Take a Drink: whenever the bird talks shit
Take a Drink: whenever something speeds up comically
Take a Drink: for shooting
Take a Drink: for near-sightedness
Take a Drink: for any visual, architectural, or film references you spot
Do a Shot: for some Hunger Games Capitol-level fashion
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Like all genres, the history of animated films has several tantalizing lost and uncompleted projects. Legendary perfectionist Yuriy Norshteyn has been working on his The Overcoat for over 30 years, and doesn’t look like he’ll be finishing anytime soon. Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler has had an even more tortured history, and the elements that Aladdin cribbed/paid homage to are probably going to be as close as we’ll ever get to seeing it.
Providing hope, though, is The King and the Mockingbird, the landmark Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata-inspiring French animated film begun in 1948, fought over, restored to director Paul Giraud, and completed by 1980, but due to a tangle of rights issues not released in the U.S. until, well, now. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, the paintings of a shepherdess and a chimney sweep come to life, fall in love, and try to avoid the interest of the vitalized painting of a dictatorial king, aided by a trouble-making mockingbird.
It’s easy to see how this film proved influential to so many animation monsters. Its dizzying, classical and dystopian-melding design of the setting of the story is idiosyncratic, beautiful, and even incredible. There’s elements of steampunk, painting running the gamut of Da Vinci to contemporary surrealists like Magritte and de Chirico, European architecture from across the continent, and even classic film, particularly Metropolis and Modern Times. It’s a visual feast.
There’s even a bit of a burgeoning 50s and 60s counterculture vibe, from the caricatured look of the kind and his flunkies to the plot, rife with little bits of social satire of the rich and the ruling class. Particularly in the second half, when the tables turn on the kind and the plot starts to go haywire with a giant robot, a zoo menagerie army, and an underground city of subjects who are literally being pushed underground by the wearing opulence of the royal palace. The film finishes on a nice final image of fight the power symbolism.
Just don’t think too hard about whatever the allegory of the final act is supposed to be. Fight the power until all that is left of both of your homes is a smoldering wreckage? Don’t do that, because that’s obviously a terrible result?
Now we’re free!… to starve to death in the desert.
The bird is a rather annoying blowhard, and clearly related in some cousin-y way with those crows from Dumbo, although he has his moments. The animation isn’t the smoothest, either, which generally works for rather than against the film’s charm, but does occasionally provide an image of unintentional horror (watch that puppy’s eyes!) Speaking of that, the king’s face clearly was designed in the midst of a bad jazz cigarette stupor.
The King and the Mockingbird is a gorgeously rendered, highly influential classic of animation that any fan of the genre should seek out immediately.