Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gulliver's Travels

Following on the heels of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves--the first feature-length animated movie, Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels was a ground-breaking achievement in its day. Released in 1939, Gulliver's Travels seems quaint and antiquated by Pixar standards, but one must keep in mind that every frame of the 77 minute long film was comprised of hand-painted animation cels--639,000 of them!

In addition to its painstaking artwork, Gulliver's Travels features an early version of rotoscoping (the process was invented by Fleischer) as well. Although the original intention was for Gulliver to be "portrayed" by the character of Popeye, that decision was scrapped in favor of finding an actor who would do the voice and whose likeness would be rotoscoped. Ironically, it was a radio announcer named Sam Parker who won the role.

The film, which was the result of 600 artists working for two years, has undergone a frame-by-frame digital restoration. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with bonus features that include two cartoon shorts and a mini documentary highlighting the animation process.

With masterpieces like WALL*E and Toy Story, animation has come a long, long way from Snow White and Gulliver. Today's animated features possess a level of sophistication that appeals not only to children, but audiences of all ages. Although computers have made it possible to attain an extraordinary amount of realism and detail and, it's fun to travel back in time and experience the roots of the genre. The restoration of Gulliver's Travels is a great opportunity to view an animation classic!

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