Monday, September 15, 2008

Analyzing Pierre

This is something I've wanted to do for a while, ever since I rediscovered Really Rosie on Youtube a couple of years ago. The conceit of Really Rosie is that Rosie is auditioning her friends for a part in her "movie," but it's really an excuse to animate the Nutshell books by Maurice Sendak, set to music by Carol King. The special is from the seventies, and the animation isn't the greatest, but you can really tell that the animators were having fun.  One section in particular holds a particular interest to me, the bit about the book called Pierre.  This sequence has a lot of little things I like, which I've put in bold.

There once was a boy named Pierre
Who only would say "I don't care"
Read his story, my friend,
For you'll find at the end
That a suitable moral lies there.
The prologue isn't too interesting, as it's just Rosie gesticulating toward the window where Pierre prepares, although she is rather melodramatic. By the end of this section, the apartment building has melted away, revealing Pierre in his pajamas. With hardly any effort, he launches himself in the air and neatly cartwheels into his bed.

One day, his mother said, 
When Pierre climbed out of bed, 
"Good morning, darling boy, 
You are my only joy." 
Pierre said, "I don't care."
Pierre's mother enters and stares at him lovingly, causing Pierre to burrow into his bed, but as the song dictates, he has to get up. He merely stands on his bed, stretching and yawning, and scratches his head. His mother doesn't do much until this point, when she pats him on the head to go with her "darling boy" line. Pierre flinches and then jumps up onto his pillow for height, so his mother can't do that again, presumably, but jumps off the bed soon enough and gives his mother a dirty look before shaking his head at her and walking to the kitchen, backwards. By the time he gets there, he's wearing his normal clothes minus shoes for some reason.

"What would you like to eat?" 
"I don't care." 
"Some lovely cream of wheat?" 
"I don't care." 
"Don't sit backwards in your chair." 
"I don't care." 
"Don't pour syrup on your hair." 
"I don't care."
As his mother enters with a bowl of cream of wheat, Pierre waits for her with his elbows on the table and a cross look on his face, although he quickly leans back in his chair and crosses his arms. One suspects he doesn't care because he knows that it doesn't make a difference: he's getting cream of wheat whether he wants it or not. He turns around in his chair and shrugs at his mother, who turns her eyes toward heaven with a "why me?" expression. When Pierre pulls a pitcher of syrup from nowhere, she can only feebly point at what he's doing as he pours it on his head, his expression unchanging.

"You are acting like a clown." 
"I don't care." 
"And we have to go to town." 
"I don't care."
"Don't you want to come, my dear?" 
"I don't care." 
"Would you rather stay right here?" 
"I don't care." 
So his mother left him there.
Pierre slides off the chair and solemnly picks up the bowl and places it on top of his head, then grabs the tablecloth and whips it off the table and around himself in one deft movement. He then reaches offscreen and grabs a broom which he brandishes like a spear. His mother implores him with vague handmotions, but Pierre tips the bowlhat forward and taps his foot impatiently. He then flips the broom over and uses the handle to spin the bowl, no longer on his head. His mother, defeated, turns to leave, but watches dejectedly as Pierre throws the broom back offscreen and whips the tablecloth off himself again, but leaves before he brandishes it like a bullfighter and then flings it offscreen in the opposite direction as the broom. Once again he takes to the air, landing acrobatically upside down on a folding chair. And the whole time he just has this nonplussed expression on his face. There's nothing special about what he's doing, apparently.

His father said, 
"Get off your head 
Or I will march you up to bed." 
And Pierre said, 
"I don't care."
Unlike his mother, Pierre's father is very expressive. Seeing his son on the chair, he first starts to bend over, to look at him eye-to-eye, then thinks better of it and straightens up. He minces around a little, clasping his hands under his chin, then points to punctuate his lecture, first at Pierre and then at himself (which I never noticed until I started writing this post), then back at Pierre, and then up, as in upstairs. During all this, Pierre does some footwork, leans his butt back in the chair (which is at the head of the chair, you may recall), and then does a little shimmy. All while standing on his head on a folding chair. His father is taken aback by his son's nonchalance, and even appears worried, clasping his hands some more. Pierre does more wriggling in the chair, but I can't really describe it all.

"I would think that you could see," 
"I don't care." 
"Your head is where your feet should be." 
"I don't care." 
"If you keep standing upside down," 
"I don't care." 
"We'll never ever get to town." 
"I don't care." 
"If only you would say 'I care,'" 
"I don't care." 
"I'd let you fold the folding chair." 
"I don't care." 
While his father implores his son just as his mother did, Pierre manages to maintain his balance even without holding onto the chair. For the "head is where your feet should be" line, his father indicates Pierre's feet, and Pierre defiantly sticks his feet out at his father and waves them in his face. His father then does a weird sort of indication of "upside down" while Pierre turns himself around on the chair without his hands and still doesn't fall off. This boy has powers, yet he doesn't seem to realize it. His father clasps his hands together again and moves in a rather melodramatic fashion, and Pierre grabs his feet. Seeing this, his father crouches down and turns his head to look at his son. Pierre straightens up, but his jacket starts to fall, so he pulls it straight.

So his parents left him there. 
They didn't take him anywhere.
Pierre's mother enters and his father straightens up while Pierre continues to wriggle in the chair. With backward glances askance, the parents leave, and Pierre directs his feet and scowl in their direction. But then he gets jumpy, and jumps straight up and off the chair, turning a cartwheel and smiling for the first time in this whole sequence. After the cartwheel, he walks backwards, a smug expression on his face.

Now as the night began to fall, 
A hungry lion paid a call. 
It looked Pierre right in the eye 
And asked him if he'd like to die. 
And Pierre said, 
"I don't care."
After walking backwards, Pierre yawns and stretches to indicate that night has arrived, and the lion enters the frame, unseen. It leaps out and makes itself known to Pierre, who looks at it, and then looks at us with a look that just says, "Are you kidding me?" Then he and the lion engage in a staredown while walking before they stop so the lion can try and intimidate Pierre with his fangs. Rather than being frightened, Pierre simply holds his nose to avoid the lion's (apparently) bad breath. Then he glares at the lion and strikes a melodramatic pose (it runs in the family, I see) before executing a simple pirouette and falling back on the lion, forcing it to sit. The lion glares at Pierre, then looks out at us, looking for answers. What's with this kid?

"I can eat you, don't you see?" 
"I don't care." 
"Then you will be inside of me." 
"I don't care." 
"And you'll never have to bother," 
"I don't care." 
"With a mother and a father." 
"I don't care." 
"Is that all you have to say?" 
"I don't care." 
"Then I'll eat you if I may." 
"I don't care." 
So the lion ate Pierre.
The lion tries to emphasize his deadliness by licking his chops, but Pierre just yawns and strikes another dramatic pose. The lion roars and Pierre appears to consider its offer, but then starts performing a bit of gymnastics. The lion watches with one eye shut, then opens both eyes as Pierre moves onto pirouetting again, ending with a dramatic flair. When the lion says the part about never having to bother with his parents, Pierre does consider this and smiles(!) before quickly going into more gymnastics. The lion doesn't do too much here but Pierre is in constant motion, stopping only to offer the lion an open-handed shrug, as if to say, "Hey, doesn't matter to me whether you eat me or not." Then he pulls the lion's mouth open himself and takes a (dramatic) flying leap in. The lion closes its mouth and apparently swallows, as its belly suddenly grows and it picks its teeth.

Arriving home at six o'clock 
His parents had a dreadful shock! 
They found the lion sick in bed 
And cried, "Pierre is surely dead!" 
They pulled the lion by the hair; 
They hit him with the folding chair. 
His mother asked, "Where is Pierre?" 
And the lion answered, 
"I don't care." 
His father said, "Pierre's in there."
A very quick fade to black, and Pierre's parents are suddenly strolling back in the house. A clock appears out of nowhere and Pierre's father notes it briefly. They stop, gaping at something offscreen, and then give a simultaneous gasp. They look at each other in horror and rush to the next screen, where the lion is tucked in Pierre's bed. It makes a horrible face and clutches at its stomach. Pierre's mother weeps into her husband's coat, then turns and starts pulling the lion's goatee. He doesn't seem to care, although when Pierre's father whips out the folding chair and starts brandishing it, he attempts to shield himself, especially when Pierre's mother starts in with her purse. Inexplicably, they stop, and Pierre's father puts the chair away behind the bed. Pierre's mother ever so melodramatically (I told you it ran in the family) implores the lion while Pierre's father glares at it, but it just makes the same horrible face as before and the parents gape at it. They stare at each other in horror and then Pierre's father bends down to listen to the lion's stomach directly. He straightens up and, horrified, points repeatedly at the lion's midsection. Pierre's mother begins to howl quite dramatically while Pierre's father rushes from one side of the bed to the other and the lion either nods or does something related to being sick. I'm not quite sure.

They rushed the lion into town. 
The doctor shook him up and down, 
And when the lion gave a roar 
Pierre fell out upon the floor.
Pierre's parents pick up either side of the bed and rush offscreen as it rapidly turns black. When the lights come back up, we see a tiny doctor standing on a table, shaking the lion. He stops and watches, and Pierre opens the lion's mouth and peeks out. The doctor looks at us with the same look both Pierre and the lion gave us earlier, then shakes the lion one more time, unceremoniously dropping Pierre on the floor. He then drops the lion, and the table rolls offscreen, leaving Pierre and the lion looking at each other, both unsure of what just happened there.

He rubbed his eyes and scratched his head 
And laughed because he wasn't dead. 
His mother cried and held him tight. 
His father asked, "Are you all right?" 
Pierre said, "I am feeling fine. 
Please take me home, it's half past nine."
Pierre does all that the lyrics describe while the lion goggles at him, trying to figure out how this should be, then finally gives up and lies down. Pierre nods at the audience when the narrator mentions he isn't dead. His mother enters the scene and lifts him up off the floor with her hug, and doesn't let him down until his father comes onscreen.  Back on the ground, Pierre first stands with his hands behind his back, for a moment, proudly, then piourettes again, ending with a yawn as he indicates the clock on the wall, which the lion also looks at.  

The lion said, "If you would care
To ride on me, I'll take you there."
Then everybody looked at Pierre
Who shouted, "Yes, indeed, I care!"
While Pierre continues to yawn, the lion waves a paw at him, and indicates its back.  Pierre gives the lion a bow, then straightens up when he realizes everyone offscreen is looking at him.  He has a moment of hesitataion before striking poses and doing more twirling.  He ends up down on one knee with a huge smile on his face.  

The lion took them home to rest
And stayed on as a weekend guest.
The moral of Pierre is:

Pierre climbs on the lion's head with its help, and his father helps his mother onto the lion's back, but while he is climbing on himself, the lion starts moving, and Pierre strikes a kind of "whee" pose for a very brief moment.  Once everyone is offscreen, Pierre peeks back, broom in hand, and then runs back onscreen, turning a somersault with the broom and landing on the letters C A R E ! which bump into each other in their haste to get in the picture.  Pierre leaps from letter to letter, striking poses and using the broom to fancily knock each letter down and offscreen until he gets to the exclamation point.  He uses that one to vault offscreen again, and the scene goes to black.

While Really Rosie has not been released to DVD as of yet, the individual Nutshell Book sequences have come out on the DVD of Where the Wild Things Are as a special feature.  However, there are two things wrong with the DVD version of Pierre. First, whoever put this together decided to hide its roots as part of Really Rosie, so they show animation from the middle over the prologue, instead of Rosie narrating while Pierre prepares behind his apartment window as in the original. Second, the audio is the recording version. In the original, Pierre's voice actor voices his lines, but here, Carol King does them along with the narration. Not a huge deal, but it really bugs me. Especially in the lines "If only you would say 'I care'/"I don't care!" since Pierre's VA put extra emphasis on that one, but Carol King does not.  In the end, though, it's better to have something than nothing, I guess.
Would you believe I actually started this post in April and just didn't get around to finishing it until now?

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