Tag Archives: animation

A Toonerville Trolley Special Delivery

In honor of the unexpected snow day, and to mourn the death of the stupid daffodils, here’s an episode of Toonerville Trolley that I just had to share.   I need me a laughin’ place right about now, and Toonerville has always been that place.

Maybe tomorrow she will shout, “You no worry!  Katrinka fix!” just for me.

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Allegro Non Troppo

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Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain from Disney’s Fantasia

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The old faun

In musical terms, Allegro Non Troppo means fast tempo, but not too fast.  So, I recently discovered that Allegro Non Troppo is one of many rare and obscure old movies which I am passionate about that can be found in its entirety on YouTube.  I will include the YouTube link at the end of this post, and I sincerely recommend that if you have never seen this movie, you watch the whole thing at least once.  No matter how many cringes or winces or blushes it causes, this is a movie of many bizarre parts that you really need to take in as a whole.  It ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime, the atrociously ugly to the lyrically beautiful, from the brilliant classical score being played by a mistreated band of old ladies with orchestral instruments to a gorilla running amok,   from Debussy to Ravel, from an artist released from his cage to single-handedly draw the animation, to a satire rich with baudy humor making fun of no less a work of animation than Prisney’s… I mean Disney’s Fantasia.  The dark elements are there.  The light-hearted, lilting comedy is there.  The fairy tale delicacy and technicolor dreaming is all there.

And why should this be important to me?  Especially now that I am retired from a long and fruitful teaching career?  Well, I have history with this movie.  I saw it first in college.  I was an English major, but I took every film as literature class I could fit into my silly schedule.  As an undergrad, I was determined to be a cartoonist for a career.  I took classes seriously and aced most of them, but I was at college to intellectually play around.  I didn’t take the prescribed courses to be an English teacher.  That had to wait for the more responsible me to come along in grad school for that.  I saw both Fantasia and Allegro Non Troppo during one of the play-time years.  Much as the old satyr in Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, I was enamored with sensory experience.  I took my first girlfriend to see Disney’s Fantasia, and she later turned down the opportunity to see Allegro Non Troppo with me.   Good sense on her part, but the beginning of the end of our relationship.155154089_640  Just as Fantasia has the part in it where Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring describes evolution from the beginning of the Earth to the end of the dinosaurs, Allegro Non Troppo uses Ravel’s Bolero to describe the evolution of life on a weird planet from germs in a discarded Coke bottle to the inevitable coming of the malevolent monkey who is ultimately us.  And, of course, the satire would not be complete without some off-set for Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Allegro-Non-Troppo As near as I can figure it out, the apprentice, played by Mickey Mouse, becomes the snake from the Garden of Eden in Allegro Non Troppo.  When the snake is unable to get Adam and Eve to eat the apple, he makes the mistake of eating the apple himself.  He learns the hard way that, no matter how clever, even diabolically clever, you think you are, you are not really in control of anything in life.  Every would-be wizard in the world has to understand that he is powerless without hard experience.  And what a boring world full of naked people this would be if there were never any apprentices in it foolish enough to actually become wizards. 200_s  Of coufantasia_august2012_blogpromorse, I haven’t really talked about the most heart-twisting part of Allegro Non Troppo… the sad cat wandering the ruins of his former home, or the most laugh-aloud part with the super-tidy little lady-bee trying to eat a blossom, but being interrupted by a couple of picnickers.

allegronontroppo2 03  But the thing is, this movie is a timely subject for me.  Not only did I, just yesterday, rediscover it, but it still has the same meaning for me now as it did when I first saw it.  Then I was an aspiring young artist who loved this movie because it approached ideas non-consecutively, just as I approached my learning years… rambling here and there, finding first a bitter-sweet something, and then a sad beauty behind everything in life.  And it is where I am again now, in a poor-health enforced retirement… divorced from teacher’s schedules and time itself.  Able to do as I please, and aspiring once again to commit great acts of art.

allegro_cat images (1)

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Ralph Bakshi

I was a Disney kid.  I grew up with Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio,  and Jungle Book.  But then I grew up and went to college and all my Disney dreams were dashed.  The world is not Disneyland.  The world holds many wicked wonders, some beautiful, some dangerous, some downright deadly.  In 1977 I saw a movie that changed my world   That movie was Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.  I saw it in the college-town theater in Ames, Iowa.  I scraped up enough money to see it three times in the week that it played there.  It was the Fall Semester after having read the entire Lord of The Rings Trilogy a year ago that summer.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then here it is from YouTube.  You should take a look, if not watch it all;

Ralph Bakshi is the chief artist/animator behind some of the raunchiest, weirdest, and wildest cartoons of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.   You may have seen some of his work.

1425578_374356942699292_1586842201_n  Fritz the Cat was groundbreaking in that it was actually an X-rated cartoon, something that a Disney kid could never have imagined until he had his goofy little cartoon brain got corrupted by the colorful collage of experience you get as a farm-boy in college.  I never actually saw such a profane perversion of what a cartoon was supposed to be until they had a special free showing at the student union.  I went with a couple of guys from the dorm house and was flabberghasted that we could watch such a thing and not be in jail the following day.  I would’ve gone back a second time, but free student union movies only occurred one time a month and were never replayed again, ever.1397150_365752950226358_1015440499_o

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And then came The Lord of the Rings.  Bakshi was the first one to create a film version of the novels they said could never be filmed.  It appeared in the theaters in college town and I was forced to see it five times in the two weeks it stayed in the theater.  I never loved anything so much in animation before.  It was better even than Pinocchio.  I would in later years be devastated by the fact that the movie only covered one and a half of the three books.  The rest of the story never got made.

After college there were other black-magical Bakshi films.  I would later get to see Fire and Ice, American Pop, and Cool World.  Ralph Bakshi, and one of his lead cartoonists, Mike Ploog,  would rock my world until he finally stopped making animated films.  I have actually seen all of his films now, and have copies of most of them.

1381458_364600730341580_717903061_n This is a scene from the history of music cartoon, American Pop.

Here’s another scene from that movie.1376511_362962520505401_512024308_nHe called it a “moving painting in honor of American music.”

1426702_371578419643811_1630501743_nCool World was a combination of live action and cartoons that was loosely modeled on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  It was a foofy story that made a half-decent excuse for wonderful artwork.
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Fire and Ice was Dungeons and Dragons and Boris Vellejo brought to life.

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Let me end with a couple of connections to Ralph and Mike that you should check out.  Their artistry has a profound effect.

http://www.facebook.com/RalphBakshi    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-Ploog/103982309772668

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Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, humor