This was the first American animated feature from a studio other than Disney and only the second overall, the first being Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
After viewing it, Walt Disney reportedly said, "We can do better than that with our second-string animators."
This was the first animated film in which any actor's voice is credited. Disney did not give screen credit to any of the actors who voiced the characters in their animated films.
The character of Gulliver was "rotoscoped"--a method devised by the Fleischers where the drawing was achieved by tracing over the movements of a live actor.
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To produce this feature film, the Fleischer studio had to nearly triple in size, from about 200 artists to nearly 700. Max Fleischer had a 32,000-sq.-ft. plant built in Miami (FL) to accommodate the new personnel, as well as to take advantage of that city's tax exemptions on film studios. The fact that unionization had not taken hold in Florida was also a consideration, as there had been a long struggle to organize the Fleischer animators, culminating in a strike in 1937.
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An early plan was to have the role of Gulliver written for Popeye.
The world premiere of this film was on November 18, 1939, at the Sheridan Theater in Miami Beach, FL, because the Max Fleischer Studio was in Miami. The New York City trade-showing premiere was two days later, and the national release date followed that by two days.
Writer Cal Howard served as the live-action model for Prince David. He recalled that he had to have padding on his legs because they were so skinny.
Apparently the copyright on this film was not renewed and it thereby fell into public domain. As a result, countless VHS and DVD dealers added it to their inventories, usually offering vastly inferior copies because they do not have access to the original negative or surviving archival prints.
Even though the film was a box-office success, it never managed to recover its enormous cost, which went nearly $500,000 over budget due to the relocation of the Fleischer studios, transportation of film for processing and the cost of training new artists.
The town crier Gabby subsequently appeared in a series of eight short films from 1940 to 1941.
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The song "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" was used extensively in the scores of subsequent cartoons by Famous Studios, Fleischer Studio's successor.
One of the main points in the film is the war between Lilliput and Blefuscu over which national song, Lilliput's "Faithful" or Blefuscu's "Forever", would be sung at the royal wedding. In the end both are sung together. The composers worked for several months trying to blend the songs into "Faithful Forever" but were never completely successful.
The development of the film began in the spring of 1938 and it had to be ready for a December 1939 release, which meant that it had to be produced on a timetable that was one-third of that of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which took 3-1/2 years to complete. Additionally, the film had to be made at a budget of $700,000, which was almost half of that of "Snow White".
The film was released in December 1939. Rival producer Walt Disney was reportedly dismissive of its quality, but he pushed back the release of his own animated feature Pinocchio (1940) by three months (to late February 1940) to avoid direct competition with "Gulliver".
All of Prince David and Princess Glory's dialogue is sung except for a single spoken line each near the end.
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After being shipwrecked on the shores of Lilliput, Gulliver does not awaken until 38 minutes into the 76 minute film.
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The film takes place in 1699.
This film was originally released in 1939. It was such a success that it continued to have theatrical bookings into the 1960s. In the later years, the bookings tended to be part of double features or for special kiddie matinees.
In the Spanish version titled "Gulliver en el país de los enanos", the songs were sung by the husband and wife team formed by Mercedes Ruffino (as Princess Glory) and Ignacio Ruffino (as Prince David). In later years, the Ruffinos reinvented themselves by adding to the act daughterJulie and son Carlos becoming the highly successful Cuarteto Ruffino.
When the studio moved to their new animation facilities in Florida for this film, it would affect their later short subjects. When the studio was located in New York, their short subjects, especially the Popeye cartoons, had an urban feel, or "New York edge." The cartoons would be set in metropolitan areas in tenements, ghettos, barrooms, and docks. After the move to Florida, the locales became more picturesque with individual houses with white picket fences.
Due to the mass overtime the Fleischer staff put in to complete this movie, many of the animators drew cartoons that reflected the strain they were under. One showed the entire staff behind the walls of an insane asylum, singing "We're all-l-l-l together now!"
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