The film’s animation is remarkably sophisticated as well, especially given the budget constraints of the Rankin/Bass production studio. Producer Michael Chase Walker had pitched the film to Disney, Warner Bros., and a succession of other major animation studios, but, despite interest from individual animators, the story was too dark and too quirky to be considered a good box-office risk at a time when many studios were backing away from features to concentrate on the safer television market. “The film was always almost getting made,” says Beagle. When he learned that the film had been signed with Rankin/Bass, best known at the time for producing stop-motion holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Year Without a Santa Claus, he was furious. “I remember screaming, ‘Why didn’t you just go all the way and sell it to Hanna-Barbera?’ And Michael looked immensely sad and said, ‘They were next.'”
Surprisingly, the animation studio of last resort proved to be a perfect fit for the idiosyncratic screenplay. Like all Rankin/Bass productions, the film was animated by the Japanese studio Topcraft, whose major animators, including studio head Toru Hara, went on to work on the highly regarded Hayao Miyazaki features Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and My Neighbor Totoro. The film’s animation aesthetic resembles the Studio Ghibli style: Alternately graceful and grotesque, Lady Amalthea’s furtive movements, eerily enlarged eyes, and delicate limbs link her visually with her unicorn alter ego. The film’s richly painted backgrounds borrow from medieval tapestries, and Janet Maslin called the film’s climactic animation sequence “startling and lovely” in her 1982 New York Times review. In one particular standout chase sequence, the Red Bull was animated “in ones,” meaning that a new image was drawn for each frame, rather than every other frame. The resulting fluidity and vibrancy of the moving image may explain why those who watched the film as children always remember the Red Bull so vividly. According to Beagle, “While children are terrified by the Red Bull, they remember the Red Bull; they come back to see it and be scared again.”
The POET AND THE TSAR: The Life and Times of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
By Michael Chase Walker
The world’s greatest literary genius vies against the brute hand of Tsar Nicholas for the affections of the most beautiful woman in Russia.
In an epic battle of inspiration against despotism, creativity versus censorship, and true love over obsessive possession, two of the greatest figures of the 19th century compete for the same woman, and the soul of Mother Russia.
The period is 1824 and a new Tsar rises to command imperial Russia. He is Nicholas, the cold, monarchial descendant of the 1,000 year reign of Romanovs. There is only one man more feared and that much more beloved. He is the father of Russian literature, and the grand scion of an Abyssinian prince.
He is the fiery prophet of freedom and creative genius. His name is Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin: Duelist, visionary, lover, poet, and revolutionary. Hearts and minds are at stake. The gloves are off. May the best man win.
© Copyright 2013 Vanguard Films. All rights reserved.
The most unexpected and truly exquisite aspect of a writer’s life is that point where you’ve grasped the philosopher’s stone — where all the fundaments of building a story become a kind of codex for deconstructing them as well. At that point you’ve been initiated into the sanctum sanctorum of genius myth-makers and consciousness weavers of antiquity. The mysteries dissolve. The icons, lions, shamans, and culture creatives welcome you inside and you finally understand what you’ve been searching for. The one operating universal phenomenon of existence: the evolution of the human nervous system.
The most unexpected and truly awesome aspect of writing is that point where you grasp the philosopher’s stone — where all the fundaments of building a story become a kind of codex for deconstructing them, as well. At that point you’re initiated into the ranks of the great genius myth-makers and consciousness weavers of antiquity. The mysteries dissolve. The towering icons, the literary lions, the great shamans, and culture creatives manifest before you and you understand you’re basically dealing with one universal phenomenon: the development and evolution of the human nervous system.