Riffs - Horus, Prince of the Sun
I haven't done any "riffs" in a long while, so we're long overdue for some new examples. For those of you who are new to this blog, "riffs" are quick visual quotes of one film in another. Usually these are very short shots or cuts, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it event. Very often there's a direct connection, either with the animators or directors, or some thematic link. For example, a number of shots in Panda Kopanda are riffed in My Neighbor Totoro (here's one example).
It seems this tradition dates way back to the Toei Doga era. Here is one excellent example. The first screenshot is from Horus, Prince of the Sun, in 1968. This is the opening battle between Horus and the wolves. This dramatic shot shows one of the silver wolves stalking to the left side of the screen.
This is a riff on one of Toei Animation's most famous movies, the 1963 masterpiece Wanpaku Ouji no Orochi Taiji (Little Prince & the Eight Headed Dragon). It's best known in the West under the title, "Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon." In this second screenshot, we see a similar fight between the hero, Susanoo, and a fierce tiger. The tiger is in the same position, and makes the same movement to the left of the frame.
Wanpaku was a breakthrough film for Yasuo Otsuka, who served as a key animator. The thrilling climactic battle against the giant eight-headed dragon was his masterwork. Isao Takahata, likewise, was one of two Assistant Directors on this film. His swift ascention up the ranks impressed the Toei studio, and in 1965, he was given the honor of directing a Toei feature. He chose Otsuka as his right-hand man, and then, with Hayao Miyazaki, Yoichi Kotabe, Reiko Okuyama, Akemi Ota, and Yasuji Mori, set to work on Horus.
There are a number of Wanpaku riffs in Horus, and this is but one example. We'll take a look at the others in future posts.