Note : credits established by Merritt and Kaufman : "Walt in Wonderland"
Click here to submit a comment of your own.
From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Well, it’s only day four of this grand experiment, and already we’ve hit a roadblock. An explanation is long and complicated, but here goes.
So, when Walt created Little Red Riding Hood, he was still doing it in his spare time in his father’s garage. That film was for training for himself, but would later be released. The Four Musicians of Bremen was the first short intended for release. Based on those two films, Walt secured a contract to produce four more films, after his boss at the Kansas City Slide Company (later Kansas City Film Ad Company) passed on the fairy tales.
At this point, Walt raised money from friends and family, and formally incorporated Laugh-O-Gram films. He hired animators and friends like Rudy Ising, Hugh Harman, Ubbe Iwerks, Lorey Tague, Carman “Max” Maxwell and Otto Walliman. These men got together in a run down office to produce the four remaining films on Walt’s contract, with the hopes of getting a national distribution deal.
Although Walt’s cartoons showed higher production values than most, it was not enough to entice one of the national distributors to take him on as a project. At that time, nearly all animated cartoons were being produced in New York, so Walt’s vision of a Kansas City studio was a bit naïve at best.
The four films were produced, though, and included "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Goldie Locks and the Three Bears", "Puss In Boots" and "Cinderella." Only the latter two have survived to the present day, which is where our roadblock enters. Since we can’t watch "Jack and the Beanstalk" or "Goldie Locks", we must pick up with "Puss in Boots."
I’m also going to try something a bit different with today’s subject. Originally, these films were silent cartoons, as were most films of the time. On the spectacular Inkwell Images DVD that I am viewing these on, they have added the sounds that would have been made in the theatre. It’s very entertaining, but not the way the cartoons would originally have been seen. So, I’m going to watch Puss in Boots with the sound on mute, then with the sound on, to see if the animation holds up with silent cartooning.
Okay, so this story is not at all like the Puss in Boots story you probably know. In this short, Puss is played by our friend the cat, who was present in the first two shorts. An interesting thing to note is that the four main characters in this film, a boy, a girl, the cat and a dog are in the new title card for Laugh-O-Gram Films, so this short must have been one that was produced early on.
The short opens with the cat and boy going to visit a young girl that the boy wants to marry. He woos the girl while the cat and dog get acquainted, even kissing at some point. Let me tell you people, Walt was into some weird stuff back then. Cats and dogs kissing? Can’t explain that one.
It turns out the girl is a princess, and when the king (again played by the old man in the picture frame from Little Red Riding Hood) discovers his daughter with this hooligan, he chases the boy and the cat away. The despondent boy and his cat stand in front of a shoe store advertising “$5 Boots Only $4.99”. A nice little sight gag, there. The cat asks for the boots, but the boy refuses and they head to a movie instead.
The movie theatre is another great sight gag, with one poster showing an ad for “Rudolph Vaselino,” an obvious play off of Rudolph Valentino. The other poster shows an ad for “Cinderella” by Laugh-O-Grams Films. Neat little product placement. Could this be the first product placement? Interesting.
The movie shows the hero beating up some bulls and winning the affections of a woman. Kind of obvious where this is going, right? Well, not to the boy. The cat says he has an idea of how the boy can win over the girl, but only if he’ll buy the cat the boots first. Hilarity ensues.
With his new boots, the cat goes out on the town to put up flyers promoting the Masked Toreador’s fight against the bulls. The king finds out about the bullfight and heads down with the dog and his daughter, to see the boy in his mask take out a bull with the help of the cat and his “Radio Hypnotizer.” The king is so taken by what he sees, he tells the Masked Toreador that he can marry the king’s daughter.
At that point, the boy reveals himself, and the boy, the girl, the cat and the dog jump in a car to escape, as the king chases them down the street to no avail. The car reaches 125 miles per hour according to the speedometer, which is very fast considering that the dog is driving.
This is a fun little short, probably the best of the three so far. It easily has the most linear, compact story of the three. The gags are subtle, which is not something you usually see in these old cartoons. There are not a lot of overt crazy items like the swordfish from the Musicians short. Instead, much is communicated through word balloons, much more so than in the other shorts.
The production value is also much higher here. The backgrounds are very detailed, with the crowd renderings in the bullfight scene deserving particular notice.
Again, this cat steals the show. I think it’s fair to say at this point that the cat is the precursor to some of the later Disney characters like Oswald and Mickey. The cat is a classic cartoon character in that he can do surrealistic things in a realistic world, like remove his tail and make a question mark as he does after the king throws them out. It’s very interesting to see the progression of this film from the previous ones.
Okay, as for sound versus no sound – was there a difference? Not really. See, in the previous films, there were very few word balloons, but here, all the main characters had word balloons when they spoke. Also, since the score probably was not designed specifically for this film, it did not jump out at you. In fact, the score for all three of these shorts has sounded quite the same. I imagine Inkwell just used similar music, but I’ll have to see if that’s the same on "Cinderella", which we’ll look at next. Until then, have a good one!
From Ryan : This is a very well-animated cartoon short for its time. The background art is exceptional, with a lot of use of perspective. A boy and his cat, Puss in Boots, visit the princess in her backyard. The king, however, catches the boy flirting with his daughter and kicks him out. After seeing a movie with a bullfighter, the boy gets an idea and decides to fight the bull at his local arena where the king and his daughter are watching. I enjoy the ending where, after the boy (who is wearing a mask) wins the bullfight, the king says that he can marry his daughter. As soon as the boy removes his mask, the king runs after the two of them who escape in a car.
From Mad Professor : Certainly a winner among early Disney cartoons! Loads of wit and funny stuff. The sign advertising "$5 Boots now $4.99, the film-within-a film "Throwing the Bull" with "Rudolf Vaselino," etc. The characters, including the unnamed boy, his cat friend, and especially the King, are quite hilarious! While most early cartoons are interesting only for historical purposes, this is a truly entertaining look into what was to come.
From Rich : This is a must see for all die-hard Disney fans, including me because I ain't even seen it in 15 years. All this time I thought it was a Felix the Cat cartoon, and then I came to this web page. Whew! Another thing about this cartoon that makes it more interesting is that Disney did animation on it, which was a rare job he assumed towards the end of the 20's.
From Jerry Edwards : Of the Laugh-O-Grams I've seen, this is my favorite. The animation is outstanding for 1922 and the numerous extra touches to the short are fun. In addition to comments already mentioned, I enjoyed the odd sculptures in the garden when the king chases the boy; the fact that the cat and the dog are also "in love"; and that the speedometer of the car shows them going up to 125 miles per hour.
From J. D. Weil : For 1922, this is a good shorts. But this is early Disney and the animation style is, not unexpectantly, derivative. The movement reminds of the work of Frank Moser, one of the '20's top animators, and it's a pretty good model to base their work on.
From Steven : This was an excellent Laugh-o-Gram short with some pretty good gags. The Rudolph Vaselino joke was pretty funny. I wish I could identify the animators in this short. give this one an eight out of ten.