Duck Tales: “Home Sweet Homer” (1987)

23 min / Season 1, Episode 30 / English / dir. Alan Zaslove; written by Anthony Adams

In this episode, Scrooge McDuck and his nephews take a trip back in time to ancient Greece, after receiving a letter from Donald Duck, who is stationed on an aircraft carrier in Greece. Scrooge is excited by what he sees in the background of the accompanying photo Donald sent, which seems to show the remains of the lost Colossus of Ithaquack. Spurred on by the prospect of finding treasure there, Scrooge and the boys travel to Ithaquack. The story then cuts back to antiquity and to the troubled reign of King Homer, who has gone missing and whose subjects are lamenting both this fact, and the fact that he doesn’t hold a candle to their old king, Ulysses, Homer’s uncle. As it happens, Homer has run away out of fear at being overthrown by the witch Circe. She casts a spell to make him disappear to a distant time, but it goes awry and instead whisks Scrooge and company back to 1100 BC. They rescue King Homer and vow to help him confront Circe, while she gets enraged at the error she’s made and vows to cut the island off from the outside world.

This scene takes many of its cue from the legendary Harryhausen film, Jason and the Argonauts, as Scrooge’s boat sails between the legs of the Colossus (as with Talos in the film) and then is crushed between the clashing rocks that are brought together through Circe’s magic. The group washes up on the shore of King Blowhard, who sneezes chronically due to his allergy to the flowers on his island. He tells them about Ulysses’ visit long ago and about his sunken ship, then uses his sneeze to raise the ship in exchange for Scrooge’s removal of the flowers from the island. They repair the ship and set sail, and immediately pass by the Sirens’ island. They sing an alluring song about money that compels Scrooge to jump in the water and to narrowly escape being eaten by the monsters, then they pass by the whirlpool and the monster Yuckalinda (a Scylla surrogate).

Meanwhile, Circe has imprisoned Homer’s wife and queen, Ariel. She casts a spell that turns Ariel into a pig and turns her into an Ariel. She then tricks Scrooge and Homer as she welcomes them home and determines that Scrooge is not a magician. She reveals herself and then turns Homer and Scrooge into pigs. The nephews discover the pigs and rescue them by taking Circe’s magic medallion and breaking it. This turns her into a pig and the others into ducks and dogs again. The spell that whisked them back in time then reappears as a tornado and whirls them back to the present day. Donald spots them in the water from the aircraft carrier and rescues them, and the episode concludes with a conversation about “growing up to be like Uncle Scrooge” and how it is ok to grow up to be yourself.

Episode 41 from this season of Duck Tales, “The Golden Fleecing,” also features a Greek epic tale, that of Jason and the Golden Fleece.

More: https://ducktales.fandom.com/wiki/Home_Sweet_Homer

Cestvs: The Roman Fighter [セスタス -The Roman Fighter -] (2021)

Japanese; 11 episodes; dir. Toshifumi Kawase; Kazuya Monma

Watch with subtitles here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoPHg54LaRJUKgKGWcKg1MwSxyKlx8WsW

This TV series, which aired on Fuji TV and features both 3D and 2D animation, was based on the two manga series Kentō Ankoku Den Cestvs (1997-2009) and Kendo Shitō Den Cestvs (2010-present), both written by Shizuya Wazarai.

The story told is that of Cestvs, a 15 year old boy, orphaned and enslaved in Rome in 54 CE, who has been trained as a professional fighter by Zafar and who seeks to obtain his freedom by winning one hundred battles. He comes to the attention of the young new emperor Nero, who solicits the support of both Cestvs and his fellow slave fighter Ruska. There is also a storyline that includes a fighter from Pompeii named Emden who seeks to win over Sabina, the richest woman in Pompeii, through his abilities in the arena.

More: https://myanimelist.net/anime/43763/Cestvs__The_Roman_Fighter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cestvs:_The_Roman_Fighter

The Grand Relay [Большая эстафета] (1979)

9 min. / Russian / dir. Ivan Aksenchuk

This film was produced by Soyuzmultfilm as a promotion for the 1980 Olympic Games. It traces out the history of the Olympic games, imagining them as a “grand relay” through the ages, with the torch passed down from ancient Greece to the modern USSR.

The film begins with figures coming to life on a Greek amphora. Paris abducts Helen and the Trojan War breaks out. The battle rages as the gods watch from Mt. Olympus, and grow ever more agitated with the violence. Zeus finally intervenes by hurling down a tripod between the armies and thereby transforms their murderous combat into peaceful athletic competition. Various ancient events are showcased, and then the flame within the tripod begins to guide the viewer through the centuries. The torch is extinguished as the ancient era comes to an end (we see temples turn to ruins) and finally a man in the 19th century picks up the extinguished torch and brings it back to life. This is Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern games.

From there each modern Olympiad is listed and its location is portrayed in a relevant artistic style with accompanying music from the era, as the torch continues to be passed. Small panels show the athletic events as they would have been practiced in that time, or later, they feature live-action footage. The years in which there were no Olympics because of the World Wars are also mentioned. The film concludes with live shots of the Moscow cityscape interspersed with scenes of the animated torch bearer, as he runs through the city and with a final scene of Misha the bear, the Olympic mascot, standing on the podium celebrating a gold medal win.

The film features no dialogue or voice over, just Russian text displayed on screen at various points.

Icarus (1974)

8 min. / Canada / dir. Paul Bochner / no dialog

Watch here: https://www.nfb.ca/film/icarus/

In this hand-drawn, meditative short made up of naturalistic sketches, Bochner retells the classic tale of Icarus; however, he puts a unique emphasis on the idea of the body as a prison, and on the shared hybridity of the Minotaur and of the “Bird-men” that Daedalus & his son become when they don their wings. The film ends on a cosmic note, reminiscent of Phaethon, as Icarus flies beyond the atmosphere into space, only to fall.

Looney Toons: “Porky’s Hero Agency” (1937)

8 min.; dir. Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones

A colorized version from 1967 can be viewed here: https://archive.org/details/porkysheroagencyredrawn

This delightfully bizarre short begins with a young Porky Pig reading a bedtime story from a Greek myths book. He’s apparently reading the story of the Gorgon, who turned everyone she looked at into stone and was only prevented from changing every Greek into a statue by a vanquishing hero. He falls asleep wishing he could be a hero and dreams of being transformed into Porkykarkus, apparently a nod to the stage persona Parkyakarkus that was used by comedian Harry Einstein – this is one of many topical references that are stuffed into this short. Porky is hired by the Emperor Jones to sneak into the Gorgon’s statue factory, where she uses her “marvelous photographic eye” to petrify her subjects, and to steal the “bring-em-back-alive” syringe that she wears around her neck. We see the Gorgon, a lanky old lady in an Egyptian-ish headdress and a parody of a popular 1930s radio character called Lizzie Tish, hard at work. Porky dawns the appearance of a idealized male statue to trick and seduce the Gorgon, and he is able to retrieve the needle. He the sets out on the run, turning statues back into living men and women, and even animating a temple (a “Shirley Temple”) along the way. He is apprehended the Gorgon, who orders him to open his eyes, but he awakens at that moment only to realize it is actually his mother, rousing him from sleep.

This description does not do justice to the wild creativity on display in this cartoon. It is a must watch, with cameos by the Three Stooges, Popeye’s arms, the Discoboulos, and the creators themselves.

More: https://looneytunes.fandom.com/wiki/Porky%27s_Hero_Agency

Penelope and Odysseus [Penelopa și Ulise] (1976-1981)

Seven episodes; 10 min. each; Romania (no subtitles); dir. Luminiţa Cazacu

The “Penelope and Odysseus” series is made up of seven episodes that take on the story of the heroic couple from a comical feminist perspective in a precious visual style. The films include:

1976 Condiţia Penelopei (Penelope’s Condition)

1977 Penelopa și cele 9 muze (Penelope and the 9 Muses)

1977 După amiezile Penelopei (Penelope’s Afternoons)

1979 Penelopa în templul artei (Penelope in the Temple of Art)

1980 Maratonul Penelopei (Penelope’s Marathon)

1980 Penelopa și Scufița Roșie (Penelope and Little Red Riding Hood)

1981 Penelopa și uriașii cei răi (Penelope and the Wicked Giants)

In each film, the long-suffering heroine of the Odyssey is depicted as “the embodiment of calm and patient, gentle and forgiving femininity,” as she deals with different challenges typically faced by women in contemporary society — e.g., male prejudice, professional achievement, jealousy, the rigors of fashion, stress and the many demands on women’s time — though she always forgives Odysseus’ transgressions. The films treat these issues in a humorous way, often tinged with light irony and sarcasm, which is introduced by off-screen commentators (famous Romanian actors Toma Caragiu and Octavian Cotescu).

Part of the films’ humor also derives from the juxtaposition of elements of modern civilization, such as electric appliances, appearing in the ancient setting (a la The Flinstones).

More: https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penelopa_%C8%99i_Ulise

The Argonauts / Colchis [Аргонавты / Колхида] (1936)

View the film here: https://www.culture.ru/live/movies/19066/argonavty-kolkhida

10 min.; Georgia/USSR; dir. V. Mujiri

In 1936, after its incorporation into the USSR, the Republic of Georgia produced this short as its first animated film. The ten-minute film was not a straightforward retelling of Jason and Medea’s adventures in Colchis; rather, it deployed Jason as a symbol of the Soviet state’s “heroic” efforts to drain the region’s marshes and transform them into productive agricultural land. He promises Medea a garden, and undertakes to destroy the malarial mosquitoes and the cavalry of frogs that live in the area. Once he succeeds in this endeavor, he gives Medea the Golden Fleece and the two find seeds to plant fruit trees. The film appears to be the earliest animated treatment of Greek epic ever made in Russia.

More: http://www.omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/myth-survey/item/60

Hercules: The Invincible Hero (1997)

43 min.; English; dir. Alessandro and Gloria Bulath, produced by AVO Film Edizioni

From the DVD cover: “Hercules, Jupiter’s favourite son and his little friend cloppete, King Krinios’ centaur son, are on a journey to the city of a Hundred Centaurs…what starts out as a mere stroll develops into one of his most exciting adventures! The adventure is also tainted with the prospect of Hercules meeting his true love! However Hercules must face an assortment of deadly enemies on his quest such as the multi-headed sea monster and the ferocious lion. The story delivers a series of cliffhangers where our hero is led to the dark and dangerous depths of the realm of the Dead World.”

This exceptionally low-budget, Italian-produced film is an “unofficial remake” of the Disney feature, “with the addition of elements ripped from the sci-fi/fantasy series Masters of the Universe,” according to Martin Lindner (‘Mythology for the Young at Heart’, 2017).

Aries: Shinwa no Seiza Miya [アリーズ 神話の星座宮] (1990)

45 min; Japanese; based on a shojo manga series by Rurika Fuyuki

This romance and fantasy-inspired OVA anime adapts the story of Hades and Persephone, giving it a modern twist. Middle school student Arisa Sakura starts a fortune-telling club at her school. Through her rivalry with another student, the astronomy club founder, she learns that many students at her school are actually Greek gods reincarnated who still possess great powers. This includes Arisa herself, who is a second incarnation of Persephone, though she does not recall her past life. It also includes Amano Sho, a classmate who is Hades reincarnated and with whom she is destined to fall in love all over again. Amano recalls Arisa’s tragic past life experience and he does not to lose her again. He therefore fights to protect her, in particular from Zeus, who wants access to the unique power she holds: the ability to revive the Titan.

The storyline has some similarities with Sailor Moon and may have inspired it, though there is much more direct engagement with Greek mythology here.

More: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=19002

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