If you don’t know who George Pal is, well, you really should. Pal is widely known as the “Father of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Films of the Modern Era” and was involved with beloved film classics such as The Time Machine (1960), The War of the Worlds and many others. But for our purposes here as animation fans, long before those Academy Award-winning efforts, Pal was the creator of the remarkable Puppetoon stop-motion animated shorts. These shorts greatly influenced the animated film industry here in Hollywood and around the world.
A new set of Pal’s Puppetoon shorts has been recently been released— The Puppetoon Movie Vol. 2 is now available on Blu-ray/DVD—and it’s a dazzle.
Born and educated in Hungary, George Pal worked in Hungary, Germany, France, former Czechoslovakia, and Holland creating both 2D and stop-motion animated shorts and commercials. He emigrated to the United States in 1939 after which he signed a deal to create animated shorts at Paramount Pictures. He made well over 100 Puppetoon short films in Europe and the United States during the 1930s and 40s and was awarded with an honorary Academy Award in 1944 for his groundbreaking work.
George Pal was a “creative and prolific genius,” Leibovit states. “There were very few people like him. Everyone who encountered him in the flesh can’t say enough nice things about him.” Leibovit talks of how Pal’s self-effacing personality, sense of humor, and humble approach to his work greatly helped in his success.
Today’s animation filmmakers and fans owe much to Pal. The development of 3D/CGI animation as well as the stop-motion animation techniques used by Henry Selick and others have all been greatly impacted by the techniques and methodologies employed by Pal and his team in the creation of the many Puppetoon shorts those many decades ago.
The Puppetoon shorts are known for Pal’s distinctive artistic aesthetic, as well as for the “replacement” parts approach which was used for the filming of the puppets. Rather than using a single, posable puppet and moving it for each frame, Pal and his team used a collection of thousands of wood puppets and parts (particularly heads, arms, and legs) to pose the puppets in each frame. Once you have seen a Puppetoon short, you’ll definitely notice the incomparable fluidity achieved in stop-motion using Pal’s unique style and approach in his filmmaking.
Leibovit made some amazing finds for this new 18-short compilation, all restored in high definition from the original negatives. The “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” short included in the set was last seen by film audiences in Europe in 1935 (Leibovit was able to secure rights to it after a four-month, trans-Atlantic search). The set also includes shorts with rare outside appearances by DC Comics/Warner Bros.-owned Superman and 2D cartoon favorite Bugs Bunny. Leibovit says that being able to include these shorts is nothing short of a “miracle.”
The Puppetoon Movie Vol. 2 is a delightful retrospective of George Pal’s innovative and imaginative work. Any serious animation fan will enjoy seeing and learning more about the great work of George Pal in this beautifully restored and entertaining collection.
Learn more about George Pal and get your own copy of The Puppetoon Movie Vol. 2 at https://puppetoon.net.
All images ©️ Arnold Leibovit Entertainment