Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gulliver's Travels DVD Restoration

Pictures are stills captured from actual DVD

Max and Dave Fleischer began a remarkable two-year project in 1937 that would result in one of the finest full-length animated movies ever made, Gulliver’s Travels. Even by today’s standards (or perhaps that should be, especially by today’s standards) the magnitude of the project is almost overwhelming: about 600 artists and technicians employed for over two years who used twelve tons of paint and 39,000 pencils to produce some 115,000 composite scenes.

Gulliver’s Travels was an immediate success upon its 1939 release, receiving two Oscar nominations, and it remained a presence in theaters and television well into the 1950s. However, by the 1990s, the film did not seem to exist in decent condition anywhere and more than one generation of children missed experiencing it. Thankfully, the Fleisher family allowed its own 35mm source print to be used in the production of the remarkable new DVD just released by Koch Entertainment.

The new version of Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels is so crisp, and its colors so vivid, that it could have been made yesterday rather than seventy years ago. The original soundtrack has been restored even to the point that two new options, Dolby Digital and 5.1, are available. The only clue that this is a seventy-year-old movie comes from the look of the animation itself, a pre-computer style that makes the artistic achievement of the movie even more obvious than it probably was upon its 1939 release.

The seventy-seven minute film covers only that portion of Swift’s story in which Gulliver is shipwrecked and comes to shore in the kingdom of Lilliput, a land in which he is a giant among Lilliput’s little men and women. Gulliver arrives just in time to help the Lilliputians avoid all-out war with a neighboring kingdom and he becomes a much-admired hero, on both sides, for his efforts.

I watched Gulliver’s Travels with my seven-year-old grandson and found that he enjoyed the movie as much as he enjoys his more modern cartoon favorites. He particularly liked the scenes in which the night-guard first discovers the giant and struggles to get anyone to pay any attention to his alarm. He also had a few laugh-out-loud moments while the Lilliputian crew works hard to tie down the giant only to have him so easily undo all of their work in a few seconds.

Gulliver’s Travels holds up so well to modern eyes that it is easy to forget that the film was created seven decades ago. I highly recommend this one for book-loving parents looking for a painless way to expose their children or grandchildren to a literary classic.

Rated at: 5.0


  1. I remember seeing this movie somewhere when I was a kid. Could a teacher have shown it at school? I'd love to see it again.

  2. I saw it on television a couple of times as a kid, Bybee. It is different from a Disney cartoon flick of the period but, to me, that's part of the appeal.