Gulliver's Travels (December 22, 1939)
Released on December 22, 1939: A full color, full length animated movie of the story of Gulliver's adventure to the South Seas island of Lilliput.
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Written by Johnathan Swift, with the screenplay by Edmond Seward, Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Tedd Pierce, Izzy Sparber.
The Actors: Jessica Dragonette (the singing voice of Princess Glory), Lanny Ross (the singing voice of Prince David), Pinto Colvig (Gabby), Jack Mercer (King Little), Sam Parker (the voice of Gulliver).
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Would you believe that I felt guilty watching this historic movie? Yup. Why? Well, as a young boy I watched cartoons every Saturday morning from daybreak until around lunch time when there were no more cartoon shows to watch. I didn't think I was 'addicted' to cartoons or anything, it was just what I did on Saturday mornings, because there was usually nothing better to do. I remember like it was yesterday, that one Saturday morning, I must have been 12 or 13, my dad said to me that he thought I was watching too many cartoons, and it was proably time that I learned to do something else with my time on Saturday mornings. I wasn't mad or upset, I genuinely thought that I was growing up, and Dad noticed that I was becoming 'adult,' and that only kids watched cartoons, and Iwasn't a kid any more. So from that day forward, I avoided cartoons like the plague. And to this day, I will not watch cartoons. What a shame that I took his advice so severely.
Anyway, enough about my messed up childhood :~)
Most motion picture historians agree that the year 1939 saw more great films produced than any year before or after. This animated classic is one of the 'greats.' Dave Fleisher was a New York City boy, and he got a job when he was about 19 years old working for the French movie company Pathe as a film cutter. This was in 1913, when movies were mostly made for the small nickelodeon machines, where you'd put your eyes up against the binocular-like lenses and look into the box where a short movie would be shown, with no sound or anything, just some animated movement. He and his older brothers Max and Lou started a company so that Dave could create animated cartoons via the rotoscope method. A fellow in Columbus, Ohio patented a method by which a live-action sequence was filmed, then projected onto a piece of frosted glass, and an animator like Dave would put a piece of paper on the other side of the glass and trace the outlines of the person or item in the movie. Dave went on to create the Betty Boop cartoons and the Popeye cartoons that were wildly popular features before regular movies in the 1930's and 1940's. Cartoons were always just a few minutes in length, and Dave pleaded with Paramount Studios to let him make a much longer animated cartoon, but Paramount didn't think it would be profitable. Then in 1937 this fellow in California took cartoons one step further by creating a full length motion picture that was all animation, called, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." After the great success of this Walt Disney groundbreaking picture, Paramount was all about doing the same thing, and quickly! They offered to build the Fleishers a brand new animation studio in Miami, Florida, and the Fleishers moved their company from New York City to Miami. The race to produce this full color animated feature was so great that Paramount lured every artistic animator it could find in California to work with the Fleishers in Miami, and they grabbed every graduate from the art schools of America that they could to help in the effort. Finally, two years after the Disney film was released, Paramount Pictures released the second animated cartoon feature movie, "Gulliver's Travels," in time for the Christmas crowd in 1939.
Do I need to explain the plot a bit to get you interested in watching it? I hope not, but in broad strokes, Gulliver is a sailor that gets washed up on the beach of a small South Seas island, where all of the people of the island are about the size of his thumb. The island has a King, and his daughter is about to be married to the son of the King of a nearby island. But before the wedding, the two King's declare war on each other because of a disagreement about which song should be sung at the wedding. Hmmm, it seems that not much has changed with weddings and silly arguements over minor details, eh? Anyway, Gulliver manages to unite both the couple and the Kings after much adventure and intrigue. Definately worth a big bowl of popcorn and an hour of your time to enjoy this historic cartoon adventure. Invite the kids to watch it with you if you must, but one day when your inner child needs a reason to smile, make a bowl of hot buttery popcorn, curl up in a big overstuffed chair, and enjoy!
Oh, one more thing, the actor that filmed the Gulliver character for rotoscoping was Sam Parker, the man who was the voice of Gulliver. When the story concept was first developed, it was thought that Dave would use his Popeye character as the giant sailor, but this was quickly vetoed in favor of a new, unknown character, modeled after the likeness of Sam Parker.