The Smurfs: “The Trojan Smurf” (1984)

14 min.

Season 4, Episode 9 (1st half)

Gargamel fashions a giant wooden Papa Smurf statue that he intends to hide inside. He plans to have the Smurfs to find the statue and take it back to their village as a gift honoring their leader. Brainy falls for the ruse, but the Smurfs end up encountering many challenges in moving the statue to the village. After bouncing against sharp rocks and rolling down a hill, the statue falls into a river, where it is found by Bigmouth who adopts it as a toy doll. The Smurfs are able to retrieve it and present it to Papa Smurf, who expresses his suspicions about it. Gargamel and Azrael then jump out and try to grab some Smurfs, but they manage to push the villains back into the statue, tie a rope around it and abandon it in the forest, where Bigmouth finds and adopts it yet again.

More: https://smurfs.fandom.com/wiki/The_Trojan_Smurf

Prometheus (1992)

2 min; directed by Marcell Jankovics, produced by Pannónia Filmstúdió, Hungary

This very short hand-drawn film depicts the Titan Prometheus as he struggles through time and space to bring fire to earth. He starts off young and full of vigor, accompanied by triumphant music, but by the end both he and the flame have aged. Will he succeed in his quest? The ending leaves it an open question.

The film recalls Jankovics’ earlier work, 1974’s ‘Sisyphus,’ which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Prometheus was a particularly potent figure in Soviet and Eastern Bloc art and culture — “Prometheus” was a popular name for bookstores in the USSR. He was characterized as a hero who fought against the gods in order to help mortals, who valued humanity more than himself, and who was tortured and suffered for his good deeds. The fire he brought to Earth was usually interpreted as the fire of knowledge and he was understood as fighting for equal rights for all, like a believer who longs for the coming of world communism (see also the animated films ‘Prometheus’ (1974) and ‘The Return from Olympus’ (1969) by Alexandra Snezkho-Blotskaya). Prometheus also taught people skills–for example, how to work with stone–and because of this he was viewed as an advocate for the working classes.

And yet, as a figure of revolt or resistance, he was also embraced by those who opposed the communist regime: for example, Prometheus was the name of a Russian underground avant-garde video art collective from the 1970s, while Prometheism was an important social movement in the early 20th c. that supported nationalist independence movements among non-Russian peoples living within Russian borders, which was crushed by Stalin’s purges. This duality made him a potent symbol as he could both uphold or destabilize dominant communist values.

More:

https://www.calvertjournal.com/features/show/11866/son-of-the-white-mare-restoration-marcell-jankovics-politics-folklore

Woody Woodpecker: “Roamin’ Roman” (1964)

6 min.; 138th animated short in the Woody Woodpecker series.

Directed by Paul J. Smith; produced by Walter Lantz Productions and distributed by Universal International.

(Note: video is dubbed into French)

In this short, Woody upsets the emperor Nero by interrupting his fiddle-playing, but then Nero is inspired to play the Woody Woodpecker theme song. Woody then antagonizes Nero by smashing his fiddle, so a guard and a lion are ordered to do away with the pesky bird. Of course, Woody finds many ways to outsmart the two and he ends up sitting on the throne and fiddling in Nero’s place, wearing laurels and a toga.

The Odyssey of the Puppets [La Odisea de los Muñecos] (1975)

55 min; Mexico; Spanish language with no subtitles

Director: Carlos G. Groppa / Solene Films

This film is the earliest animated depiction of the Odyssey that I have discovered thus far. It is an obscure, low-budget puppet version, which presents a loose recounting of the epic accompanied by psychedelic imagery and a swinging soundtrack.

Groppa was an Argentinian writer and filmmaker who emigrated to Mexico in 1971 where he participated in the production of the television series La Novela Semanal: Grandes Obras de la Literatura Universal de Canal 13, adapting classic novels in ten chapters, before moving on to work on La Odisea de los Muñecos between 1972 and 1974.

More: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_G._Groppa

The Grasshopper and the Ant [La Cicala e La Formica] (c. 1954-56)

6 min; Italian, no subtitles

This short animated film is preserved in the historic archives of the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo. This interpretation of Aesop’s classic fable was produced by the Association of Italian Savings Banks (Associazione fra le Casse di Risparmio Italiane) and served as a kind of “public service announcement” to promote the idea of saving and budgeting to the Italian people.

In this modernized re-telling, the anthropomorphized insects work industrialized agricultural jobs and sell their goods at market, then deposit their earnings in the bank. Meanwhile, the grasshopper parties at a nightclub. In the end he is unable to buy Christmas gifts for his family and is left out in the cold.

The Grasshopper and the Ant [Стрекоза и муравей] (1913)

Directed by Ladislas Starewitch, 5 min.

Sometimes also called “Dragonfly and Ant”; sometimes dated to 1911

Starewitch was a Polish-Lithuanian stop-motion animator who is known for being the creator of the first puppet-animated film in 1910. He used dead insects that were modified with wax and string.

The Tsar Nicholas II presented Starewitch with an award for this film, which tells the traditional Aesopic fable of industry and indolence in a grim, realistic style.

He would go on to produce another puppet version of this fable in French, as “La Cigale et la Fourmi” in 1927, as a part of a series of six animated fables based on Fontaine’s work.

More: http://www.starewitch.fr/post/Filmographie

Triton of the Sea [海のトリトン] (1972)

27 episodes, based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka

directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino for TV Asahi

“Triton of the Sea” (originally titled “Blue Triton”) tells the heroic story of Triton, the sole survivor of the destruction of Atlantis five thousand years ago. The sea god Poseidon and his family destroyed both the island and Triton’s family because of a jealous rivalry between the two clans. Triton is rescued and raised by humans but he returns to the sea to avenge the murder of his family by killing the offspring of Poseidon. He does so with the help of his dolphin companions and he also marries the last surviving mermaid, Pipiko, with whom he has seven children, named after the colors of the rainbow. The saga of inter-familial strife between the two families plays out in a tragic manner, with both Triton and Poseidon dying in the end. The children of Triton and other merpeople are left to find a place to live far away from the humans who hunt them.

The plot has little to do with any traditional Greek mythological narrative associated with the sea gods Triton or Poseidon, but it is clearly inspired by mythical figures and the motifs of ancient heroic epic.

A feature length film, also titled Triton of the Sea, was produced as a sequel to the TV show in 1979.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triton_of_the_Sea

https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=1409

Sirens [Sirenen] (1983)

4 min.; dir. Klaus Georgi

This avant-garde short, produced by the East German state run studio, DEFA: Studio fur Trickfilme, takes an “eco-socialist” approach to the story of the Sirens, best known from Homer’s Odyssey. The lure of the Sirens’ song is shown growing less powerful as the centuries pass. Modern modes of transport befoul and ultimately overwhelm the dread creatures.

Free to Be You and Me: Atalanta (1974)

h/t Christopher McDonough

5 min. ; produced by Marlo Thomas and Free to Be Productions, in association with Teru Murakami-Fred Wolf Films, Inc. and cosponsored by the Ms. Foundation

A feminist retelling of the myth of Atalanta!

Emmy winner for Outstanding Children’s Special; Emmy nominee for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming; winner of the 1975 Peabody Award

From IMDB: “Based on the beloved children’s album that helped challenge gender stereotypes, this 1974 TV special brings a selection of songs from Marlo Thomas’s record and book to the small screen via live-action, puppetry and animation.”

More: http://freetobefoundation.com/

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