Gulliver's Travels


1h 14m 1939
Gulliver's Travels

Brief Synopsis

A human doctor washes ashore on an island inhabited by little people locked in a foolish war.

Film Details

Genre
Fantasy
Release Date
Dec 22, 1939
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami, FL: 18 Dec 1939
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver by Jonathan Swift (London, 1726).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

On 5 Nov 1699, Lemuel Gulliver, an English seaman, is shipwrecked on the shores of Lilliput, a country of peanut sized people, the tallest of whom is no higher than Gulliver's boots. While Gulliver sleeps on the beach, meek King Little of Lilliput betroths his daughter, Princess Glory, to Prince David, the son of Bombo, the bombastic king of neighboring Blefusco. Trouble arises when King Little insists that his favorite song, "Faithful," be sung at the ceremony, while Bombo is equally insistent that his favorite number, "Forever," be the only song sung at the wedding. Their dispute ends when Bombo declares war and storms out just as Gabby, the town crier, bursts into the palace to announce that a giant is sleeping on the beach. At first alarmed, the people of Lilliput work through the night to tie Gulliver up and transport him to their town. When he awakens, however, they soon discover his benevolence after Bombo's armed soldiers flee at the sight of the giant, and Gulliver merely laughs. In celebration, the Lilliputians plan a feast in Gulliver's honor, while Bombo's henchmen, Snoop, Sneak and Switch, plot dastardly schemes against the Lilliputians. When all the Lilliputians are asleep, Gulliver sees the heartbroken Princess Glory during her secret rendezvous with Prince David and determines to help them. He attempts to arbitrate the broken romance by suggesting that both of the disputed songs be combined and sung. Gulliver's attempt seems doomed, though, when Bombo's war ships arrive off the shore of Lilliput and the three spies prepare to shoot the giant. Seeing the spies aiming the gun at Gulliver, Prince David gallops to the giant's rescue, but plunges over the cliff as he deflects the shot. David's fall brings Bombo to his senses,and the lovers are united to the combined harmony of "Faith" and "Forever" while Gulliver sails off into the sunset in a small boat made for him by the Lilliputians.

Crew

Robert Bentley

Animation

Willard Bowsky

Director of animation

Johnny Burks

Technical Advisor

Orestes Calpini

Director of animation

Ben Clopton

Animation

Roland Crandall

Director of animation

James Culhane

Animation

Joseph D'igalo

Animation

James Davis

Animation

Nelson Demorest

Animation

Ted Dubois

Animation

Frank Endres

Animation

Alfred Eugster

Animation

Otto Feuer

Animation

Max Fleischer

Producer

George Germanetti

Animation

Arnold Gillespie

Animation

Dan Gordon

Screenwriter

Reuben Grossman

Animation

Thurston Harper

Animation

William Henning

Director of animation

Winfield Hoskins

Director of animation

Cal Howard

Screenwriter

Louis Jambor

Scenics

Tom Johnson

Director of animation

Frank Kelling

Director of animation

Abner Kneitel

Animation

Seymour Kneitel

Director of animation

Robert Leffingwell

Director of animation

Robert Little

Scenics

Joe Miller

Animation

Shane Miller

Scenics

George Moreno

Animation

Stephen Muffatti

Animation

Grim Natwick

Director of animation

Al Neiburg

Composer

Bill Nolan

Animation

Joseph Oriolo

Animation

Tony Pabian

Animation

Tom Palmer

Director of animation

Ted Pierce

Screenwriter

Graham Place

Animation

Stan Quackenbush

Animation

Ralph Rainger

Composer

Edwin Reitberg

Animation

Leo Robin

Composer

Lod Rossner

Animation

Erich Schenk

Scenics

Charles Schettler

Photography

Edmond Seward

Screenwriter

Edmond Seward

Story Adapted

Winston Sharples

Composer

Edward Smith

Animation

Frank Smith

Animation

I. Sparber

Screenwriter

Irving Spector

Animation

Sam Stimson

Animation

William Sturm

Animation

Nicholas Tafuri

Animation

David Tendlar

Animation

Sammy Timburg

Composer

Harold Walker

Animation

Victor Young

Atmospheric Music created and Conductor by

Lou Zukor

Animation

Film Details

Genre
Fantasy
Release Date
Dec 22, 1939
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami, FL: 18 Dec 1939
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver by Jonathan Swift (London, 1726).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Award Nominations

Best Score

1939

Best Song

1939

Articles

Gulliver's Travels (1939)


Max Fleischer was the only real challenger to Walt Disney's supremacy in the field of animation in the 1930s. As the head of Fleischer Studios, Max had (with his brother Dave, the director) created Ko-Ko the Clown and Betty Boop, incorporated the music and personalities of Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong into their cartoons, and brought Popeye to life in some of the most popular animated shorts of the era (vying with Mickey as the most popular animated character of the day). With an exclusive contract with Paramount Pictures, one of the powerhouse studios in Hollywood, to distribute their shorts, they were seen everywhere.

Max Fleischer had long wanted to make an animated feature -- he was already making extended animated shorts with Popeye and Betty Boop and saw great potential in a Popeye feature -- but Adolph Zukor, the head of Paramount Pictures, didn't see any future in feature-length cartoons. The remarkable success of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 changed his mind and he gave the green light to Fleischer to begin developing a feature for Paramount. He also gave him a deadline: Christmas 1939. A mere year and a half to develop, write, animate, and finish his first ever feature (Disney worked for over three years on Snow White).

Fleischer turned to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and the Lilliputian section in particular, for his story. "I knew it was my father's favorite book since he used to read it to me as a bedtime story when I was a child," remembers Richard Fleischer, Max's son, in his 2005 book Out of the Inkwell. He even briefly considered using Popeye as his Gulliver before rejecting the idea in pre-production.

Though he was finally getting his shot at an animated feature, the timing couldn't have been worse for Fleischer, who was moving his studio from New York to Miami while still keeping up with his contractual deadlines for their Betty Boop and Popeye shorts. By the time it was fully operational in 1938, Fleischer boasted the most advanced animation studio in the world. Gulliver's Travels (1939) didn't necessarily benefit from the upgrade, however, as much of the film was produced during the transition. While Dave Fleischer took charge of directing the feature, production shuttled between the two locations and new animators, mostly from the West Coast, were brought in for the new Miami studio, with extra hands drafted from the Miami Arts School during the transition.

One of the many innovations that Max Fleischer brought to animation was the rotoscope technique, which involved tracing over frames of live-action film. It sped up the animation process and was especially helpful in animating human figures. In Gulliver's Travels, it was specifically used for Gulliver, a "realistic" figure in a cartoonish world. Where Gulliver is a dignified, handsomely sculpted figure of calm and reason, the Lilliputians are exaggerated caricatures right out of the Fleischers' comedy shorts, scurrying, impulsive little people driven by petty concerns.

The film opens with the dramatic shipwreck that strands Gulliver on the island of Lilliput, a land populated by diminutive (at least by human standards) people. Fleischer goes for a realistic look here, with a rotoscoped model ship, a dark, stormy atmosphere, and a dramatic sense of depth. With the introduction of the Lilliputians, the style slips into a more comically exaggerated style, filled with slapstick and sight gags, while the story turns on a romance between the prince and princess of rival kingdoms that is threatened when the kings go to war. Sam Parker, a Florida radio broadcaster, provided both the voice and the physical reference for Gulliver. Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye, was brought on for King Little, and Pinto Colvig voiced Gabby, a comic sidekick that Fleischer later spun off into his own series of cartoons.

Gulliver's Travels was the second cel-animated feature ever released. Budgeted at a modest $500,000, it ended up costing twice that (which was still significantly less than the Snow White price tag), but the film was still a financial and critical success. It opened at number one spot and was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Score (by Victor Young) and Best Original Song ("Forever Faithful," music by Ralph Rainger and lyrics by Leo Robin), losing both categories to The Wizard of Oz (1939). Animation historians believe that in its day, Gulliver's Travels was seen by more people than Snow White because it was constantly in release in theaters and later shown on television. However you measure it, Gulliver's Travels is an animation landmark and an alternative to the Disney style of animated feature filmmaking.

Producer: Max Fleischer
Director: Dave Fleischer
Screenplay: Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Ted Pierce, I. Sparber, Edmond Seward (screenplay); Edmond Seward (story adaptation); Jonathan Swift (based on immortal tale)
Cinematography: Charles Schettler
Music: Victor Young
Cast: Jessica Dragonette (Princess Glory, singing voice), Lanny Ross (Prince David, singing voice), Pinto Colvig (Gabby, voice, uncredited), Jack Mercer (King Little, voice, uncredited), Sam Parker (Gulliver, voice, uncredited).
C-76m.

by Sean Axmaker

Sources:
"Out of the Inkwell: Max Fleischer and the Animation Revolution," Richard Fleischer. University Press of Kentucky, 2005
"Fleischer in Florida, Part 1 - Gulliver's Travels," Steve Fritz. Newsarama.com, 2009.
"The Making of a Cartoon," Paramount Pictures newsreel.
IMDb
Gulliver's Travels (1939)

Gulliver's Travels (1939)

Max Fleischer was the only real challenger to Walt Disney's supremacy in the field of animation in the 1930s. As the head of Fleischer Studios, Max had (with his brother Dave, the director) created Ko-Ko the Clown and Betty Boop, incorporated the music and personalities of Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong into their cartoons, and brought Popeye to life in some of the most popular animated shorts of the era (vying with Mickey as the most popular animated character of the day). With an exclusive contract with Paramount Pictures, one of the powerhouse studios in Hollywood, to distribute their shorts, they were seen everywhere. Max Fleischer had long wanted to make an animated feature -- he was already making extended animated shorts with Popeye and Betty Boop and saw great potential in a Popeye feature -- but Adolph Zukor, the head of Paramount Pictures, didn't see any future in feature-length cartoons. The remarkable success of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 changed his mind and he gave the green light to Fleischer to begin developing a feature for Paramount. He also gave him a deadline: Christmas 1939. A mere year and a half to develop, write, animate, and finish his first ever feature (Disney worked for over three years on Snow White). Fleischer turned to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and the Lilliputian section in particular, for his story. "I knew it was my father's favorite book since he used to read it to me as a bedtime story when I was a child," remembers Richard Fleischer, Max's son, in his 2005 book Out of the Inkwell. He even briefly considered using Popeye as his Gulliver before rejecting the idea in pre-production. Though he was finally getting his shot at an animated feature, the timing couldn't have been worse for Fleischer, who was moving his studio from New York to Miami while still keeping up with his contractual deadlines for their Betty Boop and Popeye shorts. By the time it was fully operational in 1938, Fleischer boasted the most advanced animation studio in the world. Gulliver's Travels (1939) didn't necessarily benefit from the upgrade, however, as much of the film was produced during the transition. While Dave Fleischer took charge of directing the feature, production shuttled between the two locations and new animators, mostly from the West Coast, were brought in for the new Miami studio, with extra hands drafted from the Miami Arts School during the transition. One of the many innovations that Max Fleischer brought to animation was the rotoscope technique, which involved tracing over frames of live-action film. It sped up the animation process and was especially helpful in animating human figures. In Gulliver's Travels, it was specifically used for Gulliver, a "realistic" figure in a cartoonish world. Where Gulliver is a dignified, handsomely sculpted figure of calm and reason, the Lilliputians are exaggerated caricatures right out of the Fleischers' comedy shorts, scurrying, impulsive little people driven by petty concerns. The film opens with the dramatic shipwreck that strands Gulliver on the island of Lilliput, a land populated by diminutive (at least by human standards) people. Fleischer goes for a realistic look here, with a rotoscoped model ship, a dark, stormy atmosphere, and a dramatic sense of depth. With the introduction of the Lilliputians, the style slips into a more comically exaggerated style, filled with slapstick and sight gags, while the story turns on a romance between the prince and princess of rival kingdoms that is threatened when the kings go to war. Sam Parker, a Florida radio broadcaster, provided both the voice and the physical reference for Gulliver. Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye, was brought on for King Little, and Pinto Colvig voiced Gabby, a comic sidekick that Fleischer later spun off into his own series of cartoons. Gulliver's Travels was the second cel-animated feature ever released. Budgeted at a modest $500,000, it ended up costing twice that (which was still significantly less than the Snow White price tag), but the film was still a financial and critical success. It opened at number one spot and was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Score (by Victor Young) and Best Original Song ("Forever Faithful," music by Ralph Rainger and lyrics by Leo Robin), losing both categories to The Wizard of Oz (1939). Animation historians believe that in its day, Gulliver's Travels was seen by more people than Snow White because it was constantly in release in theaters and later shown on television. However you measure it, Gulliver's Travels is an animation landmark and an alternative to the Disney style of animated feature filmmaking. Producer: Max Fleischer Director: Dave Fleischer Screenplay: Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Ted Pierce, I. Sparber, Edmond Seward (screenplay); Edmond Seward (story adaptation); Jonathan Swift (based on immortal tale) Cinematography: Charles Schettler Music: Victor Young Cast: Jessica Dragonette (Princess Glory, singing voice), Lanny Ross (Prince David, singing voice), Pinto Colvig (Gabby, voice, uncredited), Jack Mercer (King Little, voice, uncredited), Sam Parker (Gulliver, voice, uncredited). C-76m. by Sean Axmaker Sources: "Out of the Inkwell: Max Fleischer and the Animation Revolution," Richard Fleischer. University Press of Kentucky, 2005 "Fleischer in Florida, Part 1 - Gulliver's Travels," Steve Fritz. Newsarama.com, 2009. "The Making of a Cartoon," Paramount Pictures newsreel. IMDb

Gulliver's Travels (1939)


In December 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became the first feature-length animated film to open in theaters. Almost exactly two years later came the second, Gulliver's Travels (1939). But in contrast to the Walt Disney classic, this new film was the work of pioneering animators Max and Dave Fleischer, whose innovative company had been responsible for Betty Boop and Popeye, among other iconic cartoon characters of the 1920s and '30s. In fact, this movie was originally planned as a vehicle for Popeye to "play" Gulliver.

Gulliver's Travels is based on just the first part of Jonathan Swift's classic novel, a section entitled "A Voyage to Lilliput," in which Gulliver washes ashore in a kingdom whose inhabitants are so small that Gulliver appears as a giant. Swift's tale was written as a sociological satire, and the Fleischer brothers disagreed at first over how much of that flavor would inhabit their screen version. Max Fleischer envisioned retaining the strong satirical themes, while Dave Fleischer wanted something lighter, simpler and more musical. In the end they compromised on a colorful spectacle that nonetheless does preserve some satire. In any event, the look and feel of the animation was distinctly theirs. As the Motion Picture Herald's review said, "The Fleischer style, well known for many years to a great public, is readily identifiable. The usual grotesqueness is present in all of the characters, with the exception of the Giant and the Prince and Princess. One might expect Popeye to peek around the corner at any moment."

The film's production schedule was very challenging. Paramount (the Fleischers' parent company and distributor) was so eager to challenge Disney with an animated feature that it poured money and resources into the movie in order to meet a Christmas 1939 release date. (The film opened a day after Gone with the Wind.) Fleischer Studios had been based in New York, but union strife in that city compelled Paramount to pay for a new Fleischer studio in Miami, Fla. The studio also paid for hundreds of extra animation artists to work on the project, in both Miami and Hollywood. The schedule was so rushed (18 months from conception to release) that 400 Miami art students were even hired to help out -- following a crash course in animation. The final negative cost was about $1.5 million.

The critical reception was overall positive. Variety deemed the film "an excellent job of animation, audience interest and all around showmanship... enjoyable as much for the elders as the youngsters." But The New York Times disagreed, calling it "a fairy tale for children almost exclusively," and criticizing it for lacking the depth, subtlety, and freshness of the Disney films.

Nonetheless, Gulliver's Travels was a big enough commercial hit that Paramount ordered a second animated feature from the Fleischers, Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941). As for awards, it was the film's music that drew attention from the Motion Picture Academy. Victor Young received an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Score, and songwriters Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin collected a nomination for Best Original Song, for "Faithful Forever." This was one of 22 Oscar® nominations that Victor Young would receive over the course of his career. He won the award just once -- posthumously -- for Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).

Robin and Rainger had recently won their first Oscars®, for the classic song "Thanks for the Memories," in The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938). The talented composer Rainger would die in a plane crash in 1942, while lyricist Robin would carry on a successful career over a life that lasted until his death in 1984. Robin accrued a total of ten Oscar® nominations but never won the award again.

Singer Lanny Ross provides the singing voice of Prince David in Gulliver's Travels. It's the only animated voice Ross ever did.

Producer: Max Fleischer
Director: Dave Fleischer
Screenplay: Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Ted Pierce, I. Sparber, Edmond Seward (screenplay); Edmond Seward (story adaptation); Jonathan Swift (based on immortal tale)
Cinematography: Charles Schettler
Music: Victor Young
Cast: Jessica Dragonette (Princess Glory, singing voice), Lanny Ross (Prince David, singing voice), Pinto Colvig (Gabby, voice, uncredited), Jack Mercer (King Little, voice, uncredited), Sam Parker (Gulliver, voice, uncredited).
C-76m.

by Jeremy Arnold

Gulliver's Travels (1939)

In December 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became the first feature-length animated film to open in theaters. Almost exactly two years later came the second, Gulliver's Travels (1939). But in contrast to the Walt Disney classic, this new film was the work of pioneering animators Max and Dave Fleischer, whose innovative company had been responsible for Betty Boop and Popeye, among other iconic cartoon characters of the 1920s and '30s. In fact, this movie was originally planned as a vehicle for Popeye to "play" Gulliver. Gulliver's Travels is based on just the first part of Jonathan Swift's classic novel, a section entitled "A Voyage to Lilliput," in which Gulliver washes ashore in a kingdom whose inhabitants are so small that Gulliver appears as a giant. Swift's tale was written as a sociological satire, and the Fleischer brothers disagreed at first over how much of that flavor would inhabit their screen version. Max Fleischer envisioned retaining the strong satirical themes, while Dave Fleischer wanted something lighter, simpler and more musical. In the end they compromised on a colorful spectacle that nonetheless does preserve some satire. In any event, the look and feel of the animation was distinctly theirs. As the Motion Picture Herald's review said, "The Fleischer style, well known for many years to a great public, is readily identifiable. The usual grotesqueness is present in all of the characters, with the exception of the Giant and the Prince and Princess. One might expect Popeye to peek around the corner at any moment." The film's production schedule was very challenging. Paramount (the Fleischers' parent company and distributor) was so eager to challenge Disney with an animated feature that it poured money and resources into the movie in order to meet a Christmas 1939 release date. (The film opened a day after Gone with the Wind.) Fleischer Studios had been based in New York, but union strife in that city compelled Paramount to pay for a new Fleischer studio in Miami, Fla. The studio also paid for hundreds of extra animation artists to work on the project, in both Miami and Hollywood. The schedule was so rushed (18 months from conception to release) that 400 Miami art students were even hired to help out -- following a crash course in animation. The final negative cost was about $1.5 million. The critical reception was overall positive. Variety deemed the film "an excellent job of animation, audience interest and all around showmanship... enjoyable as much for the elders as the youngsters." But The New York Times disagreed, calling it "a fairy tale for children almost exclusively," and criticizing it for lacking the depth, subtlety, and freshness of the Disney films. Nonetheless, Gulliver's Travels was a big enough commercial hit that Paramount ordered a second animated feature from the Fleischers, Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941). As for awards, it was the film's music that drew attention from the Motion Picture Academy. Victor Young received an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Score, and songwriters Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin collected a nomination for Best Original Song, for "Faithful Forever." This was one of 22 Oscar® nominations that Victor Young would receive over the course of his career. He won the award just once -- posthumously -- for Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). Robin and Rainger had recently won their first Oscars®, for the classic song "Thanks for the Memories," in The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938). The talented composer Rainger would die in a plane crash in 1942, while lyricist Robin would carry on a successful career over a life that lasted until his death in 1984. Robin accrued a total of ten Oscar® nominations but never won the award again. Singer Lanny Ross provides the singing voice of Prince David in Gulliver's Travels. It's the only animated voice Ross ever did. Producer: Max Fleischer Director: Dave Fleischer Screenplay: Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Ted Pierce, I. Sparber, Edmond Seward (screenplay); Edmond Seward (story adaptation); Jonathan Swift (based on immortal tale) Cinematography: Charles Schettler Music: Victor Young Cast: Jessica Dragonette (Princess Glory, singing voice), Lanny Ross (Prince David, singing voice), Pinto Colvig (Gabby, voice, uncredited), Jack Mercer (King Little, voice, uncredited), Sam Parker (Gulliver, voice, uncredited). C-76m. by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Trivia

An early plan was to have the role of Gulliver written for Popeye.

The character of Gulliver was "rotoscoped" - a method devised by the Fleischers where the drawing was achieved by tracing over the movements of a live actor.

The first animated feature from a studio other that Disney.

Notes

In the opening sequence of the film, the credits are superimposed over a three-dimensional sailing ship. The song "Faithful Forever" is not listed in the onscreen credits, but is sung in the film. According to a news item in Motion Picture Daily, the success of Walt Disney's 1937 film Snow White motivated the Fleischer Studios to produce this animated feature at a budget of $700,000. This was Max Fleischer's first feature-length-Technicolor animated feature. It only used one episode from the Jonathan Swift book. Modern sources note that the figure of "Gulliver" was rotoscoped throughout the entire film. The movements of actor Sam Parker were traced from live action film to become the figure of "Gulliver." The rest of the characters were represented through animation. Modern sources also add that 500,000 celluloids and twelve tons of paint were used for the 115,700 composite scenes in the film. Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin's song "Faithful Forever" and Victor Young's original score were nominated for Academy Awards.
       Several live action films were based on the Swift novel. In 1960, Columbia produced The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, directed by Jack Sher and starring Kerwin Matthews, and in 1977, EMI produced a British-Belgium co-production titled Gulliver's Travels, starring Richard Harris and directed by Peter Hunt. An animated IMAX version of Swift's story, directed by Ian Pearson and Scott Speirs, completed production in late 2003 but, as of spring 2005, it was not scheduled for release.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States 1978

Released in United States on Video May 1988

Formerly released in USA on video by Hi-Tops Video.

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States 1978 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs - Painted Movies) April 13 - May 7, 1978.)

Released in United States on Video May 1988