Orpheus and Eurydice [Orfeusz i Eurydyka] (1961)

13 min.; Poland; no subtitles; director: Edward Sturlis

A “Puppetoon” style retelling of the tragic tale of Orpheus and his lost love. It features a very vivid rendering of the Underworld, with Hades and Persephone represented as strange iconic totems.

Edward Sturlis: I made the film a bit different than the previous ones, because the music was written before the shooting started. It made my work difficult, but it was necessary for the proper implementation of the idea, because the music is not only an illustration here, it brings important – sometimes dominant – elements to the content of the film. […] The differences [between the two worlds – ed. ed.] are very clear. They were extracted in two ways: the world of the living is colorful, Hades – black and white, raw. The individual sequences also differ in mood. I start the film from the end – with the tragedy of the characters, and I show what happened before in retrospectives. My intention was to create a lyrical, atmospheric film story. (“Orpheus and Eurydice” in Tuszyn, “Film”, 1961, No. 22, p. 2.)

Thanks to Ośrodek Badań nad Tradycją Antyczną (@OBTAUW) for sharing this with me.

More: http://repozytorium.fn.org.pl/?q=en/node/10140

Woody Woodpecker: “Roamin’ Roman” (1964)

6 min.; 138th animated short in the Woody Woodpecker series.

Directed by Paul J. Smith; produced by Walter Lantz Productions and distributed by Universal International.

(Note: video is dubbed into French)

In this short, Woody upsets the emperor Nero by interrupting his fiddle-playing, but then Nero is inspired to play the Woody Woodpecker theme song. Woody then antagonizes Nero by smashing his fiddle, so a guard and a lion are ordered to do away with the pesky bird. Of course, Woody finds many ways to outsmart the two and he ends up sitting on the throne and fiddling in Nero’s place, wearing laurels and a toga.

Syrinx (1965)

3 min; Director: Ryan Larkin

From the National Film Board of Canada: “Borrowing from classical mythology, this very short film illustrates the story of Syrinx, the nymph who attempts to escape the goat-god Pan’s amorous advances by fleeing to a nearby river for help, only to be transformed into hollow reeds. Syrinx is the first film by Ryan Larkin, an Oscar®-nominated director who began his animation career in Norman McLaren’s student group. The technique employed is charcoal sketches on paper; the accompanying music is Claude Debussy’s “Syrinx” for solo flute.”


Diana and the Golden Apples (1960)

6 min.

Produced by New World Productions; one episode of the Mel-O-Toons series

An odd retelling of the Atalanta and Hippomenes myth in the “limited animation” style. In this version, the baby Diana is abandoned after her parents are captured by bandits. She is raised by the hunters who find her and she learns to run, ride and hunt. Melanion is her childhood companion in these activities and her best rival. After her parents somehow reclaim her, she returns to Athens with them but not before predicting she will marry Melanion. Years later he competes for her hand in the infamous running race, but it is her father who helps him win by providing the golden apples that will lead to her defeat.

Aesop and Son (1959-1962)

“Aesop and Son” was an interstitial series of shorts that appeared on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show from 1959 to 1962, and in syndication for a long time thereafter. A total of thirty-nine five-minute episodes were produced, in which the ancient fabulist Aesop appeared as a character who attempts to teach a lesson to his son using a twisted version of one of the fables or a loose variation thereof. After hearing the story, the son sums up the fable’s moral with a witty pun.

“Aesop and Son” was very similar to the better-known segment “Fractured Fairy-Tales” that was also featured on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. While Aesop’s fables had been a huge source of inspiration to animators since the 1920s (see Paul Terry’s “Aesop’s Fables” series, Disney’s “The Grasshopper and the Ants,” and Warner Brothers’ “Tortoise Beats Hare” featuring Bugs Bunny, for just a few examples), the approach to the material and the animation style of “Aesop and Son” were quite distinct, largely due to the fact that these were produced for TV rather than for movie-theater screenings. The animation is less polished and low-budget, but the wordplay and clever writing, which incorporates satire and the kind of subversive humor that would become extremely popular in the 1960s and 70s, appealed to audiences of both children and adults.

“Aesop and Son” (and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show more generally) thus marks a turning-point in animated depictions of the ancient world. After this, attention would turn to “historicizing” portrayals of the past (see “Asterix the Gaul” and “The Roman Holidays”) or to portrayals based on fantasy and mythological motifs, and the fables of Aesop would receive little attention, with one exception: a 1971 made-for-TV movie that combined live-action and animation and featured Bill Cosby as Aesop.

A youtube playlist with about half the episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke1MLr9HEls&index=19&list=PLd2ne922MKldmA2BDMgYGl90OBwItl29I

More: https://www.bcdb.com/cartoons/Other_Studios/W/Jay_Ward_Productions/Rocky_and_His_Friends/Aesop_and_Son/

Return from Olympus [Возвращение с Олимпа] (1969)

This is the first in a series of five twenty-minute films based on Greek heroic mythology that were written by Aleksei Simukov and directed by Alexandra Snezhko-Blotskaya between 1969 and 1974, at the end of her long animation career in the former Soviet Union (see also “The Argonauts,” “Labyrinth: The Deeds of Theseus,” “Perseus” and “Prometheus”). They were produced by Russian state animation studio Soyuzmultfilm on behalf of the Ministry of Education and are considered the most important movies about Greek myth ever made in the USSR.

“The Return from Olympus” draws upon the common ancient motif of Hercules as a benefactor of mankind, but the story it depicts is wholly modern. It takes a philosophical approach to the hero which emphasizes his humanism while skillfully weaving in contemporary Russian political concerns: Hercules wishes to return to earth after becoming a god, and after reviewing his labors and engaging in a debate about free will and divine authority (with  Zeus’ eagle), he realizes that he needs to stay on earth and help mankind overcome challenges such as Nazism, fascism and militarism, which take the form of the famed monsters from his labors.

More: http://www.omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/myth-survey/item/59

watch 6 min: 0-3.10; 15.25 to end

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