Monday, 25 October 2010
Playful Polar Bears 1938
In a letter to his wife Margerie written in September 1939, Lowry mentions 3 films that he saw while in Vancouver during the Fall of 1939. One was Wyler's Wuthering Heights, the second was The Hound Of The Baskevilles with Basil Rathbone and the third was the cartoon Playful Polar Bears.
I have seen a number of bad films, the worst of which was a cartoon called Playful Polar Bears which keeps turning up in every movie I go to. This is positively ghoulish. The Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry Volume 1.
Playful Polar Bears is a animated short subject produced by Fleischer Studios for Paramount Pictures in a series called Color Classics.
The first Color Classic was photographed in the two-color Cinecolor process. The rest of the 1934 and 1935 cartoons where shot in two-strip Technicolor, because the Disney studio had an exclusive agreement with Technicolor that prevented other studios from using the lucrative three-strip process. That exclusive contract expired at the end of 1935, and the 1936 Color Classic cartoon Somewhere in Dreamland became the first Fleischer cartoon produced in three-strip Technicolor.
While they are sometimes considered by film historians to be pale Silly Symphonies knock-offs, many of the Color Classics are still highly regarded today, including Somewhere in Dreamland (1936), the Academy Award nominated shorts, Educated Fish (1937) and Hunky and Spunky (1938, first in a subseries), and Small Fry (1939). The first film in the series, Poor Cinderella, featured Betty Boop (with red hair and turquoise eyes); future films were usually one-shot cartoons with no starring characters. Two color classics - Educated Fish (1937) and Hunky and Spunky - were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons); both lost to Disney shorts.
Many of the Color Classics entries make prominent use of Max Fleischer's Tabletop 3D Setback invention, a device which allowed animation cels to be photographed against actual 3D background sets instead of the traditional paintings. Poor Cinderella, Somewhere in Dreamland, and Christmas Comes But Once a Year (starring Betty Boop character Grampy) all make prominent use of the technique. Disney's competing apparatus, the multiplane camera, would not be completed until 1937, three years after the Setback's first use.
The Color Classics series ended in 1941 with Vitamin Hay, starring Hunky and Spunky. In its place, Fleischer began producing Technicolor cartoons starring Gabby, the town crier from the 1939 Fleischer/Paramount feature film Gulliver's Travels.
A similar series would be started by Fleischer's successor Famous Studios in 1943, under the name Noveltoons. Some of the one-shots in this series would be reminiscent of the Color Classics in terms of production value and story.
In Playful Polar Bears, a group of polar bears are playing with their cubs in the ice and snow. One of the cubs has a little trouble sliding and swimming. An exploration ship happens along, and a group of greedy hunters come ashore. The little cub that we care for seems to have been shot. The hunters leave, and the mother bear starts to howl and mourn the death of her cub. All the other bears join in, and they prepare for a funeral. But all is not lost, the cub comes to life, the aurora borealis comes out, and all the bears dance and skip with joy. The Big Cartoon Database