Animation Attack!: American Pop (1981)

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by Gabriel G.

Hello there! Me again. If you are a steady follower of robotGEEK, and even if you aren’t, there’s a fair to good chance you know that not all animations are created equal. By that, I mean it’s not all just 22-minute clips of goofy, colorful anthropomorphic creatures yelling at each other, whose content and aesthetic are geared towards those who probably don’t know what the words ‘content’ or ‘aesthetic’ mean. (closing Google’s “Define:” tab) And while this particular subset of media always has and continues to make great leaps and strides in bringing important current social issues to light, by and large, it is still underestimated, thought of as mindless entertainment for kids. But guess what? I’m here to tell you that that just isn’t true. Some of these works can be surprisingly poignant and moving. American Pop was one of those surprises. So hand over your laser blasters and bastard swords, robotGEEK: ANIMATED Edition is about to begin. I promise to give them back at the end of the article. (Unless I like them, then I’m keeping them.)

"I'm tellin' ya, Country Polka is gonna make us stars!"

First off, if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed, T&A gore-fest, then I’ve got great news for you. You can read some of my previous articles, where I talk about movies that are just that! But seriously, while it does have its violent, dramatic moments, this isn’t your typical flick in that respect. Rather, it’s about a musically-inclined immigrant family living their lives out in America, growing and changing with the music. Spanning multiple generations and genres, it has of the most eclectic soundtracks I’ve heard yet, ranging from the pre-jazz age and spanning all the way to the 80s with a New Age finish.

If you’re an American history buff, you may be impressed at the amount of historical Easter eggs the film features. Several momentous events that helped shape America are mentioned, including the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, while others are manifested through various still frames and live-action stock footage. The director, Ralph Bakshi, even borrowed scenes from the 1931 film The Public Enemy, rotocscoping them for the final product. What was probably one of the most surprising things about this film is that it is reportedly Kanye West’s favorite musical, and he even paid tribute to it in his music video “Heartless”. (Sadly, I have no punchline for this.)

"That creepy guy in the vest...He's staring at me again, huh?"

With its unique combination of animation, stock footage, and still frames, American Pop has its own rich style. The dynamic mix of music-fueled and moving moments further engage the audience by telling the story on two fronts. Though the music is the real star, it doesn’t diminish from the human struggle the characters are enduring. In the end, I highly recommend this flick, as it is now one of my new favorite musicals. Just don’t tell Kanye I said that.

Gabriel Joseph (contributor)

Gabriel Joseph is a doer of several things, including but not limited to writing sci-fi and developing software. Enjoy his latest work, Althea: An Oneiric’s Tale, available now on Amazon.

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