Van Beuren cartoons are extremely variable, especially in the number of gags and whether the absurdist humour shines through enough (sometimes it does, other times it doesn't), but are strangely interesting. Although they are often poorly animated with barely existent stories and less than compelling lead characters, they are also often outstandingly scored, there can be some fun support characters and some are well-timed and amusing.
The previous 1932 Aesop's Fables/Van Beuren cartoons were generally not bad at all, apart from the lacklustre 'The Cat's Canary'. 'Happy Polo' is by no means not one of the best of the 1932 batch or the best Aesop's Fables cartoons, but it's far from being one of the worst. It's mildly entertaining in an odd sort of way, having said that calling it strange is being kind.
Its best asset, as is the case for pretty much all of Van Beuren cartoons, is the music score. It is typically peppy and great fun to listen to. It is so beautifully and cleverly orchestrated and full of lively energy, doing so well with enhancing the action.
The gags also deliver enough. There's a lot of them and they're amusing and decently timed, not imaginatively absurdist but not bland or too sweet either. The characters and pace are lively mostly and there is a lot of energy and action. Some synchronisation is neat.
Against all this, 'Happy Polo' also feels rather hectic. This is apparent in the visuals, where the visuals tends to not match and be at odds with the audio, the non-stop relentlessness (a lot of fun at first but then got uncomfortably dizzying and confused) of the pace and the story which makes very little sense to the point of near-incoherence. If the cartoon was two or three minutes longer it would helped make things feel less choppy.
While it is laudable for 'Happy Polo' to include some kind of story with the girlfriend and villainous cat, it was very formulaic and predictable the moment it was introduced and actually it served very little point in the cartoon. As to be expected (seeing as it's rarely been a strong suit even in their best efforts), the animation is far from great, or even good. Most of the time 'Happy Polo' has erratically sloppy character designs in particular and there is a lack of fluidity and crispness. Credit is due though, Van Beuren showed here and in previous 1932 cartoons in the Aesop's Fables series that they were becoming more ambitious with their backgrounds.
Overall, watchable and oddly entertaining for a one-time watch but too uneven and strange for repeat viewings. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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