The Butter Battle Book (1989)
The Butter Battle Book (1989)

Genre: Fairy Tale and Short Running Time: 30 min.

Release Date: November 13th, 1989 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Ralph Bakshi Actors: Charles Durning, Chris Latta, Miriam Flynn, Clive Revill

 


 

T

he Zooks and the Yooks clash in fantastic form in Dr. Seuss’ “The Butter Battle Book,” a made-for-television animated short directed by Ralph Bakshi (after “Fritz the Cat” but before “Cool World”). It involves two towns divided by an enormous wall, which separates the Yooks, who spread butter on the top of their bread, from the “uncouth” Zooks, who eat their bread butter side down. The pervading theme of “never give up” is at times dwarfed by the search for bigger and better technology, as well as the humorous stubbornness of two communities that will undoubtedly never see eye to eye, but the morals are still easily discernible.

Wildly inventive and highly entertaining, “The Butter Battle Book” just might be the most faithful of all of Dr. Seuss’ animated adaptations, which all seem to serve as educational tools just as much as rhythmic, comic masterpieces. Making use of Escherian backgrounds and a thought-provoking cliffhanger conclusion, the highlight of the film is the many lines of completely made-up rhyming words and the Butter-Up Band’s song, which states that you should “believe in yourself and the bread that you butter.” Just like the Emmy-nominated, 1995 short “Daisy-Head Mayzie” (narrated by the Cat in the Hat and concerning a symbiotic daisy growing out of the head of blonde child Mayzie, who abandons friends and family for fame and fortune with a false-faced agent), the loss of sensibility in the face of an affront to a perceived (even if baseless) norm can lead to the abandonment of all decency.

Bob Clampett’s 1942 Merrie Melodies cartoon “Horton Hatches the Egg” (featuring a bird also coincidentally named Mayzie, who convinces the simple-minded Horton to sit on her egg while she goes on vacation) is yet another prime example of sound morals presented in a universally appealing manner. “An elephant’s faithful 100%,” explains Horton repeatedly, as he suffers through winter storms, the bullying of his jungle friends, and finally the humiliation of being captured by hunters and placed in a circus sideshow. It’s a return to the familiar character of Horton and further confirmation that Dr. Seuss’ works are wholly suitable for animated treatments.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10