Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Today's post is a look back on the history of animation twenty years ago. What happened in August of 1986? Madonna's Papa Don't Preach was topping the billboard charts while David Cronenberg's The Fly was battling it out with Michael Mann's Manhunter for the box office horror movie blockbuster of the summer. But what was going on in the world of animation?

Flight of the Dragons

Flight of the Dragons was a little known animated featured that was actually released on video in 1982 but was given a theatrical release on August 3, 1986. It was the tale of scientist Peter Dickenson who gets transported to the Fallen Land of Magic. There he meets some wizards, dragons and a princess and together they embark on a journey to save the world of magic.

This film was produced by Rankin/Bass who is most known for their stop-motion holiday features, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town to name a few, as well as a few animated television series including Thundercats and animated features films like The Last Unicorn and The Lord of the Rings.

The voice cast included John Ritter, James Earl Jones, Bob McFadden and Don Messick and featured a main theme by Don McLean.

Le Croc-Note Show

This French produced television show consisted of 104 five minute episode and debut on August 30, 1986. It was about two Martian mice who came to Earth and discovered they liked Earth music. Each episode they returned and made a new musical discovery.

This show was made to educate kids about different instruments, styles of music and even gave basic lessons on how to read music. Famous French musicians Jean-Claude Corbel and Claude Lombard provided voices for the Martian mice.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Written and directed by Japanese legend Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky was released in Japan on August 2, 1986 but was not brought to an American audience until 1989. The story follows Sheeta, descendant of a royal family from the legendary floating city Laputa who teams with a young miner named Pazu to outrun government agents and sky pirates, and learn the secret of lost island in the sky.

An English dub was made by Disney in 1998 that featured James Van Der Beek as Pazu and Anna Paquin as Sheeta. The plot was kept intact (something that often doesn't happen when translating anime for North America) and a new fully orchestrated score was made to replace the original synthesized. All of the changes were first passed through Miyazaki and were made with his approval.

Luxo Jr.

After John Lasseter and Ed Catmull left ILM, they formed their own computer graphics company called Pixar. Their first short, and Lasseter's first directing gig, was Luxo Jr. This two and a half minute short has a mother lamp watching over her baby lamp as it played with a ball.

Lasseter worked 24/7 to get this short done for SIGGRAPH, August 15-21, 1986. His hard work paid off as it was a huge hit at the conference and it went on to be the first CGI film to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Luxo Jr. Has since become the mascot for Pixar, appearing before all of their movies. The short was re-released in 1999 before Toy Story 2.

Transformers: The Movie

On August 8, 1986, Transformers: The Movie (Transformers the Movie: Apocalypse! Matrix Forever in Japan) brought every child's heroes to the big screen. The movie is set in the year 2005 (twenty years after the events in Transformers'' second season) and the Decepticons has taken over the Transformers' home world Cybertron. The Autobots have been hiding on a near by moon and have been preparing to take back their home world. But they intercept a message that a terrible evil is headed their way to destroy their planet! Unicron!

This movie featured a whole new line of toys for Mattel to sell and the darker story was critisized because of the grief it caused to the younger viewers as it featured the deaths of many fan-favourite characters, including Optimus Prime. Many fans like to consider this to be the end of Transformers and forget about the third and fourth seasons.

The animation was quite better than the television series and the soundtrack was made up of popular rock bands of the day including a new version of the classic theme song by Lion. The voice cast included Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem, Robert Stack, John Moschitta, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker and Orson Wells, which ended up being his last performance before his death.

There will be a two-disc special edition DVD of Transformers: the Movie to coincide with the premiere of the new movie in 2007.


Chip Chief said...

that was a pretty good month! i am still waiting for flight of dragons on DVD. i remeber seeing in in tv back in the day, but i cant say i remember too much of it now. i also remember the transformers movie. my parents wouldnt let me see it because it was too violent, then when season 3 came on, i had no idea what was going on, or where Optimus had gone.

coolshades said...

I seem to vaguely recall Flight of the Dragon...

That's some interesting info about that Lasseter short. 2.5 minutes long, and it gets nominated for an Oscar. Dang.

And the factoid about the Pixar logo was cool, too...

I thought the Transformers movie was gonna be live-action. :S

toast said...

Have you seen this film, coolshades? It is very good. Lasseter was able to have a great story and give so much life to two inanimate objects!

Click here for Luxo Jr.

coolshades said...

OMG...that was CUTE!! And you're right...he really made them seem almost human.

Thanks for posting the link :)

Colossus said...

Toast, shame on you dude! The Transformers toy line was made by Hasbro (GI Joe) NOT Mattel (Barbie)!!! That error is unforgivable!

Personally I think Trans:The Movie was something audiences that young just weren't ready for. Killing off 15+ characters that kids have followed for 2 seasons within a span of 1.5 hours was just a total shock to the system. On top of that, lame looking characters like Sharkticons and Quintessons didn't help either. Only thing that saved it from being a total loss was Stan Bush's 2 wicked songs "The Touch" and "Dare".