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Run Forever: 26 Years of ‘Animalympics’

animallogoIt is that time again. The time when physically fit perfections of human beings compete on behalf of their country. As as these perfect specimens compete for Olympic gold, those of us with a tinge of nostalgia will brush off their VCR-duped-to-DVD copies of the 1980 animated classic, Animalympics.

Produced by Lisberger Studios (who is best known for their work on Tron) and released by Warner Bros., Animalympics was a trippy toon classic filled to the brim with Saturday Night Live and SCTV alums, soft rock sounds of the ‘70s and early ‘80s and many, many, many animal puns.

Like, all of them.

trackIf you had HBO in the ‘80s, than you have seen this tribute to the Summer/Winter Games (back when they look place in the same year every four years). Featuring small vignettes of the different sports and animal athletes, Animalympics featured the voices of John Candy, Billy Crystal, Gilda Radner, Harry Shearer and Michael Fremer as hundreds of send-ups to popular figures in the sporting world. While the original broadcast was during the 1980 Winter Games, the toon got a lot of mileage as it was hauled out again and again over the next ten years.

hockeyConceived in the mid-70s and produced in 1978, the original toon was meant for the small screen in two segments to match the upcoming 1980 coverage of the games. However, after the US ended up boycotting the Summer Games in protest of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the plan was chucked, with only the winter segment making it to broadcast TV.

fencingLuckily, producer Donald Kushner and director Steven Lisberger took the toon on the road, premiering it at a handful of film fests and aiming for a theatrical release. By 1984, the film gained a following thanks to the celebrity voices and kaleidoscopic of strange imagery, which can only be chalked up to the easy and ability to get Quaaludes at the time.

For longtime fans (like myself), the toon stands out over the years thanks to the dreamlike sequences over soft rock sounds of the era. Graham Gouldman’s songs about winning and finding love were punctuated by a skiing dog who found his own Eden while lost in the mountaintops or a diving otter from California who swims with weird-ass fishies as he dives a perfect 10.

A few of the highpoints include:

  • Opposing long-distance running Kit and Rene finding love after jogging hundreds of miles next to each other.
  • All of otter Dean Wilson’s diving dream sequence
  • Weiner dog champion skier Kurt Wüfner finding and losing love while hang gliding
  • Henry Hummel’s Kissinger-esque narration of the entire event.
  • The Contessa coming out of nowhere with no backstory and winning the fencing tournament.
  • This was one of Brad Bird’s first early outings in the toon world.

So, before the upcoming shit-show (literally, given the early reports of rampant sickness) of Rio takes over, take a moment with your kids, or your nephews and nieces, favorite drug of choice, and enjoy the true genius of Animalympics.

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