I GO POGO (1980) – A possum for president? This stop-motion animation rendition of Walt Kelly’s iconic comic strip Pogo is, sad to say, even more aimless and unentertaining than the 1969 conventional animation show The Pogo Special Birthday Special. That IS the actual title, by the way. The approach to that half-hour cartoon special was, as the title indicates, so cloyingly cutesy that even Walt Kelly himself disliked it.
Walt Kelly passed away in 1973 so at least he didn’t have to see this second travesty of his brilliant series. Pogo (1948-1975) featured cartoon animals who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp and were as cute and memorable as anything that Disney or Hanna-Barbera ever produced. Like the much later children’s franchise The Muppets, Pogo appealed to adults as well as children, and even sprinkled in a fair amount of political and social commentary.
Kelly was a master of making his political allegories blend so seamlessly into the tales of his cartoon animals that the deeper meaning would go over children’s heads as they enjoyed the antics of the Okefenokee Swamp’s denizens. For a comparison, think of how Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was a very biting satire but the story outline is so perfect it survived as a children’s tale long after the political and social topics that Swift was writing about faded into history.
And though each side of the American political aisle tries to claim Walt Kelly as their own he was actually my kind of guy and took shots at BOTH SIDES. The political left could point to the way that Kelly’s 1950s cat character Simple J. Malarkey was an unflattering caricature of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, but the right could point to Walt’s cowbird characters who embodied pretentious, parasitic communist activists.
Blame the 1969 television special and this 1980 bomb for helping to consign these brilliant cartoon figures to oblivion, even though they once rivaled the Disney Empire in merchandising. Peanuts and Winnie the Pooh had nothing on Pogo and company.
Comment: QUICK! Somebody rescue Pogo and his fellows before the Black Hole of Disney absorbs them, too. Assuming they aren’t already trapped in the Disney vortex.
Sorry for taking so long to set up this review, and by that, I mean I’m sorry that these one-time cultural icons have become so obscure that I NEED to write so much setup.
Pogo the Possum (Skip Hinnant), the lead character, was your basic Everyman grounded in common sense as he observes all the madness that swirls around him. He would rather go fishing with his dour friend Porky Pine the Porcupine than try to police the actions of others.
Albert the Alligator is another of Pogo’s closest friends and is as egotistical and self-aggrandizing as Pogo is humble and retiring. Howland the Owl is a stereotypical brainy nerd in eyeglasses who passes himself off as an instant expert on everything. Churchy LaFemme, despite that wordplay name, is a male turtle who writes poetry and songs.
On the female side, the most famous lady of the Okefenokee Swamp is Mam’selle Hepzibah, a beautiful she-skunk whose French accent and captivating looks let her wrap the males of the swamp around her little finger. There’s also a beaver washer woman whose name is … uh … Miz Beaver. (Okay, THAT character would need a new name.)
At any rate, those figures are merely a tiny fraction of the wonderful universe of anthropomorphic animal characters who populated Walt Kelly’s ingenious stories. A fortune is waiting for anyone who can get the rights to these figures and start churning out some quality cartoons with them.
THE STORY: With all that necessary background information out of the way, let’s move on to I Go Pogo. Writer and director Marc Paul Chinoy adapted several story elements from Walt Kelly’s old comic strip but utterly failed to make them the least bit engaging. Or even coherent.
In all seriousness, though, if you have very young children who would likely be spellbound just getting to WATCH the colorful animal characters going about their slapstick activities this would be a great item to give them some harmless, inoffensive entertainment for 86 minutes.
Deacon Mushrat the Muskrat (Vincent Price) and Molester (MOLL-ster) the Mole (Jonathan Winters), two conniving villains of the Okefenokee, are worried about genuine reform presidential candidates messing up the usual corrupt politics and graft of the Swamp. They plan to use the popular and amiable Pogo as a “controlled opposition” kind of candidate to ensure that only lip service is paid to honesty while the muskrat and the mole and their allies keep the political system firmly in their own avaricious clutches.
Got that? Well, brace yourself because VERY LITTLE THAT HAPPENS FROM THIS POINT ON HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT. Pogo is not just a reluctant candidate, he’s a NON candidate. Every so often the eccentric antics of the animal characters might bring a smile, or a sharp comedic line actually lands as intended, but rarely.
Just resign yourself to the fact that the storyline goes nowhere and then just kind of ends with Pogo still not running for any office. However, some entertainment value lies in the cast of voice actors in I Go Pogo:
*** In addition to Molester the Mole, Jonathan Winters voices Porky Pine and Wiley Cat.
*** Laugh-In‘s Ruth Buzzi voices Mam’selle Hepzibah and Miz Beaver.
*** Vintage newsman Jimmy Breslin voices Bridgeport the Bear, a P.T. Barnum type.
*** Pioneering dweeb Arnold Stang voices Churchy LaFemme.
*** Stan Freberg himself voices Albert the Alligator. (Freberg was the man behind the infamous 1965 radio spot for Hogan’s Heroes that went “If you liked World War Two, you’ll LOVE Hogan’s Heroes.” Obviously, it was Stan’s shot at the staggeringly poor taste of that sitcom’s premise.)
A theatrical release was originally planned for I Go Pogo 4 months before the 1980 election, but, apparently realizing how awful the production was, 20th Century Fox simply kissed goodbye to all the marketing money they had blown on it and gave it a quick hit-and-run release only in New York City.
After that, I Go Pogo made history in a very bizarre way by being released on VHS only through Fotomat booths around the country. Yes, you could pick up your developed film and score an incoherent desecration of Walt Kelly’s 100% Americana all at the same time!
In my opinion, after the admittedly catchy title song of I Go Pogo, your best bet is to just shut it off. Unless you have small children who could use some harmless eye candy like I mentioned above.
10 responses to “I GO POGO (1980) ELECTION DAY FLUFF”
I still miss Pogo. Well done.
Thank you very much, sir! Always good to hear from you!
Reblogged this on kommonsentsjane and commented:
Reblogged on kommonsentsjane/blogkommonsents.
Humor – Something good can be found in even a pogo stick – a long stick having a pair of handles at the top and, near the bottom, a pair of footrests attached to a powerful spring, so that by standing on the footrests while grasping the handles, one can propel oneself along in a series of leaps. If you have one – just hop to your nearest voting precinct. It can also be used as a weapon, if needed.
Clever use of the word pogo! I never thought of its potential use as a weapon! Thanks for dropping by and for the reblog.
We have met the enemy, and he is us …
Yep! It’s great that you remember that quote from the strip!
You made me interested in this Pogo. I got to check it out.
I hope you enjoy it!