The Odyssey of the Puppets [La Odisea de los Muñecos] (1975)

55 min; Mexico; Spanish language with no subtitles

Director: Carlos G. Groppa / Solene Films

This film is the earliest animated depiction of the Odyssey that I have discovered thus far. It is an obscure, low-budget puppet version, which presents a loose recounting of the epic accompanied by psychedelic imagery and a swinging soundtrack.

Groppa was an Argentinian writer and filmmaker who emigrated to Mexico in 1971 where he participated in the production of the television series La Novela Semanal: Grandes Obras de la Literatura Universal de Canal 13, adapting classic novels in ten chapters, before moving on to work on La Odisea de los Muñecos between 1972 and 1974.

More: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_G._Groppa

The Grasshopper and the Ant [La Cicala e La Formica] (c. 1954-56)

6 min; Italian, no subtitles

This short animated film is preserved in the historic archives of the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo. This interpretation of Aesop’s classic fable was produced by the Association of Italian Savings Banks (Associazione fra le Casse di Risparmio Italiane) and served as a kind of “public service announcement” to promote the idea of saving and budgeting to the Italian people.

In this modernized re-telling, the anthropomorphized insects work industrialized agricultural jobs and sell their goods at market, then deposit their earnings in the bank. Meanwhile, the grasshopper parties at a nightclub. In the end he is unable to buy Christmas gifts for his family and is left out in the cold.

The Grasshopper and the Ant [Стрекоза и муравей] (1913)

Directed by Ladislas Starewitch, 5 min.

Sometimes also called “Dragonfly and Ant”; sometimes dated to 1911

Starewitch was a Polish-Lithuanian stop-motion animator who is known for being the creator of the first puppet-animated film in 1910. He used dead insects that were modified with wax and string.

The Tsar Nicholas II presented Starewitch with an award for this film, which tells the traditional Aesopic fable of industry and indolence in a grim, realistic style.

He would go on to produce another puppet version of this fable in French, as “La Cigale et la Fourmi” in 1927, as a part of a series of six animated fables based on Fontaine’s work.

More: http://www.starewitch.fr/post/Filmographie

https://www.awn.com/animationworld/entomology-and-animation-portrait-early-master-ladislaw-starewicz

Triton of the Sea [海のトリトン] (1972)

27 episodes, based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka

directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino for TV Asahi

“Triton of the Sea” (originally titled “Blue Triton”) tells the heroic story of Triton, the sole survivor of the destruction of Atlantis five thousand years ago. The sea god Poseidon and his family destroyed both the island and Triton’s family because of a jealous rivalry between the two clans. Triton is rescued and raised by humans but he returns to the sea to avenge the murder of his family by killing the offspring of Poseidon. He does so with the help of his dolphin companions and he also marries the last surviving mermaid, Pipiko, with whom he has seven children, named after the colors of the rainbow. The saga of inter-familial strife between the two families plays out in a tragic manner, with both Triton and Poseidon dying in the end. The children of Triton and other merpeople are left to find a place to live far away from the humans who hunt them.

The plot has little to do with any traditional Greek mythological narrative associated with the sea gods Triton or Poseidon, but it is clearly inspired by mythical figures and the motifs of ancient heroic epic.

A feature length film, also titled Triton of the Sea, was produced as a sequel to the TV show in 1979.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triton_of_the_Sea

https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=1409

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.

Free to Be You and Me: Atalanta (1974)

h/t Christopher McDonough

5 min. ; produced by Marlo Thomas and Free to Be Productions, in association with Teru Murakami-Fred Wolf Films, Inc. and cosponsored by the Ms. Foundation

A feminist retelling of the myth of Atalanta!

Emmy winner for Outstanding Children’s Special; Emmy nominee for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming; winner of the 1975 Peabody Award

From IMDB: “Based on the beloved children’s album that helped challenge gender stereotypes, this 1974 TV special brings a selection of songs from Marlo Thomas’s record and book to the small screen via live-action, puppetry and animation.”

More: http://freetobefoundation.com/

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.”

https://www.nfb.ca/film/syrinx_en/

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.

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.”

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