Last week I did a survey of US-made Western genre animation. This week I take a look at the rest of the world: foreign-made animated Western features and TV series.
France – Theatrical features
Cendrillon au Far West (Cinderella: Once Upon a Time in the West), directed by Pascal Hérold. 81 minutes. July 25, 2012.
A funny-animal CGI Western, with Cinderella is a spunky pigtailed deer cowgirl. See my column on French Animated theatrical features, part 10.
France – TV animation
Lucky Luke, directed by Morris, William Hanna & Joe Barbera. 52 half-hour episodes; 26 beginning October 15, 1984; 26 more beginning September 15, 1991.
Co-produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, Gaumont, and FR3. The credits list only a French broadcast, but include Americans William Callaway, Paul Reubens, and Frank Welker among the voice actors; and give both French and American names for some characters such as Jolly Jumper/Double Six for Luke’s horse and Rantanplan/Bushwhack for “the stupidest dog in the West” (sometimes “in the universe”). Almost all of the half-hour episode titles are those of the albums in the series, such as “Phil Defer”, “Doctor Doxey’s Elixir”, and “The Grand Duke”, implying that the animated episodes were close adaptations of the albums.
Calamity Jane (The Legend of Calamity Jane), directed by Pascal Morelli. 13 half-hour episodes. September 13 to September 22, 1997 in the U.S.; March 3 to June 26, 1998 in Canada; September 12, 1998 in France.
Animated by Contre-Allée; produced by Canal+ and France 3; broadcast initially in the U.S., Canada and France, Portugal later. An animated Western, supposedly based on the (heavily fictionalized) real-life uneducated, ugly, gunwoman Martha Jane Cannery. In the TV series, set in 1876 in Deadwood City, South Dakota, she’s in her mid-20s, reasonably attractive, educated, and uses a bullwhip instead of a rifle. She is a friend of real-life “Wild Bill” Hickok and Quanah (spelled Quannah in the credits) Parker, and fictitious Joe Presto and Captain John O’Rourke. Announced by Warner Bros. TV as coming in the U.S., but only 3 episodes were shown; believed to have been pulled as too violent for children’s TV. Very stylized; Jane is depicted as a pure-white redhead, while other Caucasians are flesh colored.
Les Nouvelles Aventures de Lucky Luke, directed by Olivier Jean-Marie. 52 half-hour episodes. September 16, 2001 to May 4, 2003.
Animated by Xilam. Where the previous series adapted the albums that had already become “classics”, the “new adventures” were specifically written to not feature any of the albums “that have aged”, but feature all new stories to show that the characters “have not aged”. Les Nouvelles Aventures included new characters, both real (Lola Montez, Buffalo Bill) and fictional (Sherlock Holmes, Don Quixote). The series was shown in prime time, establishing that it was for the whole family, not just children. Morris, the creator of Lucky Luke in 1946, wrote some episodes, but never saw any; he died in July 2001, two months before the series premiered.
Rantanplan, directed by Hugo Gittard. 75 90-second episodes. Beginning September 6, 2006.
Arguably not a Western, since Rantanplan (“the Picasso of stupidity”) is often seen talking with farm animals and the Western connection is not evident. Notable for the number of different ways “Rantanplan” is translated for different countries; in Canada, it’s Rintindumb. Produced by Xilam.
Les Dalton, directed by Charles Vaucelle. 78 seven-minute episodes. May 23, 2010-October 29, 2013.
Xilam’s 2009 English-language press release: “In ‘The Daltons’, the infamous brothers Jack, Joe, Averell and William have no banks to rob, no stagecoach to hijack, not even a saloon with dancing girls and cactus juice, just a big penitentiary sitting in the middle of the god-forsaken desert. Every episode is a new chance to escape and of course they blow it every time. They’re good on imagination but bad on brain power! The sewage pipes are too small, the soap suds froth into a lather, the human cannon ball exercise back fires and the astral travel experiment fails, not to mention the baby crocodiles, dinosaur burial sites or laughing gas deposits. Aiding, abetting and distracting the boys are Miss Betty, the prison educator, Melvin Peabody the business-like prison warden, Rintindumb the dog, doting Ma Dalton and the squabbling prison wardens.” Note the absence of Lucky Luke.
Germany – Theatrical features
Die Spur führt zur Silbersee (The Trail Leads to Silver Lake), directed by Günter Rätz. 84 minutes. January 19, 1990.
An East German stop-motion animated feature based on the Western novel of Karl May, Der Schatz im Silbersee (The Treasure of Silver Lake), 1890-91. Karl May (1842-1912) was a German failed petty thief who was arrested numerous times, and only became a success when he started writing “authentic American frontier adventures” entirely from his imagination. Later exposures of his inaccuracies failed to affect his popularity. Germans as diverse as Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler identified themselves as May fans in their youth. May’s main heroes were Winnetou, a wise Apache chief, and Old Shatterhand, a Rocky Mountain trapper and Winnetou’s white blood brother.
Der Schatz im Silbersee was previously released as a live-action Western in West Germany on December 14, 1962. In this stop-motion feature for children, cowboys Hobbie-Frank and Tante Droll are asked by the late Chief Wise Bear to bring a map of the treasure of Silver Lake to his heirs, Großer Bär (Big Bear) and Little Bear. Outlaw Cornel “Red” Brinkley, the bane of Nugget City, gains the map in a crooked card game and sets out with his gang after the treasure. Winnetou and Old Shatterhand catch the gang and turn them over to the Sheriff, but the gang escapes. Winnetou and Old Shatterhand have to catch them again. The puppets make Old Shatterhand look like Buffalo Bill, and Winnetou like a squaw. The production was finished on October 11, 1989, and the movie was released on January 19, 1990; most sources give the former date only. Winner of the Golden Sparrow at the 7th German Children’s Film and Television Festival, Gera, German Democratic Republic, 1991.
Watch the full feature: click here.
Germany – TV animation
Winnetou – Die Zeichentrickserie (Winnetou – The Animated Series), directed by Uwe Glaube. 10 ten-minute episodes. From March 14, 1996.
“Winnetou, der tapfere Apatsche auf seinen Abenteuern im Wilden Westen. Mit seinem Blutsbruder Old Shatterhand kämpft er gegen das Unrecht und besiegt so manchen Pferdedieb und Banditen.” (“Winnetou, the Apache brave in his adventures in the Wild West. With his blood brother Old Shatterhand, he fights against injustice and defeats many horse thieves and bandits.”)
Italy – Theatrical features
West and Soda, directed by Bruno Bozzetto. 86 minutes. October 1, 1965.
A parody of Western stereotypes. Johnny, a lean, cigarette-smoking cowboy, comes to a Western town where Clementina, the ranch-owning beautiful girl, is being courted by il Cattivissimo, the greedy town boss who only wants to get her ranch, and his henchmen, the burly Ursus and the deadly gunman, Slim.
Japan – Theatrical features
Nagagutsu Sanjūshi (Puss in Boots: The Three Musketeers), directed by Tomoharu Katsumata. 53 minutes. March 18, 1972.
The first sequel to Tōei Dōga’s 1969 Nagagutsu o Haita Neko/Puss in Boots is a misleadingly-titled Western. Pero/Puss, still on the run from the Cat Kingdom for befriending mice, comes to the Wild West’s Go Go Town where he poses as Bill, a cowboy. He (and a tribe of mouse Indians) and a girl, Annie, and boy, Jimmy, are the three musketeers who defeat the Big Bad Boss of Go Go Town and his gang of counterfeiters. The three ninja cats (the first film’s comedy-relief annoyances) reappear as Western owlhoots. This was re-released on home video in the U.S. and Britain in the early 1980s with Pero renamed Ringo. Tōei Dōga’s U.S. title for this is The Return of Pero.
Trigun: Badlands Rumble, directed by Satoshi Nishimura. 90 minutes. April 24, 2010.
A theatrical movie of the popular TV animated series. A Space Western, set on the planet Gunsmoke. In a prelude, the outlaw Gasback Gallon Getaway and his three men, (Cain Kepler and two others) rob the bank at Macca City, but Cain leads the other two in doublecrossing Gasback. Gasback gets the upper hand, but as he is about to kill his ex-henchmen, Vash the Stampede appears and, pretending to be a coward, stops him. Gasback and the others escape separately.
Twenty years later, Cain has used his share of the loot to buy himself the Mayor’s office in Macca City, but rumors come that Gasback is about to come for his revenge. The complex plot involves Vash coming back to prevent the killings of anyone, despite the reward of $$60,000,000,000 (sixty billion double-dollars) for him; Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson of the Bernardelli Insurance Agency coming to insure a statue of Cain; Nicolas D. Wormwood becoming Gasback’s bodyguard; and a horde of bounty hunters including the beautiful Amelia pouring into Macca City for the rewards for Gasback and/or Vash.
Japan – TV animation
Sei Jūshi Bisumaruku (Bismarck, the Star Musketeer), directed by Masami Anno. 51 half-hour episodes. October 7, 1984 – September 25, 1985.
A semi-humorous Space Western, produced by Studio Pierrot. In the far future, the entire Solar System (not the galaxy) has been colonized under the authority of the Earth Federation Government. The colonies, especially those on the outer planets, look like Wild West towns. Many of the frontier colonists resent the control of the EFG. Simultaneously, the colonies are attacked by a technologically superior interstellar hostile species, the Deathcula. To pacify and protect the colonists, the EFG calls on Dr. Charles Louvre to build a giant transforming starship, the Bismarck, which can turn into a huge robot sheriff. The Bismarck is crewed by four teenaged individuals: Dr. Louvre’s daughter Marianne and three nationally-stereotyped heroes; the Japanese racecar driver Shinji Hikari, the British aristocrat Richard Lancelot, and the American cowboy Bill Willcox. (They were not supposed to be four members of the interstellar Star Sheriffs, as in the American adaptation.) For further details, see my column of August 10, 2014.
Trigun, directed by Satoshi Nishimura. 26 half-hour episodes. April 1 – September 30, 1998.
Another Space Western, adapted from the manga by Yasuhiro Nightow. Set on the desert planet Gunsmoke, where water and wood are worth a fortune. The whole planet is scared to death of the notorious criminal Vash the Stampede, who has a $$60 billion double-dollar bounty on his head and is rumored to never leave his victims alive. Nobody connects the outlaw with the clownish young man who goes out of his way to keep people alive, but he keeps turning up where Vash is known to have been. Supporting characters are Meryl Strife and Milly Thompson, two young agents of the Bernardelli Insurance Agency who are assigned to stop the destruction of Bernardelli-insured properties; and Nicholas D. Wolfwood, an apparent itinerant Western preacher who goes about with a full-sized Golgotha cross strapped to his back – but the cross is hollow and filled with guns. The 26 episodes are a tightly-crafted serial that is famous for evolving slowly from a burlesque Western to serious science-fiction, and from slapstick comedy to slit-your-wrists depressing.
Wild Arms: Twilight Venom, directed by Itsuro Kawasaki. 22 half-hour episodes. October 18, 1999 – March 27, 2000.
Another Space Western, spun off from the popular Wild Arms video games. In the first episode, Dr. Kiel Aronnax is imprisoned and tortured in the escape-proof prison Alcatraz on the Western-like planet Filgaia. He is inadvertently freed by the treasure hunters Loretta Oratorio (sexy) and Mirabelle Graceland (little girl who can turn into a comedy vampire bat), who are looking for a rumored fabulous treasure. The treasure turns out to be a ten-year-old boy in suspended animation who, when awakened, claims to be Sheyenne Rainstorm, a notorious adult gunslinger and ladykiller who was mysteriously killed three years earlier. But he does have the unique Wild Arms biological supergun that only Sheyenne does. The foursome escape from Alcatraz together. Throughout the series, Sheyenne (accompanied by Kiel) tries to get his adult body back and find out who “killed” him, with a humorous subplot of being too young to attract sexy women any more. Loretta and Mirabelle constantly look for new treasures and are accidentally fouled up by Sheyenne and Kiel. (Definitely accidentally by Sheyenne; maybe not-so-accidentally by Kiel.) Comedy-relief supporting characters are Isaac and Jerusha, the two feuding 5,000-year-old Popepi Pipepos; Filgaia’s original inhabitants. Episodes are mostly self-contained; the final episode wraps everything up.
Gun Frontier, directed by Soichiro Zen. 13 half-hour episodes. March 28 – June 24, 2002.
Cartoonist Leiji Matsumoto perfected his greatest manga/anime hero, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, in 1977, but he was based on earlier variations. Matsumoto’s 1972 Gun Frontier manga featured Harlock as Franklin Harlock, Jr., a 19th–century sea captain turned Wild West gunslinger, with his ever-present sidekick, Tochiro Oyama, a samurai – only in this one, Tochiro is the protagonist and Harlock is the sidekick, although Harlock is really the bodyguard of the nearsighted samurai. All of the other Harlock manga variations were animated first, and Gun Frontier finally became a 13-episode anime TV series in 2002 – on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m.
Poland – Theatrical features
Bolek i Lolek na Dzikim Zachodzie (Bolek and Lolek in the Wild West), directed by Stanislaw Dülz. 95 minutes. December 31, 1986.
Bolek (short for Bolesłav) and Lolek (Karol) were two young brothers who had 8- or 9-minute animated pantomime comedy-adventures on Polish TV from 1963 through 1986. … in the Wild West, one of the most popular TV episodes (1969?), was expanded into a seven-episode TV series in 1972, and into a theatrical feature in 1986. The feature is probably the seven-episode series edited together, though in a different order.
Bolek and Lolek come to the Wild West, and immediately become involved with Jimmy Pif-Paf, a robber escaping from the sheriff. He keeps escaping, and the boys keep recapturing him in non-violent adventures. Jimmy finally steals an Indian idol, and the boys become the Indians’ friends by getting it back.
Poland – TV animation
Bolek i Lolek na Dzikim Zachodzie (Bolek and Lolek in the Wild West), directed by Stanislaw Dülz. 7 ten-minute episodes. 1972.
The seven episodes are titled (translated): 1. Defenders of the Law; 2. The Texas Terror; 3. In Hot Pursuit; 4. The Hijacked Express Train; 5. The Horse Thief; 6. The Indian Idol; and 7. The Trackers. Here is #6, “The Indian Idol”, which was the conclusion of the movie.
Those are all of the foreign animated Western features and TV series that I know about. I am tempted to add some others with Western tie-ins, such as the Japanese giant-robot TV series UFO Robo Grandizer (1975-77; 74 episodes). The young hero, space prince Duke Fleed, comes to Earth and poses as Daisuke Umon, a ranchhand on a ranch run by comedy-relief Danbei Makiba. It’s actually a farm in Japan, but Makiba runs it as much like a Wild West ranch as he can. There is a Western-style cattle stampede of dairy cows meant to be funny.
Cowboy Bebop, a Japanese futuristic comedy-adventure set all over the Solar System, has one episode, #17, “Mushroom Samba”, set on Io that looks like a 1970s Blaxploitation comedy set in the 20th-century West, with psychedelic mushrooms.
There are numerous animated shorts, usually humorous, such as Croatian Dusan Vukotic’s 1957 Cowboy Jimmy, Hungarian Gábor Homolya’s 1990 Western, or the risqué French 2012 Wanted: Melody by Paul Jaulmes, Boris Croisé, and Guillaume Cunis. But this is enough – for now.
Next Week: The History of Streamline Pictures, part 1.