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  Gulliver's Space Travels Beyond the Moon Swiftian Space Adventures
Year: 1965
Director: Yoshio Kuroda
Stars: Kyu Sukamoto, Seiji Miyaguchi, Makiko Ito, Junko Hori, Akio Ozawa, Chiyoko Honma, Ko Oizumi, Masao Imanishi, Yukiko Okada
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Animated, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: This early anime from the mighty Toei Studios posits itself as a space-age sequel to the Fleischer brothers classic, Gulliver’s Travels (1939). It begins with Gulliver shipwrecked during a storm, which turns out to be a scene from a movie being watched by our young hero, Ricky (Ted in the original Japanese). Thrown out of the cinema, the poor, homeless boy seems bereft of hope until he meets Mack the talking dog and a magical toy soldier called The General, who try to convince him otherwise with some fun in the fairground. A ride on a giant firework brings them to an enchanted wood, where the real Professor Gulliver, Sylvester the crow, and other animal friends are building a spaceship to reach the Planet of Blue Hope. After adventures in the Reverse Time Nebula, where everyone briefly ages backwards, the travellers reach the strange planet where its mechanical inhabitants and their doll-like Tin Princess are being terrorized by a race of super-robots.

Anime films from this period were still seeking to emulate Walt Disney, hence Gulliver’s Space Travels is an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza. The original music by Isao Tomita with its tinkling electric piano, triumphant horns and jazzy Hammond organ enhances the mood of childlike glee. In its American dub the film includes some jaunty tunes composed by Milton and Anne De Lugg, who manage a remarkable feat in squeezing the line “soon as I get my equilibrium” into one memorable number. Their song, “Think Tall”, bookends the movie and encapsulates its main theme: hope.

Ricky begins the film in a state of utter despair until Mack and the General ignite a spark of hope. Professor Gulliver is similarly disillusioned with planet Earth and takes off in search of a planet whose very name suggests boundless optimism. Amidst meteor showers and zero gravity fun, the key scene is a dream sequence. A little fairy leads Ricky, Mack and the General, riding stars across a sapphire galaxy and grants them each one wish. Mack wishes for food, the General asks to be made human, but neither of these bring happiness until they follow Ricky’s example and start wishing for each other. When the travellers find Blue Hope, it is a world frozen in peril, and everyone realises hope is something they carry inside themselves.

The screenplay was written by Shinichi Sekizawa, who penned many of the more whimsical Godzilla movies, but the finale was completely reworked by a whippersnapper named Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki was only a lowly in-betweener on this movie, the animator responsible for linking key sequences and usually lacking any creative input. Fresh out of university, full of idealism and self-confidence, he took control and crafted a poetic ending wherein the princess becomes a real girl. It ingeniously enhanced the film’s message and marked Miyazaki as a talent to watch. Animation-wise, the cute animal characters and storybook visuals evoke the great Disney artist Mary Blair, while some angular designs and remarkably experimental sequences are close to UPA. Being anime, the space battles and robot fights are far more inventive and exciting than anything in American cartoons from this period, and includes arguably the greatest water pistol fight in cinema history.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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