From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Allegro non Troppo

The Italian film Allegro non Troppo (1977) is probably as far from traditional Saturday morning fare of the Disney variety as you can get. That was actually the point; directed by Bruno Bozzetto (also known for his shorter animated work and the feature VIP My Brother Superman), Allegro is a parody and commentary on Disney’s Fantasia.

As with the film that inspired it, Allegro alternates and blends live action and animation, setting the animated sequences to classical music such as Vivaldi’s “Concerto in C Minor”, Ravel’s “Boléro”, and Stravinsky’s “Firebird” (which, incidentally, Disney used years later in Fantasia 2000).

The live portions of the film largely feature the animator, director, and orchestra in slapstick situations as they produce the movie in real time. The animator (Maurizio Nichetti) is forced to create the animations, literally chained to his desk while the story progresses, and his moods and thoughts are often reflected in his work. The animations themselves vary widely in tone and style, from humorous to philosophical, and lewd to tragic. Each is a masterpiece in its own right, and the film as a whole stands as a remarkable work of art.

In the following sequence, set to Sibelius’ Valse Triste, a mournful cat wanders the ruins of a building, remembering its family and imagining a happy life, only for reality to intrude in a surprising and depressing resolution. It is one of the most striking and moving animations I’ve ever seen.

That gives only the slightest flavor of the intensity of Allegro non Troppo. I highly recommend seeing the film in its entirety. It’s currently available in the U.S. on DVD from Homevision, which also includes many more of Bozzetto’s shorter works.

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