Saturday, December 8, 2007
Anime on CED
During the Format Wars of the 70s and 80s the struggle was on between VHS and Beta. But other format battles raged in the background. One such format was Capacitance Electronic Disc, or CED. Known also under its brand name of RCA Selectavision, it was a unique system that used a metal disc. Image and sound were recorded on the disc electronically and read by the stylus, like a needle on an LP record on that turntable gathering dust in your attic. The discs were housed in plastic cases that slid in and out of the player. The resulting product delivered a picture superior to then-current videotape with crystal-clear fast forwards and rewinds. Unfortunately, this media was non-recordable, which meant you can’t tape your soaps or Johnny Carson. So the CED system coughed, sputtered, and died. Today you can find the discs in thrift stores and antique malls across North America, presenting a cross section of American film circa 1978-1983, sold by people who think they’re laserdiscs, bought by people who think they’re valuable collectors items.
At any rate, this is a blog about Japanese cartoons so we’ve got to work the things in here somewhere. So here goes! After years of research and excavation, ANIME ON CED is proud to present our in-depth exploration of the ENTIRE FIELD of Japanese Animation as released in the CED format. Following is a COMPLETE LIST of anime titles released on CED.
1. JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
2. THE WIZARD OF OZ
There, that was fun and enlightening, wasn’t it? Start your collection today!
Seriously, I’m pretty sure there are more titles out there, but these two are the only ones I personally own. So therefore, review.
THE WIZARD OF OZ, at least the 1982 Toho version we’re talking about here, is one of at least three different versions of Oz animated in Japan. This version features the voice and singing of Aileen Quinn, who had just finished her role as “Little Orphan Annie” in the musical and film of the same name. Also notable in the voice cast is Lorne Greene as The Wizard. Aileen belts out a few numbers and generally is the most bombastic thing about this lackluster production. The animation is jerky, the character designs are nothing to write home about, and Dorothy has a gigantic head. Seriously, I know anime characters have big heads, but her head is huge. Her giant blank eyes and unfortunate choices in lipstick shade make Dorothy a freakish doll-faced spectacle, even next to the cartoony Tin Man and a foppish, dreadlocked Scarecrow.
Having never read the Oz books, I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling this film sticks a little closer to the original story than the MGM film. If you’re an Oz fan, this film should probably cement over a few holes in your collection, and if you’re a fan of Japanese animation oddities on weird dead formats then what are you waiting for? I once saw dozens of sealed VHS copies of this film in a Goodwill, so it can’t be too hard to find.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, on the other hand, is a much more entertaining movie. This 1974 co-production is like the animation styles of three continents stuck into a blender, whipped into a fine puree, and spread over groovy 1970s toast. Directed by Gisaburo “Night On The Galactic Railroad” Sugii, this winning fairy tale was created by Mushi Productions veterans who worked on things like Astro Boy and Cleopatra Queen Of Sex and would go on to things like Glass Mask and Death Note. We all know the story – Jack, magic beans, beanstalk, giant, grinding bones to make bread, singing harp, treasure,etc.- but this film throws in an entire supporting cast of dogs, mice, princesses, and evil queens that turn the movie from yet another animated children’s film into an enjoyable experience in its own right. (a full review is online at Anime Jump.)
The character designs betray the film’s global origins; Jack and his fellow ground-dwellers have a real European cartoon look, a Peyo-style roundness that makes you want to buy Kinder eggs or buy Eurorail passes, while the cloud castle princess has a definite anime character style and her subjects are day players from Princess Knight episodes. The evil witch, on the other hand, is Disney Evil Witch all the way.
Turns out Princess Margaret of Top Of Beanstalk Land has been hypnotized by the evil Hecuba, who is going to marry Margie off to her son, the giant Tulip. Yeah, that’s his name. Poor Jack, voiced by Billie Lou “Astro Boy” Watt, climbs up the beanstalk with his faithful canine companion Crosby (??) just in time to learn Hecuba has turned the citizens of cloud-land into Disney Cinderella mice. Befriending the princess (voiced by Corinne “Trixie” Orr), Jack makes it back home with the treasure, but his conscience and a stirring song by his previously silent dog convince him to climb back up and set things right. There’s a trippy sequence where Hecuba bends the laws of time and space, some exciting up and downstairs castle chasing action as Tulip rages after the pair, and after a few songs it’s back down the beanstalk, go get the axe. One of the film’s outstanding scenes is the wedding between Tulip & the princess – since the citizenry has been turned into mice, Hecuba fills the pews and pulpit with blank-faced paper dolls she animates through magic. It’s a creepy sequence with real dread.
The film’s music ranges from wigged-out psychedelic jam guitar to a portentious tune that suspiciously resembles Caiphas’s theme from “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Hecuba applies mind-control makeup to the Princess in a scene that now has serious lesbian overtones thanks to wah-wah porno background music. The movie never misses a chance to throw in a song and while some of them are clumsy (Jack and the giant sing a duet as they chase each other) they’re all fun.
It’s available on DVD from Hen's Tooth Video - scroll down (the guys that brought us Hawk The Slayer), but for the purposes of this column let’s just pretend it’s another example of Anime On CED. So far we have a fairy tale and Oz adaption #345; not exactly representative of the field of Japanese animation as a whole. If you know of any other Anime On CED releases, contact Let’s Anime!
Goodbye, Prince Tulip! Gooooodbyyyyyyyyeeeeeee!