After the astounding reception of Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, Paramount attempted to duplicate Walt Disney's success with an animated feature of its own. The resulting film, rushed into production in 1938, has received its share of criticism over the years, much of it quite accurate. The story is weak, the love story vapid, the cast of characters lacking somebody to root for. Yet, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS has remained a favorite of many movie fans, and despite its flaws, it still has much to offer.
GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, made by Dave and Max Fleischer, the geniuses behind Popeye and Betty Boop, may lack a strong story and sense of conflict, but it is a happy, tuneful picture with a style that simply screams "Fleischer Brothers". That style is often evident, but when the film tries to be Disney, it fails. Disney princesses often lacked strong personalities until the LITTLE MERMAID era, but Princess Glory of GULLIVER'S TRAVEL barely has any personality at all, a flaw she shares with Prince David. Wisely, both prince and princess are kept off screen most of the time, the story of their seemingly doomed romance buried behind songs and gag sequences. What makes the best of the Fleischer cartoons so enjoyable is how anti-Disney they are. Asking the Fleischer Brothers to be Disney is like asking Monty Python to be Bob and Ray.
No character became a breakout
star like Dopey
from SNOW WHITE, but two of animations greatest voice actors provide
some of the best moments of the film. Jack Mercer, best known
for voicing Popeye, plays the cowardly King Little, while Pinto Colvig,
who voiced several Disney characters such as Goofy and Bashful
was by now playing Bluto in the Popeye
his range by
the high Porky Pig-like voice for Gabby the Town Cryer. Both
were probably pressed into service for other characters, if I'm any
judge of voices. Gabby was subsequently spun off into his own
series of cartoon shorts.
The song "Faithful Forever" was obviously written to be the new "Someday My Prince Will Come", but when the film is over, you will be whistling "It's a Hap Hap Happy Day", a catchy little tune which would turn up again and again in other Paramount cartoons and films.
Like with some previously underrated animated films of the past (see my review of THE FOX AND THE HOUND), the hand drawn artistry GULLIVER'S TRAVELS makes it more interesting now than it might have been in 1939. Back then, the only other thing GULLIVER could be compared to was SNOW WHITE, and although it got good reviews, it was doomed to place second. Today, watching GULLIVER is like hearing an old hit single from some forgotten pop band of the 1960s and realizing how much catchier and richer it sounds than the overworked, over-processed hit songs of today. ½ - JB