Apart from the Disney short film Gulliver Mickey (1934) wherein Mickey Mouse played the role of Gulliver, this was the first English language film adaptation of Jonathan Swifts classic novel Gulliver's Travels (1726). It had earlier been adapted by Segundo de Chomon in 1903 and there was a Soviet version in 1935, but both of these appear to be lost. Originally, Jonathan Swift wrote the novel as a biting social satire. These days the book is rarely regarded as an adult satire but rather is read as a childrens story. Everybody knows it in terms of the first two books the journey into the Lands of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. Few people have even heard of the Floating Island of Laputa and the Land of the Houyhnhnms, which constitute the third and fourth books. This film marks the point around which the change from satire to childrens story began in fact, this version never take the story any further than Lilliput. Jonathan Swifts satire has been replaced by the cute. The film is designed in the shadow of Snow White it comes filled with cuddly, rounded anthropomorphic figures and cute animals cooing over one another. Noticeable about this version is that it is less a story about a man finding himself in a land of little people than it is a story about a land of little people finding a giant on their beach. The story is told mostly from the Lilliputians perspective, not Gullivers. In every other film, Gulliver wakes up to find himself tied down on the beach within the first five minutes; here it takes half the film before Gulliver even wakes up. And once awake, Gulliver is a stolid figure.
What makes this version however is the level of its visual invention. The devices used to imprison Gulliver are delightful arrows with ropes attached fired to pin him down, his knees being tapped with hammers to get them into position, and later his shoes being polished by people on stilts and he being shaved with a scythe. The film is filled with wonderfully charming images the king dancing with Gullivers two fingers, Gulliver tucking the tablecloth over several revellers passed-out at the banquet table as though it were a bedspread. The Fleischers have a great deal of fun coming up with such touches and the film becomes positively ingenious in their visuals at times.
Other versions of Gulliver's Travels are: George Meliess Gullivers Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants (1902); Segundo de Chomons Gulliver in the Land of the Giants (1903); a Russian version The New Gulliver (1934); The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960) from cult stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen; a Japanese anime version Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon (1965); a live-action Czech version in 1970; a live-action Hungarian version for tv in 1974: Gullivers Travels (1977), a partially animated Belgian version starring Richard Harris; Gulliver in Lilliput (1982), a four-part BBC tv version; The Voyages of Gulliver (1983), an animated Spanish version; an American animated tv series Gulliver's Travels (1992); Gulliver's Travels (1995), a tv mini-series starring Ted Danson, the finest and most faithful of the adaptations and the only one to cover the entire book; and the modernised film version Gullivers Travels (2010) starring Jack Black, which plays the story as a comedy.
Full film available online here:-