An Animated Dissection: Redux Riding Hood
During my mad obsession with film in the 1990’s, I would sometimes pay attention to some of the lesser-concerned categories on The Academy Awards. One category that piqued my interest was Best Animated Short-Subject. There would be a few shorts I’d see nominated or winning, that would often catch my eye. I recall seeing my first visuals for the Wallace and Gromit short The Wrong Trousers, when Nick Park won for the short in 1993. A few years later when the dynamic duo began to take the world by storm, the visuals were enough to help me consider viewing the VHS release.
I can’t say what it is about some shorts that often caught my eye, but there was one during the 1998 Academy Awards that stood out when announced. It was called Redux Riding Hood, and the only thing that was shown (during the nominee readings), was the poster above. Maybe it was the all-red background, or my brain trying to wonder what the thing the big bad wolf was wearing/holding on to.
When I was in college, I posed a question about the short on the AnimationNation message boards, and was surprised to find out who had actually made it: Walt Disney Television Animation. Yes, that odd imagery that had piqued my interest, had come from a Disney-produced short.
For years, the short film has pretty much been the black sheep of Disney animated shorts. After its Oscar nomination, it was sealed up and never released, except on super-rare occasions. Then in 2012, the short’s director Steve Moore uploaded a copy of the short to Youtube, and posted information about it on his blog. You can view the short below, and revel in this rather un-Disney-looking animated production:
(I was going to give a blow-by-blow report on it, but I figured letting it speak for itself in the link above would be simpler)
On his blog, Steve weaves a very entertaining read about the creation of the short. Apparently, he was given an offer he just couldn’t refuse in 1995: create a short with no strings attached, in the style of the Fractured Fairy Tales from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show. Script-wise, Moore was impressed with the story created by writer Dan O’Shannon, who had written for such shows as Newhart, and Cheers.
Redux Riding Hood was to be the first in a series of Twisted Fairy Tales, but the additional shorts were never made. Word was, the next one would have involved the three little pigs in a Real World setting, from a script written by Frank Conniff (or to those of you who watch MST3K, TV’s Frank!).
The vocal talent on the short is quite a who’s who list of actors. The wolf is voiced by Michael Richards, whose manic vocalizations really seem to suit the wolf. As a more calming counterpoint, the wolf’s wife (a sheep!) is voiced by Mia Farrow, which to me, brings a certain level of class to the production. There’s even small roles filled by the likes of Fabio (true story!), Lacey Chabert, Don Rickles, Adam West, and June Foray (which REALLY makes it a Fractured Fairy Tale homage). Minor narration is also provided by Garrison “Prairie Home Companion” Keillor.
Moore’s development of the short also runs counterpoint to the normal process: instead of looking at previous styles, Moore did not reference anything from Disney‘s archives, and when hiring artist John Kleber, forbid him from looking at or referencing any animation art. Instead, the short would develop its own visual style, and also be a combination of cel art, and collage work.
Musically, the short was given a jazzy edge by Bernie Wallace, and was largely improvised at the scoring session. Needless to say, several persons at Disney felt that the music stylings were not suitable to animation. It’s hard to believe that such backwards-thinking existed, given that Jazz had been used in several Disney productions, including one of their biggest hits from the 1980’s, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Even though the additional fairy tale takes were not done by Disney, Steve Moore’s work must have caught someone’s eye with its homage to Fractured Fairy Tales. Shortly afterwards, Moore began work on a for-reals Fractured Fairy Tale that would be included with the theatrical distribution of Universal Pictures’ 1999 live-action release, Dudley Do-Right (anyone out here remember that? Anyone?).
The short would be The Phox, The Box, and The Lox, which was originally scripted by one of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’s writers, named Bill Scott. Taking the script, Steve Moore developed this lost fairy tale for the screen, and does a pretty good job with our modern-day tools. You can view his results below:
Personally, I find Redux Riding Hood to be a humorous and entertaining short, not to mention a precursor to the the numerous ‘fairy tales with a twist’ films that snowballed into theaters in the wake of Shrek’s success. Such films included the cheaply made N’ever After and Hoodwinked, not to mention the twisted-yet-heartless first major foray into computer animation for Disney: Chicken Little. However, the contemporary twist in Redux Riding Hood doesn’t keep nudging and winking at the audience: we realize the modern-day references are there, but the writer and filmmakers just see them as props to telling their story. As well, Redux’s 15-minute running time helps us enjoy a fractured fairy tale that doesn’t overstay its welcome.