Sunday, August 16, 2015
Koko in Moderately Silly-Land
...okay, I finally got up.
Time for another whimsical adventure with two of Animated Cartoondom's finest characters: Koko, and Max Fleischer. This one is called (A) Trip to Mars. Sure, it follows most of the story arc of Jumping Beans, and sure, the print's more jumpy than most, but rather than climbing the infinitely tall beanstalk, Koko climbs into the emaculate 1920's era rocket ship... okay, so he gets stuffed into it by Max. Tomato, toe-mah-toh. But before all that goes down, we get the usual intro with the busy hands of Max, busy at the blank slate of old. Of course, it appears that Max is getting tired of exposing his limbs to the harsh elements and the bright lights of the animation camera, so he went all Terry Gilliam on it with his arm and decided to just use a 2D cutout to draw Koko's latest backdrops.
Now, I hate to use the word 'enigmatic,' but as you may know, I grow a bit weary of the word ICON and its most oft-flogged variant, ICONIC. The word's getting watered down, people. Not everything's iconic, okay? Pauly Shore's Bio-Dome is not an icon, all right? Unless you have it in MP4 form on your desktop, it's not. It's just not. Of course, 'enigmatic' will be the next word to fall. It's been overused before, but I think it'll come back around, especially if there's an Emo Phillips resurgence in our culture. He's overdue for a Second Act, right? Anyway, for all you fans of Native American ... ICONOGRAPHY out there, you might get a knowing chuckle out of the intro. See, normally, Max will draw some kind of landscape, or just start off with an image of Koko, but here he starts out with a mask! Did he inadvertently invent the Warner Brothers shield? I think so. What can me say? Me like to misattribute stuff like that.
So Max, tired of the same ol' same old, starts off the day's proceedings with a couple masks. They seem to be like totem pole art. Maybe he spent the day at a museum or something. And then... is Max implying that Koko is a part of this ancient tradition? Is he seriously doing that? Is that's what's happening? Tell me that's not what's happening. Well, Koko was big once, but I guess he never did make it on to totem poles. Can't win 'em all. Of course, when your head is that big, and your body's about as tall as one of your giant ears... there's a problem. What is it about cartoons and selective reality like that? Now, if this were a Disney cartoon, there wouldn't be a problem! A guy with a large head like that could walk around with a teeny weeny body! Or at least, with a super-inflated ego, such as that of ol' Walt's. Of course, Koko's body was doubling as the tongue of this giant head... that's troubling in both a Freudian and Jungian way... I know, I know, it's all just supposed to be funny. I'm probably reading too much into all of this. It's just supposed to be weird, silly fun, as with most of the Fleischer canon... hmm! That's another word thrown around all too often these days. 'Canon.' Pauly Shore's five films do not a 'canon' make. I'm sorry. Okay, enough picking on Pauly for one day... but really, it's the only kind of attention he deserves. I am the Mad Nug Percent.
Max draws a gas mask. Koko gets an eyeful of it and freaks out. "What is THAT for?" asks Koko. (my emphasis on 'that') And as with the masks earlier, the gas mask develops just enough anthromorphic qualities in that Fleischer-specific way to freak Koko out. And after the mask, the conceit of Koko's latest outing is laid bare: Max is planning a trip to the moon for Koko, as Max is a self-proclaimed "astronomy nut." And to think, he probably could've been the next Hubble if he hadn't wasted his life dinking around, trying to be Walt Disney's competition! The struggles with the gas mask exacerbate Koko to the point that he is compelled to escape the confines of the two-dimensional canvas. Oh, but Koko doesn't completely waste this golden opportunity; no, he uses it to plan some long-term mischief against Max that will pay off later. As with the Stooges, Max has some explosives laying about... apparently, in service of Koko's rocket ship. At least, that's the answer to give when the Federalis come to the door and start poking their big snouts around. Koko gets a big thing of... well, big compared to Koko... gets a container of trinitro... TNT. Better not spell it out, lest it arouse the attention of the NSA. Just reporting what I see, fellas! Not planning anything nefarious here.
Now, while all that's going on, Max looks around for Koko. Dude, that dude's serious! Koko heads for the corner, but it's too late. Max scoops up poor ol' Koko and stuffs him into the ZR2 right away! Well, it's a short film with a tight timeline. You know how it is. Max seals up the ZR2 and lights the fuse. And soon enough... yup. An animated version of the ZR2 is heading for the stars.... sorry. Guess my sense of wonderment is on hold today. Max whips out an old timey sailors' telescope that can be stretched out, in order to view his handiwork. Lol. Well, this was the pre-NASA days. Now... while all this is transpiring, the fuse on Koko's stash of TNT is still burning. I guess in all the excitement and running around, Max completely missed it, and clearly didn't bump it with his chair. Don't sweat the small stuff... but in this case, it's small stuff with a potentially big impact. Well, these sayings don't work in all situations. People on the Bomb Squad have different sayings than you and I.
Meanwhile, we're able to see what Koko's up to. Koko climbs out of the rocketship and stands on top of it, as though he's riding some sort of interstellar boogie board. I don't ever remember Bugs trying that! Bugs just doesn't have as much fun as other, far wachier cartoon characters. And as we can see, Koko shoots past the moon... through the damn thing, actually... and that Saturn-like ringed planet between the moon and Mars, lol... before finally landing on Mars. Again, NASA they aren't. And so, we see Koko on the surface of Mars, and he's got a galaxy's worth of stars circling round his damn fool head, broken pieces of the ZR2 strewn about at his feet. Alas, there's barely time for Koko to regain full consciousness when... HERE COME THE FREAKS! Is Koko actually dead, and this is all just one last fevered, rarebit-induced dream before dying?
Meanwhile, Max's TNT finally explodes, sending Max flying into space, perchance to land on Mars alongside Koko... you know, I hate to pontificate randomly, but I'm once again suddenly reminded of the beginning of the Third Act of that classic Popeye short, Axe Me Another. I've blogged on it before, but I'll explain again, thereby boring Google's web-crawling spiders half to death. So, Popeye has beaten Pierre Bluteau at every conceivable lumber-related feat of strength, so Bluteau decides to kick Popeye, thereby sending him down the hillside on the lumber chute. Furious, Olive quickly picks up a giant log and hits Bluteau right in the middle of his empty head with it. Ah, the things a little bit of adrenaline can make you do. And so, Bluteau goes down the hillside on the lumber chute again. So, to put it in S.A.T. terms, the TNT is to Max Fleischer what Olive and the log was to Bluteau's head... sumpthing like that.
Meanwhile, Koko's in a worse spot than Popeye at the end of Shiver Me Timbers! Surrounded on all sides by freaks that come and go almost completely at will. Even the Martian ground under Koko's feet f... messes with him! Koko tries to wipe some sweat from his beleaguered brow, but the sweat morphs into Tweedledum and Tweedle-Devil. Give the Devil Twins their due, people. The Devil Twins pick Koko up by his ass, and Koko squirms around worse than a termite that you grab by its wings and... well, it's something I can't seem to forget anyhow. And they say bugs don't feel pain. Anyway, those pesky Fleischer brothers are now making the audience work double hard, switching in between flying Max and fleeing Koko. We get a shot of Koko trying to walk away from a horde of following freaks. "We want to make you our KING, strange(ly dressed) Earthling!" they cry as they follow. But all Koko wants to do is head for the subway. Of course, the subways on Mars are a little more stringent: if you don't have a token, somehow they know, and you really can't get in, let alone jump the turnstile. Koko tries everything: punching the invisible barrier, pushing it, feeling its edges. Nothing! Nothing works. We don't even see the freaks following him, but when they apparently get close enough, Koko finally makes it through the invisible barrier and into the Martian subway proper. Boy, do they do things differently on Mars. The Martian subway platform is actually more like an Earth diving board for a swimming pool! Koko drops down about twenty feet into the subway trench, and we see that a Martian subway is really just a system of hooks that the average Martian can easily hang onto with their hooked tails. The subway starts up and we're treated to about twenty Martians riding the subway. Clearly they're less impressed than the other Martians who were chasing Koko. Koko eventually reaches up and grabs on to one of the subway hooks. Koko gets off the subway when a giant pair of hands grabs him and starts having a little fun with Koko, poking him in the head with its giant fingers, clenching Koko in its giant fist, what have you. Boy! The price of not having a Martian subway token. But rather than sending him to the Martian police, the subway authority merely ejects Koko from the subway, and Koko is once again at the mouth of the Martian subway. But apparently it's a different one, as Koko doesn't run afoul of the curious Martian mob that was following him earlier.
Next scene: Koko then makes his way to a "Taxi Crab." Alas, we see the feet of the taxi crab, and they look more mechanical than crustacean-like. I feel a bit disappointed by that... why are about sixteen lines of this post underlined by those red squiggly lines? ALL of that is misspelled? I don't think so. Anyway, to cut to the chase... okay, not quite yet. Koko's taxi crab behaves a bit like a bucking bronco for a while, but Koko eventually learns to ride it. Cut to Max still flying through the air, but Max's trajectory starts to curve; he must be close to the Martian surface by now. Eventually, Koko's taxi "crab" takes wings, and at just the right time to catch Max. Plot threads officially tied together. It looks like Max and Koko are going to have a safe ride home... or to somewhere new, perhaps...
...or maybe not. The taxi crab dumps them both out, and down they tumble to something with a strong gravitational pull. Perhaps back to Earth! No... another Saturn clone; perhaps the one from earlier. However, the proverbial inkwell is on the rings. Max and Koko do a couple laps on this Saturn's ring before diving into said inkwell. Then, the inkwell drops off and starts falling through space!!! I hate to ruin the surprise of what happens next... nah, not really. A hand crumples up the starry background and stuffs it into the inkwell. It feels a little anti-climactic to me, but what can... whaddayagonna do, except take a deep breath and try to relax... is this the first time that MAX HIMSELF has jumped into the inkwell? I dare say it is! Too bad there's not some sort of internet record of that, some sort of log on the web who...
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan