May 3, 2015

Review: Toby Tortoise Returns (1936)

For Disney, 1936 seemed to be a pretty sequel-heavy period for the Silly Symphony series of films which Toby Tortoise Returns is evidently part of. Three Little Wolves and More Kittens are the other sequels. That makes three sequels out of a total of seven short films that were released that year. Compare that to the year before where Disney released ten unique films and it's my guess that Disney was slowly taking away resources from Silly Symphony as the number of releases decreased year to year as well. Why's that? To go full speed ahead with their feature length films of course. The final SS film came out in 1939. Know what else was released that year? Pinocchio and Fantasia.


At a Glance

Genre: animation, comedy, short
Directed by: Wilfred Jackson
Produced by: Walt Disney
Written by: William Cottrell, Joe Grant, Ward Kimball, etc.
Music by: Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline
Running time: 8 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, Martha Wentworth, Alyce Ardell, Marcellite Garner, Leone Le Doux



Instead of a race, Max Hare (voice: Ned Norton) and Toby Tortoise (voice: Eddie Holden) meet in the ring for a boxing match. The odds heavily favour the boastful Max due to his speed which prompts the crowd to loudly cheers for him. Despite being booed and having next to no chance at all in even landing a single punch, Toby is ready to fight.


Max Hare still cracks me up with his horribly annoying laugh and his attempts at hotdogging, this time in a boxing ring as opposed to a race track, are still quite fun. There's a brilliant little sequence for example where he puts a boxing glove on his tail and uses his hindquarters to land a bunch of punches on Toby all while chatting it up with three lady rabbits sitting in the audience. You can't make this stuff up.

Toby Tortoise Returns features a bunch of other Disney characters who get small cameo appearances here and there. Jenny Wren from Who Killed Cock Robin? is probably the most prominent, but there's also Practical Pig from Three Little Pigs and its sequels who works as the bell ringer. Apparently Goofy, Donald Duck and the Big Bad Wolf are also there, but I must've missed them because I didn't see them. I was never much for Where's Waldo? anyway.

The thing about Toby Tortoise Returns is that it's a little heavy on the slapstick. It actually feels a lot like something I'd expect from Looney Tunes. I love LT, but I felt like TTR pours it on a bit too much. The extended fireworks scene is nicely animated, but it goes on for too long and sputters by the end. Slapstick can be funny, but there's no question that the writers of TTR were lacking a bit in ideas here.

Toby Tortoise Returns still manages to be funny overall though. It's just that the laughs are fewer and farther between. It's also a little strange that Toby is able to quickly duck inside his shell to avoid punches. Isn't Toby slow in every respect? So how is he able to quickly retreat into his shell before getting a Max Hare punch to the face? Maybe I'm thinking a bit too much for what is an animated short film for kids, but that's what happens when you're not as entertained as you could've been.



Related Reviews:

The Tortoise and the Hare (1935)

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