Of Course You Can Kill a Dead Horse

Michael Sporn has been writing a bit about the recent animated hit Happy Feet, which, like most of the recent American animated features, has drawn a degree of criticism and controversy from the animation community. Today, he tries to think of memorable dance numbers from animated films. There are, of course, the usual suspects, like Disney's Beauty and the Beast, but Michael Sporn also mentions the dance number during the closing credits of Chicken Little. I haven't seen that picture, but I'd have to say that's an interesting choice.

I have to admit, as if you haven't already guessed by now, that I'm not a fan of most American animation. I really dislike all the endless song-and-dance numbers that seem mandatory for every cartoon, and are nearly always grating on my ears. No, sir, don't like 'em. That said, I'm a great fan of the classic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, and the Powell/Pressburger classic The Red Shoes. Now, kids, there is a dance movie that you need to have in your collection.

Now, this subject got me thinking. Song and dance numbers aren't something you see in the Takahata/Miyazaki canon, except for the early years at Toei Doga. That's something they and their peers were very keen to escape from. However, I can think of two brilliant moments that memorably stand out.

Here's one example from Anne of Green Gables, the 21st episode, titled "The New Minister's Wife." This is the part when Mr. and Mrs. Allen comes to Green Gables. When Anne Shirley and Dianne Berry meet them, the new couple are found dancing amongst the flowers and trees. It's a great romantic moment, and for Anne especially, since she has discovered a new soul mate. This is one of my favorite scenes from Anne, and illustrates why the series is so memorable. It's awash in romanticism.

Of course, one of the most iconic sequences from Anne is the ride through the apple orchard in episode 1. You'd have to be pretty harsh and cold not to consider this wonderful sequence a "dance" scene. And, once again, there's a heartfelt naturalism, a genuine honesty to these moments that simply do not exist in American animation. The corporatist pyramid scheme is far too interested in selling you junk and blowing out your eardrums to actually, well, entertain you properly.

That reminds me! I haven't shown any videos lately. I think I know just what to show...as long as YouTube hadn't deleted it...let's cross our fingers...


Chris Sobieniak said...

Often that's the one problem American animation has had in that often people have shorthandedly insisted it's a "genre" than a medium due to the nature of said movies with these song/dance numbers and other formulas no doubt brought up through tride and true concepts.

Perhaps you outta get Michael Sporn to watch more of this stuff in case it'll change his perception a little bit over what was possible in the hands of Miyazaki and Takahata.

Pearce said...

I know this is belated and minor but Happy Feet was not American, it was Australian. The writers & directors were Aussies, it was produced by a Sydney animation studio, and though it did have some American stars the bulk of the voices were Australian.

jFan said...

Any chance we could have a link to that Michael Sporn article? I'm interested to hear thoughts from *cough*anonbiased*cough* his point of view.

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