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A symphony composer lion is determined to show the audience that cartoon characters can be more than just silly and childish by having cartoons play a symphony orchestra. Things quickly fall apart as the true nature of cartoons comes out anyways.Written by
[Lion walks out on stage and addresses the audience]
Greetings, my good friends. You all, undoubtedly, have been under the delusion... or shall I say, misapprehension. That we of the cartoon animal kingdom, are lacking in the finer sensibilities. Now to disprove this we shall ask you to forget our formal pranks and playfulness. We ask you in the name of dignity, and art... to put yourselves in a receptive frame of mind. And not to expect of us... the foolery, and clowning you generally associate...
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The concept alone was reason enough to make me want to see 'A Car-Tune Portrait'. It is a very familiar one in animation (not at the time, this was one of the earliest ones), and while it is not one of the best or most iconic ones it still it very well. Likewise, Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 is one of the most famously featured pieces in animation, and in most cases it's been used very entertainingly and cleverly. Love animation too and Fleischer at their best did a lot of great work.
Fleischer Studios' "Color Classics" series was a very hit and miss one, with some hits, some misses and most in between. The lesser cartoons in the series were mostly from the 40s, which signalled "the fall of Fleischer", and most of the late-30s cartoons were among the best. 'A Car-Tune Portrait' is one of the best and along with 'The Fresh Vegetable Mystery' conceptually it stands out among the rest. 'A Car-Tune Portrait' is one of the cleverest in the series and a strong contender for the funniest.
'A Car-Tune Portrait' is another example of a cartoon where the plot is best forgotten, as there isn't much of one. Otherwise there is very little else to criticise. Animation and classical music fans alike must see and should love it.
Its best asset is easily, and somewhat predictably (in a good way), the music. Not just the actual music itself, which is the very definition of timeless but also the way it's used, the orchestration and use of instruments is so cleverly done especially when the action becomes increasingly chaotic. Also standing out is the animation, right from the first scene with the hand in an interesting technique of the frame-to-frame movement) and the smooth transition into when the action properly starts to the very end, with some of the liveliest and most colourful animation being in the second half when it becomes a riotous musical frenzy.
Furthermore, there is humour aplenty and the good news is that all of it works. The best of it hilarious, whether the wonderfully chaotic slapstick or the dry humour from the lion conductor. Similarly, the energy is constant and when it is intended to be frenzied it is the personification of exuberance. The characters are a lot of fun and have colourful personalities, the most memorable being the lion conductor, slyly voiced by David Ross.
Overall, great. 9/10
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