ALLEGRO NON TROPPO (1976) – Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the infamous Italian parody of Disney’s Fantasia. In our current year, where the avaricious Disney corporation has engulfed and devoured countless film properties and tried to trademark so many figures from world folklore, writer and director Bruno Bozzetto’s satirical poke at The Mouse That Ate Entertainment deserves to be revisited.
Allegro Non Troppo was the only film until Shrek to take satirical aim at the Disney Empire. Bruno Bozzetto’s film combined black & white live action scenes with state of the art animation for the 1970s. Bozzetto introduces us to an Italian film producer, played by Maurizio Micheli, who thinks he’s come up with an original idea: an animated film with its episodes set to classical music.
Right up front the film takes a shot at Disney’s (even then) notoriously litigious nature by having the overly unctuous producer/ presenter receive a phone call warning legal action since this premise has been done before, in Fantasia. The producer, equal parts used car salesman and circus ringmaster, shrugs off the threats from “Prisney or whoever” and goes on with the show.
Micheli’s character keeps his animator (Maurizio Nichetti) in chains in a dungeon as another swipe at the House of Mouse. As if that’s not enough he also keeps his musicians in a cage, letting them loose only to do their work for him.
Once the browbeaten, put-upon animator begins drawing the illustrations spring to life as the color cartoons sprinkled throughout the movie. In between those cartoons are comedy sketches with the presenter, animator, orchestra and conductor (Nestor Garay). The comedy sketches range from acceptable to cringe-inducing and never approach the brilliance or bite of the opening salvos against Disney.
As for the cartoons and the works of classical music to which they are set:
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun by Debussy accompanies a cartoon about an elderly and out of shape satyr who can no longer physically compete with the younger satyrs for attractive women. His repeated, failed attempts at cosmetic transformation are funny but poignant at the same time.
Sibelius’ Valse Triste accompanies a genuinely tear-jerking animated piece about a cat wandering the ruins of the home it formerly occupied with a loving family. The feline’s lonely reveries about the happiness and warmth that are no more will haunt you.
A cartoon using Bolero by Ravel as its background music presents astronauts leaving a discarded coke bottle behind on an unnamed celestial body they have visited. We are shown micro-organisms forming in the bottle then evolving over time into more complex life-forms. Eventually monsters live but in a cliched ending they eventually fall to humanoid “monsters.”
Concerto in C Major by Vivaldi plays along to a cartoon featuring a bee having to deal with a pair of young lovers frolicking in their meadow home, unintentionally wreaking havoc.
Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Number Seven accompanies a very misanthropic cartoon presenting a variation on the ages-old observation that killing one person makes you a murderer, but killing large numbers of people can make you a war hero.
The Firebird by Stravinsky plays to an animated tale featuring Adam & Eve successfully resisting the serpent’s attempt to get them to eat the forbidden fruit. The serpent eats it instead and faces the hellish fallout.
Allegro Non Troppo will no doubt thrill those who are heavily into the history of animation and the changing techniques behind it. Casual viewers will definitely enjoy it on a different level and may even find the film’s imagery coming back to them the next time they hear the classical pieces from the soundtrack.
Today’s YT broadcasters will certainly smile at the satirical jabs at Disney, given how many YT videos these days center around criticism of the way Disney Corporation has mishandled or destroyed everything from Star Wars to the MCU.
EVERY kind of viewer will likely fast-forward through some of the lame, Jerry Lewis-level live-action comedy bits.
Still, this oddly fascinating animated movie is worth watching at least once, like Vampires in Havana or Fantastic Planet. +++
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