This artful cut-out animated short retells the fable of Aesop, in which a small mouse proves that “the weak and small may be of help to those much mightier than themselves,” according to the National Film Board of Canada. Lambart made another Aesop-inspired film in 1980, “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.”
The award-winning children’s book writer and illustrator Gerald McDermott created this interpretive film, subtitled “the myth of Daedalus and his son, Icarus.” This retelling depicts the pair’s imprisonment by King Minos, the youth’s flight, and his tragic descent into the sea in a distinctive cutout style that recalls the art of Henri Matisse. It also features some psychedelic light play and a postmodern soundtrack which accompanies the imagery. Joseph Campbell served as an advisor on the production. The story was published as a book by the same name in 1980 by McDermott, but it featured different artwork.
26 episodes, 24 min. each; French/no subtitles; dir. Jean Cubaud
This television series is based on the longstanding Franco-Belgian comic book series Alix l’intrépide or The Adventures of Alix, which was created by artist Jacques Martin. The series began publication in 1948 and continues to be published today (though Martin passed away in 2010). It was first published in Tintin magazine and shares its ligne claire style with that famed comic, as Martin worked on both projects.
The story follows the adventures of 16-year-old Alix Gracchus, a Gallic youth who was captured, sold into slavery and bought by a Roman noble named Honorus Galla during the era of the late Roman republic. His adoptive father is a friend and contemporary of Julius Caesar, who is depicted as a protector of the young man. Alix is good-hearted, brave and motivated by justice. He frequently finds himself in situations where he is torn between his Gallic heritage and values, and the questionable ways of the powerful Romans among whom he now lives. His adventures often focus on real historical events of the period, particularly those related to the Gallic Wars (such as the Siege of Alesia in 52 BCE), though he also travels to Greece, Egypt (where he befriends his trusty sidekick Enak), Carthage and even China.
The TV show, which lasted only one season and aired on France 3, depicts several of Alix’s biggest adventures, and while the animation attempts to recapture the style of the comic, it is a basic hand-drawn program that lacks the vivid detail of its graphic counterpart.
Spain; 26 episodes of 24 minutes + 1 TV special (75 min.); English dub; creator: Claudio Biern Boyd
This Spanish TV series was produced for one season by BRB International in 2002-2003 and was aimed at an age Y7 audience. It follows the adventures of Fracas, Arena, Rumpus and Hocus, four gladiators who live on the island of Cornucopia, as they fight foes in the island’s Colosseum and defend against the evil emperor, Gluteus Maximus.
Japanese with subtitles (except ep. 1); 24 episodes; 5 min. each; dir. Ryō Fujii
This series is based on a manga by Mari Yamazaki, creator of Thermae Romae, and was orginally published in Grand Jump magazine beginning in 2018. The anime series aired on Tokyo MX in 2020 and features an experimental, mixed-media style of animation, with clay animation playing a prominent role.
Much like Thermae Romae, the story told is comical and involves time travel between the ancient world and modern-day Japan: To save his village, Demetrios of Tritonia, a mediocre vase painter who isn’t all that interested in sports and competition (despite being very athletic), must discover new games for the creation of a local Olympics that will bring in money for the greedy and corrupt mayor. “While hiding inside a large vase outside his workshop, lightning strikes the vase Demetrios is in, transferring him to Tokyo, Japan, during the 1964 Summer Olympics,” where he finds the solution to his problem with the help of a few of his present-day relatives.
The show also features a dolphin who is Demetrios’ rival in vase painting, silly Spartans, and a bard called Homer, who sings a different song at the end of each episode about a related Greek word or custom. In episode 2, for example, “BUCK NAKED” is the subject of the song, which is dedicated to exercising nude — the kynodesme even gets a mention!
After participating in World War II, the legendary special-effects master Ray Harryhausen returned to the US and began work on a series of short stop-motion films based on fairy tales, mainly Mother Goose, but also this retelling of the ancient Greek story of King Midas.
In this version, set not in ancient but in medieval times, the king (who looks a lot like a depressed King Friday) broods over his wealth and desires ever more. He even neglects his radiant daughter Marigold who picks him beautiful yellow flowers everyday. (This inclusion of a flower-loving daughter who is turned to gold is inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s retelling of the story in A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys from 1852).
As Midas greedily guards his gold in his storehouse, a mysterious alien-like “stranger” in a vampire cape magically appears and grants him his longed-for powers. This figure was apparently based on Max Schreck’s makeup for the 1922 German film “Nosferatu,” directed by F. W. Murnau. He takes the place of the satyr Silenus in the ancient version of the myth and stands out as an anomaly in this otherwise fairly traditional telling.
Of course, the curse of the golden touch quickly reveals itself, and after Midas turns Marigold to gold, the stranger again appears and informs Midas that he can undo his powers by bathing in the river and sprinkling his daughter with its water. And with that, the pair live happily ever after.
Harryhausen referred to this and his other fairy tale productions, which also include a version of The Tortoise and the Hare that was begun in 1952 but left unfinished until 2002, as his “teething rings.” Of course he would go on thereafter to create some of the most memorable monsters and mythical creatures on film in blockbuster productions like “Jason and the Argonauts” and “Clash of the Titans.”
This is the first of many Greek and Roman-inspired episodes that have been produced in the Scooby Doo franchise.
In this episode the gang takes a trip to Greece and on their visit to Helios Island they meet some natives who are terrified of the Minotaur that is ravaging the island. The Minotaur lives in a temple and chases the gang through a labyrinthine maze. In the end, the talking Minotaur is revealed to be local man Nick Papas, who was attempting to smuggle treasures from the island and on to the black market.
This three-part episode of The Simpsons features perhaps the best known of all animated treatments of Homer’s Odyssey. Entitled “D’oh, Brother Where Art Thou?”, this seven-minute retelling begins with the ruse of the Trojan Horse and the sack of Troy. Of course, Homer Simpson takes on the role of the hero and the show’s well-known cast of characters are placed in roles that suit their personalities (e.g., Patty and Selma as the Sirens; Disco Stu as a suitor). As expected, the humor is clever and satirical, with jokes that are mainly intelligible to an adult audience, such as the band Styx’s song “Lady” playing as Homer/Odysseus travels through the Underworld, exclaiming “This truly is Hell!” The humor is also suggestive at times: the suitor “Discus Stu,” for example, appears to proposition Bart/Telemachus in a nod to the ancient Greek practice of pederasty.