Animal Treasure Island: International Pirate Day

Today is International Pirate Day (or, to be more specific, International Talk Like a Pirate Day), which means it's time to pull out our favorite pirate-themed anime film featuring Hayao Miyazaki...Animal Treasure Island!

The Discotek DVD has been out-of-print for several years, but copies are still widely available online. When I last checked this morning, I found several sellers on Ebay. The Japanese LaserDisc release is still available, so if you're a diehard fan, you're really in luck.

I've always had great affection for this movie. Its blend of classic cartoon slapstick and heroic adventure never grows old. Perhaps it's because Japanese animation steered away from this very Western style of cartoons that flourished so widely in the 1960s. Anime in the 1970s and 1980s would  embrace pulp violence, sci-fi soap operas with giant robots, or Neorealist literary adaptations.

The centerpiece of the movie, as always, is the fantastic pirate battle that was conceived and animated entirely by Hayao Miyazaki. It's one of the all-time great cartoon comedy bits, with endless waves of pig pirates, thrilling escapades from tall heights, and lots of little sight gags in the corners of the frame.

The heroine Cathy is a direct descendent to Nausicaa, the pirate Captain is a direct descendent to Porco Rosso, and the movie's climax, where a treasure ship is revealed underneath a lake, is a direct descendent to The Castle of Cagliostro. Miyazaki's creative fingerprints are all over this movie, even with the presence of beloved Toei Doga veterans like Yoichi Kotabe, Reiko Okuyama and Yasuji Mori.

Released in 1971, Animal Treasure Island failed to become a success at the Japanese box office, which is just baffling when you consider that its previous movie, the 1969 Puss in Boots, was a grand success. Perhaps kids were just turning away to watch cartoons on TV. Perhaps the weather was just lousy that summer. Who knows? In any case, this movie remains criminally underrated and deserves to be widely known. Here is an anime film that Disney could use! Where's Pixar when ya need 'em?

Oh, well. Get Animal Treasure Island by any means necessary. It's well worth the effort.

1 comment:

Christopher Sobieniak said...

I still have my Toei Manga Matsuri poster featuring the film as part of it!

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