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  Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure Night Of The Living Dolls
Year: 1977
Director: Richard Williams
Stars: Didi Conn, Mark Baker, Mason Adams, Marty Brill, Paul Dooley, Niki Flacks, Hetty Galen, Margery Gray, Sheldon Harnick, George S. Irving, Ardyth Kaiser, Joe Silver, Arnold Stang, Lynne Stuart, Fred Stuthman, Alan Sues, Allen Swift, Claire Williams
Genre: Musical, Animated, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: When Marcella (Claire Williams) returns home from school, she is looking forward to her birthday party, so once she drops her favourite Raggedy Ann doll in its chair in her room, she goes downstairs to see her mother. While she is away, all her toys come to life and Raggedy Ann (voiced by Didi Conn) laments that she has been flung about so much during the course of the day that her stitches are coming loose. Fortunately, her friends rally round and perform the necessary repairs, but where is her brother Raggedy Andy (Mark Baker)? Would that be his feet sticking out from under the new box that has arrived in the room?

Yes, they are, and poor old Andy has been squashed. If this sounds like the beginning of Toy Story, you can bet those guys at Pixar had seen Raggedy Ann & Andy because there are definite similarities. However, where that went onto world-conquering success, this film remains a minor cult item from the childhoods of those who saw it when they were little. It was directed by the brilliant Canadian animator Richard Williams, and the quality of the work is evident in every frame, with nothing staying still for a second if it can be moving around.

However, it's not all satisfying, as the script, adapted from the stories by Johnny Gruelle (an animator himself, briefly) is too fond of hearing its characters break out into song. So keen on the music are they that it takes a good half hour of the movie to get the plot into gear and Raggedy Ann and her sibling embarking on their adventure. That quest takes the form of attempting to rescue the present who was in that box (Andy is safely extricated from his predicament). She is Babette (Niki Flacks), a French doll who no sooner has she been taken out of the box and placed in the doll's house, is complaining.

Babette is homesick for Paris, but that's the least of her problems when the pirate captain (George S. Irving) in the snow globe takes one look at her at makes up his mind to make her his prized possession. He manages to persuade the other toys to cut him out of his prison then, to their shock, he kidnaps Babette and sails out of the window. Kind-hearted Raggedy Ann feels responsible so she and Andy take a leap into the unknown: the forest outside the back garden. In the toys' view, this becomes a site of wild and fantastical characters, nothing like what a human being would regard the real world as.

So where Toy Story had Woody and Buzz Lightyear interacting with actual dangers and obstacles, here Raggedy Ann and and Andy meet a host of very odd personalities whose main defining feature is how miserable they all are. In fact, a psychiatrist could have a field day with the hangups of this lot, including as they do a forlorn Camel (Fred Stuthart) who becomes their companion, a lake of taffy called The Greedy (Joe Silver) who cannot stop eating, even when it concerns our heroes, and a King (Marty Brill) who is upset at his short stature and can only grow when he laughs, which makes him a menace and a peculiar tyrant in his way. Alas, Raggedy Ann doesn't have such a strong character, and she and Andy tend to spend most of the story being buffetted along by the tides of fate, but this remains a favourite of animation fans glad to see an example of Williams' work that was actually finished properly. Music by Joe Raposo.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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