Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blue camels, rag dolls, and trippy degrees of separation

A recent post by Poe Ghostal has reminded me of one of the trippiest things I ever saw, and made me wonder about its possible influence on modern popular culture. Weirdly enough, the experience sprang from one of the most benign, warm, and lovable toys of all time. The toy in question is Raggedy Ann, a rag doll created in 1915 by artist and writer Johnny Gruelle. Gruelle was born in Illinois, but Raggedy Ann had strong Hoosier connections. Gruelle’s father was an artist affiliated with the old Hoosier Group of Indiana artists, and Raggedy Ann herself was named after two poems by Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley: “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphant Annie.”

I had a Raggedy Ann doll when I was growing up (I also had a doll of her brother, Andy), and I had a book of Gruelle’s old, original Raggedy Ann stories from 1918. I rather liked them -– they were very sweet, comfortable stories, perfect to read before bedtime. Raggedy Ann and Andy also had their own Dell comic book series –- stories that maintained the sweet natures of these dolls.

Then, in 1977, along came the animated movie, Raggedy Ann & Andy: The Musical. The movie is notable for combining the talents of Disney AND Warner Bros. animators. It’s also one of the trippiest, most mind-blowing animated movies ever put on the big screen. This is probably one big reason why the movie flopped –- the story and visuals (though incredibly imaginative and skillfully animated) were completely at odds with the histories of these sweet, simple rag dolls. Still, the movie gained an audience, and most people who have seen the thing seem to remember its remarkable visuals.

Take, for example, the following scene involving the dolls’ encounter with a creature known as The Greedy. Looking at it today, I can’t help but wonder if Geoff Johns also saw this movie as a kid and it’s partly responsible for inspiring the creation of the Orange Lanterns:



My favorite scene in the movie (and one closer to the dolls’ actual histories) involves Raggedy Ann and Andy meeting the blue Camel With the Wrinkled Knees. These days, it reminds me of Pixar’s plot for Toy Story 2. More inspiration, perhaps?



Here’s a strange bit of trivia: The Camel’s song was later sung by Helen Reddy (with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem) during her appearance on the Muppet Show:



Weirdly enough, later in the show, Helen Reddy actually does a number with a Muppet camel:



Makes me wonder if Jim Hensen & co. wanted Reddy to do the Camel song with the Muppet camel, but they couldn’t for various reasons. Hmmmmm …

7 comments:

SallyP said...

I didn't even KNOW there was a Raggedy Ann and Andy movie! Sheesh!

Had the dolls though, and used to dress up as Ann for Halloween when I was five.

I...I miss the Muppet show.

SallyP said...

I didn't even KNOW there was a Raggedy Ann and Andy movie! Sheesh!

Had the dolls though, and used to dress up as Ann for Halloween when I was five.

I...I miss the Muppet show.

SallyP said...

What the hell? How did I double post? I swear, I only hit the button ONCE!

TF said...

The Greedy totally freaked me out.

This was for kids?
WHAT THE HELL?
eeeurgh.

eeeugggh!!!!

Sky_of_Blue said...

Yeah, it kinda makes you want to swear off candy for life, doesn't it?

ComicsAllTooReal's Chris said...

Those dolls were kind of cute. Of course, there wasn't as much influence of their story in these lands, but I do remember seeing them at a friend's house when I was little.

For some reason, though, I found them likable, but creepy...

Sky_of_Blue said...

Unfortunately, those vintage rag doll designs look too much like CLOWNS -- and we all know how creepy clowns are!