characters) and wonder what the deal is about the princess and her charming prince; the two lovebirds don't even get a line until the last reel of the film.

The film was a tremendous hit, and Max was tapped for a follow-up. The result was the excellent Mr. Bug Goes To Town, which had the misfortune of being released just as the Japanese were releasing bombs over Pearl Harbor. The film tanked, and Paramount foreclosed on the cartoon studio and booted the Fleischer brothers.

Over the years, Gulliver's Travels fell into the public domain, and dozens of companies offer it on DVD, including the dollar DVDs. For years, I looked for a decent print on tape or DVD; Image Entertainment has a good one. WinStar, a company I abhor for their practice of adding intrusive sound effects and music to PD films, actually offers the best print of this I've seen. The original mono soundtrack is included as a bonus, and I suggest you use that one... the "remastered 5.1 sound" is unlistenable, unless you want to hear the sound of hammer on wood every time Gabby takes a step.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Paul
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Laughing Gravy
Nov 26 2006, 08:52 AM
The film was a tremendous hit, and Max was tapped for a follow-up. The result was the excellent Mr. Bug Goes To Town, which had the misfortune of being released just as the Japanese were releasing bombs over Pearl Harbor. The film tanked, and Paramount foreclosed on the cartoon studio and booted the Fleischer brothers.

I've always felt there was much to enjoy in Gulliver, but at the same time, lots that make repeat viewings pretty much of a chore.

The rotoscoped Gulliver always seemed to me to be out of place - he was too obviously rotoscoped. Now one could say that this was appropriate given the context - a real man in a fantasy world, but I think it's more a matter of poor technique. Disney, of course, made use of rotoscoping, or at least referencing live-action footage when animating human characters ("Cinderella," for example, was first shot almost entirely in live action), but they did a much better job of "cartooning" the action so that it wasn't as noticeably traced from a real human being.

The Gabby character also wears thin real fast for me, and the romantic leads are real ciphers. The two opposing kings, though, are great Fleisheresque creations.

"Mr. Bug," (aka "Hoppity Goes to Town") is a delight from start to finish, almost entirely pure cartooning, with the humans only incidental. It's also utterly gorgeous Technicolor. I haven't gotten it on DVD, but my c.1990 laserdisc is literally eye-popping.
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thadk
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I haven't seen "Gulliver", but I did see "Hoppity Goes to Town" for the first time ever yesterday. I loved it. It's a combination of all the things that make the Fleischer cartoons so unique and great.
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Laughing Gravy
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The new Blu-ray reviewed:

http://inthebalcony.com/

"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Frank Hale
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OK, I'll bite. I've never seen a really good print of this film, so sign me up. Apply for your commission to Thunderbean.

I've always absolutely hated the Gabby character, and I don't exactly know why I'm doing this; it must be my famously open and flexible mindset.
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Laughing Gravy
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As with the two Beany and Cecil DVDs, the bonus material alone is worth a hunnert bucks, never mind the main attraction.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Laughing Gravy
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Yes, of course I watched this again yesterday. I watch it EVERY Thanksgiving.

Million-dollar Dialog:
King of Lilliput, regarding Gulliver: ďBring him in!"
Gabby: "Your majesty, I donít think heíd fit in here."
King: "Oh, you donít, eh? So, itís not good enough for him, eh?!?!"
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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The Batman
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Laughing Gravy
Mar 17 2014, 07:33 PM
As with the two Beany and Cecil DVDs, the bonus material alone is worth a hunnert bucks, never mind the main attraction.

Agree about the Beany & Cecil DVDs (I haven't cracked my Gulliver yet, but plan to this weekend).

I was one of the lucky ones, when they released the second B&C volume, they also offered the first volume at the same cheap price (seems they found a cache in a warehouse or something like that), so I only paid about $40 total for both volumes.



Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman...then always be Batman!
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Laughing Gravy
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Gulliver's Travels (1939) Dir. Dave Fleischer

Yep. I watched it again. Man, isn't that Thunderbean Animation Blu-ray a pip? Great picture and sound, and STUFFED with extras. A real gem.

Million-dollar Dialog:

King Little: "Mr. Gulliver, can you fight?
Gulliver: "Well, I can lick anybody my size!"

"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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The Batman
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I finally watched this one last Thanksgiving, forgot to post about it. I have to agree with Paul, there is much to like about this, the animation is beautiful, but parts do make the thought of a rewatch a rare thing.



Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman...then always be Batman!
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CliffClaven
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One frustration is that the most spectacular sequence in the movie -- the Lilliputians tying up Gulliver and delivering him to the castle -- comes at the very beginning. Gulliver repelling a naval attack is nicely done, but not as impressive. "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" manages to serve up good stuff throughout, then tops them all with a double-header: The human builders disrupting the wedding, followed by the bugs scaling the skyscraper as it's being built.
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riddlerider
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I saw this movie in B&W on TV several times when I was a kid. It was okay. Years later, as an adult, I finally caught up with it in color. I found it insufferable. Then again, I don't have much patience for animated feature films, even the Disneys. I like my cartoons in seven- or eight-minute lengths. Maybe ten, as in some of the Fleischer Supermans.
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rodney
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Watched this one earlier today, for the first time since I was a lad. I wouldn't say that it's insufferable, but it's AWFULLY slow and the animation ranges from spectacular to seeming very rushed and amateurish. The Fleischer studio was capable of so much more.

That said...yes, the Thunderbean blu-ray (primarily sourced from a 1957 reissue print) is amazing. It kills me that Disney COULD restore their films to look like this, and instead they scrub everything and pump up the colors to try to make them look like they were made today. It's a travesty.
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Laughing Gravy
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And again for Thanksgiving 2017. What a joy this is.

Line that makes me laugh:

Gabby, after the king tells him to bring Gulliver into his room: "I don't think he'd fit in here."
King: "Oh, he wouldn't, would he? We're not GOOD enough for him!"
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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