Thursday, May 18, 2006

THE VALIANT TAILOR (1934)

Boy, do I need to find a tailor. Not to fit a suit for me or anything major, but just to sew a button back on to my shirt. Apparently, I purchased what I thought to be a pretty nice shirt at the outlet malls, and it appears that the reason it was in the outlet malls was that they seemingly sewed its buttons on with candyfloss. Actually, what happened was the result of a desperation to keep from getting soaked one morning in a bright and early deluge of rain. When the water starting pouring from the sky as I wended my way to the bus stop, I made a move towards zipping my light jacket up to keep my nice new shirt fit and dry for the workday. Unfortunately for the shirt, in my haste, the button got caught and was snapped clean off the shirt, whereupon it went flying into the grass. With little time to look for the button, and the rain's pace picking up drastically, I simply abandoned the button to a new life in the wilds of the short grass, and went to work.

It would be easy enough to learn how to handsew, at least enough to affix a button back onto my shirt (which is pretty swell-looking, so I'd hate to turn it into just a house shirt). At one point in my life, I knew how to sew with a machine, but I have none at my disposal, and really, we are talking a simple button here. I should learn how to do it myself. I have an emergency sewing kit in our tool drawer with black thread and all that I need to complete the job, and I figure that a few instructions off ask.com would probably get me far enough. But, I am too busy learning other things like, well, everything, and sewing is not high on my priority list. Besides, there are plenty of businesses out there who would gladly take my minute little job on: it would only cost a pittance, and a far more secure finish would be virtually guaranteed. Plus, I can barely tie a knot in my shoelaces. How am I supposed to get a button to stay?

I was thinking about hiring the Valiant Tailor. He seemed like a pretty decent sort, and so I checked out his resume, all of which can be found in a ComiColor cartoon released by Ub Iwerks in 1934 called, appropriately enough, The Valiant Tailor. Two problems that I noticed immediately with engaging his services:

1) To get to his shop, you have to travel to a fairy tale kingdom in which a rampaging red-haired giant plays havoc with the citizenry. He likes to chase the townsfolk and castle guards all about the place, and even goes so far as to slide across the ground on his stomach for a healthy distance, and then tear the bottom off the pants of the fleeing king. I'm having enough problems just keeping buttons on my shirt; why should I have to worry about a depantsing giant? This will weigh heavily in my decision.

2) There will most likely be a line at his shop, for apparently the king often has great need of the Valiant Tailor's craftsmanship. The tailor already has plenty to do before the king arrives, and I don't know if I want to wait in the queue that long.

3) When the king changes out of his pants behind a screen, he throws them over the top, and the tailor is more than happy to let the pants drop over his head so that he may try them on as a shirt. This bothers me simply because I am afraid that he will do the opposite in my case, and try my shirt on as a pair of pants. Ew...

4) While the tailor seems quite diligent in his tailoring duties, about half of his attention seems to be held by a large pot of honey sitting next to him on his worktable. Every few passes of his dexterous needle, and he is then dipping his finger or hand inside the honey pot. How he manages to not get his every client's clothes sticky and yellow I cannot imagine. After sucking the dripping honey off his finger, he never seems to wipe it off before continuing his work, so I can only believe that the citizens of the town have gotten used to having very sticky clothing.

5) He has an entire hive of bees living in the roof of his shoppe. I don't have a problem with bees, but Jen is allergic, and since she will most likely have to accompany me on this trip, I don't want to risk her health any more than it already has been due to her fractured toe. The toe itself is already enough for us to cancel any lengthy trip to a fairytale kingdom; the bees are only the door closer on the decision. Plus, they are rambunctious bees, who can't even attack a huge pot of honey without spilling it into the pants owned by the king. Don't want to deal with rambunctious bees.

6) His tailor shoppe is apparently open to smokers, which is another strike against for a visit. The king sits around smoking cigars while he waits for his now honey-and-bee-filled pants, and even goes so far to blow smoke rings over a lady mannequin big enough so they appear to be individual billowing sections of an underskirt. I am not one to yell about smokers, but I don't want to be waiting in a small tailor shoppe with poor circulation while a poncy monarch sits about sucking on stogies. Sometimes a cigar is just a... bad decision.

7) There is a good chance that the valiant tailor will not be in if we take the long trip to his shoppe. In this film, for example, after he hands the pants back to the king, the bees attack the king's rear so savagely that he drags his ass about the floorboards of the shoppe, and then busts through the front door. He orders the guards to arrest the tailor, but after the lot of them pounce on the scrawny little bespectacled goof, he slips out and runs away from his shoppe. I need to know that this guy is going to be in should I call with employment for him. My time is money.

8) This red-haired giant bothers me immensely. (Pun fully intended; why lie about it?) He is a bedevilment to all who reside in this town, and I don't know if I want to expose either myself or Jen to his assholery. When the king shoots across the town square with the bees both at and in his tail, he dives into a nearby lake to soothe his aching rear. The bees still in his pants float out in bubbles, and pop out individually until they are surrounding the king's head. But then the giant crawls over the mountainside and takes great delight in tormenting the king. I might be more forgiving of the giant's behavior if they had just shown why the giant dislikes the king so much. Like all in power, the king is 90 percent assured to be evil to a large degree, so I am sure he and his men have done something to the big lug. Instead, I can only attest to that which I have borne witness: the giant throws a huge boulder at the king to try and sink him, and then blows across the water, creating huge waves that literally take the form of hands and toss the king back and forth between them. After this, it is no surprise that the monarch sinks to the bottom of the lake.

9) The military is largely inefficent and the king is a poor strategist. These two items are actually plusses in most times, but if I am visiting this kingdom, I want at least a slim assurance that, as a tourist, I will be a little safe while staying there. When they are trying to arrest a Phil Silvers-looking schmendrick like the tailor, the guards are full on with their attack (even if they fail at even that task), but have the giant come running in, and they are running in the opposite direction. As for the king, he tries to employ a broken mirror embedded in the lake bottom as a catapult with which to launch a rock up at the giant. This rock, it should be mentioned, only succeeds in conking the king square on the noggin.

10) This giant has a pants fetish. It's bad enough we a rampaging glandular problem mucking about in the kingdom, he is also obsessed with tearing open the pants of all who cross his path, or, at the very least, only the pants of the king. I can tear my pants on my own (as I have done twice at work in the past month), I don't need a flame-headed drooling goliath doing it for me. In the latter part of the film, the giant breaks a branch from a tree where the valiant tailor is hiding (and therefore proving he has been less than valiant thus far), and then takes the stick and turns the lake into a huge whirlpool, stirring it faster and faster until the king is swept in circles by the current. The giant then pokes the king in the bottom with the branch and tears off a huge section of the monarch's rear guard.

11) This tailor is fairly unhygienic in his behavior. Earlier on, when he left the shop, he stuck his pot of honey underneath his shirt, and has been carrying it with him through the near-arrest, his fleeing to the tree, and his avoidance of the giant's grasp when the clod pulled the branch off the tree. Now, the tailor pulls it back out to dump it on the giant's head. I am fairly certain that the tailor meant to devour this honey, and this is disgusting. Not as sick as a guy pulling a potato chip crumb out of his belly button and eating it (an act which I have personally witnessed), but it is nasty, nonetheless. Imagine the germs floating about in his clothing from the honey he has been eating. I doubt the guy changes his clothes an awful lot (he is a poor tailor after all); so shoving one's comestibles underneath your clothes for a spell is not OK. Regardless of his intent, though, he does become valiant after all, and once he pours the honey onto the giant's head, the stuff rolls down until it is covering his whole head, neck and shoulders, and looks for all the world like a great golden beard. The rambunctious bees return to charge at the giant and drive him from the kingdom for good.

12) The tailor is greedy and hell on a tipper. When the king invites the tailor to his kingdom for a reward, the tailor imagines vast piles of gold coins, and then, taking his ego a little far, imagines the king moving his own crown onto the tailor's skull. Instead, he is disappointed when the king gives him a large golden needle. Well, screw you, Mr. Valiant Tailor! That needle is huge, and indeed, is made of gold, and the prestige alone of acquiring it from the king should be enough to bring great success to your little shoppe. Boy, I can't imagine the look I would get when I give him a by-all-standards more than decent tip for his tiny little service in sewing a single button on a shirt. Some people have no class...

And 13) The tailor is a crappy tailor, after all. Upon bestowing the needle on the tailor, the king motions for the tailor to sew up his pants. The tailor sits on the throne, and the king lies across his lap, and on every other stitch or so, the tailor give the king a royal pain in the ass by jabbing him full thrust in the rear. Adding this lack of delicacy to his previous honey-handed sewing crimes, I am just going to have to count the Valiant Tailor out for the job of sewing the button back on my shirt. He might be a very fine tailor overall, but the odds are weighed heavily against gaining my business.

As in most of the ComiColor shorts, the adventures are so bright and engaging colorwise, that you can almost forgive the storytelling shortcomings (and shortcuts). The principal appeal here lies in the breadth of the characterizations: the king, the tailor and the giant all leave indelible marks on the memory, and even though I might mock their actions within the film, the animation of these characters seems simply done but is marvelously accomplished. I especially enjoy the facial contortions of the giant as he stomps through the kingdom, and once he gets that head full of honey, his emotions go into overdrive underneath that bee-nectary mask. I also like the depth of vision in the backgrounds, and each set is sumptuously decorated with a great variety of "props", especially in the shoppe, where every shot reveals more and more the lived-in feeling of the tailor's abode.

An abode I quite clearly won't be visiting anytime soon. I am now thinking more and more about firing up the search function on Google and learning how to sew a button onto my shirt myself. Giants, bees, kings with pants-holes, honey-smeared tailors; fun to visit in a movie, but you wouldn't want to travel there.

The Valiant Tailor (An Ub Iwerks ComiColor Cartoon, 1934) Directors: Ub Iwerks & Shamus Culhane
Animators: Grim Natwick & Berny Wolf
Cel Bloc Rating: 7

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