The Puppetoon Movie

The Puppetoon Movie ★★★★

This absolutely bonkers pseudo-documentary / compilation film of famed animator and director George Pal plays like something out of the early seventies - but was actually made in 1987 - a time where the films audience (children I assume?) would have already been long removed from any of Pal's significant work. Spanning from the late 1930's to the early 80's it shows a series of short films and sketches that Pal had made from his early days in war torn Hungary through his life as a director of multiple animated shorts and science fiction classic ( that include War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.)

Hosted by Pal's beloved characters Gumby, Pokey the Horse and Arnie the Tyrannosaurus Rex - who are making a film where Arnie is supposed to eat a cute little deer - they decide to break from filming when Arnie has a nervous breakdown from the idea of eating the deer on film - saying that his hero GEORGE PAL would never stand for such a thing - here at this point Pokey and Arnie explain to Gumby the life and work of George Pal through his series of shorts. The little films vary in style and context - as some are anti-war / pro capitalistic propaganda films - while others are cute little symphony pieces like Tubby the Tuba and Hoola Boola. While it is a product of it's time - some would consider some of these earlier sketches problematic by todays standards - as both stories John Henry and the Inky Poo and Jasper in a Jam both have seemingly cute and harmless stories - but their representation of African Americans go straight back to the minstrel show style perception of the ethnic caricatures that definitely make for an uncomfortable watch. However it is an interesting look at the evolution of story telling through animation and should be seen at least once.

As for Pal's legacy - he not only was responsible for iconic ad mascots like Speedy the Alka Setzer Boy - but The Pillsbury Doughboy and his memorable giggle as well. Many versions of this film have been released over the years with some shorts added to it's run time and others taken away. A man of ambition - he had many projects that sadly slipped through his fingers and were eventually made by other filmmakers -which include Logans Run (nearly a decade before it finally hit theaters), Doc Savage and a sequel to the Wizard of Oz. Do yourself a favor and look into his catalogue - its absolutely fascinating.

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