Saturday, October 08, 2011

Jack and the Beanstalk (Disney Laugh-O-gram, 1922)

(Laugh-O-gram, US 1922) Reissue: On the Up and Up (1929) D: Walt Disney; anim: Walt Disney, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Carman “Max” Maxwell, Lorey Tague, Otto Walliman; DP: Red Lyon; filmed: ca. 6-7.1922, Laugh-O-gram studio, 1127 E. 31st St., Kansas City; dist: Pictorial Clubs Inca. of New York (non-theatrical, regional circuit); 35 mm, 632 ft, ca. 8' (22 fps); from: John E. Allen Collection, Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. English intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, with e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: John Sweeney, 8 Oct 2011.

Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman (GCM Catalogue): "Of all the rarities in this series, Jack and the Beanstalk is the rarest. This is the last of the “lost” Laugh-O-grams to be restored to view, discovered in the John E. Allen Collection, recently acquired by the Library of Congress. Even then, it turned up in the form of a nitrate negative, and required printing to safety stock before it could be projected. It will be unveiled to the public for the first time in this Giornate retrospective."

"And, happily, it’s worth the wait; this picture turns out to be a fascinating addition to the Laugh-O-gram library. If Four Musicians has raised the bar for pictorial richness in these films, Jack and the Beanstalk escalates the imagery to spectacular heights – literally. Storytelling becomes more assured in this film, with less repeat movement and more imaginative visual ideas that could take place only in the world of animated cartoons."

"The film becomes even more fascinating in the context of Walt’s career, for we know in hindsight that Mickey Mouse would be cast in the “Jack and the Beanstalk” story in 1933 and again in 1947. Now at last we can see Walt’s original approach to the story – and, characteristically, it’s nothing like the other two. Certainly Mickey’s beanstalk never carried him as far as Mars, nor did he acquire a pair of wings during his adventures. Jack’s comic stratagem in the 1922 film – painting a hole on the surface of a cloud, then tricking the ogre into falling through what is now a real hole – makes use of the kind of optical illusions that were not available to Mickey in later years. And the ogre, plummeting to earth at film’s end, falls into another “impossible” gag, which had appeared, in a different form, in Buster Keaton’s Hard Luck the previous year."

"A word about character design. Jack and the Beanstalk seems to inaugurate a deliberate practice of recycling characters from previous Laugh-O-grams, recast in new roles appropriate to the story. Here we see return appearances by both Little Red Riding Hood and her mother – or, at any rate, characters who bear a strong resemblance to them. The dog and black cat from the earlier films are also back, and, in fact, will go on to appear in all seven Laugh-O-grams. In the title role of Jack, Walt introduces a generic all-purpose “boy” character. In later entries in the series, the boy, girl, cat, and dog would coalesce into a kind of Laugh-O-gram “stock company.” Rudy Ising recalled decades later that Walt had created model sheets of these characters and that the animators had actually traced them: “It was sort of a fastidious thing to trace the characters, and keep the likeness.”" Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman

AA: There's no money, so the cow ("it's no bull!"), for which an ingenious milking device has been designed, has to be sold, and Jack gets a handful of miracle beans for it. Immediately he is in deep space, and when he's back he's with flying money bags and a self-playing harp. And the giant's head interrupts a game of dice in China.

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