Tag Archives: Animation

#170 – Golden Padlock, The

(1931, Ger, 61 min, b/w) Dir Hans Thomas Mann.

Hans Thomas Mann (not to be confused with regular old Thomas Mann, sans Hans) was an early pioneer in German cinema. In the early days he ran a one man operation, producing his own ‘lantern shows’ (rudimentary animation, mostly) with which he would then tour the country to show with his daughter Pini as assistant. In his autobiography, The Picture Man, he revealed that his tours took him up mountains, down valleys and across half of Europe to bring cinema to the country folk who would not have witnessed such a thing otherwise. This golden era for Mann ended, rather inevitably, when the First World War broke out. Like many during those long hard years he lost much, not least his beloved daughter. The interwar period found Mann struggling for work but he found himself a patron in Lupu Speyer, star director of Zwei Brüste (and, more famously, 1927’s megabudget flop Götz von Berlichingen) who had first been introduced to cinema as a boy by Mann’s travelling show. Speyer, having clout in spades at this time, wrangled Mann the budget for his debut film with an actual budget and what would turn out to be his final film – The Golden Padlock. The fairy tale story of a young girl lost in a vast forest primeval and the titular object that keeps shut the door leading to her home in the subterranean land of fairy. It’s totally animated in a style similar to Lotte Reiniger (whose career was taking off about the same time) with the padlock hand painted in a fashion that shimmers off the screen. A soundtrack silent save for the sound of a distant flute only adds to the etherial strangeness. A labour of love obviously made in honour of his lost daughter the process as a whole took almost ten years, during which time Speyer’s career had peaked and nosedived back into obscurity and Mann had emigrated to England where the film was finished. It’s been seen very few times since then but the BFI have a fantastically well preserved copy in their vaults which they wheel out on occasion – if you get the opportunity run, don’t walk, to see it.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#98 – Grandfather Clock

(1976, US, 73 min) Dir Dean Wold.

An altogether more down to earth follow-up from Dean Wold after his unintentionally trippy Walking on a Moonbeam and intentionally so: “I never approved of the attention I received from the so-called hippy community,” said Wold in his last pre-seclusion interview in 1978, “They couldn’t conceive of the process of producing an animated film or how difficult it would be to make on mind altering substances – of which I have never tried, I hasten to add. The fact that Moonbeam was quite obviously indebted to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo was completely lost on them too.” In addition to this Moonbeam, despite its popularity, didn’t make Wold a whole lot of money and this seems to have been a conscious attempt at a more mainstream kind of film, as unsuccessful and misguided as that attempt turned out to be. Based on the Danish folk tale ‘The Knowledgeable Birch’, Grandfather Clock finds young Harris and Daisy mourning the death of their Grandfather Pip only to hit on the idea that his spirit has taken residence in the titular timepiece that their parents have just bought. The two children, behind the backs of their parents, start reading the clock stories, leaving food in it and even take it out in their sled – basically behaving as though it were another family member. Of course this can’t go unnoticed from their parents for long… A fantastically evocative soundtrack from renowned flautist Avlar Biskint complements the deliberate pace and earthy, melancholy palette of this sweet and sad little film which broke the heart of a whole generation while on heavy public television rotation in the eighties.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#97 – Walking on a Moonbeam

(1968, US/Fr, 80 min) Dir Dean Wold.

After a proposed Little Nemo feature fell through Dean Wold had to span the Atlantic for his first feature, the funds for an idiosyncratic non-Disney animation such as this not immediately forthcoming in his home country. Whether this contributed to his decision for the film to be entirely dialogue free is open to debate – the man himself has given contradictory accounts in his rare interviews. Either way the decision works and no doubt contributed, along with the stream of consciousness plotting, to the film being embraced by the counter-culture on its release. Not that this isn’t a children’s film because it most certainly is. A unnamed boy is woken in the night by a beam of moonlight under his bedroom window’s blind. He pulls up the blind to investigate further and sees, to his surprise, a cat outside the window frolicking on the beam as though it were a solid road leading to the moon. He lifts the sash window and tentatively steps out to follow the scampering kitten and ends up travelling all the way to the moon where it appears all manner of creatures live – men made of melting cheese, hot air balloon heads floating through the skies and, in a fit of virtuoso animation, a ball room made of shimmering glass populated by similarly glistening glass dancers. As this description might suggest the influence of Nemo is writ large here. These adventures end with the boy back in his bed, tucked in for his parents to find him in the morning, both of them baffled by the appearance of a new pet cat in his room. A charming and inventively made film that brought the unknown Wold to the world’s attention.

www.imaginaryfilmguide.com

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#96 – Why We Hibernate!

(1963, US, 24 min) Dir Dean Wold

A nice little educational film made by the now famous but then not Dean Wold about the mechanics of a world in which people, along with animals, hibernate during the winter. Young Donny is excited about the upcoming Hibernation Day and goes with his Mom to the supermarket during the Hibernation Sales so that they can stock up for the big meal before sleeping and get Donnie his very first nesting bed. “You’re too big to be hibernating with your parents now Donnie!” says his Mom as she and the salesman fit him out for the bed (which is kind of like if an overstuffed sleeping bag and a dinghy had a child). Back home Dad is getting his and Mom’s nesting beds out of the attic. They all sit down for their last big meal and then Mom sends Donnie to his nest with a snack pack in case he wakes up hungry during the winter. Along the way various facts about hibernation are doled out as Donnie learns all about it – the biological reasons for it (such as they were understood), the different animals that do it and so on. The film ends with the reveal that this is just a day-dream by the real Donnie, sitting in his classroom with the bare trees and snowy ground outside the window. A bit rough around the edges but with enough of that playful, colourful Dean Wold touch.

www.imaginaryfilmguide.com

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms