Via: Cartoons of 1939
The other day I finally sat down and watched the Fleischer feature length adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels. It’s very much a film of its time; the 1930s.I found it a not altogether enjoyable film unfortunately. Oh sure, there is some marvelous animation to be had, but it was not terribly hard to see why the film has been largely confined to the history books despite its place in cultural history as the second full-length animated feature film ever made. Here’s what banished Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels to history
Although based off Jonathon Swift’s satire of contemporary culture, the film only seems to bear superficial resemblance to the famous tome. Instead of Gullvier being central to the story or even being the narrator, he is instead a character. He is neither the focus of the film, nor does he play as big a role as you would imagine. Indeed, he doesn’t start to play an active role in proceedings until almost halfway through; a tad suspicious for a film with his name in the title.
Besides this, the plot meanders and falls foul of typical Fleischer traits such as over-long scenes and a focus on machinery. Compared to a film of today, it comes off as more of a set piece showing off the wonders of animation. This is sadly a genre of animated films that doesn’t excite modern audiences who have been engrossed in animation since birth.
The Fleischer Brothers had a rather significant falling out sometime after the film was released but of more imperative concern was the fact that the Fleischer Studio, having moved from New York to Miami was short-staffed. Consequently animators from New York and California were thrown together with art students from Miami. The result was near chaos with rival factions favouring their own work over others. It’s tough for any business to succeed under such circumstances and it’s highly likely that the quality of the film suffered as a result.
The Studio’s Demise
While the Fleischer’s ultimately lost control of the studio to Paramount, such events have played a role in how the film has fared over the decades. The fact that the original creator was no longer responsible for it meant that was somewhat mistreated by its owner Paramount. Ultimately its copyright notice wasn’t renewed and the film entered the public domain.
To add insult to injury, the failure of the Fleicher’s follow-up film, Mr. Bug Goes to Town meant that there wasn’t any features to continue the legacy. With the Fleischer name ripped from the studio’s projects, any brand recognition was lost on the general public.
Needless to say, the competition from Burbank had already set the bar sky high with Snow White and Seven Dwarfs and was about to raise it again with Pinocchio. Besides the superior quality, Walt was constantly and relentlessly cranking out hit content in shorts and was marketing his products for all they were worth. The end result was that the dominance of the Disney brand combined with its longevity has meant that the name ‘Fleischer’ barely registers in the mind of Joe Public.