Oscar Movies: Gulliver’s Travels (1939)

The success of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs motivated Paramount to order the studio’s resident animation producer, Max Fleischer, to make a feature-length cartoon.  Fleischer and his brother Dave Fleischer decided to adapt Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Only the first part of Swift’s novel, taking place in the miniature lands of Lilliput and Blefuscu, was used in the film.

Unfortunately, the original plot, a satire of warfare stemming from an argument over which end of an egg to crack, was not used, instead emphasizing the slight love story.

Shipwrecked by a storm at sea, normal-sized Lemuel Gulliver washes up on the shore of Lilliput, where the citizens are the size of his thumb. Discovered by town crier Gabby, Gulliver is roped to the ground by the Lilliputians, only to escape. While longing to head homeward to England, Gulliver becomes involved in a feud between Lilliput’s King Little and Blefuscu’s King Bombo.

On the eve of the wedding between Little’s son Prince David and Bombo’s daughter Princess Glory, the two monarchs have a falling out over which national anthem will be played at the ceremony. After a series of misunderstandings and intrigues, Snoop and Snitch-Gulliver solves the problem by suggesting that both anthems be played together.

Lacking the emotional pull of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and quality of Disney’s animation, Gulliver’s Travels relies on the slapstick antics of Gabby, the three spies, and carrier pigeon Twinkletoes, characters would be spun off into cartoon series of their own.

The songs include “All’s Well” and “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day.” Singers Sam Parker, Lanny Ross and Jessica Dragonette are heard as Gulliver, David and Glory, while Jack Mercer and Pinto Colvig play the comic roles.


Oscar Nominations: 2

Song: Faithful Forever, music by Ralph Rainger, lyrics by Leo Robin


Original Score: Victor Young

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Wizard of Oz won the Song (“Over the Rainbow”) and the Original Score (Herbert Sothart)


Running time: 74 minutes.

Directed by Dave Fleischer and Willard Bowsky

Written by Dan Gordon