Right about this time last year, Bullz-Eye pulled together a feature entitled “Animated and Forgotten,” where we shined the spotlight on some of our favorite animated films that hadn’t gotten nearly as much love as we thought they deserved. The piece opened with a look at Max and Dave Fleischer’s 1939 take on Jonathan Swift’s “Gullliver’s Travels,” about which our man Bob Westal wrote…
After Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” became the top grossing picture of 1938, Paramount Pictures turned to Disney’s best known competitor, Max Fleischer (animator of the hugely popular Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons) for an animated feature of its own. That was the good news for Fleischer. The bad news was the studio wanted it in less than a year, and “Snow White” had taken three years to complete. Turning to Irish satirist Jonathan Swift’s fantasy classic — which, strangely enough, had already been transformed into a pro-Communist parable by stop-motion animators in the Soviet Union — Max and brother Dave Fleischer discarded their original concept of using Popeye as their Gulliver. Instead, they went with a conventionally heroic characterization, relying on timesaving rotoscopes of actor Sam Parker. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, rotoscoping was an animation process invented by Max Fleischer that involved tracing over filmed images.) The rushed production was marked by innumerable problems, including a bitter feud between west coast and east coast animators. While no gunplay resulted from the cartoony clash, it didn’t help the final result. When the film was released at Christmas, critics were unimpressed, but the Fleischer shop’s visual invention and broad comedy was enough to make the film a hit; animated features were still very much a novelty and Paramount’s gamble actually paid off. A follow-up film, the fanciful musical bug fable, “Hoppity Goes to Town” might have done as well. But it was released on Dec. 9, 1941 — two days after Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Fortunately for you, however, E1 Entertainment has released “Gulliver’s Travels” on DVD and Blu-ray…and unlike the cheap-ass versions that are regularly popping up in Only-A-Dollar stores, this time it’s been digitally restored and re-mastered. Investigate it a bit more with the widget below: