Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cartoon: Frolicking Fish (1930, Burt Gillett)

Frolicking Fish (1930)
USA, 6 min
Directed by: Burt Gillett
Frolicking Fish (1930) certainly isn't Finding Nemo (2003), but it's likely that Pixar received at least some inspiration from this early Silly Symphony. When it came to Disney's basic musical cartoons, which sacrificed story for anthropomorphised movement, few directors were more adept than director Burt Gillett, whose finest effort is Flowers and Trees (1932). Here, he takes us beneath the ocean, where life is great. Fish and crustaceans coexist harmoniously, dancing and playing musical instruments; that is, until the evil black octopus arrives to spoil everybody's fun – never trust a mollusc! The Disney animators were fond, where exotic creatures were concerned, of zooming in on their gaping mouths, perhaps to create the sensation that the cinema audience is being swallowed up by those massive jaws. Here, it happens with a fish; in Hell's Bells (1929) it was a demon of some sort, and a lion in Cannibal Capers (1930). This was Disney exploring the unique artistic possibilities afforded by the animation medium, since such shots would have been virtually impossible to replicate in live-action. The cartoon finds some semblance of narrative in its final minute, when the octopus tries to hunt down and eat a terrified fish, which wriggles out from between the octopus' big white teeth (no horny beak on this one) and drops a hefty-looking ship anchor onto his attacker. It's a bloody – or that should be inky – end to one of the most sinister Silly Symphony villains.

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