Legend of the Forest
In a tribute to Walt Disney's Fantasia, Tezuka Osamu mixes experimental animation, environmental themes, and Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony into this film, in which mankind's relentless expansion into the wilds endangers small woodland creatures and sprites, who use their magical powers to fight back.
Well, folks, this may look like Bambi, but it would be more aptly titled Thumper's Revenge.
If ever there was a disturbingly jarring mix of animation style and content, it's Legend of the Forest, which isn't quite a tribute to Tezuka Osamu's talent. In the first half, a stereotyped Blutoish woodsman cuts down a tree, heartlessly shoots a flying squirrel's mate, and laughs about it, only to be burned to the death in his tent when the said flying squirrel (after several animation style changes) uses the spell "Call Lightning". In the second half, mystical dwarves and fairies try to make peace with a logging executive who looks and acts suspiciously like Adolf Hitler. When he squashes them into amoeba (after several animation style changes), he invokes a spell that turns his machinery into trees a la Princess Mononoke.
That latter film, however, was done ten times better, and didn't rely on trying to follow a formula. Tezuka's failing was that he tried to follow Fantasia's lead rather than being his own animator, and Legend of the Forest simply isn't one of his best works. Though it was made in 1987, it plays more like a 1950s reel, and it's simply too heavy-handed to work. The characters come off as vengeful and unlikable, and the violence is simply too stylized to be taken seriously.
The art and animation itself is variable. If you're a diehard animation buff, you might like it, though it was too simple at parts and too strange-looking for me to truly enjoy. Maybe I'm spoiled by today's crop of animated movies, but I'm frankly tired of watching pictures flash by and tell a story that's at best preachy.
Sadly, this was one of Tezuka's last projects, as he passed on in 1989, but many of his other works have been adapted to the screen in far better form. A better and more fitting tribute to his work is the Black Jack OAV series, which captures the adventurous spirit of his manga, while using animation dramatically and effectively. Whereas Legend of the Forest remains confused as to what it wants to say, Black Jack is a far more worthy tribute to Walt Disney's medium than this not-quite-Fantasia.
Sadly, this short isn't the classic Tezuka intended it to be, but many of his other works ensure his immortality in the field long after this one is forgotten. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: I'd say this would be for kids if it weren't so darn harsh and heavy-handed. What if Bambi came back to kill the hunter who shot his mom? That's about what Legend of the Forest is, and I don't know what audience here in America would really appreciate this.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, commercial release
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Legend of the Forest © 1987 Tezuka Productions
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