I bought this a while ago and have been meaning to do a review of it ever since it arrived from Amazon in my postbox. This film looks at the puppet cartoons (Puppetoons) made by George Pal in the 1930s and 40s. It is a sort of career retrospective covering the earliest short films and commercials that he made in Holland prior to World War II, as well as the Oscar nominated short cartoons made in America in the 1940s.
The actual film is hosted by Arnie the Dinosaur, who explains to Gumby that if it was not for George Pal’s ground breaking stop motion animation neither Arnie or Gumby would exist, as Pal’s films inspired the little clay boy’s creator Art Clokey to become an animator. We then go into a number of George Pal’s brilliant shorts including Tubby the Tuba, John Henry and the Inky Poo (my favourite), Tulips Shall Grow and Jasper in a Jam. Each of these films feature great puppet animation which Pal and his team of animators, including Willis O’Brien (King Kong) and Ray Harryhausen (7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts) painstakingly created.
My favourite Puppetoon is John Henry and the Inky Poo, which retells the African American folk tale of how railway worker John Henry beat the Inky Poo (a railway track laying machine) in a competition to see which was more efficient at laying railway tracks, but died of exhaustion at the end. (My explanation doesn’t really do justice to the story!) This is perhaps the only cartoon from the golden age of American animation that shows African Americans in a positive light, and is perhaps Pal’s attempt to redress the stereotypes that he helped to perpetuate in his Jasper series.
Puppetoons included in the movie are:
1 – The Little Broadcast/The Phillips Broadcast of 1938
2 – Hoola Boola/South Sea Sweethearts
3 – The Sleeping Beauty
4 – Tulips Shall Grow
5 – Together In The Weather
6 – John Henry and the Inky-Poo
7 – Phillips Cavalcade
8 – Jasper In A Jam
9 – Tubby the Tuba
Included with the DVD are 12 bonus cartoons. These include more of the Jasper series which, while so obviously racist to 21st century eyes, are still enjoyable.
1 – What Ho She Bumps
2 – Mr. Strauss Takes A Walk
3 – Olio For Jasper
4 – Phillips Cavalcade (full film)
5 – Jasper’s Derby
6 – Hoola Boola (full film)
7 – Ether Symphony
8 – Aladdin and His Magical Lamp
9 – The Magic Atlas
10 – Jasper and the Haunted House
11 – The Phillips Broadcast of 1938 (full film)
12 – The Ship of Ether
Hopefully there will be a second Puppetoon DVD soon, as I would like to see some more of these wonderful films, including the two Oscar nominated adaptations that George Pal made of Dr. Seuss stories.
Another DVD that I hope to buy very soon is called the Fantasy Film World of George Pal, which is a documentary that focuses on the Puppetoons as well as the live action films that he produced when he finished the Puppetoons, including the original versions of War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, as well as 2001; A Space Odyssey.