Well, it’s close to Thanksgiving, and so it’s time once again to talk about some of the biggest turkeys in entertainment. I think I’ll do so by bringing back (and revising a little) my series of Titanic Turkeys posts. First up, here’s my post on Titanic Turkeys: Titanic The Legend Goes On.
Originally posted November 26, 2013/1 Comment/in Basic: Animation, Basic: Movies & TV, BLOGS, Chris Langs Commentaries /by Chris Lang
In honor of Turkey Day, I’d like to discuss some really bad movies that truly deserve to be called ‘Titanic Turkeys’.
The first of the two movies I’d like to discuss is Titanic: The Legend Goes On. And yes, the Nostalgia Critic and Whyboy have reviewed this movie, but I’ve got some things to say about it that I don’t think either of them covered in their reviews.
First off, in the late 1990s, James Cameron’s Titanic was a huge success. It was THE big event movie of late 1997/early 1998. And I’ll admit that I saw it in the theater and despite its flaws, I still was moved emotionally by it. I felt like I was there, on board the ship with Jack and Rose and the various people both real and fictional. When the tragedy finally came, all the right notes were hit, I felt. Aside from the one dubious incident with First Officer Murdock (based on a legend that was debunked by Second Officer Lightoller – the highest ranking survivor of the crew), that part of the movie was done especially well, and really helped to give a sense of the tragedy.
With the success of James Cameron’s Titanic, however, came the knockoffs. Knockoffs of popular movies were nothing new. Just about every Disney film of that decade had some cheap knockoffs made of them (I remember seeing a few of those sitting on the shelves of my local Blockbuster, but I knew to stay away from them). I’ve heard of at least two knockoffs of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, for example (and since the original post of this article, I’ve seen Phelous’ review of them. One of them has Quasimodo’s love interest be Melody, who travels with a band of magical musical instruments, and ends with Quasimodo just straightening his posture and adjusting his hair, and suddenly he’s no longer deformed but a handsome prince. It’s terribly insulting). And there were a few ‘Lion King‘ knockoffs whose titles I can’t remember.
But as bad as those knockoffs might be, at least they weren’t trying to be knockoffs of a movie inspired by a real-life tragic event. At least two Italian directors gave us animated knockoffs of Titanic. One, named Orlando Corradi, gave us The Legend of The Titanic. And the other, Camillo Teti, gave us the main subject of this article, Titanic: The Legend Goes On.
Storywise, both of these films have some similarities with the James Cameron film. Boy meets girl. One is rich, one is poor, but they fall in love aboard the Titanic despite all the ‘class division’. Eventually, the ship hits an iceberg. And along the way, there’s a human antagonist or two despite the fact that the iceberg should be enough of an antagonist already.
But that’s pretty much where the story similarities end. The question is, do these films handle the subject matter well? I think most of you already know the answer, but for those who’ve never heard of the films until now, the answer is a resounding NO.
The main problem with both of these movies is that they come across as if the makers saw the James Cameron movie and assumed it was based off of a fairy tale the same way so many of the Disney films were. So they treated it as such in their versions, adding talking mice and other cartoon animals, and giving it a Lighter and Softer approach because clearly they Did Not Do The Research or maybe They Just Didn’t Care.
In discussing Titanic: The Legend Goes On, I’ll approach it from two perspectives. One is how the film is if you take the Titanic out of it and replace it with a fictitious cruise ship (which is what the makers of both films should have done if anyone bothered to tell them that the Titanic disaster really happened), and the other is how the film is WITH the Titanic in it.
If you took out the Titanic and replaced it with a fictional ship:
Even without the Titanic in it, Titanic: The Legend Goes On would still be a bad movie full of knockoffs of characters from Disney, Don Bluth, and Warner Bros cartoons. We can see from the start of the film that the animation quality is pretty poor, relying on repeating frames of animation a lot. The film begins with Angelica (the leading lady) in one of the lifeboats rowing in a poorly-animated sequence. We quickly flash back to her aboard a carriage being tormented by her cruel stepmother and her equally cruel stepsisters.
Angelica is a poor girl being abused by her stepmother and stepsisters in a clear Cinderella knockoff. She carries around a locket, a reminder of her long lost true mother. They are going to board the ship, along with a rich young man named William and his old nanny.
Also boarding the ship are Corinthia Meanstreak and her henchmen Kirk and Dirk, who in appearance look like they auditioned for Cruella Deville and her henchmen Jasper and Horace in 101 Dalmatians but didn’t get the parts so they had to settle for this cheesy knockoff. Apparently, they are jewel thieves being pursued by detective Sam Bradbury, who boards the ship dressed in a Sherlock Holmes outfit.
And then we get the animals. There’s a pair of dalmatians owned by a female lounge singer, a family of immigrant mice similar to those from An American Tail, a chihuahua and a cat who menace the aforementioned family, a trio of stereotypical Mexican mice who look like refugees from a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon, and a rapping dog. Yes, a rapping dog. I’ll get to him in a bit.
So Angelica and William have a chance meeting in the hall of the ship, and it’s love at first sight. They part wondering if they’ll see each other again. Meanwhile, lots of pointless slapstick occurs with the aforementioned jewel thieves. In the cargo hold, the immigrant mice are talking about how Angelica wanted to attend the fancy party but had nothing to wear, when the chihuahua and the cat attack. The boy mouse is endangered, but then a huge grey dog chases the chihuahua and the cat away, leading to the boy mouse saying “If it hadn’t been for you, I would be now in someone else’s digestion.”
The line is strange enough in itself, but it’s nothing compared to the weirdness of his rescuer.
In the longer version, the grey dog introduces himself, saying that the boy shouldn’t wander off without consulting him as he is Fritz and he’s in charge of the animals of the ship. And then he begins his song. In the shorter cut version reviewed by the Nostalgia Critic, he just launches immediately into a song out of nowhere without any introduction. In both versions, this is where things get crazy.
The dog, previously a grey dog walking on four legs, is suddenly depicted as a bipedal cartoon dog wearing a jersey, shorts, tennis shoes, and a cap. He raps about partying, as the other animals dance (the poster on the wall in some shots even has the words ‘rap music’ on it). The song itself is different in each version. ‘Viva Fritz’ is just a little more of an I Am Song than ‘Party Time’ but is no less weird.
So here we have a rap number in a story set in 1912, decades before rap music existed. But as the Nostalgia Critic pointed out in his review, even if this were set in modern times it’d still be ridiculous since it makes no sense even in context. Many have said this is a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, and I’m inclined to agree, since while we DO see Fritz again later in the movie, he’s reverted back to being the grey dog on four legs and his bipedal ‘rapping dog’ alter-ego and his rap number are never mentioned again (though the song does play in the credits of the ‘cut’ version).
So a lot of padding occurs as the various above-mentioned people (and a few I didn’t mention) go about their business. There’s slapstick and long stretches without any dialogue, and then there’s William and Angelica meeting at the ball as a fairly decent song is sung in the background. The immigrant mice help recover Angelica’s locket at one point.
And then the animals decide to have a party in the hold, with the Mexican mice playing a song for them to dance to. I’m sad to say it, but “Mucho Gusto” (the song they sing) is not a good song. I put the stereotyping aside and tried to enjoy it for the lighthearted ditty the writers clearly intended it to be, but I couldn’t. The song is very repetitive, with only a verse or two outside the chorus, and what’s worse is that the rhymes are truly painful. If you don’t believe me, I’ll quote the lyrics of the chorus:
Mexican mice: If you’re feeling bluesto, there’s something that you can do-sto
Dust off your dancing shoestos, and we’ll fiesta with mucho gusto.
And I don’t think the Spanish in the song is correct, either. From what I read, ‘mucho gusto’ means ‘Pleased to meet you’ or ‘nice to meet you’ or something along those lines. Though translated literally, it means ‘much pleasure’, that is not what it’s supposed to mean as the phrase is primarily used as a greeting. So basically what the Mexican mice are saying is ‘We’ll party with pleased to meet you’, which makes absolutely no sense.
So clearly it’s not just in the history department that the makers of this film failed to do the research. Oh, and the animation in the sequence is just as repetitive as the chorus of the song, which is repeated several times after they run out of verses. Note that this is only in the cut reviewed by the Nostalgia Critic. In the longer, ‘uncut’ version, there’s only an instrumental number here, so at least in that version we’re spared from the poorly-written lyrics.
Anyway, the ship hits an iceberg, and we’re treated to lots of re-used animation in the evacuation sequence. However, nearly all the principle characters make it off the ship, with the exception of the female lounge singer who stays behind with the band. William is pulled out of the water onto Angelica’s lifeboat, it turns out William’s nanny is Angelica’s long lost-mother, and then the immigrant mouse boy breaks the fourth wall and says ‘Wait a minute. The movie’s not over yet. Don’t you want to know what happened to everyone?’
So he gives us the Where Are They Now Epilogue, telling of how Sam Bradbury arrested Corinthia Meanstreak, how the stepsisters married Kirk and Dirk, how the immigrant mice found a home in a New York kitchen run by the chef they rescued during the disaster, and how William and Angelica got married and adopted the dalmatians (since their original owner didn’t make it). The narration is all done in a cheery style that seems to gloss over the unpleasantness with the iceberg.
Take the Titanic out of this, and you have a pretty dumb film with cheesy knockoffs, lots of Pointless Padding Scene Time, and ethnic stereotyping. It’s pretty easy to imagine it being a fictional ship … up until the moment when the iceberg shows up.
Leave the Titanic in and:
With the Titanic, the film not only becomes a knockoff of the James Cameron film with the roles in the romantic plot reversed (instead of a poor boy and a rich girl, it’s the young man who’s rich and the girl who’s poor), but it trivializes one of the most terrible disasters of the early 20th century by making it the backdrop for an animated movie featuring cartoon character knockoffs, Mexican mice, and a rapping dog. Did no one involved in the making of this movie realize that over 1500 people died in a disaster that really happened, and that therefore this movie might be in questionable taste?
But this is nothing compared to the other animated Titanic movie. The other one takes a far worse approach, and makes the film with the rapping dog look historically accurate by comparison. Come back next time, when I’ll discuss The Legend of the Titanic.