16 June 2011

Joycean Turtles

Improbable though it may seem, oodles of episodes of the late 1980s and early 1990s cartoon Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles were made it Dublin, at Murakami Wolf which eventually became Fred Wolf Films; back then Dublin was a bit of a hotbed of animation talent, what with Sullivan Bluth making An American Tale and The Land Before Time there, and a brilliant animation school being set up at Ballyfermot Senior College.

Yes, I know, it's really Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, for so the original comic was called and so the cartoon was distributed in America. Still, my little brother watched it in Ireland, and for him it was called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles -- this was basically due to Ireland being lumped in with the UK for distribution purposes, and the Brits having an issue with ninjas. Back then, ninjas were seen as nasty. Now they're cool, from what I hear.

Anyway, I was a bit surprised the other day to learn that there was an episode of the series where the Turtles went to Dublin; I've managed to track it down, and found watching it an odd, and not unpleasant experience.

'The Irish Jig is Up', for so episode seven of series seven of the cartoon is entitled begins with a nice shot of Dublin, looking along the Liffey from the east, with the Four Courts easily recognisable, and what I think is a stylised version of the Liffey Bridge -- that's the Ha'Penny Bridge to most of us -- in the foreground. It's a nicely stylised take on the Quays too, for what it's worth, even if they can look more cartoonish in reality.

Anyway, the camera pans across the Liffey to where we can see the lads' van making its way along the south Quays, driving on the right, but, to be fair, given the eerie absence of any other vehicles on the Quays, they can probably get away with it. It's never made clear why things are so quiet -- I can only presume the Queen was visiting or something. Still, unperturbed by the Mary Celeste atmosphere afflicting Dublin, the lads decide they should pull over and walk around, so they take a corner at speed, hurtling past what appears to be an inexplicably-misplaced O'Connell Monument

In a convenient backstreet, the boys change into unobtrusive clothes so nobody will recognise them, clearly reckoning that Hawaiian shirts, shorts, sunglasses, and big hats are just the thing to help them blend in in sunny Dublin. April, sensibly, sticks with her yellow jumpsuit, and Splinter puts on a dirty mac and a false beard, presumably thinking that if he dresses as a random alco, nobody will notice that he's a rat. Frankly, I don't know why he's worried. It's not as if town is kicking. Off they stroll towards Stephen's Green, where just below a remarkably well-rendered Fusiliers' Arch Splinter says he'll tell them about Dublin's history.

It's good, isn't it? They even have Dublin's name right, as 'Eblana'. I've known people to fall at that hurdle in table quizzes back in the day. Anyway, they have a wander in the Green, strolling past a few stylised statues until they get to St Patrick, of whom there's no statue in the Green. No, really, there's not. I'm not sure if there's a public statue of him anywhere in Dublin, actually.

If there were, though, it'd probably not look like this.

Yes, that's Patrick, the Romano-Briton who spent years in slavery here, before escaping to Britain and training as a priest and then returning as a missionary to the Irish, here depicted on horseback, wielding two swords. Who needs a shamrock or a crozier when you can brandish two swords when astride a rearing stallion?

'Ireland,' explains Splinter, 'is a land of magical legends. One of the most famous is that of Saint Patrick. It is said he drove all the snakes and reptiles out of Ireland.'
'Bummer,' says Michelangelo, 'maybe I shoulda gotten us mammal disguises.'
'This is all very interesting, guys,' says April, who presumably has read her guidebook and doesn't believe a word Splinter says, not least because she may have noticed the bit about there being lizards in Ireland even now, 'but I'm supposed to do a report on the famous leprechauns of Ireland.'
'April, leprechauns are just mythical creatures,' retorts Donatello, scornfully adding, 'I can assure you that there are no such things as little green men.'

And with that the lads start throwing their hats around, clearly thinking that the complete absence of people in Stephen's Green gives them a golden opportunity to ditch their disguises and play frisbee, before heading off to their lodgings in the improbably well-preserved McGillicuddy's Castle, which looks rather more like Bodiam Castle in East Sussex than any castle in Ireland, and which is mysteriously dated by the gang to the sixteenth century*

I probably should have mentioned that this episode has a plot, shouldn't I? Basically, Shredder, or Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, has come up with a couple of gizmos, one of which enables him to lift up castles (yes, I know), and another of which can turn vicious animals into cuddly dwarfs and cuddly ones into savage monsters. Seemingly, Ireland has lots of cuddly animals, especially in Dublin Zoo, and so Shredder reckons that he can turn all the inhabitants of the Zoo's petting zoo into an army of monsters that will destroy Dublin. No, really.

I reckon from this shot that Shredder's up near the Magazine Fort operating his device -- it's certainly somewhere high, to judge by the topography, which gives us a view over Dublin and with the mountains in the background. He'd almost certainly need to be in the Phoenix Park to zap the Zoo with his machine, so I think the guys who did this should get marks for effort. Perhaps, given that they may well have been Irish they should have done better, but still. And no, I have no idea why Dublin has so many tall buildings in that shot, but, well, maybe the artists were feeling optimistic about the then embryonic Celtic Tiger.

Anyway, you can see the ray hitting the Zoo, and though this may seem unlikely, that's not a completely inaccurate stylisation of the old entrance to the Zoo. Sure, it's not thatched, and it is has a funny roof, and it says 'Dublin Zoo' rather than 'Zoological Gardens', but, well, it has a wide entrance in the middle and two small windows on each side of it.

The Zoo's interestingly rendered in the show. It has, at the very least, a rabbit, a chicken, a bull, and a lion -- which is a nice touch, as Dublin Zoo is famous for breeding lions, which it's done since 1857, with one of the MGM lions having been a Dublin lion. Perhaps most impressively, though, there's also a handful of people at the Zoo, which is a relief, as by this point, almost twelve minutes into the show, I was kind of expecting Cillian Murphy to show up in a nightgown.

Anyway, I won't spoil it for you. You should watch it for yourselves. Gripping stuff, I tell you. There is, however, one detail I want to draw your attention to, with the day that's in it. Remember how I'd told you about the lads putting on their incognito outfits just after they'd arrived? Well, it's worth looking just beyond Raphael.

Do you see the van? Do you see what's written on it? I'm not sure of the top word on the sign, but the other two, quite clearly, are 'James' and 'Joyce'.

Because it's Bloomsday.

* Note for potential tourists: McGillicuddy's Castle is made up. There are castles in Dublin, but they don't look like that. And if they did, they'd probably not be places you could just drive into in your van, there to kip in overnight while wondering at how the moat and drawbridge are so well-maintained in a place so otherwise neglected.

1 comment:

Seán said...

Fair play pal. Had a great laugh reading this. The memories. I never knew about this episode. Must try find it now. Online anywhere?