Apr 18, 2015

Review: The Tortoise and the Hare (1935)

Everyone is familiar with Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare, or at least most people should be. It's a story that joins the long list of fairy tales that have been appropriated by Disney over the years. Not that I have a problem with that or anything, I'm just saying. If not Disney, someone else would've done it all and probably not as well as Disney was capable of.

Part of the long running Silly Symphony animated short film series, The Tortoise and the Hare won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. The lesson that the film's story is supposed to impart is actually a bit ambiguous though. Is it about the dangers of being overconfident? Is it about perseverance or a warning against doing things too quickly? Either way, there's nothing like a good moral to a story.

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At a Glance


Genre: animation, short, comedy
Directed by: Wilfred Jackson
Produced by: Walt Disney
Written by: Larry Clemmons
Music by: Frank Churchill
Running time: 9 minutes
Production company: Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by: United Artists
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Eddie Holden, Ned Norton

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Synopsis


A big racing event has been planned in the woods. Facing off against each other are Max Hare (voice: Ned Norton) and Toby Tortoise (voice: Eddie Holden). The crowds have gathered and Max is heavily favoured to win as he relishes in the cheers that come raining down on him. On the other hand, Toby is jeered at for his slowness. He doesn't let it bother him though. Even if the odds are heavily stacked against him, Toby remains focused on winning and nothing else.

Review


Since everyone knows how the story of The Tortoise and the Hare is supposed to end, it's nice to see Disney putting their own spin on it actually. It doesn't quite go the way it does in Aesop's fairy tale and that's OK. That's mainly because TTatH is actually quite funny and it does a great job at turning Max Hare into quite the antagonist.

He's as cruelly cocky as you can possibly imagine. Barely able to suppress laughing at just the sight of Toby Tortoise, he explodes in laughter as he gets Toby with a "too slow" handshake not only once, but twice. That laugh is haunting. Max is hilarious actually and right away he reminded me of Looney Tunes' most famous character Bugs Bunny. It turns out that Bugs was heavily inspired by Max Hare. One only has to look at their physical appearances and it's pretty easy to see.

Besides being overconfident, Max backs up his talk with actual talent. He's extremely fast. Him running by anything at full speed is comparable to the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing away at something. He's able to do some pretty impressive tricks even such as playing baseball all by himself in all positions. He can even play tennis all on his lonesome by getting to the ball on each side in time as he hits it. Pretty impressive stuff.

The Tortoise and the Hare shows off some impressive animation and creativity. That especially goes for Toby's racing style that involved a lot of sucking body parts inside of his shell as he avoids branches and other obstacles. The last couple of minutes of the film are actually quite thrilling, if only because you want Toby to win so badly. I will say that Max chatting with the young schoolgirl bunnies is a bit suggestive though. Just a little bit.

The Tortoise and the Hare is a surprisingly thrilling cartoon that's born out of any sensible viewer's desire to see Toby win it all. Max is funny sure, but he's probably one of the most arrogant characters to ever grace the screen in cinema history. With some clever little prodding from Walt Disney and his gang, it's impossible not to be in Toby's corner. Nicely animated and satisfyingly timed with music, TTatH is a great little animated short.

Rating


7/10

Related Reviews:

 

Toby Tortoise Returns (1936)