Flash Gordon Classic (2015)

This won’t take long.  Under four minutes, in fact.

But, oh, what Robb Pratt manages to do in that four minutes!

Pratt is a curious one-man band phenomenon, a master of hand-drawn animation who has made a series of deliriously brilliant short animated fan films, starting with Superman ClassicHere he created a stunning short which is more or less an adaptation of the second chapter of the legendary Flash Gordon serial of the 30s, although it owes almost as much to the 1980 Dino De Laurentiis version.

The plot is simple enough – Flash versus the monstrous Gocko, a huge beast with lobster claws and lots of teeth – but there is a tremendous sense of fun and adventure to the film, with great voice talent backing up some truly awesome animation.  I particularly enjoyed the quick flashes of extreme close-up forced perspective used in some of the action sequences – as when Flash slides straight at the camera, ending with an exaggerated foreground view of his foot. Don’t expect to see this from Pixar anytime soon, as it is the sort of artistic license that only works when hand drawn.

While I would really love to see an end to the identification of Flash as a Football player (originally he was a Polo player, which meant he was a product of the Ivy league, not the National League.  Dino’s film changed that – but at least its not as bad as the animated film which made him a skateboarder!), Pratt uses it nicely here, particularly when the verbose Dr. Zarkov gives him suggestions and we get a momentary expression on Flash’s face that suggests he’s just a little dim, before his instincts kick in and he goes to work.

I have to confess that I would dearly love to see Pratt go on to make all thirteen episodes.  His opening “crawl” and the “tune in next week” at the end give us such tantalizing glimpses of both Flash’s arrival on Mongo and the Hawkmen that one can only drool a little at the thought of what he could produce.

And yes, I keep imagining what it would be like if he somehow created an entire feature film like his shorts!

Unfortunately we can be sure he won’t get any studio funding for such a film.  As Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky has pointed out in interviews, Hollywood believes that no one will go to an animated film anymore unless it is 3-D digitally animated Pixar-style.

Which, if nothing else, guarantees us an endless series of Ice Age sequels.

Oh, joy.

(For further short film reviews, see here.)

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