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Western Animation / Sahara

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A 2017 French-Canadian animated film co-produced by StudioCanal and Mandarin Films and directed by Pierre Coré.

It revolves around a blue cobra named Ajar and his scorpion buddy Pitt. Constantly harassed and ridiculed by the other members of the Dusty clan, Ajar and Pitt soon learn that they have no one but each other to rely on.

While seeking out a more suitable place to call home, the dynamic duo get into quite a bit of trouble. They then find themselves on a rescue mission that takes them across the hot and hostile Sahara, a desert inhabited by friends, not to mention foes, of many shapes and sizes.

Not to be confused with the live-action film Sahara (2005), which also has a hero named Pitt.

Sahara provides examples of:

  • Acrophobic Bird: Inverted — secretary birds are capable of flying but unlike most birds of prey they spend almost all their time on the ground, which is why they have such long legs. They do not soar in the way they're depicted.
  • Affably Evil: The glow worms. While they do try to eat our heroes, they nonetheless are helpful, cheerful, polite, and give Ajar advice on how to navigate by stars.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Ajar is ridiculed by his fellow Dusties due to the fact that he has not shed his skin. They view him as a pathetic snake who is unable to mature into an adult and regularly make fun of him because of this.
  • Art Shift: Most of the film is in CG animation, but the Disney Acid Sequence when Eva is hypnotized by Omar's flute is rendered in 2D animation.
  • Artistic License Biology: Snakes in real life exhibit a wide variety of colors and patterns meant to act as camouflage or signal that they are venomous. The patterns displayed by the snakes in the film, however, are unlike anything found on actual serpents. The colors and patterns seen in the film are instead designed to give each character a unique appearance and reflect some aspect of their personality.
    • This is rather apparent in Saladin's case as his hood markings resemble a skull.
    • Eva's design, consisting of a row of ornate flowers, is reminiscent of the style of Mehndi body art, which is also known as henna[1].
    • Some stink about Ajar is kicked up because he hasn't "shed into his adult skin" yet. Snakes can and do molt from any time of the year, usually right after hatching.
    • All snakes in real life are obligate carnivores. They wouldn't eat any fruit like watermelon. Nor can snakes bite off chunks of food: they eat everything whole.
    • The snakes in the movie use their noses to smell, when real snakes use olfactory sensors on their tongues.
  • Big Bad: Omar, a Tuareg man who travels the desert and captures snakes he finds along the way. He owns a special flute that allows him to hypnotize the snakes and force them to dance, his twisted version of a tourist attraction. As a result, his victims live a life of imprisonment, servitude, and exploitation, though most believe it was their destiny. As if that wasn't sinister enough, when one snake loses a dance battle against another or becomes unable to perform, Omar kills said snake and uses its skin to make clothing items.
  • Because Destiny Says So: According to George, if a snake didn't choose the "artist's life", then surely it was because they were meant for it.
  • Berserk Button: Ajar gets furious when Gary starts to say some things about Pitt that he REALLY should have held back.
  • Broken Bird: Pietra was once an idealistic young snake who wanted to escape, but she's bitterly resigned herself to life as one of Omar's dancing snakes.
  • Bullet Seed: Saladin instructs his cronies, who are eating a large melon, to "give Ajar and Pitt their share." The four snakes gladly assault them with a barrage of seeds. Ajar and Pitt take cover inside the partially-buried rib cage of some dead animal until the barrage is over.
  • The Bully: The role played completely straight by Saladin. Essentially the ringleader of the Dusty clan, he never misses an opportunity to insult and belittle Ajar and Pitt, especially in front of the other Dusties.
  • Character Development: Towards the end, when a sand storm approaches, Gary spots an entire flower pot of pollen-rich flowers nearby. He's momentarily entranced by it, and strongly tempted to indulge in his G-rated fix, even with the life-threatening storm on the rise. But instead, he wills himself out of it, and soberly decides it's not important.
  • Climbing Climax: Justified. In the climax, Ajar steals Omar's flute, and Omar chases him down. Ajar jumps across buildings and keeps climbing to try and lose Omar, but Omar keeps chasing him relentlessly. The climax ends when they get to the top of the tallest building, where Omar gets blown away by a sandstorm.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Implied for Ajar, and straight-up confirmed for Pitt, whose parents were killed by Tuaregs when he was rather young and even Ajar finds it a surprise he made it out alive.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The protagonist, Ajar. He's a cobra with navy blue scales, but he's also a nice guy who falls in love with another friendly snake, Eva, and embarks on a dangerous journey to save her.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The first time Eva is hypnotized by Omar's flute, there is a surreal musical sequence with an Art Shift to 2D animation. The sequence contains images of Eva feeling trapped by Omar and his snakes, and wanting to return to Ajar, but being tempted by George.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • One of the twin snakes in the basket knows some 'techniques' for staying skinny, not too different from girls who engage in unhealthy weight loss.
    • When Eva is hypnotized by Omar's flute, a trippy and surreal dance scene unfolds, accompanied by eclectic music. During this colorful scene, a bunch of tiny snakes appear and converge on a glowing planet-like object, eventually penetrating its surface. It couldn't be more obvious that this is a modified representation of sperm swimming towards and fertilizing an egg.
    • After days without pollen, Gary suffers withdrawal and desperately tries to snort sand specks up his nose.
  • The Dragon: Subverted. Rita is the dance teacher for Omar's performing snakes. Between that and her slightly sinister appearance, you might think that Rita is working for Omar and is just as evil as him. We don't see enough interactions between Omar and Rita to be certain, but it seems like Rita genuinely believes she's doing a good thing by training the snakes to dance. When it becomes clear that snakes who fall out of Omar's favor get killed and turned into snakeskin clothing, which is hinted at when Rita worriedly asks Eva if she wants to be turned into a belt when she tries to escape the first time, it's clear that she also wants to prevent any other snakes from dying. When the snakes are scattered in the climax, Rita seems just as afraid of Omar as the other snakes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Ajar braved the harsh desert environment and was almost killed on two different occasions by secretary birds and predatory glow worms. Despite the many struggles he faced, his old, dull skin is removed thanks to Omar and his unique scale pattern is finally revealed. On top of that he wins Eva's heart via his selfless actions and the two snakes become a couple.
    • Ajar and Eva make their mutual feelings known by coiling around each other and forming a heart shape with their bodies.
  • Evil Wears Black: Omar, the villain, wears mostly black.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Dusties see the green snakes as nothing more than a bunch of greedy snobs who hog the resources of the oasis for themselves, while the green snakes look down upon the Dusties for being uncivilized "beggars, thieves, and liars who eat their own poop and marry their children".
  • Foreshadowing: In the cave with the glow worms, Gary asks them if they have pollen. In response, the glow worms just stare at him and drool. This tells us that the glow worms have ulterior motives for our heroes.
  • Freaky Electronic Music: The Disney Acid Sequence where Eva is hypnotized by the Big Bad, Omar, features electronic dance music accompanied by eerie, Arabian-style female vocals.
  • G-Rated Drug: Gary is seen inhaling flower pollen on more than one occasion, and the act of doing so sends him into a euphoric state.
  • Gag Nose: Both the tourists in the Jeep have rather big noses.
  • Gilded Cage: Eva resents her own home, the oasis, as a boring prison where all the other snakes look the same and do nothing all day every day except gloat about how well-off they are and how much better they are than other snakes. It doesn't help that the secretary birds keep the green snakes from ever leaving.
  • Hartman Hips: The female tourist has big and round hips.
  • Hellish Horse: Invoked. While there are no horses, the villain, Omar, rides the only black camel in the camelcade.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ajar suffers two. First when the group is separated from Pit. Second when he sees Eva with George and mistakes their platonic hug for a romantic one.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: invoked Parodied. Rita, who acts as a dance instructor/director for Omar's snakes, describes Eva as "a little on the chubby side." Eva is actually very slim, while Rita is the chubbiest snake in the movie. It's clearly meant to be in-character Hypocritical Humor rather than a genuine attempt by the writers to call Eva fat.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Rita calls Eva "a little on the chubby side," although Eva is very thin and Rita is much chubbier.
  • Idle Rich: Natacha and Michael, the parents of Eva and Gary, own a sizable plot of land in the beautiful Oasis. When they are first introduced they are seen curled up on flat rocks and snoozing peacefully. A heap of assorted fruit sits nearby for them to eat at their leisure. While talking to his daughter, Michael mentions another well-off family, the Spencers, who own a large south-facing stone. He goes on to say he "can't imagine what they paid for it."
    • When her father stresses how fortunate she is to be raised in the Oasis and that she has a bright future, she angrily replies: "What future? Sit around a stone all day playing dead like you?"
      • On the way to the village where Omar is keeping Eva, Ajar and Gary stop to rest at a well for the night. Gary says that Ajar is lucky to have a friend like Pitt. Ajar asks him why he's never had a friend. Gary then replies: "What? Of course I have friends. Tons! I mean do you know who my father is? You know..."
  • Instant Sedation: Whatever Pitt stings, be it human or animal, falls asleep in seconds and begins snoring. Amusingly, Pitt is similarly affected by his own venom.
  • Kiss of Life: Eva gives one to Ajar when he nearly drowns in the river.
  • Lean and Mean: The villain, Omar, is skinny as a skeleton.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The happy song the glow worms sing involves describing how much they will enjoy eating Ajar, Gary, and Pitt alive.
  • Magical Flutist: Omar's flute, allegedly created from the bones of a snake god, has the ability to control any snake within proximity of its music. Whether they want to stick around or not.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Secretary birds live in grasslands and savannah in sub-Sahara Africa. They don't live in the Sahara at all.
  • Motor Mouth: The little desert lizard can explain information really quickly.
  • One-Word Title: The Place title, as the setting is the titular desert.
  • Orphaned Etymology: Gary mentions things like pizza and Batman, even though he is a snake who has lived his life in a secluded oasis in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
  • Pet the Dog: Pietra has her moment when she not only sympathizes with Eva's wish to escape, but offers her an opportunity to escape.
  • The Place: The setting is the titular desert.
  • Rousing Speech: Gary gives one to Ajar about how far he's come on his quest to save Eva despite all his hardships when Ajar believes Eva loves someone else and nearly gives up.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Eva's hallucination while she dances to Omar's enchanted flute music has tons of this. It reflects how she feels confined by the green snakes' idle society, her fleeting encounter with Ajar, how she misses him, and how Omar exploits the captured snakes. And it doesn't get any more symbolic than George sitting in a tree, offering Eva an apple.
  • Scary Scorpions: Inverted. Not only is Pitt the scorpion one of the main protagonists, he's actually a Nervous Wreck - nobody's afraid of him, but he's afraid of everything outside of his home territory (and then some.)
  • Shown Their Work:
    • After capturing Ajar and Pitt, Chief-Chief instructs his scouts to kill them, and they begin whacking Ajar in the head with their feet. In real life, secretary birds repeatedly kick and stomp the heads of snakes they encounter to subdue them prior to eating them.
    • There also really does exist a species of glow worms that eat other living creatures (although their prey are usually on a smaller scale.)
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Averted, most of the snakes are decent characters. At worst, they are bullies. Ironically, the antagonist is not a snake, but a human.
  • Snake Talk: Averted, surprisingly. There are a few instances of actual hissing, but words containing the letter s are spoken normally.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Pietra may seem envious towards Eva and even hostile, but deep down, she's a Broken Bird who has resigned herself to being Omar's slave.
  • Tempting Fate: After Ajar steals a watermelon from a camelcade, Saladin appears with the intention of claiming it for himself. Ajar attempts to dissuade Saladin by curling around it and saying: "If you want this watermelon, it'll be over my dead body." Saladin proceeds to grab a nearby stone and subject Ajar to a good pounding, knocking him unconscious.
  • Toilet Humor: Our heroes unfortunately get a rather disgusting look at a human tourist taking a bathroom break. Thankfully the viewers only hear the pee hitting the ground.
  • Undying Loyalty: Ajar and Pitt have this for each other.
  • Wham Line: A relatively small one. While Eva and George practice a dance routine, the teacher remarks that she herself practiced that dance technique for 20 years before she mastered it. This is a wake up call for Eva, as she realizes the possibility of being stuck as Omar's prisoner for a lifetime.