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The Song of the Birds (Fleischer, 1935)

Well folks, Duck Dodgers gave you the "bird" several days ago, and today is my turn to do the same. How rude and inconsiderate from both of us :-)

So, this is the original "The Song of the Birds", a Fleischer Color Classic released on 2/27/1935. This cartoon was remade 14 years later at Famous Studios with Little Audrey, and that version was featured in the previous post by my colleague mr.Dodgers.

I have a confession to make... I really don't like this cartoon. In fact, it epitomizes all that's worst about the Fleischer Color Classics series, and it pains me to say that because Fleischer Brothers have made so many of my favorite cartoons of all time. As Leonard Maltin said it well, "The Song of the Birds" is an unadulterated tearjerker. It's trying desperately to be dramatic, and evoke the strong emotions in the audience, but to me it feels forced and manipulative. Fleischers were simply out of their natural element with this and similar cartoons, trying to emulate the Disney sentiment, but without the real sincerity.

The Famous Studios remake with Little Audrey approached the whole grim subject with a doze of dark humor and irony. The funeral scene in 1949 cartoon is so over the top that it becomes ridiculous (at least to me), and works almost like a parody of the deadly serious Fleischer cartoon. At the same time, it managed to be dramatic in much successful way.

So what are the good points of this cartoon? Well, it has few great 3D scenes, some very nice layout and background work with strong visual compositions, and few funny and typically Fleischer-style expressions, mostly from the boy. It's interesting to note that Fleischers made a very similar cartoon three years later called "The Playful Polar Bears". That cartoon followed almost identical formula, but IMHO it's better and stronger, though not without its faults.

These screenshots are taken from a rare French theatrical print. It looks sharper and more detailed than the usual crappy NTA prints that are in circulation. This cartoon was originally made in 2-strip Technicolor, so that's the reason for the weird pink'n'green color scheme.

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