A few months ago, I spent a long sleepless night trying to find an old video cassette from my childhood that had a 1970s animated version of Noah’s ark that I remembered. When I finally found it, the cassette had deteriorated to such an extent that neither the color nor the sound was coherent. Without knowing the name of this particular trilogy, and barely remembering many of the details, it took me (and my brothers and sister who also remembered the tv movie) hours more before we found it.
Shamus Culhane, one of the foremost early animators at Disney, wrote, directed, and created a series in the late 1970s, retelling the story of Noah’s ark with a decidedly political slant. At the time, the politics largely passed me by unnoticed. Even when recalling the story, it seemed more ridiculous than political. One of the main characters of the series is a dragon – the last of the red hot dragons – who survived the apocalyptic flood by holding his breath. The dragon feels old and useless and is saddened by the fact that he will be the last of his species – until two young and rambunctious crocodile hatchlings adopt him as a grandfather. Then of course, there is the lion who, en route to becoming king of the beasts, demonstrates that he is also the clutziest of animals – “feet up”. All ridiculous, and funny in a way that is best appreciated by preschoolers. But what these pratfalls and silly asides distract us from is the political turmoil and theological arguments that this Noah trilogy is all about.
My sister remembered the ravens singing, with their leader the crocodile, and the two sidekick wolves, “Anarchy! Anarchy!” as they plotted to take possession of the last dry bit of land on earth. Noah, at one point, scolds the animals for taking advantage of the welfare system of the ark instead of setting off on their own as is God’s plan. The story demonstrates at least a half dozen political and theological concepts and yet manages to amuse preschoolers.
Which is part of my point – as I have been unable to get my hands on much more than small portions of the shows since I watched it many years ago, and my memory of the shows is rather incomplete – my point here is mainly to wonder at the power of the subconscious.
When the memory of this trilogy began to come back to me, I would remember how this line or that line from the series would come to my mind in an appropriate situation – with the source always somewhat obscured. I had absorbed these lessons, these ideas, these lines from the show and then forgotten the source. Upon identifying the source again, I was elated – which is why I stayed up through much of the night trying to track it down.
In case anyone is interested, the trilogy I am referring to is listed at IMDB: Noah’s Animals, The Last of the Red Hot Dragons, and The King of the Beasts.
Someone had the foresight to post three clips from the second part of Culhane’s Noah trilogy which you can watch to give you a taste of the series as a whole: