Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ballad of Smokey the Bear (1966)

Of note more because of who produced it rather than for what it is, The Ballad of Smokey the Bear tells the story, or a story of Smokey the Bear. The premise has Smokey’s big brother, voiced by James Cagney, telling the story of how his brother got his name. It’s a long winded and rambling tale that has very little Smokey and a great deal of a cranky Jimmy. The story has the animals trying to find out who set a forest fire and is poisoning the water. Its not giving anything away to say it’s an escaped circus gorilla that smokes cigars.

A Rankin Bass TV special with animation that is weaker and less charming than Rudolph, the film boasts more songs by Johnny Marks who wrote Rudolph. I read that Marks made a career out of that one song withholding rights to that song unless performers or producers bought another of his songs as well. Based on the songs here it’s understandable, while the songs are serviceable they are utterly forgettable.

The animation is unremarkable and seems to be several generations earlier than the work done on Rudolph.

For me the most annoying thing is the voice of the beaver, who is constantly clicking as if it is clacking his teeth together, I got to the point where I was scanning past any scene with him in it. The second most annoying thing is the fact that Smokey is barely in the film at all with the result being that the film rally is mislabeled as a Smokey the Bear story. It would almost be like calling Star Wars Greedo’s Story.

Honestly this film/special isn’t all that good. It purely a curio and the only reason I’m mentioning it is a kind of warning, anyone I’ve mentioned it being the follow up to Rudolph wants to see it. Its really not worth the effort, well it is but it’s not anything I would actually pay for.

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