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Cartoon Brew TV #12: Anime Trailers

(Alternate commentary-free version: This link will allow you to watch the trailers without audio commentary)

This episode from the Cartoon Brew TV Vault features three unique trailers from the “Golden Age” of anime.

First up, the 1974 Japanese animated Jack and The Beanstalk (Jack to Mame no Ki). With this film, anime veteran Gisaburo Sugii made the move from animating on artistically surreal, X-rated projects like Belladonna (Kanashimi no Belladonna, 1973) to directing family-friendly feature films like Jack. This movie was released in the U.S. in 1976 by Columbia Pictures, limiting its distribution to Saturday matinees. Jack lived on despite this, gaining its widest exposure on home video and in numerous showings on HBO. However, its greatest appeal to U.S. baby boomers is its all-star cast of voice actors including Speed Racer‘s Corrine Orr and Jack Grimes, and Astro Boy’s Billie Lou Watt and Ray Owens.

Next, Princess Knight (Ribbon no Kishi). Osamu Tezuka began this film as a serialized manga in 1954. It became a 52-episode anime series in 1967. Aimed at girls, the premise centers on a severely conflicted heroine: a princess raised as a boy, who must hide her true sex or lose the kingdom, secretly fighting crime in male guise as the “Phantom Knight”–and donning a separate feminine identity to appear as her own sister! Joe Oriolo (TV’s Felix The Cat, Hercules, etc.) bought the series in 1970 and dubbed it in English. Unfortunately the show wasn’t widely seen in the U.S. (Oriolo also edited together three episodes and tried releasing it as feature, Choppy and the Princess); this promo-trailer also doubled as the show’s U.S. opening title sequence.

Finally, it’s a shame Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon (Wanpaku ôji no orochi taiji, 1963) isn’t more widely known and is so difficult to see. Genndy Tartakovsky has touted this as one of his biggest influences on Samurai Jack and you can see why in this rare American TV spot (presented here in black & white). The original was presented in vivid Fujicolor (“Magicolor!”) and wide screen ToeiScope (an anamorphic 2.35:1 screen ratio – aka “WonderScope!”), two aspects hurt in the awful U.S. dub which mainly exists today in faded Eastman Color with pan-and-scan editing. What remains visible regardless is the beautiful character design and stylized animation, years ahead of what Japanese animators were doing commercially at this time. This is a little classic that deserves wider exposure. Seek out the Japanese DVD if you can. Some great model sheets of the main characters are posted here.

Jerry Beck provides audio commentary on these trailers. Thanks to Michael Geisler for recording the commentary track, and Randall Kaplan for his expert sound and picture editing.

  • foad

    I can not wait to see Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon.
    Thanks for posting it.

  • I saw bits of LITTLE PRINCE AND THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON on youtube, and it was clear to see that is must have influenced Samurai Jack greatly. The look of the film is unlike any other anime I’ve seen, even now, when the look of “traditional anime” is mimicked all over the U.S. I hope you can succeed in trying to get the film on U.S. DVD, Mr Beck.

  • Stone

    Classic forgotten anime films! I never get see anything like this! The closest I’ve ever come is finding Panda and the Magic Serpent on the $1 DVD rack at a WalMart in the sticks. And it was a TERRIBLE transfer and dub. I’ve never heard of Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon, but the style is wonderful, i found a color clip on youtube in french aswell!

    But I’ve been searching everywere, and the only source I am finding for Little Prince is Amazon Japan, it seems it doesn’t even exist otherwise. If anyone manages to find a source, please post it here! I’ll even take a Tiawanese knock off! Thanks for sharing this guys, you’ve given me another film to hunt down!

  • Saturnome

    Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon is among the best I’ve seen of old-school anime. It definitively needs a good R1 DVD.

  • Marcellis

    I have to add my voice to the chorus of praise for the visual design of Little Prince and the 8-headed dragon, even though all I’ve seen is this short clip and a few model sheets (that I just saved to my inspiration folder). I definitely want to see this film.

    One thing I noticed, by the way, is that there’s a certain similarity between these characters and the characters in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I’m willing to bet this anime was an inspiration there, as well.

    …upon further “modern investigation” (i.e.: google), it seems the tale of the 8-headed dragon, or Orochi, is the basis for the story in Okami, whose character designs have similar proportions to Little Prince’s…not sure all of this is actually related, but the similarities are nigh uncanny…

    Cool stuff, Jerry! Thanks for posting this!

  • The Knight sounds like an interesting story, and I’d like to check it out. It sounds like an interesting take on the whole main character having an alter ego plot line.

    Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon looks amazing. Maybe we could all hound the people who posted clips of it on YouTube to tell us where they got their copies.

  • Ryan

    I almost wet myself when I saw that picture of Little Prince when I first got to Cartoon Brew today. Usually when I see a picture on the site, it means I’ll be able to see it somehow. Bah, it’s just a trailer. Been wanting to see that film since reading about it in the Animated Movie Guide way back when. Need to!

  • i saw Little Prince and the 8-headed dragon posted on youtube in it’s entirety a coupla months ago, but didn’t get to watch it all, but what i saw was awesome. that so needs to be on R1 dvd!

  • Matt H

    Seeing that little clip of the “Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon” just made me gasp. It was beautiful! I’ll make sure I never forget it and maybe one day I’ll get to see it.

  • Seni Oyewole

    I saw the japanese version of “Little Prince” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” is my all-time favorite. I didn’t even know it was Japanese at the time.

  • Glowworm

    I’ve seen that Jack and the Beanstalk movie when I was a little girl in Kindergarden-it’s very trippy-but it’s absolutely awesome!

  • I think The Wind Waker was inspired by the ’60s Tôei features in general rather than just that one film – there’s also strong traces of Nagagutsu o Haita Neko, Hols no Daibôken and, above all, Gulliver no Uchû Ryokô in its character and production design in general, though Wankapu-Ôji remains both the earliest of these and particularly exquisite example of this particular style. I wonder way the the thin, coloured, “hidden” lines of Wankapu-Ôji and earlier films like Hakujaden existed simultaneously with the thick black lines of Hols and Nagagutsu but then seems to have died out in the late ’60s, 1987’s Kin no Tori being the nearest to a resurgence that I can think of?

    Sugii’s Jack is the one of these three which I know does have a DVD release in the USA, and a, not perfect, but proper, dual-language (with both the American dub and the original with subtitles) one at that. Numerous DVDs of “Choppy and the Princess” have been released in the UK, at least, not so sure about North America, but seem anyway to be the un-remastered, dub-only massacres which are the standard treatment for any pre-1990, child-aimed anime. The best exceptions to this are the three Tôei features released by Discotek Media – “The The Wonderful World of Puss ‘n Boots,” “Animal Treasure Island” and “Taro the Dragon Boy;” buying these and Jack and the Beanstalk is probably the only thing which will get Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon an English-friendly release (along with suggesting it to Hen’s Tooth and Discotek, of course, but I don’t imagine that promises to buy something if it is released are of much worth when they’re not backed up by sales of what they have released).

  • Jason

    My sister gets Shojo Beat magazine, and one issue of it showcased Tezuka’s Princess Knight, complete with samples of Tezuka’s terrific artwork. This is the first time I’ve seen any animation of the comic. I just have to say how much I love this site. Where else would I have seen these keen trailers? Thanks guys! (And if anyone can tell me how I can get a complete set of Dark Horse’s Astro Boy reprints, I’d greatly appreciate it. Not even Dark Horse can tell me!)

  • Joshua Smith

    Jack and the Beanstalk does indeed have a US DVD release. Although it does contain both the Japanese audio and (quite good) English dub, the subtitles are merely “dubtitles,” not a proper translation of the Japanese.

    The English dub of Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon apparently aired on TCM several years ago, but I’ve had no luck finding anyone who recorded it from that broadcast.

    The main reason that most of the classic Toei animated features haven’t appeared on DVD outside Japan seems to be that Toei charges notoriously high licensing fees to any potential distributor. Even old low-budget films that hardly anyone knows about have this fee, making it economically unfeasible to release these films legitimately. I’d be surprised if Discotek managed to make a profit on the three they released (mentioned by Jordan Scott above), but if you’re a fan of animation, they’re very much worth buying.

  • Thank you very, very much, Jerry, for posting these vintage US trailers!

    THE LITTLE PRINCE AND THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON is still, far and away, my all-time favorite anime film! Although it’s already on DVD in Japan (the picture looks dazzling, from what I saw!), I agree that it deserves a respectable release here in the US, especially on DVD. (If I had my way, Blu-Ray as well!) I noticed the influence on this film when I saw the pilot for SAMURAI JACK! I felt like the only one.

    The awesome animation and designs are only half of what made this film, so I was so psyched that you mentioned Akira Ifukube! He is one of my all-time favorite composers. This is one of the few films where he was given more time to write the score, making this one of his best movie scores EVER.

    IIRC, the only other animated film Ifukube composed for was THE HUNCHBACKED PONY (SEMUSHI NO KOUMA – 1978).

    Otherwise, his music from THE LITTLE PRINCE AND THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON can be heard as library tracks in Episodes 1 and 32 of Toei’s MAZINGER Z!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Noticed the guy asking to pester the guys for more Little Prince/8-Headed Dragon clips on YouTube. Other not bother them too much. Most of those clips probably came from Japanese R2 releases that most people here wouldn’t think of getting unless they have region-free players or can understand Japanese, since Toei has released all of their classic 60’s features on DVD for some years now. I used to know a couple people who apparently had an English pan & scan version of the film anyway they used a clip of in a fan-produced video one time, but I haven’t been in contact with them in so long.

    Noticed the trailer for Jack & The Beanstalk was very brief (reminds me of a 16mm TV spot I have for the same film too). A much longer was can be seen on the R1 DVD release by Hen’s Tooth Video. I actually have a lot to say about this film in particular, as it was one of my childhood favs growing up, having first saw it on Disney Channel around ’86. I used to watch this thing over and over, not ever knowing who did it, or where it was from, since the version that was seen since it’s US theatrical release was free of any production credits besides a mention of Film Rite, Inc. for making the English Version (sorta wonder of Peter J. Solmo was Peter Fernandez’s pseudonym here), the recent DVD release features some important key staff names though such as Sugii and the studio who produced the film, Group TAC, their first animated feature film endeavor after the collapse of Mushi Pro (their Animerama features along with Jack & The Beanstalk was released through Nippon Herald).

    One interesting point to note was the film’s use of casting animators by character, a process that the Disney Studios had previously worked with in the past on such classic films as Snow White. In this case, one person would work on Jack, another did the Princess, etc. When the film got an LD release in Japan sometime in the 80’s, a commentary track with the staff was included in one of the audio tracks, though I wish I had this disc or the movie alone, as it contains one unique opening sequence not present in most international editions of the film. While the entire film in English can be had on YouTube, here’s the original Japanese opening credit sequence to the film with a pretty jazzy tune!

    As mentioned before, a DVD does exist here, apparently Hen’s Tooth got it from a German licensee of sorts that gave them a version of the film with both English and Japanese audio channels to use. Listening to the Japanese track, I can see why I loved the English version more, if only for the awkward casting choices for some characters like Jack, who sounds a tad older for someone I wanted to believe was 10 years old, Billie Lou Watt nailed it perfectly. Otherwise, it’s pretty typical of Japanese voice acting the way they would do post-recordings and such (the songs’ still rock either way).

    A recent acquisition to my 16mm library is print of Jack & The Beanstalk I got off eBay for a cool price, despite it’s slightly pinkish appearance. My love for the film meant more than the quality alone.

    Don’t have much to say about Princess Knight, aside from it’s unique premise and interesting storyline I only wish we got to see more of in the US (the manga would have a better shot if VIZ had bothered publishing more than a sneak-peek in an issue of Shojo Beat). The series itself would be seen in it’s entirety in Australia and a few other places in the world. There is one guy out there though that has been selling questionable DVD’s of the series in English for whatever price he’s asking for. I could suggest not to buy from him, but given PK’s status in the US, it might be worth a shot to see the show despite the guy’s use of watermarking every episode he’s got. It’s also been mentioned, that existing English masters to the series is in the hands of some Dutch distributor, but that could just be a rumor for all I know. Still rather love this OP/ED sequence personally…

    Too bad I haven’t seen beyond those few clips of Little Prince, but I too have noticed how the Zelda Game Cube/GBA games have used a design aesthetic similar to how films like that were designed in the 60’s. Though I came to that conclusion about 5 years ago when those games came out.

    One film that deserves to be found is ‘The Little Norse Prince”. I recently snatched my hands on an English dubbed 16mm print I didn’t think would ever show up on eBay in a million years, but the film was released on R2 over in the UK with English subs! These movies in general are brimming with such fresh and unique looks that makes me wish Toei would do this again. Pero’s birthday is coming up next year!

    Speaking of “dubs that time forgot”, Mike Toole had a terrific panel at an anime con some months ago devoted to showing clips from Japanese TV cartoons and movies of the past that have since fell on the wayside in later years. The entire panel has been released as two separate clips over at Anime News Network for anyone to view!

  • I agree that the style of Little Prince is astonishing. Thanks Jerry.

  • Little Prince & the 8-Headed Dragon was posted on YouTube a while ago, in its entirety. I don’t know if it’s still there, or if it has been taken down, but I did post the movie on the Ghibli blog earlier this year. I also made sure to download a copy for myself just in case anything happens. It really is a great movie, one of the high watermarks of the Toei era.

    Ben Ettinger’s Anipages has gone into detail on this movie, so if you wanted to learn more, you should head over there.

  • Chris B

    Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon is one of my favorite films. It’s really sad how it is not on dvd here in the states in a respectable edition. I have been trying to locate a copy of the English wide screen version of this for quite some time. No luck on that all I have been able to find a pan and scan version from a tv recording. YouTube did have it posted but was taken off for term violations. There is also a Wikipedia on it but its listed by its Japanese title Wanpaku Ouji no Orochi Taiji .
    you can find it here.

    If anybody where to get a hold of a nice english widescreen copy let me know!!!

  • Regarding Princess Knight – many episodes (and the Joe Oriolo feature-lenght cut) were released on VHS in the UK in the early 80s. I’ve still got a couple of tapes I keep meaning to stick on eBay. It’s one of my favourite shows from that era – the production design is great and many episodes are full of dark and surreal touches.

    The Little Prince looks absolutely mind-blowing by the way – a DVD would be a treasure, but imagine seeing it on a full-sized cinema-screen?

  • I got to see the Princess Knight cartoons a they were first being shown— they were featured on the Checkers and Pogo show in Hawaii in the 60’s.
    I LOVED that cartoon. The action takes place in Silverland, with the princess’s real name of Sapphire and her horse Opal. The bad guys are a chinless chump called Nylon (pronounced NEE-lon), Duke Duralumon and his son Plastic. A riot! The irony of the names didn’t occur to me until recently: the precious-jewel names of the princess & co. in stark contrast to the synthetic bad guys’ names.

  • Victor

    It’s great to see old influences in modern entertainment media like games. Look at the images of the Little Prince, it seems to have influenced the style and vision of Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

  • Suzanne

    Re Princess Knight — I grew up in Montreal in the early 70s and enjoyed the televised series, then shown in French (!) .

  • Mark H.

    I saw a few episodes of Princess Knight AKA Choppy & The Princess in the 70s, but it was so long since viewing that I don’t remember any of it.
    The Little primce and The Eight headed Dragon also looks interesting.

  • Thanks so much for the Princess Knight Clip. I’ve managed to dig up maybe half the series in english (and own about the same number of episodes in japanese on DVD) but NONE of the tapes have the opening titles, only the closing. I’ll have to check around for the Little Prince film. SPeaking of these early anime, it’s a real shame that noone does a proper reissue of Alakazam The Great. I own the letterboxed laserdisc and the raw japanese dvd, which really deserve some exposure.

  • E. Bernhard Warg

    Just a minor nit-pick: Akira Ifukube did the score for a lot of the Godzilla films, but not *all* of them as claimed in the commentary.

  • Thank you, Jerry, for showing Princess Knight, of which I haven’t seen so much as a clip in nearly thirty years. I encountered it in the strangest of places, on Armed Forces Network Television in Frankfurt, Germany back in 1982. AFTV, strangely enough, was an archive of sorts of cartoons not seen on American television in decades. (I remember seeing such cartoons as The Funny Company there, and the original season 1-2 opening of The Flintstones, complete with sponsor references.)

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Interesting reading what the AFTV had in it’s arsenal of animation goodness (much of which probably is in the hands of competent collectors or throw in some landfill). Noticed someone stuck “Little Prince” out there in BitTorrentLand if anyone is keen to look for it!