Continuing along the series of Toei Doga movies, here is the trailer to the studio's third animated feature film, Saiyuki. Now this is a fantastic movie. It's easily my favorite of the early Toei pictures. Considering that this studio began with only two master animators, who had to train in dozens of new artists, this is a remarkable achievement. This is where they strike gold.
I really love their movie trailers, too, because the studio itself is also the star. Here, we have another look at Toei president Hiroshi Okawa, as he greets Goku, the hero of the picture. We get another look at the artists and animators, the background painters, and musicians who made the movie. I always enjoy this look at the Toei staff, since the great drama of this era is the rise of this young generation of animators, and the conflict between the staff (and their union) and the studio bosses.
Saiyuki, or "Journey to the West," comes from Chinese legend, and is a famous story. The script for the film was written by none other than Osaumu Tezuka, the famed "God of Manga." This was Tezuka's first involvement in animation. Perhaps it was this discovery, or perhaps his falling out with the Toei bosses - his original ending was scrapped in favor of a happier, more upbeat ending - that inspired Tezuka to create his own animation studio, Mushi Productions in 1961-62.
This movie was imported to American theaters under the title, Alakazam the Great! It featured different songs (sung by Frankie Avalon), and some changes to plot and characters to erase any unsettling religious references. After all, America in the early '60s was struggling with such radical ideas as a Catholic President or black people sitting at a lunch counter. A family cartoon based on a Buddhist Chinese folk tale probably wouldn't go over too well...unless you wanted your theater burned to the ground. So the changes are understandable.
As I've said, this is my favorite of the early Toei Doga films. It's nearly as good as Wanpaku no Orochi Taiji (Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon), if that can be believed. We need to hurry up with some English subtitles for a fansub one of these days. Let's put that on our to-do list.