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Western Animation / Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons
aka: La Ballade Des Dalton

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Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons (Lucky Luke: La ballade des Dalton in French) is the second animated film based off the Lucky Luke comic book series by Morris and Renι Goscinny after 1971's Daisy Town. The film was directed by the authors themselves and released in 1978 by Studios Idéfix, the same company that made The Twelve Tasks of Asterix with a script written by Goscinny himself (who did the best known Lucky Luke stories), which might explain why the plot is kind of similar. Studios Idéfix was closed down in April 1978 after the passing of Goscinny in late 1977.

The Dalton brothers are informed that their uncle Henry Dalton has died. They will inherit his fortune if they murder the judge and all the jury members that sentenced him to the gallows. To make sure that they fulfill this, they will be accompanied by Lucky Luke, seeing that he is the only honest man that Henry Dalton has ever known. Shall they fail their mission, all the money will go to charity.

    The people the Daltons have to kill are (in order of appearance): 
1. Ming Li Foo – A Chinese laundryman. Luke motivates the Daltons to wash their clothes first. While they are in the nude, Ming Li Foo flees out of the store. Since they are naked they ask Luke to chase Ming for them. After a martial arts fight sequence, Luke is able to get Ming to fake his own death before the Daltons are back.

2. Thadeus Collins – A jail warden, whose entire prison population tunneled out to freedom. The Daltons tunnel into the prison and blow it up, not knowing that the warden has already left using one of the tunnels.

3. Snake Feather – A Native American witch doctor. He gives the Daltons water that, unbeknownst, he mixed with mushroom powder, causing them to hallucinate a bizarre dream sequence. When they awake, Luke informs them that they have already killed him.

4. Dr. Aldous Smith – A traveling quack doctor whom the Daltons force to drink what they think is poison. It's just the cactus alcohol he's fond off, and he's faking it.

5. Tom O'Connor – An old timer who supposedly disappeared into his gold mine. Luke meets him beforehand and explains the situation. The Daltons search from him in a mine-cart leading to a chase scene that resembles a rollercoaster ride. When they find the old timer, he acts like a ghost and convinces them that he has been dead for some time.

6. Sam Game – A former gambler who saw the light and became a clergyman (even though he still uses and references gambling terms in his sermons). He is killed in a game of Russian roulette, which, of course, turns out to be faked.

7. Bud Bugman – A train driver. The Daltons try to kill him by derailing the train he is riding on to a different direction. Bugman hides in the tender car while his assistant tells the Daltons that he was killed and the body fell off the train during the derailing.

8. Mathias Bones – An undertaker, accompanied by a vulture. The Daltons ambush him by shooting him dead from his carriage (they actually shoot a dummy).

9. Judge Grudy – The judge. The Daltons plan to kill him at the party he holds after a rodeo, but Luke uses a fake newspaper to fool them.

The film got two album adaptations in the comics series, one in 1978 as tie-in in the form of a picture book with stills from the film, and one in comic book form proper in 1986, Ballad of the Daltons & Other Stories.

The next animated Lucky Luke entry, the 1983 series, went for a straight adaptation of the Goscinny comics.

Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons provides examples of:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: Rantanplan flees before a derailed train for a quite lengthy sequence. He could have easily swerved at any time, but of course he's too stupid to ever think of that.
  • All Chinese People Know Kung-Fu: Ming Li-Foo.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • Inheritance conditions mandating murder or any other illegal or immoral acts are utterly void and null as offending law or public policy.
    • The victim of a crime or attempted crime cannot serve as judge or jury for a trial about said crime.
    • Juries for capital felonies generally have twelve jurors, not eight. (This is understandable from a Doylist perspective — thirteen targets instead of nine would have added at least another half an hour to the movie.)
  • Asian Buck Teeth: Ming Li-Foo has huge front teeth.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Ming Li-Foo.
  • Back from the Dead: The Daltons assume they have killed all the people on their list, but all of them are in fact still alive.
  • Ballad of X: "Ballad of the Daltons".
  • Ballistic Discount: A gun salesman gives a pair of loaded guns to each one of the Dalton Brothers before collecting and they, of course, don't pay.
  • Bar Brawl: Lucky Luke teaches Rantanplan to pick up dropped cards. Later on, he does this in a bar, revealing that one of the people present was cheating at poker, which starts a fight.
  • The Bard: Bill, the banjo player and singer who tells the whole story in a saloon.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Even if we ignore the age rating, this was likely done to keep the Faking the Dead scenes simple. The Daltons are always fooled when people who were supposedly shot have no signs of such injury. Sam Game in particular still manages to fool the brothers despite having no wounds after pretending to shoot himself in the head in front of them.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • The Daltons poke their tongues out at the viewers when the narrator explains how evil they are.
    • While in the desert, Rantanplan assumes the Daltons stole the scenery.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: The Daltons' dream sequence has a direct shout-out to the famous diving scene.
  • Butt-Monkey: Tobias Wills. No matter what he's trying to sell, it's always something the Daltons need to steal.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: The derailed train of Bud Bugman passes through a Native American village, and the vibrations cause all the tepees to collapse. The Daltons, chasing after the train on horse, arrive at the village and Joe asks the Natives if they've seen the train. Averell, of course, makes the dumb mistake of saying the train is "theirs" (the Daltons'). Cut to the Daltons fleeing on their horses, with a Rain of Arrows shot at them.
  • Chinese Launderer: Ming Li-Foo owns a laundry. A very thirsty Averell is dumb enough to think it's a restaurant and empties a basket of water mixed with washing powder in seconds (granted, he can't read Chinese but he surely saw the piles of clothes).
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Dr. Aldous Smith is a caricature of W. C. Fields.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Tobias Wills keeps trying to sell something that the Daltons need, and keeps running into the Daltons shortly after they realize that they need it.
  • Crossing the Desert: The Daltons have to cross a very hot desert in order to find a Native American.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: After the Daltons learn that they've been had and all their targets are still alive, Lucky Luke takes them all down so quickly that it's obvious he could have recaptured them and shipped them back to prison at any time, from the moment he said he agreed to the plan and was given his gun back. He was probably just playing along with their scheme so that they could be seen to have failed and get the money sent to the orphanage.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The Daltons are given magic mushrooms by a Native American and thus have a wonderful dream sequence where they imagine themselves to be Hollywood musical stars.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title alludes to the Framing Device of the narrator singing a ballad about the Dalton brothers, but in French its homophone "Balade" means "taking a stroll", which is more or less what the Daltons are doing — taking a stroll out of jail before being dragged back.
  • Due to the Dead: The prison staff give Rantanplan a eulogy after he's presumed dead with the Daltons after they accidentally blow up the gunpowder storage shack during their escape attempt. They speak of the dog as if he'd been smarter than he actually is.
  • Enemy Mine: Lucky Luke spends most of the movie working together with the Daltons, who secretly plan to dispose of him as soon as he gives his testimony, unaware that he's the one playing them for chumps.
  • Everybody Lives: For a film where many characters apparently get murdered or commit suicide, there's only one real death and it happens off-screen before the story got started: the Daltons' uncle.
  • Exact Words: When the Daltons and Lucky Luke go to the lawyer's office so Luke can give the required testimony regarding the condition they had to fulfill to inherit Henry Dalton's fortune, Luke says everything went as planned. He just didn't say whose plans he's talking about.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: A kid sells to the Daltons the extra edition of the newspaper announcing the murder of Judge Grudy by one "Averell Smith". Of course, the newspaper is a fake dictated by Lucky Luke, and the kid winks at him.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Thadeus Collins somehow managed to miss one of the prisoners successfully digging an escape tunnel out of his own office.
  • Faking the Dead: Lucky Luke helps all the Daltons' victims to fake their own death in order to have them escape.
  • Framing Device: The film starts in a saloon with a singer and banjo player who narrates the story with his song for the whole movie.
  • The Gambling Addict: Sam Game, a former gambler who became a clergyman, but still references gambling terms in his sermons, and runs a crooked bingo game during the service.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Tom O'Connor the gold digger.
  • Hats Off to the Dead: The prison warden takes off his sleeping bonnet when giving his eulogy to Rantanplan.
  • Inheritance Murder: Henry Dalton's nephews will inherit his fortune if they kill the judge and the jury who sentenced him to death by hanging.
  • Interrupted Bath: When the Daltons reach Snake Feather's tepee and order him out, they hear him complains that he's his bath... in the middle of a Thirsty Desert with no water for miles. He comes out wearing a towel. The shaman can apparently do the Rain Dance whenever he needs it, so water isn't a problem for him.
  • Lawful Stupid: From what little we see of the lawyer in charge of executing Henry Dalton's will, he is perfectly okay with a man ordering nine assassinations from beyond the grave because it was written on a will and only hands the money to Lucky Luke in the end because the Daltons couldn't perform the will's conditions.
  • Lazy Mexican: A running Rantanplan and the derailed train of Bud Bugman behind him pass through a Mexican-style village with two Mexicans with big hats named Juan and Pepe having a nap against a wall (a recurring imagery in the comics). Juan lifts his hat a bit and tells Pepe about "the dog running like crazy". Pepe asks why he runs like crazy, Juan tells him it would be "too long to explain" and they go back to napping. They don't even bring up the train that just passed in front of them.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Luke's own "I'm a Poor Lonesome Cowboy" is briefly reprised instrumentally when the film opens.
    • The movie itself has the eponymous "Ballad of the Dalton" regularly sung by Bill.
    • Rantanplan has his own leitmotif as well.
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: The Daltons are serving a 4200-years hard labor sentence.
  • Magical Native American: Snake Feather, who has magic mushrooms and apparently has a mushroom cellar below his tepee.
  • Matchlight Danger Revelation: The Daltons dig a tunnel to escape and end up in the dynamite storage building, where they unbeknownst strike a match. They do it again while looking for the dropped fuse when trying to blow up Collins' prison.
  • Mushroom Samba: A Native American gives the Daltons peyote/magic mushrooms, causing them to all have a dream sequence.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The Daltons strip naked while waiting for their clothes to be washed.
  • Narrator: Introduced as a singer in a saloon in the opening, the narrator then sings "The Ballad of the Daltons" as a voice-over throughout the movie, introducing key elements with his lyrics.
  • National Stereotypes:
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: For all the Stuff Blowing Up in this film, nobody dies.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: The bartender giving the Daltons the whereabouts of Sam Game never stops cleaning the same glass.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: When Lucky Luke is asked to witness the Daltons fulfilling the condition required to inherit their Uncle's money, he's told he'll be killed if he refuses. And since they are not the best at negotiations they somehow think that offering him a share (a setup of course) is going to be the deciding factor.
  • On One Condition: The will of Henry Dalton has the condition that his nephews must avenge his death and kill the people who sentenced him to hang before they can have his money.
  • Our Founder: At the end, a statue of the late Henry Dalton is seen next to the orphanage that was built thanks to his money. More specifically, it's a statue of Henry Dalton on a horse and about to be hanged.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Lucky Luke could have taken the Daltons down the moment he got his gun back, but plays along with their scheme so that Henry Dalton's estate would end up going to the orphanage. Plus he is having fun.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Right before the Mushroom Samba kicks in, Joe calls Snake Feather "face de terre cuite" ("terracotta face"), a slur for Native Americans.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Both Exaggerated and Averted. Exaggerated in that the Daltons are fooled by Sam Game pretending to shoot himself in the head in front of them, despite clearly not having suffered any kind of injury. Averted in that the man didn't actually use bullets.
  • Rage Against the Legal System: Henry Dalton wants his nephews to kill the judge and the jury who convicted him.
  • Rollercoaster Mine: The Daltons try to find an old timer by climbing into a mine-cart and have a rollercoaster ride. Also note that this is six years before Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) made it a trope!
  • Running Gag: The Daltons meet Tobias Wills every time they need something he's selling. After the Ballistic Discount they get from their first meeting, he runs away from them in fear every subsequent time, allowing them to get free horses, clothes, dynamite and shovels.
  • Russian Roulette: Sam Game chooses to play this game. Every chamber is loaded with blanks.
  • Scarecrow Solution: One of the many tricks utilized by Lucky Luke to save one of the Daltons' targets is having the miner make use of the atmosphere of his dark, gloomy mine to disguise himself as his own ghost.
  • Sound-Only Death : At the beginning at the saloon, one customer complains about there being no female dancers on the stage, just Bill who's about to sing the eponymous "Ballad of the Daltons" and play his banjo. That complaining quickly gets cut short by a gunshot and the ensuing sound of that customer falling on the ground.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: The fourth victim seems to be one of these, "diagnosing" the Daltons with a multitude of illnesses and praising his elixir as the cure they need.
  • Spoofing in the Rain: During the Daltons' dream, they have a sing-and-dance routine where they spoof Singin' in the Rain, while wearing raincoats and dancing in the rain.
  • Stock Sound Effects: At the end, when Joe tries to escape, he ends up on Jolly Jumper's back and get knocked off the horse by a tree branch. The sound he makes as he hits the branch is the same sound the Greek sprinter made when crashing head first in a tree in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (by the same studio).
  • Suicide as Comedy: Sam Game deciding to play a game of Russian roulette. Though of course it's loaded with blanks.
  • Talking Animal: Compared to the previous Lucky Luke movie Daisy Town, Jolly Jumper and Rantanplan are now talking animals, though they only talk to other animals or the audience.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Unbeknownst to the Daltons, Snake Feather put hallucinogen mushroom powder in the water he gave them, causing them to sleep and dream the Busby Berkeley Number sequence.
  • That Poor Cat: During the Daltons' initial encounter with Luke, he's holding Rantanplan and has to drop him to raise his arms, with the appropriate cry of panic from the dog.
  • Thirsty Desert: The Daltons cross one, called "The Desert of Thirst", which is also a Sea of Sand.
  • Track Trouble: One of the people who the Dalton brothers are trying to kill is a train driver, and they decide to accomplish it by derailing his train.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: The Daltons are physically identical apart from their height. The late Henry Dalton also had the same face, except his hair was white.
  • Undertaker: Mathias Bones is the typical caricature found in the comics, with green skin, a vulture pet, and ready to take the measurement of any newcomer in town.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: The Daltons will receive Uncle Henry's fortune On One Condition: that they murder the jury and judge who sentenced him to death by hanging. If they fail, the fortune will go to charity.
  • Villain Protagonist: As the title implies, this is very much the Daltons' movie, and the story is largely told from their point of view.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Inverted. Thadeus Collins was actually too nice to his prisoners, causing them to leave his jail.
  • Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?: Said by Averell when his brothers decide he'll be the one to participate in the rodeo, after they see the mustangs demolishing every cowboy trying to ride them.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Daltons plan to kill Lucky Luke once they no longer need him to collect Henry Dalton's estate.

Alternative Title(s): La Ballade Des Dalton