Tag Archives: Balloon Land

Ub Iwerks: Balloon Land

9 Apr

(Provided on YouTube, courtesy of zootsmcgurn.)

Broke Hoedown Jr. and I just finished watching both volumes of The Cartoons That Time Forgot: Ub Iwerks, and Balloon Land is by far my favorite of the 6+ hours of animation we’ve worked our way through. As you might know, Iwerks‘ contributions to the Disney legacy include everything from single-handedly drawing the first Mickey Mouse cartoon (Plane Crazy) to technical innovations in animation and, eventually Imagineering.

The Cartoons that Time Forgot ranges from the bland (much of Flip the Frog) to the bizarre (see above for Balloon Land). You won’t be surprised to hear that it includes a large number of disquieting racial stereotypes, so don’t watch this with the kids if you’re not prepared to have some educational conversations. But if you can muddle your way through the rough spots, and tolerate some patchy bits badly in need of better restoration, it’s worth it to see Iwerks’ animation, to hear the occasional Carl Stalling score, and to wonder how many of the now-classic, now-tired gags you’ll see in this collection were in fact used here for the first time.

It’s also interesting to note the contrast between Flip (Iwerks’ mainstay) and either Oswald or Mickey. As Broke Hoedown Jr. put it recently, “Walt was the heart, Roy was the brains, and Ub was the hand.” This analogy stands up while watching Iwerks’ solo work . . . while it’s still charming, inventive, and usually technically excellent, a certain depth of character is missing by contrast with the early collaborations between Iwerks and Disney.

And hey, while we’re talking about wisdom from Broke Hoedown Jr. . . . the other day, I told him about some of the rumored changes to Disneyland’s it’s a small world. When I mentioned that Stitch (whom we both love) might be showing up in the Polynesian/Hawaiian section of the attraction, he wrinkled his nose. “Stitch is not Hawaiian,” he proclaimed. “He is an alien experiment.” ‘Nuf said, methinks.

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