DVDs

1936 Felix the Cat in "The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg" on DVD Video Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome and Nancy Drew...Reporter. The Felix the Cat cartoon is copyrighted 1936 by the Van Beuren Corporation. $2 at Target, Santa Rosa, Nov., '05. 

There is not much reference to the fable in this pleasant cartoon. Felix has Goldie churning out golden eggs, from which he makes coins that he gives out to people. Captain Kidd steals Goldie and takes her to sea. Felix shoots himself onto the captain's ship and rescues here. In the last scene, he uses canons to fire coins to the townspeople. Good fun.

2005 Fables de La Fontaine. Mise en scène, décors et lumières de Robert Wilson. Un film de Don Kent. Un spectacle de la Comedie-Française. €20 from Amazon.fr, June, '11. 

This is a strong dramatic work! I enjoyed it start to finish. There is good variety here, and so we touch on the folly of love, the disdain of art, and the power of flattery, for one of the strongest scenes in the nineteen fables presented is the interaction of fox and crow. The masks are haunting and the movements engaging. La Fontaine is the introducer and narrator, though various animals will also function as narrators in specific scenes. Wilson and La Fontaine save their strongest punches here, I believe, for people and especially for power. Among the strongest indictment fables are "The Obsequies of the Lioness" in which a stag tells some truth to power but then saves his life by flattering the lion king and "The Man and the Serpent," in which the human being ends up choking on his own guilt. Also strong are the finishes to WL, where La Fontaine looks away from the final slaughter, and "The Stag in the Water." The very last fable is "The Companions of Ulysses": Why did these animals prefer now to stay animals? The work is close to the blood and the animal instinct behind La Fontaine's lovely work. Unfortunately my copy has only French; there is an add-on from behind the scenes of the production, with interviews. A real treat! See the booklet included with this dvd and the separate artistic book published a year earlier.

2006 The Hare and the Tortoise. Quality Information Publishers. DVD reprint of a 1947 film by Encyclopedia Britannica films. $6.99 from Quality Information Publishers, Asheville, NC, through eBay, Oct., '08.

This DVD presentation of TH in ten minutes has the unusual feature of using live animals in its black-and-white movie. There is a one-voice narration. The owl directs the fox to create a hard course. Both wait -- for a long time -- at the finish. The tortoise has difficulty managing the hard terrain, especially when it involves a drop-off to the next level. Racoon, skunk, rooster, and goose all get into the story. The moral gets clipped off at the end after only “Slow and s….”

2009 Aesop's Fables from the Van Beuren Studio, Volume 2. Thunderbean Animation. DVD reprint of cartoons from 1928 through 1933. $12 from Thunderbean, Ann Arbor, MI., June, '10.

There are sixteen "Aesop's Fables" cartoons on this DVD. I tried three of them and enjoyed them. They are a curious mix of fantasy, song, dance, and mayhem. My favorite here is "A Toy Town Tale" from 1931. Toys come alive, march around, get into fights, and fall in love. An apparently frequent feature of the cartoons involves imaging animals in their geometric parts and letting them come apart and get back together. At least one cartoon, "Presto Chango" from 1929, does have an Aesopic element: a final saying allegedly from Aesop and supposedly summing up the cartoon. This DVD has some nice additional features, including views of an Aesop's hanky book -- unfortunately without the hanky! -- and an array of buttons, many of which I have collected. Theirs may even be a full display.