“Broken and Beautiful” from Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983)

PBS; one-hour special

The Sesame Street characters get locked inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art overnight while looking for Big Bird in this one-hour special. The narrative centers on an Egyptian prince named Sahu whom Big Bird and Snuffy meet in the Egyptian art exhibit. He seeks to be reunited with his parents in the form of a star but cannot answer the question posed to him each night by a demon: “Where does today meet yesterday?”

After discovering the answer is “a museum,” Sahu summons Osiris and undergoes the “weighing of the heart ” ceremony of the deceased (see second video). His heart is too heavy, but Big Bird intervenes, and Sahu is reunited with his parents as stars in the sky.

In the midst of this narrative the other characters explore the many exhibits of the museum. Oscar the Grouch discovers a gallery of Greek and Roman statues in their broken and fragmentary state. He sings “Broken and Beautiful” as a celebration of their beauty — the most beautiful trash he’s ever seen — and their value to him.

More: https://muppet.fandom.com/wiki/Don%27t_Eat_the_Pictures

Die Irrfahrten des Odysseus, or Odyssea (1986)

68 min; Jiri Tyller, director

A joint production by DEFA-Studio für Trickfilme (East Germany) and Krátký Film Praha (Czechoslovakia)

1986’s Die Irrfahrten des Odysseus (or “The Wanderings of Odysseus,” also known by its Czech title Odyssea) is a little-known Czech feature film that was released by DEFA, the state-owned film studio of East Germany, with a soundtrack by the Dresdner Philharmonie.

While it does not strictly follow the Homeric text, it offers quite a close adaptation, with the elements arranged in a “straightened plot” (i.e., no flashbacks) that covers a lot of ground but also moves along ploddingly at times. This is largely due to its distinctive “cut-out” animation style, which is artsy and eye-catching but also unnatural in its limitation of bodily movement and facial expression. Martin Lindner notes that while the film has elements that might appeal to a youthful audience (e.g., a focus on Telemachus, little graphic violence), it doesn’t really succeed as such because it is too condensed (2008: 49). He goes on to note how the film ends on a strange note, not with a happy scene of familial reunion, but with a segue from Odysseus’ killing of the suitor Antinous to a montage of Greek vase paintings and a voiceover meditation on the undying wisdom of the ancients, which adds to its “somber” air.

More: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363704/


Aesop’s Fables [まんがイソップ物語] (1983)

60 min.; Japan (aka Manga Aesop Monogatari, though not to be confused with the TV show of the same name!)

Director: Norio Hikone; Production: Toei Animation

From Anime News Network: “Aesop is a trouble-making young boy who finds himself in another world filled with creatures he never believed to exist, such as fairies and talking donkeys. He sets off to find a way back to the normal world. On his journey he befriends many classical creatures from well-known fables and encounters many trials, each teaching him a valuable lesson.”

The Smurfs: “The Trojan Smurf” (1984)

14 min.

Season 4, Episode 9 (1st half)

Gargamel fashions a giant wooden Papa Smurf statue that he intends to hide inside. He plans to have the Smurfs to find the statue and take it back to their village as a gift honoring their leader. Brainy falls for the ruse, but the Smurfs end up encountering many challenges in moving the statue to the village. After bouncing against sharp rocks and rolling down a hill, the statue falls into a river, where it is found by Bigmouth who adopts it as a toy doll. The Smurfs are able to retrieve it and present it to Papa Smurf, who expresses his suspicions about it. Gargamel and Azrael then jump out and try to grab some Smurfs, but they manage to push the villains back into the statue, tie a rope around it and abandon it in the forest, where Bigmouth finds and adopts it yet again.

More: https://smurfs.fandom.com/wiki/The_Trojan_Smurf

Sirens [Sirenen] (1983)

4 min.; dir. Klaus Georgi

This avant-garde short, produced by the East German state run studio, DEFA: Studio fur Trickfilme, takes an “eco-socialist” approach to the story of the Sirens, best known from Homer’s Odyssey. The lure of the Sirens’ song is shown growing less powerful as the centuries pass. Modern modes of transport befoul and ultimately overwhelm the dread creatures.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (1980)

5 min., Directed by Evelyn Lambart, Canada

Summary from the National Film Board of Canada: “In this animated short, Evelyn Lambart uses her well-known style of animation – paper figures and brightly colored backgrounds – to revisit Aesop’s tale of 2 mice with vastly different lifestyles. Ultimately, the film suggests it is far better to live simply and in peace than to live in luxury amidst danger.”

Run, Melos [走れメロス] (1981, 1st version)

A 68 minute film directed by Tomoharu Katsumata for Fuji TV in Japan. It is based on a very famous Japanese short story written in 1940 by Osamu Dazai, which is itself a reworking of a 1799 ballad called Die Burgschaft by Friedrich Schiller. Both are based on the ancient legend of Damon and Pythias that is preserved in the Fabulae of Gaius Julius Hyginus; however, in both Schiller and Dazai’s versions the main characters’ names have been changed to Melos and Selinuntius.

This is the first of three animated versions of the story, “Run, Melos!”. The second was produced in 1992 and has its own post here, while the third was produced in 2009 and his its own post here.

The story told is one of trust and the power of friendship: Melos, a shepherd, is arrested and accused of conspiracy against the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse (in this animated version he is innocent of the charge, but in Dazai’s story he is not). He is given three days to travel to his sister’s wedding while Selinuntius, a sculptor and friend of Melos, agrees to stay in his place as the king’s hostage. On his way back from the wedding, he encounters many obstacles and delays, and he considers allowing his friend to die in his place, but finally he decides to try and arrive in time to save Selinuntus. He does so but also implores Selinuntius to hit him, in penance for the treachery he almost committed, but then Selinuntius asks him to do the same, for having doubted Melos’ return. Their display of honesty and loyalty forces the tyrant reconsider his decision and  he lets them both go with impunity.



Olympians [Олимпионики] (1982)

Fyodor Khitruk, no subtitles, 19 min.

From IMDB: “This is a somewhat ironic, but very informative story about the origin, development and decline of the Greek Olympiad tradition, set out with the help of an off-screen commentary read by Z. Gerdt. Ancient history is described in great detail and exciting. In the graphic decision, artists were guided by the ancient Greek monuments, first of all – vase paintings, stylized for them and characters, and decorations, up to imitation cracks. In the film there are a lot of full-scale shots, and in particular it is interesting to frame the photographs of the bas-reliefs of the Pergamon altar shot by Yuriy Norshtein. The film ends with documentary shots of the opening of the Olympics-80 in Moscow.”

See also: The 1981 film “O Sport – You are Peace!”, a documentary about the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, for which much of the animation featured here was originally produced, but not used.



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