Allegro Non Troppo


Having watched Disney’s Fantasia (1940) recently, I had to search out this as a palliative. There’s a lot I like about the Disney film but the explanatory interludes for the Great Unwashed are tiresome, I’ve always loathed Mickey Mouse’s voice (although the Sorceror’s Apprentice sequence is fine), and, for a film that aspired to artistic seriousness, the Pastoral Symphony episode has all the aesthetic gravitas of a packet of fizzy sweets.

Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro Non Troppo (1976) was a feature-length animated riposte to Disney’s pretensions. The concept is identical—well-known pieces of classical music illustrated by animation—but in place of inadvertent vulgarity there’s a heavy helping of deliberately crude behaviour. Bozzetto replaces the coyness of the Pastoral Symphony with the erotic melancholy of an ageing satyr set to Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The laboured explanations of Fantasia become a series of live-action slapstick moments supposedly featuring the animator, conductor, and members of the orchestra, all of which explain nothing at all.


The one thing everyone remembers from Allegro Non Troppo is the Bolero sequence in which Bozzetto satirises Fantasia‘s evolutionary Rite of Spring. A departing spacecraft leaves a Coke bottle on the surface of a planet. The dregs left in the bottle give birth to a slime creature which crawls away and evolves along with Ravel’s music into a train of animals marching (and eating each other) across a treacherous landscape. The animation may lack Disney’s technical finesse but it’s a lot more memorable than his cartoon dinosaurs. Watch the whole sequence here.

Schloss Falkenstein


Proposal for Schloss Falkenstein (c. 1883).

A slight return to Ludwig II. Schloss Falkenstein would have been another beetling edifice in the manner of Schloss Neuschwanstein had it ever been built, and judging by this view it might have been even more grandiose. The painting is one of the proposals by stage designer Christian Jank whose plans had already been used for Neuschwanstein. Philippe Jullian makes some scathing remarks about the Gothic interior of the earlier castle but he may have had more patience for the Byzantine interiors planned for Falkenstein. I’m not sure how these would be reconciled with Jank’s exterior, however, the style being Gothic enough to satisfy Viollet-le-Duc. Ludwig’s untimely death in 1886 drew a line under his architectural schemes but Bavaria’s loss eventually became Walt Disney’s gain as Jank’s fantasias provided the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty (1959) and all of the Disney theme park castles. What Ludwig would have made of this we can only guess. I suspect he’d be entranced by the fantasy but appalled by the vulgarisation. He was an elitist, after all, and the castles were always for him alone, not hordes of T-shirted proles.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Schloss Linderhof
Schloss Neuschwanstein
Pite’s West End folly

Krazy Kat animations


Krazy Kat – Bugologist (1916).

Among the films at the Library of Congress YouTube channel are a number of shorts from the early days of animation including several of the first Krazy Kat films. George Herriman apparently had nothing to do with these, they were Hearst corporation spin-offs, which perhaps explains their lack of Herriman’s eccentricities. They’re necessarily crude, of course; cartoon animation had barely begun in 1916 and Walt Disney was yet to make a film. It’s curious watching a cartoon which transcribes the comic strip conventions so literally, with speech balloons growing from the characters mouths. Also at the LoC channel is one of the later Gertie the Dinosaur films and the very strange The Centaurs, both by Winsor McCay and son.

Autobahn animated


The Düsseldorf maestros are treated to some animated illustration in this 1979 film by Roger Mainwood which takes Kraftwerk’s Autobahn as its soundtrack. Mark at Strange Attractor provided the tip and he compares the animation style to René Laloux and Roland Topor’s Fantastic Planet (1973). The purple humanoid floating through surreal landscapes is certainly reminiscent of Laloux’s film, but Autobahn also reminds me of Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro non troppo (1977) and, given that Mainwood’s animation comes a couple of years later, it may well have been inspired by it. Bozzetto’s film is a feature-length “adult” response to Walt Disney’s Fantasia which takes the Fantasia format—well-known classical themes illustrated by animated sequences—but does so in a slightly more grotesque or risqué fashion. Much of Bozzetto’s film seems less daring today than it was in 1977 but the best sequence still works well and happens to be as science fictional as Mainwood’s Autobahn, an entire cycle of planetary evolution set to Ravel’s Bolero. Follow the links below.

• Roger Mainwood’s Autobahn pt. 1 | pt. 2
Ravel’s Bolero from Allegro non troppo

Previously on { feuilleton }
Sleeve craft
Who designed Vertigo #6360 620?
Old music and old technology
Aerodynamik by Kraftwerk
The genius of Kraftwerk

Buccaneers #1


“For all the world I was led like a dancing bear” by NC Wyeth (1911).

This year’s reading began with a desire to explore some of the Robert Louis Stevenson volumes in my collection which I’ve so far neglected. At the moment I’m thinking of maybe reading everything I have by RLS, having begun with a return journey to Treasure Island, a book which seems to improve every time I revisit it. Setting out with Stevenson’s pirate tale was partly a result of having watched all three Pirates of the Caribbean films over Christmas, a series I’m probably in the minority in enjoying wholeheartedly, flaws, preposterousness and all. Much as I’d like to see a fourth film (there’s a hint of a sequel at the end), I’d prefer the makers to leave things be. The three films taken together can be watched as a single nine-hour ramble across the high seas and the tidy conclusion would be better left as it is.

My pocket-sized copy of Treasure Island from the Tusitala edition of Stevenson’s collected works is fine apart from the very small and poorly-printed map, something to which the reader is compelled to refer as we follow Jim Hawkins on his journey around the island. Happily the web provides many examples which can be printed out for viewing while reading. The web is also a resource for some of the numerous illustrated editions of the novel. The version by American illustrator NC Wyeth is one of the more well-known and more successful and his Long John Silver is a suitably powerful figure. Wyeth’s depiction of Billy Bones waiting on the cliff top was featured in a set of US stamps in 2001. The Internet Archive has scans of the Wyeth book (and a version with illustrations by Louis Rhead) although one of these, with better scans of Wyeth’s paintings, has some of the plates missing.


Long John Silver by Mervyn Peake (1949).

Far stranger—weirder, even—is Mervyn Peake’s Long John Silver, seen here on the cover of a more recent edition. Peake’s illustrations are probably my favourites but then I’m biased towards Peake as an author and illustrator so the preference is unavoidable. Even so, his depiction of Israel Hands brings to the fore the malevolent duplicity of that character in a way I’ve not seen any other illustrator attempt. It’s a shame the Peake site doesn’t have another of the artist’s renderings of Silver showing the sea cook posed on his single leg in an attitude more like a ballet dancer than a pirate. That drawing and his ogre-like Blind Pew show how original Peake could be as an illustrator. And lets not forget his own pirate creation, also his first book, Captain Slaughterboard.


It’s asking too much but it’s a shame that Walt Disney couldn’t have taken a look at Peake’s drawings instead of diluting Stevenson’s cunning buccaneer into the gurning caricature portrayed by Robert Newton in 1950. The less said about Byron Haskin’s film (and its sequels), the better. It has its moments visually but Newton’s portrayal has blighted all those that follow (Geoffrey Rush tips the hat in the Pirates films) and is single-handedly responsible for all subsequent pirate clichés.


Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean, on the other hand, could almost have been designed specifically to please me alone, looking like the offspring of some unwholesome ménage between Long John Silver and the Great God Cthulhu. For the time being Davy Jones is probably my favourite screen villain, his tentacled face—and the fishy caste of his crew—is a wonder to behold. God knows what Stevenson would have made of this transfiguring of his creation but it suits me fine.

More buccaneers tomorrow.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Mervyn Peake in Lilliput
Stevenson and the dynamiters
Howard Pyle’s pirates
Druillet meets Hodgson
Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys
Davy Jones