Coming to An End and Facing a Mountain of Riffs

I think the true reason I put off watching the second half of Heidi was the looming sadness that would await me at the series' end. It's a magnificent series, as I've said a thousand times. That's a large part of the problem, really. I went through a serious period of withdrawl after reaching the end of both 3000 Leagues and Anne of Green Gables, and I know that the burning feeling in the center of my being - what Maude Montgomery called the "terrible, dull ache." I'm not looking forward to that.

The other reason is one I think I've mentioned back when I bought the Heidi box set. This is the final major work in my Takahata/Miyazaki collection. I've got everything in their careers from Horus, Prince of the Sun. The only exception is Toei's 1971 movie Ali Baba and the 40 Theives, which was the studio's last great work, released just after Animal Treasure Island. That's another one of Miyazaki's children, another wacky comedy classic that pays heavy homage to Puss in Boots. That's the last one.

So I'm down to the final six episodes of Heidi, building towards the final, magnificent climax when - I hope I'm not spoiling it for anyone who hasn't read Johanna Spiri's book - Clara's legs are restored to her and she stands on her own feet for the first time. That's a guaranteed tear-breaking moment if there ever was one. And then, that's it. The totality of Isao Takahata's directoral career since Horus. I've seen it all.

Whatever. All things must pass.

One great discovery, of course, is finding all those cool riffs throughout the Heidi series. It's really amazing to me just how many moments, movements, and camera shots have been riffed in Miyazaki and Takahata's later work. It's gotten to the point where I have to keep track in a notebook - my handy Riff Log.

As soon as I get connected with my computer again, I'll have to really catch up with the Miyazaki and Takahata Riffs. I really enjoy doing those, since they're so informative and, well...ahem, they help pad out this blog. Ahem.

I started seriously writing everything down since episode 30, and the appearance of riffs is striking. It's almost one per episode; I think one episode has two or three of them crammed in together. There are "aha!" moments that later appear in Future Boy Conan, Nausicaa, Laputa, Mononoke, yadda yadda. Those are just Miyazaki's riffs; Takahata also quoted the show a number of times.

Clearly, the masterminds behind Heidi look upon the series as one of their crowning achievements. It was the result of many years of hard work, built upon little innovations and ideas tried out in several productions, including a few projects that fell through. Pippi Longstockings is the most infamous example. So, in that sense, I suppose, Heidi is just like Horus. Only this time, Takahata was rewarded. He was vindicated. This was the payback against all the criticism and grief from battling the Toei studio over Horus, losing the director's chair, taking supporting roles in Lupin III and Panda Kopanda.

Heidi was immediately an enormous success, giving birth to the anime boom of the 1970's, just as Horus had given birth to modern anime itself. It's beloved by generations of fans the world over - everywhere, of course, except here in America. Oh, how I wish this series could be picked up for broadcast on television and DVD. Am I wrong to think PBS would be the perfect network for this show? Could children and adults tune in once or twice a week for an anime show from 1974? Would they be willing to put in the patience?

I don't think this series, or any of the WMT for that matter, would succeed in the States if it were simply dropped on store shelves on DVD box sets. Even a successful American soundtrack and marketing push wouldn't work. The audience is out there, but they won't take the bite until they've been properly hooked. They need to see it on television, and have that shared experience together, as families. Remember when TV was like that? Seems like an eternity ago.

Cartoon Network is an obvious candidate, but they seem to specialize in the kind of action-oriented, comic book anime shows that appeal to the teenage anime crowd. They're not going to be very interested in a literary drama set in 19th-Century Europe. That's just gonna happen. They want their bloody robot battles and naked chicks. That's why I'm thinking public television would be a better alternative. It has the right aura of respectibility. You expect a higher standard than cynical toy commercials or epileptic fights.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts on the matter. I think if we had the right cast, and we went after it in the right way, we could make Heidi succeed. I really think this would work. Who's with me on this?

Which reminds me, we need to get the exposure out. If anyone connected to the animation industry wants me to send them a copy of entire Heidi series, send me an email and let me know. I'll be glad to wear out my DVD burner. Also, if you know anybody who'd be interested, pass along their names and I'll take care of the rest.

Like, oh, I dunno, if you have Spielberg's address. Or Brad Bird. Heck, just get the word out to everyone at Pixar.


Anonymous said...

Hi, is there a Heidi DVD boxset with english subs that's available to purchase? Only DVDs I know of is an edited 3 disc set from Hong Kong, and the Taiwanese box set without eng subs. I'd love to see the whole series.

Chris Sobieniak said...

I personally wish PBS would show stuff like that here. If only they were more like a government-owned and and subsidized operation, they could do more than the usual "eduational" crap we associated a public broadcaster as (not every country's public TV network's the same).

J.R.D.S. said...

Unless they can find some way of shoehorning at least one each of a middle eastern, Latin American, Chinese and Negroid character into Hedi - it's just not gonna happen. All children's TV can do now is either to create new series or remake older ones in a PC way - Postman Pat being a perfect example.

And by the day - don't you just it intolerably hypocritical that in all these new "politically correct" programmes, the lead characters are still almost always a white European family. It's basically telling these kids, "Yes, you exist, but your race will always be trapped on the sidelines and will never make any real difference, because the achievements that white people make will always far outweigh your own." These people need several good slaps to the face. And to read Conversations on Ghibli, of course.

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