December 28, 2004

Stocking stumpers

Generally the gifts that Rose and I exchange for the holidays include a few novelty items acquired at thrift and/or dollar stores. This year I bought a few cheapo DVDs: Master With Cracked Fingers (a very early, I-can-only-assume-very-bad Jackie Chan movie), Hi De Ho (a Cab Calloway movie which runs out of plot halfway through and turns into a Cab Calloway concert -- how can that be bad?), and one featuring two cartoons: Ilya and The War Between Mushrooms and Peas. Guess which one made me feel compelled to buy the DVD.

It was quite a show. The cartoon was old and foreign, and had been dubbed extra-poorly into English. See, there were these peas. And then there were these mushrooms. And the mushroom king's daughter (a white mushroom named Whitey) loved a commoner (a brown mushroom named Brownie). The king couldn't allow the princess to marry a commoner, so he decreed that the worthiest person in the kingdom would have her hand. Three main suitors appeared: a pretty one (voiced rather obviously by a woman), a smart one (or at least a talky one), and a rich one. Obviously subpar choices all. Somehow or other the king of the peas got it into his head to get in on this action, so he marched right over to the mushroom kingdom and demanded to marry the princess, or he would wage war on the mushrooms. Of course the mushroom king refused, so the pea king took on all the other suitors, defeating them all handily -- by, respectively, giving the pretty one a bad haircut, causing him to die of embarrassment; out-talking the "smart" one, intimidating him into walking backward over a cliff; and just shooting holes into the rich one's house until it exploded, ignoring his frequent offers of money to please go away and leave him alone.

Somewhere in all that, the naive Li'l Abner-type brown mushroom exclaims to the audience, "I love Whitey!", a phrase rarely uttered in American cinema. He is also shown to be a good samaritan, pouring water on the heads of undernourished mushrooms so they can grow.

I expect you can guess where this is headed. Brownie joins the peas in combat, and though things look like they're not going his way for a while, he defeats the peas and the king is so grateful blah blah blah. Eventually he and the princess emit spores and grow lots of little mushrooms together.

The package design was also memorable, referring to the cartoons as (and I am paraphrasing from memory here; I'll probably go back later to get this quote exactly) "timeless tales, many of which carry a moral message." I like the hedging there. Don't complain if your cartoon didn't have a moral message! We didn't guarantee they all would!

A director was credited before the cartoon, but given that the credits had that "font that comes with your video camera" look to them, I suspect that the name referred to someone involved in the redubbing process, and not the original cartoon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the director's last name was not given -- only a first name and last initial.

The most unfortunate thing is that the animation was really rather attractive. The character's movements were a little choppy, but the backgrounds had a great watercolor-y look. It was probably a pretty good cartoon before David J or Malcolm X or Sheila E or whatever the director's name was got his hands on it.

Posted by Francis at 11:25 AM