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Gulliver's Travels is the second American animated feature ever, made by Fleischer Studios and released in 1939. The film is an extremely loose adaptation of the "Lilliput" voyage of Jonathan Swift's 1726 classic, keeping only the skeleton of Swift's story and virtually none of the harsh satire or topical allegory.
In an attempt by Paramount to have the film compete with Disney's then-largely successful Snow White, Swift's hard-edged story is made considerably Lighter and Fluffier by the Fleischers, and his rather unattractive and wholly commonplace protagonist is transformed into a sort of all-wise Mighty Biggie teaching the "silly little people" of Lilliput and Blefuscu a serious lesson about getting along. (Then again, with World War II about to explode in Europe , perhaps a lesson in getting along was what the nations needed.)
The animation is an interesting blend of the rubbery, organic West Coast animation (or in laymans terms, "cartoony") style associated with the shorts of the period with the more realistic style that had been pioneered by Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, which Gulliver was obviously meant to emulate. There are some extremely impressive sequences — the binding of Gulliver by the little people is perhaps a stand-out — and the backgrounds are sumptuous in color and detail. The plot is handled in a workmanlike fashion, though the characterization of the film seems lacking: Gulliver is a condescending know-it-all, Gabby a typical Small Annoying Creature, and the Prince and Princess, whose separation is the mainspring of the action, are colorless and utterly forgettable ciphers. (It is with an effort that one remembers they are called "Glory" and "David.") The score by Victor Young and Ralph Rainger is pleasant if anodyne, and there are a number of catchy songs by Al Neiburg, Winston Sharples, and Sammy Timberg, including "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" (which became something of an unofficial theme for the Fleischer Studios, rather as "Merrily We Roll Along" did for Warner Bros. cartoons) and the clever counter-point combination song, "Faithful Forever", formed from the two competing traditional marriage songs of Lilliput and Blefescu, and united at the end to symbolize the union of the happy couple and the now united kingdoms.
This film is in the Public Domain and can be viewed for free on YouTube (It can also be seen here, though the part where Gabby first sings "All's Well", discovers Gulliver, and dashes back into town is cut out for some reason).
This film also spawned two short lived Spin-Off theatrical cartoon series: Gabby, starring the Town Crier from the film, and Animated Antics, a series featuring other characters from the film like the Spies and Coco the Carrier Pigeon.
Despite not being the big hit Paramount expected, Gulliver was a modest success at the box office, but not enough to cover the overhead, resulting in the Fleischers immediately starting work on their next and last feature...
- Animated Adaptation
- Animation Bump: The opening storm, and the entire sequence where Gulliver is bound and carried off into the village.
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: Gulliver to the Lilliputians, at first anyways.
- Big Damn Heroes: Prince David pulls this on the spies, just when they're about to kill Gulliver with his pistol.
- BFG: Gulliver's flintlock pistol--although it's only big in comparison to the lilliputians.
- Black Cloak: Sneap, Snoop and Snitch, King Bombo's spies, wear these.
- Camp Straight: King Little.
- Cape Swish: Bombo does one after he declares war on King Little.
- Chekhov's Gun: A literal example--Gulliver's pistol is used later as part of the Spies attempt to kill him.
- Color Failure: Gabby's face is flushed white in frustration right before it turns red.
- Conjoined Eyes: Sneak and Snoop, but only in a brief, Off-Model moment when they realize Snitch had accidently started a fire in their hideout.
- Construction Is Awesome: The very lengthy sequence where the Lilliputians build an elaborate slab to bind Gulliver to and drag him off to the village.
- Cool Boat: The stunning sailboat model used in the opening credits, and the boats seen in the movie itself are nice, too.
- Crowd Song: The crowd reprise of "All's Well", "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day", "Bluebirds In The Moonlight", as well as "All Together Now" and "Faithful Forever".
- Digital Destruction: The recent DVD and Blu-ray releases, which cropped the film into widescreen, and used a shoody, blurry transfer. While the Winstar 60th Anniversary DVD from 2002 uses a much, much better transfer, it suffers from nasty frame ghosting.
- Disney Death: Prince David, after saving Gulliver from being shot.
- Disney School of Acting and Mime: No surprise, since the film used a number of ex-Disney animators, including Grim Natwick and Shamus Culhane.
- Ear Trumpet: One of the Lilliputians has one.
- Expy: Twenty years after Gulliver, King Hubert in Disney's Sleeping Beauty would bear an interesting resemblance to King Bombo, including threatening King Stefan with war over an imagined slight while planning the marriage of his princely son to the other monarch's princessly daughter. (Hubert and Stefan, however, compose their quarrel almost immediately.)
- King Luna from the Casper short "Boo Moon" is an obvious one of King Bombo.
- Flat Character: Glory and David are barely more than animated plot devices. They don't even have an actual line of non-singing dialogue until just near the end of the film!
- Foe Yay: During the "Forever" song (a love song), the king reminisces about being with his former friend and fellow king.
- Follow the Leader: While Max Fleischer had the idea of making a feature length animated film in his head for a while, it wasn't until the unprecedented success of Snow White that Paramount gave the greenlight to such a project.
- Gentle Giant: Gulliver is nothing but gentle and compassionate to all of the Lilliputians.
- Have a Gay Old Time: The trailer mentioned that the movie was "one solid hour and 20 minutes crammed full of laughter and gay music."
- I Have a Family: Gabby when Gulliver is picking him up. "You can't do this to me! I have a wife and KIDS! Millions of kids!"
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Snitch carries an impressive number of weapons beneath his cloak.
- Hypocritical Humor: When Little finally hears Gabby tell him about THE GIANT ON THE BEACCHHHHHH and promptly chastises him for not telling him earlier.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" is suspiciously similar to the Snow White song "Whistle While You Work".
- Leitmotif: An instrumental version of "I Hear A Dream" for Gulliver.
- Lilliputians: Of course!
- Madness Mantra: Gabby during the scene where wakes up the whole town to tell them THERES A GIANT ON THE BEACH!
- Meaningful Name: King Little; King Bombo; Gabby
- Off-Model: The animation can get really sloppy at some parts, and the film has animation that's surprisingly mediocre for what's supposed to be an animated film. The most biting critique of this came from Walt Disney, who claimed "We can make a better film than that with our second string animators."
- Oh Crap: Bombo when he first sees Gulliver.
- Public Domain Animation
- Rotoscoping: Used to animate Gulliver.
- Scenery Porn: Some of the background and layout work is very well done and almost compensates for the uneven animation.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: King Little when he sees Gulliver.
"Call all the guards, the army, the navy, women and children first, i'll see ya later...."
- Shaming The Nations: Gulliver in the films ending. See "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- Silly Reason for War: One of many changes made from the original story is that instead of a holy war over which end of an egg should be broken, King Bombo declares war on King Little for not playing the song he wanted to play at Glory's wedding. In theory the Fleischers could have kept a touch of the original novels Satire by at least pointing out how utterly contrived and ridiculous this is, but the film instead plays it like something that were supposed to be taking seriously.
- Small Annoying Creature: Gabby. No bigger than a pin, has an obnoxiously shrill voice, and a personality as lovable as a mosquito, he has permanently etched the word "THERES A GIANT ON THE BEACH!" into the minds of many animation fans forever. Its certainly a surprise that he was popular enough to warrant getting his own Spin-Off series, short lived as it was.
- Smoking Is Cool: Gulliver with his pipe during the "I Hear A Dream" sequence.
- Spin-Off: The short-lived Gabby cartoons. Characters from this movie would also make appearances in the Fleischer short series "Animated Antics".
- Stock Footage: Footage of King Bombo was recycled by Famous Studios in the 50's as King Luna for the Casper the Friendly Ghost short "Boo Moon".
- Super Speed: Lilliputians are capable of this when frightened.
- Take a Third Option: What Gulliver suggests at the end to end the quarrel--merge the two songs together.
- Terrible Trio: Bombo's spies, Sneak, Snoop and Snitch respectively.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Given by Gulliver to the dueling kingdoms after Prince David is apparently killed saving Gulliver from being shot, but it ends on a high note:
"Poor foolish little people, look what you've done. Now go ahead, break your nutshell heads over your song. But did you have to break Glory's heart, King Little? Because you were thoughtless and selfish...and you, Bombo, oh mighty warrior...what have you won? You were too stubborn to think. Too busy quarreling to land dear to the harmony that might have been yours. But now in your sorrow and despair, perhaps you'll listen to your songs as they might be sung." (cue "Faithful Forever").
- This Means War: What the argument between King Little and Bombo literally amounts to.
- The Twelve Principles of Animation: A result of the Fleischers trying to compete with Snow White was beefing up their animation considerably, as well as attempting to adapt to these principles. Unfortunately, much of the animation in the film is ruined by sloppy inbetween work and terrible inking, giving the drawings a mushy, floaty feeling to them. This was undoubtably a result of Gulliver's tight deadline for production, as well as the studio have a mix of East Coast and West Coast animators who were constantly at odds with each other and their approaches to animation.
- and having already exploded in China