Review of The Reluctant Dragon (1941)

Moving picture, 74 minutes

Seen in 2017.

Comedian Robert Benchley tours each department of Walt Disney Studios, ostensibly looking for Walt, to pitch him a story. The lessons he learns about animation are comically inaccurate. Along the way, Benchley is distracted by pretty girls on several occasions, including a croquis model and a topless zebra anthropomorph, but there is one middle-aged woman present apart from his termagant wife, and she has a line.

Mostly live action and almost non-fiction. Rushed into production to cover losses from the outbreak of WW2 closing much of the European market.

The Reluctant Dragon is an excellent illustration of a white male celebrity’s imagined privilege. The world stops to entertain this stranger, as if the studio weren’t being run by a little entrepreneur tyrant who would have been well represented by Humphrey, the sharply dressed zealot studio guide. The colour department sequence in particular is remarkably unrealistic, essentially a Technicolor demo reel. The tedium of hand-drawn animation on ones is not implied and racist caricatures are not questioned any more than the need for caricature itself in cartoons, which is to say not at all.

The embedded “Baby Weems” is a curiously pointless story of a brilliant infant happily brought low by brain damage from a fever. The Goofy short on how to ride a horse has some pleasant animation, but uses the same painfully telegraphed style of comedy as this entire film and is poorly masked onto the live-action shot. “The Reluctant Dragon” itself is a softer remake of “Ferdinand the Bull” (1938) with a cooperative toreador instead of the pastoral theme.

References here: Flerplanskamera i det öppna lagret, Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009).

moving picture Disney animation fiction