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Keep the faith
Zombie's 1,038th Post Spectatular!: I review "Babar" (1989-1991)
Review reference list
Yup, I know this is overdoing it but I really wanted to do something really special the second time around. Now my choice of animated series may initially seem strange but after watching most of the episodes (on NBC) I found myself falling in love with it.
This may take a long time to do but I feel like this animated series needed more justice then it had in 1989 and I aim to review every episode of this series. Besides, isn't this supposed to be about animation of every kind?
Without further to do...
Babar's First Step
Babar is one of the longer lasting cartoon characters of our generation, alongside Mickey Mouse. Now his counterpart may be more well known, appear on more merchandise and cartoons and even had an empire built around him but that's not say that Babar was forgotten for all this time; granted he had a lot of books released, tons of drawings and even two television specials made by the same company who did the Peanut specials.
Now he may be a children's character and such but that doesn't mean that his world doesn't get somewhat dark at times; in fact, this pilot episode of this very series may have you thinking differently about what's good in children's series.
The entire episode revolves around a flashback to a period of Babar's life, which is told in the form of one of his stories. Don't assume that this is a one episode affair though, most of the first season involved this very setup; and it's understandable since a lot of his past does seem to produce very interesting stories and seeing the books come to life in an animated form is very exciting.
I mean it, very exciting.
All of the scenes here here manage to recreate the style found in the books while also managing it's own thick lined style, this style works well for the style of animation that they did; which even though it has some flaws and coloring errors, manage to be smooth, slick and at alot of times, legitimately cute; the colors here also manage to balance between bright, colorful and subdued and that look combined with the animation manages to make the scenes pop out and hook your eye to everything going on.
Some example shots of the aforementioned animation.
That doesn't mean there's a story behind this animation. Granted the story was adopted from the first part of the "History of Babar" book but it's still a good story regardless. There are a few changes though, mainly the addition of Palpador and Celeste being Arthur's cousin instead of her being Babar's cousin. I guess incest would not be widely received in a children's series, I mean it happened in the original book and they had children, did those children have Down Syndrome? I'm getting ahead of myself but I'm okay with it even though it's a deviation.
The story here is told through the perspective of Child Babar and even though there a few ad-libs from Adult Babar (who narrates the story), this is mainly his story with assists from a few characters. The story here progresses at a natural pace equal to most Simpsons episodes, but subtly quickened to get to the main points quicker. As the story progresses, we get to see the world in action and our first sight of these characters, and they do not disappoint; Babar here (played by a really appropriate child voice actor instead of the usual main actor) exceeds all expectations, he manages to play the role of a young child well while managing to include hints of his future characterization, the stuff that he does is wonderfully animated (some of it is even funny) and the way he delivers his lines exceeds all expectations and may draw in fans of all ages who finds stuff like this cute. (case in point, the Lisa & Homer and maybe Bart crowd.)
The rest of the characters are backseaters compared to Babar; even though most of them contain the voice cast of the present, I found the adult dialog to be somewhat generic (the dialog from them does get better as it goes along.) and delivered in a somewhat above average way (again, it does get better.) The kids ironically do better then their adult counterparts and even manage to transcend past most children's series and feel like real characters. Arthur and Celeste (despite the fact that they look like most elephants, perhaps the reason why they needed clothes was to tell them apart from each other.) even though they appear at the same capacity of the adult characters, manage to do well and as Babar and show hints of their future characterization; out of the two, I found Arthur to be the most enjoyable while Celeste to be really cute but also enjoyable as well.
Celeste (to the left) and Arthur (to the right). Without that, you'd confuse them for two random elephants.
There are even moments where the two intersect and those moments manage to be really sweet and really funny at the same time. Sure, some of the stuff may be for kids but alot of it will really connect with anybody. That's the true appeal of the series (and the franchise as a whole) it can appeal to any age, any audience and any one. Well maybe not anyone but it's one of those special animated series who's appeal can't be denied. I'll exfoliate on this as the reviews go on.
Of course, it can't be all sweet moments; there has to be conflict and notably this episode has one but low and behold, this episode has one of the greatest conflicts in animation history; one which just has to be mentioned when anybody is talking about Babar. There is a treestump which looks oddly enough like a Rhino (again, foreshadowing; this episode has a lot of foreshadowing, like Lost.) and it provides a conflict and even returns 4 times throughout the episode but that only plays a minor part in the conflict. (while also helping out Babar's character.) No... What I'm talking about is this...
Babar's Mother dies...
Yes, there is an ever present sense of danger introduced in the episode early on and it gets blown full force during the scene where everybody is having fun. I have to say, the way they handled both the danger and the fun parts is admirably done. I don't know if there's any other way they could of done it but it really portrayed the sense that there was danger about, even though everything is fine. Even the characters mention the appearance of what happened earlier (in the form of various fears, there is even a dispute which helps enhance the realism of the series.) which helps as it just establishes that these characters know about danger, it help enhances that aura that was established when the danger first appeared.
Anyways, the shots detailing the gruesome death are masterfully animated and even though there's no blood, you can get the sense that she's in pain and life and death is on the line. I even like it that she decides to sacrifice her life to save the heard from potential death after she's been shot herself; the fact that she manages to gain all of her strength to protect her heard and the fact that it's wonderfully executed just makes the scene all the more worthwhile.
The scenes involving Babar separated from her mother are also wonderfully executed and manage to show in his point of view the confusion he's going through as his mother is shot and when it's revealed that his mother is dead; I'm guessing that the scenes which show his mother's corpse on the beach, Babar crying over his dead mother's corpse and the entire heard gathering together to morn is going to make anybody have a tear in their eye, seriously everything about the scene just connects and it manages to be so somber, and this is supposed to be a children's television series!
The scenes following the immediate aftermath help Babar's character grow to heights not seen before. An example of this is a scene in the beach where everybody is having fun and Babar is just out there eating grass, everybody understands the situation that happened and everybody respects that but one person has it in him to spray a bit of water at him, which everybody gasps at as they expect retaliation but instead Babar spray waters back at him... Which means that all really one needs is an unexpected surprise to make them have fun again. It also increases Babar's determination and enthusiasm we've seen throughout the episode. Honestly, I just like that it was introduced in the middle of the episode, that moment just seemed like a near the end moment which is indicative of storytelling today but to just put it into the middle was a really good move and a move that helped the overall story rather then diminish it.
I would of liked to see more scenes about the sad Babar and the stuff going on with the elephant heard but hey, how can you fit all of that stuff into 30 minutes (excluding the beginning and ending scenes of course). I say that because the hunter appears for the second time for more. I can get why they'd reintroduce him but I personally felt that his reintroduction is too sudden to maintain the feeling they had in the beginning. Anyways, it is different in that the hunter comes in guns blazing when there's a discussing going on regarding this very matter and chaos appears once again. I admit, it isn't good the second time but it's still done well and the focus on Babar is very appropriate mainly because the situation he's been in is very recent and as well, it's his story...
The atmosphere manages to incorporate a different feeling of fear and danger, one seen through Babar's eyes; I preferred the earlier version but this one works too. It also works for unleashing Babar's vengeance (it is portrayed as a lesson in responsibility but it feels more like vengeance (while still trying to protect his heard) then anything else); I can understand where one would get the responsibility thing.) as he unleashes his feelings on his mother's killer. The fight scenes here are also wonderful and manages to feel down-to-earth while maintaining a sense of danger, there are also tons of scenes of majesticy and beautiful animation throughout. The colors don't sense danger but trust me, it's there as the hunter and Babar duke it out.
Just a little taste of the battle.
The ending of the battle (which also involves something mentioned tons of times before); fits the final piece of the puzzle as we get the untimely logical progression of Babar's character growth, let's just say that we feel that everything is resolved and yet unresolved at the same time. I will say that the scenes we get are both beautiful and majestic as his story comes to a close...
Of course, a story like that needs to be bookended. So there are two scenes which are both fitting as well as representative of what seems to be a good start for the series. Granted, these are our first taste of the characters and of Pom and Alexander but we learn about the two adults (Babar and Celeste) when the flashback starts. Like how it joins life in progress rather then having it start in the backup, makes it certain that life is established. There are a couple of fun scenes here and there but it's played mostly straight mostly so we can get to the story. While we do get some hints of personality, it leaves you wishing for more, which you do get in the later episodes (and even later, later episodes) but I can guess that they wanted to get to Babar's stories first and then let the others have the stories eventually...
So what do I think of this episode. Well even though there are some flaws I think this is a really good way to start off a series, a series that really could of had more episodes (not 500 episodes episodes but a modest number of episodes.) Babar's origins are told masterfully and even though there is an odd attempt to frame the story about responsibility, it's easily overridden by the masterful scenes of animation, the heartbreaking moments, the story and most of all; Babar's characterization. Which is both cute and serious; this may of been a piece of the puzzle but it proves that the series has landed and it wasn't going to go away without at least a fight. Set up your DVR's, you may want to record any episode of Babar (on NBC) that you can.
An appropriate crowd for an appropriate moment.
So... Questions, comments? This is just the first and I don't know how well this'll fare out as it goes along...
Last edited by Zombies Rise from the Sea; 04-08-2012 at 04:58 AM.
Reason: retroactively added pictures
I Always Want To Be Eaten
good job making it to a milestone zombies
pays you in back rubs
Well, I believe 1,049 is a much better milestone, but better luck next time.
Originally Posted by hammster
Keep the faith
Meh. I'm about to reach that within 3 posts.
Originally Posted by Handsome B. Wonderful
Originally Posted by Zombies Rise from the Sea
But congrats on your milestone zombies
now review Bob Barr
Keep the faith
Before the next review starts, I have to say something. When I first started doing these reviews; I did not get the reaction I wanted. Some say it's the milestone, others because they never heard of the show until now but I think it's because it's a combination of nobody seeing the show and nobody getting the jist of what I mean due to the lack of pictures. Starting now, reviews in this thread (including ones written before) will include a small number of pictures to illustrate certain points. I'm hoping that this change will help get across certain points in various reviews while at the same time complimenting them.
Episode two of Babar contains a continuation of what had happened in the last episode, but sandwiched inbetween two segments involving Pom figuring out what he wants to wear. Some of this stuff is funny but most of the moments are down to earth and realistic, especially the scene in the beginning and while it's not an important part of the story, the charm helps sell it regardless.
Now regarding the actual story. In this chapter of Babar's life, we see him encountering Paris, France (referred to as "The City" in the series.) after hours of running from what I assumed to be finding his heard. The fact that it's in continuity with the previous episode yet manages to also be a standalone story is completely amazing; just the fact that there is a continual story yet it can be watched without having watched the first episode, thanks to some helpful narration at the beginning.
"The City" is as beautifully animated as "The Jungle", making use of less saturated colors and a more modest range of colors to portray the hustle and bustle that is modern life and the stark, grey buildings and streets that are Paris, France. The detail there is also impressive; most TV shows (excluding theatrically released animated movies) would of just done it in a less detailed way, only animating the details needed to indicate that it is a city but Babar here does it like a movie, putting in details that aren't really essential but are really nice to have; it certainly shows that the animators appreciate what they're doing and they show it in their work, even when it isn't noticed by the average viewer. This type of dedication in animation is what everybody should see; seeing stuff like this really gets people interested in animation in my opinon.
I'm serious, tape a deep look at it.
Now this doesn't contain as much story as the first episode but I think that everybody involved in the show wanted us to focus on how Babar is unfamiliar in his new city surroundings and how he tries so hard to adapt/try to fit in (which is the moral of the story in this episode.) Alot of these scenes are fantastic visual treats animated beautifully by the fine folks at Nelvana, while there is dialog throughout these scenes, it's kept to a minimum as Babar greets folks, plays around in the pond and causes chaos on the streets.
Don't assume it's all like that though, there is one tension filled scene where Babar is chased throughout the city and we get our sights at another gun. We can just feel his fear, feel his thinking and just feel his need to survive. Personally I feel that the fact that they're able to have a realistic visual representation of guns (without sci-fi-ing or making it look cheesy or fake.) is freaking awesome and sets this series up and above the children's series of our time. I mean what children's show shows all of this stuff yet retains it's "TV-Y" rating?
Go ahead, name one.
Unsurprisingly, this is also the episode where she meets the Old Lady (aka Madame aka real name unknown.) and as expected, the two connect like an extension cord. With the Old Lady acting like a mother figure and Babar acting as the young boy in need of guidance. The numerous dialog scenes between them are good, even though they may be a bit moral heavy; I find that most of the dialog manages to avoid the preachyness that other kids shows have, you know where they force lessons upon you instead of letting it come across naturally. The fact that the dialog doesn't focus on it as much helps makes the medicine go down, though as I said before it's a bit moral heavy.
As it continues on, we reach a point where Babar places himself more in the shows of a city boy, the scenes/montage that involve Babar's schooling on modern life continue with the motive that everybody on the show has involved but it kind of takes a turn into "origin story" territory. While the scenes do keep up the fun vibe the earlier scenes ha, it showcases more of how Babar came to don the green suit and the methods he uses today for lack of better words. It's not bad at all, in fact it's certainly very interesting to see what you read in the books come to life; though in Nelvana's own way. While it may only be a small piece of the puzzle, you'll still feel satisfied nonetheless because the scenes here are really cute.
Ultimately, all of those scenes lead to a final test of sorts... a party if you will. It's obvious what the folks here will be feeling but they do manage to do it in a way that does suck you into the action. I would of liked to see more go into Babar's feelings heading towards the day of the party instead of jumping directly to the party though, stuff like that give the character more weight, even if we know what he's feeling beforehand. The stuff with the party further reinforces the moral the episode is pushing on you and I admit the antics are wearing a bit thin (on a side note, they seem to resemble a comedic movie from the 1980's-1990's.) but it's still enjoyable and if you need a good simple laugh, at least you have 30 minutes of antics with good animation to boot. On a related note, the last few parts of the episode manage to sneak in some truly sweet and cute moments, mostly relating around Babar and the old lady; I can't list any specific moments, you'll just have to watch for yourself but the moments there are cute and sweet.
Like this one.
So while it may not be as good as the first episode. It's still a good episode (though a really, really good episode.) that manages to expand upon the second episode and further Babar's journey despite some awkward scenes and some moral related issues. Alot of the scenes here are good for a quick simple laugh and the moments involving the old lady work are both down-to-earth and sweet. I can understand what they were going for when they made this episode and I can understand that they tried to live up to the story and they don't disappoint when it comes to the story but what they were going for may not have worked 100% but it does work 90% of the time, and I think that's a pretty high number as far as anybody is concerned. Babar seems on his way to complete and total stardom.
Keep the faith