So about five minutes into the credits of Rankin/Bass’ heavily fictionalized account of the early days of Hans Christian Andersen, I started to wonder why it is that so very few children’s films from the past have, as it were, floated to the surface of the vast sea of kid movies.
The days before television (and children’s entertainment on TV) started to take off was kind of an odd time for children’s films. Most of what was available for children was shown only during weekend matinees. Most of the films I’ve reviewed from the ’60’s come from this era, and usually the kids would be dropped off at the theater for a few hours while mom went on her merry way. So there are loads and loads of children’s films from this time, but it seems we never hear much about them. A few of them have made it onto DVD, so consider “The Daydreamer” one of the lucky ones.
For it’s time, “Daydreamer” has a cast of thousands, though it’s clear once the show gets started that the actors were cast for their previously successful voice work. It’s one of Rankin/Bass’ few forays into live-action/animation, and the effects are pretty good for the time. The animated sequences are wonderful as usual; it’s great to see what the “Animagic” animators can do with a bigger budget. The live-action sequences… kinda suck.
In fact, it feels like the live-action keeps showing up and getting in the way of the animation, which is used to bring Hans’ (or Chris, as he is called here for some reason) stories to life. The stories include “The Little Mermaid”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, and “Thumbelina”. Now, you might be aware that two of these stories were revisited by slightly less obscure animated films, and interestingly Rankin/Bass remade “Emperor” themselves. The adaptations of the stories in this film, however, are much closer to the source material — and it should be noted that, although I don’t know if kids pick up on this, many of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories are, well, total bummers. “Daydreamer” just worsens this by basically ignoring the endings of each story. Hans leaves each character in pretty dire circumstances, and we never learn what happens to the Mermaid or the Emperor or Thumbelina. Jerk.
The Best Parts:
2 minutes in – I won’t spoil the fun by explaining why, but the opening credits to this movie are… different.
4 minutes in – Ladies and Gentlemen, for their fabulous encore performance, the Opening Credits!!!
6 minutes in – “Do you remember a time when women couldn’t vote? And certain folks weren’t allowed on golf courses?”
7 minutes in – “Maybe if we buy a pie, it will go away?”
10 minutes in – Aww…
14 minutes in – Our Sandman is *really* different.
16 minutes in – “Come an’ play with me, Jimmy! / Come an’ play with me! / And I will take you on a trip far across the seee-EEEEEEEEAAAAHHH!!!”
18 minutes in – “I’ll never let go, Jack!”
20 minutes in – Can you see why Disney streamlined the hell out of this story?
23 minutes in – I dunno, Rule 36 determines that *somebody* would be into it.
31 minutes in – “You know what, Chris? You are probably going to be a very successful author of depressing short stories. But you’re going to go through life thinking nobody likes you because you’re a writer. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my swim bladder, that it’s really because you’re an a-hole.”
35 minutes in – Well, that was a colossal downer.
36 minutes in – OMG, Chris, were you going to eat that duck?!
52 minutes in – “Hey, we’ve got Ray Bolger in our cast. It’d be a shame not to let him sing.”
57 minutes in – AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!
59 minutes in – Oh… wow. We’re over the hump though.
1 hour, 7 minutes in – And yet, still not as weird as Don Bluth’s version.
1 hour, 10 minutes in – And suddenly, it’s winter. Um, I guess?
1 hour, 13 minutes in –
1 hour, 16 minutes in – (Ness checks to see if the ground under her hedge is littered with dead sparrows after this awful winter. It isn’t.)
1 hour, 22 minutes in – Chris continues to be an a-hole!
1 hour, 25 minutes in – Thank you for putting Chris in his place, Sandman.
1 hour, 27 minutes in – This is why you shouldn’t snort tulips.
1 hour, 30 minutes in – Welp, we know how this is going to go, don’t we?
1 hour, 31 minutes in – Here comes Nightmare Fuel!
1 hour, 33 minutes in – “He writes wonderful stories with total bummer endings!”
1 hour, 38 minutes in – And… that’s the end, I guess. Too damn bad if you wanted to know if Thumbelina and the other characters Chris screwed over got out of the messes he helped put them in.
“DAAAAAAAY-dreamer! / Month of MAAAAAAAY dreamer!” – Robert Goulet!
Things I Learned from this Movie:
* – Knowledge tastes like candy.
* – Hans Christian Andersen got all his story ideas from a glowing blue entity made of sand.
* – Snorting tulips will make you trip balls.
* – It’s fun to harass teenaged boys who have been tied up by scary old men to be taken away forever.
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? Rankin/Bass creatures. The birds are especially awful cute.
Good Soundtrack? Nature! Goulet!
Hot Guys No.
Pretty Scenery? Yeah.
Nifty Animation/Effects/Art Direction? And how! Think of the inherent craziness of doing “The Little Mermaid” in stop-motion.
Drinking Game Potential? Drink when Chris does horrible things to his characters. This can also work for a collection of his short stories.
Head Movie Potential? Say no to snorting tulips, kids!
Eh, Jordan. If I could I’d give it a Donnie for the animation and a Jon for the live-action.
A Videocraft International Film released in 1966 by Embassy Productions. Written by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Romeo Muller and directed by Jules Bass.
Hoo boy. Boris Karloff, Hayley Mills, Patty Duke, Margaret Hamilton and Ray Bolger, Burl Ives, Tallulah Bankhead, Victor Borge, Terry Thomas, Ed Wynn, Jack Gilford – and some lucky theater guy from Boston named Paul O’Keefe as Chris.