Miyazaki and Takahata's "Panda! Go Panda!"

Saw Panda! Go Panda! (1972) directed by Isao Takahata, script and animation by Hayao Miyazaki, and apparently a first draft of what was to become My Neighbor Totoro (you might say Totoro was a remake, only with subtler storytelling and a deeper (and more autobiographical) emotional subtext).

Very cheerful children's fare, which I'm not used to from either Takahata or Miyazaki (even Sherlock Hound felt like it was aimed at adults as much as kids). This is the most purely cute piece of work from either filmmaker, almost too much so, but there's charm and inventiveness if you look for it: the scene where the girl first encounters Baby Panda (he rolls up into a ball so white and round you think of steamed pork buns); the sight of Baby Panda jumping on Papa Panda's belly and hanging on; the scene where the girl packs Papa Panda off to work, only to let him off the hook by declaring a last-minute day off (the sheer joy of the moment--hard to describe, and all the more remarkable because it's so silly).

There's more pleasures in the second episode, about a visiting circus: a re-telling of the story of Goldilocks, only with the girl as one of the three bears, and three stooges as Goldilocks; an amusingly inventive chase between baby panda and a baby tiger; a flood, and the wonderful images Miyazaki creates as a result (the submerged house becomes an indoor swimming pool, a bed turned makeshift boat looks as if it was gliding through the air; and a circus train full of animals puffs its way across water like a dotty Noah's Ark). It's the slightest work I've seen from them yet, but nevertheless a real delight.

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