In 1937, Walt Disney released “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” creating the first animated feature film in cinematic history. And with this movie there were hundreds of animated films to follow in its footsteps. One of the next animated movies to follow “Snow White” was 1939’s “Gulliver’s Travels” made by Max and Dave Fleischer. This film is notable as the first animated movie to be released by a different studio other than Disney. And while not a cultural impact was made with this movie like the Disney masterpiece was, it still is very entertaining. Based off the novel by Jonathan Swift and set in the fairy tale land of Lilliput, the movie is perfectly toned for family audiences. Yet it focuses mainly on the characters rather than the actual story. “Gulliver’s Travels” is a nice animated film, but falls short when compared to “Snow White”.
The story has Lemuel Gulliver being shipwrecked on an undisclosed island after a terrible storm. He then falls asleep, stranded on the beach alone. Soon, Gulliver is found by Gabby, the town crier of Lilliput, who finds Gulliver, is like a giant to him. Gabby then orders everyone in the kingdom to capture and bring Gulliver to the king. Here he wakes up and finds that the people of Lilliput are incredibly small. The king of Lilliput sees Gulliver as a possible secret weapon, for Lilliput is now at war with their neighboring nation of Blefuscu. All because both countries could not decide on a song to be played at the royal wedding. So, Gulliver becomes the peace treaty and must cease the senseless fighting before it is too late.
“Gulliver’s Travels” is a very well done animated movie. The reason behind this is because the Fleischer studio was traditionally making animated shorts, namely Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons. So an animated feature film was a big deal for them. And the work pays off extremely well. The animation is especially important in two key scenes. First is the capturing of Gulliver where you see all kinds of equipment moving at different speeds. Next, there is a musical number where the king of Lilliput is dancing with Gulliver’s hand. This is one of those movies where the visuals really stand out.
But that’s not saying much, there’s still the issue of what is wrong with the movie. The entire production feels a bit rushed, as Paramount wanted to make this right after “Snow White” premiered. Also, the film only covers the first part of Swift’s novel, because if the filmmakers made a literal adaptation of the entire book, that would have cost more to make. Finally, the characters are what most people remember, and that kind of ruins the film. This is especially true with Gabby, as he can be a bit annoying. If the movie put more effort into the story rather than the characters, then it would have been perfect.
Overall, “Gulliver’s Travels” is a good movie, but not without its flaws. When viewed next to “Snow White” it does not hold up very well. But the film is its own product and is enjoyable for all families to see how animation went beyond the Disney border.