Famous-Misfit Fables

I see there’s a new translation of “Aladdin,” and I’m a bit tempted. Some observations:

From the printed versions I’ve read, the original Aladdin is precisely as different from his Disney rendition as the original Pinocchio is from his Uncle Walt treatment. Primarily in being almost repulsively unpleasant characters with a lot more doom and violence swirling around them. Since I saw the animated version of Wooden Head well before I read the source, it was a searing jolt to make the adjustment. Then I realized, whoah. Carlo Collodi’s story has survived for a reason — it’s scary, even harrowing, like the best of the oldest fairy tales.

With Aladdin, the most profound change is with the genie — fables often suggest that genies take on the personality of their Masters and Aladdin’s is a monster. Couldn’t have that on the big screen, of course, and it’s a testament to Robin Williams’s genius that he incarnated a non-insipid alternative. Finally, I have to concur that “Aladdin” is merely lumped in with the so-called “Arabian Nights” — it reads different and tells a story in a way that none of the others do.

R.I.P.: Stephen Hillenburg

Animated cartoons are supposed to revel in the absurd, which is a lot harder to do than wallow in the ridiculous, obnoxious or obscure. “SpongeBob SquarePants” captivated me right from when I saw it very early on. Starting with the looney-but-perfect notion that he was a kitchen sponge instead of one of those wacky globs that live in the real ocean. The core of characters was a perfectly realized team (best cohort: Sandy Cheeks — starting with her name, how’d they get away with that one?) (poorest concept: Mister Krabs’s money-grubbing, which got more than a little icky-poo over time) (best bonus: Plankton has one of the most corrosive asshole-voices ever).

Favorite episode — the one where SpongeBob and Patrick paint the inside of Mister Krabs house. Ending worthy of Surrealist immortality.

Favorite joke line that nobody coming across it for the first time in the future will understand: “You aren’t going to make me read old magazines, are you???”

PS: Second-favorite episode is the one about Sandy hibernating. Her mean-Texas dreamtalk made me scream with laughter when I first heard it. Still wondrous.

Oy! “Trolls de Troy”

Just when you think Oggy and the Cockroaches is the biggest French-cartoon import you’ll ever run across, the Brookline Booksmith Used Book Basement comes through again and yields up the first volume of Trolls de Troy, which I understand is enormously popular in France and some other non-English-speaking countries. I loved the crazy action and the vibrant artwork so much, I didn’t mind my merest spattering of French. Closer viewing at home revealed the comic featured fabulous monsters and, wow, horror-movie violence (just for starters, the Trolls kill and eat humans with impunity and regularity), not to mention a human “child” of a lead character who wants to become a Troll but who really seems to be there so we can have a Hot Babe around (who happens to be a cannibal).

I can’t follow the plot — the only English versions of Trolls de Troy is the animated cartoons, very simplified and toned waaay down — so I may only need an example of this series. But yowsah, if yer a serious comic-book person, you got to have a look at this one.