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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Feature > Literature > Fantasy > Politics > Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (1939/E1/Koch Blu-ray)

Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (1939/E1/Koch Blu-ray)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: C     Animated Feature: C+



The biggest threat to Walt Disney in the 1930s was Max & Dave Fleischer, who eventually signed a deal with major studio Paramount while Disney dealt with distributors that were not always as powerful (RKO being the only major he had as a distributor before forming his own distribution) but the brothers did not have the money Disney had and only produced one feature film.  Their version of Jonathan Swift’s classic book Gulliver’s Travels (1939) had songs, threw out the political context of the book and though interesting, was not up to what Disney pulled off the year before with Snow White.


However, the studio had moved to Florida, was doing the best work in its history and it is an interesting animated version, even when it does not work.  As compared to so many later versions that seem phony and condescending, it at least sees wondrous potential in the book and shows an alternate way to doing such an animated feature versus Disney that we would not see again.  You can read more about the Fleischer Studios at this link:





They have fun with the idea of Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputs and with only 77 minutes, goes into directions the book never would.  Somewhat ambitious, it is not the studio’s best work, but is technically the first animated feature ever made outside of Disney and is historic in that respect.  It is worth seeing, flaws and all, a somewhat orphaned film that has been released numerous times on low def video formats having gone into public domain.


Unfortunately, despite supposedly coming from a 35mm print, the 1080p 1.33 X 1 image looks detail-challenged despite the restoration that went into it.  Opening credits look more like 16mm with their lack of detail and the playback is uneven throughout.  Color looks a bit off at times and even plugged up versus how great a three-strip, dye transfer Technicolor print would have and I have seen better footage and stills of this film, so this is far from definitive.  The old optical mono is here in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, boosted 2.0 Dolby Stereo and a Dolby 5.1 mix that shows how weak the source they had to work with is.  Overall, playback disappoints and a better print has to be out there somewhere, but most copies on video have actually been worse.


Extras include two Gabby shorts related to the film and a vintage featurette The Making Of A Cartoon that shows us the Fleischer Studios at their peak.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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