Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bonus Puppetoon: Philips Cavalcade

Here we come to an interesting conundrum. I want to cover the George Pal shorts I have access to from 1939 as an aside, as they were not American productions and are outside the regular count of this blog.

But, there is divergence in the sources as to what was released in 1939, and it's not as simple as being off a few weeks here or there.

On one side is the Puppetoon Site's filmography, from 1996/1997.
The only short it has listed for 1939 is "Love on the Range". (It also lists Philips Cavalcade as potentially being from 1939, or as "1934-39?"; many sources list it as '34, some as '39, at least some sources list it as '38, and a French George Pal program you can apparently rent and show list it as 1940 .)

On the other side is the Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald George Pal Puppetoon filmography that appeared in Wild Cartoon Kingdom #3 in early 1994. It lists Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, South Seas Sweethearts, and Philips Cavalcade as being released in 1939. It lists Love on the Range as being from 1938. The Puppetoon Site lists Aladdin as being 1936 (as does most of the internet, tho that doesn't make it right) and SSS as 1938.

In "The History of British Film", "South Sea Sweetheart" (spelled that way, three words, no ending 's'-s) is listed as 1938, and "for Horlicks (J.W.T. Prods.) 1 reel 1938 Tech. puppets m. Debroy Somers and the Hawaiian Islanders." The same book also lists Love on the Range as 1937:

All in all, this leaves me with nothing firmly dated to 1939. The History of British FIlm seems specialized enough (and has enough itchy production data in the entries) to disqualify SSS and LOTR (in an absolute sense; it is still possible they were released in the US in some way in 1939). None of the other sources gives any indication as to the source of their dating.

As for titles, LOTR unfortunately is known to me only in a Pictoreels version that gives its copyright as 1946, which must be the date the home movie version was issued. The Aladdin version I have access to has no visible copyright. South Sea Sweethearts is titleless from the Puppetoon Movie.

Philips Cavalcade seems reasonable as a 1939 release based on the version I've viewed, which ends with "All the World's Entertainment At Your Fingertips on the Shortwaves With Philips 1940 Super 3 Radioplayers incorporating Exclusive Electrical Bandspread Tuning". I'm assuming 1940 models came out in the fall of 1939. Of course they could have repurposed an older production for a 1940 English language release (and it could of course have been released in 1940, although Pal apparently did not return to Europe after the beginning of WWII; both the Puppetoon Site and the Beck Friedwald filmographies list 1940 releases, however; I'm sure the studio would have muddled through as best they could without the boss, but there could be other reasons for 1940 datings).

So, in the end, Philips Cavalcade has presented enough evidence for me to believe it may have been released somewhere in 1939, and as it is a side entry for the blog, that's good enough. And so, here is the bonus entry for Philips Cavalcade:

Title: Philips Cavalcade
Studio: George Pal
Date: Possibly maybe kinda 1939
Credits: A George Pal Production (tho this seems to be a retitle at least in part; I don't think "Puppetoon" was used until later, altho this may be a Paramount naming split that was not true for Pal's pre US releases)
Music: Jack Hylton and His Band
Series: Philips
Running time (of viewed version): 5:42

Synopsis: All singing, all dancing stop motion puppets, trying to sell you radios.

Comments: Jack Hylton was a popular band leader in Britain in the '30s and '40s. I wonder if this could have had other bands in other languages doing the soundtrack. Any evidence of multiple soundtrack language versions of Pal's work? The undulating gospel crowd looks impressive. I supopse it would have minimized the number of parts needed as well since they could reuse puppets in alternate positions. Philippa Ray was an advertising mascot, not a real person. The animation in this is not as fluid as in cel cartoons; but that's true even in more modern stop motion animation. The human hand seems to choose several radio presets, that all play the same song, but have not only visuals, but different visuals on each channel (the continuous music might tend to support a dubbed into English theory). The opening shot is a pretty impressive pull out crane shot, that was probably a lot easier to pull off in a stop motion cartoon than it was on a soundstage (and it of course showcases the benefits of stop motion 3D backgrounds compared to regular non Fleischer stereoptical 2D cel animation backgrounds; hell, even compared to the stereoptical backgrounds, there were many more choices, like this pull out crane shot, or the moving through opening doors shot). Stop motion animators liked to put paintings of naked women in backgrounds, too. The one jack o lantern on a tree reminds me of a later stop motion piece...

The distortions of the puppets in Philips Broadcast of 1938 seem more cartoony than in this; I'm not sure if that implies it's earlier or later. It's possible they hadn't developed the cartooniness by the time of Cavalcade, but they might have also just been trying for a more controlled look and intentionally cut down on the cartooniness.

(Top photo: George Pal and horrific real world Philipa Ray.)


  1. Just watched this on youtube. I love discovering old cartoons I've never seen before. Thanks!!

  2. For what it's worth, GEORGE PAL IN HOLLAND 1934-1939 by Ole Schepp and Fred Kamphuis also gives a 1939 date for the film as does Film Dope #50.

  3. I have received a document dated "18-juni 1939" of the Philips paper "Televisie Koerier". It handles the experimental Television Broadcast program of that date of the Philips Broadcast station "PAoKT".
    It mentioned that in a film hour 7.30-8.30u a demonstration with figures out of the movie "Philips Cavalcade 1939" been broadcast.

    I Think that dates this movie for sure at 1939.