Wanpaku Ōji no Orochi Taiji
|The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon|
Scene from the film
|Directed by||Yūgo Serikawa|
|Screenplay by||Ichirō Ikeda|
|Music by||Akira Ifukube|
|Edited by||Ikuzō Inaba|
|Distributed by||Tōei Company|
The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (わんぱく王子の大蛇退治 Wanpaku Ōji no Orochi Taiji, literally The Naughty Prince's Orochi Slaying) is a Japanese animated fantasy adventure feature film, the 6th feature produced by Tōei Animation (then Tōei Dōga), released in Japan on March 24, 1963. English-dubbed versions have been released under several titles, including The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon, Prince in Wonderland and Rainbow Bridge.
Based on the Shintō myth of the storm god Susanoo's battle with the Yamata no Orochi, the color, "TōeiScope" anamorphic format film is scripted by Ichirō Ikeda and Takashi Iijima and directed by Yūgo Serikawa. It is considered one of the very best of the Tōei Dōga features and a landmark in anime and animated features in general, placing 10th in the list of the 150 best animated films and series of all time compiled by Tokyo's Laputa Animation Festival from an international survey of animation staff and critics in 2003. It features distinctively modernist, abstracted character, background and color design, formalised the role of animation director, performed here by Yasuji Mori, in the Japanese system and drew attention to the talents of key animators Yasuo Ōtsuka and Yōichi Kotabe (whose key animation for the film, though he is credited in it as an in-betweener, is his first) and assistant directors Isao Takahata and Kimio Yabuki. The score, composed by Akira Ifukube, is also acclaimed.
This anime film tells the story of the god Susano'o (as a cute boy), whose mother Izanami has died. He is deeply hurt by the loss of his mother but his father Izanagi tells him that his mother is now in heaven. Despite Izanagi's warnings, Susano'o eventually sets off to find her. Along with his companions, Akahana (a little talking rabbit) and Titan Bō (a strong but friendly giant from the Land of Fire), Susano'o overcomes all obstacles in his long voyage. He eventually comes to the Izumo Province, where he meets Princess Kushinada, a little girl whom he becomes friends with (he also thinks that she is so beautiful that she looks like his mother). Kushinada's family tells Susano'o that their other seven daughters were sacrificed to the fearsome eight-headed serpent, the Yamata no Orochi. Susano'o is so infatuated with Kushinada that he decides to help her family protect her and slay the Orochi once and for all and he, Akahana and Bō prepare for the showdown.
This film eschewed the soft, rounded look of previous Tōei animated features for a more stylized one. It is also one of the few animated films to have music by famed composer Akira Ifukube, the other being the posthumously-released Tetsujin Nijūhachi-gō feature Hakuchū no Zangetsu. A symphonic suite of five movements based on the score's cues was created by Ifukube in 2003, the first recording of which was performed by the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tetsuji Honna and released on Compact Disc by King Records within the same year. Some of the film's music was also redeployed in the 1st and 32nd episodes, first broadcast in 1972 and 1973 respectively, of the Tōei Animation television series Mazinger Z.
The film's theme song, "Haha no Nai Ko no Komoriuta" (母のない子の子守歌, "Lullaby for a Motherless Child"), is also composed by Ifukube, with lyrics by Takashi Morishima, and is sung by Setsuko Watabe. The original, monaural soundtrack recording has at least twice been released on Compact Disc, both now out of print: first in a two-disc set released by Futureland in 1992, which paired it with a disc of alternate takes and Ifukube's music for Mitsubishi's Expo '70 exhibit, and latterly in better quality but without the alternate takes as one of a 10-disc collection of Tōei Animation soundtracks released by Nippon Columbia in 1996.
The film was distributed in the United States, as The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon, as a matinée feature by Columbia Pictures, opening January 1, 1964. Its Japanese origin was downplayed, as was standard practice at the time, with William Ross, the director of the English dubbing, credited as director and Fujifilm and Tōei's color and widescreen processes rebranded as "MagiColor" and "WonderScope" respectively.
Though still highly regarded in animation circles, the film is now little-known outside of them and as of April 2011 the most recent home video edition is an out of print Japanese DVD-Video released in 2002 and reissued in limited quantity in 2008.
Accolades received by Wanpaku at the time of its release including being honoured with a Bronze Osella at the Venice Film Festival and the Ōfuji Noburō Award at the 1963 Mainichi Film Awards and making it into the official recommendations of the Japanese Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health's Central Child Welfare Council. More recently, Genndy Tartakovsky watched the film and identifies it as a primary influence on the direction and design of his Samurai Jack.
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