• Somewhere In Dreamland


    Released by: VCI Entertainment
    Released on: 7/30/2002
    Director: Dave Flesicher
    Cast: Various
    Year: 1934 - 1941
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    The Cartoons:

    Before Disney became Disney and took over the entire universe, there was Max Fleischer and his Rotoscope which allowed animation to be done much faster and more efficiently than ever before – and it also looked a lot slicker and a lot more fluid. He and his brother Dave used Max’s invention to start up their own animation studio that was miles ahead of the still fledgling competition in those days, and thus was born the Fleischer Studio’s body of work, represented in part by this collection of Color Classics. Not surprisingly the films in this collection, which were created between 1936 and 1941, all feature synchronized sound and are all in full color.

    Many of the work that Fleischer was responsible before hand was in black and white and sometimes silent but by this time things were advanced enough that cartoons effectively came to life through Fleischer’s new Stereoscopic method which blended traditional cell animation with 3-D live action background sets. The results were pretty interesting in that the sets actually move and the characters are able to wander around and even interact with them in a limited capacity.

    Spread over this two disc set are thirty-one cartoons, and the complete list is as follows:

    DISC ONE:

    Poor Cinderella
    Little Dutch Mill
    An Elephant Never Forgets
    Song of the Birds
    Dancing On the Moon
    Somewhere in Dreamland
    The Little Stranger
    The Cobweb Hotel
    Greedy Humpty Dumpty
    Hawaiian Birds
    Play Safe
    Christmas Comes But Once a Year
    Bunny Mooning
    Chicken-A-La-King
    A Car-Tune Portrait
    Peeping Penguins

    DISC TWO:

    Educated Fish
    Little Lamby
    Hold It!
    Hunky and Spunky
    All's Fair At the Fair
    Playful Polar Bears
    Hunky And Spunky In Always Kickin'
    Small Fry
    Hunky And Spunky In Barnyard Brat
    The Fresh Vegetable Mystery
    Little Lambkins
    Ants In the Plants
    Hunky And Spunky In A Kick In Time
    Hunky And Spunky In Snubbed By A Snob
    Hunky And Spunky In You Can't Shoe A Horsefly

    Highlights from the collection include Dancing On The Moon, where a newly wed pair of cats try to take a rocket trip to the moon for an evening of dancing – of course it doesn’t go right and the husband ends up leaving his wife on the earth all by herself but, like in most Fleischer cartoons, he tries to make amends for it. The Hunky And Spunky shorts tell the tales of two donkeys, a parent and a child, who have a penchant for getting into trouble but always seem to find their way out just in the nick of time.

    The first of the Color Classics is Poor Cinderalla, which features an appearance by a red haired Betty Boop and tells the story of a girl who makes it to the ball despite the odds which are definitely stacked against her. Hawaiian Birds is a really cute one that follows a bird who is dumped by his girlfriend in favor of an Oriele from the big city. He’s bound and determined to find her so he sets out on his own to look for her but big city life isn’t something he’s accustomed to…

    Educated Fish and Small Fry both tell stories about undersea schools for fish and the trouble makers that attend. In the first short the school teacher tries to teach the children an import ant lesson about hooks, and in the second one, the title character skip school to prove his worth by hanging out with the big fish at the pool hall. Both shorts are a great example of the type of morals that can usually be found throughout this material, and the sense of optimism that permeates the cartoons despite their sometimes grim subject matter. Speaking of which, Song Of The Birds is a completely track cartoon in which a mean little boy with a pellet gun shoots down a baby bird who is just learning to fly. The cartoon shows it all from start to finish and as silly as it sounds, the grieving process that the bird’s family goes through is sincerely heart breaking.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Sadly, the video doesn’t fare so well on this set, though VCI isn’t really to blame. Republic Pictures supposedly has the rights to decent elements for most of Fleischer’s work from this period but so far hasn’t done anything with them and all that’s left to work with are often times subpar elements – which is where this material was sourced. Most of this material was taken from 16mm sources, though Poor Cinderella, Dancing On The Moon and Somewhere In Dreamland were culled from 35mm prints. Because of the different sources, there’s quite a bit of variation in the quality of this set from one cartoon to the next. Some of the cartoons are in fantastic shape, others are really beat up and very soft looking. At least the disc authoring remains pretty consistent – there aren’t any serious edge enhancement or mpeg compression issues here. The majority of the material in the set is watchable, but very little of it is on par with modern animation releases for perfectly understandable reasons. Each of the cartoons is presented in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mixes vary in much the same way that the video quality does in that it changes from cartoon to cartoon. Some of them have some hiss and some popping audible throughout, others are nice and clean sounding. Either way, again, they’re serviceable, just not much better than that.

    VCI has included a great forty minute documentary entitled Max Fleischer Color Classics – The Lost Episodes that presents four short cartoons that were previously thought to be gone forever. The four shorts are: The Kids In A Shoe, Time For Love, Musical Memories and Vitamin Hay. A brief essay precedes the cartoons that explains how they were partially restored, how the whole two disc project came to be, and what kind of elements they had to work with, before we get to the four cartoons themselves. They’re not at all in good shape but it’s better to have them in this condition than to not have them at all.

    The Poor Cinderella, Little Dutch Mill, An Elephant Never Forgets, Dancing on the Moon, Somewhere in Dreamland, Christmas Comes But Once A Year, Hold It!, All's Fair at the Fair, The Great Vegetable Mystery and Ants in the Plants episodes all feature commentary tracks from animation historian Jerry Beck and animator/artist Mike Kazaleh (though Kazaleh does not appear on the Poor Cinderella track and instead Beck is joined by Cheryl Chase who voices Betty Boop). These commentaries are quite informal but that doesn’t mean they’re not full of great information. Beck definitely knows his stuff and is only too happy to give us a history of the studio responsible for this output throughout his commentaries while Kazaleh manages to add some insight and criticism to the material by pointing out a lot of the little things and unique visual and thematic touches that make this material so cool.

    Rounding out the extra features are a gallery or Fleischer artwork and episode storyboards which are quite interesting to sift through.

    The Final Word:

    VCI deserves some credit for assembling a great collection of old cartoons for this two disc release. It’s a shame that better elements weren’t made available but at least what we’ve got here is serviceable. Somewhere In Dreamland proves to be a completely charming assembly of animated fun that’s worth checking out.