Saturday, May 21, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 15, "Scrambled Eggs"

From the sublime to the sublame! "Scrambled Eggs" gets my "thumbs-down, other-hand-holding-my nose" vote as (1) the worst and (2) the least interesting episode of Kimba, bar none. In Chris Moon's fine essay on the different printed and animated manifestations of JUNGLE EMPEROR, Chris criticizes Mushi Productions' tendency to occasionally "[juxtapose] the big Tezuka questions with Saturday morning filler" in the fetid form of "go-nowhere episodes for 5-year-olds." Now, some of the episodes that are clearly aimed at younger viewers -- such as the eps in which "Kimba the Kid" pals around with Dot, Dash, Dinky, and other "schoolmates" -- do have a certain charm, thanks to helpful assists by the Titan dubbing and writing crew. Most of the time, there is some sort of adventurous element to these tales, as well. "Scrambled Eggs," by contrast, has virtually nothing to recommend it to even the most undemanding kiddie audience; it is more heavily padded than a cell in Arkham Asylum, it contains a really annoying continuity error, and the "conflicts" in the story are more risible than anything else. And worst of all... the characters sing too much.

Billie Lou Watt wrote the script of "Scrambled Eggs," including the new lyrics for the existing songs. This may have been helpful when she was writing the lyrics to the songs in her musical drama PHILLIS (the subject of an upkoming "Kimba Konnections" kommentary), but whatever merit the new lyrics may have had was thoroughly smothered by the execution. I mentioned previously that Billie Lou and I had a disagreement during our brief correspondence regarding the Titan crew's singing abilities. If that dispute had ever made it to Judge Joe Brown's court, the atonal assault that we are subjected to here would have been my Exhibit 1-A. Interestingly, the one really nice moment of the ep occurs when Billie Lou opts not to try to cover over Japanese lyrics, but instead to let Kimba speak his lines, background singing be damned.

Kimba apparently shares my view of this episode.

Link to episode at Hulu 

There are better renditions of "The School Song" in our future... I swear. Kimba's role in the animal school is decidedly flexible; sometimes (as here) he's the teacher/authority figure, sometimes a pupil. Here, he sort of straddles, directing the kids in their jungle cleanup but still acting something like a child in the presence of putative "adults" like the scatterbrained Jenny Hen (Billie Lou Watt).

If you remember "Fair Game," you'll no doubt note that the Speedy Cheetah (Sonia Owens) who appears in this ep is not the resentful young fellow who defended the honor of Grandfather Quasimodo. This is actually Dash (though Sonia appears to be at least trying to give him the marbled-mouthed voice of the earlier Speedy, at least at first). Later, Dash will be given a different voice, a falsetto-ish thing provided by Ray Owens.

Once the eggs start piling up, it's pretty easy to guess the main thrust of the plot from the title alone. It seems to me, though, that the eggs were already pretty well mixed up before SpeedyDash shoved them into the river. Just when we seem ready to have a real conflict (between Kimba, SpeedyDash, and the angry birds), the execrable "LALALALA... BAAAAY-BEE!" song arrives to spoil the mood. It could have been worse, I suppose; the 1993 re-dub inserted a ghastly doo-wop ("Shalala... BAY-bee") riff here. At least the Titan crew made something of an effort to match their singing to the on-screen animation.

Regarding Part Two, here's all you need to know: (1) The kids recover the eggs from the river; (2) Kimba has a brief conflict with a boss alligator (Gilbert Mack) who will have a much more significant role to play (not to mention a different voice) in the very next episode, "Diamonds in the Gruff"; (3) The birds recover their eggs (or so they believe), but there is one egg "left behind." That leads us to...

... the rather charming vignette of Kimba singing (or rather, talking) to the orphaned ovoid. The "unobstructed" version of the song, illustrated below by a series of scenes from the episode, makes it clear how difficult (no, make that impossible) it would have been for the Titaneers to raise their voices and drown out what was, after all, supposed to be a lullaby. Far better to present Billie Lou's dialogue as "the lullaby" itself, or a dream sequence equal to same. Note that we once again get an idealized portrait of a carefree life with Kimba and Snowene that never actually existed...

I don't know whether the baby alligator that ultimately emerges from the egg is supposed to be "little Allie" from "Diamonds in the Gruff." For continuity's sake, I'd like to think so, but it was probably just a coincidence. The "dramatics" surrounding the hatching of the ostrich egg and the lengthy song sequences that follow provide final proof, as if any were needed, that this was the Kimba version of a "cheater"... or a sop to the young groundlings. Thankfully, it wouldn't take too long for the series to regain its stride.

Up next: Episode 16, "Diamonds in the Gruff."

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