Well, the Olympics are winding down as I write this, and once again TV channels in the UK have missed yet another chance to show one of the most entertaining and apposite films they could have broadcast during the whole event. I refer, as you may have already guessed, to Animalympics.
First shown in 1980 to coincide with the Moscow Olympics (I mysef watched this during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games), Animalympics is very much of its time i.e. it’s a rather odd concept that is executed better than you’d think (see also: Heavy Metal and Rock & Rule). The premise is simple – anthropormorphic animals compete in the Animalympics, which are also covered by ZOO TV Network.
There isn’t even really a plot as such, aside from two overarching stories; the first (and most popular with fans of the film) is of Rene Fromage and Kit Mambo, two marathon runners who are rivals but discover that the shared experience brings them closer together, even though they never exchange a word between them during the entire race.
Then there’s the other story arc, which… how do I put this… is kinda shit. Kurt Wüffner, champion skiier, flies off the track during the slalom event and stumbles upon Dogri-La, a paradise filled with “beautiful” (the character designs for the Wüffner segments are terrible) women. I don’t remember much about this part of the movie, except that it was tedious but didn’t take up too much screentime.
Aside from those two plots, the film is more a series of vignettes; animals compete in an Olympic sport, often with hilarious results and superb animation. Indeed, many of the people who worked on Animalympics went on to even better things in their careers: Roger Allers, Brad Bird and the guy who made Tron, to name but three.
The voice cast deserve a mention, if only because there were only four of them; Michael Fremer, who also wrote the much-loved soundtrack to this film, as well as Saturday Night Live alumni Billy Crystal, Harry Shearer and the late Gilda Radner. That said, I was very surprised to learn there were so few voice actors involved – a testament to the range of all four people.
I could go into further detail and overanalyse the other segments of the film, or bloviate about the great soundtrack but there’s honestly not much point. Like I said, this film shouldn’t really work as well as it does, but this is a great film that should be watched and enjoyed as a whole… except for the Wüffner segments. You should probably go make a sandwich while he’s on-screen.