By Phil Hall | August 27, 2005

“Somewhere in Dreamland” presents a potpourri of animated shorts created by Max Fleischer during the years 1934 through 1941. A total of 33 cartoons are presented here, supposedly benefitting from “digital picture and sound restoration” (according to the DVD back cover), but more than a few of these cartoons look like they are from the original worn-out prints.

For those who’ve grown tired of watching the fifty-millionth rerun of “Tom and Jerry,” this collection will offer a nice treat into the rarely-seen world of the Fleischer funhouse. For those who only know Fleischer from the Popeye and Superman cartoons or the feature “Gulliver’s Travels,” this provides a rare chance to experience the full depth of his output. And many of the cartoons include Fleischer’s “Stereo-optical Process” which offers a three-dimensional effect which was unusual for the era.

But be warned: many of the cartoons here are less-than-memorable. “Somewhere in Dreamland” puts a heavy emphasis on fey antics by anthropomorphic animals engaged in cutesy song and light slapstick. Some of it can be delightfully weird, such as “Dancing on the Moon” where a spaceship takes a Noah’s Ark-worthy collection of animal duos up to the Sea of Tranquility for an evening’s worth of waltzing. But most if it aims for the “isn’t it adorable?” reaction with bunnies, penguins and other huggable creatures (plus an orphanage full of chubby-cheeked cherubs) acting too sweet for words.

Some highlights: the rare color Betty Boop cartoon “Poor Cinderella” (she has red hair, too!) and two Oscar-nominated shorts (“Educated Fish” and “Hunky and Spunky”). But mostly, this is best for rapacious animation addicts in search of rarities. The casual cartoon lover may be disappointed.

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