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Keep the faith
Okay, some news; some unfortunate incident caused my current system to crumble in front of my eyes, causing me to switch to a new system that effects my real life bottom line; hopefully I can take some solace that I'm doing something to improve the situation.
On a related note, previous reviews may get updates in the near future, depending on how the new system serves me. It's always a hindrance when something your so used to changes all of a sudden.
Almost forgot: seems like NBC is replacing it's Qubo block with a new preschool block that'll be powered by the majority NBCU-owned Sprout channel, just a reminder (if this doesn't lead to the death of Qubo as a whole) that you may want to catch all of the Babar episodes that you can as oddly foretold in the first review I did for this show. Now then...
When "The Phantom" was first aired, it was our first taste to his days in Paris when he was living with the Old Lady. What we tasted was beyond expectations as we witnessed Babar roaming around Paris and having the adventure of his life. Of course, it was also a sign of what'd we expect in the second season. This episode (which should of been the season opener) confirms the what the previous episode foretold in that we get more of Babar's life in Paris, and in this case we get his first sights of his first days in school, except his first days weren't exactly good. That's because he's the target of a bunch of dominant established bully brothers the Leone's (their voices that don't fit them; it's going to be really hard to look past the voices.) just because he's different. (obviously) This is different from other bully episodes in that they don't force a message to stop bullying, instead they teach people to stand up for themselves in their own special way; the way the episode teaches that is through the eyes of Babar and the portrayal of bullying that manages to be both serious and charming.
Bullying, a serious problem.
Throughout the episode we are constantly shown the implications of bullying, people forcing themselves to adapt new things to avoid being picked on, those things hindering their individuality; that is shown in a way that reflects mostly every bully situation out there, you can't watch this episode and not think about the stuff that goes on in other schools, people who are going through the same situation as this Babar episode but in real life. That is counteracted by scenes that are intended to make you laugh; when we see Babar with wig on him, we can't help but to laugh and when we laugh; it lightens up the situation. This helps to get the message across because when it's a total gloomfest, the message is muddy and a muddy message obviously equals a mussy lesson. There are few shows that can pull off both effectively and still get the message across, the fact that Babar was able to pull both off in an effective manner makes it one of those few shows.
Of course, one can't have bullying without a portrayal of school and this episode manages to give an impressive portrayal of what school is like; it isn't exactly a super-realistic portrayal per say (the rooms look realistic and the hallways look realistic but there are small things that manage to hinder it; for one the fact that one teacher is ever seen in the school... you think that with her constant appearances and hints of personality, she'd play more of a part in the episode.) but it does manage to get alot of the things about school right, things such as the overall feel of it. That portrayal is so well done that it rubs off on the entire episode, I mean it just manages to give that eerily real feeling to the entire episode; who knows what would of happened had they done the school differently, it might not even be as good or powerful.
Rather impressive wouldn't you say...
With every school comes a pair of students that'll be prominent in the episode and these students more then deliver, even though we only learn one of their names ("Fransque"); Every character feels as real as the next, having traits that sets each one apart from the crowd; those traits may be related to the episode (in a sensible realistic way) but it's not like they'll be remembered for that one thing only, in essence they'll be remembered for their charm and personalities; when you hear someone talking about The Three Musketeers and how it relates to them in their life (which one does in this episode), you know that past that cell of animation lies a person, a person that's real in every sense of the word. Even though we don't know their names, everything we see about them will rub off in our heads, thus proving that you don't need to have names in order to make characters memorable.
Portraying a bullied kid on TV is hard, most of the time the performance is either cliche/goofy or super-serious; most people watching the TV can't relate to what's happening onscreen and if they can't relate then the message you're trying to send won't get across. People will relate to what's going on as Babar turns in a performance that is super relatable; he makes it look so easy as he showcases pain, depression, fear, worry and excitement in ways that make you forget he's just a fictional character; plus he manages to adhere to the same balance the episode had perfectly. This is all something that mostly every of us has been in, we've all been in this situation and seeing a cute elephant going through the same stuff as us makes us feel something. Even if you haven't been in the predicament, you just can't help but to feel for him mainly because of the pure emotion and charm that he displays, something which ultimately defines his performance and the episode as a whole.
Just look at him and tell me if you don't feel anything.
And yet, we haven't gotten to the story itself; the thing that ever so drives these episodes. Well I can tell you that the story doesn't disappoint, in fact it give us what could be described as the best usage of fitting a plot within a short timeframe. It manages to pack a lot of content within it's running time with nary a minute going unused; whether it's Babar at school or even at home or even the scenes that set everything up, they manage to use every minute of it and they use it in a way that's natural and gives everything a major part in the story, from the settings to the characters to even the small details themselves. It builds up to the a really nice ending where everything comes full circle. Every moment is tense and action-packed, building up a momentum that would come to define the ending; there are barely any scenes that affect that momentum with every moment being as tense and action packed as the last one. The ending never gets old; even if you've watched it 1,000 times, you can always get brisk satisfaction out of it as you watch those finely animated Musketeers-esque scenes; plus there's always something to seeing action being taken, especially in regards to a situation like this.
Overall, our second look into Babar's past turns out to be similar to the first, really good. It may not be as fine as "The Phantom" but it manages to be nearly fine and it succeeds on it's own merits. This episode manages to strike a fine balance of portraying the subject matter at hand and being entertaining well and again, very few series can do that well; you'll have fun as you watch yet also feel something for the situation at hand. It may not stop bullying but it does manage to be another one of Babar's classics and it does manage to make you learn a little bit about Babar himself. (they also do it in the entertaining wraparounds themselves; just a hint.)
Last edited by Zombies Rise from the Sea; 04-17-2012 at 02:26 AM.
I used to drive that blue car
I finally got around to digging them up. I have Babar: The Movie, and a compilation of the first 5 episodes called Jungle Tales. I watched the movie and first 3/5 episodes and was impressed at how well they stand up after all these years.
Originally Posted by al and mike
I also had a 1971 tape with Peter Ustinov narrating. The animation is cruder, and I haven't watched it yet.
Keep those reviews coming!
Last edited by Lionel Hutz; 04-21-2012 at 10:40 AM.
Keep the faith
Immediately following the last episode, we get another of Babar's adventures in Paris; though this would unfortunately turn out to be the last he would ever do, which is a shame as there are still adventures out there left untapped; adventures we would of liked to see animated on the small screen. Regardless, this would provide to be a decent close even though it wasn't supposed to be this way.
Now in this adventure, Babar hitches up with a club (the "Barons", who's name isn't mentioned much in the episode) after a chance encounter but soon finds himself in a sticky situation but it takes a different route then what you're expecting; you may think that it is about Babar having to make a choice based on the pressure put on his peers but it not; instead it is about the people in the club being pressured by the leader of the club himself, making the episode title a bit of a misdemeanor. Rarely do we get to see the other side when it comes to peer pressuring and to see that other side makes this episode interesting because we don't know what it's like to see one person pressuring the others. (don't know if others did the same thing but this is the first I have seen of this situation.) The plot is framed around a single thing, the junkyard which is home to one of the most viscous and realistic portrayals of a junkyard dog there is, it may seem like a junkyard is too common a setting to frame a "Babar" story around but it actually works exceptionally well, they manage to go past the commonness and ultimately use the setting in a way that makes it fresh and deep and to enforce the themes and morales that this episode provides.
The aforementioned people behing the "Barons".
Associated with that junkyard is the aforementioned club the "Barons" who manage to showcase sense of wonder and intrigue that fits the very show well. When we first see the treehouse, we're taken back by the wonder and spectacle of it; it may not be grand but it doesn't need to be grand, it contains what every kid dreams of except done in a sensible, realistic way that still manages to intrigue kids (and adults of all ages) and the fact it can still be intriguing proves that you don't need grandness to excite and amaze; secret entrances, trap doors, rooms to hang around in; all of those things manages to portray the imagination that these scenes provide while also capturing the magic of childhood as a whole. The club, which has it's own set of secret routines and initiation procedures (in particular one scene that seems more dramatic and cinematic then anything else); it just seems so pleasing watching them do their lifelike club-related things that are both serious and fun at the same time, just takes you back to when everything was different/new and stuff like rolling around in tires seemed normal and amazing. I don't know how realistic those are it does seem like something that these kids would do if they formed their own secret club.
The Baron's seem to primarily consist of teenagers, which makes me confused on whether or not this episode takes place before or after "School Days". None of the Barons are as memorable but all of them do manage to have designs that both seem distinctive and fit the style of the show, one of them even possibly belonging on a Simpsons episode; I think it has to do with their acting which doesn't seem to be good (a first for the series) and at times seems to threaten the episode as a whole; it just feels like they're just acting without any energy almost, most people can chalk that up to being a children's show but from what we've seen from "Babar", we deserve better then this; they do manage to grace through the episode servicefully and they help to provide the feeling the episode was going for, so they're not 100% bad... Leading these pack of teenagers is JC who (out of two) seems to be the most memorable out of the Barons; his brash personality and aggressive tone effectively positions him as the antagonist; he does seems to be somewhat clicheish with his aggressive leadership style and his "coolness" but in the context of the plot, I can understand as it does help to get the antagonization across.
JC. Cool and agressive.
JC's antagonization fuels the peer pressure feeling that surrounds the episode, I mean we're witnessing as he pushes his oppressive leadership, manipulating the whims of his peers and lashing out at anybody who dares defies his whims to the point where he threatens to kick anybody out of the tightly knit club should anybody defy his rules; It's definitely something that's scary, I mean it's supposed to be a place to hang out but instead it's a place where nervousness and pressure reigns (hell, even the police appears); It makes you think really... when you see the club members themselves being pressured. Babar knows this all to well as he witnesses the stuff that JC does and confronts him whenever possible, even managing to get a number of the members to support him during these times; (which seems to be a natural talent for him but the support this time around seems different, more defensive per say...) making him the voice of reason we know him to be, though it isn't shown as much here. Yet Babar still manages to be the same excitable, enthusiastic, concerned self that we know him to be; to see Babar's concern, excitability, and voice of reasoning contrast with JC's voice of aggressiveness and coolness... it's definitely something that's both heartwarming and tense.
We're watching Babar as he goes through trials and tribulations in the most innocent of ways all while JC judges him and tests him in ways that seem almost harsh; there's a sort of cute, charming feeling to be had but at the same time there's also a sort of a negative vibe going on, those conflicting things help to show the difference that defines both characters performances throughout the episode, separately they do fine for themselves but together they just seem to create a balance that showcases the best traits of themselves and support the feeling that the episode has going on. Babar manages to do what he does naturally, even managing to convincingly act nervous half-way; through the episode leading to some decent scenes involving him and the Old Lady; (I don't know why he has any real reason to be nervous but these scenes do show that beneath that sweet side lies a stern and serious side to the Old Lady.) what he does lend itself well to JC who does the stuff that is justified by his twisted way of thinking. Who knows why JC is the way he is or does the stuff that he does; maybe it's to show superiority, maybe he has some sort of condition where he picks on junkyard dogs while blaming the dog for causing so much grief and trouble, who knows but the stuff that JC does serves a dual purpose, exposing his character and also showing the harm that's caused by his actions; giving this episode some depth in the argument of mayhem and animal abuse which wouldn't be possible without Babar.
The perfect balance.
The entire episode with it's peer pressure feel works towards teaching viewers one underlining morale and it's related to friends. Everybody understands friends are important, there people who we can count on when we're in trouble, they're people who always got our back and they're people that we know; Babar knows this all too well as he starts off the episode with a lack of friends (though I don't know why they'd do this, it does seem natural though I will admit that) but ends up with a friend later on named "Marti" who he seems to bond with almost instantly but oddly enough, doesn't seem to play as major of a part of an episode aside from the beginning (and the wraparounds where we don't even get to see the older Marti though I guess the older Marti is left to the imagination (which is a good thing), also one thing to note, the wraparounds don't feature any of the kids, just Babar, a really young Isabelle and the Old Lady; they're really branching out this season...); you think that they would play up the bond between the two as that seems to be one of Babar's best things... still, they use the bond between Marti and Babar to underline the importance of friends. Babar's happy around Marti, he shows concern for Marti to the point of risking everything just to warn him about something, the situation could play out either way for both of them but the point remains the same, it's important to have friends. It's also important to have true friends, there may be friends who would rather run off and leave you to take the blame but it's those true friends will always be there, that will come back to support you no matter how tough the situation is; which is what the episode reinforces in it's ending which gives resolution & satisfaction to every aspect of the episode, from the junkyard to the "Barons" to even Babar himself... tieing it all together in a pretty red bow.
This interesting take on the whole peer pressure argument ultimately works out well, we get a really good episode that utilizes it's potential well and also shows us the importance of friends. Though there are some faults like the acting of the kids and the lacking role of Marti, the good parts of the episode manage to be enjoyable enough to negate the faults; almost... Babar manages to do well for himself but the pairing up with JC manages to result in a balance which provides the episodes best moments. The charming, easy going feeling combined with the negative, nervous vibe makes for an episode that interesting to watch but ultimately gives it depth at the end. Even though we would of liked to see more of Babar's adventures in Paris, this episode serves as a decent way to close out his adventures and about the episode title, I doubt they could of picked a better one; besides... considering what happens during the 22 minutes run-time of the episode, it's pretty clever. And to close us out, some shots of the animation...
Keep the faith
Tour De Celesteville
Looking on Wikipedia, you may think that the title is "La Tour De Celesteville" but instead it's the title above (as shown in the title card itself); seems like Wikipedia is wrong some of the time. Anyways, our return to Celesteville leads us into the annual Tour De Celestville where Babar and his new racing partner Arthur face the race of their lives, with mostly everything on the line when it comes to respect/decency/showmanship, and what we witness in the race amounts to 22 minutes of pure cartoon fun.
Now this episode is a bit more cartoonish then we're used to, meaning it's filled with tons of visual gags, jokes for the kids, action abound and a sense of energy that's fast-paced and kinetic; this kind of stuff isn't mostly what Babar is known for but it's a childrens show and we do need a break from the usual norm so yeah... if you're worried that the cartoonish stuff would harm the episode, threat not; it doesn't, it actually helps the episode and develops the style that defines it from the rest of the pack. Watching it, you're reminded of an old-fashioned cartoon who intentions are to entertain and make you laugh; I mean sure, it has some stuff that cartoons of the 80's were known for but the feeling of this is old-fashioned and that's evident by the setup of the gags, the various off-handed things like the frog and even some of the dialog, it'll almost feel like you're transported to the early days of animation; almost because it has some of the stuff that 80's cartoons are known for as mentioned above. The 80's stuff is okay for it's time but looking back on it now, it's somewhat cringeworthy... things like the somewhat forced jokes, off voice acting at some part (Cornelius's "My Tusks" at the end is an example) and a shot of a picture falling down which was revolutionary at the time (not a bad thing, just an example of the times); I don't know why much of this stuff was popular in the 80's, maybe it was the thousands of animated series that promoted a toy product or just had characters goofing off; who knows but because it was somewhat popular, it's included here and it's inclusion definitely hurts the episode somewhat.
But enough about that, let's get to the main point of the episode; the race. Who doesn't enjoy a race? just a bunch of people competing to win something; whether it's something of value or respect doesn't matter but what does matter is that they're competing and we're watching them. It's a common thing but what makes it special is the versatility a race can have, and "Babar" manages to use that to make it's race distinctive and unique. One of the things that sets it's race apart is it's sensibility, it's race may not be as flashy or extravagant as other races but then again, it doesn't need to be; just the wonder of biking through the jungle with a sense of mild competitiveness is enough to get across the air of excitement the race provides. It's also kind of calming... to see the various animals racing amongst each other, competing in a friendly matter; they don't see the race as something competitive, they see it as a fun little thing to do it provides an easygoing mood which helps to balance the episode, despite the fact that they're competing to win a prize. Our focal team and stars of the episode are Babar and Arthur and they manage to be utilized pretty well throughout the episode, though they aren't seen as often. (which is odd...) they manage have their differences (Arthur being the more dumbfounded of the two) but the two share a close bond together, almost seeming like blood brothers; they laugh, they cry, they even seem to know what the other is thinking and that bond provides most of the enjoyment of the episode because of the charm of it, I mean what's cuter then two people partnering up to win a race?
Name one thing cuter than this.
This episode does utilize Rataxes and Basil as the usual competition and while you may think that it's going to be another Babar vs. Rataxes episode, it turns out to not be the case; instead it switches it up by introducing a certain element to the mix; the Cheetahs. I have to say, their introduction was unexpected; I wasn't thinking about anybody being included into the mix when they were introduced and the way they're introduced, it presents them as somewhat of a formidable foe to both our teams and they even manage to cover the sudden appearance of them later on in the episode, which is nice. The Cheetahs serve as a sort of a common enemy to Babar and Rataxes, meaning that they're a threat to them yet don't play a part in their intentions, treating them as if they were just another competitor; while they may not see them the same way, this episode sees them as essential to the plot at hand. I mean sure, they may seem like common cartoon stereotypes but their presence is not to be denied; they're something that helps to freshen up the episode and to provide bigger stakes and a bigger sense of urgency to the episode; and as a plus, their cartoon cliches fit the episode's mood well, without them, who knows how the episode would of turned out... It's nice that an episode isn't the usual competition between Rataxes and Basil but despite the addition of the Cheetahs, it still manages to have that feeling; don't get me wrong, both teams manage to portray the feeling well and it provides many of the episodes best moments but it just seems one dimensional; not in a bad way of course but it would of been nice if it went above the norm a little bit more.
As with every episode of Babar, there is a moral to be had and there are some times where the moral itself is unclear; this would be one of those times. I had barely any idea what the episode was trying to exactly teach, sure it's mentioned at the end of the episode in the wraparounds (which share some common characteristics with the story) but during the majority of the episode it's unclear. Is it trying to teach us to work together, tolerate each other, believe in yourself, try, do the unexpected? there are so many lessons being shown that the episode fails to focus on that one lesson that the episode will ultimately implant in the minds of young children and adults alike; audiences of all kinds will be confused about it's intentions and while people will learn stuff from this episode, I just feel like the overall moral should of been a bit clearer but I guess there's a consequence for having a cartoon-like plot. They do well with the morals they do try to teach, reinforcing each of them with scenes that are as subtle as they are effective; when you're watching these scenes, you don't realize that deep down there's a moral buried underneath all the plot and character moments and you're learning something; the fact that it's teaching you a moral without it being overly obvious says a lot really... Additionally, the fact that they manage to teach those morals against odds like the cartoon-like feeling and overall lacking moral is rather impressive, seeing as how the feeling would of deterred any efforts related to morals and teaching as a whole.
Though it may be a bit different, it still has it's moments. For one, it contains a lot of great entertaining visuals; visuals such as a bolder, a bike tire blowing up and more importantly, the bridge which I think is the most memorable moment of the episode. Why is that? Well the idea of them riding on the railings of a bridge; it's just so funny and charming at the same time, plus the detail lent to the scenes, the execution of the animation at hand and how it leads into the plot; it's like one big visual that doubles as an important plot point and an example of the wonders that Babar is often so capable of achieving. Pompador, Trubador and Cornelius lend themselves to be a good pair, giving tensity, class, charm and a quick laugh to the few scenes they appear in, the few scenes that they appear in ultimately lend themselves to the character Arthur who manages to have a decent emotional scene which is a citified take on the whole classic skip rocks on the ocean scene, that scene alone makes me wish the writers would of used more of him as there is definitely something to him that makes him tick; and then there's that classic twist at the end, that twist which just screams out "classic Babar", I can't say much but let's just say it enforces a lesson and gives you hope at the same time while also being really, really charming and unexpected; plus there are some good pictures showcasing all of the animals.
Those darn cheetahs!
So in the end, Babar's "Tour De Celesteville" manages to be an entertaining romp through the jungle. It may be cartoony yes, but it manages to create an atmosphere that's reminiscent of older days of cartoons while managing to teach morals and life lessons; it may have some major flaws that set it back (most importantly the muddled morals, the characterization and some 80's stuff.) but through those 22 minutes, you'll find yourself enjoying the mood they set up and appreciating certain moments throughout. It may be different but it ultimately succeeds in what it sets out to do, which is to create 22 minutes of pure cartoon fun.
I've been on a wicked Nelvana kick lately; it's nice to read this.
Seasons 1-9 - Classic era
10-12 - Scully era
13-16 - Silver age
16.5 - Into the abyss
17 - The shit abyss
18-24 - Zombie Simpsons
Keep the faith
Zephir is one of those characters who's always seen on the show yet never had any amount of particular focus attached to him in an episode aside from the pairing up with Babar from the episode "The Missing Crown Affair", Zephir is an interesting character to look at; he's enthusiastic, he's zany, he's the loose cannon. You're probably wondering, when they're going to dedicate an episode to him that will explore his personality. Well for those of you wondering; that time is going to be this episode which finally gives a focus to Zephir and explores what makes him tick.
Ah, lovable Zephir...
The episode is centered around a peanut patch and a rhino rampage, two things that people assume wouldn't work out in relation to plot but manage to provide the perfect basis for Zephir's story and the story of those in the palace as a whole; it's something that's so simplistic yet manages to be so essential at the same time, it isn't extravagant but it's possibilities are endless, especially in terms to the thematics and analogies. Throughout the episode, we witness the antics of Zephir and as we witness those antics, we're learning a lot about his character; through his actions, we learn that he's a prankster, an enthusiastic fellow, somewhat determined, off-the-wall, demanding for company and a pretty good fellow and the situation that he's in, it's just provides an interesting show for his character, the thing that makes it interesting is the non-zany situation he's put in; I mean Zephir is zany, put him in a non-zany situation and what do you get? I think you know the answer to that... The actor behind Zephir puts in a good performance with voice acting and some dramatic acting to boot, it's such a delight to watch him do the stuff that he does and watch all of that sort of establish his character; what he's doing is not only entertaining us but setting the bar for Zephir himself, one which would come to define him and prove pretty consistent throughout the series.
His situation does contribute a major role to the Babar & Friends plot at hand. I have to say, it was interesting to see Zephir play an overall role but not as someone who is by his side; I mean this is the first time we've seen them in a situation that's annoying and difficult to work through at that, we have seen Babar be friendly and non-worrisome but we have never seen him been mostly annoyed; same goes to Pompador and Cornelius (Arthur and Celeste are there but they play mostly background roles, which is a shame...). It reveals some of their unknown characteristics which seemed to be bottled up but only unleashed under the torturous of circumstances and those characteristics help to make our characters seem more dynamic per say. It also provides a somewhat subtle contrast, both of them aren't thinking about the same thing but both of them are feeling the effects from each others actions and one is feeling the effects more then the other and that helps to set up the motives that would play out later in the episode and helps to set the palace scenes apart from Zephir's scenes. The scenes in Babar's plot doesn't have the feeling of anything major or urgent, they're just trying to go through palace life as normal while also doing stuff related to the peanut patch, it's nice to see something that doesn't feel like it's constantly working towards a really big issue (well maybe the Rhino Rampage), definitely a break from the norm and really helps the episode in terms of the plot. There is some stuff that seems somewhat over-the-top but it all helps the episode, though there are certain cases where it can harm...
Who knew? (see below.)
The rhino rampage scenes have a similar feeling to the palace scenes; it's kind of nice to see these scenes as they have a relaxful and charming vibe but what makes them stand out is how they play out in the plot later on and how it develops the characters of both Lord Rataxes and Lady Rataxes. I'm amazed at the stuff that's being revealed about them, it's really something that changes what we know about them. We thought Lord Rataxes was just this ruthless ruler but here we're shown that he's just someone who just wants to relax, as evident by the scenes which show the rampage itself and the scenes which shows him dreading the running he has to do as part of the rampage; I know, I'm surprised too... it seems like the people behind him are finally starting to grow him, make him more dynamic then what we've seen before and it's definitely appreciated seeing as how it's the perfect time to move forward. The same could be said for Lady Rataxes who definitely gets some exploration in the same way as Zephir; what we witness from her definitely establishes her character in a major way from what we've seen of her before. I've mostly thought of her as the character who's sweet on the inside but mean and stern when called upon but it turns out she's more of the energetic, dedicated & determined character, especially when it's indicated that she's more ruthless then her husband. Her concern & involvement in the rhino rampage shows the true rhino in her, the one who doesn't want to be standing still and loves to get down and dirty; her performance isn't as good as Zephir's but it definitely a performance that adds to her character and it's something that helps direct the rhino rampage to become a respectable plot point. The rampage scenes could of been used a bit more though...
This episode has it's fair share of moments, especially the comedic moments that happens, the old-fashioned homages (the elephant guards are my favorite) and the small animated moments throughout but the highlight is the climax near the end, one which involves the rhino rampage. It's both a disturbing sight and a delight to see all that action, to see the two try to save the peanut patch with all of their might all while it gets destroyed by rhinos trampling all over it... You'll laugh as you witness the rhinos meet their demise yet be saddened for all of the destruction that's happening. Babar plays a much larger part here than he did before and his performance showcases the kind of connection he has with Zephir and the ability to get themselves out of sticky situations, it's not the best performance in the world but it is good and his elements do serve the whole Zephir plot well... The tight animation makes a lot of these scenes; stuff flying all over in a smooth manner, various things being manipulated and used, the moments where Babar is in a rhino costume, (part of something earlier in the episode and I think it's rather nice what they managed to do with the costume, it's one of the most delightful parts of the episode.) it's like a tour-de-force where television animation is concerned and it really provides a lot of the excitement that we feel from these scenes; just proves that great animation is as equivalent as the action that's happening on screen and the situation that they're in. Ultimately it leads to a resolution that's as charming as it is metaphorical; the way it's presented and the way it's used, it gives meaning to the whole peanut patch thing and it makes everything shown in the episode worthwhile. It's not the most unique metaphor in the world but it works and it's reveal isn't as obvious, rather it's unorthodox and somewhat funny; making the resolution so much better.
Some very tight animation over here.
This episode succeeds in exploring what makes Zephir tick; it also succeeds in exploring what makes others tick and also exploring some of the unexplored elements, hell it doesn't stop at the story; there are some scenes in the wraparounds (with realistic lighting no less.) where they hint at the year and they even have one character appear in the present who's presence in the flashbacks is common (even in this very episode); this also appears to be Zephir's first visible appearance in the present for those of you wondering... Anyways, Zephir's performance is classic Zephir, one that's entertaining as it is character defining; the plot is good and the stuff the episode centers on provides the perfect basis for Zephir as he does his zany antics and Babar & Friends as they work through the whole situation at hand, building up to the climax which puts everything into perspective. It's not a masterpiece but it's an exceptionally good "Babar" episode that deserves to be seen, besides; who doesn't love the stuff?
Keep the faith
You may have seen that episode title before many times; on dramas, live-action comedies and even science-fiction shows but though the episode title may be common, it's the title of one of the finest Babar episodes yet. Centered around a story about climbing up way up peak to get the feather of the weeping wonderbird and centered around a morale about the thought of the gift rather then the gift itself, this episode aims to do two things at once; provide you with 22 minutes of adventure and teach you something in the end, both of which the episode succeeds at doing.
Let's start off with what the episode provides; a sense of adventure. The environment our heroes are placed in is designed for adventure, with it's unique lighting, detailed features and various obstacles which manage to be natural and fantastical at the same time. Just witnessing the environment yourself, you can tell that they are going to have the adventure of a lifetime; thinking on the tip of their toes, getting themselves out of sticky situations get so they can get the one thing that they desire most, the thrill of survival, the excitement of succeeding, possible death; there are just tons of things that can't be mentioned in a single sentence that this episode provides. I really like the fact that they manage to include stuff that literally provides danger to the characters, it just makes the adventure all the more involving; when you worry whether or not they're going to make it, you know that the danger is real plus it just looks so serene and beautiful. This episode manages to make the art of adventuring look really interesting and fun, makes you want to go out there and have an adventure yourself.
Designed for adventure.
The people who go off to find the feather, Babar and Zephir are obviously the heroes of the story; from the getgo we understand why they're doing this, Babar wants the perfect gift for the Old Lady and Zephir mentions it and Babar gets enthusiastic about the prospects of the feather (despite the dangers mentioned by the other characters) and they head off to get the feather. Babar and Zephir are the first people we see but there's another group who we know ever so well; yes... Rataxes and Basil; they're doing it for Lady Rataxes (who's methods of motivation are way different in this episode, which is nice.) and to show Babar up by being the first one to the top and the one with the feather but who cares why they're doing it, especially when these two groups are given equal focus throughout the episode; we've seem them compete before but most those times it's focused on Babar's side on the story and barely on Rataxes' side, well with this episode they're given equal focus and the equal focus really helps out the episode. It's such a delight to actually see them competing, trying to be the first to reach the feather and while we don't actually see them compete, we can feel the rivalry and spirit between them; trunk to trunk, tusk to tusk, they're trying the best that they can to claim the feather for themselves one uping each other whenever they can.
The differences that are shown between them throughout the adventure really helps to add that entertainment factor to the episode; we know the differences but we can't help but to get involved in the scenes where they showcase those differences; I'm guessing it comes from the unique ways they handle these moments and how these differences manage to form a sort-of contrast with those moments, the situations may be similar but with the two groups, they leads to totally different outcome; it's like a what-if situation only the what-if situation is actually happening. Through every thing Babar and Zephir does in a caring, charming, sensible and somewhat on-the-spot way, Rataxes and Basil do the same but in a ruthless, domineering and mockful way; there is something to watching Babar use his friendliness to get himself out a situation while Rataxes just sticks a golf club into something... and it's exciting to see what each group would do in those situations, even to the conclusions of the situation themselves. It sort of sets the characters apart in terms of personality, using that to build up their characters and further define their roles within the world of Babar.
Things are always better in pairs.
Babar, Zephir, Rataxes and Basil are all portrayed wonderfully (with only some minor voicing errors hindering things), with the group mechanic helping to define our characters. Babar and Zephir's pairing is like something from "The Missing Crown Affair" only this time, it seems like more of a bond... Pairing Babar up with people have always resulted in really good plots but this is the pinnacle of Babar & Zephir, they have a connection that cannot be denied; repeating stuff, helping each other out enjoying each others company and this is shown to great effect in the episode. Every scene shown from them is truly charming, you can truly connect with them as they journey to get the feather, not helping to laugh and smile at mostly every turn; simply put, Babar with his charming personality and Zephir with his offbeat personality go together like peanut butter and jelly. Rataxes and Basil's pairing is something that we've barely seen fleshed out in episodes up until now and while Rataxes is still the same old ruthless rhino and Basil is still the loyal assistant, what is shown of the two really manages to grow their characters and make them deeper.
Basil's friendliness and kindness makes it marks here, though there are very few scenes where this is showcased, it does imply that beneath that exterior, he is friendly at heart, willing to do stuff that Rataxes is too hotheaded to do; it's a small mark yes but it does add character to someone who's mostly associated with Rataxes. Seeing Rataxes care deeply for Basil really showcases the bond that they have and the type of emotion we thought Rataxes would never have, they may have different personalities but they manage to enjoy each other's company in their own unique way; here, they're acting like a couple of buddies who are inseparable, helping each other out wherever they can and cracking jokes to each other and whenever somebody he knows deeply is in trouble, he can't help but to feel remorse or even sadness; of course he tries to appear strong but deep down, we know he's a caring rhino and that adds a small bit of character which grows him, no matter how small that bit may be. The scenes in which they appear may not be as enjoyable as Babar's but they're enjoyable in their own way, especially considering the ruthlessness of Rataxes. I would of liked to see a bit more of them though...
Just like brothers...
The episode itself is tightly paced, with all the action managing to fit within the 22-minute timespan; there is barely any wasted moment, everything shown is as essential as the next and that's important in an adventure episode because if there isn't anything essential in the episode then the feeling of the adventure is lost. Though the episode may be packed full of action, there's always room for some lighthearted moments here and there and this episode contains a couple of them; a certain song for example, it's execution is pretty good and it's always funny for me to see him perform the song, especially the dancing part. This song would come to be associated with Basil himself and though most people wouldn't notice, I thought it was a nice thing that defined his character a bit. There's also the napkin bit in the beginning (which shows Babar at his decision-making finest.), Zephir's toaster mentions which ultimately serves as a simple yet effective metaphor. Arthur's present and Rataxes golf trait that ultimately plays a role in the plot but what stands out is the cat and mouse game near the end of the episode.
It's ever so exciting to see the various people attempt to grab the feather in ever wackier ways, especially when they manage to include the occasional offbeat thing that you can't help to laugh at; sure, it may be simplistic but watching it on screen, it's very entertaining. They manage to recreate the old-school vibe that made these popular, complete with ever so relevant and good musical backing... it's helped by some rather impressive animation which is as fluid as it is off-the-wall. There isn't any attempt to make it more then what it is, which is a bunch of characters frantically trying to get the feather while ultimately having fun in the end; It's nice that they don't take it too seriously but there are thing in this episode to be taken seriously, like the two life & death situations that happen to both groups. They rack up the stakes a bit this time around, meaning that the feeling of death is stronger then ever and the situations themselves feel more involving; watching a friend try to save another friend in need, wondering whether or not they'll die or if they're dead, these are things that you will feel watching these scenes and the way the scenes are presented... truly gets across how serious the situation is. It also reinforces the kindness these people have, when one person is willing to save another person, especially if that person isn't a friend... that says a lot really and it especially shows how close they are and how it all works out in the end.
Always a sweet moment around her.
Yet through all this adventuring, all this competition and the danger and the meeting of the weeping wonderbird herself (who is a pretty sweet bird herself; a one-time guest appearance that manages to leave an impression in our hearts with some charm and personality.) lies a morale to be had. Watching this episode, it doesn't feel like there's a moral behind it but that's the wonder of it; this episode is teaching you the morale in a subtle way by using the action on screen. The efforts of the groups, the moments that they had, the situations they were in, all of those things showcase the lengths they went to and what they went through just to get a feather... (which serves as the perfect metaphor for the perfect gift, it's as beautiful as it is rare) and though it leads to a less then desirable outcome, what is mentioned by the Old Lady (in a scene which shows Babar & Zephir at their most adorable alongside the charming Old Lady.) in the end puts it all into perspective... Through all of the adventure and the bonding, Babar was doing this for the Old Lady and that just drives the morale in deeply... Though no length can ever be that grand in real life, it is something that defines Babar and serves an ultimate divining purpose much like a well written cinematic movie.
These 22 minutes of adventure are one of Babar's finest outings. It's as creative as it is beautiful and engaging, capturing the wonder as only Babar can and managing to perfectly portray the feeling of adventuring. The group mechanic helps to explore the characters and to grow them, getting a better sense of what makes them who they are and revealing certain traits that define them as a whole. Through every moment, you'll feel involved as you witness Babar & Rataxes try to get that feather; you'll laugh at the light-hearted moments and you'll feel something for the serious moments that don't take themselves for granted and it uses the entire basis of the episode as the morale itself, which is pretty amazing. The lengths that go into getting the gift leads to the best gift of all; this episode, which makes every thought count. A must see!
Keep the faith
In many episodes, it was stated that there were tensions between the Rhinos and the Elephants, tensions that could start a war; throughout the series, there are signs of possible war but we have yet to see that war come to fruition. until now... This episode isn't a full scale war with violence and bloodshed but it does fulfill the promise of having some sort of war though in a somewhat lesser fashion and wrapped around one of Babar's usual morales and lessons.
The premise of this is simple; in Babar's story, his impatience gets the better of him when the supplies for an amusement park under construction won't arrive on time and in his rush to get the park open, neglects to go through proper procedure and sends the supplies through an alternate route under an assumption that leads to major consequences, in this case the start of the war. It's nice to see an exaggerated version of how things unfold, it gives Babar the kind of thing needed to make his performance (and the episode) work, it helps to get across his concerns, worries and shock over the whole ordeal while making the actions that he does relating to the war at hand worthwhile (though some seem less convincing); I doubt that something else would work since the entire lesson revolves around what's unfolding; I mean the war, the action, the over-the-topness, it gets across the lesson nicely even though something like that will never happen if you're impatient.
Of course, the Rhinos themselves have to start the war and this is where Rataxes comes in. The depiction of him leading throughout the episode is great, it really shows a side of his character that we haven't seen before; the leader in him but it also showcases something we thought didn't exist, his lack of leadership skills. Rataxes is a ruthless rhino but it's overly obvious that he isn't the kind of guy who is willing to look over a kingdom which is showcased ever so brilliantly here; he tries to read every paper, sign it but lets carelessness gets in the way and decides to take the easy out thus leading to the war and though it isn't the focus, this episode furthers just how important Basil is; not just to Rataxes but to the kingdom as a whole... Whenever Basil's away (or on vacation as in this episode), things just sort of descend into chaos and while Rataxes tries the best that he can to lead and make decisions that aren't reckless or stupid, he just can't get everything under control or work under the hardest of conditions; case in point, he needs Basil, even though it is shown that he can handle most situations well. I admit that the way they set up the entire thing could of used work but overall, it's handled brilliantly.
Shots from both sides.
Though the story is about how Babar's impatience caused a war, he's not totally at fault. Rataxes is also at fault for being careless and allowing the war to happen, thus inadvertently becoming a "both people at fault" episode. It's always nice to see both people at fault rather than one (see "Between Friends" and "The City of Elephants") but it never truly feels like the blame given is equal; moreso it feels like Babar is given alot of the blame rather then Rataxes. I can see why they'd shift most of the blame to Babar, it is his story and his actions did contribute to the war but I can't ignore the fact that Rataxes deserves more blame for his actions; (Side note: His carelessness is something that Babar could of taken advantage of, I mean if he learned that he was being careless then he could of just taken proper procedure and have the supplies shipped on time without a war happening, of course there wouldn't be an episode so...) Rataxes started the war by being careless and just happening to be careless at the worst possible time, he should obviously be given more focus just for that though I will admit that somewhat learning from his fault at the end somewhat makes up for it.
Contrary to what is said above, Rataxes isn't the antagonist in this episode; no that distinction goes to a different character, one that's new... one that's tough, ruthless and is even in the same ranks as Rataxes... That character is General Pamir who fits the antagonist role perfectly. He manages to be a mix of Yosemitie Sam, a real life general and a drill sargent who's toughness is not to be questioned; his introduction establishes him as a menacing threat yet still manages to include some charming qualities that make him a delight to watch, especially during the more cartoony moments. His hatrid for elephants is almost the same as Rataxes but pushed to the extreme, even to the point of finding a way of pointlessly going to war with them; his military background contributes to those extreme with paranoid delusions, biasness, overthinking and overaggression, I mean who else can take a simplistic word like "games" and create an acronym/codeword out of it? He manages to have the ideology of a modern policitian, his hatred for spunk is amusing, if only for the irony of it and some of the dialog with Rufus (who I admit is a pretty good secondary character) manages to be as lighthearted as it is serious.
General Pamir. Nothing more. Nothing Less.
The amusement park and the war play somewhat of a equal role, both serving a purpose in regards to the plot and providing some pretty amazing scenes. Everything shown from the amusement park is surrealistically beautiful, providing a certain sense of wonder (in both the past and the present) while reflecting young Babar's fun side and his desire to see the citizens happy, I like that they didn't entirely focus on himself during the impatience thing, it's nice to see someone be impatient for something else rather then themselves. The supplies, the construction, the impatience builds up the things leading to the war, sets up the climax and it helps to set up that mostly dramatic flair that defines the war scenes... when you witness your first sights of General Pamir, when you witness Babar sneaking around watching the army in action, when you witness Rataxes questioning the plans, it definitely gets to you; the urgency, the danger and even though there are comedic scenes that detract this sense of urgency, the urgency is still there just making the situation tense, helping to make the climax even more climatic.
The climax itself showcases the high point of the episode, it's homage to war movies. (complete with equipment and everything.) It's somewhat cinematic, they manage to replicate some of the tension that comes from a standoff with the empty environments and the fortified defenses, actually managing to make it look grounded rather then over the top... they even manage to include their version of a roaring speech which is as grand as it is powerful. The climax itself also provides one of the biggest surprises the episode can offer; Babar and Rataxes working together... In contrast to the previous episode, it's almost amazing how they manage to bond so easily, like there was never any rivalry at all between them. Though they're somewhat hostile in the beginning, they manage to act like a bunch of close friends, seemingly having fun while defeating his army; it seems like it was ultimately set up in such a way that'd suit the two while providing one of the most absurd, visual and almost masterful moments of the episode that serves as a decent contrast to the war scenes beforehand. I mean the careful placement of everything leading up to this moment... It's almost as if they wanted this to happen.
Babar & Rataxes, together at last.
There are lighthearted moments throughout the episode to balance things out, moments which though spatial are really funny. The squirrel who follows Babar around and appears out of nowhere during much of the second act is decent mainly because he's someone who's just there, he appears to serve a purpose but his ultimate purpose is to just sit there on Babar's head, which in itself makes it decent. Cornelius and Pompador with their back and forwardths are also entertaining as usual, so is their shtick in the beginning with the Ferris wheel which while leading to some very entertaining moments (especially the doctor bit) just feels a bit too intense. I mean they treat this Ferris wheel like a thrill ride when in actuality it's a gentle ride; I understand what they were going for but things like this just take me out of the episode; not a lot but still, it just irks me when they do this. Even General Pamir & adult Babar manages to get in the fun near the end with some amusing and charming scenes. All in all, there's something funny for everyone in here.
There are some things to mention that I haven't mentioned before; I like how they manage to hint at some things that appear in the present but also play a part in the story as well, which I thought it was somewhat clever to do. The various names that they manage to give the paperwork is decent and realistic; though the one that references water is a bit too obvious (but somewhat clever at the same time.) The wraparounds that take place inside of the park are charming, entertaining and detailed though they are somewhat longer then previous wraparounds, I like how they manage to handle the whole in-line thing (makes me think of Walt Disney (the person) whenever I see that.) though there are some points where the kids voices seems off and the character animation is just stationary without any movement at all, it does indicate where future wraparounds may be headed in the season.
While the "Rhino War" may not be a full fledged war, it does prove itself to be exceptional regardless. It has the makings of a classic with dramatic sensibilities that are taken seriously, a decent war plot, enjoyable characters, a one-time character (General Pamir) with both toughness and appeal, overall charm plus Babar and Rataxes together. There are things that hold it down like inconsistencies like both people not being fully at fault, overexageration of things that ultimately hinder the plot (like the Ferris wheel) and some voicing flaws and questionable animation but it still manages to be a classic, not a masterpiece but a classic nonetheless; though some questions will always linger with this episode, it won't hinder the enjoyability these 22 minutes will provide you with.
Last edited by Zombies Rise from the Sea; 05-21-2012 at 02:00 PM.
Keep the faith
Babar is the titular character of the show and throughout many episodes we're shown his personality; his philanthropy, his compassion, his friendliness, his charm, his enthusiasm and his worry. This helps a big part to define the character of Babar as he plays his part, helping to connect with the character and grow him as a whole but there is a once-in-a-lifetime episode that comes along that digs deep, exploring the one aspect of a character that's often mentioned but not explored, utilizing the characters in ways never before seen, being a pinnacle for the titular character of the show and providing one of the best character showcases the show has ever done. That would be this episode right here... Revolving around the titular "Elephant Express", this episode places Babar in a situation which shows off one of the better characteristics of Babar while ultimately reflecting the world as a whole.
That situation/characteristic happens to involve Babar's mother and the place that he was raised in, which is given a name in this episode... "Pleasant Valley"; one cannot deny the thing Babar has for his dead mother, I mean she sacrificed her life to let the other elephants flee, she raised her son to be the king he is today and inadvertently made Celesteville into the city it is today; "Pleasent Valley" is also special as it's the place where Arthur and Celeste grew up and where all three of them had fun, learned life lessons, you know; just acted like young elephants. He obviously feels what most of us feel, I mean if I felt something for a special place then I would definitely be shocked if it was destroyed or tampered with but this is where the interesting thing comes up; even though he feels alot for that place to the point where he feels it'll be untampered, he has to run the track through it for the betterment of the animal kingdom unlike most bigshots who feel nothing when they destroy special places. That thing shows a certain deepness to the Babar character that we thought we'd never see; the king who cares about something dearly yet hides it from everybody for the big picture. It's certainly interesting to see it play out in the character of Babar and considering the history of the character and the acting of the characters all around him, it just makes for a really great character show. There is one fault though and that is a replaying of a scene from "Babar's First Steps" that involve his birth, I felt that scenes involving Babar playing around, having fun, growing up would of been better but no matter, it gets the point across.
King Babar as it is.
As part of the episode's focus on Babar, the spotlight is mainly shined on him and the way the spotlight is shined, it really gives you a deep look into the mindset of Babar; how he operates, what he is thinking, how he's feeling and the stuff that he's going through as well; that deep look really makes you connect with Babar as he acts his way through the episode, you gain an understanding for what he feels yet an understanding for what he has to do; that understanding helps to give the performance the actor behind Babar gives weight, which is important for an episode like this. The performance he gives is one of his best yet, he manages to successfully portray a sense of drama that other child actors would just dream to have; listening to his lines, you can tell that he is taking this seriously, giving it everything that he's got in his performance even to the point where he becomes the character himself rather then just another voice actor; he mixes emotion and enthusiasm in a way that gives him charm and appeal yet gives weight to the situation at hand and reflects his character deeply, the way the emotions are shown on his face, the way he expresses it, the actions that he does on screen, it's all prime quality stuff that both works with the character and the episode as a whole; plus the stuff where he gets scared, the stuff where he speaks casually, there is just so many thing about Babar in this episode that can't be explained in one sentence.
Celeste, Arthur and Zephir appear in this episode but in most of the episodes they've appeared in, they only played a background role or had a few lines; for those of you who wished either one of them would play more of a part in an episode, well you're in luck because all three of them play a larger role here, even getting as much airtime as Babar does in this episode. Their roles in the episode help play a major part in both the portrayal of Babar and the situation at hand, in fact you can even call their performances essential. Celeste, Arthur and Zephir work together to pull off performances that showcase the cuteness, the beauty, the pure fun, the spontaneity and the compassion that these three are known for. It's just fun to hear them talk in deep, funny voices about certain things, it's charming to see them pick fruit, play hide and seek and even sleep and it's also both scary and entertaining to see them be scared and worried and to see them interact with our star attraction Babar, talking it up and ultimately showing the bond that all four share. You can truly get a sense for their friendship with these scenes; it doesn't seem like three people are placed together for no reason, it actually seems like they're truly friends the way they chat it up and do stuff together and that gives a certain believability to the scenes that they appear in; which is essential because without the believability, it wouldn't have the same impact on Babar or the entire episode. I personally find it nice that they're playing a bigger role in this episode; to see them actually playing an important part of an episode after a lot of background roles (especially Arthur) and playing those roles effectively, it just brings a tear to my eye.
Yup, a tear.
While all three play a major part in Babar's plot and bring out his character, the thing that truly brings out his character and ties the entire thing together is the Polomosh, which is a mystical creature their mothers used to tell them about when they were little. The very idea of the Polomosh works brilliantly as it allows for a wide variety of things to happen with the plot, it provides for a sense of danger and fear that allows our characters to thrive (especially Pompador and Cornelius) , it serves as a protagonist which aims to prevent the very goal which they're trying to accomplish (which is building the railroad) and it reflects alot on Babar's character as well as "Pleasent Valley". The versatility successfully translates to the scenes themselves which can rage from mysterious (big feet, loud noises) to funny, to serious and even calm; each scene manages to blend in with the next while adding to the overall feeling of the episode, managing to feel like just an average day but with a dangerous monster out there in the wild; there are no scenes relating to the Polomosh that stand out in either a bad or odd way and that's a good thing because the episode isn't supposed to be about the Polomosh, it's supposed to be about Babar, his friends and the things they hold ever so dearly, the Polomosh just happens to be tied to something to his past. Even though it isn't overly obvious, the way it reflects on the episode and Babar's character is what I think to be pretty clever; it's a protagonist, it's portrayed as something bad yet it's something that's portrayed as something special to the four shown, it's almost like icing on the cake.
Surprisingly, there's barely any appearance of Rataxes (and his wife, who doesn't even appear in the episode, which was odd and nice...) even though it's shown that he's responsible for the situation that Babar is in and there are scenes suggesting that he'll stop Babar by any means necessary; I mean if you have scenes where Rataxes appears then people will naturally assume that Rataxes will appear in the episode but it seems like he only plays a part in the last few minutes of the episode, trying both times to sabotage the "Elephant Express" but ultimately playing a part in the climax itself. The fact that he plays a minor part is nice as the episode wasn't about Rataxes in the first place but there is a nagging feeling that he could of appeared in more. It is somewhat justified by having him be a potential suspect in the episode and having him act the way he does but it just feels like he was there to create the situation and to provide an ending where everything is easily resolved, not to say it's a bad ending but Rataxes just appears to pop out of nowhere and that alone is questionable... The climax itself (involving the train) is sudden as it is wonderful, it's almost as if they needed something to end the episode on but wanted to do something different with it, having it be sudden is nice as it allows for a situation where the rush is natural and the attempt to stop the train is more powerful then normal, mainly because the situation isn't overly out-of-place; it's something that's dramatic yet reflects the collaborative nature of people as a whole and as a plus, the climax manages to drive in just how special "Pleasant Valley" is, wrapping the entire episode together in a very clever way.
Aside from the focus on Babar, there are a lot of things that make the episode; one of those things being the animation which is a masterpiece of animation and power the sheer number of charming and cute scenes that exist in this episode; the flowers and the animals are ever so detailed, well lighted, well colored and well shadered, if there's any show that can truly show the beauty of nature, it's Babar and all of those scenes manage to get to even the coldest places in your hearts with the sheer craft shown. There's also some impressive shadowing reminiscent of "The Missing Crown Affair", fine detailing which focuses on the small things make the settings much more lively and lighting which is as realistic as it is thematic and even a neatly animated scene involving a toy train crash that I have to say is one of my favorite animated scenes in Babar. I have no doubt in my mind that the animators who worked on Babar put this episode on their resume, I mean the environments are varied, the scenes are cute, the methods of animation used is impressive and the quality of it is masterful; it's one of the things that make the episode what it is. While it's more serious and cute then comedic, it does contain a number of decent jokes; I enjoyed Basil's attempts to stop the train (as well as some of the other stuff Basil does), it's funny because of the contrast between it; I liked the scene in the beginning where Pom, Alexander and Flora each appear with their respective sports stuff and I liked much of Zephir's lines, that guy is a very natural comedian.
Shots from the animators resume's.
There is a morale regarding friendship and helping out for each other but it seems unclear; I can understand that there is some hints of that morale in the episode, what Celeste, Arthur and Zephir do could fit that definition but I'm left scratching my head just asking myself what this episode is supposed to teach, just like Flora in this episode. There are moments where the morale is unclear but it's nothing like this one, especially considering that much of the plot is about Babar and "Pleasent Valley", I guess it doesn't matter since this episode was designed to be a character showcase for Babar but still, it could of been clearer. I will note that this episode does do the mystery thing well, I mean it isn't obvious that there's a mystery but it's done well and both play into the parts of the episode; throughout the episode, you're either thinking that the Polomosh is a real creature or that it's just Rataxes trying to scare the elephants, not realizing that the culprits are right in front of your eyes the entire time. (I mean who'd suspect those people would be the culprits all along) The best mysteries usually keep the real motive/culprit a secret while dropping some hints to allow the viewers at home to figure it out and Babar does it no differently, except this time most of the hints are more obscure so if you look closely and analyze everything then you might be able to get some idea about who did it way before they reveal the culprit and as always the show doesn't insult your intelligence by making the mystery easy to solve, it rewards you for it. Long story short, "Babar" crafts a mystery that's involving as it is subtle, for both the flashbacks and the story and the reveals that relate to the mystery are just plain brilliant.
In closing; this is one of the best character showcases that Babar has done yet. It really digs deep into the character of Babar by placing him in a situation that reflects his character yet puts him in a tough conundrum and it also places Celeste, Arthur and Zephir in a role that's larger then previous episodes yet plays an essential part in Babar's character and showcases the friendship that they have. The performances from all four are very compelling with Babar's coming across as , the charm and cuteness is cranked to full blast making the scenes with all four much more involving and giving the episode a distinctive feeling that sets it apart from the rest; the focus on that special place is something that's very deep for the series in both plot and character and the stuff regarding the Polomosh is both funny and scary at the same time; though the morale may be unclear and though Rataxes is awkwardly placed in the episode, it doesn't deter the fact that this is one of Babar's best episodes; mainly because it takes the character of Babar and does something nobody expected. A fun ride from start to finish, this is definitely a must see for everybody.
Keep the faith
Conga the Terrible
In the long line of Babar's adventures, we've seen him in mostly every place imaginable; in the city, around Celesteville, up in mountain peaks, so to see him traveling the seas exploring for the benefit of mankind is nothing surprising but it is something that promises to make one hell of an adventure, especially when they get shipwrecked in the middle of nowhere. Getting shipwrecked always seem to be one of the most common plots in both childrens television and sitcom history and for every show that happens to does this plot, their variation of it is different so to see Babar's take on the whole plot is definitely interesting.
This ought to be good...
From the get go it keeps it simple; It's setting is nothing extravagant, just a dangerous uninhabited island ("Skull Island") inhabited by a legendary creature (the aforementioned "Conga the Terrible") who's known for being deadly and dominating and the plot is nothing special as well, just a bunch of people fixing the ship while either trying to survive or trying not to incur the wrath of Conga the Terrible. The island itself is well presented, I mean sure it has some features that are extravagant but the way it's presented and the way it's designed, I could easily imagine myself being on that island; it's beauty lies with it's serene trees, beaches, mountaintops and the attention to detail is amazing, they manage to get everything right, down to the most insignificant trees and the tiniest rocks and it's just beautiful really. The islands simplicity leads to the perfect breeding ground for these characters, who manage to play their roles while not succumbing to cliches (well except for Zephir but his was expected, he's just so wacky.); what is seen on screen is a decent portrayal of how anybody would act should they find themselves stranded on an island in real life, they set up shelter, they look for food and they even set up guard; nothing seems out of place or overly wacky, it's as sensible as it can be which does wonders for the plot at hand. It's really enjoyable to watch these characters, they have a certain way of effortlessly working together in a way that makes the whole thing worthwhile; seeing Babar take lead, seeing Pompador be scared, yell out like they're in danger (love the moments where he yells out) and be somewhat youthful, seeing Rataxes be the headstrong person that he is... It's just so much fun! Plus they certainly take the plot seriously at times so yeah... they know how to put on a respectable performance as well.
I liked Conga the Terrible, both the mystique of it and the creature itself; it truly represented the unknown of the island and it provided alot of the fear and danger, just wondering whether or not the creature is actually real and how much of a threat he actually is. Seeing Babar not show much fear when given mention of the creature is nice as always but to see him slowly scumb and fear the creature itself, it just shows how powerful Conga the Terrible really is; from his roars to the ever so obvious signs of his existence, it's something that though common, works pretty well in regards to the episode. When we do get a look at him, he looks masterfully done as they manage to showcase his size within the perception of the environment and additionally make a creature that's both cute and rugged at the same time; his entire appearance helps to make this episode into a homage to those movies or TV shows where they crash on a mysterious island and encounter a creature of mysterious size or unknown origin (even including Rataxes playing the role of the person who wants to capture him for the fame and monetary potential); the way he knocks things, the way he shows his dominance, he's almost like one of those mysterious creatures (or more specifically, King Kong) and his presence isn't used as a cliche; more so he's treated like an actual creature and an actual threat of danger; the homage is admirable enough, they pay fine respect the genre's classic traits in the way that only they know how but it grows into something more near the climax, where the creature's true colors are revealed. That made me like the creature even more and it made me think about what he has to deal with on a daily basis, I would like to see more of him but alas, this is probably the only episode he appears in but his reveal does have the classic "Babar" feeling the series is known for.
Mysterious don't you think?
The focus on Cornelius is a nice touch; for most of the series we've seen Cornelius in an advisory role, we've seen him do stuff, we've seen him speak and we've seen him do some stuff so to see him have an episode mostly to himself is especially surprising and nice. The focus on age is not something I would of gone for but it does work. I can understand the fight between old vs. young and there are certainly some areas where that is clear; while some of it does seem a bit obvious... most of it seems very knowledgeable, mainly because Cornelius isn't being treated like an obvious old man. The characters in the episode mostly chastise him for being old as being old can result in stuff like forgetfulness, lack of focus, lack of energy, etc. but his determination and resilience to the criticisms ever so thrown on him show a nice part of his character, he isn't going to be brought down just because he's old, that he can be on the equal level of many of his younger peers. Sure he makes mistakes but as shown, many of those mistakes can be attributed to other factors and compared to those factors, it makes the argument that much clearer. His focus plays a part in the moral of this episode, that "you shouldn't judge things by their cover"; it's a nice morale by the way, people usually judge things based on their look or their size or even their age and more so then often they underestimate them. I mean look at Cornelius, he's old but he's got wisdom and he uses that wisdom in a way that's true to his character and true to the morale. I especially liked Cornelius in this, I liked the focus and I liked the moral, it was well detailed and well explained; children will certainly learn something from watching Cornelius.
This episode has some pretty masterful animation behind it, many of the scenes regarding the ship being examples. I have never seen scenes which showed both the beauty of the sea and the nature of weather in general, the bright colors of the scenes really get across the feeling that you're on the sea and the sense of scale and attention to detail really makes it feel like a real ship; there are small changes to account for different areas of the ship but the feeling gets across pretty well regardless. Then there are the scenes where they get caught in a storm; the dark lighting contrasts nicely with the environment and it really mixes well with the action on screen, especially the sails and the waves hitting the ship; it truly gets across the feeling of danger as every one of them faces the storm or even near certain death. They really put a lot of detail into such a common occurrence, there are small hint of shadows, different kinds of shadering, stuff moving around (including oranges), things falling apart, flashes of thunder and even the detail of the rain drops; there are times where they could of cheapened out but it looks like they put their heart and soul into it, making sure that everything is pitch-perfect and let's not forget about the scenes on the island... Truly the animation is a sight to see. There's also a bit of comedy in here for everybody to like, I particularly liked Rataxes and his hole poking gag, it just seemed so funny that he would disregard the fact that he's on the ship just to poke holes; I also liked Zephir and his Conga gag, definitely something that's cute, charming, spontaneous and funny at the same time and I really liked the wraparound gags involving hide and seek. There were some things that I didn't like, partly some of the line readings of Rataxes (he sounds like he's trying just a bit too hard.) but they weren't enough to hinder the enjoyment factor of this episode.
Babar's take on the whole "shipwrecked" plot ends up being more then we expected; Conga the Terrible is just an absolute delight, both the episode and the creature; the mystique provided is intriguing, it's a nice homage to many of those monster movies, it's consistently funny and it's even got a focus on one of the higher characters. Cornelius; who's focus both helps showcase his character and helps to enforce the morale which was decently explained and really important. It's a really nice touch to an episode alongside the aforementioned creature and when combined together, this episode is fun, insightful and engaging. Something you must see, least you let down the aforementioned creature that this episode is titled for.
Keep the faith
King Tuttle's Vote
The cartoons in the early 90's were created using the craft pencil and paper, inks and cells; they also had a frightening realistic depiction of natural disasters at the time, something which they haven't been able to fully replicate in the present. The subject of pollution in the 90's was a serious topic; it often then not caused living conditions to become insufferable all because the environment was contaminated with chemicals and trash from other sources; the neglect many people show regarding this issue is astonishing, mainly because people are supposed to care more about these things and what's worse is that it still exists even now though at a much smaller rate thanks to the effectiveness of programs aimed at recycling. For it's time though, Babar tackles the issue of pollution in the only it can, mixing in it's usual charm with a hint of surrealism throughout; sure, it's one of many cartoons tackling this issue but with Nelvana behind the helm and Babar behind the wheel, it should prove to be an interesting take on the issue.
First off, there seems to be a focus on Celeste for much of the episode... Young Celeste has always shared the background with Arthur and Zephir for many episodes so it's certainly nice that she's getting her chance to shine though I'm sad Young Arthur never got that chance to fully shine ("Tour De Celesteville" and "Elephant Express" somewhat count). We've been hinted at her opinionated and determined behavior before in "Race to the Moon" so to see that get used in a plot relating to one of the big issues at the time is also nice. It does an exceptional job at showcasing her character, the sheer determination that she shows when cleaning up the beach, the bash attitude when getting things done, the decisions that she makes in disregards to Babar's closest assistance; and it's not just for that one moment, she appears constantly throughout the episode. It's exciting to see her play more of a part in this episode, her performance truly effects the plot and her presence matters as much as any person in this episode. There are some times where her performance isn't up to par but for the most part, she performs exceptionally well to the point where she is just an essential part to this episode.
She's certainly proving herself to be essential.
There was something that I thought was a nice thing to add to Celeste's plot and that's the rivalry with Pompador. The scenes where Pompador and Celeste are together are some decent scenes indeed; they were truly one of the most interesting things about the episode and something that if the writers focused a bit more on, could of lead to something that took up a whole nother episode. What makes it work is Pompador's personality; most of the time he manages to be an overreacting person who can't seem to get a grip on himself or he's either a person who thinks highly of himself overreaching himself with his breauastic way of thinking and when he's that person he manages to be really funny, he's an antagonist to Celeste yes but he retains some of that personality and that helps to ease the tension just a bit. Celeste and Pompador as rivals may be disheartening but seeing Pompador act the way he does to Celeste just makes the whole thing worthwhile to watch and that scene where Pompador begs at Celeste; priceless. It would of been interesting to see this rivalry drawn out through the rest of the episode, at least to see how it would of turned out character wise but the episode has other plans...
Involving the turtle king (the aforementioned King Tuttle) and the turtle queen in the proceedings was a decent idea; sure it's initially awkward but I'm guessing that it was done that way intentionally and the lack of music just helped to enhance the awkwardness; to see them interact with the wise queen and the sleeping turtle is entertaining in it's own right, the voices both of them have may be over the top but they also have a sense of sophistication and wisdom in the voices that give their words impact. The slowness and the sudden revelations contribute to most of the humor from the pair, though King Tuttle seems to be more comically inclined then his female counterpart; their comedic routine is such a delight, to see their reactions to King Tuttle's actions combined with the non-reaction to King Tuttle's actions just brings a smile to anybodies face; sure it's not laugh out loud funny but it's a little something that'll brighten your day regardless. How they play into the plot is another thing entirely and they manage to prove themselves to be an essential to the episode at hand; their treatment of the issue is no laughing matter, they focus long and hard on what's that's being presented to them and they also don't take it sitting down; they're stern, they'll royalty but they still manage to make us smile in ever so unexpected ways, especially at the end.
Two hilarious kings.
Halfway through the episode things get tense as the episode turns into a rescue/breakout operation involving the most common of all people; Rataxes. I don't know what this has to do with the plot at hand but it's certainly something that provided alot of the best moments of the episode. Rataxes' intentions are common by this time (I do find it interesting that they're the only people who would pollute though.) but he and Basil manage to provide some really good lines, even if Basil's voice acting is off in some areas. I love Basil's quick thinking in this; many times when he's in a sticky situation he manages to think of something quick and the stuff that he does think of is well, hilarious and crafty to say the least plus he still has the edge that makes him sinister. This operation appears to be the first time we see Babar and the crew break out of jail with the Rhinos chasing them, we've seen Babar in jail but never have we seen them break out with a bunch of guys chasing after him as he escapes; though the moment may be short, it's tense, it's well animated, beautifully orchestrated and it just proves to be so much fun. You're actually rooting for King Babar as he attempts his escape and you'll be cheering as he uses his ingenuity and sheer luck to escape the situation; it doesn't appear to be homaging anything but feels just like the movies do, which is to say it's exceptionally done.
The breakout also happens to introduce what would appear to be a running gag throughout the series, the infamous fire fighters who get called whenever an alarm is rung. Personally I find them to be one of my favorites, their old time routine combined with the reaction of the characters just feels like something one of those 1930's movies would do or even SNL when they were good; what makes them what they are is their attempts to get them to do anything that isn't fires; they're complete ignorance to anything except fires makes this bit work especially well, you think that they would be interested in helping the King out or even try their hand at saving the day but these people seem to be focused on fires and only fires. They're not even bothered when they don't find fire; which makes their bit especially over the top; it never gets old, each and every one of their appearances are entertaining and their appearance makes Babar what it is. Of course, they also play a serious part in the episode as well, helping out in Babar's mission; their skills in rescuing people are put to good use as they prove themselves to be more then just a running gag, they manage to save Babar just as he's about to face his demise and they're presence added significantly to the breakout part of the episode. Seeing them be heroic puts a tear into anybodies eyes.
The ever so convenient fire-crew, just a broken.
And yet there's an ever present moral/theme that's throughout this episode... yes the pollution aspect of it. Though it appears to get sidetracked many times throughout the episode, it actually plays an essential part of every scene here subtly or obviously; from the wraparounds which shows the beauty of what a lake without pollution can be like (complete with some rather impressive animation and charm.) to the scenes involving Pompador which involve the determination towards eliminating pollution and the conflict regarding procedure to even the scenes with Rataxes and Basil which represents the shadiness and favoritism towards pollution. Through the entire episode, they're teaching us this message, that pollution is bad in every way, that we need to do anything we can to stop pollution and make sure we take care of our dear mother earth and they teach it in the most Babaristic way they can; they don't preach it to the masses or turn to the episode into a propaganda piece that teaches us all about mother earth, they use the characters, the situations and the jokes to entertain us while also using that in order to get their message across in the most effective of ways. It's kind of brilliant really, they certainly know how to take a moral and make it into something entertaining and memorable; aspiring cartoon people should take a note from their page when doing anything similar to this.
Nelvana/Babar's take on the whole pollution issue is a pretty entertaining affair; the morale about pollution isn't shoved down the throats, more so it's given a natural approach that lets the message come crystal clear, the focus on Celeste was something that really gave her a chance to shine and allowed her to play an essential part in the episode; there's also a bit of tension in the episode in the form of a jailbreak and there's also tons of humor and chuckleworthy moments that help to lighten the moment and serve to further the entertaining vibe that this episode already has. There may be moments where the episode isn't up to par but the sum of it's parts more then makes up for it's flaws. For the 22 minutes that you invest into this episode, you'll find something that is really entertaining and as a plus, it even teaches you something in the end.
Can't leave you without some beauty shots can we?
Keep the faith
Every episode of Babar has started off the same, with a moment showing Babar in present times and every one of those episodes has the same format, Babar telling their kids a story about his childhood past all while occasional bits of narration bleed through; well this episode of Babar is different in the most radical of ways, in fact you could say that it's the first of it's kind. See, it's not Babar who's telling the story; it's the kids! And not only that but this is the first episode where they focus on the kids and only the kids; there's no Young Babar in sight, everything takes place in present times (about 5 or 6 weeks) and everybody is their adult selves. This is certainly something big and groundbreaking for Babar, so big in fact that even the first few minutes of the episode acknowledge how different the episode is; everybody watching this episode (including the series creators) are probably wondering, will this succeed? And the answer to that question is; yes. Big time.
Since this episode is about the kids, they have to hold their own for an entire episode. We've seen them act in wraparounds and while some of the acting is decent, we've never seen them act for an entire 22 minute timeframe. Well I'm here to tell you that they more than hold their own, retaining their cuteness, charm and sensibility that made them what they are along the way. They really utilize the opportunity they've been given, giving off masterful performances that showcase what Babar is all about; the innocence and all around easy going atmosphere. The writing here is brilliant, with barely anything pandering to the lowest common denominator and because of that writing, it gives the kids performances weight. They say that the performance of an actor does wonders for the script but the writing of the script does wonders for the actors at hand allowing him to bring out the best in himself and making his performance something more; what we're seeing are not actors but characters who manage to react in unique realistic ways bringing life to the episode that couldn't otherwise be done with the best performance from a poorly written script, the writing is really essential into bringing out the best of these characters; simple as that. You may also notice that they have different voices, Pom has a stuffy voice that I thought was very cute while Alexander had a higher pitched voice and Flora had the scratchy, higher-pitched voice. You may have differing opinions based on which voices you're used to but I really liked their voices in this episode, it helped to establish their characters and it helped to set the mood; it would be a shame that the voice actors for the kids would be replaced come the next season.
Truly a cute bunch.
The predicament that they're put in is common but it's the thing that makes most of the episode; a storm happening, lightning going around, the kids being left alone with Pompadour while Babar and Friends leave to deal with the situation; and there's the fear of a monster and all. It's obvious, kids want to feel safe during a time of need, they're afraid of the sudden jolts of lightning, the potential fear of monsters and even the mysterious noises that sound jarring and abstract and they need that story or that person or even their routine to help them out and "Babar" knows that all to well, in fact the way they portray it is one of the pivotal things about the episode. The children (and the episode as a whole) has a certain that balance helps to contribute to the overall mood of the episode which is scary and tense and mysterious; we see the kids trying to sleep, reacting to thunder, fearing the monsters, it's really cute but it's also something that's taken seriously. Pompadour's charismatic presence really helped to ease the tension during as he tried to be the perfect babysitter (though this isn't chance to shine); I appreciate that they included someone to help lighten the mood at certain parts, if it was 100% dark then I don't know if it would of worked out but that's not to say he added to the tension as well. At certain points he played a pseudo-antagonistic role that helped to provide some conflict, giving the story something to move forward; he wasn't overly antagonistic, instead he was acting as the babysitter that he is, making sure that his kids get to bed while acting as the obvious voice of reason against monsters. I thought was nice as it helped to aim the focus, not detract it; this episode is about the children and the monster/storm, not the children vs. Pompadour.
With the storm/monster comes a very spooky environment, one that is utilized to it's advantage; the lighting and animation in this episode is amazing, in fact it's one of the best Babar has ever done. The dark tones combine nicely with the bright hues to create something that's warm and inviting and cold and unknown, the shadowing is intricate as and detailed, meshing well with the various strikes of lightning that are prevalent in this episode and the small details that surround this episode help to enhance the mood. Even though the majority of this episode takes place in the palace, the shots they manage to show of it makes it look even more beautiful then it did back then; I'm impressed at how they're able to take a place that people have seen the world over and give it new life, have always thought that they did all they could do with the palace but I guess I was wrong. There is an ever increasing feeling of tensity as the episode progresses that both the characters and the audience feels, you know, lights going off, phones going dead, people disappearing, an monster lurking around the palace. It's certainly an experience really, I mean who knows what's going to happen next watching these characters lurking around the palace; speaking of which, I like that the episode included some form of mystery in there even though it's not the focus of the episode; it's more subdued compared to the mysteries but it still gives some clues as to what's going on. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you recognize things like the placement of the glass holes and certain reveals, makes you feel like an appreciated viewer which is what these mysteries serve to do; they're always given complexity and they always reflect the dedication of the staff who worked on the show, I have yet to see a mystery that has lacked complexity.
Though the episode is based on the kids as a whole, they shine the spotlight mainly on Pom for the majority of the episode, mainly because he's in charge. Pom being put in charge is certainly something that's interesting because it gives him a certain sense of newfound responsibility that could make or break this episode and ultimately the focus on Pom turns out to be a good thing for the episode. While Pom may be as scared as the others, he is brave enough to take the lead and do the things other people can't do. To see him do stuff, setting up traps, coming up with brilliant ideas on the spot is a good show of the bravery inside of his character but there is also also a sense of vulnerability, evident when he too is submitted to the same tense things as the other kids; his presence alone stands out as a lone light in the sea of scariness, a dim light but a light nonetheless, when others are willing to abandon ship, Pom stands up and does something and it's something that works well within the theme of the episode, his dedication to his duties is something that he doesn't take lightly, there are times where he doubts his abilities but he doesn't take them lightly, showing determination to do whatever it takes at many opportunities and his "no man gets left behind" mantra is certainly something. His leadership proves insightful into his character and the addition of the missing characters makes his performance much more impactful/vital. All in all, Pom proves himself to be a decent leader/character.
I find it really surprising they decided to reinforce the threat by having us witness the people disappearing (complete with yelling) and us noticing the ransacked rooms; it really gives a sense of severity to the threat at hand and it truly serves the dark environment well and the music reinforces it too (with a dark piano piece no less), though some of it is oddly light. They really did everything they can to enforce the darkness of the episode; it isn't that dark but it's still surprising nonetheless, especially considering what they were working on (in terms of genre) at the time. This dark stuff is unsettling but all of it builds up to the climatic plot that happens near the end of the episode, the one that makes everything worth it and provides a satisfying closure despite the limited amount of time it gets. I like how they managed to use a stamp in a subtle way, the way it was introduced I thought it served to show the common things a family does but it serves both purposes, the one mentioned beforehand and as a driving point for the protagonist. You can easily see how the stamp relates to the to the kids and it provides a dramatic moment for the kids to prove themselves as they think on the top of their toes and escape from an impossible predicament; having a hand at taking down that certain someone in a truly cinematic way. This shows that the writers know how write, utilizing certain items shown before in certain ways and it shows that they can know how to make a situation both dramatic and compelling; it's entertaining in every sense of the word, truly they are the masters of their own domain.
This episode is awesome from beginning to end; there are just so many things that make it fun. The kids for one with their action and occasional offbeat (but not over-the-top) dialog, I like how they manage to take it both seriously and non-seriously, they had tons of time to joke around and I liked many of their jokes, tons of Pom's comments and Alexander's broccoli conversation for one but they also had time to do emotional moments where the kids show off their fear and concern admirably; there's even one scene where the trademark Babar tears manage to be shed and that moment manages to be substantial and beautiful. There is one surprise who would prove to be an unexpected benefit and that's the appearance of "Isabelle" who plays her first substantial role; I really enjoyed it as she yelled out randomly, counted to three, did things with her hands, she just proved to be so much of a delight. Though there were times where it seems like she was hogging the camera, she was as much as a team player as one of them, she provided a nice counterbalance to the dark mood and she added to the feeling of the episode; if anything I think kids and adults will enjoy her appearance as she roams around with the kids. And yet with all this tension, all this darkness, all this awesomeness comes something that has to be learned, and there is; that you can do anything if you put your minds to it. (kids words, not mine.) Though the actions don't really match up with the moral, (I find something more about bravery and fearing the unknown to be more appropriate.) I find it to be a good morale regardless as what they do in the episode truly represent doing anything they can do if they put their minds.
I don't think there is anything more that needs to be said, this is one of Babar's classic and finest episodes. This experiment comes in with uncertain expectations and more then manages to be a success on the likes of which no one has imagined; who knew that the kids can carry an episode all on their own? Everything manages to be masterful and it's just such an enjoyable experience; this is obviously a must see for anybody, even if you aren't a Babar fan.
Last edited by Zombies Rise from the Sea; 07-07-2012 at 10:21 AM.
Keep the faith
Double the Guards
Babar and Celeste are the King and Queen of Celesteville respectively but back then they were a couple to be reckoned with; granted the show hasn't really explored them as a couple (only getting some in episodes like "Babar's Choice" and "King Tuttle's Vote") but still ... One could just imagine the kind of romantic bond that they held as kids... It's kind of sweet thinking about it and it just made you wish that they did an episode where they focused on the two exclusively, Well they did and though it may be more comedic then romantic, it's still romantic enough. Sadly, this would be the last time we would see Young Babar and Young Celeste and even Young Arthur and Zephir as the episodes that come after this focus solely after the kids, sure there's two more flashback episodes but they don't transport us back to the world when Babar and Celeste are young; this is their last hurrah I guess.
Now this episode focuses on the moral or either being overprotective or finding time for themselves, I don't know which but I do know that the whole overprotectiveness thing plays a part in the episode; it starts off awkwardly with it being unusually forced within our faces but it becomes more reasonable and natural as time goes on, to the point where the initial awkwardness doesn't even matter. The lengths of which they go to protect Babar has got to contribute to many of the funny moments of the episode during the first part of the episode; I especially loved the bit where they donned multiple disguises in an attempt to stay "out of sight", it starts off simple enough with a simple disguise but then it gets crazier and crazier and crazier to the point where the most absurd of things start to happen; as it progresses, they appear to be everywhere at once, with the actors playing Pompadour and Cornelius trying out as many funny voices as they can (especially the ones at the end, which are hilarious.). It's just so much fun to see how many disguises they can be in and it contrasts/blends with the whole Babar and Celeste date thing... The performances of Babar and Celeste work well in this scene as Babar tries his best to prevent Celeste from realizing while Celeste gets slowly agitated... It may appear to be something from a sitcom (which may be the point) but it's helped by the charming Babar and his sensible way of doing something and his surprise by seeing his people all around him; it's something that mixes the old school (where he goes to increasing lengths to draw her away) with some of the new school (the various disguises and overall sense of paranoia all around) and it's simply entertaining.
Who knows who is who...
The overprotectiveness does have a serious side however, one that reveals itself though the constant threat of an
assassin kingnapper; in fact I'll say that the second part is the most serious part of the episode. There are federal-type men in black suits all around, a strict restriction of activities all because there's an alleged kingnapper out there; I don't know what type of movie it's homaging but I do know it's homaging the movies where the protection is everywhere, even in unusual places and they go to great lengths to check out anything to see if it's clean. (and they way they do it eerily references the thorough checks that happen in real life every day.) It's somewhat funny to see the men in black as they're everywhere but it's also serious to see them everywhere, protecting him, bringing up one of the things that this episode does so well; mix serious with funny. The various examples are this, there are emotional moments where Cornelius and Pompadour try to reassure Babar that it's for the best and the way it's portrayed it seems like an emotional moment but almost as soon as it ends, it goes into a moment where all of that is neglected; almost as if the show was parodying itself... Regardless it still manages to make people feel. Even the moment where the actual "kingnapping" happens has the same self-parody feel... It has a hint of serious in that Babar is being kidnapped but it also feels like the characters aren't taking this seriously, goofing off and acting as if none of this even mattered; I'm not insisting their performances were bad, in fact there were some moments where a easy-going feeling was to be had but that's the good thing about this, they know that the situation is serious yet they allow considerable leeway into the funny material, considerable leeway that still manages to be serious in the end.
And yet all that overprotectiveness ties into the one thing that's really close to Babar. "Celeste". It provides the basis for their plot, it provides an obstacle which separates them, it provides motivation for both of our characters and it even provides some conflict. It's clear what Babar wants, Babar wants to please his girl, he wants to make things up with her, he wants to see her, he's willing to do anything to be with her and Celeste; well it's understandable due to Pompadour and Cornelius's antics but she too shares some of the same thing that Babar does. That's what makes this episode, the romance between the two that's more then just a romance; seeing Babar try to escape but get captured everytime may be comedic (and understandably so) but it also shows his determination; his desire to see her and the kingnapping at the end, the moment where Arthur and Zephir are involved, reinforces his determination as it says that love makes people do unthinkable things and as a plus, it even involves an actual kingnapper! The poster used to establish the threat, the spontaneous beginning scene with the dinner and the ending scene with the dinner both tie together the story and the romance, providing something plot-wise while also being cute at the same time. Everything that is shown from the funny moments to the serious moments to even the moments in between, shows that though these two have problems, their love is strong enough to work together and get through it... and these two people have a future in store, one that would come out to be a great future at that; from the funny moments to the serious moments to even the moments in between.
Some truly serious stuff...
It's a shame this had to be the last flashback episode to their childhood because this was such a blast, practically everybody who was in that episode had some pretty good moments. Babar's angst was displayed well in the episode and his annoyance made for some great scenes, plus his voice acting was in tip-top shape as usual and his non-worry is always pleasant. Pompadour & Cornelius's casualness to the whole overprotective thing was decent and the way they treated it really blended serious and funny; plus the way they presented themselves as such an antagonistic threat is so different from the norm; Arthur & Zephir manage to get in some great lines and some great moments (particularly Zephir's comment about kingnapping shows just what makes his character) though their appearances are short as usual, even Troubadour manages to include himself in the fun. Watching this episode makes me think of all of the stories that are to be had, who knows whether or not Babar negotiated with some unknown foreign country or even did something with Arthur; the possibilities are limitless. And just think about the poor people who won't get a chance to appear, Celeste was good in this episode with her actor getting her personality down well and even managing to seem sensible and sweet, she even managed to be somewhat funny and serious at times; she was one of the things that made the episode and it's a shame we won't see her again. We will be seeing the beautifully animated scenes (including some especially good lighting) and fantastic emotional moments episode but the adventures of Young Babar and all of his friends, I think this is the last time we'll be seeing them.
Regardless, this episode makes for a great sendoff; it's such a blast to watch and it manages to be especially entertaining. The antics of Cornelius & Pompadour are fun to watch and the romance of Babar & Celeste is something that can't be denied; there are tons of amazing moments that are as funny as they are hilarious and the show even manages to let loose a little bit; however it does manage to take itself seriously at times with moments that are as heavy as ever but they manage to mix both the seriousness and the funniness of it well and there is some pretty good emotional stuff in here that more than holds it's own. Though there are a few bumps on the road, they manage to smooth themselves early on resulting in an episode that is yet another in the long line of really good episodes that seem to comprise Season 2; now sit back and watch you witness the last time Babar will finely narrate a story like this.
Keep the faith
Season 2 of "Babar" ends with a harrowing journey into survival; where the kids are suddenly thrusted into situation where they have to use wit and determination in order to survive... The fact that it didn't end with one of Babar's childhood stories irked me a bit but I guess you have to move forward in regards to the elephant named Babar. Now as we all know, this is one of two episodes in Season 2 that don't focus on Babar's stories on the past and as such this features the kids voice actors getting a chance to flex their muscles but what we don't know is that this would be their last hurrah, as they would be replaced by other voice actors come the next season; shame. It also brings the growth in the wraparounds full circle as this episode starts and ends unlike any episode we've seen before, the opening of this episode has the kids introduce the story, not Babar and the the ending, well let's just say it doesn't resolve around a focus on characters but it does focus on the one thing this shown is known for; the story.
Just another story...
Now this episode really pushes to the brim the concept of life & death; never have we seen such determination and worry like this, much of the first act consists of this and it really sets the mood for the episode well. We have our kids trapped on a balloon screaming out for help and our characters doing the best they can to help, all while forces of nature work against them and I never knew that Babar and Celeste (especially Celeste, who's motherly instincts are given a significant amount of growth in this episode) were that determined as parents; they were willing to anything to save their kids, utilizing every strength in their body, doing things that are risky and ignoring the sense of danger that is out there. And all of that is conveyed successfully by the voice actors who manage to show the worry, focus and determinism in their voice; they know how to react, panic and how to make that seem both surprisingly fun and serious as the same time. (Even Pompadour and Cornelius manage to get into the fun, contributing both serious and funny moments though the scenes they appear in are surprisingly minimal.) It's engaging to see them try to rescue the actions and even though it focuses mainly on the kids, it serves another point; seeing these people work together to help out no matter what the situation just reflects nicely on the nature of humanity. Whenever something needs help, we drop anything (from notions, to things to even moments) just to help out even though it would prove somewhat meaningless; stuff like this really shows the depth that Babar has, it shows that it doesn't desire to be just an ordinary children's show, it desires to be something more.
The first act however, seems to have taken up the 10 minutes of the episode as the rest of the 10 minutes are devoted to the kids and their attempts to rescue them; don't get me wrong, the first act does set things up but I feel like some of those minutes could of been used in relation to the act where the kids are trying to survive. The second act feels somewhat rushed as the episode speeds through at a breakneck pace trying to get to the ending, there are hints of what they wanted to do within the episode but because of the time constraints they couldn't get to them; which is a shame since the idea of the kids surviving on their own is a good idea in itself. We're seeing these kids all alone, fearing for themselves in a position to survive and that gives them the perfect backdrop to just be themselves. Every conversation you hear from them seems naturally done, they aren't following the script per say, more so they're seemingly coming up with it naturally as they go along; their mood changes as the dialog progresses and the situation changes and the quips that they make are 100% organic. Other people may see them as just a marketing tool but they're much more then that, they're characters with a true sense of sentience; they have their own ideas, personalities, mindsets, likes and dislikes and that is what separates Pom, Alexander and Flora from the rest of the children's TV characters. They make this episode work, we can get into the worry because they truly are worried, they truly are trying all that they can to make it out alive and they're truly experiencing the brief wonders that their "adventure" has brought them.
Truly set apart from the rest.
But however much as the characters are, there are still ideas to be mined; we could of seen the kids trying to make it under the cover of night, we could of seen them become intimate and personal with each other, we could of even had Pompadour and Cornelius join them and expand the situation further but those are just ideas and well, we have to focus on the actual episode. As I said before, there are hints of what they wanted to do; Pom as the leader seems like something that's both in his character and something that serves as a decent homage (though it's execution was a bit sudden) and the stuff that he does as leader is really engaging for his character; especially when it's shown that he himself isn't perfect and again, Flora and Alexander worrying and also helping out somewhat are good as we really get to see the kind of emotion these cartoons never seem to show much anymore. The 10 minutes that this act does consists of are certainly something that will keep you on the edge of your seat, there is a true sense of these characters not making it out alive, one which comes to full realization here; they're in a situation where anything can happen in regards to them surviving, there are no safeguards and no forms of help available, just pure old nature and the thought of these characters being out there for the rest of their lives is pretty harrowing. Sure it may be fun but in this situation, it's definitely creepy to think about what happens to them which is a testament to the shows ability to engage people and of course, we can't help to cry as these people interact with each other and even the characters themselves shed tears of sadness; they really manage to do those tears well don't they?
And such an episode like this, there just has to be cinematic moments of any kind and there are; tons of them. They truly go all out with the scenic shots and the metaphoric meanings, we've got situations which showcase the seriousness of the plot, really dig down into the determination and severity that this episode has going (such as when a character becomes something more, something serious...) and then we've got situations which will just have the audience cheering in celebration and then we have the scenes that just bring Babar and Celeste full circle; to see them as something else, to see them as more then just queen and king are quite fulfilling to their characters. (the ending does mess up the mood of the episode and sort of ends anticlimactically but man is it cute!) And If there's one thing this episode has going for it, it has got to be the most impressive usages of animation and lighting this show has ever seen; the scenes involving the storm, it really feels like I'm in the middle of it with it's usage of deep blues and muted tones, I've been a couple of cloudy days to know when something is cloudy and that is cloudy; I don't think I could detect a significantly visible hue of color out of those storm scenes and the clouds and the usage of sunset lighting, it's beautiful and really helps to sell those moments special moments in the episode. There also manages to be some pretty fine details throughout; the clouds I thought were nicely done, they're pleasant, cute, beautiful and they're the essential part of one scene in the episode, one very memorable scene at that and they really went all out in depicting the location they were in, the way the mountains and the clouds combined, the way the various elements of nature manage to intersect, it's manages to be unique and breathtaking at the same time.
Some truly beautiful shots.
This episode is amazingly beautiful, dramatic, tense, emotional, engaging and all that but surprisingly, it doesn't close the season on an exceptionally high note; what it does however is close it on a pretty high note. The kids will have you engaged through these 22 minutes as they unleash their personality and get themselves into a situation where they have to survive on their own; the drama and emotion showed in this one is great and though it contains an idea that isn't fully realized, they still do the best they can with it and succeed. You will be taken back by the cinematic moments and the majestic of it and you will especially be taken back by the visual shots, many of which are considered classic Babar and you will be amazed by the sensibility of it; however, those of you going into this with expectations of another classic will be disappointed; doesn't mean it's not good though, just that the fault lies within the pacing of the episode. It's a good way to end the season but it's a shame that these would be their last kids hurrah, I thought they sounded pretty good (though some sounded pretty off) and I'm sure that they would of been good going into season 3 but I guess except for the higher-ups at Nelvana, we'll never know why they were replaced. Still, good way to end the season.
Keep the faith
Babar: Season 2
They say that after every first season comes a season which finds it's footing and is more capable in it's abilities to provide quality entertainment... Well this is definitely that season. Not to say that Season 1 wasn't good or capable of providing quality entertainment but this season is just much more realized in the potential that it holds, plus it takes steps in advancing itself in all aspects, characters, environments, plots, jokes, settings... If Season 1 was a good then Season 2 could be considered more of the same but with some artistic growth and experience behind it.
The first thing you'll notice is that there is a wider variety of settings. In Season 1, many of the episodes took place in Celesteville; sure there was the occasional episode that featured the jungle or other place but for the most part, it was mainly in Celesteville. Here? Boy the places you will go; there are jungles, islands, the outside areas of Celesteville, Rhinoland, Paris... While there are some episodes that are still in Celesteville, the fact that there are more episodes taking place in other places then there are Celesteville shows that the show is focused on expanding itself. Every one of these places are important to the stories they're featured in; they all have their certain traits (the alligator in "The Gift"), their unique charm (the jungle in "Elephant Express") and beauty that make a setting almost essential to the point where it becomes a character itself. The stories are also more varied then they are in Season 1. Aside from the stories in Celestevile, we've got adventure stories ("Conga the Terrible"), conflict stories ("Rhino War"), stories about Babar's childhood past in Paris ("School Days" and "Peer Pressure") and we even have episodes that deal with politics and law. ("King Tuttle's Vote" and "Between Friends" which though disappointing, has to be a good homage to justice movies and did well with both of the characters featured.) The variety isn't mindblowing but man do you get more choice in Season 2 then you did in Season 1; if you want a learn about Babar's past, you have it, if you want to see them being serious, you got it; even if you want to see them being mostly comedic, you got it. It's helped by the writers who manage to create any story in any setting of their choosing, like they know what they can or can't do but still manage to come up with 8 million stories nonetheless and these writers really know how to utilize the world. The versatility of these characters are also showcased throughout these stories; Babar & Friends can be anything, comedic, dramatic, serious, over-the-top, you name it and from what we've seen from them they can do anything (switching whenever warranted.) and still retain the characteristics that made them who they are and using that to provide a unique take on their role that isn't just a parody or a reference; it's always fun to see what their take of a role is (often adding a new perspective) plus it shows that they didn't need to strip the characteristics just to fit a role. The versatility here cannot be denied.
As with each subsequent season, there is some form of growth in characters that seems to exist; and in here it's in full force. Many episodes exhibit a growth in our core group of principal characters, mainly Babar, Rataxes, Pompadour & Cornelius. Babar is a pretty deep character already but that doesn't mean they manage to grow him, a suitable example would have to be ("Elephant Express") which is the pinnacle of Young Babar's career; it manages to effectively show & combine his concerns about his birthplace and his kingly duties into an episode which serves as the perfect breeding ground, showcasing emotion and personality that more then grows the character of Babar while providing 22 minutes of subsistence; Rataxes gets his growth in many episodes, "The Gift" while mainly being a Babar vs. Rataxes episodes manages to show a human, emotional side to Rataxes and "Monkey Business" & "Rhino War" showing the true side of Rataxes that counteracts what we've seen from him from Season 1. (especially when it conflicts with his hard personality) Rataxes has been described as a character that has no emotion so to see these sides is nice. While Pompadour and Cornelius's growth are minor (Pompadour seems to be more comedic and easy going this time around compared to his stern and sophisticated personality in Season 1.), Cornelius does gets a chance to prove himself in "Conga the Terrible" which though involving the usual shipwrecked plot, more then shows that Cornelius is more then meets the eye (which is essential for a character like him.) That doesn't mean that they forgotten about the unfleshed minor characters though; characters like Zephir, Arthur, Celeste, Cornelius, and even Lady Rataxes. Zephir's episode "Monkey Business" shows that side of Zephir that makes him dynamic; many people think of him as the loose cannon but this introduces a side that just wants to help out and cares about the people he's around, in that very same episode Lady Rataxes also shows that she isn't just the wife who demands stuff from Season 1, more so she's a determined, devoted woman (more than Rataxes surpisingly) who's rooted deep into her heritage and is very interested in the aspects of roughhousing and shovonism. (there is some small growth regarding her relationship and perception of things though). The future queen of Celesteville gets two episodes to herself, "King Tuttle's Vote" which showcases the political, outspoken and determined side of her while the other "Double the Guards" showcases the romance between Babar and Celeste; sure it's surrounded by an "overprotected" plot but what is shown reinforces the love that they share for each other and what they're willing to do to see each other, providing what is arguably the best dynamic both these characters have. Arthur doesn't get an episode of his own but he does have a notable role in two, "Tour De Celesteville" (an episode involving Babar and a tandem bike race that is cartoony fun) and "Elephant Express". Both showcases Arthur's willingness to be helpful, his cunningness, his charming personality , his slight ability to mess things up, his playfulness and his fears. It's a shame that Arthur never got a full episode to himself in Season 2 but what we got is satisfactory enough I suppose... Overall, these minor characters are certainly becoming something.
There's even some new stuff introduced this season that reinforces the growth. If you're watching the wraparounds, you'll notice that they don't focus solely around the children or focus on one setting. You have wraparounds like Babar changing Isaebelle's diaper or a wraparound where the children are at sea or in the park, you even have wraparounds that involve them doing a strenuous activity. The fact that they decided to spread this growth to the wraparounds is really impressive, you may think that they would give the main story the most attention and then some but they really make the them as good; they really have some luscious settings that are quite beautiful, characters that are really compelling and situations that are as engaging as they are memorable. These wraparounds really showcase life around the palace like no other, the children playing around, Babar doing normal things, many of those things transitioning into the story it's pleasing to say the least and additionally, many of these wraparounds could work out to be full episodes if the series was still going on. The wraparounds are the most essential part of the episode; they may not seem essential but they really help into getting you into the mood and awaiting the moment where he does tell his story (and afterwards helping to affirm the story). It could start off in the past but then again, "Babar" is about the story and it just wouldn't be the same without the storyteller. There's the introduction of a few important traits in the wraparounds, Babar's difficulty with chess makes it's full introduction in a wraparound, so does his inability to choose and his fatherly skills and Zephir's present personality makes an appearance in one of the wraparounds, that wraparound also contains the appearance of a present character we've come to know and love, one that would push itself into the forefront in subsequent seasons. The real surprise is what the season introduces, which is two episodes that focus on the children in the present and not on Babar's stories in the past. These episodes are the only appearance of them fully acting out an episode but they do well, they show emotion, they show wonder, they show sensibility and most of all, they expand their character past what we've seen in the Wraparounds. "The Intruder" is an awesome episode that puts us and the children in a situation of fear and uncertainty (complete with lighting and sound effects), the emotions that they go through, the roles that they take, the actions that they do, all of them work well for the character and produce a compelling story and "Remember When..." though less awesome is something that really shows the children when they're all alone and they're forced to survive, their worry, their emotion and their natural behavior will have you gripped for who knows how long; these episodes would foreshadow what would happen in subsequent seasons, which would be quite a change from previous seasons.
While there are quite a bunch of changes compared to Season 1, there is one thing that remains consistent between it and Season 2; the enjoyability and quality factor. There is something that you feel when you sit down and you watch a show like this, you feel sucked into their world, you feel engaged with what they're doing and you ultimately connect with the show, relating to it in a way that's unlike any other show before from the good happy times, to the hectic times to even the times where life & death is on the line. The quality animation, the characters who take their role seriously the plots which have depth, charm and appeal, the content which appeals to any audience; those are all things you will be taken back by when you watch this show and you'll notice that they push a little more effort into providing a quality product. Just look at the backgrounds, just look at the characters, just look at the writing (especially the references/homages to movies and events both past and present) and listen to the voices; you can tell that this isn't any ordinary children's show, this was meant to be enjoyed by everybody and though many people have not realized that, (it's perception in the television world notwithstanding) there are some who realize the universal appeal of it and the best part is, it gets even better. The voices are more emotive, the animation is more detailed with tons of scenes being respective masterpieces in the art of animation whether moving or standing still, (The way they utilize the colors, insert the details, those are talents of true animation legends, I can't pick a favorite but there are shots I really liked.) the writing is more lively and there's always a sense of creativity and wonder that surrounds every episode, more so then Season 1. While there may not be as much 10/10's as before or something as dramatic as the "Babar Begins" trilogy, there is overall a more consistent feeling to the season with about 80% of these episodes rating around 9.0/10 meaning you can watch from beginning to end without skipping any episodes (the lowest rated episode here ("Tour De Celestville") only manages to get an 8.0/10 and that episode is still good.) I doubt there would be a further season of Babar that would be this consistent, well there may be but this is the most consistent they're going to get plus the consistency helps the rewatch value tremendously; with the knowledge that every episode is good, you will have no worries when you pop in your DVD and watch any episode. It may vary from person to person though but still, this is pretty consistent.
If you thought Season 1 was good then you haven't seen Season 2 which is better then anybody could imagine. There is more variation to the stories, there is much more action and adventure then before, and there's a lot of growth to many of the characters and sets itself up for the future ahead. It's as gripping and engaging as it was before with animation that's beautiful to look at and episodes that are as emotional then they're counterparts, maybe more; pleasing to watch and enjoyable for the whole family, Season 2 continues the fine tradition of quality that Babar has set up for himself and with the exception of two episodes (both of which are entertaining diversions), you'll be enjoying the adventures of young Babar for years to come.
Best Episodes: "School Days", "Peer Pressure", "Monkey Business", "The Gift", "Rhino War", "Elephant Express", "Conga the Terrible", "King Tuttle's Vote", "The Intruder", "Double the Guards"
Last edited by Zombies Rise from the Sea; 08-12-2012 at 01:24 PM.
Keep the faith
The Celesteville Enquirer
As we leave Season 2 behind, we enter a new season of Babar and the start of something really different for the show. Which means yes; new pieces of music, new settings, no stories, no flashbacks, focus on the kids, and new actors. (Crawley, you're out! Stone, you're in!) With all these changes there has to be an episode that introduces these changes and this is where this episode comes in, the first episode of the season where the kids start up their own newspaper press and explore the fast-paced world of news journalism, placing the palace into all sorts of trouble.
This focus is something that's more reserved to something like "The Simpsons" or well, a sitcom like "30 Rock" or "Fraiser"... What with it's intricate depth and it's massive base covering opinion, integrity, freedom of speech and all that other stuff. One would think that this stuff is too complex for a show like "Babar" but surprisingly they do it pretty well and they don't dumb it down at that. The news reporters shown aren't made out to be crazy and exaggerated, they're just reporters which is evident with the scenes they appear in; they're just asking the questions, doing the job and the responses from the people they bump into (whether or not it's Cornelius or Pompadour or even Babar) are often natural and representative of the subject matter of which it's focusing on. The awkward pauses, the confusion and sweating, it's as every bit relevant in the real world as it is here. Flora (also Pom and Alexander but they're just along for the ride) serves as the perfect subject; with her, we explore the life of a young upstart who's going through all of the trouble just to get her foot in the door. Flora helps in regards to the examination between real news and sensational news; as a newscaster you're supposed to abide to reporting the real news stories, not bothering to make stuff up (like Fox News), regardless of how sterile it is but there's also another side to this, a side where silly pictures with funny comments roam the land and flash is everything; that's called the tabloid route which is what Flora is doing. I wouldn't blame her, she's got an interesting idea and wants to separate herself from the pack; it's difficult to make yourself stand out in the pack on any medium, there are thousands of things out there that are doing the same thing as you and there's only so many twists you can do on a certain thing, (and even if you get a unique idea, you have to be really lucky to make it big) Her excitement for what she's doing is natural, she has a new thing and she's determined to get that thing out there to the people and we're with her every step of the way as she takes the photos and operates the presses; what she does in this episode relates to whatever was happening in 1990 and is still happening now. (True example of timelessness, just look around and tell me if I'm wrong.)
The life of a reporter is hard.
She runs into opposition midway through the episode, mainly at the hands of the palace who acts as the offended party in this expose. Those scenes really showcase the innocence and charm that is Flora and it also explores a side of freedom of speech and integrity. The palace is objected to this stuff, fearful that what comes out may damage them (and for good reason, since she does live in the palace and all) but Flora stands up for herself and firm in adversity, for her loyal readers. It's hard to maintain integrity as a journalist, you have people constantly criticizing you, telling you what you can and can't post and you have to stand your ground nearly every day and Flora shows that all too well, publishing the thing anyway; though the scenes where this is shown are short, she's a shining example to us all the way she gives her stance. King Babar provides the opinionism and objectionism aspects of the episode and he doesn't disappoint; he's aware of the palace's stance, he wants to forbid the pictures but he can't forbid her freedom of speech rights; he stands firm on the whole free press concept, he firmly believes in a fair and accurate representation of the news but doesn't believe in controlling the press, instead reaffirming editorial independence but he certainly doesn't know how to easily explain the objective reporting and the certain aspects of the truth to Flora. Babar is good as a father but he's not good when it comes to teaching her about objectionism and opinionism; he means well, he tries to push her in the right direction but he can't exactly find the right words to say until the last minute and that makes his stuff all the better. Babar and Flora provide an interesting sight to watch, the aspiring news reporter, the person who wants the best interests of the Palace at hand but can't stand to censor her, the attempts to guide her and make her "do the right thing", there is a lot of thought to be had watching these scenes.
And yet for an episode focusing on news journalism, there sure seems to be a lot of funny moments in there. Seeing all three of the kids act as reporters are a delight, roaming around in unison, working the presses and doing the things the real reporters do, it just brings a smile onto anybody's face; the charm, sensibility and cuteness remain from the previous seasons so there isn't any major change with the exception of new voice actors for the kids who they do pretty well for themselves, quickly making each character their own; it would of been nice to have the previous voice actors voice these characters but you have to move forward and hey, Stuart Stone needs a promotion right? (He played the seldom voiced Arthur in the previous seasons so to see him become a main character is very nice.) Pompadour and Cornelius play their usual comedic roles with Cornelius gaining the upper hand by utilizing some really impressive voice acting in a bathtub scene that makes it both dramatic and serious, words cannot describe how awesome he is. Pompadour isn't a slouch, in fact his worry and his conversations about Pompadour regarding who is sillier has got to be some of the highlights of the episode. Then there are the smaller moments like Isabelle, the news reporters themselves (who provide the sophistication) and the light gag between Babar and Celeste that help to further the episode's delicate delights. The writing in this episode is amazing, they manage to set up some pretty consistent running themes; themes like Babar's speech, the contrasts between life around the palace and the camera itself, which start off as little but as the episode goes on they become so much more with many of them coming full circle near the end of the episode. To see palace life in all of it's glory, Flora go through a meaningful story, the bond between Babar & Celeste and the moments where Pompadour and Cornelius works, it's just so beautiful and meaningful; the way it's presented, the way it's executed, the music that lays beneath the scenes, it brings a tear to anybodies eye. They also manage to give everyone that's not named, Babar or Flora some character; in fact you could say that the town of Celesteville manages to be a character in itself, what with the people inhabiting it and the lives they live. It's truly an example of writing and of course, we can't forget about the wonderful as usual animation.
We just can't.
So for those of you who worried about the changes; threat not, this episode manages to quell your fears while also rising above them all and prove to be an exceptional season opener. I can't find anything wrong with this episode except for some awkward dialog scenes and misfires. The focus is good and in-depth, the characters are sensible and realistic, the plot is engaging, the writing is masterful and it's really entertaining. While we'll miss the stories and flashback, this episode proves that the show can do without them and still reach the peaks occupied by Babar's best episodes; it more then captures the beauty and wonder the show is known for and the news journalism stuff is still relevant today; how many shows can you say about that? Truly the best way to usher in a new era.
Keep the faith
I was somewhat wrong when I said there'd be no stories this season as this episode is essentially in itself, a story; a story that takes place in the present but a story nonetheless and this story just happens to detail the birth of Isabelle, which causes a rift in the family between the children and the parents over their attention. It's such a tough situation when a child is born and Babar is the only show that I think is capable of showing this well; well that and "The Simspons" and maybe a few movies and TV shows I haven't heard about.
This episode feels like you're watching an animated version of real life events, what with the characters and the plot and the progression... These children are acting like they would anybody whenever they get a new baby; hoping that it'd be a boy or a girl, trying to get them to do stuff without them being aware they can't do it and turning against the baby when the going gets tough and the parents are acting like anybody would, treating the baby with so much care, unintentionally putting the focus on it instead of their own children, treating the children differently then they normally world; there isn't any moment where they act any differently and to see that really adds to the immersion; it's something to see these kids in regards to the baby, antagonizing it, hoping for bad stuff to happen to it, treating it with such disrespect and it happens the most to Flora who is given the most focus out the children, what with her being Daddy's former little princess and all. Her scenes are the most interesting out of the bunch mainly because it gives us such a glimpse into a girl in crisis; a girl saddened, a girl pissed, a girl overly emotional because Isabelle is getting more focus then her, she draws us in with her performance and she doesn't let go through the tear she sheds, the fear she faces and the sensibility she portrays. You know, having two girls in the family really provides some thought; just who does the Father care for more, does she care for one, does she care for the other, are the others even in a competition for Father's attention? So many questions, so few words.
Glorious days when the babies around.
Seeing Babar and Celeste take care of Isabelle is also something; the way they use their accents in regards to the baby, the tone they take in regards to their own children, it shows just how wonderful & tolling a baby can be to the parents. Babar's a good father and it's evident when we're shown those scenes where he's taking care of her alongside Celeste but even Babar ain't resistant to the strain that is a child and that is evident when he's with Flora, where his tone is very stern and negative, not bothering to look into the real issue with her, really shows that though he knows everything, he isn't exactly perfect himself. It does display a point though, even now parents don't realize something that is so obvious, that is so in front of their faces and I don't know what factors relate to that but one could imagine what effect it'd have on a child's development if the parents start realizing the issues and help to resolve them. Babar does show that he does care for his other children, mainly Flora who he goes out of his way to find; his speech is really heartwarming and caring and it enforces the love a parent can have on a child while also realizing some of Flora's issues such as the distancing with her father and the way his voice sounds, amazing! And Celeste, well let's just say she plays the sensible mother figure in all of this, only contributing when it's worthwhile and doing a very good job at it too.
This episode really manages to be a tour-de-force of drama; everywhere you look there's someone putting on a dramatic face or putting on a stern tour and at some pivotal moments there's even some tears that fall down somebody's face. Plus there's the really emotional music, the themes, stuff such as the storm, the story, the uncertainty, the desperation, the visuals... The music really plays a big part in this, it's those deep violins, those woodwinds and those springy pianos that help you get into the story, that really help you to feel for the pivotal moments that happens, and that is evident here when the soft soothing sounds of the violin pop around in emotional scenes while the deep vibratos pop in during the tense scenes; the music in this could take up an entire article but let's just say that no other animated series in the history of history has a musical score like this, and this episode makes that evident. Anyways, it's almost convincing the way they pour down the emotion and show their feelings, the way Flora reacts, the way Babar reacts, it's almost convincing as they fight. You're like engaged in every second of their fight, every second of their character, every second of their story and the little moments in the plot, the presentation of the scenes, their performances and dialog, all of that helps to enhance.
Darker days when it comes around.
I have to comment on the Storm because it places every one of our characters in a situation that brings out the best in them; Flora, Babar, Pom, Alexender, even Isabelle; it may be cliche but it's a common thing that brings out anything; determination, heroism, fear, sadness, emotion, uncertainty... and all of these characters feel some of that as they brave that storm, the stuff that's hidden deep down that really makes a difference and everything comes full circle with the storm, the kids regarding the baby, Flora and Babar, even Isabelle and the presentation relating to those scenes are amazing from the impeccable timing to the appropriate cut offs to even some of the cinematography of the scenes. It just makes such a common thing more powerful and it really gets across the message they were trying to put out. And yet, with all of this darkness and dramaticism comes a couple of light stuff, stuff like Cornelius attempting to entertain the kid, Pom and Alexander's attempts to connect with and then get rid of the baby, the stork who arrives with diapers... Those moments are really cute and endearing helping to take the ease off of some of the scenes while putting a smile on most of the faces watching the show, I mean who can't smile in one takes a look at that sign that Pom & Alexander put up; plus the children are just as endearing as always though Pom and Isabelle (in the present) sound a bit off.
"Special Delivery" is another in the line of Babar classics and one which shows that Season 3 may just turn out to be okay. Focusing on Isabelle's birth provides a wealth of content for the episode as we get a plot that provides a good focus on the kids and parents while also deviling a good portion of drama. Flora shines especially well as this one as the conflict between her and Isabelle provides many of the episodes best scenes and it's a pretty impressive portrayal of what happens when a baby gets born, plus there is everything for everyone to enjoy here. This is something that really holds up over time and one that should be watched by generations to come. Simply put, A fine episode.
Keep the faith
To Tell or Not to Tell
This episode is ostensibly a spiritual successor to "To Duet or Not to Duet" but instead of featuring Young Babar and his compatriots, it features Pom, Alexander and Isabelle and this episode manages to place them into a situation that showcases the bond that Pom and Alexander have while also exploring Isabelle a little bit...
Ostensibly, this episode manages to combine several sitcom traits into one; getting rid of old stuff that nobody needs, breaking a statue, babysitting, chaos in the house... Since this is technically a sitcom, I was expecting them to do that but I feel like they could of done things differently throughout the course of the episode, no matter; it combines them in a way that isn't overly pretentious and actually manages to be somewhat sensible and realistic. You can see how the writers managed to tie everything together in a narrative that doesn't overly draw to those traits and forms the pivitol plot moments of Pom & Alexander's plot, nothing gets in the way or draws attention to itself when needed and everything helps to suggest that this is just an ordinary day, that they're not following some sort of predefined route to get to the episode's conclusion which elevates their plot because all of the actions that they do are seemingly on-the-spot and as such it just makes what they do engaging. The characters also help to separate this with their almost charmful banter and sensible performances, especially Babar who's moments help to keep the viewer interested; I don't think these scenes would of worked out if someone else were performing the characters, they just bring life into any scene they're in.
A cute portrait.
Pom & Alexander are brothers but never before has the bond between them been explored, until now... With the babysitting plot they're provided, it gives them the perfect chance to explore what makes them tick, what separates them from each other and how they're dealing with the situation and they don't waste it as they run around, try to babysit Isabelle. What's revealed about them isn't complex but it does help to define them a bit, Pom having the ideals of a grownup yet showing himself to be somewhat flawed in stressful situations and Alexander having a crazy perspective of things while just being as care-free and rebellious as possible; it may not be obvious but then again it doesn't have to be, the revelations we see are subtle and minor and those subtle and minor things does wonders for both of the characters; it shows them as children but it also shows them as children with certain characteristics and personalities that makes them stand out from the crowd. The efforts of the two are really engaging and just show how hard things can be; slightly disagreeing with each other, working their butts off, not knowing exactly what to do, Pom and Alexander certainly show that well and in showing that well they provide a small form of dynamic that reflects real life yet goes against the norm at the same time.
However... Pom and Alexander themselves fall into some common cliches that threaten their opportunity; in many scenes, they make obvious mistakes that makes their job harder, mistakes such as leaving Isabelle alone, assuming that she's asleep, not looking where they're going, not knowing how to get a statue out of something. It does lead to some entertaining scenes which will likely get a giggle out of all audiences as chaos is had and they try to stop it but did they really have to dumb down certain characteristics of the kids in order to get these scenes; jumping into glue pits, tripping over books, those are things that seem really dumb though fun at the same time. There is a positive here in that it does showcase how fed up and annoyed they're getting about the situation and it does contribute to the buildup in a way but there is no way to excuse this, even if you do chalk this up to them just being kids. Isabelle does prove to be a really charming distraction that helps with the proceedings as she walks around, looks cute, does innocent stuff that's chaos and shouts "hide and seek" at various times; she makes this episode a pleasure to watch but even she's at fault here. Some scenes do showcases her nature as a toddler, one where she's on a bookcase just to get a story and one which involves her crying and her stuff does play into and reinforces the mischievous side of her character but it almost seems simplistic, making her into a character without dimension; which is a shame.
Just Pom, Alexander and Isabelle...
The centerpiece of this episode is obtensely the scene which happens at the recycling depot which looks a little bit too much like a junkyard for my tastes but still manages to be realistic nonetheless. This is the point in the episode where the characters worry for Isabelle comes across clear as a bell and it's evident as they run away from a
junkyard dog warthog all while trying to find Isabelle, you can see the worry and determination in their eyes as they run knowing the obvious yet can't help thinking about something else around this depot which basically seems hand-crafted for them; the stuff they bike through, the stuff they run through, it's all planned out for the two to take advantage of and they use it well as they traverse the junkyard. There is some well animated stuff during these scenes, stuff such as them going into barrels, riding a bike inside of a pipe, even them running from the warthog. Every bit of detail shows that the animation department can really showcase their talents to make any scene look good, even a scene where the characters run away from a warthog which has been done time and again and the moment when they stand up and won't take it anymore is the pinnacle point of the episode bringing it full circle in regards to their babysitting plot and in regards to their characters. When you see the Pom & Alexander smothering Isabelle, when you see them being relieved, you know that something worthwhile has happened. The end does try to wrap it around in cleverness and I have to admit, it was an admirable effort but that didn't pan out much though it had me thinking about some things...
This episode is 22 minutes of enjoyable fun, you'll enjoy the actions of Pom & Alexander as they try to babysit but there are glaring flaws that manage to get in the way, glaring flaws that you can't stop thinking about it even as you watch the episode. If you can manage to look past those flaws and even some you might not be aware of then you'll enjoy it even more but as it stands, it's just a decent episode.
Keep the faith
What happens when everything is on the line, when your entire kingdom could possibly go away in a second? Well this is what this episode aims to show and utilizing the sensibility of the show and the fact that it's not bounded like other shows, it could potentially deliver on that right? Well when you have a coin, Rataxes and a bit of charm, anything can happen. (Side note: this is also the first mention & appearance of Victor (Rataxes's son); while his appearance is sudden, I'm interested in seeing what they do with him in future episodes.)
From the getgo, the dark themes of the episode are immediately established; meaning that there's no buildup, it's just appears in the first few minutes. A coin that could grant the bearer of it anything he wanted, without question or compromise; now that's something that would put most of the palace/audience in fear/worry and every one of the characters here manage to show that fear and worry. This is clear in the way they manage to utilize their tones, which is gruff and stern at one time and wobbly and worrisome the next; the characters don't feel any need to go over-the-top in order to indicate their current tone and in fact, act as if this were a drama instead of an animated cartoon and they can change it for whatever the scene needs so if there's a sense of uncertainty that's required then they can definitely bring it out and if there's an certain annoyance or anger that's required then it can be there as well and the best part is, all those constantly changing tones fit in with the mood of the episode; nobody knows what's going to happen next, they know the situation but they don't know what anybody's going to do and that's obvious when there's a coin that can grant any wish; the uncertainty combined with the characters really helps to make the entire thing compelling.
Pretty dark and beautiful stuff.
And the way they set up the story is great; the utilization of flashbacks helped to get us up to speed on the history of the coin while also providing a very brief glimpse at the adventures of Young Babar. The orange tint they gave the flashbacks was a nice tough, they really helped to establish the specific atmosphere and different timeframe that they have. The lack of hope, the Catch-22, even a sense of freedom and rowdiness that comes from that timeframe; you can just feel the scenes and what could of been as you watch them, almost feeling like a movie at times with the amount of life, detail and traits they have going around and the narration that's behind them is epic, giving them the weight and power that these scenes require and the way they tie in these scenes with certain plot points is impressive, it's like these separate flashbacks are really one continuous narrative. Anyways, there has to be someone in order to exploit this uncertainty and what better person is there then Rataxes who's the perfect choice for such a situation, (well he's the obvious choice but what other choice is there?) his near-focused cunningness, his over-ambitious desires, his deep-voiced tone, he's like perfect for this type of thing but of course he also retains a bit of his lighter aspects such as his incapabilities, his forgetfulness, his pleading and jokes and of course, his ridiculous actions.
What Rataxes does inside the palace and how Babar and his family reacts really reflects the uncertainty of it all. He strolls through the city of Celesteville, liking every little thing he sees and as he likes every little thing he sees, we're reminded of what could happen and that is reflected by the way he makes himself home around the palace; he takes over everything, going on with various dialogs about how stuff is in his family and how he finds certain stuff interesting, we feel the need to laugh at his antics but at the same time we can't help to feel how cold-hearted he is, a conflict that oddly enough works for his character as he goes through his episode. His actions prove that despite the fact that what he's doing is common, his essentiality to the episode can't be denied and we can't help but to be engaged regardless, And the things that the family go through, the emotions that they show, the way Cornelius awkwardly treats his guest, how Babar is forced to deal with it all, a result of that uncertainty. Normal moments turned into awkward moments, everybody's worried, everybody's complaining and nobody knows what to do, even the king himself has no idea as he's compounded with all of these things and despite the fact that there is a line that is crossed and somebody goes off on someone, the uncertainty still remains; what we see is dark, what we see is serious and what we see is representative of the show itself, charming but sensible, in fact it could happen like that if there was a similar situation.
Uncertain and cunning.
And the best part is, they actually manage to build up the uncertainty thing to the climax, which manages to be suspenseful, unnerving and satisfying at the same time. You can see what the actors have been working towards, the uncertainty and worry, the near acceptance and disappointment, even the annoyance and frustration. Everything manages to be serious and grounded; there's nothing that's over-the-top or even pandering to the audience, everything you see and everything you feel is natural, the feelings, the sense of lost hope, the atmosphere... even the actors themselves seem unaware of what's happening. The producers truly make it seem like it's the end, that there is no easy way out and that this is really happening, there doesn't seem to be any initial surprise ending or quick save (that we know of); they make it so that there's no solution obvious, no hints of any kind... and that's what makes the following surprising, the appearance of another guy, the last piece of the coin, how everything comes full circle. Though it may seem a bit deus ex machina-ish, the way it's presented in the episode makes us neglect that and allows us to be taken back by what we see. (the voice acting, the confrontation, etc.) and they even go the extra mile including a full explanation. They could of left it unexplained, left a half-done explanation but no, they give us a full explanation including the small details and even some character intentions and that is very nice indeed.
"The Coin" is an episode which finely executes it's dark themes and manages to capture the uncertainty pretty well; you'll be laughing and enjoying yourself as you watch the charming antics but at the same time you'll also be on the edge of your seat in regards to what happens, in regards to what could happen and even the little surprises inbetween. Episodes like this show why Babar is different from all of the children's shows, the willingness to do where no shows dare go, the serious treatment of it's characters, the balance between sensibility and seriousness; every bit of the episode is finely done and it's another in the long line of classics which never seem to end. So sit back, relax and enjoy.
Keep the faith
My Dinner with Rataxes
Ah, the rivalry between Babar and Rataxes, one of the many longstanding subjects in Babar. Since they were young (though Rataxes hasn't aged a bit), they were fighting over feathers, getting to the moon first, train tracks and even the construction of their respective cities; these people always wanted to one up themselves and though we may not know how it started or whether or not it was there to begin with, it was there all the same. Now in Season 3 we get an episode where Babar and Rataxes fight except this time, they're all grown up and they even brought their children with them! Just think, seeing the two fight on more different terms and as an added twist, they're even forced to work together. What more could you want?
Babar and Rataxes, together again.
From the getgo, we start off with what is possibly the most common subject out there; a dinner between the two families. If you were a kid back then, you'd probably been driven a couple of times to a friends/relatives house and you probably goofed off (with either yourself or your friends) while you waited for dinner to start; what they did was unknown, maybe they talked amongst themselves, maybe they played games, who knows. If you watched this episode then you'll possibly be reminded of the same things; everything you see and everything you hear (aside from a few things like a royal introduction) is relatable as sensible from the kids comments to the conversation between the parents to even the stuff happening in Rhinoland. Though common, stuff like complaining about whether or not they're there yet, talking about the people who irk them the most and the actual driving itself is representative of real life itself. Furthering that is the spontaneity that comes brings a sense of life into it whether or not it's someone eating a sandwich or someone commenting on someone else and of course, the kids act like kids; playfully fighting with each other, having fun, that sort of thing; Alexander with his rebellious energetic attitude, Pom with his cautious (but friendly) attitude, Flora with her charming personality and Victor with his hung-ho attitude.
You may think that this episode is going to be about an ordinary dinner but early on into the episode it turns into one of those trademarked adventures complete with a beautiful cavernous environment. Truly the sense of adventure has been captured by this environment; the beautiful rocky formations and cavernous qualities throughout, the little surprises that add a bit of wonder and the quite real danger shown by the various obstacles and sudden twists that the people in there encounter; watching the kids have fun in this environment really brings out the sense of imagination while watching them avoid certain death is certainly tense; you can not even describe how many close encounters they get into, it felt like they were near very thin lines. The history behind it is also nice too, not being afraid to reference the fact that this built during a era of possible violence and also making you think about the tensions that existed back then; Babar has always been one of those shows that has never been shy to mention violence and racial tension and it's an especially nice touch to hear it here, especially considering that they could of swept it under the rug. The environment is an example of what adventures should look like, mysterious, beautiful and filled with surprises, it works well for everybody in there (the kids with their earnesty, the adults with their tension) and there is something about these scenes that make you happy but also makes you wonder...
It's an adventure, right?
But of course, with every episode has to come a message and there is, and that message is tolerating each other. It's much subdued then you think but it's there and it's reflected in the actions of the characters as well as the characters by their sides. Babar & Rataxes fight like old times, proving who is better then the other and making quips about the other; it is quite interesting to see them this way mainly because of what has happened since then, there's peace between the two, there's a sort of understanding between them yet they still need to fight; retelling the stories (from Seasons 1 & 2; showing that they appreciate the longterm viewers, who manage to remember this stuff.) to make it seem like they're the hero in it with the other contradicting in how they remember it. There is something about trying to seem heroic, trying to seem like the best, there's a certain feeling that comes from having something to your name but it can't be described, even the kids claim that their dad is better then their dad; (oddly foreshadowing a future episode) there are many reasons as to why they do it but that's for another day. Even when they're in the cavernous environment with a common goal that relates to their fatherhood; they still fight and they even manage to go further by criticizing their own countries; I guess it's in their nature to be rivals, being from opposite sides of the tracks and all; they can't agree on anything, they have different personalities, they only have one thing in common yet they're so close together... It's almost like a twisted version of a relationship.
Babar & Rataxes manages to do well as sort of a psudeo-pair, bouncing off each other like it was nothing. Rataxes rebelliousness comes across effortlessly and Babar's modesty manages to be clear and concise though I will say that Rataxes manages to outdo Babar and it's almost impossible to outdo the king; Rataxes's energy and enthusiasm has a part in this as it makes him look like a really engaging fellow, King Babar does keep up with his modesty, deep voice and natural aggression but something tells me that he isn't into it as much as he should, affecting his performance negatively; maybe it was an off day for him but regardless of who bests who, the two manage to do it in a ridiculously enjoyable until the essential end where they finally manage to break the bonds and reinforce the message that's within. The other characters do well for themselves as well, Basil with his antics, terminology and "dinner" running gag prove entertaining, Queen Celeste and Lady Rataxes manages to show off their feminine sides in a charming manner and the kids all manage to do well, especially Victor who continues his slow but ever so progressive growth; you can just feel the cuteness and sensibility they provide through all of the quips and arguments that they make. If there were some complaints, I would have to say that the music felt a bit off at parts (an episode like this calls for dramatic music, not light music.), the moment where they tolerated each other felt a bit too sudden as was the moment they were saved but those aren't enough to effect the episode majorly, they do dilute it though...
To cap off the evening.
Babar's Dinner with Rataxes ends up being more than expected; we get an episode that more then effortlessly shows an adult version of the rivalry between Rataxes and Babar, providing an adventure that is filled to the brim with wonder and excitement. All of our favorite characters manage to succeed in putting up a grand show and people off all ages will enjoy the antics provided while also learning something in the end; there are flaws that can detract from this episode but that shouldn't stop you from watching an episode that proves to be more then it's factors.
Keep the faith
Fathers and Sons
Ah, sibling rivalry; it's a time long tradition that dates back to the existence of time, two children talking about which father is the best and proving it too. Who knows why this tradition exists, some say for pride, some say for enthusiasm; whatever the case, this episode of Babar explores the concept of sibling rivalry that was hinted at just a short while ago and it places Victor in the spotlight, finally getting a chance to shine after being a minor part in episodes for so long.
From the getgo we're introduced to the premise of these 22 minutes; an annual father and son picnic, Alexander wanting to win a race while Victor just wanting a good father figure to look up to and that premise is perfect for the episode as it allows for something to be said about the struggles of a father and son in relation to the desire to win as well as the desire to look up to their father figure. The struggles are most evident in Babar and as you watch him, you'll notice the uncomfortable side of him that doesn't really know how to handle the situation even though he knows exactly what to do. He wants to support Alexander in what he does, he wants to be with him but he has a message that he wants to get out and like all parents he walks the thin line between bondship and morality; through the times that Alexander and Babar together, we're pulled in by the cuteness of it, enjoying ourselves as we watch the two (who wouldn't enjoy seeing a old-fashioned father with a rambunctious son?) but we can't help to think about what Babar is facing as a father. The desire for a father figure can be attributed to Rataxes and he can't help but to go out of his way to make himself look like a hero, even if it means cheating. Who could blame him? he wants his son to see him as a shining achievement (as well as beat Babar of course), he believes that if he's number #1 than that'll mean everything to his son but then again; I bet there are dads out there who think the same way as Rataxes but he certainly isn't the most mature of the bunch and there's a thing called shortsightedness that gets in the way almost everytime, ruining any attempt to bond with his son. We can't help to laugh and to feel when we see Rataxes but he certainly is trying right?
A beautiful panoramic of the picnic, sensible too.
Sensibility is one of Babar's favorite words and it's placed into exceptional use here, almost managing to tie every aspect of the episode together. Scenes like Babar & Celeste checking up on Alexander's room, making bets against each other aren't essential to the plot as a whole but they're a reminder of life itself and what can happen, the conversations between people, the small things that happen everyday... There's just that insight that you get from watching everyday life that you can't get anywhere else. A sideplot with Chef Truffles (who grows a small bit in character) that runs in tandem with the main plot is just them baking a cake but it's doing so in a way that gives it charm; the determination that they show combined with the compassion really gets across here and seeing them "make it up as they go along" will obviously put a smile on your face as they make and bring the cake that's big but somehow plausible. The most sensible thing here has got to be the picnic, which is the most realistic I have ever seen in a cartoon; this type of thing is what you might remember as a kid or what you might see in the present, (yes, there are still some places out there that hold a father and son picnic.) stands everywhere made in the most common form, the streneous challenges (particularly the last one); looking at it and it's almost like you're transported there yourself. The attention to detail is impressive in that they don't really focus on the detail, more so they just create a situation and run with it; there are people out there eating food, playing games and having fun and while they're part of the background, they're an ever essential part of what gives this picnic life; the thought that there are people around doing various things we don't know about... These scenes prove that not every scene needs some small hint or intricate shadering, just the sheer simplicity can be all the detail we need though some details (like Pom cheering) can be too simple for their own good.
The kids themselves are like real kids, fighting, calling their father the best and they pull off the rivalry perfectly; they manage to go neck and every event that they're in is both fun nand representative of the plot as a whole; both kids desires to win aren't selfish and are in fact, related to their personal struggles; it must be tough for Alexander to go without winning an event, getting that coveted gold medal that they ever so claim to be valuable. It says a lot for a kids desire to at least hold the glory of victory for at least a second but it also says a lot in trying to make their father look like the best. Victor's desire to be #1 may be common but it speaks words, the possibility of a bond between father and son, the affirmation of all the stuff the father has said; any kid would want to feel what it's like to have a #1 dad. The rivalry doesn't remain one dimensional though, it grows as they go through the motions; growing until it hits some serious subject matter. The conflict between Rataxes and his son is one of emotion and sheer character; Victor is a nice potential filled character and it's nice to see that here, his sense of earnesty really speaks words as he seems truly disappointed with his father, the wobbliness of his voice, the sound of defeat, it's almost convincing and cute... like we're watching a younger version of Rataxes and speaking of him, his sense of disappointment and shame can be felt; It really seems like he's serious about this fatherhood thing (as he's not totally focused on beating Babar), which is nice as it shows that there's something more for Rataxes then just being the villain. Alexander doesn't get left out too as he plays a pivotal part in these scenes; he's both caring and stern when it comes to these things and shows that he's more about just winning, though his methods are a bit unorthodox (ie tackling someone), it does show that he's there for his friends.
Fathers and sons, sibling rivals, and a cake I guess...
In the end, Alexander learns that it's not all about winning (though he had to be forced from 2nd to 3rd (to prevent Alexander from winning by default) and place last.), Rataxes and Victor get first place and everything seems right in the world and through all of the good music, various settings, challenges, moments and charm, we found ourselves really enjoying these 22 minutes. The fathers and sons are just a delight to watch as they bond, compete and ultimately connect; every moment seems to be designed to let the audience in and never let go with it's top notch characters and it's sensibility that elevates the episode; though there are some glaring flaws here and there, the quality of the episode is enough to compensate for the flaws. We did learn one thing from the episode though, being a kid/adult is hard.
Last edited by Zombies Rise from the Sea; 09-23-2012 at 02:18 PM.
Keep the faith
Life & Death is something prevalent in the show itself; from it's earliest episodes to some moments of Season 2, there has always been a moment where a character finds themselves in a impossible predicament, forced to get themselves out or forced to face the situation at hand. This episode is one of those episodes dealing with Life & Death and it happens to involve the kids for the first time in the show's history when Flora herself falls ill to a deadly disease and let me just say that this episode is brilliant.
There's something about the innocence of a child that everybody wonders about, perhaps it's the thought patterns and inexperienced perceptions, perhaps it's the imagination that grows in all directions, whatever the case, it provides for a majority of the plot. The D- that Alexander holds is much like the D- that you'd use to hold at school, an indication of bad things to come and seeing Alexander run around trying to deal with it is much like what you would probably do as a kid; it's cute for us to see the type of worry he gets into, the lengths he goes to just to find a place to hide that D- so he can have some time for himself, sure it's worrisome for him but that sort of exaggeration is what makes it cute, so is Alexander's immersion in witches and magic and his questioning; that type of thinking can only be found in a child. Additionally, it parlays itself to the group and there is a sort of chemistry between Pom, Alexander and Victor that will likely bring back childhood memories of their own; the memories of crossing across a bridge with one person being scared but pretending to be brave, the gouging on going into scary places, the actual fear itself when inside that scary place, it captures the vastness of what childhood is and every fear they state, every back and forwarth they have between each other seems to enhance that closeness that they have and that almost eery surrealism which Victors dynamic personality which switches between braveness/scardiness, Alexander's ambition and Pom's focus help to provide; there's also the lighting and camera presentation which almost seems like it came directly out of "Lost" which helps to enhance the feeling of these scenes, a bunch of kids together exploring the unknown jungle. It's almost beautiful the way it's presented but it's almost memorable in how striking it is.
Innocence in it's purest form.
But of course, you'll never know where a D- will take you and it leads into a lot of things. It leads into a plot regarding an isolated old woman who's regarded as a witch; there's something about a woman who looks scary, cranky, all that stuff... the types of perceptions one can garner when looking at her, that she's a witch that she's evil but there is a sweet side to her that contradicts her looks, makes us think of her as something other than a witch; It's quite relaxing as she speaks and lets out her single-living situation but it's also quite essential in that she's able to rush against all time and save the day; she may be a scary witch at first (which fits the mood) but she proves herself to be sweet, dynamic and charming as the episode progresses and the great closure she gets makes it worthwhile. It leads to Flora being in a harrowing situation, one that is absolutely morbid to watch; the setup, presentation, and subsequent characters around her sell the situation she's in and she herself manages to hook you with her humble yet diverse personality that is just teeming with innocence as she goes around walking, communicating with her family and observing her friends and as she plays the role of the witch herself, doing deep voices, being serious and having fun at the same time. Watching them worry, sleep in the table with their pillows and try to make due of the situation is the representation of hope that they and we have; they're on ends and nails thinking about Flora, every word steaming with a bit of nervousness and uncertainty. The idea of death is horrifying and even more so when it involves a little girl and that thought is deeply embedded into our minds throughout the episode.
But where it truly leads to is an exceptional performance by Alexander. Blaming himself for what happened to Flora solely because of the fact that he went to see the witche leads to a deeper, more somber side for him; here is a kid who's usual energy has been replaced by a vulnerability, through much of the show we've thought of him as the kid with an aggressive personality, not afraid to take risks or do anything but seeing him go through the self-regret/despair, lay down on his bed pouting, it changes all that. He shows emotion that seems almost realistic; every word that he speaks seems to have the right amount of impact and drama that allows us to see into his character, he isn't under the perception of having to be as dramatic as possible in order to fit the situation, in fact he feels almost projected into the situation itself as if he's truly worrying about the loss of someone close; when you hear Alexander with the wobbly voice, the high pitch, the stuttering that comes from tearing up and the tears that he shows, you don't think of him as an actor, you don't even think of him as a character but as a real person; one who really knows how to utilize those elements. We're drawn to him throughout the episode from the uniquely creepy settings featuring rickety bridges, trees that provide a shade of darkness (but aren't the usual horror trees) to the cabin with it's darker then usual lighting to even the first appearance of Zephir's Malt Shop, (which gives potential for his character); there's a sense of earnesty that anybody would just love to reproduce and he proves to be pivotal to the episode.
The morbidness of life & death.
There are certain things to be gotten out of this episode, to not jump to common judgements about people (especially calling them witches), to fess up about things earlier and more importantly, to not lose hope through the worrisome times to when Flora makes it out okay commenting on the lack of sleepiness while the family praises, these messages are especially powerful ones for the episode, one which makes the episode stand out in it's own way and all in all, this proved to be one of Babar's finest episodes. The usage of childhood innocence in the episode really brought a certain semblance to the episode, Flora's life & death situation really provided a certain harrowing depth to the episode and most of all, Alexander provided himself with a wealth of character. The actions of Alexander will prove beneficial in future episodes and leave a smile in your heart but it is the death of a young child that really gets to you, that makes both you and the episode think and causes you to cry out tears; the reaction of a family gripped in a situation of life & death shows that not everything is sacred in Babar's world and it's ultimately what engraves this episode into the lore of Babar classics; it is worth it alone to see this episode, to see the cuteness, to see the reaction and to see life in all of it's glory.
Keep the faith
A Tale of Two Siblings
Today, we come across another "Tale of Two" and this tale features both Alexander and Young Isabelle together. Older siblings don't usually get together with younger ones and even though it's been proven in previous episodes such as "Special Delivery" and "To Tell or Not To Tell", this should prove interesting tale nonetheless, especially since it involves a story like the good old days.
Now this story contains it all, narration, flashbacks, action, drama but where it differs from is that it's being told from the perspective of Alexander and it's represented in the environment which is drawn as a children's drawing complete with squiggly lines and eccentric colors that don't even bother to follow the rules of believability while managing to bleed some details into the world, things such as the symbols on the small window still or the design of the vastness of the forest that pops up into the later parts; it's appropriate for the story as it shows that this is the mind of a child that's creating this story and that allows for a laid-back atmosphere that really translates to everything around it, the characters, the storytelling, the presentation. This is the stuff that kids think of, constant action, portraying themselves as the heroes, placing themselves in situations of peril... I can't blame them, this type of stuff looks exciting to them and it is as they get caught up in their own worlds and deepen their own voices while they try to narrate the story (and the narration is good by the way, silly yet serious at the same time); it is absolutely delightful to see King Babar act overdramatic and over-the-top, putting out every stop for a situation that didn't really need it, he seems to be almost enjoying himself as he took the rare chance to act out-of-character treating whatever happened in Alexander's story as if it were the end of the world and was almost letting himself go to the environment at hand, allowing himself to be bended to his whim and it's not just King Babar who gets to have all of the fun. Pompadour and Cornelius do with their different uniforms and respective hair styles, the kids do with their incessant praising of Alexander, even Celeste goes overboard with her cuddling. All in all this environment is just charming fun, one where everybody can get together and just go with the flow, regardless of whether or not it's illogical.
Despite it's easy-going ambitions, the story means something for both Alexander and Isabelle (which is unusual) and that is the basis of the sibling rivalry that they have. Alexander feeling resentful of Isabelle because of her attention grabbing methods and personality and Isabelle just wanting to play with Alexander, which is cute... What he goes through is very common, to dislike the youngest sibling and it initially shows in his story which is designed to be as scary and mocking as possible; monsters who terrorize the town just to get little sisters, the hero feeling happy that his parents were gone instead of sad, the hero even falling to his possible death after Isabelle becomes worried for him, those types of things are just designed to get into the nerve of a little sister, make her gasp, make her annoyed, even make her cry and it's as much of a representation of Alexander as it is an initial scare tactic. In his world, he's the focal focus of everyone, his favorite son; he get everything handed to him hand and foot, the TV, the adjustment of the contrast, he even gets served cake and when anybody else asks for a piece of cake they react in shock. He's good at everything and he also has incredible skills with the sword, slicing and dicing as if it were no trouble but there's also a selfish side that his story unknowingly shows; it's kind of like a famine the way he gives the other siblings the crumbs instead of a piece of the cake, saddening, especially when they mention that they haven't eaten for days, it brings an almost gut turning feeling to what is supposed to be an light fun story and while that may seem like a bad thing, it's actually a good thing because it brings a small depth to Alexander's story, one that makes you think, one that makes you feel plus you can't help to smile as he did the things kids dream of doing such as staying up, having desert before breakfast; there's that sense of rebellion and sense of mystique that relates all to well to childhood.
As the episode progresses the story and as Isabelle plugs her ears, declaring that she won't listen anymore, Alexander's intentions seem to melt down before his very eyes and it becomes less of a scare tactic and more of a bonding tool to the point where they start changing details in the story just for the heck of it. As Isabelle starts to gain more control, suggesting the creatures which our heroes face almost as if on cue and even telling telling the story herself, it is Alexander who finds himself enthralled in his own story, reacting appropriately to every moment and desiring more and at this point the Alexander in the story becomes an emotional slave to the whims of the two, being forced to deal with whatever he's given; having him fight bunnies shows a sense of boredom in him, one that is contrasted listening to the exciting and epic narration while having him run away from a game of house instills a sense of fear, an almost natural fear that is put in a different context... The action here is intense and funny, there's a sense of brevity as he swings that sword, getting himself trapped, running away from potential danger but there's also a charm in seeing him forced to wear a bonnet and of course, fighting bunnies; we feel as Alexander and Isabelle do in the show, as if we're having tons of fun while connecting at the same time and of course, it all builds up what has to be one of Babar's most memorable moments, a giant Isabelle; yes, this is a twist from the norm where Alexander faces himself, reflecting on the connection they seemingly have; That ending isn't the most complex but it's the powerful visuals and acting that really brings the episode full circle, make us think about how far they came compared to the beginning of their story and as he relates with the apparition of the giant little sister, it gives both stories the happy endings that they deserve.
The story of Alexander.
The characters of Alexander and Isabelle are wonderful throughout, Alexander providing that boyish charm that only he can provide and Isabelle providing that cuteness that can only be found in her, interacting with newfound things, not understanding the world around her, doing oddball things and while the various family members don't play much of a part, they do a good job in setting the mood. There are times where the acting from the both isn't up to par, Isabelle's behavior can seem a bit pandering and there's an odd lack of variety in the real world but other than that, this turned out to be a pretty good story; one that really did wonders for Alexander and Isabelle. The eccentric and lively mood will have you at the edge of your seat as you watch the everchanging bond between the two, one that is well presented within it's 22 minute timeframe; while there is some seriousness in there, it's simply plain fun which also does wonders for Alexander and Isabelle. Everybody in this episode is having a good time, and chances are you will too when you watch this episode.
Last edited by Zombies Rise from the Sea; 11-05-2012 at 05:02 PM.
Keep the faith
A Charmed Life
Alternate realities are usually reserved for shows such as "Stargate SG-1" and "Star Trek", you'd never expect a show like this to take a look into a different future but that's what is done here as Babar himself faces that future, a future were he never became king.
First off, it's interesting to see where a different diversion from a path can lead; the city which we come to see and get used to is unlike Celesteville, it is in fact more like a ghetto. Everything we see and everything we hear seems to be both a depressing look at what society is like without Babar, a mocking of what they took for granted; buildings built out of mere rocks and twigs, missing roofs and unrefined architecture, even a lack of produce and constant trips to the lake. These people seem like they're trying to survive, working just to have their self-dignity intact; even characters we used to know take their jobs highly just so they don't feel depressed. And guess who built and is running the city? Rataxes. the draconian values of this future shown here are contrasted between the luxury and the famine being evident and who can't forget about those natural disasters that are as deadly and shocking in real life as they are in the cartoon world, all of those people having to leave their homes, constantly rebuilding their city over and over again and this is resulting from a Babar who didn't discover the old lady as he should, who instead probably got captured and put in a Zoo or decided to stay in the city. Oddly enough, the entire city seems to have a personality to it to the old rhino lady to even the littlest kid which is reflected from their routine and habitual praising of Rataxes to their conflicting desires of hopes and promises to their unified realization that our Babar was a real king.
In the ghetto.
A charm unifies much of the episode and there's a mysticism which is shown from the gypsy bear to the world itself. The idea of it is common but it is the dialog and actions involving it that give it depth, it's something that's a glimpse of a wise nature, the relatability in a calm voice conversing with a worried one, a reflection of the powers of such things and the ultimate consequences of them, just think, one unintentional wish... It's kind of like a spirit quest that you have to face despite not intending to do so and Babar definitely knows how to face it. He shows shock and confusion over what has happened; he yells at the top of his lungs, he speaks in a wobbly sense that suggests deferred confidence and he's reacting as if it were his worst nightmare. Even if this was your first episode to the show, you would know what he was going through; everything that he loved, everything that he worked hard to build seeming lost and being placed in square one where nobody knows your name or takes you seriously... Even though there are some times where he's playing a talking observational role, he truly seem unfamiliar to his surroundings, he stumbles around as if he doesn't know what to say, trying to find confidence in himself but only seeming like a fool. He lacks confidence in himself, he's desperate to find a way to resolve all this easily and he's doesn't seem to be fitting into his new world.
And of course, there's Celeste; the ever essential part of Babar's life. These two are an awkward pair; she doesn't know anything about him, only remembering him from her childhood and he knows everything about her, the children they'll have, the city that they'll build to see these two together, to see them together is intriguing. Babar is essentially romancing her again, laughing, forming a connection, building up to that pivotal moment and Celeste is playing that sensible lowly cleaning woman, standing up for herself, taking everything he's saying into caution; they seem serious as they talk about the situation at hand but they seem cute as they just talk and talk and talk and talk, it's even fun to see Celeste tell off Babar as a coward in a form of role reversal, the man who used to stand up for things giving up so easily. And yet there's something in Babar still trying to find ways to help out the community; as he talks to King Rataxes about his ideas and to reinforce the city that was once his, you can definitely see the ambition & drive that first caused him to build Celesteville in the first place. Of course you can still see the type of desperation in his eyes as he does an act which hopefully should set things right but this is him at his roots, this is him trying to make a bad situation into a good one.
The tribulations of Babar.
This reality may be different from the others but oddly enough some things remain the same; for instance. Basil remains his constant adviser, the guy keeping him in check even though he's rocking the Pompadour look; it just wouldn't be Rataxes without him by his side and he shows, he practically makes most of the decisions, tries to keep him as happy as possible although in this case, it's not as prominent. Pompadour and Cornelius still have that sense of companionship to them; they may seem like different people with different positions and different personalities but if you look deep down, you can see the eager curiosity and enthusiasm that's in both of them. Rataxes remains the same as he ever been; smiling, presenting himself as the person everybody likes, caring more about statues and himself & not knowing how to run a kingdom but definitely showing a sense of ruthlessness in the exiling of certain people and the apathy he shows for the citizens in general; he even gets his comeuppance when several people (even Basil) turn against him, providing a comment on the value of life in general. And of course; Celeste remains the same as she ever was, that sweet determined woman who's place is with the people and her desires, her actions allow Babar to rise up, prove himself to be the king he is and place himself back to where he belongs.
It's a story about many things, being a fish out of a water, facing yourself and taking charge and a unique love story about two distant people who ultimately come together. The derelict ghetto environment allows the episode some degree of thought; to see Celesteville in this state is shocking as everybody is subjected to a lower standard of living but it does afford Babar the chance to express himself in a variety of emotions from despair to confusion and a chance to show the audience what he's made off; he comes in a person annoyed and despondent and comes out someone who is enthusiastic and has a new grasp on life. And of course, Celeste and Babar ends up being really interesting, it's cute to see Babar romance Celeste again but it's also insightful to see Babar's hidden luster so to speak; while it may not top Lost's "The Constant" in terms of premise and content (nothing can beat that episode) it does end up being a pretty engaging episode and another in the long line of Babar classics.
Two last shots to close it all out.
Keep the faith
Uncle Arthur and the Pirates
Ever since his appearance in an episode of Season 2, people have been wondering just when Adult Arthur will appear. Well they can finally stop holding their breaths with this episode in which he makes his first and foremost official appearance, and his appearance promises to be a hoot.
What I like most about this episode is that it gives expands Arthur, gives him a personality. Much of what we know about Arthur comes from his appearance as a child which shows us that he was a kid who was eagerly ambitious, immensely charming and a bit lacking in the brightness. His appearance were scant though, only appearing as sort of a companion to Babar; there were very few times where he showed himself or taken the lead, in fact he was the most underutilized character of the show at that point in time. Even though it's done as if it were in progress, we see the first sights of a character in his adult form who still retains that ambition and yet seems entirely different at the same time; for instance in this he's called "Uncle Arthur" by the children and he lays claims to him being a world famous explorer and adventurer. It's interesting, he makes himself out to be a character of greatness (especially by the children), who knew that Arthur would become this fellow and yet there's another interesting thing in that he's trying to be this cool fellow to the kids, actually give them an experience that they can enjoy; it seems like every story he tells is planned to appeal to the kids inner senses with mystical deep voices, epic narration and even actual items being given away, it's all exciting to the kids and you can clearly see how Arthur is having fun telling the stories, regardless of the negativity that he gets; It's a good thought really, who wouldn't want to remember their cousins as great or interesting; there may be several of them out there who have lived pretty interesting lives and who could blame them, coming in with a dramatic entrance, telling these stories and who couldn't blame him if he wanted to make ordinary things like shopping exciting. He's just trying to be their for the kids, make every moment he's around fun and and he definitely wants to be seen as a good uncle.
He's sure good with kids.
The character of Uncle Arthur may get development here but it's as much about the kids as it is about him. From their point of view they're entranced by all of the adventure and epicness; the thought of discovering lost artifacts, fighting some unknown enemy, holding the key to some sort of mystical treasure and they as much want Uncle Arthur to keep telling them those stories but there's also the overreactive imagination that gets in the way. They can't help but to take things like pirates and secret agents so seriously; the type of fear and exaggerations that they take such as barricading themselves in the bathroom, hiding in things such as barrels and umbrellas is cute; it's like a visualization of what the imagination can bring, the types of things a child can fear and the types of misunderstandings that they have regarding the world at hand furthers it; as the episode goes on they go further away from what Arthur told them and seem to be making up entire situations on the spot, running with it as if it were the truth, heck they even claim to have an understanding of "code", it's an interesting insight, subconsciously thinking of stuff and ironic in that they claim to be in these situations themselves but actually never having been in them at all; kind of like the world around them.. The adventure that the kids go through is certainly one of the things that make the episode, them going through stuff in their own way, serving a slowly progressive plot of exaggeration which includes pirates, chases and even a fight scene... It's certainly a fun experience to watch as everybody does overly extravagant stuff in an overly common situation, playing the roles that they wouldn't normally play and everybody seems like they were truly having fun getting into the situation presented as they did different voices, showcased unique animation and even forgone their characters.
However, the episode is confused in what kind of lessons it wants us to teach; does it want us to learn that our imaginations to go wild, does it want us to learn that these types of stories are harmful to the psych of the children or does it want us to learn to let loose and be free once in a while? On one hand the skeptical negative behavior from King Babar towards Uncle Arthur does support the first point; it's understandable, he's acting like a father, he wants his kids to think responsibility (reflecting the contrast between the kids) and it does reinforce the exaggeration of Arthur's stories and the dimness in that he's not fully understanding their consequences. On another the way the kids act are definitely worrisome, this type of reaction may seem fun but they're forgoing the line between reality and fantasy, diving deep and possibly altering their personalities; familes watching this will definitely understand what kids may go through if told stories like these and it definitely works in terms of the moral lining they're going for but on this last hand, we have Babar himself encountering the same code, spies and pirates that Arthur exposed the kids to and himself getting entranced in his own wild imagination; it's certainly nice to see him loosen up but it's also contradictory to the moral lesson at hand. I don't know whether or not I'm supposed to take imagination in moderation or just let lose and the ending doesn't help in that we get a reference to the lesson while Babar continues to exaggerate himself. There has definitely been muddled lessons like this before but never like this, in fact it actually takes a small bit away from the story in the sense of direction and purpose that it has and it's a shame because much of the episode had the basis for a fun episode that could also teach us something.
Ah, the adventures of Arthur.
Aside from the confused moral, this was a fun, entertaining episode of Babar. There was tons of charm in the children acting out their scenarios, Uncle Arthur turned out to be a pleasure to hang with and much of it had an exaggerated vibe that seemed both serious and fun at the same time. You will enjoy yourself as the episode takes itself seriously in a non-serious environment, all with a sense of doubt sprinkled in to keep it from going too far. However, the plot sort of loses itself at the end and it isn't as great as it could of been but overall it was very, very good. If not for the fact that Arthur appears for the first time in a while.
Keep the faith
The Unsalted Sea Serpent
This is an episode that I have never seen before, you think that'd I'd come across it earlier than later right?. What lies in the sea is often a mystery, a wonderful mystery but a mystery nonetheless; just imagine. Tons of coral reefs, mystical beings, beauty which you have never seen before and the perception of a creature is often one of mystery; when we face it, do we see a threat or do we see a friend. In this episode of Babar, it aims to explore both of those things.
It has something going for it in that it focuses on both the kids and the adults. We get to see a bit more about the lives of the kids and the types of little moments that they face such as Victor getting
sea lakesick, the type of get togethers that they have (such as in the room) and the type of companionship that they share. It's both cute and realistic what the kids do; arguments between the two, the beliefs that they hold, the sort of clothing that they wear when they're watching it and the differing views that they show towards the creature; it really provides that atmosphere. Especially Victor who appears to stand out in a good way with his cookie eating and contrast behavior. We get to see what the adults would do in the situation, particularly Cornelius and Babar; they seem naturally cautious, not jumping to any conclusions automatically and working in regards to the people in the city; who can blame them? they wouldn't want the people to worry or jump to the wrong conclusion and even though they may not be as energetic as the children, everything they do is for the town and they both have their thing. Cornelius with his old minded comments and Babar with his brash but sensible sayings.
Much of the beginning contains the most entertaining moments and they really set the thing up; they build up the creature, make people interested in it and along the way they put along some interesting backgrounds and fantastic lighting but the plot does takes a somewhat different direction later on and goes underwater, exploring the deep blues of the
sea lake. I have to say, the sea wasn't all that impressive but they did have a few details here and there that were beautiful and I admire what they were trying to do; teach kids about the wonders of the sea, portray a sense of exploration of wonder that would appeal to them. Having our adult and kid characters look out into the sea is both cute and an effective way of presenting that excitement, it's an appropriate reflection as to how they'd feel looking out into the sea and the narration really sells the whole thing by describing the small wonders of the sea and why they're attracted to it, thus providing both an outsiders view and a sophisticated (if not documentary like and wordy) look on the subject matter itself.
Life on the sea lake.
The plot becomes a bit scattershot in it's presentation; does it want to present fear, beauty, the serpent itself and matters aren't helped when the rivalry that won't die is included but in a way that's relevant to the episode at hand. There is one thing that remains consistent and that's it's message; the first sights of what we see are not exactly what we suggested and they help to push on us that these sort of creatures have another side to them if we just take the time to look at it and not jump to conclusions and Rataxes's attempts to hunt the creature really show the type of indulgence these people get into regarding the creatures, the hope that they'll be a hero, the unnerving need to get rid of what they constitute as a menace, the general fear and personification of the fear itself. These things serve to provide an intriguing look, it may not provide a deep look (I did like how they managed to include the days of the hunter in sort of a contrast way) but it's definitely something that's notches above the rest. However, much of that is left to the imagination as there's barely any exploration of that subject at all, instead some fun cartoony moments regarding the rivalry seem to take residence; it's definitely exciting to see them on opposite sides and there's a reason as to the action they're doing but it doesn't seem to have much purpose, all it is is them racing against the clock while brief moments of dialog separate the monotony.
There are a few things that help those scenes though. The "guest character" Juc and the submarine "the Limbo" are fine additions that play their part well. I love the way Juc plays with his french accent, it seeming natural and fluent, almost enchanting at times and much of the phrases are just full of energy, we can easily hear that he's a delightful character to be withand the traits that he has such as narrating while recording on a video camera serves a dual purpose, providing the dramatic mood and serving as a nod to all those documentaries out there, it's also fun to see him so focused on narrating that he loses focus. The various offbeat gags throughout the episode such as only one guy cheering and the constant referral to the sea as a lake in a confused way helped to provide a sense of atmosphere and life to the proceedings; the starkness that it provides, the sort of differential that it shows (in that everybody would be cheering in other shows) and the type of dialog that these gags lend themselves but the thing that truly makes it is the sort of relationship between Rataxes and Victor, the cutness of it I mean. There isn't much in the way of a relationship but we can see the furthering of how much Rataxes cares for his son, the type of things he's willing to do, even his son Victor can't help to share in his glory and he also can't help to play a part in showing his dad the error of his ways both figuratively and literally; seeing the visual depictions of their bonding seemingly drives the point in whether it's Victor falling into the ocean or the simple shot of them together, there's literally a certain way they they make these things magical everytime they do it.
The graceful serpent.
In the end... This episode has an good idea but my opinion of it is split, on one hand it's really really cute but on the other hand it can be inconsistent without much exploration. Doesn't matter, it's an enjoyable episode regardless mainly because of the beauty of it. There is just tons of cuteness seeming through the crack whether it's the kids or the serpent itself and watching them, you just can't help but to relate to them; plus the various settings truly showcase the versatility of the animation at hand. Rataxes, Victor and Juc get a special mention in that these two manage to make the more awkward scenes watchable with their cuteness, versitility and appeal. There may be some faults and it isn't what you'd expect it to be but who doesn't like the sight of family bonding?
Keep the faith
Ghost For a Day
It was only yesterday when "Babar" first aired, showing his origins in the jungle and it was only now that Celesteville has grown into such a city; with buildings, an economic and an educational structure and even a ton of modern conveniences. The city is almost a character as the family itself and considering their simple roots, it's defiantly intriguing to see where the episode will lead us when it explores this sophisticated light.
There are many examples of this, things that are as common as electricity and housing and complex as frozen bamboo shoots and machinery... and the traits we've become accustomed too such as eating with utensils and acting in a straight manner and the Old King manages to be an interesting contrast to these examples and traits; he seems humble with his approach, speaking as if he has tons of experience under his belt yet he appears to stand out from the rest of the elephants with his lack of clothes. His interaction of the environment is one of curiosity but also one of brash decisions. We watch as he mistakes a bunch of lights for fire, as he gets hit by a bamboo shoot yet he can't help but to do the natural thing such as use water to put it out or attack the thing head on; it's just in his nature which is shunned and neglected; his constant troubles to handle the devices of the modern era definitely reflects what the fast pace world is, an adaptive world where the latest and greatest things are praised. The people who live in it definitely have no trouble using it, in fact Babar acts like a showman (though a bad one) praising the advancements of technology to the Old King but what he really shows is that we can get all to caught up in this stuff which is what makes the fast paced world a bit cumbersome and stressful.
In the fast world of progress.
He also seems to be proud of his roots; praising the openness of the outdoors, the transparency of community and the honor of old traditions. When you hear him talk to Babar, he can't help but to make the old days sound good, in fact it is that which gives him his sensibility and his dignity. He's like an old African man, more in tune to the nature than he is to the society; he notices the changing ways around him but he holds the idea of the principal of his culture, of his ideology; he believes in a tight-knit community that isn't bound down by a sociological desire, one where there are no worries or fears and he shows it in certain points. Whether or not it's him encouraging to let out his trunk and just blow it out or walking in the jungle; he's definitely proud of his origins and he definitely wants to see those origins be reflected in Babar's society for perpetuity. This episode does a lot in showing the personality of the Old King and how it's is essential to the morale at hand, he's humble, excitable and a caring figure; in fact this episode does more to show him than any other episode before it but something tells me that there could of been more shown; while many of his appearances do relate to the moral at hand, much of them are cartoon shenanigans with the theme being that everything is going wrong and people are weirded out. To have him mostly be the setup for Babar's crazy escapades is disappointing (while fun), when he does that, it just digresses him and makes him into a backdrop gimmick character rather than one of great importance.
King Babar at least holds his own during his scenes even though he's playing the role of a possibly crazy, overworked person and his portrayal is convincingly good; when he questions whether or not he saw it or the reasoning for the kings appearance, he seems to act almost like anybody would do; not in a cartoony way but in a sensible way, it's almost like we're watching a sane person lose his edge, questioning what he believes in and even though he tries to keep it together, he can't seem to convince the people around him. The shock that he expresses is almost stunning, he's actually projecting a sense of amazement and worry but at the same time, a type of honor that comes from meeting such a figure, he's expressing several states of mind at once. He manages to combine that warm, humble voice with that uncertain, nervous perspective and It's almost movie like which is impressive considering the premise and it's something that elevates the premise beyond it's limitations. His performance does serve a second purpose though, in that he's someone who believes in the fast pace of progress, focuses on getting the work done for the betterment of the city and believes that the Old King would be proud of what he has accomplished; it is this person which serves as the example of someone who's forgotten his roots and that is definitely tested throughout the episode, him trying to question it through logical reasoning and just plain denials...
The old king himself.
The story is definitely impressive mainly for it's ability to present certain things and then utilize them in a way to tie the episode down. You have the family rushing out of the door and adjusting their schedules; Pompadour and Cornelius telling them about ever so increasing appointments and the constant usage of the word "check" and it's a nice representation of the hecticness; you have an appearance of Isabelle who serves both to be cute and to provide a lifeline to the slower aspects of life, such as a picnic; the bonding between them, there's definitely a sense of character inside of her when she proclaims her liking of the good old dayswhile at the same time there's also a bit of purpose in that she ultimately helps King Babar remember what's ultimately important, those being to "never forget your roots" and to "slow down and get away from the hectic troubles of life." and to see the type of reflection she has on the overall plot is surprising. There's also an anniversary which helps to both reflect on the progress that the city has made while also giving a tense situation for Babar even though I think this has been done before and you even have Pompadour and Cornelius worrying about him for different reasons. However, there are flaws in that barely anything is shown or established, The kids/Celeste/Isabelle barely appears throughout the episode and the two only get one line which doesn't do much to reflect on the plot or their role and that lack of establishment leads to a harmful lack of focus which is only resolved around the end of the episode.
However, even though the episode may seem like a mishmash of cartoon comedy with a lack of purpose; at least manage to take him seriously throughout his initial appearance. We don't know how it's possible he appeared, how he can appear as a physical manifestation or anything about his overall purpose but that doesn't matter; the fact is, he's here as a purveyor to their legacy and a reflection as to where they came from including a nicely animated scene from their past. (which should of been included in "Elephant Express" but I digress) With that being said, it's a good episode mainly because it focuses on the Old King and his observation of the modern world; through this we get to see the character of the Old King, his traits, his habits, his inner thoughts, most of all his wiseness. King Babar is no slouch either, his performance of a crazy person is convincing and it's definitely above the bar for what the premise calls for. They do miss the mark on some things that could of been explored that could of made this episode a masterpiece and it does lose it's focus from time to time (much of it being lost on the cartoon shenanigans) but for what it is, it's a good episode. I just wish it could of been better.
Some shots to close us out.
Keep the faith
Boys Will Be Boys
This is a clipshow.
Yes in the long line of Babar episodes, we've finally hit one of the most dreaded episodes to ever exist; one which infuriates viewers to no end. The clipshow. It was viable in the past when these types of episodes couldn't be seen easily, where the only chance for older episodes to be shown was through these episodes but the future has come with accessibility and these episodes are in fact pointless. Back then they still were mainly because you tuned in expecting to see an episode and instead you got this; I feel like clipshows really detract from the fact that every episode is meant to be an actual episode.
It does have a theme though, which is memories. Throughout the episode you have King Babar, Uncle Arthur, Zephir, Rataxes and even Basil reminiscing on the good old days; having fun, laughing at one another, describing in detail how they did this. You could easily tell from watching this episode that the cast is treating this with the upmost respect of any Babar episode, neither having a weak line or a weak moment; they deliver their lines with the upmost professionalism and they definitely had fun, bickering with each other, doing the funny voices, it was like they were the characters themselves. In fact during the beginning of the episode, their performances were so good that it may have fooled you into thinking this would be an actual episode; what with their handling of the map and their conversations with Cornelius. the scenery in the present scenes was nice; we got to see tons of things, the kids being casual and sensible almost to the point of believability, the green trees and tremous mountains, the small detail such as flowers or the occasional bit of nature such as birds chirping or even a chipmunk and what I considered the best moment of the episode; Babar and Rataxes making peace as they were about to die; if there's one show that treats the issue of death seriously, it's Babar. Seeing them as friends, accepting death, it's something that you have to see.
Ah, the beauty of nature.
However, that is counteracted by the sheer number of clips that are rehashed; you'll witness scenes from "Monkey Business" to "Elephant Express" to "The Gift" and even "Babar's Triumph" and while I have to give praise to the fact that they were relevantly placed and appropriate for the situation it was presented in, they usually tell the entire episode in a nutshell most of the time. For example, you have a scene where Babar arrives on a boat, a gorilla arrives and suddenly he's friendly and he's mentioning the "misunderstanding that has happened". Through doing that, the episode has stripped much of the drama, much of the excitement and much of the plot that you would of gotten have you watched the episode where the clips came from itself. As I say today, why watch a clipshow when you can watch the actual episodes themselves? Another thing of note: these scenes have brand new Season 3 music; you know the scene in "The Gift" where they chase after a flower right, well the ragtime music has been replaced by serious violin music from an episode. Whether you like it or not is up to you, I personally didn't because it contradicted the mood though I do have to admire it being put into a new perspective.
The message of this episode is a good one. Things that are buried in time become more memorable as you grow up; they provide warmth and excitement the sooner you find them and the value of a memory is much more than the value of money. We treasure memories, we value memories, we even create sites about memories and thinking about them can definitely make us happy. Babar's kids don't see the memories as memories as much as they see it as toys but even that is counteracted by the fact that we're giving our memories to them, to have fun with, to create new memories and for those memories to be valued everyday. I don't know whether or not the message got through seeing as though greed and the importance of profit still dominates today's society. Everywhere you go you see stuff costing loads of money, rarely is there ever a honest price or a good value and to search for those values is truly a treasure hunt since those values aren't really values at all; what's worse is that they're more like enticements rather than true deals, they want you to shop, they want you to spend money there, they want profit; that's all they want. Maybe in the future this message will be treated seriously.
But did we really need to put this message in a clipshow? I say no. Boys Will Be Boys and Clipshows Will Be Clipshows. Was this really the way to end the season with?
Keep the faith
Babar: Season 3
So after 2 seasons on the air featuring the young adventures of Babar and friends, Season 3 decides to switch it up and feature the kids and in doing that, it's entering unfamiliar territory. Would the audience love the focus on the kids, would the audience see as much of King Babar as they did before, would the core value of the show remain the same? I mean all that has ever been shown about the kids is in the wraparound scenes in the beginning and end of those episodes (excluding two) and those episodes weren't enough of a judgement to gain an opinion of them. This season had a lot riding on it because of that and well... I'm here to tell you that it succeeds in meeting expectations.
The season starts off with "The Celesteville Enquirer" which is the perfect way to introduce the new Babar that's also sandwiched within a pretty straight take on the journalism game that manages to be somewhat witting. (for a children's show) Starting off with the beauty of a sunrise, you get a basic idea of what Babar kids are to the show and how they act; the group mentality and how they act, some of the individual traits and the general cuteness which would carry throughout the entire season and the kids manage to hold their own throughout the episode, managing to give the now adult characters of the show a perfect background to unleash their bits, bits which are funny and entertaining at the same time. (such as Babar & Flora for example.) But you're probably expecting the characters to be able to stand on their owns, no worries; the second episode of the season "Special Delivery" manages to be a good, engaging (if not harrowing) story of sibling rivalry and new changes, Flora is explored throughout the episode and as you watch the episode, you see her reaction to certain things, you see her personality as a daughter wanting to satisfy her father and more importantly, you get to see her hold her own throughout as the thunder strikes and she gets close to Isabelle.
The theme here is character exploration as almost every episode focuses on the kids who's personalities are unexplored territory, in "To Tell or Not to Tell" we get to see the relationship between Pom and Alexander and their differences in view, you may be weary of what happens initially but what you learn in this episode means so much to the characters; in this episode, you learn that Pom is an honest boy with a bright viewpoint and Alexander is a rambunctious boy with a slight disadvantage. As the season goes on, it explores a lot of things from the individuals that we've thought we've known from "Uncle Arthur and the Pirates" which is kind of like a formal introduction to him with the way he tries to be something to the kids, the way he tell stories to the kids and "A Charmed Life" which provides a new perspective on the character we thought we've known (Babar) by placing him in the shoes of a common citizen who just wants to help out, all while he doubts himself in the progress. These episodes paint their characters with such vividness that it almost makes them look like real life characters especially considering that nobody knew what they were going to be like outside of the wraparounds.
The various shots of Season 3.
Much of the season manages to be near the standards of Seasons 1 and 2 with pitch perfect storytelling, amazing animation and the cuteness that has defined Babar since the olden days. Episodes like "Witches Potion" and "My Dinner with Rataxes" manage to be excellent in their own right, "Witches Potion" focuses on the possible death of Flora (a constant theme in Babar) and in that focus it manages to provide one of the shows darker 30 minutes alongside a pitch perfect performance by Alexander who actually manages to transcend realism by embracing the sadness and deep despair of the situation, providing a performance that is depressing as well as engaging. "My Dinner with Rataxes" is a lighter affair but it manages to be fun by showcasing the rivalry between Rataxes and Babar and the similar relationship between their own kids, providing commentary while they explore the beautiful caves. If you think that Babar is going to get left out of the fun, threat not. Episodes like "The Coin" and "A Charmed Life" showcase Babar as much as they provide entertainment. "The Coin" revolves around things such as possible loss and the indecision of Babar as he roams around stuck with a deal he made a long time ago and "A Charmed Life" has him dealing in a world where he never was ruler, showing the dedication as he tries to make things right with Celeste and it's city.
However, there are some discrepancies here and there, which is a shock for something like Season 3 of Babar; in this season it ranges from all shapes and sizes. "Fathers and Sons" has a plot that should be considered classic Babar (such as Babar and Rataxes having fueding sons and it's not all about winning.) but while the episode is really entertaining, they don't really bring it to the level it should be at and the reason it ranges from are various, few things are exploited to the point they're supposed to be, some moments are not exactly needed, you know... "A Tale of Two Siblings" is another episode that has a classic plot but few discrepancies; while the mission of the episode is to have as much fun as possible (and succeeds), it sort of loses some points for not having much emotional depth and not being as engaging as it should; I mean having a story is fine but having it be consistently compelling is another. Then we get to the slight disappointments such as "Uncle Arthur and the Pirates" and "Ghost For a Day" which though entertaining, sort of lose themselves in the morale department; I mean what are both of those episodes trying to teach? Both episodes are fun in that we get to learn something unexpected from those characters but the morale gets muddied up in the end.
The real surprise is the amount of lesser episodes here which Babar has never had. An example of this is "To Tell or Not to Tell" which while entertaining, panders to the audience somewhat and has to rely on lesser tricks such as the kids falling for Isabelle's tricks and a chase sequence through a junkyard which doesn't have much purpose; need more proof? Just look for the emphasisms and the exaggerated reactions throughout the middle half of the episode. "The Unsalted Sea Serphant" is something that tries to weave a message of taking care of animals and not hunting these animals for sport and it's a bit better than the above episode in terms of story and sheer cuteness (just look at the scene at the pier for example, classic Babar.) but it's still disappointing in that it doesn't go above and beyond and doesn't truly make a statement for animal abuse, instead using it as the backdrop for the episode which is a shame. The real loser of this season (shocking right?) is "Boys Will Be Boys" which is a clipshow designed to mainly showcase clips from Seasons 1/2; while it does have the backdrop of Babar and friends adventuring for the good old times, it's mainly a waste as the episode utilizes every cliche in the book from the "remember when that happened?" to the "oh I know this.".
More of that...
Much of it could be blamed on the fact that they were trying to figure out what would work. I mean we've been so used to Young Babar and his adventures for so long that we're afraid for anything else and apparently the writers shared that common notion as well, they were trying to maintain the fun, loose adventure vibe while trying to make it fit within that new format. Every episode in this season has that bit of experimentation in there, even the best ones and that experimentation can range from somewhat awkward flow to abrupt fadeouts to even awkward conversations; in some, they're forgivable but in others, they're unforgivable, so unforgivable in fact that they effect the episode in general. I don't blame them, it must of taken them a lot of work to find the right balance, in fact the first episodes of the season have the best balance of what works. Ironically, it seems like the last few episodes of the season don't have a right balance, well they have an okayish balance but they lean more towards a specific direction than they do the other direction and that can be problematic.
Still despite the lesser episodes, this manages to be a good season of Babar. It has growth, it has exploration, it even manages to have some references to death in there. The focus on the adults and children is well rounded as there are some episodes which feature the adults in their entirety while there are some episodes which feature the children in their entirety and so and so. The children manage to show their cuteness every step of the way and with every passing episode you learn a little about them and by the end of the season you'll come to cherish them as much as your own children; you also learn something about the adults as well, so it's not a total waste and what you learn from them as adults will be as useful as the stuff you learned about them when they were little. There are some downers yes but even a series like Babar can't continue it's reign as pure brilliance, it has to end it's reign somewhere and I guess this is it. Still a good season though.
Best Episodes: "The Celesteville Enquirer", "Special Delivery", "The Coin", "My Dinner with Rataxes", "Witches Potion", "A Charmed Life"
Worst Episodes: "Boys Will Be Boys"
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