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. Continue reading