Depraved Dollies

Incest, drugs and homosexuality? Raggedy Ann and friends had a weird 70s makeover...
June 19, 2006
Since my last few articles were more straight-forward info, it's time for a little whimsey...

Released to theatres in 1977, RAGGEDY ANN & ANDY: A MUSICAL ADVENTURE is a visual masterpiece of cutting-edge animation and a definite predecessor to TOY STORY, which shares more than a few parallels. Based on character created by artist Johnny Gruelle in 1915, (and first published in book form in the 1918 Raggedy Ann Stories, which was marketed with a matching character doll), the film documents the adventures of a bunch of toys who come to life when their owner, Marcella, isn't looking.

Although this cult curio deserves better treatment than Fox has ever given it, it's hampered by some bad pacing (it takes far too long for the "adventure" to begin) and the inclusion of far too many unmemorable and annoying songs. Only 6 of the songs are worthwhile, but the soundtrack LP boasts a whopping 20 tracks -- way too many for an 85 minute film. This was a guilty pleasure of mine when I was a kid, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that there's a whole lot of trippiness, sex and depravity lurking below the surface...

The "adventure" begins when a pirate toy, Captain Contagious (voiced by "Underdog" narrator George S. Irving), falls in love with the new doll, Babette, kidnaps her and flees from the little girl's nursery where all the toys reside. It's up to Raggedy Ann and Andy to rescue them! [/size]

The porcelain goddess

When the Captain first spies Babette, his mustache gets an erection.

I AM happy to see you

Now that the plot's out of the way, we begin with the somewhat sexually ambiguous Raggedy Andy. We first meet Andy in a scene that feels very familiar, a visual which certainly has a very gay connotation...

Ding-dong, the doll is dead![/align]

Singing his anthem, "I'm No Girl's Toy," Andy proclaims that he's not a "sugar and spicy, lacy and nicey sissy you're gonna enjoy," while shadow-boxing and trying to be masculine. This is easily one of the catchiest songs in the film, and could certainly be taken as a stereotype-shattering gay anthem. That said, the number features a handful of disturbing images...

Ready for penetration, sir!

If I could do that, I'd never leave my home!

But wait! He might not be gay after all... Raggedy Andy has an unusually close relationship with his sister, Raggedy Ann (voiced by Didi Conn, GREASE, "Benson").

Kiss me, you fool!

Andy's often holding and stroking Ann -- and he keeps a paper flower that she gave him buried in the crotch of his pants. Yes, I realize that he's not Lucy Lockett (the doll with a pocket), but seeing him reaching into his overalls to pull a paper flower out of his nether-region is somewhat disturbing.

When I think about you, I touch myself

I've got a surprise for you, Sis...

Speaking of disturbing, after setting off on their adventure, Ann and Andy quickly come upon the homeless Camel with the Wrinkled Knees. This is one disturbed animal!

It's the wrinkly scrotum monster!

I won't spend much time talking about how phallic he often appears, but at one point, the old Camel exclaims, "Once I get down, it's hard to get up again." Sadly, Viagra wasn't introduced for another two decades.

Talk about blue balls!

Seemingly suffering from Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, our friend the Camel spends the bulk of his time chasing after his psychedelic Camel family, which resides in the sky and is only visible to him. Whatever he's on, I want $20 worth!

Lucy in the sky with diamonds...
Thanks to the 'shrooming Camel's hallucinations, the trio literally stumble into the lair of The Greedy. Voiced by Joe Silver (voice of CREEPSHOW 2's Creep), Greedy is a baritone, giant, gelatinous, oozing, shapeshifing blob who resides in the Taffy Pit and does nothing but indulge itself in sweets all day. His constant morphing seems even more drug-induced than the Camel's LSD trip...

Run, don't walk from... THE BLOB!

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Greedy is that he appears to be one with the Taffy pit... so basically, he's cannibalizing himself. But nearly equally disturbing is the fact that the Greedy seeks the one delicacy he's been deprived of, a "sweet heart," and when he learns that Raggedy Ann has a "candy heart" (which we learned in the song "Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers"), he wants to eat her! So essentially, this is a fat man who wants to eat a little girl... there's something seriously wrong with that!

I'm just a sweet transvestite...

After escaping the Greedy, they come upon the daffy knight, Sir Leonard Loonie. Remember that annoying, nasally gay guy on "Laugh-In," Alan Sues? He provided the voice. That alone should sum up this character...

Run away! Run away!

Open wide and take my big cigar, boy!

They flee from Sir Loonie, and wind up finding Loonie Land, where they're enticed by a tongue doormat that swallows them...

Gene Simmons would be proud

Fruit Roll-Ups make mouths happy too!

When they arrive, it's yet another acid-trip sequence as our heroes wind up in black and white, unable to speak. Only sound effects will emit from their mouths in this black-and-white world, which always had me curious as to what exactly they were saying -- I thought that cartoon characters only talked in sound effects when they were swearing.

Everybody who goes to Lidsville really flips their lid!

Soon they meet King Koo-Koo, voiced by Marty Brill (who seems to be channeling Mel Brooks). The king has a little bit of a problem -- he's little. Yes, it seems that his envy isn't just a Freudian case of penis envy, but he's envious of everyone, because all creatures in Loonie Land are taller than he is.

Good thing Raggedy Ann wears bloomers under that dress!

But King Koo-Koo's problem is easily rectified. All he has to do is laugh, and when he laughs, parts of his body inflate and grow! However, once the laughter stops, he deflates and shrinks again. Okay, maybe it IS Freudian after all... The king is looking for the ultimate laugh, one that will keep him big forever. Late in the movie, he proclaims, "I'm getting bigger! I'm getting bigger!" This virginal proclamation is rather creepy...

Getting a big head... erm... never mind!

When Raggedy Ann & Andy finally find Babette, she's transformed herself from victim into captor. Yes, it seems that French women must have a little bit of a sadistic streak, because Babette's taken control of the ship, shackled the Captain below deck, and demanded that the smitten crew take her back to France. Although Babette was busty temptress to begin with, by the time Ann & Andy stumble upon her again, she's become an all-out slut, can-canning and cavorting with the other pirates on the Captain's ship...

Whips 'n' corsets? Madonna stole Babette's act!

How can an article about the depravities of this film be complete without a mention of Gazooks, the seaweed tickle monster (voiced by familiar character actor Paul Dooley)? In an attempt to induce laughter to make himself grow, the King orders Gazooks to tickle everyone. There's something utterly disturbing about a giant plant tickling everyone with its tendrils.

Little shop, little of horrors...

This is a kids' movie, after all, so in the end, the toys wind up back in Marcella's nursery and The Camel finds a loving home.

Now for some other disturbing images from the film...

Didn't this clown try to kill a kid in POLTERGEIST?

Twin blow-up dolls!

Pull my finger![/align]

Puppetry of the penis

Although I've been poking fun at it, this was one of my childhood favorites. The Raggedy Ann characters had previous starred in a 1941 Fleischer short, and there have been a handful of TV specials (including Chuck Jones's 1979 THE PUMPKIN WHO COULDN'T SMILE) and a 1988 TV series, which was rerun 1991 after the abrupt cancellation of "Pee Wee's Playhouse." None of these other versions mesmerized me like the 1977 film. There's some truly wonderful, trippy visuals throughout the movie that probably looked better in widescreen than they do on TV (apparently I did see this in the theatre, but I have no memory of it). Unfortunately, there's no official DVD release in the US (though bootlegs of foreign discs aren't too hard to find) -- and director Richard Williams has disowned it, which is shameful. For animation buffs, this one's certainly worth a look!
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