Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Gulliver Movies

Various movies have been based on Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift. Some are of more interest than others, as reflected below. Most concentrate solely on the first or first two voyages.

1. The New Gulliver USSR Animated Movie (1933). Dir Alexandr Ptoushko, A Vanitchkin. Screenplay Ptoushko, B Roshal. 85 mins. B/w.

An obscure propaganda movie, made in stop-motion animation with puppets, in which Swift's Satire is bent to become an attack on capitalism. By all accounts, the movie is – despite such dire augurs – both charming and amusing. [JG]

2. Gulliver's Travels US Animated Movie (1939). Paramount. Pr Max Fleischer. Dir Dave Fleischer. Screenplay Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Ted Pierce, Edmond Seward, I Sparber. Voice actors Jessica Dragonette (Princess Glory singing), Lanny Ross (Prince David singing) – no other voices credited. Character model Sam Parker (Gulliver). 74 mins. Colour.

This was the Fleischer response to Disney's hugely successful Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and did moderately well. Today GT is largely forgotten, although many of its images – especially that of the giant Gulliver surrounded by minuscule Lilliputians, and the sequence in which he tows the Blefuscan fleet – are surprisingly familiar, through their frequent appearance as stills; while the song "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" has, thanks to being reprised frequently in Paramount animated shorts, the same quasi-traditional status as "Hi Ho". Although it enjoys a welter of often brilliant "business", it is singularly lacking in event, with perhaps its first three-quarters seeming to be Prelude.

What there is of the plot is drawn approximately from the first part of Swift's original, covering Gulliver's time in Lilliput. [JG]

3. The Three Worlds of Gulliver US/Spanish movie (1959, dated 1960). Columbia/Morningside. Pr Charles H Schneer. Dir Jack Sher. Spfx Ray Harryhausen. Screenplay Arthur Ross, Sher. Starring Sherri Alberoni (Glumdalclitch), Grégoire Aslan (King Brob), Mary Ellis (Queen of Brobdingnag), Kerwin Mathews (Gulliver), Jo Morrow (Elizabeth), Marian Spencer (Empress of Lilliput), Basil Sydney (Emperor of Lilliput), June Thorburn (Gwendolen). 97 mins. Colour.

The voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag (the "three worlds" are those two plus the mundane world), are in large part faithful to Swift's original although with the Satire homoeopathically diluted, and with the addition of romantic interest – Gulliver's fiancée Elizabeth stows away with him and, although missing Lilliput, is joined by and married to him in Brobdingnag. After escaping the wrath of the Brobdingnagian court – who, because confusing his science with Magic, wish to burn him as a Witch (cf A Connecticut Yankee) – Gulliver wakens with Elizabeth on an English seashore: they have experienced a shared Dream.

Harryhausen's spfx are generally good, even by today's standards, although the Monsters are jerky and unreal, and suffer from not being Dinosaurs: gargantuan squirrels lack frisson. Alberoni's Glumdalclitch, done with solemn charm, upstages everyone. [JG]

4. Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon (ot Garibah No Uchu Ryoko) Japanese Animated Movie (1966). Toei. Pr Hiroshi Okawa. Dir Yoshio Kuroda. Screenplay Shinichi Sekizawa. 78 mins. Colour.

A cheerful piece of work, having little to do with Swift's original. [JG]

5. Gulliver's Travels Belgian/UK live-action/Animated Movie (1976). EMI/Valeness-Belvision. Pr Derek Horne, Raymond Leblanc. Exec pr Josef Shaftel. Dir Peter Hunt. Screenplay Don Black. Starring Richard Harris (Gulliver). 81 mins. Colour.

Tedious musical version of Gulliver's first voyage, with the Lilliputians animated and their country and architecture crudely modelled. All teeth are pulled from the Satire, and all possible excitement and sense of fantasy are eliminated by the unambitiousness of the animation (some limited, and with some use of repeated sequencing) and screenplay. [JG]

6. Gulliver in Lilliput Austrian/UK/US movie (1981 tvm). Dir Barry Letts. Starring Andrew Burt, Jonathan Cecil, George Little, Linda Polan, Elisabeth Sladen. 105 mins. Colour.

Derived from a tv serial, and apparently good (we have been unable to obtain a viewing copy). Only the first voyage is treated. [JG]

7. Gulliver's Travels Part 2 (vt Land of the Giants: Gulliver's Travels Part 2) Spanish Animated Movie (1983). Estudios Cruz Delgado/Art Animation. Pr Druk Delgado. Dir Cruz Delgado. Screenplay Gustavo Alcalde, adapted into English by Karen Morgan. Voice actors (English version) Alexa Bates (Glundalitch), Nelson Modlin (Gulliver). 90 mins. Colour.

A sequel to 2. Found on the Brobdingnag shore by the fisherman father of Glundalitch (sic), the childlike Samuel (sic) Gulliver is sold to a Carnival and thence to the vain Prince Felina, whose fool, Bufo, he supplants. Glundalitch arrives to save him from Bufo's vengeance, and is adopted by Felina as Gulliver's companion. But Bufo sets Sylvester, the castle gorilla, on the little man and – after a Parody of King Kong atop a palace tower – Gulliver and Glundalitch flee back to her home. She sends him to safety with a pigeon as his carrier. The animation, though not top-flight, is appealingly vigorous. Interestingly, it is made explicit that Brobdingnag is in an Alternate World. [JG]

8. Gulliver's Travels US/UK movie (1995 tvm). Hallmark/Henson. Pr Duncan Kenworthy. Dir Charles Sturridge. Spfx Matthew Cope, Fiona Wallinshaw. Screenplay Simon Moore. Starring Ted Danson (Lemuel Gulliver), Warwick Davis (Grildrig the Dwarf), James Fox (Dr Bates), Kate Maberly (Glumdalclitch), Peter O'Toole (1932-2013) (Emperor of Lilliput), Omar Sharif (Sorcerer), Mary Steenbergen (Mary Gulliver), Thomas Sturridge (Tom Gulliver), Alfre Woodard (Queen of Brobdingnag). circa 180 mins. Colour.

This is the definitive version to date, and has the unique distinction of covering all five voyages, with brilliant intercutting between those adventures and the experiences of Gulliver on his return to England, an added subplot: Dr Bates, lusting for Gulliver's wife Mary, has Gulliver committed to an asylum, where his further descriptions of his travels succeed only in convincing the other doctors that he is indeed insane. Everything about this production is splendid, and Danson, best-known before as a comic actor, turns in an astonishingly good performance at the head of a highly distinguished, largely UK cast (even Sir John Gielgud has a bit part). The spfx are superb. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.