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Western Animation / The Magic Voyage

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You remember that part in history class when these guys helped Christopher Columbus out in his travels...right?

A long time ago, people thought the world was flat, and if you sailed uncharted waters, you might just fall over the edge into space. Now this may seem strange to us now, but in those days, no one knew what lay over the far horizon. But with pirates and hurricanes and sea monsters to contend with, it was a very dangerous voyage. But in 1492, there appeared an Italian navigator, a man with a revolutionary idea: He thought the world was... square. And his name was... Christopher Columbus.
The opening narration for the movie's English dub

The Magic Voyage (originally Die Abenteuer von Pico und Columbus or "The Adventures of Pico and Columbus") is a 1992 animated feature from Germany that is... loosely based off the voyages of Christopher Columbus. You know, the sailor who wanted to prove the world was round — not find an easier trade route from Europe to Asia, which is surely a far harder concept for children to grasp.

Columbus also wished to help his best friend, a talking woodworm, rescue his girlfriend. His girlfriend is a Fairy Princess from a lushly-vegetated Magical Land on the moon, and she was stolen away by an evil swarm of bugs. The Swarm brought her to the new world, where Columbus and the woodworm, aided by a talking beaver named Bob and two rats, finally find her held captive in an Aztec-looking pyramid full of gold and honey. Fervently searching for gold, Columbus accidentally crushes the Swarm, and the native people celebrate his ridding their home of the terrible evil by giving him the pyramid's golden idol (which is, as a native reveals beyond Columbus' earshot, only plated). Columbus and his bug friend sail back home with visions of big cities and shopping malls dancing in their heads.

Surely, you remember all of this from your grade-school history lessons?

Basically, this is the movie that makes Titanic: The Legend Goes On look perfectly reasonable in comparison.

The Magic Voyage provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Averted with Queen Isabella. Characters in typical animation would be frightened to have that woman pursuing them. Christopher Columbus, however, even when he ISN'T drunk, seems to enjoy it quite a bit.
  • Accordion to Most Sailors: Columbus entertains his mutinous crew of sailors by playing the concertina while singing "The Life of the Sea".
  • Amusing Injuries: Happens to the seagull that tries to eat Pico, as he nearly succeeds twice only for the woodworm to drill his way to freedom both times. Notably, the holes in the gull’s beak don’t just disappear off-screen, he’s stuck with them for the rest of the film.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Particularly when Columbus is in the jungle - "I need to start going to the gym!" Or (hearing a tribal beat) "That's going to hit over big someday."
    • Another example is when Pico fights the rats he says "I learned this move from watching Woody Woodpecker cartoons."
    • Columbus's dream sequence has him pulling out a telescope, which would not be invented for over a century.
    • Columbus also uses a concertina to play a song, which would not take until 1829 to be invented.
  • Animation Bump: In several spots, going from Limited Animation to rather fluid animation and visa versa during the same scene.
    • The climax within the Swarm's pyramid is consistently animated in a noticeably more fluid and three-dimensional style than much of the film's remainder, with conspicuously sharper comic timing and more consistent facial structures on characters such as Columbus and Bob the Beaver (although the former's is more visible due to his corresponding descent into gold-fuelled raving). Given the visual similarities of these scenes to several Amblimation films of the period, they may be attributable to notable animator Phil Nibbelink.
  • Anti-Hero: All over the place, though it's strictly Played for Laughs. Colombus, while a very nice person, is motivated by lust and greed, the sea gull wants to eat Pico, and the rats are only interested in the cheese and only change their mind at the last second (the brown one at least).
  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: "You stole our idol! Destroyed our sacred temple! And... made squishy with the Swarm Lord... How can we ever thank you?"
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • A shark roars like a mountain lion at one point.
    • The Swarm Lord looks to be made up of locusts but lives in a giant honeycomb inside of the Aztec temple.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Possibly in many ways, but lampshaded in the case of Bob the Beaver: "What's a beaver like you doing on a tropical island?" In a strange double subversion, beavers were native to where New York City is today, but the film thinks that New York City is a tropical island!
  • Artistic License – History: If the page description hasn't tipped you off, this film resembles Columbus' historic voyage as much as The Road to El Dorado resembles Hernan Cortez's campaign to the new world.
    • Of course, there was no hive mind of insects terrorizing the Native Americans for Columbus et al. to save, and their real relationship was far more strained.
    • In the film, Pico tells Columbus the world is round, and he sets out on his voyage to prove this. In reality, no one really thought the Earth was flat at this point. The Greeks figured it out ages ago. The journey to India was to establish a trade route. Columbus incorrectly thought the Earth was significantly smaller than it was, which was what he was going to prove with the voyage.
    • Columbus is depicted as landing in what is now modern day New York, something that in real life wasn't discovered by Europeans for another 32 years, almost two decades after his death. The real Columbus never even made it to the North American mainland, let alone anywhere near New York. The first landing was in the Bahamas.
  • Award-Bait Song: Heaven Is by Al Jarreau, which appears in the credits.
  • Blood Knight: While it’s overshadowed by his usual overconfidence, Columbus’ audacity in challenging The Swarm Lord causes the latter to admit this is the most he’s had in ages until he’s realizes he’s’ been tricked.
  • Bold Explorer: The heavily fictionalized Columbus himself, of course.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    Pico: This is stupid... this is fun... this is stupid... this is stupid fun...
  • Clothing Damage: Columbus' clothes become increasingly more destroyed as the film goes on, to the point that he's reduced to just his boxer shorts. He even ends up having his naked bottom exposed twice.
  • Crunchtastic: During the Friendship Song "A Fellow Like You", a woman selling pies says that life isn't always "applepieful".
  • Damsel in Distress: Marilyn is kidnapped by the Swarm Lord and held prisoner in his temple in America.
  • Death Is Cheap: At least for moon fairies. Just a touch of sunlight on them counteracts the effect of drowning.
  • Depending on the Artist: Animation errors are a relatively frequent occurrence throughout the film, presumably due to fluctuations in budget and animator ability. The majority of the scenes set within Ferdinand and Isabella's palace in particular suffer from inconsistent character construction unfortunately accentuated further by imprecise timing.
  • Deranged Animation: And how. The film constantly seems to flip between decent quality, Disney-esque animation, and at other times being much rougher; almost reminiscent of a cheap Saturday morning cartoon. The content of the film itself contains a Big Bad that’s constantly form-altering swarm with a singular conscious that can’t stay in one form for more than a few seconds at time, Columbus’ vivid Freudian dream of him summoning a telescope from a suggestive area while escaping the King in the form of a purple horned monster, and the “The Life of the Sea” that depicts the sailors as Vikings, Romans, and sailors that get eaten by a sea monsters illustrated by Columbus’ lyrics. And Columbus gaining interchanging red and white spirals to showcase his avarice based madness.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Pico and Columbus's dream sequences and Columbus’ very surreal and vivid descriptions of various sailors throughout history in distinct styles during his song “The Life of the Sea”.
  • Disney Death: Marilyn apparently drowns in a river and Pico finds her lifeless body, but she's revived as soon as the sun rises... but isn't she a Moon Fairy?
  • Double Entendre: It starts with the dinner scene when Queen Isabella and Columbus get drunk and start flirting with one another ("There's a lot of exploring to do right here!"), moves on to some sailors asking why Columbus is talking to "his little worm", and goes further and further downhill from there.
  • Evil Chancellor: Subverted, see What Happened to the Mouse? below.
  • Fairy Sexy: Marilyn wears a small, revealing green dress similar to Tinker Bell's.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Only just subverted for Marilyn. After falling into the river, she drowns on-screen and in surprisingly graphic detail; and after her body is found by Pico, she is only revived thanks to The Power of the Sun.
  • Fan Disservice: Columbus's naked rear is shown twice near the end of the movie.
  • Gold Fever: Columbus descends outright into this during the film's third act, metamorphosing from a relatively-subdued explorer motivated chiefly by both a desire to verify the globe's rotundity and to aid Pico's rescue of Marilyn into a comically-acquisitive Large Ham blundering through the American rainforest in his underwear in fervent search of the metal, rendering his contributions to the film's climax mostly unintentional.
  • Hive Mind: The entire Swarm acts like a single entity controlled by the Swarm Lord.
  • Hong Kong Dub: The English voice-actors don't even try to match the Mouth Flaps, so most of the time the characters will say a bunch of lines without moving their mouths.
  • Incorrect Animal Noise: The shark who sounds just like a mountain lion is just icing on the cake.
  • Informed Attribute: Despite Pico's climactic declaration of friendship for Columbus, the duo directly interact (or even appear onscreen together) comparatively infrequently after the film's first 15 minutes.
  • Informed Species:
    • Pico looks next-to nothing like a woodworm, and is more of a Cartoon Creature that looks far closer to a brown snowman in a sleeveless jacket. Discussed:
    Marilyn: I've never seen an insect like you before.
    Pico: That's not surprising.
    • The English VHS and DVD covers describe Marilyn as a firefly. But apart from her antennae and her butterfly wings, she doesn't look like any kind of insect, but like a sexy humanoid fairy. She doesn't call herself a firefly either, but introduces herself as "Princess of the Kingdom of Moon Sprites," and unlike fireflies or any other earthly insect, she can be brought back from the dead by sunlight.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Columbus speaks with a ridiculously exaggerated, Mario-like Italian falsetto, just to remind the viewer that he's from Italy.
  • Large Ham: Columbus, while an increasingly comical figure earlier in the film, descends into this outright during its final act, in which his narrative function is primarily reduced to bumbling through whatever location the other protagonists happen to be wandering through while raving near-continuously about gold in his trademark exaggerated accent:
    Columbus: (after falling through the walls of a pyramid) This-a little piggy went to...THE GOOOLD.
  • Last Grasp at Life: As Marilyn is drowning, her hand reaches up from the water and Pico tries to grab it and save her, but he just misses as it vanishes. Fortunately, in the end she doesn't stay drowned.
  • Literal Bookworm: Pico is a woodworm, but he also functions as this. As much as he eats wood, he also eats books, hence his surprising knowledgeability. He meets Christopher Columbus when the latter wants to propose that the world is a cube rather than flat, at which point Pico jumps in to correct him that the world is an orb. It is the start of a beautiful friendship between the two, at least allegedly.
  • Loves Me Not: Pico does this in a Dream Sequence of his.
  • Mayincatec: The Aztec temple with a gold idol on what turns out to be Manhattan Island.
  • Mind Screw: Barring the whole movie, Columbus running around the jungle in his underwear is a little bit mind-boggling.
    • His dream sequence is both a Mind Screw and deeply uncomfortable to watch.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: There is a beaver on a tropical island. You know, the famous tropical island of New York. So... misplaced wildlife living in misplaced geography.
  • The Napoleon: Ferdinand is drawn to be one of the shortest characters in the movie and he has a violent temper. For the first part of the movie, he’s conveyed as being unpleasant towards any man that comes to him with a revolutionary idea and either throws them out or forces them to demonstrate their invention even if he’s told it’s not ready yet. He also seems to be unusually resentful towards Columbus and his hatred of Columbus seems to cement when Isabella flirts with Columbus.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. The king will try to open his mouth, and his wife's response is "Shut up.".
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: Columbus, after a rough landing on the Americas: "I, whoever I am, claim this land in the name of... What's-her-name.".
  • Perpetually Protean: The Swarm Lord. Due to being a swarm with a singular consciousness, he’s in a different form every few seconds, some comprehensible such as a snake, bee, bull, dragon, sword, demon, or winged wizard while some are best described as a spiky tower with eyes that spontaneously grows a large mouth when needed.
  • Politically Correct History: The story of Christopher Columbus is presented here with significantly less imperialism or disease than as it actually happened. Enforced, in that the directors knew that the real Christopher Columbus would be a difficult character to root for.
  • Random Events Plot: The Fairy is only the most obvious among the many plot points that come totally out of left field.
  • Sanity Slippage: Columbus starts losing his mind as the movie goes on.
  • Smug Snake: The Swarm Lord. As big and imposing as he appears, he immediately assumes that Pico is dead after his attack on the ship, being flabbergasted at his survivor and the attack on his castle causes him to undergo a Villainous Breakdown.
    • Also, the chancellor comes off as this, even though he only makes one appearance.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Columbus seems to be the only human who can hear the animals talk. This is only apparent when other humans think he's nuts.
  • Terrible Trio: The three rats that hop aboard the Santa Maria act as secondary antagonists and bullies towards Pico. Though they do get better. Two of them anyway.
  • Throat-Slitting Gesture: The crew does this to idnicate their plan to kill Columbus. And Pico, who observed them discussing this ploy earlier, shows this to Columbus himself when admitting what the crew is planning for him.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Ferdinand is portrayed to be half as tall as his wife.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Columbus can be this sometimes.
    • Allowing a woodworm aboard a ship made of wood.
    • Sticking his hand into fire.
    • Or thinking that singing about sailors being eaten by a sea serpent would boost the morale of his crew.
  • Trouser Space: During his Dream Sequence, Columbus pulls a spyglass out of his trousers.
  • Uncertain Doom: Ritso (the shortest rat) disappears during the third act, with his two friends only offhandedly mentioning that the Swarm Lord’s attack “knocked him out cold”. He’s never seen again, not even during the group shot at the very end when Columbus and Pico sail back to Europe, implying that he was in fact killed and his demise got Bowdlerized.
  • Unexplained Recovery: There's no foreshadowing or explanation for why the rising sun brings Marilyn back to life in the end.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: And how! Any resemblance to the true story of Columbus is almost accidental.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Over the course of the finale, the Swarm Lord gets more and more frustrated as the heroes destroy his castle and Marilyn being rescued. This is visually conveyed as the previously blank-eyed and reserved design gradually shows expressions of doubt and anger before gaining visible pupils and at one point, his yellow eyes turn red.
  • Visual Innuendo: The telescope in Columbus' dream sequence.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Swarm due to being a shifting swarm, alters his form between scenes, going from a winged wizard, a spiky tower with two eyes that generates a wide mouth, a snake, a spider, a bee, a demon, a sword, a bull, and finally, a dragon.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Literal example. What happened to the third rat? Following the Swarm's assault on Columbus' ship at the end of the film's second act, he vanishes and his friends only Hand Wave it as him having been "knocked out". But he's never seen again, implying that he died.
    • Columbus leaves Spain with three ships but arrives in the New World with just one.
    • Halfway through the movie, a strange-looking fourth crew member suddenly appears, then disappears just as quickly.
      • Then at the end of the movie, he appears again, and then disappears again. Meaning it was subverted twice.
    • The obviously evil-looking advisor to the King looks like he will be a villain, but after Columbus sets sail we never see him again.
  • Wingding Eyes: Columbus in the last act of the movie. What the animators were going for, there is no way of knowing, but suddenly his obsession with gold seems to be correlated with deranged swirling eyeballs.
  • The Worm That Walks: The Swarm Lord.