Monday, January 3, 2011
Title: Jasper and the Choo Choo
Studio: George Pal
Series: Puppetoons (Madcap Models? Both terms appear in the retitle)
Running time (of viewed version): 7:21
Commercial DVD Availability: -
Synopsis: Jasper is tricked into a dice game by the scarecrow, and is saved by living dice.
From a tv print so red, I can hardly believe it had any other colors. Considering every position was a different carved ad painted wooden puppet (no armatures, is my impression, unlike in later stop motion, and some earlier as well), you can forgive the extended shots of nothing that moves (a standard opening technique in cel animation) and cycled animation (again a a standard cel technique), but you still have to notice them. The scarecrow and the blackbird have unique designs, but then the Puppetoons tend to appear uniquely designed as there is so little contemporary material to compare them to. Thurl Ravenscroft like voice on the scarecrow (try to find actual voice). Scarecrow reverts to one of the standard locommdenom stereotypes tho; dice. Seven I win, other you lose. The running dice look great (to the strains of the William Tell Overture). Seems like a big influence on Oogie Boogie in Nightmare Before Christmas (voice, gambling, etc.). The flattened to unflattened puppets look good. End with Jasper learning a lesson that gambling never pays (similar to his mother's opening advice, "you don't get nothin' for nothin'"). The story isn't exactly consistent; halfway through, the understandable gambling/tricking Jasper story is replaced by the dice coming to life and throwing the characters into diceland, where there is in fact a train of black dice that chases them for awhile. But not enough to name the cartoon after it, I think. It's then a very Benny Hill affair, with super speed chasing (no voluptuous women tho), until the closing moral back home. There's a certain stiffness to many shots; things like the racing dice scene show the stiffness was not inevitable, but likely due to budget and time constraints. The dixieland jazz feels very different from other cartoons (Droopy's flea circus music is the obvious other option in brain).
A Note on studio identification -
While I am labeling the Puppetoons (Madcap Models) as being from the George Pal studio, it would also be fair to label them a from Paramount, as it would for Famous cartoons. This constitutes brutally uneven treatment of Leon Schlesinger, whose output has been classed as Warner Bros., and is likely just as unfair to any number of other independent producers whose work has been labeled under the banner of a larger studio. Such is the capricious nature of blogs.
Interesting closing logos page: http://www.closinglogos.com/page/George+Pal+Puppetoons