One of the most innovative studios in the history of American animation, the Fleischer brothers' offered an alternative vision to the increasingly dominant Disney style during the '30s. A well-chosen collection of Fleischer cartoons is long overdue; unfortunately, this collection offers examples of their second-rate work. Betty Boop is represented by the uninspired "Ker-Choo" and two late films, when the cartoon flapper had been turned into a hausfrau. Two "Out of the Inkwell" shorts taken from badly faded prints lack the visual imagination that made the series popular. The saccharine and dreary "Small Fry," "Ants in the Plants," and "It's a Hap Hap Happy Day" exemplify the work the studio did when the Fleischers were under pressure from Paramount to imitate Disney's "Silly Symphonies." The two-reel color "Aladdin" (1939) with Popeye in the title role is a genuine rarity, although it's weaker than the earlier "Sinbad" and "Ali Baba." Despite the blurb on the cover, the first 20-minute "Popeye" film (which was released in 1936, not 1935) was not "the first long form cartoon" by almost 20 years--it wasn't even the first long film from the Fleischers. Winstar needs more careful writers and researchers. Not rated; suitable for all ages; contains minor cartoon violence. --Charles Solomon
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