Round the World in 80 Days (1955)

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    35mm, Technicolor, 17 mins
    Directors: Anthony Gross
    Hector Hoppin
    Production Company: H.G. Productions
    Sponsor: British Film Institute Experimental Film Fund
    Music: Tibor Harsanyi

    Cast: Donald Pleasence (voices)

    Phineas Fogg bets £50,000 that he can circumnavigate the globe in eighty days, and has an adventure in India.

    In the 1930s, animators Anthony Gross and Hector Hoppin were contracted to Alexander Korda's London Films, for which they made their best-known film Joie de Vivre (1934) and Fox Hunt (1936), the first British animated film in three-strip Technicolor.
    In 1938, after the worldwide success of Walt Disney's groundbreaking feature-length Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Gross and Hoppin began work on an ambitious adaptation of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days,
    but only two sequences were completed before war intervened and
    production shut down. In 1955, a grant from the BFI's Experimental Film
    Fund enabled the film to be, if not completed according to the original
    plans, at least put into releasable shape with a coherent structure and
    soundtrack (with Donald Pleasence providing all the voices).
    Without advance knowledge of the production history (though the film's full onscreen title, A Sequence From Round the World in 80 Days,
    provides a hint), the film seems distinctly lop-sided, paying
    inordinate attention to the start of the story (Phineas Fogg's hiring of
    his manservant Passepartout, the Reform Club wager that he can
    circumnavigate the globe in just eighty days) while rushing through the
    rest - but the Indian sequence at least hints at the extent of Gross and
    Hoppin's ambition.
    Although clearly under-resourced compared with
    Disney's features, the film has a highly distinctive graphic style
    (sinuous figures with elongated heads) and a great deal of imaginative
    energy, particularly in the Indian scenes (the film is also known as Indian Fantasy,
    reflecting their dominance). These incorporate a race against time to
    save a bride from immolation in her husband's funeral pyre (the flame
    effects are particularly well realised), a chase involving elephants,
    horses and a rickety wooden bridge, as well as more subtle effects such
    as the bride's diaphanous flowing purple veil. If the other planned
    sequences had been completed to a similar standard, there's every
    possibility that the film could have stood comparison with Max
    Fleischer's late 1930s Disney-challengers like Gulliver's Travels (US, 1939).

    Michael Brooke