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Animation / The Elm-Chanted Forest

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The Elm-Chanted Forest is a Yugoslavian/U.S. joint-produced animated film from the 1980s. In fact, it was the first feature-length animated film produced in what is now Croatia. And it proves that the Croatians can weird it up with the best of them. It is also known as Fantasy Forest, but the pun is more distinctive.

The enchanted forest is protected at all times by the great and mighty enchanted elm tree that watches over it. But the nefarious Emperor Spine, the King Cactus, watches it from afar, and he wants to turn it into a desert land that he can rule. As it happens, an exceedingly mild-mannered painter named Peter wanders into the forest from a nearby village to paint the elm tree. When he falls asleep under it, the elm tree grants him a passel of magical powers with which to protect the forest: the ability to talk to animals and a magical paintbrush. At first Peter is content to simply hang out with the local wildlife, but soon the Cactus King bears down on him and his friends. (The bear almost does, but he's more of a good guy.) Soon Peter is teaming up with animals, spirits, and even a beleaguered wizard named Thistle to stop the Cactus King, enchanted upheaval and... literally magic mushrooms!? Hey. we warned you it was weird!

It managed to spawn a sequel, The Magic Hat, but that one never really made it overseas. It starred Thistle the wizard.

This work contains examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: The Fire Spirit, contrary to popular belief. He lives deep within the earth, and is happy keeping to himself. He has to be tricked by Emperor Spine into setting his flames free.
  • Adipose Rex: Nepton the Sea King; probably because he sleeps in all day. Emperor Spine, too, but then again, many types of cactus are that round...
  • An Ice Person: In the sequel, Mrazomor. Not only does he appear to be made of ice himself, but he also has the power to freeze anything, up to and including living creatures and the sun itself.
  • Arch-Nemesis: From the sequel, Ferdinand the dragon is this to Czar Mrazomor, as the former mentions they confronted each other in the distant past. Just hearing Sunchica mention Mrazomor prompts Ferdinand to answer her plea for help and aid the heroes.
  • Art Initiates Life: The Enchanted Elm gives Peter a magical paintbrush that can paint living pictures.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Thistle reasons that the reason the Cactus King is so mean is that he has never blossomed before, and is thus unfulfilled. However, when he finally does blossom, the flowers come out of his spines. Cacti flower from specially grown stalks off their bodies, not their spikes! Not that biology has a lot to with ancient spirits.
  • Bad Boss: Cactus King keeps mistreating and threatening Thistle, which prompts the latter to pull a Heel–Face Turn.
    • In the sequel, Czar Mrazomor chastises Pero the scribe for criticizing Vukohod's and Shizo's brown-nosing tendencies, and allows the latter two to kick the scribe off the ship. Although they're not spared from the bad treatment either, being frozen and thrown off the ship merely for bringing him some bad news later on. Only ones he seems to treat with genuine affection are his Icicle Witches.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Thistle tries to get a football-playing bear to tackle Peter. However, neither the bear nor Thistle really is that bad.
  • Berserk Button: Do NOT mention beavers in front of the Cactus King.
  • Big Bad: The Cactus King who is the spirit/god of earth and the plants that grow in it and Czar Mrazomor who appears to be the spirit/god of cold itself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Cactus King is reformed, and the forest is saved... but the powers Peter received from the elm tree have worn off, and he must go back to his village, as he can no longer understand his new animal friends.
    • This also happens in the sequel. While Mrazomor is defeated, the fairy queen Sunchica's love for Thistle causes her to lose her powers and title, though the Dwarf King tells her that she and Thistle should continue to protect the forest.
  • Blackface-Style Caricature: The mushroom Michael J. and his back-up dancers.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Peter, Emperor Spine, Fifi, Baron Burr, Firebug, the female beaver J. Edgar Beaver falls in love with, and the mushrooms are nowhere to be seen in the sequel.
    • Justified for Peter, since the powers he inherited from the elm tree were limited and one-time use only, so he could no longer communicate with the forest's denizens.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Emperor Spine is a goofy and loud mouthed tyrant who relies on technology and is associated with dry heat, Czar Mrazomor is a much more serious and restrained overlord who uses magic (although some of it is like magitech, see below example) and is associated with bitter coldness. Also the former finds redemption whilst the latter does not.
  • Cool Ship: Mrazomor's flagship, which looks like a cross between a battleship and a glacier. Right above his throne, there are three menacing looking heads which fire freezing bolts in all directions, covering everything in ice.
  • Cool Sword: Thistle's Sword of Salvation from the sequel. It's a golden, shining sword that can destroy Icicle Witches in a single blow, deflect their magic like it's nothing, and Thistle gains several levels of badassery and confidence upon receiving it.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Fifi, of course.
  • Dance Party Ending
  • Disney 'Shrooms Sequence: The "Truffle Shuffle" done by the mushroom tribe. They must be inhaling their own spores all the time!
  • Disney Death: In the sequel, Thistle is frozen after defeating Mrazomor, but is thawed out by the fairy queen Sunchica's tears.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In the sequel, Czar Mrazomor is very fond of his Icicle Witches.
  • Evil Overlord: Both movies' villains; the Cactus King and Czar Mrazomor.
  • Feeling Their Age: Powerful as he is, Ferdinand the dragon has still grown very old since he last fought Mrazomor. He visibly grows weary and tired while extinguishing the clouds Mrazomor used to blot out the sun, and eventually collapses and falls asleep, left at the mercy of Icicle Witches that begin surrounding him. Fortunately, Thistle arrives at the last moment to ward them off.
  • Forbidden Love: In the sequel, Sunchica's friend Kiki warns her that she'd lose her royal status and powers if she ever falls in love with someone. By the end of the film, she falls in love with Thistle and helps bring him back to life, causing her to lose her fairy powers and remain permanently at size of a regular human. However, she decides that it's best that way since she can stay with her loved one.
  • Four-Element Ensemble: The four kings/spirits present in the movie each roughly represent one of the classical elements: The River King represents water, the Fire Spirit fire, and Baron Burr is Wind. Depending on how you look at it, either Emperor Spine or Mr.Truffle could represent Earth.
  • Gratuitous French: Fifi the fox. Even her Leitmotif sounds French!
  • Greek Chorus: Baron Burr acts as both a character in the film as well as a general commentator on the story.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Thistle does one rather early in the film. Early enough that it's not really a spoiler. It is, however, a spoiler that the Cactus King does one, too.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Cactus King constantly uses some very sharp words to make a point.
  • Idiot Hero: Peter slips into this. Early on, the animals go to more lengths than they should need to to keep him from walking into the Cactus King's lair — just because the king offered Peter lunch.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Cactus King tries to persuade the great fire spirit to set the forest on fire. The Fire Spirit is actually very peaceful, and doesn't want to burn the forest. But he does accidentally, anyway.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The sequel gives us an ice wizard named Mrazomor, who desired to freeze all life to death by freezing the sun.
  • Large Ham: Baron Burr. "IF you listen VERY CAREFULLY, the WIND will SPEAK TO YOU!"
  • Leitmotif: Both Peter and Thistle have them.
  • Lovable Jock: Bud E. Bear, who's always friendly and helpful, and relates everything back to football.
  • Lip Lock: Parts of the animation are sped up in the English dub to match the new dialogue.
  • Magitek: How Czar Mrazomor's flagship from the sequel appears to function. Above his throne there are several ice monsters that fire freezing bolts, and next to his throne there's a surveillance system with various monitors and buttons which he uses to check up on the progress of his forces freezing the world.
  • Male Gaze: A close-up shot of Fifi Fox's behind is given when the protagonists distract the guards to get into the Cactus King's castle and at the end when the animals celebrate the Cactus King's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Mind Screw: The plots of both films go in some unusual directions and contain a lot of surreal imagery.
  • Mushroom Samba: There is a literal one, the "Truffle Shuffle"/"Mushroom Power", about how awesome it is to be a mushroom. At the end of the routine, they all suddenly grow fangs. It's loosely implied that this is because of something they gave Peter to turn him into a mushroom himself.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Cactus King." Sounds real friendly, doesn't he?
    • How about Czar Mrazomor? In Croatian it literally means "Frostkill".
  • No Indoor Voice: Baron Burr can't speak at anything below a shout.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Mrazomor prefers to sit on his ship and let his minions do all the work. He only gets personally involved at the very end, when Thistle boards his ship and challenges him.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted for Thistle. It isn't often you see a thin dwarf with a penchant for magic.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: As Baron Burr happily demonstrates.
  • Punny Name: Most of them. Bud E. Bear is probably the most blatant.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: What the Cactus King becomes in the end. Also the Dwarf King in the sequel.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Thistle.
  • Show Some Leg: Well, if one of the assets to your evil-fighting team is a sexy French fox, you might as well.
  • Something Else Also Rises: J. Edgar Beaver's whiskers do this when he encounters the female beaver. Yes, really.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Peter gains the power to talk to animals.
  • Sssssnaketalk: Firebug ssspeaksss like thisss.
  • Spikes of Doom: The name "Emperor Spine" really kind of says it all.
  • Swiss-Army Tears: See Disney Death above.
  • Tagalong Kid: The three hedgehogs.
  • Taking You with Me: Mrazomor attempts this on Thistle, freezing him after the latter fatally stabs him with the sword. It doesn't stick for long, due to Sunchica reviving Thistle with Power of Love.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: When Thistle initially goes to the bear for help, said Bear tells him to relax a bit, then abruptly leads a song about the importance of relaxing with friends.
  • The '80s: The arrangement of "Mushroom Power" leaves absolutely no doubt as to the decade in which this film was made. Plus, some of the mushrooms (including Michael J.) are shown breakdancing during the song.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: How Thistle kills Mrazomor, hitting him squarely in the chest.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Thistle upon receiving the Sword of Salvation. He becomes more confident in confronting the Icicle Witches and taking on Czar Mrazomor, cutting down the former en masse and killing the latter with a well aimed throw.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: This is as much Thistle's story as it is Peter's.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Peter takes it quite in stride when he finds out he can paint living pictures and talk to animals.
  • Villain Song: "Mushroom Power", which is sung by Michael Mushroom while Peter Palette is held prisoner by the mushroom people with the intent of turning him into a mushroom.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: The sequel has one for Mrazomor and his Icicle Witches.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The mushrooms.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Spine-Roller, a gargantuan machine capable of razing the entire forest.
  • Wise Tree: The Magical Oak is a non-speaking example. While it cannot directly interact with other characters, it is a source of great power that aids the heroes; in the first film it (temporarily) grants the painter an ability to speak to forest critters, and in the sequel it is capable of indefinitely holding off Mrazomor's ice powers that have frozen the rest of the forest, and as such provides a handful of critters with a barrier against Icicle Witches.
  • You Have Failed Me: When his wolf minions inform him that Thistle is leading a revolt to end the deadly winter in the sequel, Mrazomor responds by freezing them and shoving them into the water.